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  1. #1
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    In the footsteps of giants.


    July was busy -- lots of prep for lots of travel.



    Back home now -- cleaning gear, building wheels, answering metric tonnes of email, and yes -- sorting billions of pixels.






















    In a few days I'll start recounting an Alaskan coastal traverse between Cordova and Icy Bay, using fatbikes, packrafts, and inspiration from those whom came before.






















    We traveled roughly 175 miles over 7 days of movement.










    It rained inches -- too many to remember, too many for the Yakutat (!!!) airport to manage.











    I'm no hypocrite -- the numbers are still irrelevant. I mention them only to provide some context -- a framework if you will -- to understood what we did. I doubt I can explain why to anyone that doesn't already get it.









    Highlights included dense fog on the Copper River and its' delta, massive swells buoying us along on the crossing of Icy Bay, brief moments of sun (or at least not-rain) amidst all the rain, thousands of seals, mirrorlike beaches near Katalla, millions of berries, and the camaraderie developed between friends attempting a challenging and worthy objective.

































    I'll be back once I've sorted, culled, and uploaded enough pics to start telling the story proper.



    Thanks for checking in.





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    Awesome. Don't let it take away from the story but if you get a chance can you describe how you carry your camera? I've tried different ways with mixed results. For me, well protected means little use as I don't want to stop and dig it out or hold up the group, and easy access meant banging around and serious impediment to riding.

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    Quite the adventure. Thanks for sharing some of it with us. Look forward to more pics and tales of the trip.

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    Quote Originally Posted by alaskamatt View Post
    Awesome. Don't let it take away from the story but if you get a chance can you describe how you carry your camera? I've tried different ways with mixed results. For me, well protected means little use as I don't want to stop and dig it out or hold up the group, and easy access meant banging around and serious impediment to riding.
    Yep. Will answer any/all tech questions that accrue at the very end of this thread.

  5. #5
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    Subscribed! This thread is just what I needed to escape my "Monday back to work from vacation" mood! Looking forward to the rest/more!

    As always, inspiring! Thanks for taking the time to share.

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    Awesome - looking forward to reading about it!

    (Brakes and gears?? )

  7. #7
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    "Why?"

    because it's there.
    "a hundred travel books isn't worth one real trip"

  8. #8
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    Unbelievable cool. Bucket list just grew.

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    I was hoping you would post a trip report.. I just got done reading Romans write up on Eric's blog.. Looking forward to reading yours..

  10. #10
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    Love these trip reports because it just looks so upside down compared to what you're "supposed" to do with a bicycle.

    <3 <3
    Disclaimer: I run Regular Cycles (as of 2016). As a profiteer of the bicycle industry, I am not to be taken very seriously.

  11. #11
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    As I muddle through my workflow to start this TR, I should note that Roman has already published his version. And it's awesome, in ways that few others could be.












    Required reading:



    Part uno.









    Part dos.









    Part tres.








    Also, this trip was inspired and informed by the 2008 trip of Eric and Dylan. Eric got taken down by an achilles injury this summer, giving him downtime to finally finish his trip video. Watch it more than once, and marvel at what these guys were doing 8 years ago, before fatbikes or packrafts were a thing to (more or less) anyone outside of Alaska.



    Last edited by mikesee; 08-12-2016 at 07:31 AM.

  12. #12
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    Hehehe, subscribed

    MC really needs no introduction. He earned a hard-won reputation grinding out miles setting records on the gravel Divide and snowy Iditarod races of enduro-cycling. He builds wheels (big ones) and bikes (good ones) and picked up his first packraft five years ago. If a packrafter is someone who has not been a kayaker first, he’s the best packrafter I have ever seen. His combat rolls in big water inspire. A mechanic in everything he does, Mike picks up something new, strips it down, then puts it back together better than when he picked it up. He’s smart, funny, facetious bordering on sarcastic, and likeable, but not particularly good looking, thank god.

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    Thanks for another great set of photos Mike. It's the closest a lot of us are going to come to experiencing a trip like this.
    Safe riding,

    Vik
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  15. #15
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    From the second link mikesee put - Misery Loves Company – Guest Post by Roman Dial (Part 2) | Revelate Designs LLC:

    Go to ACME Mapper 2.1, search “Guyot Bay, AK”. Then marvel at the coastal erosion as you toggle between “Satellite” and “Topo”. Icy Cape and Guyot Bay are gone. It looks like over five square miles of coast has washed in to the ocean.
    Yikes.
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  16. #16
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    Look a little bit to the east. Some of it has been deposited there..
    Latitude 61

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by sryanak View Post
    Look a little bit to the east. Some of it has been deposited there..
    Actually, I don't think so. I see the deposition you're referring to, but the near-shore currents are emphatically moving west along that whole section of coast.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mikesee View Post
    Actually, I don't think so. I see the deposition you're referring to, but the near-shore currents are emphatically moving west along that whole section of coast.
    Interesting, I wonder what else is eroding to get that deposition.
    Latitude 61

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by sryanak View Post
    Interesting, I wonder what else is eroding to get that deposition.
    The answer is clear if you scroll out and look at what's happening at the head of Icy Bay.

  20. #20
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    As Drew said, "Yikes!"
    Latitude 61

  21. #21
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    Lost coast north, day one.



    editorial: i think the story here greatly benefits from the imagery. i'd like to make the pics bigger to help with that, but this is as big as i can make them here. if you'd like to see the same story, same pics, but *bigger*, go here.

    Late night flights are part and parcel of any trip to Alaska, ensuring that you're at least a bit rummy if not downright discombobulated before you even have feet on the ground. In 20 years of annual sojourns north, my antidote to being off my game from square one has been a lot of OCD prep before leaving home. Upon landing I typically only need to unbox my bike, devote 5 minutes to threading pedals in and bars on, then consult my shopping list and spend 10 minutes grabbing essentials from Freddies before I'm 'ready'. This year I had the benefit of arriving half a day before Jaybs and Brett, giving me bonus time to fiddle with gear, catch a luxuriant catnap, and then re-check all the fine details.











    Peggy, Todd and Parsons deposited us at ANC, where we had a few moments to learn about Roman's new favorite pastime before hopping the milk run to Cordova.















    So summery was it there that we did the unthinkable, even unimaginable: We sought shade to unbox and rebuild our bikes. Given what came later, we may have pissed off the weather gods with this unconscionable, despicable act of defiance.











    Final details buttoned up, we got our pose on then spun down a dusty road.















    Perhaps inspired by the views in every direction, our pace could only be described as hauling. I was borderline spun out, panting, and running ragged for the 15 miles to the Flag Point bridge over the Copper's westernmost channel.





















    Looking upstream (above pic) gives a perspective-inducing glimpse into the Copper's drainage. Had any of us claimed to not be a bit anxious in that moment, I'd have insisted on checking for a pulse.











    Roman broke the spell and dove in headfirst, riding down the dunes and along the channel before stumbling through a balls-deep crossing.










    Back onto dry land we enjoyed playful, trailless, omniterrain cruising for maybe 40 minutes before things started to get moist.
















    We pushed when needed and rode when possible, savoring backlit peaks, tracks of megafauna, and perhaps the last semblance of relative dryness on our persons.










    Just because it was wet did not automatically mean we could inflate boats and end our foot sloggling. A minimum depth of water is required for that, and we needed to get further east to find a proper channel.










    Getting closer.











    The next step involved inflating the boats to use as sleds, to drag our bikes with less overall effort.
















    Eventually we arrived at the last and tiniest slice of what one could exaggeratedly call "land", with a marginal current beyond. There we sloshed about ankle deep while adding layers, donning drysuits, stuffing gear inside drybags or the tubes of our boats, then shoved off into the Copper proper.






















    Given that the gauged flow near this spot was a comfortable 260,000cfs, one might forgive us for assuming that we'd have the benefit of lots of current pushing us toward the ocean.











    Alas it simply didn't work that way. That's an enormous volume of water any way you slice it, but to get at the whole equation one must consider the width of the channel that water is filling. At roughly 8 miles across, the water never seemed to get more than a few inches deep. Reading the current was challenging to the point of frustration, as fog had rolled in and obscured all landmarks. Our only reference points other than ourselves were seals, flotsam, and occasionally the moon would poke through the gloom. Often we'd run aground a sand/silt/mud bar and have to slosh around to find some depth.










    Realizing that our initial plan of making it to and through Softuk lagoon before shutting it down was simply not going to happen, we used Gaia to navigate to an island.











    There we erected shelters, donned dry clothes, and kindled fire to heat water for a late night snack.








    Spirits were high given that we weren't paddling and sloshing through the manky murk in the wee hours. But deep down we knew the score: That Jaybs had a plane to catch and a place to be in a little over a week, and after half a day of travel we were already half a day behind schedule. We drifted off knowing that we'd have to make that time up somewhere.


  22. #22
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    I love seeing the pics from the start zone. I lived in Cordova for a summer (a long time ago) and don't get to seem much from there. Beautiful spot...

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    Lost coast north day two.


    Dense fog loomed and billowed through camp throughout the short dark hours, all through breakfast, and ensured all of our kit was saturated as we packed up to get back on the water.
















