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Seat bag stabilization

Controlling seatbag sway

This DIY project can reduce or eliminate excessive lateral movement in many seat bags.

The two key elements are an appropriately configured structural member placed lengthwise in the bottom of the bag; and a static strap (not elastic) looped under the bag and over each seat rail, that compresses the contents and bag into the saddle rails and underside.   

The above images are of a friend’s bike. She’s a very experienced and capable bikepacker, and was being frustrated by a seat bag that would droop and flop around despite being packed and tensioned correctly.

The solution proposed came out of some of the development work and testing of the Bikepackers Foundry Seat Bag. A. In order to minimize or eliminate sway the distance between the centerline of the bottom of the bag and each seat rail must be kept constant. B. Few, if any, seatbags have enough stiffness to prevent drooping behind the seat.

I wanted to provide a solution that was strong, lightweight, and did not require permanent modifications to the seat bag.

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Light, heat, & power for bikepacking

This blog post outlines an integrated approach to having reliable light, heat, and power when bikepacking. More efficient and higher quality LED light sources, larger battery capacities, and the quick charging capabilities of many newer devices have created options for lightweight and robust systems. After comparing the specifications of various different elements I settled on two headlamps from Lynx OGT in Nelson BC, some handwarmer/cache batteries from Ocoopa, and front and rear blinky lights from Leyzne. The Power Delivery cache batteries outlined in this blog post continue to perform well, and have not been replaced. All items have been purchased at retail prices and are mentioned solely on their merits.

Background: 2022 was a year where several key electrical items stopped working while I was bikepacking. The most irritating was a fairly new Fenix HM65R light that shut off while I was night riding in a heavy rain storm. I was able to reach my destination with a backup headlamp. One of the lens seals was leaking, damaging the electronics. Replacement Fenix proprietary 18650 batteries are more than 4 times the price of standard units… A couple of Eddie Bauer branded USB rechargeable hand warmers also faded away after years of use.

Night riding along a lake shore. Primary lighting is from an Aurora (medium setting ~800 lumens) on the handlebars, and the bright rectangle is a CatEye 2 on the helmet, at about 600 lumens. I can ride about 6 hours on these settings. Including mounts, this pair of lights weighs 200 grams. On the highest settings this pair of lights produces about 2,000 lumens, much more than I need under most conditions. Lynx OGT from Nelson BC is creating some world-class and cost effective lighting systems!

Lighting: The Lynx OGT headlamps have similar controls consisting of a single button that is easily operated with gloves, mitts, and cold digits. The first press turns the light on to the “remembered” setting, second press is full power, a double press switches the light to strobe mode. There is also a stepless dimmer that “remembers” the last setting. The strobe setting is excellent for daytime riding on busy roads. The push button is translucent and has segmented red and green LEDs that indicate discharge and charge status. Both lights use standard 18650 3,500 mAh batteries. The mounts for both lights can be easily adapted for direct mounting. Lynx OGT sells additional mounts at a very modest cost. The Cat Eye 2 (left image below) has an adjustable beam pattern that can project a smaller and evenly lit area. This pattern is my preference as a helmet light. Around camp I’ll use the widest setting on low (50 lumens). The handlebar mounted Aurora (centre and right images) has three white and two red LEDs that produce uniform and far reaching light patterns. I find the white High (1,200 lumens) setting to be too much for most backcountry riding. The red light is a gamechanger!!! I prefer to run it on red High (300 lumens). it is easy to see conditions ahead, while also being able to enjoy the surrounding naturally lit night views. See picture and comments below.

I was not able to capture an image of the cracks in the ice visible with red lighting. The crack immediately left of the front wheel and extending out onto the lake surface could be seen while night riding from about 10 metres away. Wider cracks can be seen from greater distances.

Light Mounts: Lynx OGT lights can be readily adapted for direct mounting to helmets and bikes.

Running lights: A pair of Lezyne Zecto Drive lights are an excellent compromise between weight and brightness. The day-flash settings are very visible, with reasonable run times. The lights recharge fairly quickly despite only having micro-USB charging ports. There are side-mounted LED’s that provide lateral visibility, and another set of indicators of battery levels. Build quality and design are very good.

Charging: There are many variables when recharging devices in the field. I prefer to recharge my phone and GPS head prior to going to bed. This typically takes less than 90 minutes charging both USB-C devices.

As previously mentioned there are many variables with bikepacking light, heat, and power. If you’re looking to create a mental-model of your power requirements, a USB tester can help reduce the time spent developing and validating a power management plan.

