Thursday, May 30, 2019

How to mount a Surly Front Rack on the Kona Sutra

This is the answer to a question on how I mounted the Surly Front Rack on my Kona Sutra 2019, that was asked by a reader in my review of the bike post.

Basically I following these 2 guides that I found from Surly.

And this PDF:

The tricky part was to figure out what plates to use.

  • Lower offset sliding plate
    • for the lower mounting
  • Upper offset sliding plate
    • For the upper mounting 

Also, the Kona Sutra came ready with mounting points on the fork, so that is a fixed point as well.

The lower mount point for front racks on the Kona Sutra

Lower mount point of the Surly Front Rack close up

Upper mount point of the Surly Front Rack close up

The hardest part was to actually straighten it out once all points were in place. I.e. the rack tends to move around when you try to adjust it by loosening, adjusting and tightening. But that was solvable with some patience.

So, hope this helps someone out there!

I bought this product myself and this is my opinion on them. I am in no way affiliated with the manufacturer of this product. Neither did I get paid to link to any site that is mentioned in this post. 

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Brooks B17 Saddle First Impressions

It is time to write a little about my first impressions with the Brooks B17 Saddle that came with my Kona Sutra adventure bike!

First of all, I have had trouble finding a comfortable saddle during all of my cycling years. I've grown used to the discomfort and actually just not thought about it more then it being a part of the sport.

The Brooks saddle was one of the reasons that I went for the Kona Sutra as it was included in the price and because I've heard so much positive about it.

I am using padded cycling shorts with my Brooks saddle.

Out of the box

Out of the box I followed the instructions and used the included profide both on top and on the underside. Let is stay for a day and wiped the top with a dry rug.
2 days later I went for my first ride and my initial thought was, should it be this slippery?
For my second ride, the slipperiness had vanished and I was able to enjoy the ride.

Initial thought, this saddle is really hard. I mean, my racer saddle is hard but this is harder.

3 day bikepacking trip, ~25 hours in the saddle over 480 km

Picture showing the Brooks B17 Saddle on a 2019 Kona Sutra adventure bike outside a school in Godegård, Sweden.

The initial test, commuting to work is fine, about one hour each way. I did some longer rides up to 3-4 hours as well with no problems. But last weekend we went on a 3 day bikepacking trip just to test our gear and our own limits in preparation to this summers Stelvio 2019 trip (that we had to cancel thanks to me not being fit enough yet after chemo.)

I can't really say anything else then that I am surprised of how good the saddle worked. No soreness, no nothing. From that point of view I could have kept on going for an even longer period.

First impression conclusions

I am happy with the saddle and would recommend it to anyone.. I am even thinking about buying one for my racer.. But we'll see.

I bought this product myself and this is my opinion on them. I am in no way affiliated with the manufacturer of this product. Neither did I get paid to link to any site that is mentioned in this post. 

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

My first bikepacking trip, general repetition for Stelvio 2019

OK. So after all this planning, the time has come to go on my first bike-packing trip. The plan is to be away 2 nights.

So this will be a general repetition for the Stelvio 2019 trip. Meaning that I will bring along all the stuff that I plan to bring on the cross-continental trip. Hopefully I'll weed out some of the stuff and maybe figure out some gear that is still missing.


Goals of this trip

  • Travel around 160 km per day for 3 days
  • Wild camp at least one night
  • Eat and drink nice stuff whenever we want to

Packing list

  • Camping gear
    • Tent
    • Sleeping bag
    • Thermo sleeping mat
    • Canister stove
    • Toilet paper
    • Freeze dried food, 2 meals for supper
    • Toothbrush, toothpaste

  • Tech
    • Phone, for navigation, photographing, posting stuff online etc.
    • Action camera, cheap one from that I found for 5€
    • Battery pack 20 000 mAh
    • Garmin Fenix 3, for logging the ride
  • Bike repair tools
    • Quick chain 
    • Extra inner tube
    • Derailleur hanger
    • Chain breaker
    • Allen keys
    • Extra spokes (1 short and 1 long)

  • Clothes
    • Extra pair of bibs
    • Extra jersey
    • Arm warmers
    • Leg warmers
    • Bike cap
    • Neoprene gloves
    • Neoprene shoewarmers
  • Bike gear
    • Helmet
    • 2 x 650 ml bottles of water
    • 500 ml bottle of water
Total weight: 11 kg
Total bike weight: 14 kg
My weight: 107 kg (oh damn)
Total: 132 kg...