    On-water visibility was good enough to see suspicious seals (just beyond Doom and Brett, below) but not much else. As we ferried ever left, 45 to 50* across the current of the river, we could hear diesel engines somewhere out there. We knew they were fishing boats scooping up reds by the millions, thus we endeavored to head in their general direction -- with the understanding that they'd be in deeper water with stronger current.











    What we'd forgotten is how well sound travels over water. Eventually it occurred that those diesels were 10+ miles away, out at the edge of the delta. It'd take us many more hours to slog and slosh our way there.










    These gents had been so fixated on their catch that they'd paid a little too little attention to a prominent sandbar on the chart. Dohp. Note the shovels and the pile of mud perpendicular to the boat. Hours of toil had given them half a chance at getting out on the next tide swing, but they had a lot of work left and not much time left to do it.









    Hitchhiker.










    At the far SE end of Softuk Lagoon we dragged our sodden carcasses ashore and packed, finally, to ride.




















    The beach was glorious -- firm and fast. Spirits were high as we left the tedious travel of the delta and steamrolled into the evening.














    Jaybs scouting from the highest point around.
















    A public use cabin appeared on the beach right about dinnertime, and who were we to say no to an out-of-the-wind-and-spray-and-bugs place to sit and cook and relax?










    Hauling ass for a few miles along mirror-smooth beach had lifted our spirits and hopes substantially. But now, almost 2-days into our trip, we were already a full day behind our must-make schedule. Had we been overly optimistic with this itinerary? Or was the riding to come really *that* good?



    I can't speak for mis amigos, but I was hoping against hope that it was.

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    Bravo! best post in a long time!
    Mongoose product development

  25. #25
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    So cool, I really enjoy reading your stuff.

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    Wonder if they run aground often? Not only the one plastic shovel for use on deck, but a second metal spade too.

    Looks like they were in relative good spirits, but that might have been because they just meet up with some crazies paddling rafts in the ocean with camping gear and bikes strapped aboard.

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    Lost coast north day three.




    Overnight our weather emphatically shifted. New normal was low ceiling, low pressure, flat light, wind and spittle from the southeast. Little did we know this was as good as it would get for the next ~5 days.















    It felt like summer had just been kicked to the curb by fall, and fall in SE AK means inches of rain per day.



    It takes a lot more than a sodden forecast to dampen Davis.










    Approaching Point Martin.









    Minor gymnastics (brute strength coupled with delicate footing) were required to negotiate this obstacle.





















    We resumed pedaling on a mirrorlike beach near the Katalla townsite.











    Tightly scheduled as we were, we had no time to explore the ruins shown on the USGS topo's. Vertical posts sticking out of the sand marked the remains of a dock, and were the only remnant visible from the beach.
















    Low tide slip and slide.
















    Riding on the mirror-smooth sand was effortless, and left free mental space to pay attention to the tide pools and life therein. Award for 'most comical character' went to the hermit crabs, scurrying so quickly and haphazardly away from any movement. I found it easy to anthropomorphize each one denying having stolen it's shell ("You can't prove anything!") while running away.




































    Above, Wingham Island closest, Kayak Island beyond.










    As we neared the edge of Kanak Island the tide was mostly out, exposing vast flats with short channels between them. Below the boys are clustered discussing whether to stay on the mainland and keep riding, with the likely result that we'd need to do one or two bigger crossings later. Ultimately we decided to cross here, to the point of land just behind them. And once we landed there we could see another, shorter crossing maybe 5 minutes ride away.










    Normally we'd deflate boats and pack up between each crossing, because it doesn't take long and it's far easier to ride with all gear stowed.















    But these crossings were so close together that we kinda figured "why not" and just lugged our inflated boats haphazardly from one to the next. It was crude and comical, but it probably saved us time.










    Ever the problem solver, Roman immediately devised a quick, easy, efficient means for attaching boat to pack so that he could ride more or less unencumbered for ~1/4 mile at a time. He'd arrive at the next crossing, drop the boat with pack still attached, drop the bike onto the boat, then climb on and paddle across.










    Eventually we all found a way to mimic Roman's time-and-energy-saving discovery.






















    Many crossings hence we made it to the NW point of Kanak Island and proceeded to follow it's SW shoreline. More low-tide mirror-smooth riding ensued, some so silent and effortless it felt akin to flying.













    Eventually we arrived at the extreme southern tip of Kanak, where you need to cross Controller Bay to get to the Okalee Spit. Back in '08 Eric and Dylan found such rough waters here that they hitched a ride on a bowpicker. Somehow we arrived at a low-low tide and found light winds, light chop, and a short ~20 minute paddle across. Having heard of the fast tide swings and having seen what Eric and Dylan experienced, we packed the boats quickly, carefully, and donned drysuits 'in case'.










    Having reached the other side so quickly after having been prepared for an epic, no one was certain if that was actually "it". Just too easy. I checked Gaia and it showed where we stood as being underwater. Huh. Although we couldn't see another crossing anywhere ahead, we decided to play it safe and rode on with boats still deployed and ready.









    After maybe 25 minutes of riding into a headbreeze with a giant, awkwardly shaped sail, I decided to stash my boat and when I started riding again I could see that Brett had done the same. Although we weren't more than an inch above the actual sea level at any moment on this section, that inch was enough to keep us riding with some effort.
















    Cliffs on the north shore of Kayak Island dominate Jaybs.















    Maybe 200 meters shy of being home free onto the Okalee, we came to a channel of uncertain depth. I stood right at water's edge for a moment trying to gauge it, as though maybe it would be worth just wading, and in that moment sea level went from under my shoes to over them. I hastily unpacked my boat but before I could inflate it my bike was floating next to it! Needing to act fast before my belongings floated away, I leaned the bike on my hip, blew the boat ~2/3rds of the way up, then plopped in and sloshed across.










    Above, Brett, and below, Jaybs. From these pics you might get the idea that we'd just paddled miles from the last land visible behind them. In fact there was land visible just a few feet behind them (an obvious line in the water) just as I was pulling out the camera, and then suddenly there was no land they were in the midst of their own 'disaster style' crossings.








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    day three continued.




    Once safely onto the Okalee we lunched briefly, stashed boats and paddles, then headed overland in hopes of finding a good bear trail back to the beach.











    This trip happened 3rd week of July, which is prime wildflower season at home. I'd actually had a bit of regret in leaving the peak flowers behind, because they are so stunning and so fleeting, and I simply hadn't expected anything exceptional from the Alaskan flora.



    Ahem. Shows what I know.











    So delighted were we by the lupine and fireweed extravaganza that at first we didn't notice the berries. And then we all dropped bikes and began inhaling.













































    We *did* in fact find a bear trail, or at least tracks left by a bear big enough to make a trail anywhere it went. Moments later we popped out onto the beach, relieved to have good sight lines again.















    A little guy.










    Maybe 2 hours later we arrived at the western edge of Cape Suckling, another of the 'cruxes' that we'd learned about by listening to Eric and Dylan's tales. We dropped bikes and scouted ahead, finding difficult but not impossible footing given our awkward loads. I'd misread the maps and expected to have many more such traverses in the next ~2 miles, thus I lobbied to launch boats and paddle around all of them at once. While whinily pleading my case Doom poked his head around the corner, then returned and reported that he could have thrown a rock to the next good riding, with no further challenges visible beyond.










    We unloaded gear from bikes and into packs, the better to carry them, and in maybe 30 minutes elapsed we were past the worst of it, repacked, and back to riding.




















    Engaging riding led us onward beyond Cape Suckling, and as we neared the Kiklukh River something odd caught my eye.



    It's common to see all sorts of detritus and outright trash washed up on the beaches, but that stuff all rests horizontally, and this thing was a part of the vertical world. It resolved itself to be a tent just as two humans resolved to be themselves. We'd known Brad and John were en route a day or so ahead of us, but we didn't expect to see them so soon.










    We exchanged hugs and high fives then quickly threw up our tents in advance of oncoming precip. We shared food, fire, stories and commiserations before wind-driven rain put an end to a very satisfying day.












  29. #29
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    Simply amazing. Would like to know what you're using for a camera.

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    Mike, I was wondering why you didn't take your new custom fatty with you on this trip? Or did you and it's not in the pics?

    Since I'm assuming that the the bike with the 27x4.5 BBG's with jackalope rims is yours (any water getting into the rims?), how would you compare them to the on to the standard 80mm+ BFL combo for distance riding on the beach?
    Trust me, I have a beard and gray hair.

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    Quote Originally Posted by worldskipper View Post
    Mike, I was wondering why you didn't take your new custom fatty with you on this trip? Or did you and it's not in the pics
    My guess...saltwater + fancy steel custom bike = not happy.
    Safe riding,

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  32. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by radair View Post
    Simply amazing. Would like to know what you're using for a camera.
    I took a Canon 5d3 body with a 28-300L lens. Normally I'd add an intervalometer and a 16-35 f2.8 as well, but the forecast was for sodden and I knew that I'd not get much chance to shoot time lapses, and wouldn't want to swap lenses in such a humid environment. So i kept it simple, though by no means small or light.

