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.

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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!

Bikepacking Blue Mound

There’s truly nothing I love more than strapping gear on a bike and going camping. It’s something I used to do a lot more when I wasn’t trying to balance a full time job, school, and a growing list of responsibilities.

That’s why I was thrilled to see that my friends at Bell Joy Ride Madison were putting together a women-trans-femme friendly bike overnight to the beloved Blue Mound State Park.

I set aside a weekend off (a nearly impossible feat during the shop’s busy season) and went riding.

The bike I chose to ride was my trusty Surly Krampus. I had invested in some new gear for it including the Blackburn Outpost Elite Universal Seat Pack & Dry Bag, Blackburn Outpost Cargo Cages, Topeak Fuel Tank, and the Giant Scout Handlebar Bag. Reviews to come on each of these in the future!

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                                  Swampy all packed and ready to ride!

My additional gear list is as follows:

SLEEP
Sleeping bag: Marmot Trestle 30 Degree (carried in handlebar harness)
Hammock: ENO Single Nest (carried in seat pack)
Hammock bug net: ENO Guardian SL (carried in seat pack)
Hammock tarp: ENO Profly Raintarp (carried in non-drive side cargo cage)
Hammock straps: ENO Helios Straps (carried in hammock bag)
MSR Mini Groundhog Stakes– 6

KITCHEN
Knife: SOG
Cook pot: Evernew Ti .9l
Stove: Esbit Folding w/cubes
Aluminum foil- for setting stove on
Snow Peak Ti Spork
Stanley Flask (for whiskey of course)
Camp cup for dangling
Handkerchief for clean up (cotton preferred)
Thermos double wall insulated water bottle (heavy AF, but keeps things hot or cold for a LONG time.)
Camelbak Insulated waterbottle (on bike)

FOOD
Chicken Ramen (dinner)
DIY quick oatmeal with nuts and dried fruit (breakfast)
RX Bars (a few in various flavors)
NUUN Hydration

DOPP KIT
Travel tooth brush
Travel tooth paste
Sunscreen (spf 50, always) Mineral based FTW
Picaridin bug spray/lotion
Tweezers (so many handy uses bike and first aid wise)
Face wipes or baby wipes
Schmidt’s Natural Deodorant (I love the paste, I also believe in trying to smell good when entering public establishments when on rides.)
Mini first aid kit with various bandages, travel sized Aquaphor (saddle sore preventative), Ibuprofen, DayQuil, Imodium, and my daily vitamins.

CLOTHING
(worn on bike)
Liv Cycling Jersey
Shebeest Bibs (honestly some of my favorite bibs of all time!)
Running socks (Balega and Feetures are my favorite low cut socks. They are super cushioned and last a really long time. Great for multi-sport use!)
Giro Cylinder MTB Shoes (comfortable, definitely go a size up! Review to come!)
Liv Rev MIPS Helmet
Tifosi Davos Sunglasses
(camp clothes- packed into small dry bag in drive-side cargo cage)
Pearl Izumi Canyon Women’s Short (without the liner)
Surly Raglan Merino Wool Shirt (still one of my favorite pieces of gear- thanks again Surly for letting me product test this for you back in the day!)
Random T-shirt
DeFeet Woolie Boolie Socks
Lems Primal 2 Shoes (great for packing up small and traveling)
Buff (free from an REI women’s cycling event, who doesn’t love free swag?!)
(extras)
socks
Giro Chono Bibs (becoming one of my favorite bibs for the price, also wore on the bike on day 2. I always carry two pairs of shorts because chamois take so long to dry after being washed unless you are in an arid climate.)
Large pack towel (can be used to dry off tent in morning, can be used as sit pad, can be used post shower if you so choose. basically just a handy item to have around.)
Patagonia Swim Suit (never used, pool was closed at the campground due to bad weather)