Embracing winter while night riding with 300 lumens of red lighting.
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Winter fatbiking gear

Please note – This post is merely what’s working for me. Not a prescription for others.

March 2023. With the really cold weather camping season coming to a close here in the Rockies I’ll try and document gear and usages for mostly solo overnighters in temperatures to -35 Celsius. As part of my leave-no-trace approach, these trips seldom include wood fires. I require gear that will keep me dry and warm with minimal use of external heat sources. While winter camping during the 2021/22 season I noticed that some of my gear was not performing as well as previous seasons. With numerous pieces being up to a decade old, it was time to update a few items. This post reflects those updates after about five months of regular use. Both Cascade Designs (MSR & Therma Rest) and Rab feature prominently in my selections. All items were purchased at retail prices and have been chosen based solely on my experiences and perceptions regarding performance, utility, and value. Many of the items were purchased at off-season discounts of 50-65%.

Challenge Sailcloth’s 100% recycled ECOPAK EPX200 has been getting the call for some custom bags. Fun stuff to create new luggage with!

RollingDale fat bike, loaded for a winter overnighter. Total weight of bike, gear, food, and 3 litres of water was 32 kg, or ~72 pounds.

Back of bike – The primary reason for these larger compression panniers is to be able to get bulky items off the handlebar, and create a lower centre of gravity. (~20 litres, <375 grams each including all attachments) The visible right pannier contains outerwear, spare clothing, bear-hang (empty food bag), DIY tent footprint, and ExoSpikes in the compression lid. The ExoSpikes weigh about 220 grams and are vastly superior to studded boots. The left pannier contains a 2022 Therma Rest Polar Ranger -30C sleeping bag, and a 2020 MSR Hubba NX tent without the poles. The weight of panniers and contents is 5.0 kg, ~11 pounds. The 2020 DIY composite rear rack with integrated fender weighs <900 grams. This rack angle permits the full usage of the dropper post.  Total weight behind the seat tube is less than 6 kg.

Front of bike – Strapped directly to the Jones H Loop bar is a top-loading custom Bikepackers Foundry FireballBag; ~400 grams empty. Inside are the tent poles (bottom of bag and close to the head tube), 10+2 sections of 2015 Therma Rest Z-Lite Sol closed cell foam mattress, and a 2022 Therma Rest Neo Air X Therm Regular Wide with inflation bag. The weight of the FireballBag and contents is 1.3 kg, 2.9 pounds. A 2022 Lynx OGT Aurora maximum 1,500 lumen light is direct-mounted to the handlebar with OneWrap, weighs 106 grams. (Lynx OGT is a Nelson BC company producing world-class lighting systems.) Total weight on the handlebars < 1.5 kg, 3.3 pounds.

Centre of bike – As I almost always ride without a backpack or hip belt everything else needs to be carried around the centre triangle.

The 2020 custom frame bag contains canister stove & pot kit + emergency titanium wood stove, 2 litre water bladder (insulated in Outdoor Research hard shell and rain pants), 500 ml thermos of hot water covered with a pair of XL Rab Xenon mitts, emergency/first aid kit, spare Carbon Drive belt, spare Revoloop 27.5″ fatbike tube, zip ties, small shovel, and spare bike parts.

The 2020 custom top tube bag is divided in about the middle, with the back section holding a 0.5 litre drink-through-the-lid Thermos flask of warm water (this flask position the lowers centre of gravity of the bike) cushioned by a pair of Large Rab Xenon mitts & spare buff (back);, with the front section holding two 10,000mAh PD cache battery/warmers, two USB C to C cables and two USB A to micro USB cables and two female micro USB to male USB C adaptors (gotta have spares), Zoleo satellite communicator, keys and wallet, Swift RL headlamp, two spare 18650 batteries for the Aurora handlebar light, and two Petzl Bindi headlamps. Separate detailed post on 2023 lighting, heating, and power for bikepacking coming soon. Side note:  at least one spare headlamp and the Zoleo are in my pockets while night riding. Bear spray carry location varies by my perception of risk levels. Belt carry is the preferred option.