Route plan

I  used Strava to plan a route that will be around 160 km per day. For 3 days that's a total of around 480 km for this weekend. 
Also checked some of the roads with Google Street View. I want to stay out of the Swedish 2-1 roads with wires in the center and sides. 90 km/h roads with very little room for errors. Don't want to end up in the wire fence with force..

Stage 1 from Tidan to the woods north of Nora

We started out in the morning, my mate had already ridden the 30 km from Skövde to me and we set out on a little bit of gravel road until reaching road 200 that we planned to continue for some time.
After 500 meters, the first truck came and used its horn and we quickly decided to take an alternative road instead with less traffic. A nice and welcoming start of the journey.
Taking a quick break in Töreboda to recheck gear
In Jonsbodarna we switched to follow the Göta Kanal on its gravel/sand bikepaths to Töreboda where we stopped and ate a banana.. One hour in for me and two for my friend.
We continued along the canal to Norrkvarn and from there crossed the E20 to more unpopulated roads.
The roads where good and we made a good time, saw a few snakes... (I have a real snake fobia) Luckily they were all dead.
Road-signs in central Gullspång
In Gullspång we took a wrong turn and didn't notice until we had climbed a hill, so we turned around and rolled back into town to buy some food and eat lunch. Ended up buying pasta sallad at the local ICA shop.
Lunch in Gullspång day 1
After lunch we hit some bad roads that really took some effort to push through, smaller paved roads in the countryside that are badly maintained.
Once back on a bigger road we climbed our first longer hill on the trip, so long that we decided to stop and take a picture of it. At least we had that behind us!
Obligatory documentation of the first longer climb on day 1 of our trip
After some hours on that road we stopped in Åtorp at a local café and took a real Swedish coffee break (fika).
Fika in Åtorp
So far we were making good time, we passed Degerfors with no real issue. Hit the old road from there towards Karlskoga and hit a long climb almost directly, followed by a long decent all the way to Karlskoga.

Before the trip we had found that we would pass a real nasty hill in Karlskoga, 18% according to strava. So mentally prepared we started on that climb, but in reality it was not near 18%. But I had to use my smallest cog on the Kona Sutra to be able to beat it.
From the beginning we had said that there will be no prestige on this trip, hills should not be sprinted but taken in a pace that is energy efficient.
Feeling a little better after having beat that 'Svartbacken', we continued still in good spirits.
Once we hit road 243 everything changed. The road was wide, the asphalt was rough and the hills were real long and after a hill, there was another... and another. After a few of those all hope of getting to Nora before the ice-cream factory closed for the day vanished. It was pure survival. We re-did the plans, we even decided to take in on the local camp-ground in Nora just to not have to look for a place to pitch a tent.
That road, the 243 from Karlskoga to Nora took away my bikepacking naivity.

After 2 hours we passed through Gyttorp, the sun was on its way down and we joked a little that we still had energy.. Ten minutes later the man with the hammer came for me and the last downhill into Nora was a little risky.
We rode to the campsite, the reception was closed for the night. We looked at google for places to eat and found a pizzeria.. Rolled there, ate some junk-food and it was good!

Finally in Nora

While we were looking at maps we noticed that the ice-cream factory was next door to where we sat. The mental blow of that was fun.
After that we found a Circle-K where we could fill our water bottles and climbed back out from Nora to a potential campsite for the night.
Tents pitched and ready for bed. First day of the trip completed! Still having fun!

