Friday, August 5, 2016

And more framebags

I have not been posting lately but certainly keeping busy.  Here are two new custom frame bags that just shipped out of the Wild Dork workshop and are on their way to adventures in Pittsburgh, PA and beyond.

Many projects begin with taking a tracing of the interior of the main triangle with cardboard and making a template for cutting.  I hope to capture the entire manufacturing process in an upcoming post.

Two newly completed frame bags intended for urban adventures in the 'Steel City'.  Or maybe a GAP/C&O Tour.  Or beyond...

On the side opposite the main opening, you will find a small zippered pocket for random small things.  I don't think it will fit a ferret.  We'll have to work on that.  The grey bag is intended for a bike with downtube shifters therefore the zippers are located further back from the nose.

Bags are lined in a color of their owner's choosing.  Here you can see a large black Velcro divider that keeps items from sloshing back and forth and keep the sides of the bag from ballooning out when you have it stuffed with too many Cheetos.

This bag could also double as a handy garden tool organizer that you hang from your fence.  Or you can go biking with it.  You choose.

This is going on a zippy road bike, but would equally be at home on a mountain bike, blending in amongst the trees.

I am excited to be making great products for great people intended for good healthy fun!  I will keep you updated on future progress with my business.  As always, if you're interested in a frame bag, panniers, or any other custom sewn work don't hesitate to reach out in the comments below or find me on Facebook at @thewilddork.


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Framebag goodness!

So about three years ago, I ran into a guy named Joe in Rawlins, WY while biking across the US.  He and his girlfriend were biking the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route at the time.  Joe had made the framebags for their bikes and was considering making them for sale once back home.  I took his email address and duly emailed him a few months later to order a framebag for my Surly Long Haul Trucker.  Joe never emailed me back.  Jerk.

Pam's custom framebag
Naturally I thought to myself, "Heck, I can do that."  Two years passed.  Whoops.  Then Pam and I began to plan our own trip of the GDMBR.  Of course you need to carry all sorts of various stuff to stay alive and comfortable whilst biking through the middle of nowhere for months.  Framebags are a pretty handy way to do this.  I already had one for my bike made by Revelate Designs but Pam needed one.  Pam didn't relish the thought of paying a couple hundred dollars for one in the face of not receiving a paycheck for a few months.  I had no experience using zippers and began to hypothesize about a roll top closure instead.  Lo and behold, a week or two later I saw an early review of the Orbiter framebag made by Porcelain Rocket.  Rather than reinvent the wheel, I studied the pictures in the review and made my own, mimicking the design.  Utilizing old nylon fabric from a boat cover, I laminated that with Tyvek and used assorted buckles and Velcro I acquired.  It probably cost $15.  The bag has lasted several thousand miles of riding.  Pam was pleased.

Now I am setting out to make more custom framebags and other outdoor equipment solutions.  First up, was a Cordura framebag for my road bike.  Of course I have some improvements to make to the design and improve my interior seam finishing work, but it turned out quite nicely if I may say so.

It is a single compartment, single zipper design.  A big honking #10 zipper allows access to the interior.

It is lined with coated nylon which makes it pretty water resistant, but not waterproof.  The interior is a lighter color, red, which allows you to spot things like Snickers bars, bear spray or whatever you're rummaging for.

The points where the bag contacts the frame consists of ballistics nylon and are foam padded.  There is a port along the downtube where a hydration tube can snake out of the bag.

It is wide enough to carry more stuff than necessary within the diamond of your bicycle frame, but narrow enough to not inhibit your feet and legs and give plenty of chainring clearance.

Look at those purty seams and corners!

My plan is to make a few more prototypes to work out any design flaws, but then I will begin accepting inquiries for custom work.  I have access to all of the high falutin' fabrics and materials that all of the other bag manufacturers do so I am looking forward to making some sweet bags and accessories to help folks go have some adventures.

Thanks for looking and let me know what you think!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Oh hail!

In the summer of 2015, Pam and I bicycled from Banff, AB to Steamboat Springs, CO along the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route.  I wrote about the beginning of the trip up until Whitefish, MT and then failed to write anything else.  I'm going to post some small scenes from the trip to catch up.  I am working off of memory so of course it will be entirely factual with no embellishment whatsoever (I also have a journal that we kept at the time).  To be honest, I also just made a pot of espresso with our recently acquired $6 thrift store espresso pot so that may affect my memory too...

The highs and lows of bicycle travel can be truly schizophrenic, changing rapidly from one extreme to the other in short order.  And situations that you (or a more sane person) might otherwise find discomfiting are "THE BEST THING EVER" in the moment and cannot be reasonably explained.  If you're telling a story and your listener's eyebrows keep arching up and up or they look queasy like there may be immediate need of a trashcan, you wrap it up with the quintessential storyteller's line: "You had to be there."  In a period of 24 hours in southern Montana, Pam and I had one such experience.

July 14th, 2015

At some point during the day, Pam's odometer read 900 miles of cycling so far on the trip.  We had been riding now for one month exactly.  The route had thrown plenty at us thus far, but today's ride just slowly sapped our strength.  45 miles of rolling hills gained us 2000' of elevation gain from our starting point, but with all of the ups and downs, we actually climbed considerably more.  A note from my journal reads, "good gravel turned to hard dirt to shitty, rocky washboard, and eventually it just turned into rutted mud".  Additionally, the last mile of climbing to top of the watershed divide was considerably steeper, nothing that a topographical relief map does justice.  We just pushed the bikes up the last half mile of mud and loose rocks to be greeted by whipping winds and what appeared to be a building storm.  