TOOLS, ELECTRONICS & CAMERA
CAMELBAK LUXE Hydration Pack (sans bladder)
Panasonic G85 camera w/12-60mm lens
Rode Video Mic Go
Mini iPhone Tripod
Various SD Cards
Liv PDQ Tool Kit
Bottle of Stan’s Fluid
Chain Quick Link
Park Chain Tool
Spare tube
Crank Brothers Pump (discontinued model)
Outdoor Tech Buckshot Speaker
Giant NeosTrack GPS Cycling Computer (long-term review to come)
iPhone cable & micro USB cable
NiteRider Micro & Sabre bike light set

I ended up rolling out a little later in the day as there were two groups making their way to Blue Mound State Park. The route from the area of Madison I reside in is roughly 25 miles. The majority of the route is on the state-run Military Ridge State Trail. One of my favorite things about living in Wisconsin is the fact that we have trail systems that allow you to go almost all the way across the state from East to West without having to ride on roads. The Hank Aaron trail in Milwaukee meets up to Oak Leaf and the Glacial Drumlin Trail, which then gets you to Cottage Grove to where you have to ride a few short miles before you hop onto the Capital City Trail, which will then intersect with either the Southwest Commuter path (goes through downtown Madison), the Badger State Trail (runs south all the way into Illinois), or the Military Ridge Trail (runs all the way to Dodgeville, WI).

Scenic Military ridge via my iPhone. The quality kind of sucks because of the compression that happens upon upload on here.

One thing I forgot to mention is that the morning we rolled out was one of the hottest of the summer. It was 90 something degrees and humid as HELL. Three miles into the ride I had strongly considered turning around as I was riding at a snail’s pace, sweating the most I’ve ever sweat on a ride, and felt dehydrated.

I stopped in Verona, a suburb outside of Madison that has a nice rest area off the trail with restrooms and picnic tables under a shelter. I drank one bottle of water with a full Nuun electrolyte tablet. These things are probably one of my favorite bits of nutrition as they have saved my ass over and over again.

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100% Sweat on my face after just about 5 miles in!

Nasty? Yes, I know. After downing another full bottle of water after the Nuun bottle, I refilled and headed out. Once you get past Epic Systems, the behemoth medical software company, the trail is quite lovely. The sneaky thing is about going Westbound is that the trail has a 2% ish grade the entire way, so you tend to feel like you should be going much faster than you are. 

My second destination was Mount Horeb. Once you’ve reached Mount Horeb, you know you’re not only close to delicious food, but also the last stretch before you reach Blue Mound. There’s a nice little rest area just outside of Mount Horeb in a park and it’s right off the trail. There are restrooms, a covered area with picnic tables, and water fountains for refilling. It was a much needed respite from the day’s heat. I used the facilities and filled up once again before rolling into town.

Mount Horeb is one of my favorite small towns in SW Wisconsin. There’s a bunch of great, locally owned placed to eat and it’s all accessible right off of Military Ridge. The town has grown pretty significantly as the cost of living in Madison continues to increase and is the home base of the famous Duluth Trading Company. Their new corporate office building is literally next to the trail, along with a new cider brewery called Brix. They also have a bike shop called Trail This right off the path as well!

I always make it a point to stop at Sjölinds, the original Main Street location. They have amazing coffee and homemade quiche. Even if I go to another restaurant to eat on a ride, I almost always stop in after for a sweet treat! This trip was no exception. I grabbed two pieces of quiche and a sparkling juice for fueling up.

At one point I ran into the first group of ladies who were making their way to Blue Mound. I opted to stay and eat on my own in town while they rolled out to the campsite. On my way out of town is when things got interesting. The weather started to turn and there was a large storm on the radar. I had the option of sitting and seeing if I could wait it out in town or could forge ahead and deal with getting rained on.

Sorry for the F-bomb. This is what I ended up riding into outside of Mount Horeb and not quite to Cave of the Mounds. The sky opened up and I got completely soaked while riding. It was actually quite refreshing as it had been so ungodly hot out earlier in the day.

