Life has been happening at an astonishing speed this summer. That is when I realized summer was over…I pulled the emergency chute this morning and headed to the beach for some coffee outside. California did not disappoint with indian summer Santa Ana conditions in full swing
I have used a ton of different cages over the years at all price points. for years now there is only one cage that we prefer, use and now sell.
Andrews King cages are made in Colorado from tubular 304 stainless. They do everything a cage is supposed to do: hold your bottles, not let go unless you are pulling it out the top, easy to get the bottle back in etc. They do two different shapes, the standard King cage and the Iris. The standard King cage is based on traditional designs and just works better than anything else we have tried when using standard bidons (water bottles). The stainless steel will not markup the bottle either.
The Iris is unique in the bottle cage world. formed from the same 304 stainless it has all the basic properties of the standard. The shape holds as tightly too, but there is no inwardly bent upper tab. The in turn works much better, and rattle free, with many of the metal bottles like the Klean Canteen. his one will scuff up the metal bottles a bit, but IMO is a fair price to pay for not rattling
We love and use then both on our Rambler builds. As an introductory bonus for adding them to our lineup of offerings you can use coupon code OCEANKING to shave $2 off each cage until current stock runs out or tomorrow night, whichever comes first.
Getting the stuff you buy online is part of the experience. It has become part of the reality most of us encounter. At the low-end of the spectrum you have the small item from amazon bouncing loosely in a box ten times its own size that lands on your doorstep half crushed. As regular American I get my own fair share of stuff shipped to the door, as well as most of the product we re-sell. I see a fair bit of the good, the bad and the ugly. We strive to be as far as possible to the good side when we send things out.
There are a few things I consider paramount. When you choose your packaging it should serve its minimum purpose of protecting the end product for a secure delivery. After that it needs to enhance the general experience. This can be done by imparting useful information, creating an unwrapping experience that brings back good memories, feels like getting a gift, all of it is able to be reused or recycled, or leaves you with useful materials beyond the intended purchase etc.
Here is the latest in our evolving practice to deliver a favorable experience when you receive your stuff that we shipped you. On the receiving end we get a ton of different packing material. The bottom end of the spectrum are the foam peanuts, but our favorite is the brown craft paper.
We end up with mountains of the stuff at times. It all gets flattened back out, and staged for reuse. Not all is created equal, certain types are better at different things, but almost every square inch of it sees a second chance at passing through the shipping channels.
In the past we tied the wrapping closed with the scrap fabric from our double weave kerchief production. Lately we have become enamoured with the colored hemp twine from Newbaums. You probably already know we have a thing for color, and traditional bar tape with twined ends. This twine opens up a whole new range of options to add some more color to your builds. Starting in the last week, packages have been going out with the thank you notes attached with a length long enough to do a trial wrap somewhere on your build. Sometimes I pick a color that I know is either your favorite, and or could complement your Rambler well (yes I actually think about this stuff while wrapping things up). They have a wide variety of options that match or complement just about every color of the Newbaums cloth bar tape. The rolls from Merry Sales are huge, way bigger then the average person will need. In the near future we will be adding it to the storefront in 10 ft lengths.
I think about this sort of stuff, probably way too much. Every little bit helps, it keeps it fun for you and us. Sometimes I envision the paper being used over and over, stamped by each brand or user, and ending up like that well traveled passport. This one is just getting ready to start the next leg of its journey.
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.
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.
The 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.
I 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
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.
The 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.
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.
The 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.
This 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
Taking 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.
I 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.
My 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.
Based 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.
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.
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.
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:
By 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 .