Topo and Docena Synergies

I have been a long time stalker of Topo Designs bags.  They do really good stuff, simple, yet feature filled and made in Colorado.  About a week ago I pulled the trigger on a couple of their Dopp Kits and a Mountain Hip Pack.

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Both happen to have a really fantastic synergy with the Docena handlebar bags.  The dimensions work out to be near perfect modules for organizing or escape pods.  The dopp kits are a bit over 11″ wide. about 5 inches tall and triangular in cross section.  This slots them perfectly into the upper or lower compartments.  One is great for helping keep things organized, as a dopp kit for toiletries, camp kitchen supplies.  If one were really on an OCD tear you can get two easily into a Docena section, possibly 3 if they were not overstuffed.

9.18 Topo-2 9.18 Topo-1The Mountain hip bag completely fills either the upper or lower Docena compartment.  Why carry a bag in a bag?  if you are headed out to the mountains, either all day or overnight for a bit of biking and hiking it is a great way to get you day hiking stuff to the trail head without having to ride with it on your body and then carry the docena on the hike.  At a bit over 400 cubic inches in volume, with multiple external lashing points, it is the perfect companion for day hikes, walks dow to the stream for a quick fish haul a compact camera system and your lunch etc.

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9.18 Topo-7 9.18 Topo-5I am looking forward to working all of these into my daily carry routines.  great bags help make transport fun and the lads easier to manage.  Thanks to everybody at Topo for making great bags and all sorts of other stuff.  I can see some of their Accessory Bags in my future, also coincidentally sized to drop right into the Docena

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New Rambler In the Demo Fleet

The summer has been pretty good to us, and it was time to take some of that cash flow and use it to add another demo Rambler to out fleet.  Until now we had the 51 and 63.  Everything in between for test rides, expos etc. depended on the help of friends and customers.  I pulled a 59 US Blue from inventory and built it up in a pretty non-standard Rambler way, just to show how versatile the frame set can be.

9.13 sunset b wp-1The drive train is the White Industries Double/Double, The front rings are a 38/35 machined from a single plate and a 16/19 freewheel in back.  This gives me a great high gear for around town and moderate hills, and a more moderate low for when I hit the dirt roads.  The rear ENO hub has an eccentric axle to manage chain tension.  Switching between high and low is done manually.  There is also a fixed cog on the other side should I ever choose to go that route, options.  Up front there is a SON 28 dyno powering B&M head and tail lights.  Silver Vice pedals, King Sotto Voce headset, Nitto Albatross bars wrapped in Newbaums Cotton, Selle Anatomica NSX saddle and plenty of Paul Comp details.  The Docena bag fits the gap between bars and rack on the front like a glove.  The tires are the new Soma Cazadero 700×43 knobby, and I am liking them a ton.  So far I have about 40 miles on the build and am beyond happy to have it as a second Rambler in the fleet that I can ride.  I will have a more detailed photo series in a week or two once I have everything dialed in, already swapped the bars and saddle, there may be a few more adjustments, but things are close.

9.13 sunset wp-1The shakedown ride after the above mentioned bar and saddle swap was a roaring success and the shellac is drying on the bar tape as I type.

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Pannier Hardware Decaleur Hack

With the first batch of Docena bags landing at their new owner’s this week, I wanted to share a bit about the hardware hack I have been rolling with for over a year now.  I opted to engineer a rock solid quick release system around commonly available pannier hooks.  They are cheaper, lighter, faster on/off and familiar to most cyclists outside of the french rando historical reenactment scene.  Likewise, I hacked a Nitto Lamp holder two with an old MTB handlebar and 10mm cabinet pull to male the handlebar side of the mount.  I wholly believe convenience and safety are key tenants as part of my quest to bring front loading bikes to the mainstream, getting there with familiar hardware can only help.  Here is a pic of the end hard mounted to the handlebars.

8.30 decaleur hack-1The next step is prepping your pannier hardware of choice.  I went with Ortlieb because the locking mechanism is simple and strong.  The mounting rail adds a bit of welcome rigidity to the bag, and there is little weight penalty with the molded plastic structure.  I mount the bare hooks on the 10mm “decaleur” rail to get them centered.

8.30 decaleur hack-2Put the bag on the rack and make sure the height of the mounting rail works out with the space between Docena rear pockets and the top flap.

8.30 decaleur hack-3This is a place where the adjustability of the Nitto mount hack really shines.  there are miltiple degrees of freedom in moving the mounting rail forward, back up and down by simply rotating around the two clamping axis.  With two rotating axis you end up wiht a reasonable amount of adjustment.  In the last few months the Nitto Lamp holder 2 has also shown up on our shores in a variety of mounting bracket lengths.  Once happy with how it all lines up, mark you horizontal line on the bag at the bottom of your bracket

8.30 decaleur hack-4Taking the bag over to the work bench, use a ruler to locate and align the center of the rail to the center of your bag.  This is the start of where you will want to be as careful as possible.  Measure twice  and be certain of every step.