Outerwear: Rab Large Xenon Mitts (see note) sitting on parka, 2022 Blue Rab down parka (700 grams, size Small), two pairs of merino wool liner gloves, 2 buffs & a 2017 OR down beanie (primarily worn for sleeping), 2017 Rab Argon down pants, 2018 First Ascent down puffy with vented back, footwear detail below. For clarity, I layer pairs of Large and Extra Large mitts when conditions dictate.
Footwear: 2020 Bogs Yulex 2 sizes larger, yellow DIY 1/2″ closed-cell foam insoles, Bogs insoles, 2022 black Rab Pertex/Primaloft socks (worn as both a vapour barrier and insulating layer, 2018 blue Rab down socks (primarily worn for sleeping if needed). Each of the four Rab socks weighs 57 grams. These combinations will keep me warm and dry to at least -30 C for a few days. Everything dries fairly quickly overnight. Side note: I’ve had poor results from Rab vapour barrier socks, as the taping failed after a season of use. Not shown, ExoSpikes.
Wet snow/rain/wind layer: 2022 OR Helium rain pants, 2022 OR Helium Ascent Shell, extra heavy nitryl gloves. I’ll frequently wear the nitryl gloves as a base layer to keep hand outer layers dry. The ascent shell is excellent for starting out on very cold days, and as a wind layer. The pants and shell replaced some older GoreTex items. Weight was reduced by 330 grams and gear performance improved.
FireballBag on the rear rack to make the front lighter for riding in loose and variable conditions. I’m wearing both gloves and insulated mitts to compensate for the lack of pogies. Top layers: merino tee shirt, OR half zip hoodie, First Ascent puffy, OR Helium Ascent Shell. Bottom layers: compression knee socks, 200wt. merino leggings, Rab Pertex insulated socks, Bogs Yulex boots, winter alpine ski touring pant. This is the most that I’ll wear while riding. If wind chills are below -40 I might pull on the Helium rain pants.
This is a December 2022 image of using the “emergency” titanium twig stove that I carry. It can also be used with the XTS pot if the fuel canister is compromised or empty. It weighs 270 grams.

Please leave a comment if there are other details that might be helpful to you.

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DIY mug cozy

This project utilizes scraps or upcycled fabrics to create a functional and extremely durable insulated mug cover. At -20 Celsius the cozy will keep a mug of coffee warm for about 30 minutes. The cut list dimensions below are for the pictured mug. The mug can also serve as a backup or primary pot for boiling water.

Finished cozy for a 450 ml titanium cup

ComponentQuantityLength (in)Width (in)
EcoPak – EPX 2001123.5
Hyper D 3001123.5
Climashield APEX 3.6oz1113.5
3/4″ heavy webbing for handle1120.75
Cut list for pictured mug. Adjust sizing as required, leaving enough distance between the cozy and edge of the mug to avoid contact between lips and cozy.
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RWGPS Ride Reports

Titanium Pinion/Gates Drive bicycle in a field of wildflowers in the Upper Elk Valley.

This post is a “home” for links to my Ride Reports.

High Rockies Trail & Elk Lakes Local Overnighter – a solo August 2023 S24O.

Mount Costigan Local Overnighter – a July 2023 ride with friends on the Lake Minnewanka Shoreline Trail.

Nordegg Alberta Local Overnighter – a June 2023 area scouting trip with Kevin.

Stoney Creek Local Overnighter – a May 2023 ride to test the lightest luggage system I’ve ever created.

Galiano Island Overnighter – a May 2023 trip with the Vancouver Island Bikepacking Collective.

Yet another Lake Minnewanka Ride Report – an April 2023 overnighter on the Slowest Known Time Machine.

Cascade Valley easy spin – a March 2023 local overnighter to test at recently dislocated shoulder – test successful.

Redearth Creek and Shadow Lake fatbiking – March 2023 perhaps the stickiest snow I’ve ever biked in. Fun was had!

Elbow Valley Winter Overnighter – a February 2023 ride that was primarily the most tiring bike-pushing I’ve ever done.

Lake Minnewanka Winter Overnighter – a January 2023 trip to test some new gear systems on the SKT Machine.

N+0 on the GDMBR. The prototype Bikepackers Foundry Ultra 200 CompressionPanniers (~20 litres & 180 grams each) are performing very well after about 1,000 km. Likewise with the matching custom Ultra 200 StraddleBags. Only having five bags makes packing a breeze. The total weight of all luggage and 610mm composite integrated rear fender/rack is less than 1,500 grams. The 700mm carbon corner bars make for a fun and comfortable ride. While the bike may appear to be back-heavy, in fact the the centre of gravity is low and 50-75mm forward of the cranks.
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Backcountry bikepacking route: Kista Vistas

Scenic vista from a pond adjacent to Lake Abraham.
Kista Peak and surrounds  viewed from a superb coffee outside spot!
Kista Peak and surrounds viewed from a superb #coffeeoutside spot!

The route is named after Kista Peak (centre) which forms an impressive vista for a camping location, and can be seen from many locations along the route.  Kista Peak is a 2,576-metre (8,451-foot) mountain located in the North Saskatchewan River valley and is part of the Ram Range in the Canadian Rockies.