We pitched our tents and called it a day.

Stage 2 from the Nora woods to Berg outside of Linköping

After a night with muscle-fever and quite a lot of sweating I was surprised to find myself in quite good form in the morning.
A brand new day after a night of muscle fever
We packed up the camp and made sure that no trash was left at the scene and hit the road directly without any breakfast as there was a fire ban in the region.

The second stage started with an unplanned 'shortcut'. As we had found a better campsite for the night then the planned one north of the city, we decided to ride a gravel road and intercept the planned route a bit to the south.
Almost directly we were hit with an average 3% ascent.. And it kept on going.. and going... As it was a gravel road some parts were really steep. A rough awakening and the put the body to working mode directly.
Once we hit paved roads, we rolled into Örebro in no time and ate breakfast at Circle-K (not sponsored, just happened to be there.)
Breakfast day 2, coffee, 2 egg and "falukorv" sandwiches and a powerade.
I really liked the cycle-roads in Örebro, really broad and the bikes rolled really nicely.
From Örebro we rolled through Kumla and Hallsberg in no time, the roads were nice and we really enjoyed the riding. The road planners had kept a mind on cyclists.

After Hallsbergs the days second longer climb started. We took it in our own pace, meaning that my riding partner disappeared and I continued on the small cog.

In Estabo we ran into another climb and at that point it also started raining a little and the temperature dropped.
Stopping for lunch in Mariedamm. Bring your own lunch as there are nowhere to buy stuff between Hallsberg and Tjällmo

A few hours later we arrived in Mariedamm where we ate lunch consisting of a sandwich and a snickers and pushed on.
At this point it was a little cold and the energy boost from lunch made me push a little harder in some uphills and I think that I did something bad here as my knee started to feel a little weird.
Here we also found a sign saying that we should take another road if possible, we looked at each other and the map and found that other roads would add an extra 40 km to the day. So we deemed it impossible to take another road and road the planned one.
After a while we found out why the sign was up. Evidently forest fires started early in Sweden in 2019.

Forest fires between Mariedamm and Godegård
From Godegård we took the road towards Tjällmo. After some riding we ran into another sign saying that the road was closed ahead. Find another route.
And again, we consulted our map and found that it would add another 40-50 km to the ride. So we asked google maps to find an alternative, and it did based on us riding bikes.

We took a gravel road downhill to a house, rode through their back-yard to a tractor-trail that lead to a forestry road that was in a really bad shape. I think we rode that for 10 km until we descended from the highlands back to farming country and a paved road to Tjällmo. An extra 2 km to the trip and an experience richer. Damn I love my Kona Sutra, it has really taken me through all terrain that I've thrown it against!

In Tjällmo we stopped to feed. Starving.
The last leg of the day was to Berg and a ice-cream shop there. But after one of the most boring roads I've ridden (Tjällmo-Berg), we finally arrived and the place had closed for the day so we rode off to find our place to camp before it turned dark.
Day 2 camp site, sleeping in the tents instead of the cabins just because this is a general repetition.
The day felt better, even with the rain. Energy never ended mostly because we ate at better intervals.

Stage 3 from Linköping back to Tidan outside of Skövde

Last day of the trip. Started with porridge before hitting the road.
Day 3 breakfast, porridge with nuts, almonds and raisins.
The first 5 km were hellish thanks to the head-wind but then we turned a little and got it more from the side and it was survivable.

Our first stop was Borensberg where we bought food for the next few hours riding through the no-shopping-region of northern Östergötaland. In the morning we had found another road that we could use instead of the closed one from the day before that would only marginally alter the planned distance.
Once we arrived at the junction, and noticed that it was gravel our mood sunk. It was bad gravel, and 1 km in there was a gravel climb up back to the highlands that was really steep with all the packing on the bike. I had to really put in an effort to get up.
The gravel road to Degerö
But once we had passed that climb the gravel road turned really nice, even nicer then most of the paved roads we had ridden so far. It was a dream to roll through the forest and we made good time. Once in Godegård we stopped and ate the food we bought in Borensberg before hitting the road to Zinkgruvan.

