Blog - Manual Pedal

Paradise In Banff

Cycling & Photo Album

The dramatic mountains here in Banff dominate the sky. The turquoise colored lakes surrounds the mountains floor, and snow that coat the summits. Plans for seeing the northern lights fell through as we entered shoulder season and frigid winter had seemed to arrive here just a week before departure leaving deep cloud coverage every day. While the weather in Banff had turned around fast, it was still paradise. I was a bit unsure on how to pack my bike and what tires I should run for this trip factoring the weather. The game plan was to ride a couple of trails during this trip. Moraine Lake Trail was one of them. However, with the snow pounding the trail it was too dangerous and not recommended by locals to take on.

Behold, Spray River Trail. An 8-mile loop that can be ridden east or west with challenging punchy climbs, but also short enough to where you’re able to see the end in sight. This scenic gravel trail lies alongside the ice filled river with waterfalls and deep stunted trees up near tree lines. It was cold and muted with snow that clothe the mountain slopes. And another beautiful picturesque ride. 

Mastering The Lens: Bikepacking Photography

Finding The Right Tool For The Job

Bikepacking became influential to my photography. It constantly pushes me to rethink my craft.

From waking up in my tent off the Kokopelli trail, or camped on the top of the Eastern Sierras in California. I became in love with photography while documenting the mellow extreme sport of bikepacking & bicycle touring. I’ve been a photographer long before getting into this sport but being on the bike shooting has pushed my work far more than as a street photographer home in New York City.

During my first tour only 4 years ago I was contemplating on what the right tool for the job would be. I brought 3 cameras along with me for that trip. One was a big Canon 5D Mark III with a 24-70mm lens. That was heavy in my Ortileb pannier and mainly used for video and shooting time lapse photography. The 2nd was my mobile phone which was quick and easy to use. However, it didn’t quite give me what I was looking for. The 3rd was my trusty Ricoh GR point and shoot fixed lens camera which I have since replaced with a Fujifilm XT2.

The Ricoh GR gave me the ability to shoot while on the bike. High speed shots that were sharp, had blur and provided that intense action feel that would bring you along for the ride. It was light, rough and easy to pack. It can fit right inside your mountain bike shorts pocket, frame bag or strapped around your neck.

My style of shooting on the bike is dangerous. I would often shoot with one hand on the handlebars while the other is taking the photo. It’s risky but I would often treat my work as if I’m a street photographer just like back home in New York City. I would walk the blocks and just try to find moments. Often times they will find me and I have to be prepared and ready to press the shutter and capture the shot. 

There is no right or wrong way of shooting or camera that performs better than others. It’s about vision and becoming apart of the scene. Whatever tool you choose to use all comes down to personal preference. Over the years I find that for bikepacking and bicycle touring the Ricoh GR performed the best for my use.

Below is a collection of 10 of my favorite images with captions from bicycle touring from a variety of cameras I’ve used. Enjoy, comment, share and subscribe for more journals like these.

U.S. Tour - Colorado/ Ricoh GR
U.S. Tour – Colorado/ Ricoh GR
Ibagué, Colombia/ Fuji XT2
Armenia, Colombia/ Fuji XT2
Kokopelli Trail/ Ricoh GR
Kokopelli Trail/ Ricoh GR
Woodstock, NY/ Fuji XT2
Sierra Mountains, California/ Canon 5D Mark III
Salento, Colombia/ Fuji XT2
Salento, Colombia/ Fuji XT2
Kokopelli Trail, Utah/ Ricoh GR

Hong Kong – The Twisted City

It was 7 am when I arrived in Hong Kong. A few hundred Hong dollars loaded on my Octopus Card and I was off via the MTR to Causeway Bay where I’ll be staying for 4 days before Diane arrives. For such a fast pace city, it was quiet and quaint, seemingly different from the city that never sleeps that I left just 16 hours prior. It was hot. I definitely had the wrong outfit on as my legs sweat through my jeans. Coffee was on my mind and became the first stop since I couldn’t check into my hotel until 3 pm. I walked.




