Sunday, August 15, 2010

Horace Kephart

"The less a man carries in his pack, the more he must carry in his head."
--Horace Kephart

Kephart was the real deal --living, and writing, in the wildest part of the Great Smoky Mountains of western North Carolina, before it was a park. He helped establish the park, and the Appalachian Trail. You can still buy his book, because while gear and materials have changed quite a bit, mountains, rivers, flora & fauna have not changed much. Don't miss the cycling page with the Balloon Silk Tent, Japanese Rubber air bed, Down Quilt, etc. These have inspired the current ultralight hiking (and often biking ultralight in a funny, to me, way) guru Ray Jardin of the book "Ray Way." Sadly, Mr. Kephart was killed in a horseless-carriage wreck at age 69. Hooch may, or may not, have been involved.

Camping and Woodcraft (1906)
by Horace Kephart
Chapter VII

The problem of what to take on a trip resolves itself chiefly into a question of transportation. If the party can travel by wagon, and intends to go into fixed camp, then almost anything can be carried along - trunks, chests, big wall tents and poles, cots, mattresses, pots and pans galore, camp stove, kerosene, mackintoshes and rubber boots, plentiful changes of clothing, books, folding bath-tubs - what you will. Such things are right and proper if you do not intend to move often from place to place. But in any case beware of impedimenta that will be forever in the way and seldom or ever used.

It is quite another matter to fit out a man or a party for wilderness travel. First, and above all, be plain in the woods. In a far way you are emulating those grim heroes of the past who made the white man's trails across this continent. We seek the woods to escape civilization for a time, and all that suggests it. Let us sometimes broil our venison on a sharpened stick and serve it on a sheet of bark. It tastes better. It gets us closer to Nature, and closer to the good old times when every American was considered "a man for a' that" if he proved it in a manful way. And there is pleasure in achieving creditable results by the simplest means. When you win your own way through the wilds with axe and rifle you win at the same time the imperturbability of a mind at ease with itself in any emergency by flood or field. Then you feel that you have red blood in your veins, and that it is good to be free and out of doors. It is one of the blessings of wilderness life that it shows us how few things we need in order to be perfectly happy.

Let me not be misunderstood as counseling anybody to "rough it" by sleeping on the bare ground and eating nothing but hardtack and bacon. Only a tenderfoot will parade a scorn of comfort and a taste for useless hardships. As Nessmuk says:
"We do not go to the woods to rough it; we go to smooth it - we get it rough enough in town. But let us live the simple, natural life in the woods, and leave all frills behind."

An old campaigner is known by the simplicity and fitness of his equipment. He carries few "fixings," but every article has been well tested and it is the best that his purse can afford. He has learned by hard experience how steep are the mountain trails and how tangled the undergrowth and downwood in the primitive forest. He has learned, too, how to fashion on the spot many substitutes for "boughten" things that we consider necessary at home.

The art of going "light but right" is hard to learn. I never knew a camper who did not burden himself, at first, with a lot of kickshaws that he did not need in the woods; nor one who, if he learned anthing, did not soon begin to weed them out; not even a veteran who ever quite attained his own ideal of lightness and serviceability."

"To equip a pedestrian with shelter, bedding, utensils, food, and other necessities, in a pack so light and small that he can carry it without overstrain, is really a fine art."

Camping and Woodcraft (1906)
by Horace Kephart

Your thoroughbred camper likes not the attentions of a landlord, nor will he suffer himself to be rooted to the soil by cares of ownership or lease. It is not possession of the land, but of the landscape, that enjoys; and as for that, all the wild parts of the earth are his, by a title that carries with it no obligation but that he shall not desecrate nor lay them waste.

Houses, to such a one, in summer are little better than cages; fences and walls are his abomination; plowed fields are only so many patches of torn and tormented earth. The sleek comeliness of pasture it too prim and artificial, domestic cattle have a meek and ignoble bearing, fields of grain are monotonous to his eyes, which turn for relief to abandoned old-field, overgrown with thicket, that still harbors some the shy children of the wild. It is not the clearing but the unfenced wilderness that is the camper’s real home. He is brother to that good old friend of mine who in gentle satire of our formal gardens and close-cropped lawns, was wont to say,
"I love the unimproved works of God."

