Swift Campout ft. Surly Krampus- Video

I decided to do a little S24O bike packing trip on ye olde Surly Krampus and my set of Blackburn Elite Outpost bags. I got to my destination and come night fall, let’s just say it wasn’t an ideal sleeping situation. Wicked high winds and a few too many passing cars and motorcycles made it hard to get a good night’s sleep. Usually I would’ve just stuck around, but I had work the following day and homework due as well.

I made the decision to do a late night ride back home, so we’ll say I took a few hour nap before heading home 😉 Spoiler, I know…still enjoy the video though if you want to see what gear I used!

#eatwellbikeoften

Swift Campout 2020

Swift Industries has been a leader in promoting and supporting bike exploration since they came onto the scene. Their upcoming Equinox Campout is a great opportunity to get outside and explore your local parks, trails, and camping destinations.

I plan on doing an overnight now that I’ll have the luxury of a weekend day off and not having to be at work until noon most days! Quite exciting stuff coming from someone who hasn’t been able to get a consistent weekend day off for almost a year. Retail management is usually not super conducive to having weekends off like…ever.

If you want to explore rides in your area or connect with other campout leaders, head over to swiftcampout.com. There’s still time to create a profile and even post your own ride if you’d like to encourage others to join.

I plan on riding my Surly Krampus paired up with the Blackburn Outpost Elite handlebar and seat bags. I haven’t yet taken the handlebar bag out for an overnight and am looking forward to it. I recently swapped some Jones Bars on the bike and it will be getting another upgrade soon as an MRP carbon fork it also on its way!

Blackburn Outpost Elite

I plan on ditching the old fork and existing wheel set as the next upgrade I want to make is some Stan’s tubeless wheels so I can drop some weight off the bike and run lower pressure. I’ll likely keep the Rabbit Hole wheels so I can easily swap my studded tires onto the bike for winter commuting.

MRP Rock Solid Carbon Fork (mine will be the 490 length with QR)

I really want to do a write up on both the Blackburn seatbag and the handlebar bag soon, so I’m excited to get out and see how it holds up. I’ve used it for commuting a couple of times, but would like to see how it holds up to 50+ miles of gravel riding and being packed with camping gear.

Stay tuned for that and thanks as always for reading.

Eat Well, Bike Often!

Cassandra

Topeak Fuel Tank Review

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In a land of seemingly endless options of independent makers and custom bag companies, why would anyone want or need a stock production bag?

I’m here to dive into the world of production cycling bags including top tube bags, seat bags, and handlebar bags. Starting with one of my all-time favorites, Topeak’s Fuel Tank (large).

Topeak has been in the cycling game for nearly 30 years. They’ve been known for their iconic Joe Blow series pumps, but have since branched out to everything from bike repair tools to bags to cycling computers, saddles, repair stands, racks, lights, and more.

I had to do some background research Topeak as it’s not apparent where they are based. A little search engine sleuthing brought me to a profile on Bicycle Retailer’s website stating that Topeak is a Taiwanese based company.

It makes sense. Taiwan is the world’s hub of cycling manufacturing. State of the art facilities with both factories and design firms are sprinkled throughout the country. If you’ve ever purchased a bike or cycling product, it was likely either manufactured or designed in Taiwan.

Based off the design and aesthetics, part of me assumed Topeak was German based. Maybe it’s the fact that Topeak and Ergon (saddle & grip company) have been so closely linked as they have co-sponsored professional cycling teams.

Anyway, that’s not what I’m here to talk about. I’m here because every time I post a photos of one of my bikes with the Fuel Tank I’m asked by someone what type of bag it is.

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The Fuel Tank is a masterfully designed bag. The outside texture is a rubberized finish with a carbon like pattern. You can see in the above photo the texture and stitching is high quality.

The bag is made in two size options. I opted for the large as it can fit even the largest of phones with loads of room to spare. The size specs are below courtesy of Topeak’s website:

Capacity- 45 cubic Inches
Size- 9.4″x4.3″x2.5″
Weight- 5.28oz

Topeak states that the bag is made out of a 420 denier nylon and PVC combination.