Luckily I made it to a tunnel just a mile or so outside of the turn off to get into Blue Mound State park. I hung out there for a good 15-20 minutes waiting for the storm to pass. The rain subsided and luckily the rest of my ride into the park was manageable.

Blue Mound has a couple of small covered shelters at the bike in portion of the park. This gave our group a nice home base to layout gear, lean our bike, and socialize while we waited for the sun’s return.

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Our home base for the evening.

Roughly 30min-an hour after my arrival to camp brought in the last group. Bell Joy Ride Madison’s fearless leader Meagan had rolled up in true camp mom fashion with her bike packed to the gills with everything from wine to an insulated french press for our breakfast coffee. Oh how forever grateful I will be for that french press as I left my Aeropress at home for this trip.

Others also brought their share of spiked seltzers, water jugs, portable lights, and other creature comforts that we all benefited from. I have to say, these folx knew how to camp!

At some point we decided to collectively ride down the hill just outside of the park to stop at Blue Mounds Citgo & Grocery. It’s a small store that has just about everything you could need for a night of camping. We loaded up on our snacks of choice, hangout on the porch for a bit while we ate, then rode back to the campsites to make dinner on our little camp stoves.

There’s nothing like hearing the gentle whirring of a circle of stoves boiling water for everyone’s meals. I unfolded my little Esbit stove and used about a cube and half boiling water for my ramen. Most others had some sort of camping specific meals in a bag. I was happy with my little pot of ramen as the sodium was a good replacement for all the sweating I had done on the ride in.

After dinner we sat around and socialized some more. Those of us who imbibe had a seltzer or two while I also passed around my whiskey flask to anyone who cared to take a pull.

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Meagan and the group chatting about Bell Joy Ride and all things cycling!



The sun was slowly setting upon us and fireflies starting dotting the surrounding meadows and woods. For those who brought camp lights, they hung them from the ceiling of the shelter as we continued to converse. We talked about what nomenclature we used for fireflies or lightening bugs.

We talked about bikes and other activities we do outside of cycling. Each of us knew a few others in the group, but we made friends with some new women we hadn’t previously had the joys of riding with.

After awhile we all started getting ready for bed. Putting on our extra layers, brushing our teeth and doing our night-time routines. We had all made it a point to make camp when we first arrived at the sites to ensure everyone had a good spot and to make sure no one was setting up in the dark.

I got a site to myself that was on a slight downhill. I found two nicely spaced trees and had set up my hammock between them. You can see the photo of my camp as the featured image. I also used my ridgeline to hang up my wet clothes to dry overnight. I was so happy to have an extra pair of socks and bibs for the following day. My jersey had dried, but based off of the experiences of a few of the other riders, their gear hadn’t completely dried. Had we decided to start a fire, they probably could have tried to dry their gear out more, but it seemed more of a hassle to start one than to not.

The next morning we all started moving fairly early. I ended up eating an RX bar and had some coffee that Meagan offered up as she had some extra. It was what I needed to get some energy to finish packing up and rolling out.

A few riders decided to ride straight on through to Madison. Myself, Melissa (a good riding friend of mine), Patty (a riding/crossfitter friend of mine), and Brittany (a friend I met via Bell Joy Ride who later joined my cycling club) also decided to grab food at Schubert’s Restaurant, a true greasy spoon that I grew up going to. I have some relatives who live in Mount Horeb and I have always had fond memories of Schubert’s and am glad to see it still thriving.

We rolled into Mount Horeb and it was PACKED. They had their annual art fair going on and we sure got some funny looks rolling into town with fully loaded bikes and our lycra on, but we didn’t care. We sat down at the Schubert’s counter and ordered up. I made sure to get a chocolate eclair because when you ride bikes, calories don’t count *wink wink* thankfully Patty was willing to take some of that eclair off my hands so I didn’t eat the whole thing. They are huge and amazingly delicious.

