Loaded Salsa

Whoa, that’s some panniers – wouldn’t get to close to this bike in a crosswind.

Uploaded by mmeiser2 | more from the Bike Hugger Photostream.


The Surly boys are big on frame bags, too.  Maybe it’s a west Bloomington thing.

That bike doesn’t look like it would carry a load any other way, though.

Frame bags are definitely not a West Bloomington thing…They are a thing for anyone that wants to challenge the way touring has been done before, both on and especially of-road.  They have now been tested and proven on the most challenging races in North America, Iditasport Trail Invitational and the Great Divide/Tour Divide races. 

Panniers and a heavy touring bike are appropriate for some experiences, but I wouldn’t want the weight and opportunity for failure when moving fast, on rough terrain, or both. 

Yep, Mike’s my Bro…I’ve been using frame bags for well over a year and he’s migrating from panniers on his C-Check to UL setups on both his Salsa Campeon and Surly C-Check.

Coming from a roadie background, we don’t tour with panniers—it’s the Carradice Quick Release saddle bag. That’s credit card touring, but never liked how panniers feel on the bike and just not my thing to ride around at 12 mph. See my recent related post on [traveling with bikes](http://bikehugger.com/2010/01/twenty-ten-travel.html).

Do your knees hit the frames bags?

@DLByron - No, I have not had issues with hitting my knees on the bags.  I used them to race the Divide this summer and have used them for several thousand miles.  We’re not talking CC touring here…but fully loaded ultralight.  You’re right, move faster and lighter…

Wow, just got home from riding to see bikehugger had blogged my bike.

About the wind. I haven’t ridden it that much but so far it’s a non issue… at least compared to pannier bags. The frontal wind is ALOT more with pannier bags. The side wind is still considerably less, not to mention that it’s broken by your legs. What’s more where it catches the wind is central instead of located on the back tires or worse across the front tire.

About the knee hitting.  I built this bag and I had the bright idea (at least I think so) to use 2” velcro in between the top and bottom compartment for specifically this reason.  This allows me to adjust the width in the middle of the bag from about 2” to about 4.25”.  What’s more i can tailer the width so it’s narrower in one section and wider in another. I can say I have absolutely no knee rub so far and I have it set at about 3.5”. That’s said I’m looking forward to seeing how wide I can pack it. Right now I’m guessing it’ll hold a little bit more, maybe even 1.5x the amount of stuff as my traditional large rear Axiom pannier, which are pretty standard sized as panniers go.

I think I have plenty of space between the super twinkie (seat bag) and main frame bag for extended summer touring.  The bedroll (handlebar bag) should only be necissary for winter because of my 0 degree bag.

The Campeon is not my primary touring bike. In fact I never thought I’d be touring on it at all. However the more I ride it the more confidence I gain in it, particularly in the mavic open pro rear wheel I built up for it. I may build up another DT 1.2 or Mavic Open with 36 spokes instead of the current 32. And then I think it may be ready for some serious long distance touring… i.e. perhaps a Trans Am.

The bags were the final piece to the puzzle but really it’s the combination that’s really giving me an extreme itch already to explore the possibilities of where this combination might go:


Could I do a Trans Am on it??

If so how many days?

How’s it going to hold up when I find myself not on a perfect rode… maybe even dirt?

Can I get it below 34lbs (gear and bike)... maybe even 30lbs??

I can currently get in about 120 miles in a decent touring day while still enjoying myself.  How many more miles could I get in?  150, 175?

If I could do a trans am (roughly 3000) miles in say around 20-25 days then what of the stuff I “missed” because I was to addicted to the bird like freedom? They’ll be plenty of time to go do it again!?  As a riding buddy of mine says… you have to leave something for next time.

Anyway, I’m still relatively new to touring so these are the questions I ask myself.  I don’t want to get caught up in racing. But there’s so much freedom in being able to cover so many miles in a day. The world just shrinks and the possibilities of where you might ride expand exponentially.

BTW, one last thing. ;)

I definitely caught this bug from the Ultralight backpacking crowd. I owe tremendous amounts of it to their ethos. Their MYOG (make your own gear), amazing, innovative, freedom seeking ways.

There’s a little saying that sort of sums up the “Why ultralight backpacking?” question.

To roughly paraphrase…

“It’s like going out for a Sunday stroll and having the freedom to just keep going” 

To be clear that’s like being able to keep strolling for days or weeks and hundreds of miles or even a thousand miles.

This transfers perfectly to biking.

Why ultralight tour? 

Because it’s like going out for a Sunday morning road ride and having the freedom to just keep going.

There’s another ul backpacking idea.

It’s not about being “faster”.  It’s about seeing more (because you’re covering more ground), and having more time to stop and smell the roses.

Again, this transfers directly to bike touring.

It has even occurred to me that this could allow biking to branch out.

If I can get my entire bike and touring gear down to 30lb (already had it at 34lbs before the frame bags) I could fashion a shoulder harness and just take off the front wheel, throw it all on my back and go section hike the Appalachian Trail.

I’ve already seen innovators like Eric from Epic Designs bike pack their mountain bikes, even Pugsleys to cross un-bike-able terrain for short distances.

I call this a dual-sport or multi-sport touring. 

This ultralight-ness has so many implications.  If we can throw the bike on our back we don’t need the bike to be rideable in every condition. Thus the wheels can get even thinner and lighter.