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While the outside of the bag is a sleek matte black, the inside is Topeak’s signature yellow. I’m always a fan of bags that have bright interiors so you can actually see what’s inside. The bag has an included padded hook and loop divider. You can see on the left side of the bag I utilized that to create a little holder for my lip balm. This makes it easy to find and be able to grab it one handed while cruising along while riding.

The right hand side of the bag has a large mesh pocket, Topeak suggests a battery bank or something similar can be placed here on their website. All of my battery banks are too large to fit in there, but I stash things like my minimalist wallet or nutrition gels in there. It also works well for stashing a mask since we are in COVID19 times as I write this.

To provide a bit of the scope of size for this bag I can comfortably fit the following:

iPhone 8 with case
Rav Power 20k milliamp battery bank
usb micro cord
Apple lightening cord
ear buds
several hydration mixes (I usually carry either a tube of Nuun or 3-4 powder packets)
2 nutrition bars (RX Bars or Clif/Luna)
nutrition bloks
a portable peanut butter packet (RX nut butter or Justins)
a packet of chamois cream (Hoo Ha Ride Glide)
minimalist wallet
cloth mask
portable hand sanitizer
+ more room to spare

You can fit a TON in this bag and then some. It’s one of the largest top tube bags I’ve seen on the market without being a custom product. P1040824P1040825
One of my favorite features of the Fuel Tank is the fact that you can pass a charging cable through the bag on the left hand side. This means that if you use a GPS, smartphone, or need to juice a light on the go you have the option to run a cable up to that devise while your battery bank stays safely tucked inside the bag.

I’ve only had to use this feature once on a bike camping overnight as I forgot to charge my cycling computer before I left home and it was awesome to be able to have that option without having to leave the zipper of the bag slightly open at the top.

The cable pass-thru placement allows you to tuck the cable out of the way and not jiggle around on the bag.
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Another feature I love about this bag is it’s essentially waterproof. The rubberized material around the entire bag paired with the thickly padded, structure, and the waterproof zipper with a zipper garage ensures your electronics and other sundries stay dry.

I can attest to this as I got absolutely drenched last summer on my bike camping outing with Bell Joy Ride Madison. You can read my write up or watch my vlog about the trip in earlier posts on the blog.
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As far as attaching the bag to a bike. I’ve been able to successfully attach it to every bike in my stable, including my large carbon tubed Topstone Carbon, which is notoriously difficult to put a strap style bag on- hence their top tubes have drilled attachment points for direct mount bag systems.

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There’s a small bit of wear on the bottom of the bag, but it’s still in wonderful condition!

The retail on the Topeak Fuel Tank Large is around $50 depending on where you purchase it. I’m sure you can find some sale prices online, but always recommend checking with your LOCAL BIKE SHOP to support them.

I purchased this item with my own money via my bike shop employer. I was not asked by them or Topeak to write this review and don’t receive any monetary compensation from writing said review.

Honestly, this is one of the highest quality production bags I’ve owned and used during my many years as a cyclist. I’ve had the bag for going on two years now and it has yet to fail me or let me down.

I’m always impressed by the amount of items you can carry in the bag and have never had one returned for any reason at my place of work upon recommending the bag to customers.

Topeak has a home-run on their hands with the Fuel Tank and hope they continue to keep making the product for years to come!

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Topeak Fuel Tank on the Bike Packing Rig

That’s all for this write up. Be on the lookout for write-ups on some of Blackburn’s production bags! I’ve also been plugging away at a video review for my Cannondale Topstone Carbon RX, but have had some issues with audio. Stay tuned as I’ll likely release a write up prior to the video.

Klymit Intertia Ozone First Impression

Gear hording is something I feel is inevitable once you start getting into any hobby. This has been the case for me with cycling primarily, but as of late I’ve been re-assessing my camping and bike-packing gear as well.

I used to bike camp with heavy tents, a heavy cook pot that could be used on top of a fire, a heavy inflatable mattress, and a sleeping bag that barely fit inside my panniers. It was fun at the time because I was 23 and my body could recover from putting in lots of miles fully loaded over a weekend.

I’m 34 now and while I’m still very active, it’s more difficult to have the enthusiasm to lug 20-30 lbs of gear, food, and water on my bike. With age has come experience on nice, lightweight bikes and more disposable income to invest in lighter gear.