Link to Kista Vistas RWGPS route

The Alberta (Canada) Bighorn Backcountry is an area covering more than 5,000 square kilometres (1.2 million acres) of public lands east of Banff and Jasper National Parks. The Stoney-Nakoda Nations have been using the area, particularly the nearby Kootenay Plains, for generations.  This route is adjacent to Abraham Lake, Alberta’s largest reservoir, and is accessed from the Bighorn Dam which is less than 30 km west of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route (Jasper extension), and less than 75 km east of the Icefields Parkway. The Icefields Parkway consistently ranks as one of the ten best paved routes in the world.  As a weekend destination, the area is readily accessible to many folks in Alberta and British Columbia.

The mixed-use trails on this route have been developed and are maintained primarily for OHV use by the Bighorn Heritage ATV Society. However, the area is closed to OHV traffic between May 1 and June 30 each year. This closure represents an opportunity to quietly explore a very scenic area on well-maintained two-track. Riders exploring the area between July 1 and April 30 can expect to be sharing the trails with OHVs and/or snowmobiles.

Detail map of the area that is posted at the access point.
Detail map of the area that is posted at the access point (marked as the ? on the above map).

While the route is presented as a simple loop, best ridden counter clockwise, there are numerous opportunities to extend the route or enjoy more challenging day rides. The route is entirely unpaved and has some chunky sections on the steeper pitches.   The ATV group that maintains the trails are doing an excellent job mitigating OHV damage, and focused on a July 1 opening, so expect a few downed trees to deal with. Surface water (treatment required) is seasonally available in several locations.

Random camping sites are available in several locations, and identified on the RWGPS route file. A public lands camping pass is required. There are also developed drive-in campsites with pit toilets on the north side of the Bighorn Dam. As always, Leave No Trace!

If you’re looking for more bikepacking routes in the Rockies purchase Bikepacking in the Canadian Rockies.

All photos by K. Wirtanen or G. Stuart.

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DIY Ice Probe for fat biking

Cycling on ice can be hazardous or fatal! These ideas are presented entirely at your own risk and expense.

Fat bike sitting on thick older ice, with new thin ice and open water in the background.
DIY Ice Probe strapped to left side of top tube. Fat bike sitting on thick older ice, with new thin ice and open water in the background.

The Nordic ice skating community has developed specific tools for assessing ice thickness. Luc Mehl’s Wild Ice course (highly recommended) was the catalyst for this little project. This blog post is a DIY adaptation of an ice probe sized for carrying on and deployment from a fat bike; without interfering with other gear typically carried for winter camping. While this probe has so-far only had a few trips I’m very impressed with the timeliness and accuracy of the information it can provide.

Ice Probe with 20mm webbing strap attached to yield an effective length of about 160 cm, 60 inches.  The probe has been lightly tossed like a harpoon.  With the new 6 cm ice failing on the first toss.
Ice Probe with 20mm webbing strap attached to yield an effective length of about 160 cm, 60 inches. The probe has been lightly tossed like a harpoon. With the new 6 cm ice failing on the first toss.

The primary components of the ice probe are a shortened segment of aluminum Nordic ski pole, and a length of steel rod. Combined the weight is around 500 grams. Given the anticipated harsh service I opted for creating a single pole that does not extend or retract. The potential for unwanted corrosion of dissimilar metals is minimized (perhaps eliminated) by the separation of aluminum and steel with self-fusing heat shrink tubing around the steel rod. The steel rod is then driven inside the segment of ski pole.

Wouldn't be a Bikepackers Foundry item if there weren't at least two uses.  Ice probe, and bike stand, etc. :)
Wouldn’t be a Bikepackers Foundry item if there weren’t at least two uses. Ice probe, and bike stand, etc. 🙂
A brief video of how I’m using and carrying the ice probe.
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Finding N+0

RollingDale Cycle “Adventure Bike” in October 2022, 32 front, 32 rear gearing of the Carbon Drive with Pinion C1:12 transmission. All luggage is by Bikepackers Foundry, with more details at the end of this post. The bike is carrying everything to complete a backpack-free three day Fall alpine ride without resupply. All products noted in this post were purchased at retail prices, and are mentioned solely on their merits.

Last updated March 4, 2023 with an overview of the Version 4 RacklessPannier.

After a number of decades of riding a variety of bikes, the industry had trained me to think that I probably needed another bike for the path ahead. In mid-2019 during a backpacking trip, while riding a superb Trek Farley carbon fat bike, I started to consider a custom titanium bicycle as the “next bike”.  Thanks for opening this portal Kevin,  your sage experience is greatly appreciated!  