Friday, July 16, 2010

FAQ: What's your experience with Moultons?

"Realize what you really want. It stops you from chasing butterflies and puts you to work digging gold." —W. Moulton Marston

Moulton bicycles certainly must be the most misunderstood bicycle product ever invented. I have harbored a curiosity about these odd machines since introduced to them by my bicycle club president, a notable local racer, in 1974 or so. I thought, should I ever get a chance, I'll have to have one of those Moultons. The model at the time was the state of the art F-frame Moulton Mark 3, which, while very different, looks today a bit like many (not all) Bike Fridays in layout.

Years ago, a fellow brought a spaceframe Moulton (modern era model) into our shop for resale. I ended up buying it and I was hooked. I have owned just about every type of nice racing bike, and touring bike (Tandems—3, ATBs—5) over a decade before I owned my first car—which cost about the same as my first Moulton. The Moulton was remarkable; it had it's limitations, not for everybody, but certainly what I was looking for. I decided to convince a reluctant Moulton factory to set me up as a dealer. They just did not need the American market, I was told.

Now, twelve years on selling them, we have found it is lots of fun dealing with Moultons on a daily basis, but I have much better business opportunities than selling bikes that can have over a year wait from purchase to delivery. These days, we can often ship from stock, but if not on-hand or in the line-up to be produced, the wait can be challenging.

"A lot of people can't stand touring but to me it's like breathing. I do it because I'm driven to do it." —Dylan

The Moulton GT is in the connoisseur class. However, we generally find the lower price models better for touring, and they are very nice indeed these days. Having said this, if you feel as did Churchill when he quipped "I am easily satisfied with the very best", we do have very large bags to fit the GT. There are lots of different types of touring, and lots of different Moultons for these requirements.

For loaded Touring, we sell many large bags and Moulton's can take huge panniers if needed, but it depends on the model and carriers. Remember, panniers were originally designed for donkeys, not bicycles. Large wheel bikes work okay with panniers, if you get over the heel bumping them, and dragging the ground with the large ones. With small wheels, a single bag (as opposed to opposing panniers), is more appropriate. The Moulton is a system for touring; for different types of touring, on-road, off-road, randonnees, mountains, flats, lightly loaded, heavily loaded, bad weather, traveling, stowing away. There are special frames, special models, special modifications, dedicated components, special luggage carriers, special luggage, all optimized to do the job and task at hand.

"Price is what you pay. Value is what you get." —W. Buffett

Cheap, not hardly; expensive, not really. Often times a Moulton, properly selected, will replace several bikes of much greater combined cost. An old Moulton ad read: "If you are the kind of person who owns more than a couple of bikes, one should certainly be a Moulton." Ha! I have over five customers that claim to own more than 70 bikes! (I suspect that their sport may not be cycling, but instead it may be buying bikes.)

One sort of odd and terrible thing about Moultons: We often see used models selling for more than we sell new ones. High demand, low supply, poor distribution—a real team. It has become known as a cult bike; a term I used to resist, I accept it now.

Most Moultons can be adapted for most people's uses and are generally much more versatile than standard big-wheel bikes. On cost, while there are no rock bottom world-beater prices, generally they offer real value and their costs are generally nowhere near a mid-range racing bike these days, and Moultons offer much, much more.

Now, if you want to shoot the moon: sell your spare Patrick Phillipe and pick out something nice in gleaming stainless steel and hunker down and wait (sometimes). Your bikie friends will be either jealous or write you off as an eccentric crazy. You don't care what they think anyway; you are on a Moulton after all.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Ultralite Touring Without a Corkscrew

Courtesy of Jim Foreman, who is pushing the envelope on this subject.

“During one of my treks through Afghanistan, we lost our corkscrew. We were compelled to live for several days on nothing but food and water.”
—W. C. Fields

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The C&O Towpath--its Not just for Mules anymore!