The other reason for my foray into ultralight gear comes two fold. The first is that I’m limited by the size of my bike. I ride a small or 51cm usually across the board on most bikes, so space is an issue. I don’t have the luxury of being able to have a large inner triangle bag or even a large seat bag because I often fun into tire clearance issues.

I have to pack intelligently and make use of every cubic inch I can get, while making sure I have all the amenities to stay safe and comfortable on a trip.

The second is that I’d like to get into section and thru hiking. A bucket list goal for me is to hike the JMT (John Muir Trail or as indigenous folx call Nuumu Poyo) which is 500 miles of grand, challenging beauty off of the Pacific Crest Trail.

My gear would serve double duty and carrying gear on a bike is a much different experience than carrying it on your back and own two legs.

This is where the Klymit Inertia Ozone comes in. I’ve been a fan of Klymit since purchasing their insulated Static V pad a few years back. It was much more comfortable than the previous pads I had used. The shape and design of the baffles provides a good night’s sleep and you can sleep in just about any position and be comfortable.

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The OG Klymit Pad

The downside of this pad is it’s bulky and HEAVY. It works well for my car camping excursions or even as a temporary bed when crashing at a friend’s house, but it’s not something I want to lug around several miles on my bike or back.

I actually have ditched sleeping pads pretty much all together as a hammock camper, but I had heard that the Ozone was a pretty decent alternative to carrying an under-quilt.

What makes the Ozone unique compared to other sleeping pads is the strategically removed material on the pad. The holes provide a way for bags to loft and fill the void for a warm and comfortable sleep. The mat also features an integrated, inflatable pillow!

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Top down look at the Inertia Ozone.

I’ve always been a fan of the Thermarest camp pillows with their shredded memory foam. Super soft and cozy, but they do not stay in place well when you’re tent or ground camping.

Klymit’s website claims a 12.2 oz weight for the Ozone. I weighed mine with stuff suck and the included repair kit and it came out to an even 14oz. I haven’t taken the time to weigh it on it’s own as I’m not going to go full weight weenie about it. A sub 1lb. pad is pretty damn good.

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The Inertia Ozone also caught my attention because of the price. Thermarest’s widely loved ultralite pads are pricey, even if you can find them on sale. I’m sure for as much use as they get on a long distance trip, the cost is actually not all that bad. I just knew that I wanted to stay within a certain price point and Klymit fit the bill.

Full disclosure, I actually found out that Klymit sells refurbished products through eBay at a fraction of the cost of what they sell for on their website. Now I’ll say that for something like electronics or a high dollar purchase, I’d almost never go the refurbished route because the warranties on them are pretty bad.

I’m sure people have had perfectly good experiences with products like this, but I just can’t afford to not be able to buy something for several hundred or even thousands of dollars and know the company may not back it because it’s a refurb.

Since this was a $40-45 purchase, I was willing to take that risk. Klymit is very transparent with their refurbished product process. It’s items they often get on return either from retailers or individuals who purchased from them directly. They could be absolutely new in packaging still, but they test every product that comes back and if there is an issue, they will fully repair it, test it again, and if it passes it goes on their eBay site.

Normally I’d try to purchase either from a local retailer or from the company directly via various channels, but with COVID19 and the fact that I wasn’t able to find a local retailer that had it readily for purchase on their websites, I went the eBay route.

The stuff sack of the pad actually has a stamp on it stating it is a refurbished item. Which goes to show they at least took the time to take a look at the product. A little peace of mind goes a long way.

When I received the pad I first disinfected the mouth pieces with some Lysol and a dose of iso-alcohol. Can’t be to careful! I blew up the body of the pad, which only took maybe 5 full breathes. I then inflated the pillow, which also only took a few full breathes.

I discovered it’s actually better to leave the pillow slightly under inflated as it cradles your head a little better and is more comfortable.