What if Ian Hibbel had an ultralight rig wen he crossed the Darien Gap?


(Yes that is Eric from Epic Designs, maker of the frame bags.)

Going ultralight is just like innovation in the tech sector. Each gram you squeeze out is incremental. Innovation is incremental, but suddenly once you’ve squeezed enough grams suddenly there’s a leap in possibilities.

The whole reason we’re even here with frame bags is because some dudes at surly built the first 4” production bike complete with a tire that was necessary to create a standard.

This overnight revolutionized snow riding and the Iditarod. It became a platform and people built and innovated on it. This then combined with the completing of the first truly epic long distance mountain bike trail in the world the Great Divide Trail and soon the Great Divide race, caused people like Eric of Epic Designs and Jeff of Carousel Designs to see a need for a new way of carrying gear that wasn’t heavy and bulky and wouldn’t flop around as much in off road touring / treking situations. That it could / might come back to road biking who knows?

The innovation happened because of incrimental change which caused growth (i.e. in the iditarod and gdr) which created the market for a frame bag.  And who knows where it’ll go next.

The incremental innovations and above all the way of thinking they represent are just trickling where they may and hopefully… maybe picking up some steam while doing it. Idea bombs, or idea viruses as the editors at Wired magazine liked to call them back in the day.

This is no different then mobile technology, i.e. data speeds… or computing technology, i.e. processor speeds…. or the slow shift of the internet from 14.4 models to broadband… and then one day bam! you’ve got bittorrent and youtube revolutionizing mass media.

Where will the youtube moment, or the bittorrent moment be? Might ultralight touring in some weird burn through round about way cause a breakthrough just like the speed of bandwidth.. that might one day reignite touring in the mainstream imagination like it was in the 60’s or 70’s or even greater? (Why not it’s working to some degree for ultralight backpacking?)  This is the way innovation happens. It’s the way Specialized got started bringing European technology to the American market and eventually mountain biking.

What’s more what other concurrent events, cultures, ideas or technologies might come along that we can’t even see that will crash headlong into this ultra-lightness innovation. Just like Specialized ran headlong into mountainbiking with their drive to bring technology driven innovation to the american bike market.

Personally I have my money on ubiquitous mobile broadband and computing, the iphone, gps, and google maps all figuring into this space somehow… it already is but I think it’s going to keep picking up steam.

Let play with a hypothetical example.

Lets say the Long Haul Trucker has been one of the more successful touring bikes of the last decade, but what if the LHT wasn’t actually on the mark?  What if it missed the mark?

What if the thing that will inspire the mainstream imagination is an ultralight titanium or carbon fiber touring bike (forget the steel) with compact geometry that slowly appeals to a leading group of died in the wool roadies of all people.

Do you know how many ultralight road bikes are sold in this country every year? If just a fraction of those people got into touring it might really change the face of touring.

But a large group roadies get into touring?

Yeah, why not, stranger things have happened.

Lets say for the sake of our example that this round about backwards movement of roadies into touring then becomes visible, and inspirational as these market leaders enjoy themselves… maybe set new records and redefine old sports… like randoneering.  And suddenly the mainstream market shifts to lightweight tourers like it jumped on 10 speeds in the 80’s or mountain bikes in the 90’s. 

But maybe this is not the end outcome… for the sake of throwing another hitch in this hypothetical story of innovation maybe there are a few other market brake throughs in other segments as well… hell the “green” think seems like a major market force right now. 

Maybe such “sexiness” (mass market appeal) ends up spinning off a few other market innovations and lighting a fire in the commuting market. Suddenly people start buying foot forward pedalers like the Electra that are really just americanized versions of typical copenhagen commuters. 

Suddenly leading cities like Portland, Minneapolis, San Fran and New York start looking a little more like Amsterdam with a solid mid single digit of daily commuters actually riding bikes. What is NY at in bike ridership? .2%? 2%  It’s already going up, but what if that went up just a couple more points over just a few years?  That’d be exponential growth into the mass market. It’d mean tremendous industry growth across the country.

I’m not saying this will happen. In fact it sounds absolutely crazy to me. But the point is not to be right. The point I’m trying to make in this example is that this is the way markets work. I’ve got a great number of years in the tech sector and I’ve seen the strange, wonderful and mysterious ways innovation happens. Everything is related… everything seems to change so slow until it doesn’t, and then a few seemingly unrelated incrimental innovations bounce off each other like ping pong balls and in three years you go from having no video blogs and video sharing sites to youtube and “you” being on the cover of Time magazine as the “thing of the year” or whatever it is.

Funny thing is as much as that’s changed mass media and the way the individual relates to the world at large the effects are much greater over the long term as today’s youtube generation graduates college.

It’s almost like the “butterfly effect” in the strange, beautiful round about way innovation happens. But it always starts with incremental change and improvement.  It’s just one gram here and one gram there.

Anyway, to the point, I’m not just pulling this from my *ss… in truly typical form I’m getting it (almost) entirely from the ultralight backpacking world (primarily the community forums on backpackinglight.com) those self described gram weenies are extremely innovative. Like many others I’m just listening, learning and taking their same ideas and pushing them into the bike space where maybe they’ll combine with other ideas to take some new direction.

Less is more, as “they” say.

Ironicly this probably also applies to words and I’ve used may to many, but heh, it was to much fun to write. :)

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