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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Hunter Nugz and Paul Racers

In the ongoing quest for improving all possible Rambler build variants, as well as being able to answer customer questions with first hand knowledge, we recently acquired a set of Hunter Nugs from Rick at Hunter Cycles.  Thank you Rick for the samples, as well as the generally awesome things you bring to the bike world.  These cool little pieces of engineering move the cable adjustment point to the end of you brake straddle cable.  A side benefit is using the cut off end of the standard double ended road brake cable as the straddle cable. Having the ability to adjust your brake cable length, and thus brake pad position is a critical part of building up the bike.  The Nugs add an option to the list of possible adjustment point: the lever, inline, the stops or the Nugz.  Once I had the Nug in hand it became apparent that these were not going to allow for proper clearances with the standard Racer brake.  The height of the adjustable stop ends up in conflict with the pivot.  4.25 Racer Nugs-1050616 4.25 Racer Nugs-1050613 4.25 Racer Nugs-1050610 4.25 Racer Nugs-1050608These pictures show the brake in the open position.  Even with the arms in mid swing as they would be in use the clearance is just not there with proper set up for a 23mm rim.  As shown, the drive side pad is in contact with the A23 rim.  The spacial conflict occurs with the Nug and pivot in two planes.  I have a couple of other ideas that have sprung out of the test fitting, but until then, I can not recommend the Nugs for use on the Ramblers.

There is a chance that these might work with the Racer Mediums do to the upsweep in the upper brake arm.  I can neither confirm or deny since I do not have the Racer Medium on hand at the moment.

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Coffee Outside Mid April Recap

I made it out more times than I would like to admit in the last 10 days in an attempt to get some “Summer” coffee outside pics for potential publication in a magazine.  With that  kind of potential on the horizon the fog set in, thick fog, every morning but one.  The clear day I had the pleasure of a company, Tony was out from the east coast on vacation.  In spite of the weather  it is still one of my favorite ways to increase the bike fun in the mornings.

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Easter Weekend Free Shipping

Update – We are letting the sale Roll through Monday 4/21 1:30 PM wets coast time in hopes of playing a major role in your Monday Morning Work Avoidance Program

4.18 Free Shipping memeWe don’t do sale often, the prices on our goods are already at a low point that makes no good business sense, and the big idea was that volume would balance it out.  So who do you call people to action, other than having awesome stuff?  Free shipping all weekend with code EasterShipFree at checkout.  This applies to all in stock items, kerchiefs, caps, wallets, etc….and Ramblers Too!

Thanks – Happy Easter – and Play Outside!



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Coffee Outside

I woke up at my “regular” 4:30 AM for the first time since Daylight saving time started this year. That meant that #coffeeoutside could actually happen, and be break after a couple hours of work was on the clock.   A great way to kick off Spring

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Bunyan Velo No.4

Bunyan Velo is an online magazine dedicated to the beauty and the story of bicycle travel.  Only out for a year now the latest issue, No.4, was recently released.  I have been asking Lucas, the editor, for advertising rates and space for the last six months, and the answer has always been no.  He wanted an article.  Most of the articles are about grand adventures to far away places, and my big adventure has been family and Ocean Air Cycles for the last two years.  He wanted to share my story a bit, how the micro adventures are crammed into the gaps in the day.  After kicking some ideas back and forth we settled on the #coffee outside.  Cramming a little bit of campaign back into a regular morning.


I am honored to be included in a journal with so many great story tellers, photographers and adventurers.  Each issue keeps getting better.  Check it out, share it with your friend and spread the word.

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38mm and Tubeless?

The tubeless tire setups common in the MTB world have been slowly starting to creep into the fat tire road bike niche.  The benefits of weight savings, running lower pressures and near flat-proofness all translate to some degree.  I have been asked, and do not recommend that the commonly available 38-40mm tires be set up tubeless for most riders.  The risk of failure is too high for most of us.  That said, today I did this:

2.22 Orange Seal wp-9040997Things are not always what they appear though.

There are a few perimeters that all come into play to make tubeless setups work.  Removing the rim from this discussion for now, the tire generally needs a bead that has near zero stretch, and a sidewall/casing with a butyl liner to protect it from the solvents in the tubeless compound.  Tubeless setups are generally run at lower pressures for improved traction and comfort.  The sealing solution is meant to seal up any small gaps in the system, but also seals any punctures along the way.

That all sounds great for what we want out of our light and supple 38mm tires.  I brought this up a few years back while talking with Kirk Pacenti ant NAHBS.  He has a strong grasp of tubeless design and had recently launched his 650b PariMoto tire.  The first problem is with the tire itself.  To make them proper for tubeless they have a butyl liner bonded to the inside of the tire.  With large MTB tires this liner is significantly lighter than the tube it replaces.  As the tire gets smaller the point of diminishing returns is approached.  The available super light tubes weigh about the same (100-120g) as that the liner and a full load of sealant would weigh.  The zero stretch bead needed adds further weight.  Then there is the pressure consideration.  Riders at or over 180 lbs will likely be running pressures greater than 45psi.  this pushes the limits of where non-tubless tires will stay on the rim without a tube.

So what did I do to my wheels this afternoon?  With the goathead thorn season getting ready to ramp up and some dirt road group rides planned I wanted to add a bit of insurance to my system.  I decided to take as much of the good as I could and set up an optimized system for the 38mm tires and my weight (210 lbs).  Starting with the Velocity A23 tubeless rim, the secure tubeless ready fit gives a snug fit with the tire bead.  The Soma C Line tires are one of the widest, light 380g, and supple 700c tires on the market at the moment.  I opted for the super light Q tubes at about 120g each for the 700x 35.  This set up alone has been going great for months now.  Taking it to the next steep in flat protection I added 2 oz, half the normal amount for a full sized MTB tire of Orange Seal to each Tube.  This will add about 70g to each tire, less than  standard tube and aramid liner.

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The process was simple.  Let the air out to the tire, having a presta nut on will help later

2.22 Orange Seal wp-9040991Next up grab a 4mm wrench and remove the valve core from the stem.

2.22 Orange Seal wp-90409942.22 Orange Seal wp-9040993Insert the plastic end of the supplied hose onto the well shaken bottle of sealant

2.22 Orange Seal wp-9040995And the other end goes over the stem.  Invert the bottle and squirt in about half.

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Turn the bottle right side up an detach the hose.  Re-install the valve core and inflate to the desired pressure.  I keep my C Lines between 55 and 60 psi.  Repeat on the other tire and ride.  It is that simple.

What are the gains in theory, and how is this different than a basic Slime brand pre-filled inner tube?  The whole system is optimized to be light and supple for decreased rolling resistance.  The level of safety is high.  Time will tell if there is improved air retention and flat protection.  The end is a system with all of the good parts of each improvement and less risk to safety.

There have been reports of successful tubeless setups with 42m tires and lower pressures.  I suspect the rider weight and load were also correspondingly lower.  While there have been successes, there have also been failures.   The tires and pressures we are using on “Rando” bikes are close to the margins of safety for tubeless design.  The price of failure is high.  Failure being the front tire coming off of the rim at speed with total loss of air pressure.  While I want improved performance as much as the next rider, I do not think tubeless is the right choice for our needs.  I am looking forward to increased flat protection while having the piece of mind that my tire is far more likely to stay on the rim.

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