    I also had a GoPro Session and an Olympus TG-830: Both are waterproof, and on 2 of the days it rained so hard/so long I never took my DSLR out of the bag. The P&S and POV came in handy those days.

    2 days

  33. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by vikb View Post
    My guess...saltwater + fancy steel custom bike = not happy.

    This. We treat our bikes worse than dirt on these trips. There's often no way around it.

    Thus I bought something cheap, reliable, and aluminum.

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    Thanks makes good sense. What about the tires/rims?
    Trust me, I have a beard and gray hair.

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    Quote Originally Posted by worldskipper View Post
    Thanks makes good sense. What about the tires/rims?
    Jackalope's are singlewall, thus no water ingress. I ran 'em tubeless since the interface is so bomber reliable. Never touched the pressure after initially airing down when we left the road. When I got home I peeled the tires off to verify that there was no water in there, and there wasn't.

    16+ years ago when the first 29" options came on-scene, I rode them and loved everything about the taller platform. I feel the same about B Fat, because it is taller (with better angle of attack and an elongated footprint) than 26 x 4.8, and can no longer personally see a use for 26 x 4 or even 4.8.

    I do still run 26 x 5.2's on snow, but once more/bigger B Fat options come available, I will likely go to B Fat for snow as well.

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    Thanks Mike! I will be contacting you about getting a set of these maybe for my Gulf coast trip.
    Trust me, I have a beard and gray hair.

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    Awesome thread! And that bear on the right in the first set of pics is just... SCARY!

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    Awesome thread! And that bear on the right in the first set of pics is just... SCARY! Good thing is was just a photo backdrop.

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    Lost Coast north day four.


    Waking to the sound of rain wasn't what I'd dreamed about. Although honestly, at first, I wasn't sure that was even what it was. The optimist in my drybag hoped that it was Doom, just outside, slinging handfuls of sand at our tent while taking a selfie and mouthing 'perf!' at the camera. Once I scraped the crusted sand from my eyes and focused, I could see a million+ droplets beaded up on the outer skin of our 'mid, a few hundred of them sliding earthward. Going to be a wet one.



    Two men cooking breakfast, getting dressed and packing bags inside of a 2-man 'mid is a process, one which requires coordination, consideration, and proprioception. The space is so confined and your gear so strewn that you need to think each movement through in advance, lest you find an elbow in your eye or dip a foot into your tentmate's soup. That process was one level more delicate on this morning, owing to condensation on the inner walls of the tent which rained down onto us each time we bumped a wall or the center pole.











    We bade farewell to Brad and John and rode out into the drizzle, which initially wasn't as bad as it had sounded inside the tent. Rounding a point of land soon after starting brought us face-on to the oncoming wind, driving rain straight down on our noses. Already thin conversation grew yet more scarce as we burrowed inside of hoods and kept our heads tipped down to ease the sting.











    Best to stand upwind of this'n.













    I'd love to wax poetic here, spinning yarns about how the adverse conditions made us stronger, or forged a bond, maybe increased camaraderie. Probably all of that did happen. What stands out about the day, now, is that the sand was soft, the beach was steep, the rain and wind relentless. We had to grovel at the very edge of the crashing waves to find a barely rideable surface, which meant that every few minutes one would dump right there and engulf our feet, chilling us yet more.































    Shivers were my first clue that something was changing ahead. Then came the bergy bits in the intertidal.















    Then we rounded a corner and saw this big blue marble standing sentinel at the mouth of the Seal River. In bright sun or even heavy overcast I could have found limitless angles to explore and shoot here. From within the heavy downpour we had, I fired off a few from-the-hip bursts with my gutless point and shoot and kept moving.










    The Seal flows out of the Bering Glacier, carrying many thousands of cubic feet of water per second, with a few hundred cubic feet of ice floating, sloshing, and fizzing along within that current. I may have been colder at some point on this trip, but I really can't remember when.



    A slack current on the put-in side of this crossing lulled me into thinking it would be easy. That current increased imperceptibly, likely with each paddle stroke, until I suddenly became aware that my ferry angle and speed were insufficient to miss a grounded many-ton iceberg near my hoped-for landing. I paused two beats then dove for the eddy behind it, amazed at its size and the power of the current whipping me past it. And then I was almost upside down as the slack water of the eddy spun me around and pulled my unstrapped bike most of the way off the deck.









    We packed haphazardly after the Seal, fingers too leaden to manage delicate tasks, cores too cold to care. Popping over the dune line and back to the outer coast we nodded in amazement and appreciation as the temps instantly climbed an easy 10 degrees relative to the cold-hole of the Seal behind us. Not to say it was warm...










    I have no recollection of sunshine on this day. I do remember being intensely grateful for the moments when either the rain or the wind (but rarely both) lulled.











    After our third or fourth lunch-and-bootstrap break we found engaging riding high against the dune line, but it didn't last long enough -- maybe 10 minutes -- before we got squeezed back onto the apron at waters edge. More groveling.















    At the mouth of the Kaliakh River we stopped to admire dozens of seals sliding down the bank and into current to escape the predators (us) they saw approaching. Look beyond Roman's right shoulder for their slides in the pic immediately below.










    We didn't cross the Kaliakh until the next morning. Perhaps we didn't want to disturb the seals any further. Perhaps. More likely we'd just run out of gumption for the day, so when someone suggested climbing up into the dune to camp we all moved that way without another word.







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    Lost coast north day five.


    The breeze and drizzle stayed consistent through the night, making for unsettled sleeping and one big, wet, psychological hurdle in getting dressed the next morning.



    Once we'd rolled out to meet the day we found the seals back in their favorite spot, leery as ever but seemingly disinclined to move.











    A quick ride to where the bluff shut things down, then a quicker paddle saw us across the high volume but very flat Kaliakh.




















    Moody low-ceiling light ushered us across this vast mirrored flat toward looming peaks, bulging glaciers, and one massive distraction of a relic being reclaimed by the earth.



























    What they were after, just before the storm ended those dreams and a few lives.











    A balls-deep crossing somewhere just south of the Yakataga River. First few steps felt fine, then the subsurface crust got thinner, started to feel like sodden cardboard, and then we were wallowing ankle deep in muck, with current complicating each footfall.























    Heading inland to find a better place to cross the Yakataga. Roman vocalized what I'd been thinking here, that it "Felt more like B.C. than Alaska".
















    We'd had an air service fly a food/fuel drop to the Yakataga grass airstrip. I'd been against it on general principle, arguing that we could easily carry the ~9 days of food we'd need. But Jaybs tight schedule meant that any time we could save by not schlepping added mass might make the difference in him getting out on time, so I'd grudgingly agreed. Diving in to our stashes of freshies felt like christmas, and I felt silly for not getting behind the plan from the start.










    As part of his unprecedented and unrepeatable-for-mortals-or-anyone-else tour of Alaska in 2010, Andrew Skurka had walked this stretch of coast, and afterward had shared his annotated maps with Roman. Knowing how tight our timetable was, and seeing notes from Skurka indicating a road connecting Yakataga and Icy Bay, we'd collectively agreed that that was the route we needed to follow. Perhaps the speed achieved on that hard-surfaced route would buy back some of the time we'd lost early on.



    Thus we followed that constantly devolving road out of Yakataga, made a wrong turn, did some backtracking, eventually pushed out to the beach when the "road" became more akin to a bear trail, and the saturated vegetation lining it became akin to riding, slowly, through a pressurized drive-through carwash.











    We were soaked to the skin even wearing full raingear, and then it *really* started to rain. The afternoon passed quickly as we alternated between riding soft, fluffy beach sand into a headwind with driving rain, and stumble****ing up into the jungle in search of Skurka's yellow brick road.









    Each time some semblance of the road was there, but underneath and overgrown by the rainforest. Essentially reclaimed by the earth. After much effort to cover little distance, we cut our losses at the edge of the White River, threw up tents, wiggled out of sodden clothes, climbed into sleeping bags. We brewed up dinner while poring over maps both real and imagined, wondering if the 'road' we'd found was the same as Skurka had hauled ass along. Wondering if we should have just skipped it from the outset and ridden the slow-as beach. Wondering if it would ever stop raining.


  41. #41
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    Awesome pics, as always. Would love to hear more about bikes, equipment and clothing. What worked and what didn't. I'm a big fan of wool and wool base layers.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mikesee View Post


    We were soaked to the skin even wearing full raingear, and then it *really* started to rain. The afternoon passed quickly as we alternated between riding soft, fluffy beach sand into a headwind with driving rain, and stumble****ing up into the jungle in search of Skurka's yellow brick road.

    There is the SE Alaska I know and love!
    Really enjoying the pictures and words, thanks for taking the time to write them up!

  43. #43
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    Quote Originally Posted by mikesee View Post
    my antidote to being off my game from square one has been a lot of OCD prep before leaving home.
    ^^^This, over everything else I read in all accounts, made me wonder how far one has to go to prepare for an outing like this. I have to think the group all did their homework on weather and climate, terrain and erosion, flora and fauna, tides/schedules, water sources, prior routes and potential alternates and/or bailouts(?)....

    Then with the gear (what works and doesn't): boats, bikes, sleeping, cooking, clothing...