No chance to appreciate the view from the top of the divide crossing, we rode two or three more miles to our planned camp.  Essentially, Pam and I found ourselves in a several mile wide grassy river valley.  Much of it is private ranch land that you can travel through by road, but not camp on legally.  To camp, we needed to figure out what was public land.  It turned out public land was 1/4 mile up a rocky path, through a gate in one of the ubiquitous barbed wire fences, and in a grassy field that looked identical to the hundreds of square miles surrounding us.  Our water source for the night was another 1/4 mile away: a "stream" no wider than my hand, hidden below the aforementioned grass and so full of sediment and cow shit that it clogged our water filter to a standstill.

We slept pretty soundly that night.

July 15, 2015

The day dawned clear and sunny and cool amongst the grass and sagebrush.  Both of us were looking forward to riding into Lima (pronounced LIE-muh like the bean not LEE-muh like Peru) which was about 35 mostly downhill miles away.  We didn't know much about the town beyond the fact that there was an Exxon station there which spawned our rallying cry of "DR. PEPPERS! AND GATORADES! AT THE EXXON GAS STATION!!" that carried us through the day.  Come to think of it, that became our rallying cry for the rest of the trip.  All packed up, we descended through the river valley on ever improving dirt roads.  After a bit, the valley abruptly narrowed to a tight canyon.  Neither the guidebook nor other travelers had given us any expectation of this.  The next ten miles were some of our favorite of the trip.  The road paralleled a beautiful trout stream.  High, soaring rock walls hemmed us in.  The road squiggled back and forth like a mess of spaghetti.  And tucked here and there amongst the rocks were small, ruggedly built cabins, any of which Pam and I would have gladly adopted.  At some point we stopped at a small BLM campground in the canyon for lunch.

The storm is moving left to right.  Fortunately/unfortunately, we are about to turn right in a mile or two.

We have only ridden for several minutes after lunch when the canyon starts widening a bit to where we can see more of the sky.  It's turning grey and there is a bit of wind picking up.  The distinctive smell of rain greets my nostrils.  Both of us don our rain jackets expecting just a little passing shower like what we've ridden in previously on the trip.

I believe Pam was saying something to the effect of "Bicycle touring is so stupid.  And I love it!"

The canyon finally gave out entirely and we could see for miles and miles out in front of us.  What greeted us was a wall of black clouds dropping sheets of rain and sprouting occasional lightning bolts to the north and moving south at a fast clip.  There is nowhere to take shelter for miles and we have to travel ten more miles south to get to Lima.  Shit.  This clearly feels like one of those scenarios in a wilderness first aid class or outdoor leadership course where you analyze what people did wrong.  The storm catches us right as we reach a paved frontage road that parallels Interstate 15 into town.  We've got 8 miles to go.

Pretty soon we get waaaaaay apart from one another.

At first it's just a steady rain.  But the storm clouds behind us are increasingly darker and angrier.  And they're catching up.  Pam shouts to me that it's best if we ride 50-100 feet apart from one another.  Why?  If one of us gets struck by lightning, hopefully the other will be out of range and can administer to the other.  Hey, if you're gonna be dumb and ride around in thunderstorms, you better be smart about it!  The two of us are biking about as fast as we can maintain comfortably, knowing that we have about 8 miles left.  And that's when the hail starts.

It begins as pea sized hail, just lightly here and there.  The hail gains intensity.  Pam is laughing at the ridiculousness of our situation.  There's not much else we can do at this point as we haven't seen any form of shelter for miles.  This goes on for many minutes.  Then the storm rapidly gains strength and the hail falls even faster.  The spheres of ice increase to about an inch in diameter.  Both of us instinctively attempt to make our entire bodies shrink beneath our bike helmets, the only source of protection.  The problem is, one still needs to have a hand on the handlebars of the bike.  I can still hear Pam laughing interspersed with a surprise yelp as another big hail chunk hits the back of her unprotected hands.  It sounds like someone is dumping buckets of marbles onto the road from great height whilst someone else is throwing gravel at you.  Over the din, we communicate that we must find some shelter and at long last spot an abandoned feed shed off the side of the frontage road.

Hail and cowshit.

We try as fast as we can to get off of the road, find a break in the fence and navigate a yard of tall grass, haphazard coils of barbed wire and indistinguishable abandoned metal parts in order to take refuge under the sheet metal shed.  It only affords us about a four foot overhang and hail is still blowing up under, but it's much better that being out in the midst of the storm.  The clanging of the ice falling on the sheet metal roof is a dull roar.  And after ten minutes of waiting, the storm moves on and the hail and the rain and the winds let up.

Snow in July?

Pam and I drag our bike out from under the feed barn and pedal back to the frontage road.  We have only about 4 miles of riding left to Lima.  As we ride through actual snowdrifts of hail collected on the road, we can help but smile and laugh and appreciate what an odd and beautiful day it has been.  We roll into Lima which is no more than a motel, a restaurant and a gas station offering an exit to motorists on I-15.  To us it is a bonanza.  We rent a room at the Mountain View Motel and immediately take hot showers and put on what dry clothes we have left.  Next stop is Jan's Cafe where we get cowboy burgers (beef patty with ham, bacon and cheddar on top) with fries and a side of gravy.  Over our sumptuous meal, Pam and I rejoice over the highs and lows of the past day.  It has felt like a whirlwind.

Then we go to Ralph's Exxon station and get our Dr. Peppers and Gatorades.