In a major city like Hong Kong, I was surprised cycling didn’t thrive here. But over the 4 days I had, I was able to foot tour around, use public transportation such as buses, trains, and taxis and quickly realized why. Hong Kong just may not have enough space for bicycle lane infrastructure to be retrofitted into the city.


It may be unsurprising to some that a popular city like Hong Kong sits in one of the densest countries in the world, China. But you can tell just by walking down the city blocks. I often found myself bumping shoulder to shoulder with people. But even though it may be a high volume of people, the main issue I believe is the urban planning. Skyscrapers, housing buildings, freeways, and tunnels dominate the majority of Hong Kong’s real estate.

The streets are tight with no shoulders for cyclist to safely ride. I must have seen 3 cyclists total during my 4 days here. They were mainly old men carrying supplies. One of them struggled to get through traffic, and the other two were hopping over the rails of double decker trams. It reminded me a lot like San Francisco with their tires nearing the edges of the rails. It’s a twisted city, in that it’s landscape transitions depending on where you are. All over there is beauty, with lots of energy and powerful deep-rooted history.


Sure you can fly in with a bike or rent one at a local shop to ride, but your safety is highly at risk. Your options for cycling would be exploring the New Territories outside of Hong Kong Island, or a 25-minute ferry ride to Lamma Island for a short Mountain Bike tour. If you’re looking for bikepacking and touring, Lantau Island is a great location and takes up most of Hong Kong’s land. While there you’ll find tech terrain and more countryside views.

Being a cyclist coming from New York City I was able to get a taste of riding with the sharks. Split second decisions when dodging taxis on my fixed gear, to riding the bridges borough to borough. We’ve definitely improved over the years with bicycle safety and infrastructure. I think major cities that support cycling lanes are rooted in their community base who advocate for them to be integrated into the streets. Hong Kong has a long way to go, but cities like New York, Bogota, San Francisco and other’s can sure show what a city like Hong Kong can one day become.

George’s 2017 Soma Juice 29er

Bikepacking is such a fun, but extreme and mellow sport. Route planning, gear checking and the proper bike to use are some of the things we bikepacker’s face whether it be for short 2-3 day trips or month long extended expeditions. It’s always great to see what other riders use to carry their gear. We got George to share his rig and gear breakdown from his most recent trip to Colombia, where he rode for a 5 days bikepacking from Armenia to Bogota Colombia. George built this bke from the ground up and chose every part for a specific reason. This is what bikepacking is all about. You choose your gear based off of your specific needs, and then you forget about it. You rely on it to do the job and work for you.

2017 Soma Juice 29er
Fork: Rockshox Yari 120mm travel fork
Wheels: Spank Oozy 395 wheelset
Drivetrain: Shimano XT 1×11 11-42 with Wolftooth Components oval 32t chainring, XT cranks, Crank Bros 5050 pedals
Brakes: XT brakes
Stem: Diety stem
Handlebars: Specialized bars/ Ergon GS2 grips
Tires: Maxxis Icon 2.3 tires Tubeless
Seat/ Seatpost: Thompson elite post and Ergon saddle

The bags I used to outfit the bike with are by different bag manufactures. I have my seat bag by Revelate design. Specialized Handlebar and Stabilizer Harness, Specialized Burra and Burra handlebar dry bag, 2 Anything cages mounted to the fork with hose clamps. Rogue Panda Coin purse bag, Revelate gas tank and 2 Revelate cup holder things.

 

Favorites From Colombia Album





 

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Review

If your one who can appreciate the full worth of a cozy nights sleep after a long day of hiking or bicycle touring then you wouldn’t have much of a problem blowing air into this sleeping pad. The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite is one of the most comfortable sleeping pads I slept on. We spend a 3rd of our lives sleeping so why not do it comfortably while out camping. I know some of my best periods of sleep were spent in my tent in the outdoors after a long day of hiking or biking.

Before I started using the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite sleeping pad my nights were spent sleeping on the Ridge Rest SoLite closed cell foam pad. While that is a great pad with an effortless setup, I wanted something more compact and lightweight to accompany with me during bicycle touring trips. When you’re out on a bicycle touring trip or hiking you want to go light. The idea is to leave the kitchen sink at home and cut your gear in half. While many variables exist here in terms of your gear setup. Cutting down weight on certain items can change your entire experience.

