New Sleeping Gear

Lately I’ve had the chance to do some biking, and some camping; just not bike camping. For this post, I’ll talk about some new kit I’ve picked up in the last year to update the bedroom.

Since getting into bike camping several years ago I’ve been using Big Agnes pads.  Of the two I have, both are inflatable models with insulation.  They’re a fairly common design, being 2.5 inches thick with six longitudinal “tubes” and the standard twist valve in the corner for inflating.  The Sand Mountain is a good summer pad with something like a R3 rating while the DualCore is intended for year-round camping with an R5 rating.  The DualCore has a layer of foam on top of the pad that makes it rather bulky and heavy.

Both pads require some major “huffing and puffing” to get them inflated, and a few years ago I experimented with the Sand Mountain by painting some silicone stripes on it to prevent the bag from sliding around so much.  That has worked out well.007

But ever on the lookout for smaller and lighter gear, I was curious about the Thermarest NeoAir line.  I know there were raves about the weight and compactness, but also complaints about the durability and noisiness of the older models.  However it seems that the newer versions have all of that worked out, plus they started doing some interesting things with reflective insulation.

Low and behold, a NeoAir All Season Pad became available.  It has a R4.9 rating, is much lighter and compact than the BA, and it came with a little battery-powered pump.  After finally getting to use it this summer, I’m going to give it an unreserved thumbs up.


BA DualCore pad, BA Insulated pad, Thermarest NeoAir All Season pad, Sea to Summit Aeros Pillow

The pump is very small and works perfectly.  I’ve timed it at two minutes to inflate the pad with the addition of three full breaths to top it off, but I discovered that I probably should have let some air out of the bag to make it a little softer for comfort.  I like the fact that the “tubes” run across the pad, and I have no problems with noise when I shift around at night.  I simply don’t notice it.


The World’s Smallest Blow Dryer

My most recent trip confirmed that the insulation is quite effective.  We were laid out on a mountainside where the temps got into the low 50’s at night.  Not overly cold, but quite a change from the daily highs in the 80’s.  I was using my Montbell heavy bag which was a bit of overkill.  Still, if I would let an arm or leg roll partially off of the pad, I could feel the cold coming up off of the ground while there was absolutely no sense of that on top of the pad.sleep

You can see from the pics that it is far more compact than the BA pads.  If there are any concerns, it has to be that the used NeoAir did not come with a patch kit (I’m thinking I’ll toss in a bike patch kit when I remember to do so), and I still need to dial in the right pressure because the last time I felt a little stiff the next morning.

Another piece of kit that I regard as a real game changer is a Sea to Summit Aeros Premium Pillow.  Now paying $40 for a blow up pillow is pretty over the top, but I view a good night’s sleep as essential and a good pillow as critical to that goal.

I’ve tried quite a bit of options up to this point, all less than satisfactory: various inflatables, some loose foam, some dense foam, bunched up clothing, etc…  As a side sleeper, I need some thickness, and using inflatable pads and nylon weave bags, I need something that won’t go sliding off in the middle of the night.

The Aeros finally satisfies all of those requirements.  It’s a nice size when inflated, but rolls up compact to the size of a baseball, which is one third the size of the Thermarest foam pillow I had at the beginning of the summer.  It’s covered with a brushed fabric that doesn’t slip around, and it gives the sense of being well made and not prone to leaks.  It still needs to be manually inflated, but it’s only a few breathes to do so.   It looks to be a keeper.

Finally, I want to tout this little USB-powered lamp that I picked up for just a few dollars.  I already carry a USB power bank for charging my phone, tablet, and whatever I might have along, so adding this little lamp along with the head mounted light creates some compact options for after dark.  There was one night where the wife and I were sleeping in a larger tent, and this came in real handy for changing clothes after dark.lamp

Just a short note about the Montbell bags… they have been working out pretty well although I haven’t used the heavy bag below 40.  Given how the fill looks to be consistently spread, I think it will work out, but I want to find it’s limits this fall/winter.  I’ll probably take along the fleece liner and some down clothing for a safety net.  I also suspect the newer MB bags are a bit better made.




IMAG0005I was out and about last night for a combination of fitness/clear the head type ride.  My fitness is pretty low right now, so I was basically toodling about on some back roads.  I had just turned onto a hilly stretch when I detected a strange sound and was kind of “tuning” my ears to determine what kind of yard machine or power tool someone was using in the area.

Just then a roadie blew past me and revealed that the source of the strange sound was his bike.  I have no idea of the specific cause, maybe a bottom bracket, but I had to think that it would drive me crazy to have a rattle/screeching that loud.

Used to be I would give chase in such situations, but I am older and my trustee Trucker is too comfortable.  Right now it is sporting the ol’ Champion Flyer which I pulled from the parts bin and tightened considerably to take out much of the “hammock” effect.  With only short rides so far it is showing a lot of promise.