8.30 decaleur hack-5From there I set the rail into position, and mark the mounting holes.

8.30 decaleur hack-6I use a hot soldering iron to make the holes and sear the material from fraying in a single pass.  I have also seen this done with a hot nail.  Use some common sense, do not burn your fingers being careless about the process.  This is best done with the stiffener fully inserted in the final position.  You will want the holes to pass all the way through and fully engage the bag and coroplast stiffener.

8.30 decaleur hack-7My picture of the mounting hardware turned out terrible.  I will insert one from the next bag I set up.  It really is the most straight forward step, just nuts and bolts.  That is it.  From there the nylon strap goes over the tombstone on your lower rack, and the pannier hooks grab your hacked decaleur just like the panniers most of us are familiar with.  If I know I will be leaving the bag on, or riding for long periods off pavement, I take the time run the bottom velcro straps through the rack.  Honestly though, I do not use them for most of my day to day riding.

8.30 decaleur hack-8Based of feedback from other riders using Swift bags the Berthoud decaleur for threadless stems is also a good solution.  There are a variety of off the shelf solutions that will get you where you want to go.  My hack above works better than most IMO, shaves a bit of $$ and feeds your inner maker monkey.  At some point we will offer a packaged solution, but there are a few other projects ahead of it in line.

 

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New Dingle Speed Rambler in The Stable

It was time to add one more demo Rambler to the fleet.  This is a 59 with a few fun details not yet seen on other builds.  New Soma Cazadero 700×43 knobby tires, White Industries Double/Double drive train and ENO eccentric rear hub, Nitto Bosco bars, and a dropout mounted tail light.  I made it out for a 30’ish mile shake down ride today and am really happy to have this one around.  It will end up being the slightly more simple grab and go bike for around town.  Even with the wider knobby tires there is still room for plastic fenders.  The tires really need a 55mm fender, and at the moment there is no metal offering in that size that I know of.  Now for the fun part.

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Docena Pre-Sale Is On

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Coffee Outside

This morning was fantastic for a quick ride to the beach to brew up a cup.  Our regular summer weather is filling in, which means alternating days of fog and clear.  Every time I get out and do this, then look at the pictures, I am reminded of why we work so hard to live here.

A word about the product placement in the pictures.  All of the gear, clothing and stuff in the pictures are things that I use weekly or daily.  Some of it we sell: Caldera cone stoves, Farm and Field Knives, Rambler, Bandanas, LTD Edition Caps etc..  Selling this stuff is what affords the ability to make these mornings happen, and we are grateful for your purchases and support.  Some of the gear I buy just to use.  Both the knickers and shirt in this ride are from SWRVE, and are top notch products that I will sell some day when we grow to a retail location.  Choosing to support small innovative business will often get you better products as well as help keep the local economies rolling.  My purchases are all heavily based on a bias for value and craft, consider what you see as recommendations.  If you ever have a question about something you see and like, do not hesitate to ask for more info.

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Docena Demi-Porteur Bag

What is a Demi-Porteur bag?

Ever since moving to a bike optimized for a front load I started to push the envelope of how much went in the upper bag vs. panniers.  The goal being that the upper bag would accommodate 90% of my daily bike trasportational needs, and the panniers only come out for groceries, camping trips, etc.  I keep a regular rotation of tools and clothing layers with me all the time.  Add to that things that vary per ride like camera gear, meals, coffee gear, post office runs, etc.  I needed maximum volume and flexibility.  Starting with the basic form of a traditional randonneuring bag, I pushed some of the dimensions and features without going so far that it became a full porteur bag.

While pushing the boundaries of size and volume I also wanted to shave some weight.  The first place I made the weight cut was with material.  The design is able to use all of the strong points of the Dimension Polyant XPac, and avoid most of the features that are considered the material’s downside.  XPac is a three layer laminate, pack cloth on the outer faces, with a mylar center and a cross weave of polyester fiber on the bias for added load capacity and tear resistance.  XPac does not like to be forced into compound curves or situation with high abrasion.  The boxy shape takes care of the first.  Abrasion is generally minor on the bag as it is surrounded by the bars and rack.  The material is highly water proof and light for the amount of strength.