Space was a concern for me with my Ridge Rest SoLite as it’s not very compact at all. The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite was the answer. Weighing at only 12oz for the regular size pad and about the size of my Camelbak water bottle, I was able to pair this pad with my tent inside of my dry bag and mount it to my handlebar system during tours.

Recently I went on a bicycle touring trip to the Catskill Mountains. At night temps were in the mid 40-50 degrees Fahrenheit. With the 3.2R value and ThermaCapture technology that the NeoAir XLite boast I had no problems with keeping warm and cozy in my tent.

Now if you’re a side sleeper like myself then this is, without doubt, one of the best pad’s out there. I sometimes toss and turn around at night to find the coziest spot in my tent. I had no problems redefining comfort, which means more time is spent sleeping under the stars.
If you’re looking for an ultralight setup for camp, bike, and hiking trips, look no further.

To purchase the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite follow this link.

Surly Long Haul Trucker: Custom Disc Brake Bikepacking Setup – Manual Pedal


Latest image taken – 11/7/2017

After booking Colombia, it didn’t take much thought to decide whether or not I was going to build a new rig for this trip or bring my trucker. After shortly deciding on the trucker being the bike I’d be taking. I had to take a look to see what needed to be changed and swapped with updated parts. My Kokopelli rig was a 10spd drivetrain 32/24, with a 10/36 in the rear that sat on 2.1 tires. It was a solid rig that was capable of handling Kokopelli’s rocks, dirt and sand with no problem. I expected this bike to perform the same in Colombia. You can read more about Kokopelli’s Rig on this link. This bike was fully modified for that trip and retains most of the modifications today.

With my latest concoction, I changed a few things around. I adapted a front disc brake setup. This happened after my original forks brake mount snapped off during a crash in Colombia, that left me with no front brake on descents. Shortly after returning home here in the states, I bought and mounted a disc trucker fork to the long haul trucker frame. After my front brake failed after that crash, I knew instantly disc brakes would have been a far better choice due to the terrain and the load being carried.


Brakes:

I went with the TRP Spyre SLC road disc brake for my bike. TRP crafted a fine piece of aluminum and carbon for this brake. It’s light weight, designed for road and cx but can take on mud and mixed conditions. I think this is a great match for the rider looking for a bit more quality, functionality, ease of use and longevity. I see no issues with this brake on the long haul trucker going forward.

What I like most about it is that it actuates both pads simultaneously. This is different than other systems I’ve seen for mechanical systems. What I mean is, when touring you want your bike to have a solid setup this way you can focus on the riding and being there. Also you want to be able to fix your bike in a barn in any event you have a brake down. A straight cable to the the disc brake and a few turns to mount and adjust the disc brake and set.

Adjustment is a fly with this brake. It will require a hex tool and allen wrench to mount. I have mine mounted up easily to my existing Avid brake lever. The pull is very nice on this brake. I have a Shimano 180mm disc center lock rotor which will provide better stopping power and extended pad life. The Spyre SLC disc brake makes for a nice addition to my setup. It should suit most disc touring frames and comes with additional mounting hardware.

Wheels:

I’ve been wanting to get new wheels built for a while. I had my eyes set on the Mavic A719 rims laced to Shimano XT Disc Hubs with DT spokes. I was also stoked that this was my first official set of wheels I built myself.

Drivetrain:

For me drivetrain was a battle of trail and error. From the stock triple, to a double to now a 1×11 setup. I think after riding in different locations and getting a feel for the terrain you can get a better feel for a setup that works best for me. I now run a 1×11/42. This new setup is a keeper. It’s clean, light, shifts smooth and low maintenance will be required.

