T’was the night before Christmas, and out at Rogers Lake…
…yeah, I’m not doing that.
So, in true holiday fashion, I decided the good and prudent thing to do for my own sanity was get out in the woods, sling a hammock among friendly trees, and watch the stars come out and the moon rise through my eyelids.
What, it’s supposed to get down to 24 degrees? Eh, I’ve done that before. It’s supposed to snow tomorrow? Eh, I’ve ridden in snow plenty. Part of me camping in winter is finding the point where it stops being fun.
After the moon came up, a pack of coyotes started singing. They might have been a half mile or so away. They kept it up off and on all night, because every time I woke up, I could hear them howling and yipping.
And the world turns.
The title, S24o, is short for Sub-24 hour Overnight, which is what most of my camping trips are. Fun, simple, and relaxing.
Oh, it got down to 19 degrees, and I was plenty warm.
conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected.
When normal people go camping off their bike, they take all their lightweight gear, compress it into an impossibly small space, strap it to a lightweight bike, and ride, all the while trying not to complain about how the weight changes the handling of the bike. It’s called “bikepacking.”
I go a different route. I throw all my camping stuff at a Big Dummy, and ride. It doesn’t change the handling, nothing’s super compressed, and it’s got plenty of room for extra stuff like trail building gear, extra water, marmots, and tree stumps. Sure, the bike is heavy to begin with, but you don’t really notice the extra weight. (at first…)
This past Saturday, the 19th, there was a trail day up on Sunset, up on Mt. Elden. I try to ride a bicycle to as many trail days as I can, but I also enjoy sleeping in on the weekends. So, as a compromise, I end up trying to camp out the night before nearby the work site. It’s a great arrangement. I get to sleep outside in the hammock, sleep in, take my time waking up and having breakfast, and then go build trail. Everyone wins!
So, I loaded up Stitch with all the fixings of a trail day campout: My usual complement of camping gear, an LPG stove because I can’t use my wood stove due to fire restrictions, boots, a hardhat, a soft hat, my trail day backpack with rock hammers and chisels and a saw, and extra water. We rode up the Arizona Trail to Schultz Pass, and from there we went up the backside of Sunset trail to Sunset Peak, where I found a great pair of trees well off the main trail. I hung the hammock, cooked dinner, and watched the stars come out in the hammock, as the coyotes and elk and wind made the music of the night.
Click to embiggen.
The highest point of my ride, around 8,800 feet.
Camp all set up, with Stitch in guard mode.
No good view of the sunset, but I can watch the light fade on the ridge opposite.
How is this safer than my alcohol stove?!
The Moon showing off a little Earthshine, with Venus low and to the right.
The next morning…
I woke up to the Sun in my eyes. This was as planned, as I purposefully hung my hammock so that the Sun would hit me in the face as it rose. It’s a big bright warm gentle alarm clock.
An hour later, I was packed up and bombing down Sunset. The meeting point was at the bottom of Red Onion, a tight, techy social trail with logjams, narrow gaps, and tight turns, and I was a little curious if Stitch would fit. He did, but only just. That silver bar on the left side of the bike? That’s my wide loader, and it’s bent now. Aside from that, we made it down Red Onion without incident.
People arrived, breezes were shot, and trail was worked. The section of Sunset trail we were working on was heavily eroded, due to poor layout. We couldn’t really re-align the trail here, so we put in some huge drains in the worst erosion spots, and improved drainage further up the hill. The Flagstaff Hotshots crew was there working, which helped immensely, many thanks to them.
After the trail work, and the consumption of much post-work pizza, (Mmmm Fratelli’s…) I had a choice to make. I could take the easy way and ride down Lookout Road to get home, or I could essentially retrace my steps and ride back up Red Onion, up Sunset over all our freshly done work, and down the steep other side, adding a few miles and a lot of steep climbing to my ride.
I can’t do anything easy, so up I went. My phone was on point with motivation, as it played My Silver Lining, by First Aid Kit, one of the lyrics being “I won’t take the easy road.” For how heavy Stitch is, between bike and cargo, he climbs pretty well. I did my part to pack in the fresh dirt. Then, because I’m a glutton for punishment, I made the climb up the side of Observatory Mesa to take the Loop Trail home, rather than ride through town.
I loved every minute of it.
Ultimately, this was another good shakedown ride for Stitch and I. I have a better idea of how the bike handles technical singletrack with a load, I should leave the wideloader at home, and I think I’ll trim the front fender some, as I popped some zip ties as it hung up on a drop. I know I wouldn’t have enjoyed the ride as much on a shorter, lighter, more normal bike with the same load.
The experiment continues.
I hear a voice calling
Calling out for me
These shackles I’ve made in an attempt to be free
Be it for reason, be it for love
I won’t take the easy road
Let’s kick off the Meet the Bikes series with the biggest, longest, fattest, heaviest, and youngest ride in the rack, (If he could even fit in the rack…)
Stitch is a Big Fat Dummy, built by Surly Bikes, and is a variation of the Extracycle longtail standard. With tires over four inches wide, and up to 400 pounds of load hauling capacity (Rider and cargo) this is the ultimate go-anywhere-do-anything utility bike.
I’ve gone bikepacking, trail building, mountainbiking, and snow biking with Stitch so far. I’ve even brought home groceries with him. He climbs mountains with forty pounds of camping and trail-day stuff on the back, and does it with more stability than a shorter, lighter bikepacking rig.
Stitch also inspires my creativity a bit. I’ve made two frame bags for him, (The blue bags in the middle of the frame) as well as coroplast fenders to keep the mud and spray away from me and the cargo.
So…. why a Big Fat Dummy?
It’s weird. I mean, the bike is weird. It is big, and heavy, and unique. I like unique bikes. And it looks cool. It’s art in function and design, and a testament to the fact that I don’t need a car. And he’s sturdy. Like a lobster!
I went back and forth for a long time before I got Stitch. I mean, I already have one longtail. But ultimately, I knew I would use it. I bought Stitch as we were finalizing the Trail Faeries, with the intent of using Stitch to haul trail tools, camping gear and myself to a worksite, in addition to the bikepacking and winter commuting and errands.
So…. why Stitch?
You’d have to ask my sister, she named him. But, it’s a good name, an accurate name. All my bikes seem to grow a personality, except this one. Stitch came with a personality, and if you’ve ever watched the movie Lilo and Stitch, Stitch the bike, and Experiment 626 are cut from the same cloth. Both are outrageous, a handful, out of control at times, but in control at the right times, and make me giggle. And they’re both blue, so there’s that.
Stitch and I went on an adventure this past weekend, an overnight camping ride on Mt. Elden ahead of a trail day. He’s still new to me, and I’m still getting to know him, whittling down the list of things to add onto or change, to make Stitch my ultimate bikepacking ride, as well as just figuring out all the quirks and tricks to a new bike. But, we’re getting close, and I’m glad Stitch and I are friends!
The correct number of bikes to own is n+1 . While the minimum number of bikes one should own is three, the correct number is n+1 , where n is the number of bikes currently owned. This equation may also be re-written as s-1 , where s is the number of bikes owned that would result in separation from your partner.