Sunrise snapshot riding to the start of the 2022 Buckshot, Kamloops, BC. Rigged with DIY composite rack/fender and waterproof panniers. The DIY single aerobar works very well.

Fast forward to Fall 2022 and I no longer think about new bike additions!

Stepping back to Fall 2019, after much research and interactions with several US-based Ti bike suppliers, I contacted RollingDale Cycle, in Alberta, Canada, about their capacity to build a 29’er hardtail with a Pinion/Gates Carbon Drive. Dale Marchand got back to me quickly, and outlined his early efforts to create custom titanium bicycles: while stressing that he was just getting started.  I will add that Dale is one of most capable and humble folks that I’ve met, and a wonderful human being!

My mindset was that the new bike would be ridden primarily on gravel’ish surfaces in the Rockies, and built with the lightest components available. “The Adventure Bike” would complement my primary bike, a  full-sus trail bike (Scott XC Pro); and a fat bike.  Dale and I worked on defining the build with a shared spreadsheet listing all components, and CAD drawings of the frame. I really enjoyed researching individual components suitable for bikepacking, while leaving the specifications for the frame in Dale’s very capable hands. My only frame requirement was clearance for at least 2.5 inch tires, 29’er. In December 2019 after Dale took numerous measurements of me, we agreed on a build, and a 50% deposit was transferred.


Dale’s welding and fabrication is a work of art!  His use of CNC’d elements for the Pinion bridge/rear yoke, and the Paragon Machine Works rear dropouts when combined with his frame design is outstanding.  I appreciate the low stand over as it adds to the utility and playfulness of the bike. Dale orients the drop outs such that the rear wheel can be removed and installed without adjusting or altering belt tension.  Dale’s IG Feed is worth following.

The frame was built with a small tube welded to the bottom of each seat stay at a 70 degree angle.  These enable direct-mounting of Bikepackers Foundry custom ultralight composite rear racks.  This simple addition eliminates the shear forces inherent in “conventional” racks, enables narrower rack/luggage profiles, and creates mounts for Bikepackers Foundry Rackless Panniers.


A Pinion C 1:12 Transmission with 600% range combined with a matching Gates CDX Carbon Drive was what ultimately made the spreadsheet. The Gates CDX stainless steel sprockets were 32 teeth front and 28 teeth rear. In summer 2022 I started experimenting with other gearings, with 32/32 being an excellent pairing for pitchy singletrack. Dale recommended 170mm cranks which have proved to be a good choice. Pedal strikes are relatively rare, and I feel that there’s the right amount of leverage.

After about 10,000 km there is no visible wear to the sprockets, while the 115 tooth belt only shows very minor wear.  The gear range in the real world is; Lowest gear 6km/h with a cadence of 60 rpm, and Highest gear 55 km/h at a cadence of 100 rpm. With the bike loaded (~60#) I can pedal up 10% chunky gravel grades for extended periods.  Pinion has a very helpful calculator to explore different gearing and belt length options. If you are working with a frame builder it will be productive to have a conversation about which ranges of sprockets and cogs will fit within sliding dropouts for a specific belt length.

Fork and handlebar:

The initial fork was a Lauf TR boost “light” version.  It very quickly, almost fatally, demonstrated that it lacked the precision demanded by technical trails.  This is not a knock on the fork, merely my lack of understanding of its capabilities. The axle and fork legs can be in different planes when turning which can be problematic when fading trees and other obstacles.

The replacement is a Fox Factory 32 Step Cast with 100mm of travel and a two-position remote,  It’s an excellent trade off between weight and performance.  When paired with the Jones H-Loop carbon bar that typically has 35-40 mm of compliance, and 2.6″ tires, the combination is plush yet precise.  I opted to mount the superb Ergon/Pinion DS2 rotary shifter on the left side to permit gear changes while braking with the right hand.  On longer rides I no longer experience numbness and loss of strength in the hands that typically comes with thumb-shifting.   Of course the grips are Ergon GC-1. The GC-1 is specifically designed for swept back bars. The subtle changes relative to other Ergon grips result in significantly more comfort for me.

Doug Dunlop (aka Coldbike) recommended the Cane Creek ViscoSet  headset.  It is a welcome addition that greatly improves tight-lines steering, and further reduces upper body fatigue. My preference is to have all the internal disks aligned for maximum friction.

Dale built a custom Ti stem (+/- ~4 degrees & 40 mm), and a set of Ti spacers for the steerer tube.  I prefer to direct-mount the GPS head at the top of this stack.