    Then becoming familiar and confident with all of it (and what amount of time that may take): deploying and collecting boats, packing/unpacking/repacking as needed (with some efficiency), spares/repairs...

    Not to mention time to develop some reasonable level of fitness so as not to put yourself or your party at risk, and simply the cost of putting it all together.
    My mind is spinning! It is a daunting thought even to consider beginning to plan such an adventure.

    I'd like to see MC's shopping list for this trip.
    Umm... lessee...toothbrush, raincoat, food, fatbike (not just any fatbike), stove (not just any stove), packboat (not just any packboat), socks (not just any socks), tent (not just any tent),...

    Grand Total..............$!!!!!
    (whatever it is, it seems perfectly reasonable since reliability is key)

    A background story might make another great thread.

    -F
    It's never easier - you just go faster.

  44. #44
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fleas View Post
    ...
    I'd like to see MC's shopping list for this trip.
    Umm... lessee...toothbrush, raincoat, food, fatbike (not just any fatbike), stove (not just any stove), packboat (not just any packboat), socks (not just any socks), tent (not just any tent)...

    -F
    Careful, asking for trip lists can get you in trouble! No doubt there is a lot of preparation and decades of experience involved. Or the willingness to suffer with what you brought that didnt work so well.

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    Lost coast north day six.

    Drizzle continued off and mostly on throughout the night. When the drizzle ended it was replaced by heavy rain. Each time I woke to shift or shiver my ear was bent outward in hopes of hearing silence replacing the drum of rain on tent skin. That wish was never granted.



    When finally we had to rouse and move, we ate quickly, packed without much conversation, savored what there was to see while it was there to be seen. Low cloud, fog, and rain obscured many of our views on this day.











    First order of business was to cross the White, which Jaybs got to do 3 times after forgetting a critical piece of clothing at camp.



    Slack tide beyond gave us a wide berth within which to choose lines. All of them were wet, and most had been fluffed by the constant deluge.










    Paralleling Umbrella Reef as we continue SE.










    Perhaps the visual highlight of the day, for me.










    The rain had the added effect of coloring all of the creeks we crossed, not just the glacial ones.











    So what? The flavor didn't really change, but the texture of the water we drank sure did. Good for our gizzards, is what I told myself.










    Full current, over-knee depth, and zero visibility: Doom still damn near rode this one out.










    We'd all noticed an increase in the number of full-sized trees washed up at high tide, but somewhere near Big Sandy they became impossible to ignore. We advanced and debated theories on why so many, here, now, but couldn't come to agreement.
















    Our arrival at the Big River crossing coincided with possibly the heaviest rain of the day, as well as high tide. What we found there wasn't just terrifying, it was a complete deal-breaker where further forward progress was concerned. Heavy current plowed straight into ocean swells, while carrying whole trees along for the ride. Not just tree skeletons as seen above and below, but whole living-minutes-ago trees with full crowns of leaves and branches, and massive gnarly rootballs plowing wholesale into each other, tearing hell out of the bank, the bottom, and everything else along the way. It was impossible to slip past them, impossible to even find a safe place to blow up boats within proximity of the carnage. So we retreated to a place where we might safely wait for low tide and hoped for a change in circumstances.











    This few-hour long break did nothing to increase our chances of success at getting Jaybs out on time. But it somehow coincided with a brief break in precip, allowing us to dry out clothing, tents, sleeping bags, cameras and lenses and camera bags, build a fire, eat a meal, even catnap for a few.










    In that sense it was priceless. Possibly the biggest, luckiest break we got the whole trip.










    Gear re-stashed and attitudes adjusted, at low tide we rolled back down and found a much different scene. The ocean was no longer damming up the river, which meant the river lost it's steam before entering the surf. Specifically, this meant that the massive trees were grounding out just before they reached us, so that we'd only have fast current into breakers to contend with. It was spicy but doable, and as exclamation point to achieving the delayed-gratification crossing we were rewarded with a few moments of honey light and atmospheric surf-spray while watching gulls get tubed.




















    Jaybs, celebrating.










    Riding in a drysuit? Every day.










    Moments after the Big crossing the sun was replaced by cloud, laughter by apprehension, dead tree skeletons by live ones hanging by a thread from a 40' bluff being pounded relentlessly by waves for ~half of every day. It seemed we'd found the source.










    This one may have come down moments later. We didn't hang around to find out.











    Waiting to cross the Big at low tide gifted us the ability to skirt Icy Cape on the same low. The riding was good, buoyed by adrenaline and the realization of how much carnage was happening a few hours before, and coming again a few hours later.








    To help illustrate the destruction we saw, Roman shared this visual reference after the trip:



    Go to ACME Mapper 2.1




    On the lower right search “Guyot Buy, AK”.



    Click on “Topo" at the upper right.



    Put your fore-finger on the airstrip shown on the old topo and your thumb on Icy Cape.



    Hold them there as you click on “Satellite”.




    Now, marvel at the mile width of coastal erosion as you toggle between “Satellite” and “Topo”.



    Icy Cape and Guyot Bay are gone.







    We concluded our lengthy day with a few miles of high-speed gravel road and some great beach riding to camp at the cusp of our next obstacle: Crossing Icy Bay.




  46. #46
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    Lost coast north day seven.


    3 layers of white noise facilitated good sleep in this spot: a cascading waterfall, small waves shushing into the sand, and the ever-present pattering of precip on the walls of our tents.

    No surprise then that Roman and I were oblivious to the curious bear that approached as we sawed logs.











    Up and moving, we were giddy at the thought of finally crossing the vastness of Icy Bay to reach the Malaspina glacier on the other side. Massive bonus that not only was the rain temporarily holding off, but the temps actually felt warm for the first time in days.










    Brett, Doom, and Jaybs sussing out a calm spot to surf launch.










    Jaybs, relieved to be past the breakers, ecstatic to be *in* Icy Bay.










    The first hour of the crossing had a certain novelty to it. How often do we get to paddle inflatable pool toys miles from land, or with bikes on board? Not often enough!



    The middle hour brought big swells to bump our anxiety back to appropriate levels. At one point Doom dropped back to snap some pics and in so doing we often lost sight of him when the big rollers passed between us.



    The last hour we focused on the thin white line of breakers smashing into the shore ahead, always searching for an anomaly within that line -- some spot where we might land safely.










    Several such spots presented themselves -- our landing couldn't have been easier.











    3+ hours in the boats had us stiff and chilled at landfall, then as we deflated boats and repacked our kits the rain returned in earnest. That briefest weather window was critical to the crossing -- unlikely we'd have committed had it been raining or blowing or both.










    We followed gravel and cobble bars upstream along many braids of the Cetani River, searching out the most rideable surface with feet and tires, always with the goal of getting ourselves up to and onto the Malaspina.










    Pinched between thick veg and the roiling river, below we look for a place to inflate and cross.










    Safely across, we kept boats inflated as the upcoming cobbles and bluffs appeared to suggest repeated crossings on tap.







    We fanned out in search of a rideable route, backtracking when needed, bushwhacking when forced. Eventually we popped through one last brush line and, with an instant drop in temperature, there was the moraine and just beyond it white ice.










    We'd arrived. Well, almost. Coincident with our arrival at the toe of the glacier came an uptick in the cold rain falling on us. Late in the evening as it was, no one was willing to commit to the ice just yet.



    We somehow kindled fire but the heavy rain kept us from enjoying it: Our shins nearly melted so close did we stand, but the longer we huddled the colder and wetter we got. Nothing to it but to retire to tents and bags, catch some rest, hope against hope for a change in the weather pattern that seemed less likely by the minute.


  47. #47
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    awesome....as in, the true meaning of the word.... :-)~

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    Hey @mikesee how did you like the qrd pedals? Did they hold up well in the sand? I had mixed experience with the white brothers cranks (and had to have them repaired under warranty after a desert sand trip fouled them).

    Looking for other options that might hold up better...

    thx.

  49. #49
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    Quote Originally Posted by gregclimbs View Post
    Hey @mikesee how did you like the qrd pedals? Did they hold up well in the sand?
    I was tickled with 'em. Occasionally rinsed them in ~fresh (or at least not salt) water, then didn't really think about them otherwise.

    Once or twice I needed to use my leatherman pliers to get the release started, but 10+ other times they came off and went back on as advertised: tool free. So nice to be able to install/remove pedals quickly for bigger boat crossings or to simply avoid smacking my shins when schwacking.

  50. #50
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    Lost coast north day eight.




    Laying in our bags all night while listening to the rain continually intensify, you might think we'd had to agonize over what our next step would be. Get up onto the glacier with already soaked gear, in a whiteout, for 2 days of just-above-freezing rain? Then another 2 or 3 days of sodden riding and paddling from there?

    In reality, once we took a quick glance at the calendar and did some basic math, we really didn't have a decision to make: Our time was already up.





    It was more complicated than just that, of course, but knowing that we had ~100 miles left to go, with ~half of that on the glacier (2 days travel), then a long day across Yakutat Bay in the boats, then another day to ride and schlep down to Yakutat proper, then ~half a day to box bikes and ensure there was room on the milk run out meant (assuming all went well) that we needed ~5 more days to finish.

    We had just a shade over 2 to work with.