After getting sufficiently stuffed, we rolled out and made our way back to Verona. We were cranking pretty hard on the way in because the 2% grade was now downhill. Eventually we parted ways as the group I was with had left from the Verona Park & Ride and I was riding back into Madison to my house.

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Melissa, Patty, Brittany, and Myself getting ready to part ways.


Overall it was a great trip, rainstorm and all. It made me miss the times that I could just decided to pack up my bike and go camping on a whim. These days it’s a little more challenging with co-managing a bike shop, having a dog, and having a partner who has a somewhat higher ranking position at the University.

It did remind me though to make more of an effort to spend time doing things outside and things I enjoy. It’s also a great way to build community and meet so many awesome people who are in the cycling community here, who I don’t normally get to interact with.

My goal for 2020 is to do a trip to Devil’s Lake either solo or with a group. It’s fairly easy to get there by bike and is much easier to get a site to camp if you bike in as State Parks don’t have any real restrictions on hike in or bike in sites as they do the other camp grounds.

If you’d like to see a video summary of this trip, I’m currently finishing editing one up and will be posting it to my YouTube channel which can be found at YouTube.com/spokehaven.

Winter Powered by Krampus

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Snow Krampus

It’s been awhile and we realize that. Much apologies to anyone who has followed the blog. With lack of a good working computer and living with just a tablet and smartphone, blogging hasn’t been the easiest thing to accomplish. Never fear, there’s much to cover and be discussed now that the Spoke Haven’s tech  is now up and running again.

There are some new bikes in the lineup as of late 2016 and early 2017 and I can’t wait to share them all with you!

The first bike to join the stable was a Surly Krampus. The Krampus has been around for a few years. It’s what is classified as a mid-fat bike or plus sized bike. It has a 3″ wide tire spec’d on it. Surly has updated the Krampus for the 2017 model year with their knot boost spacing, the ability to add an internally routed dropper post, and a few other bells and whistles. Check Surly’s website for current spec’s.

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Stock Surly

I went for what is now referred to as a legacy Krampus. The bass boat green color cannot be beat. It’s probably one of my favorite Surly colors of all time. The bike just sparkles in the sunlight. So much so that I named my small sized Krampus Swampy Sparkles.
Before I delve into the overview, I want give a little history on Surly as a brand.
Surly has brought fat and plus sized riding to the mainstream.  When the Surly Pugsley landed on the market, it was not soon after that we saw a plethora of fat bike offerings from bike companies big and small. Each one trying to capture this new wave of people who wanted to extend their riding seasons and be able to ride in places never thought possible. OmniTerra is the term Surly uses to describe their category of fat and plus sized bikes.

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Headtube Glitter

Now, Surly admits to not being the first company to use the fat tire or plus sized platform. That being said, they have been able to push the cycling industry forward with creating bikes that are accessible and relatively affordable. Being a part of the Quality Bike Parts (QBP) family definitely makes sourcing a bit easier and a little more affordable.

I have personally ridden damn near every iteration of a Surly fat or plus bike they have ever made. Notice I said I have ridden, not owned. I don’t have a money tree growing outside of my front door! The exception being the new 27.5+ Karate Monkey. I admit that if I ride that bike, I may want to ride that over my Krampus. Maybe not though. Although the Prince purple version of that bike tempts me every time I see it. *drool*

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Photo from Surly’s Website- Karate Monkey

The Krampus is more nimble feeling than a traditional 4-5″ tired fat bike. It holds its own on groomed snow as well as on icy bike paths. With the name like Krampus, it’s surprisingly not marketed much as a snow bike. Rather, Surly deems it as a trail bike. Something you can do a great deal of exploring on, but it excels on dirt and loose rocky, rooty goodness.

That’s not to say the Krampus can’t be a fantastic off-road touring rig or a bike to use for snow riding. It just excels more at being a trail ripper that inspires confident riding. For those of you who are looking for a dedicated dirt tourer from Surly, check out the ECR. The ECR is on the same 29+, three inch tire platform- just different geometry and more mounts on the bike for attaching gear.

