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!
My additional gear list is as follows:
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
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)
Chicken Ramen (dinner)
DIY quick oatmeal with nuts and dried fruit (breakfast)
RX Bars (a few in various flavors)
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.
(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!)
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?!)
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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*
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.