We Are One Composites (WAO) are building fantastic quality wheels, components, and bike frames in Kamloops, BC, Canada.  Similar comments apply to Industry 9 hubs.


On the Scott full-squish, the Bicycle Cafe in Canmore had paired the inaugural WAO rim offering, and fresh spokes, with an existing DT Swiss 350 hub set.  The result was like “new bike day”. 

Returning to 2019. WAO had just come out with a Faction “gravel rim” with a 27mm internal width and engineered vertical compliance.  These 29″ 32 spoke rims were matched with Industry 9 Hydra Boost hubs. With 200 ml of Finish Line sealant in each Specialized 29″ x 2.6″ Fast Track Grid tires (product link unavailable), the front weighs in at 2070 grams, and the rear at 2250 grams. They’re light, fast, fun, and very durable! 


Four piston Shimano XTR with 180 mm front and 160 mm rear Ice-Tech Center Lock rotors. My ability to ride in control has increased, and I seldom skid while braking even when heavily loaded under difficult conditions. My perception is that there’s less pad wear than I was experiencing with two-piston brakes.

Seat post:

In mid-2019 after years of denial I started riding with a dropper-post.  Clearly I’m an idiot for not being an earlier adopter!  Specifically the PNW Components Coast suspension dropper is the one that I favour and it was specified for The Adventure Bike.  The ~40 mm of air-pressure adjustable travel in the post is very welcome in the chunk, and being able to get the saddle out of the way is great. The Bikepackers Foundry Seat Bag, or a custom DIY composite rack are each designed to allow full usage of a dropper post.

Seat post collar:

Engin Cycles builds a beautiful two-bolt collar that reliably holds a  dropper-post without any binding or loss of function.


While seats are a very personal choice based on many factors, it’s worth mentioning the Reform “Seymour” saddle. By a wide margin it’s the most comfortable saddle I’ve ever used!


One Up and PNW both have excellent composite flat pedals. The knees stopped complaining after switching to flats, and my feet stay warmer than with metal alternatives.

Riding notes:

The Adventure Bike is such a pleasure to ride under all conditions and loads.  Rigged as a stripped trail bike (11.6kg) it is light, fast, precise, supple, and climbs well.  Rigged as a fully loaded multi-day bikerafting setup (~40kg), it’s slow, precise, supple, and pushes beautifully. Unloaded or loaded the downhill sections are grin inducing, and inspire confident riding. The dropper post is a key component of making it all come together.

After a few seasons of riding, some additional thoughts:


The Pinion/Gates combination is superb!  Quiet, reliable, and extremely low maintenance.  Everything is cleaner, with fewer checks and adjustments. Mainstream commentary about derailleur versus belt seems to focus on theoretical drivetrain efficiency, and higher costs.  My riding experience is opposite. Perhaps the fullness of time will alter this sort of commentary.

This image is representative of how clean the drivetrain typically is. The little bushing below the front dropout bolt is for a 20mm webbing strap that secures and compresses a custom pannier bag, or Rackless Pannier

I enjoy riding/bike-pushing in less than ideal conditions and have the following observations.

1. Chain and derailleur systems quickly foul, lose efficiency, require ongoing adjustment and maintenance, and regular replacement.

2. The Gates CDX system is largely self-cleaning, and will likely just make a bit of noise if user-intervention is warranted.

3. The absence of a derailleur while bushwacking is liberating.  Being able to confidently move a loaded bike (scramble-lift-push-throw-wade)  through challenging conditions is notable, and appreciated.

4. To date, my experience is that the costs of a Pinion/Gates drivetrain are demonstrably less than conventional systems. (perhaps 1/10th).  Further riding/testing/costing is required. 🙂

Still early days in my relationship with internal transmission/belt drive systems, three summers of around 10,000 km and about 100,000 metres of climbing; largely in the backcountry.  My riding tactics have been fundamentally improved by how the entire bike and drivetrain functions and performs!!!


– non-sequential shifting is a game-changer!  You’ll need to figure out what works for your riding styles and conditions. I tend to pedal at-speed up to a slope and then drop 6 to 8 gears and immediately climb at cadence. At the top of a hill I’ll frequently add 4 to 6 gears for standing pedaling to regain speed.

– greatly reduced shifting fatigue on longer routes. I typically have significant hand-strength issues (that impact shifting capabilities) after about 300 km.  This issue is no longer something that I need to plan for.

– rock gardens and super-tight lines are no big deal.  If you and your pedals can grind/bunny hop through the features, the drive train will also.