    Given that there was an airstrip near Icy Bay lodge -- a mere few hours from where we lay listening to the rain fall -- made our "choice" to pull the plug purely academic.









    All that remained was to pack our sodden gear, call in a plane, and make it to that airstrip.










    We rode a few hundred meters to where the Cetani flowed out of the glacier, inflated boats while shivering in the rain, then climbed in and went for a ride. Highlights of our float included Grand Canyon-sized wave trains, reading and running everything, and (ahem) watching Brett both swim and self-rescue.



    The water was so cold it didn't feel cold -- it burned any skin it came into contact with. The fact that Davis immersed himself into it, got himself and his craft out of it, floated another ~40 minutes festering in his own slushy juices, then packed up and rode a few miles without a single whimper bore testament to what we all already knew: Davis doesn't dwell on minutia.










    Rolling through the fog back out to Icy Bay, aiming toward a cabin we'd spied the day before.










    If you could step outside of your borderline hypothermic state for a moment you were likely to notice unbounded natural beauty everywhere. It required discipline, sodden and shivering as we were, to maintain that mindset.










    We kindled fire, dried gear and selves, cooked a meal in the hunting cabin, then fired up the sat phone to arrange pickup. Dry clothes in a warm room felt indescribably blissful, tempered only by the knowledge that our trip was ending. All that remained was a few miles of riding to the airstrip.










    Something about knowing the plug has been pulled makes me pay closer attention to the small details along the way. Almost like I'm already missing them. Megatons of kelp, trillions of mussels, a single apex predator, and a dearth of traction beneath our tires were the highlights of the ride up to Icy Bay Lodge.
















    A few short crossings kept us engaged, especially once the ceiling lifted enough to allow up-bay views of the Yahtse.
















    After a few hours of coasteering we rounded a point and saw a tender, a landing craft, and even some pleasure craft moored. The folks at the Icy Bay Lodge were friendly, inquisitive, and informative (sharing that their little harbor here is the only safe anchorage between Cordova and Yakutat -- which explained the crowd) not to mention hospitable. While Mike inquired about our trip and answered the volley of questions we returned, he also made sure we each had a cold beverage in our hands.










    At dusk we climbed a steep, greasy track up into the woods, then rolled along through the trees to the airstrip beyond.










    I'll be back to share some video and a bit of 411 on gear in a few days. Got a specific gear/bike/boat/kit question? Ask and ye shall receive.




  51. #51
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    Great TR, thanks for posting!

    Footwear?
    How about handwear too, are you using any pogies for paddling? Neoprene gloves?
    6 speed cog, are you using thumb shifters?
    Last edited by radair; 09-13-2016 at 06:33 AM.

  52. #52
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    Questions:
    1.What size chain ring were you running?
    2.Seat bag (waterproof?)
    2.What are you using as a tent?
    3.Sleepbag/pad system you're using?
    Trust me, I have a beard and gray hair.

  53. #53
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    You can't do a trip like this without a lot of gear. And while I'd never claim that there is only one "right choice" for gear, I've made a lot of mistakes on past bike/boat trips that have educated me on what works best.



    Starting with the boats: All 5 of us used modern Alpacka rafts.
















    Doom, Jaybs, Roman, and I were in Yukon Yaks, Brett had a Denali Llama.



    Doom and Jaybs had open boats -- no deck at all -- and no Cargo Fly zippers.



    Brett, Roman, and I had whitewater decks on our boats, and cargo zips.



    I used my zipper to stash gear low and dry inside the tubes for each of the "big" crossings: The Copper, Controller Bay, and Icy Bay.



    I think Roman used his cargo fly on the same crossings. Not sure if Brett used his.



    While I had the whitewater deck on the boat, I opted not to bring the coaming and skirt. I'd debated it heavily and reasoned that I should pack either those or a light drysuit, but not both, and ultimately concluded two things:



    - I already had too much crap to cart along, and



    -the drysuit packed smaller, lighter, and was more versatile, able to keep me dry both in *and* out of the boat.



    Roman brought his full skirt/coaming/whitewater deck setup, as well as a drysuit. Like the rest of us, he used the drysuit for big chunks of every day. I'm not sure I ever saw him use the whitewater skirt setup.



    If I owned a Yak with a Cruiser deck I'd have brought it, no question.



    None of us had thigh straps, footbraces, or throw bags, and never really missed them. No real need or use on a trip like this.



    I've done a handful of other week+ long bike/boat trips in maritime climates. On the first I skipped the drysuit, on each successive trip I've taken one. They are fragile, no doubt -- you have to be smart about how you use them. That said, I think they are worth their weight in unobtanium when you factor in packed size, personal comfort, and cost. I would never willingly go without one.











    We had zero boat or drysuit damage, thus had no cause to effect repairs.





    Paddles: some version of a breakdown paddle is mandatory. Roman and Doom had Sawyer 5-piece paddles. Jaybs had a 4-piece Werner. Brett had a 4-piece Aqua Bound. I had a 4-piece Mitchell. These paddles have to be light enough to cart along on your back every day, quick to deploy, comfortable to use for long stretches, and durable against accidental (and some not so accidental) rock impact, as well as unfazed by grit. They also get used to support our tents, so it's important that the broken-down size (in my case, 3 out of the 4 pieces of my Mitchell make for a near-perfect, taut pitch of either a 2 or 4 man 'mid) works well with your tent.



    I own a total of 5 Sawyer paddles and currently 3 of them are broken. I love the adjustability and light weight, but I rarely take them far from home -- I simply cannot trust them.



    The Mitchell I brought is a full-on whitewater paddle with bent shaft. Overkill for this trip? Absolutely. But my race-wrecked hands and wrists go numb quickly on a straight shaft paddle, thus the added mass was very welcome both for comfort and peace of mind WRT durability.

















    We had zero paddle failures or repairs.





    Tents: We took two HMG Ultamids. Doom, Brett, and Jaybs shared a 4-man version, complete with bug net and floor.











    Roman and I shared a 2-man, and while we brought the bug net I chose to be penny-wise and pound foolish by forgoing the floor option. At the start of the trip when the sun was out and our packs were crammed full, it seemed like an OK compromise. Once the rain started, I didn't feel the same: Wet sand sticks to everything, and no place is sacred. Had we possessed the floor we would have had much less sand in our clothes, sleeping bags, food, undies, and teeth.











    There turned out to be very few bugs (I think they all drowned...) thus the bug net was superfluous and I'd have traded it for a floor or ground sheet in a heartbeat.





    PFD's: We all wore them for the big crossings. I don't think anyone used them for the quick "disaster style" hops across rivers. We all opted for improvised inflatable versions. All had plenty of flotation -- typically more than USCG requirements stipulate. As with any inflatable, the tradeoff is in saving lots of packed space and weight vs. gambling on durability. My PFD was also my pillow.





    Packs: We each brought our favorite, well-worn and time-tested satchel. Mine is an HMG 2400 Windrider. The size is good, the hip-belt pockets are great, and the mesh exterior pockets are priceless. Pretty much my all-time favorite pack, and "the one" I'd choose if I could only ever have a one-pack quiver.











    The others each had an HMG Porter 3400. Jaybs and Brett added an exterior stuff pocket to theirs.



    None of our packs were truly waterproof. To date I have tried many claimed to be such and found them lacking in both dryness and in how much weight, bulk, and cost were added only to have my gear still end up wet inside. That said, the fabric on our packs never wetted out and never leaked, thus the only way our gear got wet inside was if we put it in there wet to begin with. After a few days of rain we didn't really have a choice.





    Clothing: In a word, wool. I wore a long sleeve wool hoodie every moment of the trip -- it never came off, nor did I want it to. I find this piece to be utterly perfect in design and execution -- so much so that from roughly November through April it is what I wear almost every day. The fabric is soft to the touch, the cut is neither too tight nor too loose, the hood fits well and is warm, as well as unnoticeable when pulled back. Finally, the thumb hooks and ample length to the sleeves add a level of comfort that has to be experienced to be appreciated.



    I wore wool boxers and wool socks for the entirety, underneath a pair of quick-dry Patagucci pants. I've owned this pair of pants for 5+ years now, and I can't think of a way to improve them.



    I carried a pullover rain shell and some thin rain pants. The shell was in use most of every day and sometimes even when sleeping. I used the pants often but would probably opt to leave them next time: My drysuit was drier and I'd never leave home without it.





    Sleeping: I own a really nice, really light, supremely packable summer down bag. I took one glance at our forecast and left it at home. Instead I brought along an old clapped out 40* TNF synthetic bag that I hacked apart years ago -- removing the zipper and the top ~1/3rd of the bag itself. The end result is a "half bag" that I scrunch down into when I sleep. I tend to sleep on my side 95% of the time, and usually fetal, so the added length of a full bag is more or less superfluous. I supplement it with a synthetic hooded puffy that I also wear around camp. On the bottom I had a set of wool long johns and an old set of high-loft alpaca wool socks. These last two are creature comforts that I can do without, but am always glad to have a dry, cozy layer to nest into when camp time rolls around.