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Photo from Surly’s website- ECR

Out of the box the Krampus had some great things going for it. Shimano SLX and Deore components, a 1x drive train, mechanical BB7 brakes, beautiful paint, and a no-nonsense cockpit. I am usually one for taking a bike and pulling most stock parts off of it. I didn’t do much of that this time around. I didn’t feel the need to, as the bike was extremely functional and well performing.

I did swap out the stock chain ring for a wide-narrow option from Race Face. I also added some fun orange anodized headset spacers from Wolftooth components. I chopped about an inch and a half of handlebar off each side and slid on some Ergon grips. My friend’s over at Green River Cyclery in Auburn, WA hooked me up with the sickest decals ever. Some fun purple bar ends I had laying around, a set of Giant platform pedals and I was ready to go!

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A little bit of bling.

As an intermediate level mountain biker, the Krampus got me out of some riding situations I would that would have previously been either too sketchy or a death march on my fat bike. The width of the tires and the extremely low pressure they are able to run makes up for not having suspension on the front fork. They also provide amazing grip on even the greasiest of trails.

I have been also able to climb up some pretty technical, rocky ascents with the Krampus without hesitation. It has been a boost of confidence and allowed me to feel more comfortable riding more technical terrain as I develop my riding skills.

Overall I have really enjoyed the bike and it’s provided me some really fun riding over the summer and this winter alike.

Now, it’s not all butterflies and unicorns with the Krampus. The bike is quite beastly. There are a couple of local climbs I have either had to walk up or stop and take a rest on because the bike can take quite a bit of huffing to get it up some steeps.

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Getting Ready for Quarry Ridge! Photo by: Brenda Limpert

I do sometimes wish it came stock with hydraulic disc brakes in some situations, but I like mechanical brakes in a touring or bike packing situation where they are more field serviceable. It’s kind of a wash, but it may depend on what you plan on doing with the bike. I hope to use it more for off road touring and bike packing in 2017, as I have added a full suspension 27.5/650b bike to my stable. More on that in another post!

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Liv Pique 2 Sneak Peak! Photo: Vital MTB

Having the ability for a dropper post with internal routing would be nice, but that also adds weight. Same with adding a front suspension fork. All items being addressed on the current iteration of the Krampus. I personally don’t see adding a suspension fork to the bike anytime soon. There are quite a few folks out there in the blog world that have experimented with front suspension with some mixed reviews.

So far I haven’t had any real issues with the bike, other thank experimenting with chain length when I first built it. I ended up shoving the rear wheel as forward in the dropouts as possible and shortened the chain accordingly. I do sometimes get chain rub on the rear tire when in the largest rear cog on climbs, but it’s not enough to really make me pull the crank or cassette off to put in a spacer to address the issue.

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Snow Day!

Overall I am happy with the bike and look forward to having it being something I can beat on and not feel all that guilty about. There is nothing insanely expensive on it spec wise and everything is pretty dependable component wise. I look forward to experimenting with some different setups on it for bike packing. I see a Jones H bar in Swampy Sparkle’s future. A Jones bar and possible the Krampus/ECR fork with braze-ons to make gear hauling easier.  krampuspaint

If you are interested in checking out the Surly Krampus or any of Surly’s other bikes you can check out their Intergalactic Dealer Locator on their website. Almost all bike shops utilize QBP for ordering though, so you can pretty much source one from any shop in your area. I’ll be sure to post an update on the Krampus should it get a makeover, but for the time being it will be my outdoor winter bike, ready for the snow and slush!krampusseminole

Full disclosure: I was not paid by Surly to write a review for them. The bike was purchased via a shop discount through Fitchburg Cycles in Fitchburg, WI. All accessories added to the bike were also purchased by me and not paid for by any of the companies mentioned in the write up.