 

Frame:
Surly Long Haul Trucker
Fork/Headset:
Surly Long Haul Trucker, 4130 CroMo
Crankset/Bottom Bracket:
Shimano Deore
Pedals:
Shimano XTR M-980 Pedals/ MTB Bear Trap Platform
Drivetrain/Cog/Chainring/Chain:
Shimano XT, Shimano 32t 1x 11/42 Cassette 11spd
RearShifter:
Shimano XT SGS (Long Cage) 11spd
Handlebars/Stem:
Shimano Koyak MTB Crossbar
Saddle/Seatpost:
Thomson Masterpiece, Specialized Toupe
Brakes:
Front – TRP Spyre SLC Disc
Rear – Shimano V-Brake/
Leavers – Avid
Wheels /Hub/Tire:
Mavic A719 32h, Shimano XT Disc Hubs, DT Champion Spokes, WTB Riddler Tire 700×45 front/rear
Accessories:
Ergon GP2 Bar end grips, Outfitted with Revelate Designs bags

End Route: Colombia Bikepacking Trip Report Day 4-5

We got into Cajamarca after our jeep broke down for the 3rd time shortly after leaving Touché. The breakdown kept us roadside for about an hour before we decided to leave on two wheels. We covered too much ground on the jeep that day. The plan was to initially get to Cajamarca to catch up on the route since we missed a full day. It was nice to finally be on the bike and riding the trail. It was a short ride in and longer when I stopped to snap a photo. This segment of the ride was mainly downhill so I took it slow on my V-brake setup, while George had disc breaks and went down ahead fast. Battling the terrain on my bike was a bit tough but still manageable. I ride a rigid setup that some would raise an eyebrow at since it’s not the ideal choice for a trip like this. Others, such as purist may appreciate the character.

After arriving in Cajamarca we found a hotel and put our bikes down for the night. Cajamarca is a truck through route city, small and punchy. For dinner we ordered whatever he was having. Looking back, it must have been a Sancocho de Pescado. A fish soup dish served with rice, yucca, potato and corn garnished with a lime. It was a hearty stew like dish. Fuel for tomorrows ride into Ibagué.

In the morning we were out the door around 8:30am. It was 32 miles of road riding into Ibagué where we would pick up our off-road route. Riding the road was sketchy. Trucks were nearly rubbing elbows as some viciously passed by and the local motorist think they’re in go carts. This is why I prefer being off-road. We got into Ibagué around 11:30am.


We decided since it was early to grab a fast lunch and continue pushing forward on the route. It was a bit tough finding the trail head. George was already frustrated and it was only getting hotter out. After finding the route we climbed for hours. This section was tough and one of the biggest climbs and bike a hikes I’ve ever done on my rig. After reaching the top the trail became very dangerous. The trail narrowed in and We suddenly appeared on a foot trail that led to homes of the locals that lived in the mountains. They were shocked to see us on bikes passing through their, and at the same time paid us no mind. The route became steeper and more technical as we continued to push on. I ended up taking a spill over the bars and broke my fork V-Brake boss. At this point I only have a rear brake.

After skidding everywhere, we approached a dead-end to the trail, seemingly by it’s appearance. We had to either continue on this path or head back to the trail head. This was the moment where I had to make the decision to hike back up to the main trail or take a risk on the rough foot trail. After conversing over a plan we decided it was best to abandon route and seek alternatives. We hiked back up to the main trail which was brutal. We ended up riding back into Ibague where we ended our ride.

Its easy to get comfortable in areas like these. The remoteness of it plays a big part. Part of me wanted to continue, while the other part just needed to take a step back to consider our safety. While going for it and taking the risk could have ended in reward, It’s all about knowing your limits.

Subscribe to the journal below for more.

Colombia Bikepacking Trip Report: Day 2-3

It was a slow ride from Armenia into Salento. Distancing away from the cars we go further and farther away from black top roads and onto the dirt track high into the mountains. You can hear the tires rustle as they transition. The distractions of cars sounding off horns and motorbikes revving up their engines as they pass by slowly quiet. We were then undisturbed. This is the moment I’ve been waiting for. It was all new, the same but different. On the trail the Banana trees and large snowflake like plants replaced the usual shrubs from back home, and the palms took up most of the trail dramatically. We were in the wild.

It was a big climb into Salento that took us just under 3 hours. We took breaks in between; no rush it was the first day. The initial plan was to get close to The Cocora Valley so that we can see them first thing in the morning. That soon changed after we decided to stop for a beer after making it into Salento. We then met Zack, a Floridian who worked the bar at Luciérnaga Salento. After hanging in he convinced us we stay right here in town. We booked a night at La Serrana, an Eco Farm Hostel not far down the road. We parked our bikes for the evening and walked back to the bar for a second round of Club Roja

That evening the night was clear, and packed with entertainment close by. Several more rounds of Club Roja, and a late night walk back to the hostel. – (I read my own mind). Tomorrow, a new day, a new ray of sunrise with a new warmth.