    Sleep pads: We all used inflatables. I've owned this one for 3+ years now and taken it on countless trips. Main benefits as I see them are the handy/quick foot pump, a massive dump valve, and a true-to-advertised width. I wouldn't mind a shorter version since I don't use the full length, but I own several 3/4 length pads that never get used because they just aren't as comfortable or user friendly as this Nemo.





    Footwear: Some sort of light trail runner works best. Gore Tex is bad -- once wet it never dries out. I chose a set of these because they fit my feet, are very light, pretty durable, they dry quickly, and the laceless system works well. You can find them a lot cheaper if you take the time to search.



    Phew -- that's a lot of minutia.



    Next post will cover bikes and camera stuff, as well as any questions about stuff I've omitted thus far.



    Thanks for checking in.


  54. #54
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    When you get to the bike, would you comment on the big picture of this bike vs the "disposable" Pugsley I seem to remember you taking last time?

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    That trip looks looks fantastic, thanks for taking the time to post!

    I have a few questions for you - those Alpacka Stowaway dry suit seem really fragile, at least compared to the 3lb suit I use. Were you wearing it only while paddling, or while bushwhacking and riding? I have been very tempted to get one, just worried about the durability.

    What did you guys do for cooking - wood fires or a stove?

    If you don't mind me asking - how much floating vs biking did you guys do?

    (I can't believe you have 3 broken sawyers - that is a lot of busted expensive fancy paddles!)

  56. #56
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    Quote Originally Posted by spruceboy View Post
    That trip looks looks fantastic, thanks for taking the time to post!

    I have a few questions for you - those Alpacka Stowaway dry suit seem really fragile, at least compared to the 3lb suit I use. Were you wearing it only while paddling, or while bushwhacking and riding? I have been very tempted to get one, just worried about the durability.

    What did you guys do for cooking - wood fires or a stove?

    If you don't mind me asking - how much floating vs biking did you guys do?

    (I can't believe you have 3 broken sawyers - that is a lot of busted expensive fancy paddles!)


    Stowaway suits *are* fragile, but not nearly as much as Sawyer paddles!

    We wore the suits riding and floating. Not while bushwhacking on this trip, but in the past we have -- and we just put our khaki's and rain shells on over them to protect them. Works out to about the same level of dryness, but the suits don't get thrashed.

    Cooked ~75% over stoves because it was too hard to get fires going, and too wet to stand around them. Would prefer to cook over fire but it wasn't to be on this trip.

    Much, much more riding than floating. Dunno %'s -- but I bet Roman took a stab at it in his TR.

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    A few years back when I did the Lost Coast South, I took a massive amount of camera gear along because I didn't want to regret going light in such a spectacular place. That meant two Canon 7d bodies, a 28-300 tele zoom on one and an 8-16 UWA on the other. I also had 8 spare batts (they are bulky for the 7d), an intervalometer, plus a Contour POV (and 5 more batts) in it's silly waterproof case. Because of where we were and what our objective was, I had to have 2 separate waterproof bags to carry this stuff in. Any way you slice it that was just too much photo gear, even if the results seemed to vindicate the decision to carry it.



    This time around I went much simpler. I no longer have the 7d bodies -- one actually died on the trip described above -- thus I brought my one and only DSLR: A Canon 5d3. I schlepped along a Canon 28-300L lens, which is just a massive piece of metal and glass for this sort of trip. I've owned 2 of these now, and both have been simply unparalleled as far as IQ and covering a massive range are concerned. That said, I have a love/hate relationship with this lens: Love the results, hate carting it along. First world problem, anyone?



    I carried this body/lens combo in an Ortlieb "waterproof" bag, usually strapped to my handlebars. I added quotes because it's a nice bag: great size, easy open/close zipper, and it does pretty dang well with moisture management. But it is emphatically not waterproof in any way. It manages a few hours of rain OK but after an all-day rain (during which I kept it sealed shut) it completely wetted through and there was a small puddle in the bottom of the bag. Doom and Brett both used these bags as well, and both had moisture management issues as I did.









    Camera bag bottom left. I most often slung it over the front of the bars, but sometimes clipped it to my shoulder straps and had it on my chest.





    Our forecast was so dismal that I forewent bringing a UWA lens, simply because I knew I wouldn't want to be swapping glass in such a humid and gritty environment. Given a choice I'll always prefer to shoot from a UWA perspective ~50% of the time on any given trip. But because of the rain and wet sand infiltration we experienced, coupled with the fact that the camera/lens combo I carried is a bonafide 28mm, I didn't regret the lack of UWA more than once or twice.



    I brought an intervalometer but never used it on this go round, simply because I couldn't foresee many time lapse sets working out with the near-constant fog, drizzle and wind.



    I carried 4 extra batteries for the 5d3. But because we had so much rain the DSLR never left it's water-resistant bag for the entirety of 2 of our days out, which meant I only used 2 of the backups. Raining sideways and blowing salt spray are not the ideal environment for electronics of which one is enamored. On those days (and many other times when I wanted a quick from-the-hip shot) I exclusively used a Go Pro Hero Session and a few-year-old Olympus TG-830. Image quality on both of those is meh, but they're waterproof and coming home with a low-quality shot beats nothing at all. I was glad to have both of these.



    Food: I carried organic pop tarts (no nuclear ingredients like the capital P version) for breakfast, salami, string cheese, and tortillas for lunch, and then freeze dried meals for dinner. I had an even split of Backpackers Pantry and Good To-Go, and have learned that I vastly prefer the G2G stuff: Flavor and cost are about the same but I can pronounce and understand everything on the ingredients label of the G2G meals.



    We cooked over canister stoves most of the time. Normally this group would opt to heat water over a driftwood fire, but the copious quantities of precip made the effort of kindling fire with wet wood tedious, and the desire to stand over it in the rain non-existent. We were glad to have stoves.



    I had a handful of treats like chocolate bars, peanut butter cups, and licorice as "head food". I don't ever seem to be able to carry as much of that stuff as my body would like to consume. N+1 seems to be the correct quantity.



    I treated ~1/100th of the water I drank with Aquamira drops -- basically just the stagnant stuff when we were thirsty and uncertain when the next moving water would arrive. Anything flowing we just dipped and drank. I flavored my water with Nuun a few times a day.



    Tomorrow: bike geek minutia.

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    Yes!!! Another beach trip write up! My favorite!
    I have to go back and read this thread another 48 times and let it all sink in.

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    Yeah lots to absorb here, I'll go through it a few times.

    For water I try to find it coming out of the ground and not filter that, the ground filters it for you. I am paranoid about getting sick out there so I generally religiously filter water. Especially when you see marmot sh!t on the rocks beside the beautiful babbling alpine brook... and bears everywhere. Glacial water makes filtering difficult.

    I carted around my Nikon 200-500 the other week, that is a beast. But I am glad I brought it, I got some nice shots with it. I wish I had brought my Sigma 10-20. I used the Nikon 35 f/1.8 which is good, I had it on a full frame sensor D610.

    I brought too much other stuff, mostly electronics and batteries I didn't use. Too much food as well but this was a new route so I didn't know how long I could be stuck out there.

    I'm already looking forward to getting back out, maybe Mexico later this year if I can get the time off.
    All I am saying is give pizza chants

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    The bike.


    My main goal in choosing a bike for this trip was to find something modular. Sure, it needed to fit me well, fit big tires, and have decent soft-surface geometry. But before all of that it had to be able to accept a geared, derailleur based shifting system, and then in the event that something happened to that shifting system, this chassis needed to be convertible to singlespeed without major shenanigans. In other words, it needed sliding or horizontal dropouts.



    I spent a week searching the 'net in my spare time, and if you discount custom frames you pretty quickly end up looking at Surly's frames, or the Trek Farley.



    I've owned and loved a Pugsley and Moonlander and wasn't averse to leaning in that direction. The only real downside I could find to the Surly frames is that they're made of steel, and steel + salt water immersion is eventually going to be a bad thing.



    The fact that the Farley (at least the one I was willing to spring for) is aluminum ever so slightly pushed me in that direction. The fact that the Farley's use on-center laced wheels pushed me over the edge. For daily use an offset-laced wheel works out just fine, but will never compare to the lateral rigidity and ultimate durability of an on-center build. When I'm going deep I really don't want to give any second thoughts to my equipment once underway. In short, the bomber run-em-over-with-a-truck-and-they'll-still-be-fine reliability of on-center wheels was the decider in this case: I ordered a Farley frame and fork.










    While waiting for them to arrive I laced myself a set of wheels using Bontrager Jackalope 27.5 x 80mm rims, DT Swiss Big Ride hubs, DT Swiss SuperComp triple butted spokes, and DT Prolock brass nipples. I chose this diameter of rim because I've had a fair bit of experience with it over the last ~9 months. The easiest way to explain what I like about it is to point the payback machine to 1999, when I got my first 29" wheeled bike. Remember your first ride on a 29 incher, and how effortless it seemed to keep those tall wheels rolling over pretty much everything, at least relative to the 26" bikes that were still in favor at the time? Then as now, a taller wheel will roll over obstacles with less effort. So if you've got a fat enough tire to float across soft beach sand, then why not make it a bit taller so that it can erase holes, roots, beach cobbles, rain ruts, and other momentum sucking obstacles?