The road to Zinkgruvan was hell. Hell on earth. It was hot, sun was burning, the asphalt was burning, the rocky sides of the road were radiating heat and the road just went up and down like a roller-coaster. A roller-coaster with no fun, the climbs were hard and the downhills were really short.

After Zinkgruvan the road was better, the climbs were longer but not as steep and the downhills were really long, plenty of time for my pulse to reach normal levels before the next climb.

Newly opened Sibylla in Askersund served us burgers for lunch!

In Askersund we stopped for lunch, again just junk-food. We took some time to just relax and fill water bottles and re-secure everything on the bikes before hitting the next leg of the day. The road through Tiveden...

And it began again. Long climbs followed by short downhills. After a while the downhills became longer but there was still that question in my head of how many of these climbs are there? So I decided to conserve my energy and safe it all the way. So this part took a really long time, just steady climbing in low gears and coasting downhill and repeat
Here I almost hit a live snake as well, yikes.. and rolled over a dead one...
The Kungsbacken climb in Tiveden. 
Well, the rolling hills just continued. But once we hit Undernäs we were on familiar roads again, almost home. So here we just started pushing up the pace and made some of the best lap times (5 km) of the whole trip. I burned through all the energy reserves that I had on the last roads back home. And once home I barely knew my own name.

A trip to remember! And damn it was hard and fun at the same time!

What I figured out about my gear

Gear that didn't make it:

  • The only obvious thing that will not cut it to my next trip is the footprint of the MSR Elexir 2 Tent... It's there so that you can raise the tent without the inner tent and for protection of the inner tent.. But in reality you can just use the tent without it and be happy... 202 grams removed.
  • Maybe pour the sunscreen into a smaller tube

Gear that I wish I would have thought of:

  • A bag on my frame for easier access stuff like snacks while riding. 
  • We will need to pack a little bit smarter and not bring doubles of stuff on our next trip
  • Dish-soap

Other conclusions

160 km and 1 km elevation per day was really pushing my limits. It has taken me 2 days to recover to almost normal function afterwards. The thought of doing this for three weeks is making me re-think my Stelvio plan. The trip is something of a grand tour of mine and I want to do it right. Not stress to the next campsite before nightfall. 160 km is pushing it, I think that a reasonable max would be around 120 km. That would give 2 more hours to enjoy the ride. And even throw in shorter stages to really enjoy the trip.

I've spent the last two days thinking about how to replan the trip to shorter stages, but there are really only two ways to do it... Either by adding more days, and that we don't have.. Or throwing more money at it by booking a flight to somewhere in Germany and take it from there instead... And thus destroying the whole idea of the adventure.

Today we decided to cancel the Stelvio 2019 as I am not there yet.. I've made significant progress since chemo ended in January, but there are still ways to go until I am at a fitness level where I can enjoy the trip.

The purpose of the general repetition was to find out things that work and things that do not. And evidently my body is just not there yet. I've impressed myself by managing this 3 day trip where I really pushed myself to my limits, but I really reached the limits and there is no need to force the Stelvio trip this year.

On a positive side, the planning and all the work put in on the bike and in the gym to get me into so good shape that I was able to complete this 3 day trip is all thanks to me focusing on the Stelvio trip 100% instead of thinking about cancer and chemo. But 4 months after chemo is still 4 months after chemo.

But as I've already filed for a 3 week vacation with my manager at work, I will probably spend a lot of that time on the bike doing shorter trips. At least that is the plan today.
And plans can always change and be adapted!

Until next time!

Featured Post

How to mount a Surly Front Rack on the Kona Sutra

This is the answer to a question on how I mounted the Surly Front Rack on my Kona Sutra 2019 , that was asked by a reader in my review of...