The bags being made by Swift Industries came the closest to what I was going for.  I reached out to Martina during last year’s trip to Seattle.  We hit it off well, and after a bit of back and forth communication, modifications of the overall dimensions and nailing dow the details, the first production sample hit my door.  Honestly, it was everything I had envisioned.  If the full Docena project never made it off of the ground I would still be using this as my primary bag for years to come.  Soak in the picture set, and then I will hit you with the details:

 

5.28 Docena WP-15.28 Docena WP-25.28 Docena WP-45.28 Docena WP-35.28 Docena WP-55.28 Docena WP-65.28 Docena WP-75.28 Docena WP-85.28 Docena WP-95.28 Docena WP-105.28 Docena WP-115.28 Docena WP-125.28 Docena WP-135.28 Docena WP-145.28 Docena WP-155.28 Docena WP-16By Rando Bag standards this is a huge bag.  It is both tall and wide.  Wide enough to fit 1 dozen eggs, and deep enough front to back to fit a second dozen as needed.  Overall dimensions of the main compartment are 28cm tall x 21cm deep x 30 cm wide.  There is 37cm of space between the inside faces of my break hoods, while I do not have any problems with finger rub, I would not use the bag if yours are any narrower.

The main compartment has a removable partition to keep your loads separate.  Tall bags can quickly become cluttered and challenging to get stuff off the bottom.  The everyday stuff like pumps, warmers and wind breakers stays on the bottom, things I want regular access too is on the top; snacks, camera gear etc.  This could easily split a change of work clothes on the bottom, lunch up top etc.  The partition can be removed much like an old hiking backpack to accommodate bigger items as needed.  There is also a roll closure front for getting to the bottom load without having to enter through the top.  .

Side pockets are standard rando bag style.

The front pocket is full width to fit all your odds and ends including full size road maps (AAA).  The width caries over into the top map pocket, again easily accommodating full size maps and or your electronic device.  Samsung Note 2 and meeting wallet shown for scale.  the vinyl material on the top will also allow for the use of the device touch screen.  The lid has two traditional inner flaps as well as top.  The elastic closures have been moved from the center to corners.  This allows for easier closure while riding.  I generally leave one corner open for quick camera access.

The rear facing part of the bag has two traditional small pockets.  In addition there is an external lock pocket.  No more opening and unloading the bag to find your lock at the bottom.

There are internal stiffeners on the three vertical sides.  The bottom stiffener pocket is external.  In general I have never felt the need for a stiffener there, but use it as a cutting board slot on longer trips.  There are also the four traditional straps Swift uses to secure their bags to a min rack.  I have only needed these for rougher roads.

The bag can be secured to most traditional rando racks with the back stop strap and a decaleur system.  Some type of upper support will be needed for a bag this size.  Working out all of the options in this arena will be a separate post.  My current system of an Ortlieb pannier hook and hacked Nitto lamp mount has been fantastic.  We are refining the design, but it is not yet ready for market.

I may have skipped a couple of details, and there will be some subtle refinements as we move into production.  That said the bag has exceeded all of my expectations, and is 98% perfect.  Delivery time, final cost and total number made are still being worked out over the next week or so.  Much of that will depend on initial interest.  Stay tuned for a presale announcement, Newsletter subscribers will get fist crack at any discounts .

 

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Berkeley Bound

Another 650b Rambler is headed to Berkeley, CA this afternoon.  This will make the 5th Rambler in the SF Bay area, slowly creeping towards world domination!  It really hit me while working on these photographs, the Ramblers are my design, my vision made real by craftsmen in Portland, the whole pile of work it took, and continues to take.  The best part though is getting them out into the world, under happy riders, now exceeding their hopes of what a bike could be.  Performance and function that best meets the needs of people who would rather get to the day’s destinations by bike.  Thank you to every Rambler rider out there, you are the ones keeping this ride rolling.

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Rambler Blemish Sale

The most recent shipment of Rambler frame sets has arrived and I have made it through the initial QC on about half of them.  Some are as close to perfect as I could hope.  A few missed the mark.  I consider the Rambler a premium product, as should all of our fans and customers, and hold the bar pretty high for finish work.  One was beyond hope as seen in the previous post, but a few are mechanically perfect, and only minor flaws in the powder coat.  I did not want to release these as firsts, but the risk is too high that they may end up in worse shape then better if we send them back again for re-paint.  These end up as sale bikes that can be found here at $1350.  Some examples of the minor flaws or scuffs in handling

5.21 Blem-1050763 5.21 Blem-1050764 5.21 Blem-1050766 5.21 Blem-1050770 5.21 Blem-1050771 5.21 Blem-1050773I honestly believe most customers would not have seen the flaws, but I did, and that is what counts before they leave the shop.  The frames are strong and true to design and function.  This is a great chance to pick up a Rambler at a deal, ride the heck out of it, and forget which beausage was the original and which was yours.

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The Unglamorous Side

At times it may appear dreamy getting to tinker with bike frames all day, making, designing and testing gear, but it is still work.  And then there are the real bummers, lost packages, time delays and cost overruns that are part of the business.  The thing I hate to most though is this

5.23 dents-1050810 5.23 dents-1050813All of the man hours and resources that go into it, from the ore to make the steel all the way to powder coating.  Then a moment of inattention renders it unsellable.  It will end up an a corner for a while, possibly end up as a store display or fixture to salvage some aspect of it.  But as a sellable bike it is a total loss, and that is really a bummer…..

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