    Why not indeed. Ever since trying "B Fat" late last winter, I've been smitten and can't really see a benefit to 26 x 4 or even 4.8. I still prefer a 26 x 5.2" setup for pure snow riding, as nothing yet available floats as well when the snow is bottomless the way it is in our backyard. But for three-season use on beaches, down washes, or off-piste entirely, I have converted to B Fat and I ain't goin' back.











    Why the Jackalope rims? In a word, rotating mass. "But Mike!" you say, "There are lighter rims out there!" And this is true, to a point: There are lighter rims available. But, I retort, most of those rims are doublewall -- which means that every time we ride through a slough, or push our bikes through a too-deep-to-ride river, or play chicken (and lose) with the dumping breakers, some of that water gets between the walls of the rim. And stays there. Thus very quickly your gucci light rims are ounces if not pounds heavier than they were when you built them. No bueno.



    The solution is to use a singlewall rim to start with. And because I have stacks and stacks of these in the shop, and have been building with every iteration available (and some that never made it to market) for the past 15 years, I've developed favorites. The Jackalope has the easiest, most intuitive, and most reliable tubeless interface of any singlewall rim I've used to date. I can install tires by hand, no tools needed. I can, should the need arise, also remove tires with no tools needed. Perhaps most importantly, I can inflate a tire, tubeless, with a mini hand pump -- no compressor, floor pump, or even frame pump required. And that last bit is what pushed me over the edge on rim choice: If I were to cut a tire on, say, mussels or barnacles at some point of this ride, I could peel it off, stitch it back together (yes, I carry a needle and nylon carpet thread), then reinstall the tire and reinflate it tubeless on the spot.



    There are other singlewall rims out there to choose from. They are either hideously expensive when you consider how I was about to treat them, or famously fragile, or they have tire fit issues that make the tubeless interface or field repair of a flat somewhere between difficult and diabolical.



    Choosing the Jackalopes was, as they say, a no brainer.











    Tire choices are still somewhat limited for B Fat. I use the B Fat Hodag's on my full suspension fatbike, but they didn't seem quite big enough once I started throwing gear into a pile for the Lost Coast. The added mass of a boat, paddle, PFD, camera gear, repair kit, tent, sleep kit, and many days of food meant that very quickly I chose the biggest B Fat tire available to date: The Bontrager Barbegazi 27.5 x 4.5". These treads have decent grip but more importantly they have surprisingly little rolling resistance -- especially given how much float they afford. I used them on a desert traverse this spring and really couldn't find fault with them there. Tall, fat, light, durable, and tubeless ready -- check.



    Why the DT hubs? I've used DT's star ratchet hubs (240s, 340, 350, 440, and 540) for decades on my own personal bikes, and on the bikes of every customer that will let me lace them. Down the spine of the continent on the GDR, across Alaska on the Iditarod, plus countless alpine and desert tours in Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana. We're talking literally hundreds of thousands of miles with *zero* failures or even hiccups. They are among the lightest hubs on the market, they can go thousands of miles without service, they are unbelievably easy to maintain (a rag, a dab of grease, and ~3 minutes are about it) and yet they very rarely need maintenance. I continually experiment with new and interesting hubs on rides close to home, but when I'm going deep I never, ever have to wonder or worry about the DT. All that and, somehow, they are among the least expensive hubs available today.



    I learned from Eric and Dylan that brakes in a coastal environment are largely superfluous. You use them more when schwacking than when riding -- to keep the bike in place as you find footing or hoist yourself forward. As such there's really no need for *two* brakes. Given a choice between front or rear, I choose front simply because there's less hose out there to get caught on brush, plus it's easier to stuff your gear back under the bars with only the front loop of hose to deal with. I had a single Hayes Prime Comp brake sitting on the shelf, orphaned after some previous project. I've had great success with these brakes over the past 4+ years, and so if only to keep from spending yet more money on a bike that was going to get thrashed in short order, I shortened the hose and bolted it on.











    Comfort is important on a beach ride: Since the terrain is relatively uniform you don't move around on the bike as much as you would on an engaging trail. The best you can hope for is firm sand to keep the pace high -- and failing that you're either groveling along at stupid low pressures, or you're walking. If you get your wish and the sand is firm, you sit and spin not unlike a road ride -- which is great for average speed but not awesome for contact points that would prefer to not always be in contact. I spent a few hours fine tuning the bar height so that I had a good balance of weight on both hands and butt, then raised the bars another inch for good measure, knowing that I could always lower them, but also that I was unlikely to do so.



    I had an old set of no-name take off bars sitting on the shelf in a ~680mm width. Too narrow by modern standards, but when it comes to schwacking through brush with a bike, every extra millimeter of bar width matters. I was happy to take something narrow, and thrilled that they were being recycled instead of buying something new. I screwed a clapped-out set of ergo grips on and called the cockpit good.



    I experimented last winter with a Bodyfloat isolation seatpost on my snowbike. I freaking loved it, despite how ugly it is. In a previous life I'd used the Thudbuster suspension post and both Moots and Eriksen ti posts. One ride on the Bodyfloat convinced me that rigid posts on hardtails are stupid, no matter what they're made from. By the second ride the stictionless suppleness of the coil-sprung Bodyfloat had me wondering whom I could give my Thudbuster to. I was thrilled to have the Bodyfloat on the bike for this trip. It squeaked a bit after 3 solid days of rain, grit, and seawater, so I dug out my chain lube and put the tiniest dot of lube at the base of one of the pivots, and it was silent the rest of the trip. As a group we swapped bikes a few times and I always immediately missed the Bodyfloat, while whomever was on my bike immediately commented on how good the post felt.



    Drivetrain: I got creative here, for several reasons. Primary driver was not wanting to spend a pile of money on something that was just going to get treated like dirt for 2 weeks straight. I dug into my drivetrain drawer and found a thumbshifter, a clutched derailleur, a used-but-not-used-up chain, and a shoebox full of loose cogs. Knowing that our trip started with ~17 miles of hard-surfaced road gradually descending to the Copper, I knew I'd need a go-fast gear to keep from flapping feebly in the breeze. But then once we left that road and hit the delta, the lagoons, and the beaches, I knew I'd need a few go-slow gears to choose from. From the Lost Coast North trip I knew that SE AK has some really bad brush through which we might have to schwack, so I wanted to keep the drivetrain as simple and clean as possible -- to minimize the potential for breakage. I also wanted to be able to go to a singlespeed if I bent my der hanger or tore the der clean off the bike.



    Thus I decided on a 6 speed setup -- largely because the gears I'd be likely to need in a singlespeed situation were the 5th and 6th cogs, and these had the best chainline. The spread was 11 to 26t, and I just filled in the gaps between with even jumps.











    For cranks I picked Surly Mr. Whirly's simply because I knew I could remove the spider and bolt a titanium 20 tooth Action Tec ring straight into the 58mm bolt circle of the crank. Remembering Eric's epic chainring failure of '08, I basted the chainring bolts liberally with blue loctite.











    Wanting to keep cable runs to a minimum -- both for concerns about saltwater intrusion and to minimize the possibility of snagging one while schwacking -- I bolted the thumbshifter onto the seatstay rack mount, which gave me a massive 8" long cable run to the rear der. I couldn't easily reach that shifter from the saddle, which meant I approached this ride from the perspective of a singlespeeder, always reading the lay of the land and ramping up in advance when necessary. Over the course of the trip I think I averaged 2 shifts a day -- and of those probably only one was necessary.











    Alas my desire to go the extra mile to keep things simple ended up biting me in the ass -- and I'm still not sure why. I broke my chain 4 different times, all of them apropos of nothing that was happening. Grit may have been a factor, but then why weren't the others breaking theirs? Same with saltwater -- why only me? I wasn't shifting enough to speak of and I was diligent about cleaning and lubing the chain a few times a day -- more than the others as far as I could see. 4 broken chains might equal every other chain break I've ever had in a 40+ years of riding bicycles. Never did figure this out, but somehow when I'd used up all of my quicklinks and spare links, and learned that no one else had brought any, the breakages stopped.







    Shifter placement visible above.





    I got creative with pedals. On many previous trips I'd learned the importance of removing pedals for long periods of pushing or carrying the bike. Once removed, not only do you not bang your shins on them when walking, but they can't catch on willow or alder and come swinging around to hit your shins or calves even harder. But carrying and keeping track of an extra tool is sort of a bummer, so I went looking for a solution. I found these on eBay and ran them on my commuter for 3 solid seasons, expecting them to somehow crater. But they never did. So I ordered a second set and when they arrived I compared the bearing feel and tried to find any difference in interface slop from the 3-year-old set to the new set. And I really couldn't tell a difference. So I bolted 'em on for the trip and ultimately used 'em throughout. It was really, really convenient to be able to to just pop a pedal off and stick it in a pocket during the big boat crossings, or while schwacking our way up to the glacier. I'd always make a point of rinsing the spindle in some ~fresh water before snapping the pedal back into place for the next fetch. Really tickled with these.



    Seat was an old WTB Vigo that just plain fits. I think it's my last one -- may need to start scouring eBay this winter...