The next day was the usual for me. I kept my routine and work up before 5:30am. I didn’t want to but it was automatic. 5:43-5:44 I felt the earth shake. No one believed me, I was the only one up. It rumbled and my heart started pounding after what I experienced. I stayed up for a while quiet with my eyes open, then grabbed my camera and went outside. After breakfast we packed our bikes and took a jeep ride from the center of town over to Salento with our bikes. The plan was to check out the Wax Palms in the Valley and then pickup our route near by afterwards.

The Route that we took was wrong. We were going in reverse for about 45minutes on a downhill course. After a few mountain bikers came down and told us we were going the wrong way we had to leave and head back into Salento. On the way we meet a few mountain bike riders who showed us an alternate route that will take us into Tochê. This was the actual route that was on our map. It was clean in the beginning, but later that evening things took a turn for the worse.

The sun began to fall so we needed to find camp. We setup stealth slightly hidden from the high grass off the route. It was dark by the time our tents were setup. George prepared the stove for dinner. Upon functioning the stove, it combusted and later burnt out. We were out of a stove, and later out of a sleeping back as his rolled down the edge of the ridge we were camped off of. After a combination of hike-a-bike and climbing for 3 hours prior to to this unfortunate event, we decided to descent back into Salento to try and find fuel and a new stove, and possibly a blanket of some sort for George. It was a long day.

 

Colombia Bikepacking Trip Report: Day 0-1

Colombia, one of the South American countries I’ve always wanted to visit. I dreamt of seeing the Wax Palms in the valley so much I almost tattooed one along my right rib cage in Bogotå. Bolivar Square, a magical place where birds fly wild in front of you waiting for you to push the shutter. The vivid colors of the colonial villages, the coffee, the food, the people, the sounds, and the mountains – I <sigh>.

I’ve been wanting to ride Colombia for a couple of years. I’ve had a few trips under my belt on the home turf, but an international trip was far fathomed before coming into fruition. My stomach was turning when George said he was down. Right there I said to my self “wow, this is it.” So now, how do you deal with the fear of the unknown? You do it by simply recognizing you don’t have much of a choice.

That was initially my thinking in bikepacking Colombia. You do everything you can to plan to the tee. Bike properly together and working, insurance to back your ass up if things go south (oh it did), and whether or not the route your riding is actually rideable. There’s so much you can do in terms of preparation, but the core of it all is just going for it and figuring things out on the go.

A short Uber ride to the LIRR to meet up with George at the AirTrain, then a 6 ½ hour flight into Bogotå, Colombia. We got in late evening, exhausted from time travel and pulling our cumbersome bike bags that kept tumbling over. We booked a hotel for a couple nights before heading West to Armenia where our route begins.

The first full day in Bogotå was amazing. Sort of a culture shock for me because it was my first time out of the United States, let alone on a pretty intense bikepacking adventure. We were on our bikes, the best way to travel here. Bogotå has an incredible system of bike lanes setup all over the city. The lanes are pretty safe, but riding in the street can be dangerous. However, I think everyone looks out for each other. Yyou can tell they have a method going to keep everyone safe on the road, so I didn’t feel uncomfortable riding with the cars and motorbikes. We kept it tourist style and explored just about everything during our first couple days there. We jumped from restaurant to café to historic landmarks and diving into different neighborhoods to check out the scene.

A couple of days later we booked a 9-hour bus ride from Bogotå to Armenia, Colombia which is point A of our route. George’s tire exploded after getting sliced by a sharp end on a water bottle cage makeshift he installed right before boarding the bus. We had to find a tire at a local bikeshop there which came by quite easy. The next day begins our first day of the trip where we ride into Salento, a 26 km ride with a massive climb. This was where the feeling began to be real for me. The next day the Wax Palms await.

 

-Stay tuned for Day two of this trip coming soon. Follow @manualpedlpix for images and updates.