The body of the Ozone has an ergonomic shape to it. You can see in the photos how it has almost a wave in the body. I found this to be quite comfortable. One of my primary complaints about sleeping pads is that when on my back, I get some lower back and hip pain as I have a anterior pelvic tilt. Usually side or stomach sleeping is more comfortable for me because of this, but I actually didn’t feel that usual twinge of pain while on this pad. I actually slept on the pad in one of my tents for two nights and had successfully fell asleep on my back and stayed there for several hours before changing positions. 49916152538_49274bac96_o
I used the pad in two different ways. The first was laying my sleeping bag (a Marmot Trestle Elite 30 degree women’s bag) on top of the pad. The second night I put the pad inside the bag and slept that way.

Both options worked, but I did feel cramped having the pad inside the bag. I admittedly don’t like sleeping in mummy bags. I’m a warm sleeper and like to sleep in several different positions depending on how my body is feeling. I only really like mummy bags for when the temps drop and I need to warm up quickly in the middle of the night.

Because of this, I’ve decided to invest in a quilt from a big name outdoors brand, but I’ll save that for another post!

The length and width of the pad felt good for me. I’m 5′ 5″ and usually weight anywhere from 175-185. My body has always hovered between those two weights pretty consistently over the past few years. I’ve been down to 169, but had to really work on tracking everything going into my body and working out 4-5 times a week to maintain that. Which was pretty exhausting on top of my already pretty taxing job.

For me the pad feels comfortable. I don’t know how it would be for someone larger or taller, but have seen reviews from folks in the 6ft range saying they enjoy it as well.

In addition to sleeping on the pad in two different sleeping bag configurations, I also slept on the pad one night with the pillow just as is and the next night actually doubled the pillow over to add more loft to it and position my head up a little more. I actually ended up even sticking my puffy jacket under my head and then using a long sleeve camp shirt under the pillow as well to add more loft. I snore if I sleep on my back and my head is too low, so I have to prop my head up a little more to help avoid that. It worked well and I was comfortable. 49916966127_e4fc574418_o49916666701_f1c27b1992_o
I tried to simulate how I would sleep if in a tent or had to set my hammock up in a ground configuration. I have not yet tried the pad in an actual hammock. I plan on doing that soon to see if it will work for me. I have used my old Static V before, but it usually slides around too much, so I’m usually a just sleep with a bag, a pillow, and the hammock kind of person.

To test the level of deflation I left the pad out for an additional two days after the two nights I slept on it. The pad still was holding air, but I did need to puff another large breath in the body of the pad to get it firmed back up, but that’s to be expected when you are breathing warm air into something that is getting exposed to cooler air temps at night and also left unattended for a couple of days.

So far I’m happy with my purchase and am excited to field test it beyond my living room. I think Klymit does a good job with designing their products and offering something unique to what other brands are doing on the market.

They seem to have great customer service based off the interactions I’ve seen on YouTube and Instagram. They also shipped my pad to me almost instantly after I made my purchase through eBay.

Once I’m able to give the pad a try in a hammock setting and get some more nights of sleeping on it, I’d love to do a video and another update!

**Disclaimer**
I was not in any way approached by Klymit to write this review of their product, nor was I paid to write about their products. Any links in this post are for consumer research purposes, I’m not getting any affiliate kickbacks for linking out to eBay or Klymit’s own website.

I paid for this product with my own money and was not given any product for free to review.

If you like this overview, please check out the rest of the blog on the site. I have other reviews and overviews for camping and cycling products.

I also have some videos on YouTube.com/spokehaven for your viewing pleasure. Content has been a little slower to produce at the moment as I’m working for an essential business (a bike shop) and we’ve been getting absolutely crushed by the demand for tune ups, repairs, and new bike purchases. An awesome problem to have, but we’re all pretty exhausted at the end of our work days.

I’m trying to utilize my couple of days off to just have a little mental health breather, but miss putting out content. I’ll work on finding a happy medium.

As always you can see what I’m up to in real-time on Instagram @spokehaven

Thanks for reading as always and I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy!

-Cassandra

Bike Packing Blue Mound Vlog!

I did a short vlog on my bike packing trip to Blue Mound. While long form blogs are fun and all, some folks want to just watch the story unfold. Please like, comment, or subscribe on YouTube!

That helps me be able to create more content and help promote more women-trans-femme folks for getting out and riding!