    Bags: I used a Revelate Gas Tank to keep an iPhone close at hand for navs. We used Gaia to locate ourselves, mark daily progress, and a few times to "see" what was over the bluff and help determine fine route choices when things got really bad.



    I chose a stock Revelate frame bag because it fit the frame really well and because I was able to swing into Revelate and just grab it when I got to Anchorage. Inside I kept most of my lunches, some water, bike tools and repair kit, and a spare tube.











    I used the Revelate Terrapin under the seat, as I've done for many previous trips. This is my all-time favorite seat bag, largely because of it's modularity and waterproofness. Easy to just toss the whole thing into the tent at night, then repack it from within the comfort of the tent in the AM, and then quickly slip it in place and away you go. I had this thing stuffed with all of my dinners, all of my breakfasts, the bug net for the mid, a fuel canister for the stove, and any overflow that I didn't want on my back.











    The Farley frame came with a QR seat binder, which I used frequently when it came time to schlep the bike on the boat. Open the binder, spin the post 180* and drop it completely, and the seat bag was instantly both out of the way of my body inside the boat and my paddle blades outside. Handy.



    All I can think of. Don't hesitate with questions.


  61. #61
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    THAT was comprehensive.

    No questions here.

    Thanks for spending the time to educate the vicarious masses.

    -F
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    WOW!! Thanks for taking the time to write up this great TR and sharing so much detailled info! I can hardly wrap my head around how much saddle time and OCD gear geeking are compressed into these posts.

    Taking a shot at your chain problem vs why others in your group didn't. Were they running more "conventionnal" 1x drive train (i.e. 32 or 30 front rings)? If so, could it be your front 20t "micro drive" that caused the issues? Riding a 20-20 ratio is identical for your legs as your partner riding 32-32. But your chain tension will be ~35% higher because of the smaller leverage the 20T ring has. Plus this tension will be distributed on fewer teeth putting more stress on your links. Add grit, salt water, pre-used chain vs new...

    It's just a theory?! I could be way out in the left field!

  63. #63
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    Quote Originally Posted by frankzetank View Post
    WOW!! Thanks for taking the time to write up this great TR and sharing so much detailled info! I can hardly wrap my head around how much saddle time and OCD gear geeking are compressed into these posts.

    Taking a shot at your chain problem vs why others in your group didn't. Were they running more "conventionnal" 1x drive train (i.e. 32 or 30 front rings)? If so, could it be your front 20t "micro drive" that caused the issues? Riding a 20-20 ratio is identical for your legs as your partner riding 32-32. But your chain tension will be ~35% higher because of the smaller leverage the 20T ring has. Plus this tension will be distributed on fewer teeth putting more stress on your links. Add grit, salt water, pre-used chain vs new...

    It's just a theory?! I could be way out in the left field!
    If I hadn't used these exact 20t ti rings for a ~decade before this, I'd wonder if that was possible. I just don't see why it matters now, but didn't matter for the previous decade?

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    Why did one chain fail like that? There is no way to really figure it out. Too little data. It's just one of those things that happens. Hopefully once in a long time and you are done with that for many trips to come.

    Now that the bike is home how is it looking? Does 2 weeks of use like that mean it will need a full overhaul?

    Are you keeping it long-term for these kind of trips or going to sell it and worry about another sacrificial fatty when you need one down the road?
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    Quote Originally Posted by vikb View Post
    Why did one chain fail like that? There is no way to really figure it out. Too little data. It's just one of those things that happens. Hopefully once in a long time and you are done with that for many trips to come.

    Now that the bike is home how is it looking? Does 2 weeks of use like that mean it will need a full overhaul?

    Are you keeping it long-term for these kind of trips or going to sell it and worry about another sacrificial fatty when you need one down the road?

    Yep, agreed. Not enough info to dig deeper into and determine a cause. Still tough for me to let go of something so off the charts as far as precedent. I think that chain had a few hundred miles on it, at most, before I installed it on this bike.

    The most "damage" is to the frame, where the frame bag sat, and where grit and moisture got between the two and rubbed things raw. Purely cosmetic, but no less ugly.

    I cleaned and regreased every bearing, ****canned the chain and brake pads, flushed the BB shell, seat tube, and head tube with WD40, then threw a whole slew of new parts on it, including tires. With the exception of the frame scuffing, it looks and rides like a new bike.

    I won't need a 'beater fatty' for another ~10 months, thus I'll sell this one locally in the next few weeks, and buy another when the time comes.

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    ...said the fatty beater.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mikesee View Post
    Yep, agreed. Not enough info to dig deeper into and determine a cause. Still tough for me to let go of something so off the charts as far as precedent. I think that chain had a few hundred miles on it, at most, before I installed it on this bike.

    The most "damage" is to the frame, where the frame bag sat, and where grit and moisture got between the two and rubbed things raw. Purely cosmetic, but no less ugly.

    I cleaned and regreased every bearing, ****canned the chain and brake pads, flushed the BB shell, seat tube, and head tube with WD40, then threw a whole slew of new parts on it, including tires. With the exception of the frame scuffing, it looks and rides like a new bike.

    I won't need a 'beater fatty' for another ~10 months, thus I'll sell this one locally in the next few weeks, and buy another when the time comes.
    Chain failures...

    I think some tool at the chain factory was wearing out when your chain came off the chain riveting machine. Probably an anomaly. I would immediately get a new chain and abuse it to see what happens. Of course, I would have kept the old chain for comparison (I'm curious that way, and it's kinda my job sometimes).

    -F
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    Quote Originally Posted by mikesee View Post
    If I hadn't used these exact 20t ti rings for a ~decade before this, I'd wonder if that was possible. I just don't see why it matters now, but didn't matter for the previous decade?
    Maybe the rings are finally worn enough to start causing problems?

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    Quote Originally Posted by bikeny View Post
    Maybe the rings are finally worn enough to start causing problems?
    Mike would not take an old ring on such a trip.

    A buddy of mine broke his chain 4 times on one ride a couple of weeks ago. It got very annoying after the second time. There was nothing obviously wrong but it was theorized in the pub later that he had a bent tooth on one of his cogs. Don't know if that was verified or not.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bikeny View Post
    Maybe the rings are finally worn enough to start causing problems?
    Given the way I answered the question to which you were responding, I can see why you'd lean in that direction.

    Thus I should clarify. The chainrings are Action Tec ti. I bought 6 or 7 of them in the middle 2000's, and used them on most of my bikes through 2013 or so. One would generally last 2-3 years of full-time use.

    It was a *new* ring that I put onto this Farley for this trip. Cogs that were matched with it had, at most, a few hundred miles on them, as did the chain. In short, none had been used enough to have any wear to speak of. I inspected all for a bend or a burr that might be causing the breakage, and there was nothing -- not during the trip, not now afterward.

  71. #71
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    Quote Originally Posted by aelf View Post
    Boone ti cogs?
    Cogs were all Shimano or SRAM.

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    I appreciate these posts as they fuel my desire to embark on an epic adventure like this. I also stalk these posts to see when mike is selling some of his awesome gear

    Like that bike with the 5.05

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    Quote Originally Posted by mikesee View Post
    Given the way I answered the question to which you were responding, I can see why you'd lean in that direction.

    Thus I should clarify. The chainrings are Action Tec ti. I bought 6 or 7 of them in the middle 2000's, and used them on most of my bikes through 2013 or so. One would generally last 2-3 years of full-time use.

    It was a *new* ring that I put onto this Farley for this trip. Cogs that were matched with it had, at most, a few hundred miles on them, as did the chain. In short, none had been used enough to have any wear to speak of. I inspected all for a bend or a burr that might be causing the breakage, and there was nothing -- not during the trip, not now afterward.
    Yeah, I guess I misinterpreted that and thought it was a ring that was used off and on for a few years. Sounds like it was just one of those things that will never be figured out. I'm sure you have already, but I'd just pitch the chain and move on. I don't remember seeing it, what chain was it?

  74. #74
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    Quote Originally Posted by blidner View Post
    I appreciate these posts as they fuel my desire to embark on an epic adventure like this. I also stalk these posts to see when mike is selling some of his awesome gear

    Like that bike with the 5.05
    I only sell stuff if I think I can improve upon it, or if I'm just not using it.

    Nothing better (for snow, yet) than the Vee 2XL tires, thus that bike is staying at least for this season.

  75. #75
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    I'm going to look at the Lenz you sold me!!!

    I'm totally taking away from the the thread so won't perpetuate this, but that Lenz is amazing

    And despite mikes desire to keep pushing for excellence, his pre loved bikes are awesome

  76. #76
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    It took me way too long to find these pics of the der/shifter and improvised "chainguide", but they still seemed important to add for future reference.

    Still working on the video -- but not quite there yet.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails In the footsteps of giants.-8a3a3034.jpg  

    In the footsteps of giants.-8a3a2113.jpg  

    In the footsteps of giants.-8a3a2115.jpg  


  77. #77
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    Reminds me of my grandfather's old International Scout where you'd have to jump out and lock the hubs to go 4x4. Got to really want that shift.

  78. #78
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    Finally finished the accompanying video. See it here.
    Last edited by mikesee; 03-13-2017 at 11:11 AM.

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