– mud, sand, gravel, even bentonite clays* clear quickly and efficiently from the drive train. *The same can’t be said for the wheelsets. 🙁

– no need for regular cleaning or any lubrication of drive lines. Annual maintenance is a very easy 10 minute transmission fluid change. I also clean and lube the Hydra freehub a few times a year.

– SUPERB customer service from Pinion and Gates! Early in my Pinion usage I experienced a loose lock ring. I was able to contact Dale, who in turn contacted Pinion. By the time I was out of the backcountry the next day, replacements were already on route, no charge. The Pinion/Gates technical support folks had taken the time to consider my usage cases and recommended in increase in the lock ring torque from 40 to 60+ Nm. Reflecting back on the loose lock ring incident, my lack of experience made the situation worse. Lesson learned … pay attention for lock ring movement and re-torque if required. (see example photo below) Nothing like this incident has happened subsequently.

– Smaller environmental footprint, and much lower cost!  Again, early days.  Based on a review of 6 years of my derailleur maintenance records, the Pinion/Gates system is saving me $600-800 annually on drive train maintenance (c2019 costs).  If factoring in the lifetime frame durability of titanium vs. regularly replacing carbon frames this number is wildly conservative. Pinion quotes 60,000km as a planning distance before considering replacing a C Series transmission. The replacement cost of a complete Pinion C 1:12 and Carbon Drive system is similar to a top-spec Shimano or SRAM 1 x12 system without electronic shifting.

– Shifter cables on the Pinion receive little wear as it is a simple un-tensioned two-cable push-pull system that does not require fine adjustment. I rode more than 5,000 km before making a “one-click” adjustment to each cable. If cables fail they are easily replaced on the trail. If no cables are available, the transmission can still be manually shifted with a hex key.

Cons:– high initial cost of a complete titanium bike (with a Pinion bridge and frame splitter) can be quite daunting, particularly if not considering full-cycle costs. The complete bike described here cost about C$9,500 (US$7,000) in late-2019, excluding the second wheelset.

– aluminum sprockets and cogs wear quite quickly (<5,000 km) which can  also lead to collateral damage to the belt. The pictured Gates CDX system eliminates this issue.

– finding accurate usage information about Pinion and Gates systems can be challenging. Ryan van Duzer (DuzerTV), and Alee Denham (Cycling About) each have informed longer-term usage perspectives. Alee publishes and regularly updates several comprehensive bikepacking and touring guidebooks. Just don’t bend the belts like they’ve demonstrated. 🙂 has published a short-term review of the Pinion transmission. March 2023.

Things to monitor closely:

– any indications of loosening in the lock-ring attachment between the Pinion transmission and the front sprocket.  I’ve index marks (red Sharpie) on mine that I visually check when cleaning the bike (see picture and notes above).

– spare belts are light, inexpensive, and easy to change.  Carry one!  Sara and I built a special internal compartment (two layers of VX-21) on the down tube side of a DIY framebag just to store the spare belt in a flat and protected area.

– if riding off trail – grass, pieces of sticks, ice, and other debris tends to accumulate in the bottom of Centre-Track groove in the belt.  If riding in any of these conditions I’ve found it useful to periodically monitor for buildup and if warranted scrape the debris out of the Centre-Track groove. 


In June 2022 Kevin and I were working together on a bikepacking project and each riding titanium Pinion – Carbon Drive bikes. 

Bighorn Backcountry late-Spring 2022. The Adventure Bike (left) and Kevin’s Viral Derive (right).

I noted that he was more able to grind up difficult slopes.  This led to a chat about gearing.  Kevin was running 32 front and 32 rear, vs my 32 front and 28 rear.  Subsequently I added a 32 tooth rear sprocket to the mix. Which has increased my steep climbing capacity.   A 34 tooth rear and matching longer belt are on order…looking forward to playing with them! 


After more than a year of riding on the WAO Factions and realizing just how capable the bike frame, and overall build was, I started exploring options to increase the bike’s capabilities .  This led to the addition of WAO Union‘s paired with similar I9 hubs. This second wheelset has heavy trail tires* mounted and each weighs about 200 grams more than the wheelset mentioned previously. At low pressures of 15-18 psi the bike performs extremely well in sand, mud, soft gravel, and light snow. * Bontrager Team Issue SE4 29″ x 2.6″ with 250 ml of Finish Line sealant/wheel.  More sealant than required?  Probably.  However, I’ve not been stopped by a flat since riding a section of the AZT in 2017 with tubes and slime…it was very ugly…>15 punctures in just one short day.  🙁 Knocking on wood as I write this.

Some specs:

Weight with WAO Faction wheelset and Specialized Fast Track Grid 2.6″ tires 26#, 11.6kg.