We periodically take small groups bike-camping on the C&O. Back in 2002, we made a 3½ day ride along what was the entire length back then, overnighting at the luxurious Red Rooster hostel in Paw Paw WV, tenting on the grounds of a hostel at Harpers Ferry, and finally tenting trailside on our final night. We rode Amtrak between Raleigh and DC.

We mostly rode our regular commute/touring/brevet bikes, e.g. Adrian's Koga-Miyata, Gilbert's Moulton, Sue's retro Raleigh Superbe, Mark's Trek (with oyster bucket panniers), Cheseley's Moulton etc.. Pieter rode his sturdy Dutch Gazelle cruiser.

Henry and Roger arrived at camp ahead of us and biked into town in search of food.
"We found a bar but was too dark inside to see your own hand if you held it up in front of your face! Through the smoke we heard voices making bets on the upcoming shooting competion:
'I'll bet my glock 'gainst yer 9mm…'
Next, we found a lady coming out of a church and asked where we could eat. She looked at us like were crazy and asked, 'Eat? In THIS town?!?'

If you go, watch out for:
  • ticks,
  • poison ivy,
  • high water,
  • sticks through your spokes (sent one in our party to the hospital, to get his head sewn shut), and
  • large beaver darting across the trail at night in the rain.

A related anecdote about the Red Rooster proprieters:
Shirley says that J.D. is the only man in town with a city ordinance written specifically against him -- when he was a teenager he used to fly down the mountain and through town on his bicycle and raise the ire of the local "Barney Fife". He had a salvaged Buick steering wheel welded onto the stem of his Sting-Ray and ol' Barney got the town council to pass a regulation against equipping bicycles with automotive steering wheels.
Years later, after J.D.'s old filling station was wrecked by a flood, he hit on the idea to reopen as a hostel, much to the benefit of all users of the C&O towpath.

FYI, Our self-imposed bike-camping rules:
  • no complaining.
  • no spitting, outside of competitions.
  • no cell phones.
  • no asking directions.
  • no sudden stops.
  • no mean drunks.
  • no gunfire after sunset.
  • always call the pocket before shooting.
  • no peeing on the campfire.
  • no flossing.
  • no billy joel.
  • no counting your money while you're sitting at the table.
  • no canned sardines.
  • no wooden shoes.
  • no nitrous.
  • no doubling back--we go forward and find a new route.
  • no making eye contact with anyone at the battleburger eatery. Particulary the owner.
  • no rain gear--skin is waterproof.
  • no fighting with the railroad men.
  • no blaming your parents (even if they did lock you in the glovebox at age two)
  • no salvaging firewood from nearby archaeological digs
  • no watering down the whiskey.
  • no stiffing the waitress.
  • when executing dangerous stunts, no fair peeking.
  • no drinking the sterno.
  • no baklava without coffee.
  • all bets are final on handshake, to be paid in full by sunset.
no rules for ladies.
Lord, preserve us and protect us;
we've been drinking whiskey for breakfast.
—Mike Cross

Friday, June 11, 2010

Don't buy Tiresome Hype

Few who study Artaud realize that when he advised, "Don't tire yourself more than need be," he was referring to heavy bicycle tires. Don't let the puncture-proof hype trick you into loading down your wheels with overweight tires. Even the heaviest tires get flats. If not in the tread, then the rim or spokes, valve hole or sidewall.

On really hot days, I have had some small-wheel ( They dissipate heat poorly ) valves melt out of the tube! Usually, this happened when parked in the sun after miles of riding on hot pavement. What tire stops that? Embarrassing.

In my youth, we used to ride delicate sew-up racing tires on gravel covered mountain roads with no unusual amount of flats.

Few people know how to efficiently fix flats anymore. In the old glory days of profitable bike shops with large staffs we trained our customers to fix flats and do lots of routine maintenance when they bought a bike; for free. I had to lay those two guys off years ago, and now when we do maintenance classes I'm so busy I hire a paid "repair consultant" that people pay to see in action while I go back to work.

Bike clubs used to share repair information but now the clubs are generally small and clic-ey, not clubby like the old days.

A bike with lightweight wheels is a true joy to ride. Tires can be both durable and light. My favorite touring bike can use three different tires that, together, are lighter than one of the Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires--not that the Pluses don't have their place in remote areas and long distances on gravel roads or no roads. One thing to think about: Why spend the money on a lightweight bike if you are going to put several pounds of tires on it?

