Also posted in Fat Bikes...
With the winter winding down here on Vancouver Island it was time to get the Krampus rolling for some bikepacking adventure. Two friends expressed an interest in trying their hand at mountain bike touring so I figured it would be ideal to get them out and shake the cobwebs off my Krampus and touring gear. No matter how many tours I go on that first trip of the year always goes a bit sideways as you remember stuff you were supposed to fix over the winter or forget things at home that you usually just leave on the bike once touring season is in full swing.
The first challenge was getting them outfitted with gear without spending a bunch of $$.
Mike [yellow jacket] had a Rockhopper he commutes on so we stripped off the fenders and swapped in some knobbies. He used normal panniers that we ziptied on the rack so they didn't bounce their way free. This setup worked okay, but he hated the panniers and would go a different route next time - maybe dry bag strapped to rear rack, DIY frame box and DIY sleeping pad/roll on bars? Paniers bouncing down a rough road and wrangling your bike through ice/snow = #notfun.
Mike also reconsidered his choice of footwear and said he'll be rocking flat pedals and light hikers next trip.
John is coming with me on an 8 day float plane assisted trip to tour the Chilcotins this summer so our goal for this ride was to let him try out his summer setup and see what needed improvement. I loaned him a set of Porcelain Rocket seat and bar bags then he built a DIY frame box [worked great] out of coroplast. He also carried a backpack - where we'll have our food for the longer trip. He's a one bike guy so we made his Turner work pretty well. The only issue he had was the rear tire rubbing slightly on the seat bag at full compression. So we are going to armour it with some plastic for the Chilcotins trip so my GF doesn't get mad that we wrecked her nice bag!
He tried the same water cage setup I normally use - 1.5L under the DT and 750ml on the stem. Worked great. 100% solid just with hose clamps.
I rocked my Rohloff'd Krampus w/ full Porcelain Rocket kit. I knew my rig was dialled my concern was getting the right gear into my bags. I had a couple "oh $hit!" moments when I couldn't find what I usually carried in a particular spot, but when all was said and done I remembered to pack everything vital and none of my gear let me down.
The Krampus is a proven backroads and trail touring machine. It combines great slow speed nimbleness with stability at speed once those big wheels get rolling. The chubby tires are confidence inspiring at high speeds in loose dirt/gravel and the very tall wheel rolls through rough stuff amazingly well for a rigid bike. Thankfully Surly didn't make the Krampus frame overly stiff so it is comfortable to ride and responds well to spirited pedalling.
We encountered a bunch of snow/ice and mud at the higher part of our route. I was a bit worried that my half worn Knards would let me down, but they gripped just fine. That's not to say I would want to get aggro in those conditions MTBing with them, but for a fast rolling touring tire these conditions were not a concern and they did as well as my buddies' full on knobby tires did.
Since my friends are married with kids and don't have the spare time to adventure every weekend I tried to pack as much gnarliness into 2 days as I could without killing anyone and within the logistical restraints of where we live. So we started by renegade camping at a Provincial Park that doesn't allow camping Friday night - doing the camp fire and beer thing. Then heading up and over a local mountain range for some exercise and to find solitude while enduring the last bit of winter conditions. After that a killer downhill descent and a hike-a-bike climb to a locked gate that required some Mission Impossible skills to get around....finally a raging icy creek crossing wrapped up day 1.
Day 2 was a chill roll back into town on a dirt rail trail...boring as $hit, but without getting a car pick up it's the unavoidable route to bike home from the West.
Interactive map and GPS track are here.
The ride went really well. The level of challenge was solid without ever getting too high so as to be discouraging. The locked gate shown above was new since I rode this route last year and required team work to overcome plus some excitement as we cranked hard on the far side to get off the road and into the bush where we forded a creek to avoid capture by security personnel.
The creek was raging worse than I have ever seen it before so we had to find a shallower spot than my usual crossing location. I ended up nearly balls deep in icy snow melt and I was the tallest guy on the trip. The other guys got to enjoy and even deeper chill. My Krampus is well balanced for carrying and as I told the guys - "If you ain't pushing, carrying and dragging your bike sometimes - you ain't bikepacking!"
With rain in the forecast I had strategically planned to end day 1 at a wooden shelter along the route. The Bike Gods were kind to us and although we were sprinkled on during the day the real rain started just as we rolled our bikes into the shelter and cracked open some well shaken beers.
All in all it was a great trip. Mike is a recovering road biker and says he's open to some trail riding and more bikepacking.
John's rig worked really well and will only need a few tweaks before he's ready for the big adventure this summer.
The one important lesson from this ride was that you don't need the latest gear to have a great time with your buddies in the forest bike camping.
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