Weight with WAO Union wheelset and Bontrager Team Issue SE4 2.6″ tires 27#, 12.1kg.

Frame only weight, 1,724 grams. Tubing, 3AL/2.5v + 6AL/2.5v

Head tube angle 67.5 deg. Trail 140 mm

Head tube length 110 mm

Seat tube angle 72 deg.

Seat tube length 430 mm, post diameter 31.6mm

Effective top tube length 630 mm

Stand over 670 mm

Chain stay 470mm with 32 front and 28 rear sprockets and a 115 tooth belt, and about 440mm with 32 front and 32 rear sprockets and the same 115 tooth belt. The on-order longer belt (118 tooth) and a 34 tooth rear sprocket will likely yield a 460-465mm effective chain stay length.

Bottom bracket height 320 mm
Bottom bracket drop 55 mm

Wheelbase 1190mm, with 32/28 and 115 tooth belt.

Tube diameters: seat stays 19mm, chain stays 22mm, top tube 31mm, seat tube 35mm with 31.6mm post, down tube 38mm.

It’s worth reiterating that the combination of 100 mm of Fox 32 fork travel with 30-40 mm of Jones carbon H-loop bar, 2.6″ rubber rides like more than the sum of the parts. Likewise the 40 mm of travel in the PNW Coast suspension dropper combined with the supple geometry of the frame, seat and chain stays, and 2.6″ rubber create an extraordinarily capable and comfortable hardtail.  Comfortable enough that my favoured Scott Spark Pro XC 100mm x 100mm 29’er found a new rider in 2022.

Pre-dawn image of The Adventure Bike and rider on the second morning of the AR 500/700 around km 200, August 14, 2022. The blue anodizing, blue components, and blue custom luggage have been fun to pull together. The pictured luggage weighs a total of ~1.4kg: prototype ~15 litre Seat Bag (with full usage of the dropper post), custom frame and top tube bags, two prototype XXL StraddleBags, prototype top-loading 20 litre handlebar bag, prototype armrest/rain gear pouch, and custom 22 gram bear spray holster.
Photo credit S. Savage.

A couple of other zeros related to The Adventure Bike: Serial #19. Nineteen is the score cribbage players use to describe zero points in a hand. The number of bosses on frame #19. Bikepackers Foundry innovative, secure, durable, and flexible attachment systems and luggage make frame bosses unnecessary.

March 4, 2023 – Version 4 Rackless Pannier notes: It’s been a challenging and rewarding development process. This version builds on previous iterations by simplifying the mounting system, utilizing heavy webbing and buckles, and increasing the thickness and size of the anodized aluminum “crash” pad. Looking forward to the 2023 riding season to get a solid start on the 10,000km testing protocols. 🙂

What makes this integrated bag/rack work? 1) There’s an extremely strong and rigid composite stay that runs from the seat stay “titanium rack mounting tube” diagonally to the upper corner of the back panel. 2) There is a composite panel on the entire back plane of the bag that is rigidly strapped to the side of the rear triangle. 3) There is an anodized aluminum pad ~2x3x0.125″ bolted to the outside face of the drop out. The purpose of this element is to prevent the bag from deflecting into the spokes in the event of a crash. This is my forth generation RacklessPannier and I’m very happy with how it performs, so far. It’s large enough to hold lots of food, and then be quickly and completely removed when not needed. By design the bag looks simple, while having about thirty elements that combined meet my performance/reliability/utility/weight criteria. The bag has a roll-top closure under the flap and is seam-sealed. ~8 litres capacity & ~250 grams mounted.

Rider profile: older and slowing

Thanks for reading! Cheers … Guy

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Bolt-on framebag:

This is a quick and inexpensive (~C$35) method to add a 2.5 litre framebag to the bottom of the frame triangle. MEC sells a suitable framebag that will fit most frames without any modification beyond cutting off mounting straps. The dimensions of this particular bag are sized to match reasonably well with the typical bottle-boss points on many frames. The perimeter stiffener of this bag results in an installation with excellent stability and minimal deformation.

The general sequence is:

1.) remove cages and screws from frame

2.) test fit bag to frame before removing any straps, and determine if any straps should not be removed

3.) remove straps from the bag and heatseal cut ends

4.) position and centre bag in the frame and mark location of bosses on the inside of the framebag

5.) punch holes in the bag

6.) insert screws into holes and mount bag to bosses.

The resulting installation will hold a couple of 1 litre soft flasks or a flask and a bike bottle. The remaining space can hold a spare tube and pump, and multitool, or other small items.