"I may be a living legend, but that sure don't help when I've got to change a
flat tire."

— Roy Orbison

Anyway folks, Get a rim, an old tire ( practice can be hard on tires ), some tire tools and a patch kit, then practice until you have no skin on your hands, wash up, repeat and develop confidence. When you ride with me, I fix your flats because I hate standing in the cold, or hot, or rain or snow while I watch people struggle. You only get one lesson from me, so observe well. Next time on the road, I wait up the road in a climate-controlled building for you to arrive with your new found self-sufficiency.

One tool tip: Some tire & rim combos are really tight; especially when the tire is new. A "Var Tire Tool" wishbone install jack is a small, easy-to-carry tire installer that allows you to get the tire bead on that last inch. If you can't find them easily, I sell and ship them all over the USA.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Yanceyville Velo News

I got busted by twenty-some odd police officers who were cycling through earlier this week. I have been losing weight, but by the mug shot photo below, there is no evidence.

Friday, Jack "Bing" Warman and his Courthouse Tour crew visited. They took Adrian's route; Amtrak to Greensboro, bike to Hanging Rock State Park (camped on a hill), then Bike Route 4 to Yanceyville (Camped on another hill behind the Courthouse); breakfast at Evelyn's then on to Kerr lake on Saturday and then ride home to Durham on Sunday?
Sue and I joined them for dinner at Azariah's Olde Storehouse downtown. Great bunch and many tall tales were shared.

Wayne Clark grew up riding with ancien Dick SeeBode (RUSA No. 0292) in Ohio and was on the trip. Dick is 78 years old and still looks and sounds like Homer Simpson.

Here is the whole group Saturday morning. I was impressed as they all rode full-on Touring bikes though there were only two brands, two models and two sizes. So much for diversity in America.

Around noon, a hundred riders or so came through on the Grove Winery Gears & Cheers Wine Tour. They have a great route marker (Dan Henry) with a wine glass and arrow.

We are a cycling destination! Now, if I can just convert the jail into a Youth Hostel and make book on the T-Shirts; slogan being, "I spent the night at the Caswell County Jail and all I got was this stinkin T-shirt."

Yours in Cycling,
Gilbert Anderson
North Road Bicycle Imports
PO Box 840
166 Court Square
Yanceyville, NC 27379

Monday, April 5, 2010

Irregular Velo Adventures

Martin wrote:
Even if you never read the Irregular Velo Adventures blog -- read this one. The writing may not be the best, but . . . the series of adventures . . . will hopefully make you think of an old-time serial, or those "true-life adventure" stories that used to be so prominent.

(The Lt. Dave Nanogram Toe Clips were great!)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

FAQ: Fold or S&S?

Do Moultons fold or have S&S couplings?

Answer: No, and No.

Moulton frames do come apart quickly, cleanly and easily. Even the simple models can be separated in seconds with practice. Moultoneers understand what Kahlil Gibran meant when he wrote that "love knows not its own depth until the hour of Separation."

I was reminded of old Gibran's assertion at a small wheel folding rally in Philadelphia a few years back. There was a riding-folding-running-reassembling-riding test (take it apart, if it did not fold) performed on current model bikes and a select batch of older models going back to the 1960s. Every name you could name was there. The winner was a 1960s-1970s Ross folder, second went to an elegantly dressed Brompton rider, third place was a Moulton New Series Stainless (I was the pilot). There were over twenty entries, as I recall, and it drew an enthusiastic crowd in downtown Philly; maybe a couple of hundred people (It was a long and busy sidewalk in the Old Town). The point I am trying to make is that an S&S coupled bike would have placed dead last times three in this competition. I hear the S&S comparison a lot -- it is misleading. I sell S&S coupled bikes and like them, by the way.

The separation feature of the Moultons is fantastic, but it is the least significant feature of the bike, because the ride, handling and easy & stable carrying of luggage is superb. As for folding, to paraphrase a US congresswoman, a bike that folds may capture our attention but will not achieve its mission.