But even without giving chase, the squeaking roadie prompted me to pick up the pace a little.  After all, my goal is to build up some leg strength.  So the rest of the ride was probably in a gear a little too high and pushing the thighs harder on the hills.

Yes, I could feel “the burn”, but I could also feel the joy of cycling.  There is just something about getting out on a bike and working up a sweat that appeals to the human condition.  All is well with the world on this lovely evening.

College Bike

Son #1 and a few of his classmates have rented a house off campus, and between trips to Goodwill and the Habitat Restore for furnishings he mentioned that it would be nice to have a bike for commuting to classes.  Since the Bianchi was originally purchased for either he or his brother to use, I jumped at the chance to get this bike road ready.


Given the frame and general appearance, I think it will be perfect for what he wants.  It’s sturdy, yet light; well geared, and won’t draw the attention of any thieves looking for higher end stuff.  I asked him about fenders and the rack, which he said he would like, and then I went to the basement bike parts bin and started digging.004

I believe it turned out pretty well.  Both the clean lines and the lightness are lacking in my own bikes.  There is a thick coat of dust on the frame, so it will look even better once it gets a cleaning.

The racing frame roots required some cobbling with both the rear fender and the rack.  The front of the fender is anchored to the seat tube using some small pieces of inner tube and a zip tie; otherwise the line is clean.  There are no rack mounts on the chain stays, so I remembered a little doo-hickey clamp that I had on my old Privateer for mounting the rear rack.  Its not pretty, but it is solid.

The only real downside I see is the short top tube geometry, which creates quite a bit of toe overlap.  I have a problem with it on tight turns, so I expect my son’s size 14 shoes will be even worse.  The steering is also a little wonky, but I haven’t figured out if it’s the bike or just my being used to my own bikes’ handling.

The only work remaining is to decide on a lock/cable setup, probably a small saddle wedge, and then some basic tools and a lesson on repairs and maintenance.  Fortunately, like most college campuses, there is a bike rental/repair service; and a good shop in town.

Hanging Out

The chapter of our lives involving volleyball has concluded.  The final school match was last week for son# 2.  Long live volleyball and now long live the free time we are about to be blessed with each Spring.  It has been a wonderful experience; far better than most high school/college sports; and I would not trade it for the world.

003‘been taking some short rides here and there to build up some leg strength.

Yup – the bike is changed once again as I try to sort out the handlebars.  The VO Crazy bars are great, and sitting on the X bike.  The Alba’s are back on the Trucker; just because I like how they look.  Downside = not quite as comfortable and a lot more ghost shifting than the indexed pods, especially if I come up out of the saddle.

Saddle?  Hey, that’s a new B67 on there, which replaced a new VO synthetic touring saddle, which replaced an old B67!  And…as of today that old B67 is back on the bike.  I’m having some issues getting it just right.  I know what I want – a wide rear for the sit bones in an upright position, a narrow nose so the thighs don’t rub, and a level surface where the sit bones come in contact with no sagging.

Old B67 started sagging too much on the sides, mainly due to it being Pre-aged.  The VO was all but perfect – wide, level, and a wonderful suede finish so one doesn’t slide around.  But the nose was not narrow enough and the thigh rub was a deal breaker.  New B67 showed up after an especially good deal on Amazon.  It was working well until it started breaking in and now the nose, as you can see in the picture is angled up too high, thus causing some discomfort.

Last night I took the old B67 and tightened it and tied it tighter, and it at least looks good.  A longer ride will tell.  Option two is to tie off the new B67 to bring the middle back up.  Option 3 is to try a new Cambium C19, which appears to meet all of the criteria, but at a substantially higher price.  Option 4 is to go to China and have my own design built.

But it feels great to get out and ride!


Jan 16 004

Rolling around Silver Lake on Christmas.  Everything has been very wet.

Jan 16 009

Before they started making snow at Roundtop. It was lit up last night now that the temps have dipped below freezing.

Jan 16 013

A study in saddlery: VO Microfiber Touring, Brooks Champion Flyer, Brooks B67 Pre-aged. The B67 has stretched too much at the sit bones, so its time to see if it can be ‘re-formed’ to bring it back into shape. In the meantime, I’m playing with the VO, which has some pros and cons that I’ll get into at some point after more miles.

Fat Bike Sale

Fat Bike Sale

Oh man.  This is really tempting.



Yup, It’s Strange

67F is a new record for these parts, but it’s a great temperature for getting out on the road.  A few more miles and it will be a new December record for me as well.002Still fine tuning the X bike, but its turning out to be a fun ride, as always.

012Last year at this time there was snow on the ground.  This year there are people mowing their grass.  Riding along the Yellow Breeches, I spotted a guy in deep with his waders on, casting a fly rod.  Down a bit further, two kayakers.  We all waved and smiled.

033Some yards have Christmas lights, other have stage coaches.  Off to the right is a Pennsy caboose.