Saturday, January 17, 2015

Five Years with the Salsa Fargo

I've now had my Salsa Fargo for five years and it is time to sum up my experiences with it.

Inspired by a number of bikepacking articles from the US, I ordered a Salsa Fargo XXL sized frame from Foxcomp in December 2009 and it arrived a few weeks later. January 16th I had it assembled and got to test it. I liked it.

I soon made a frame bag and started taking it out for overnighters.

It soon became my number one bikepacking bike. Compared to my FS 29er, it offered the possibility to ride without a backpack and it was also good enough on technical trails, in addition to feeling a lot more right riding all sorts of roads.

With this bike I started to return to the area where I spent my childhood and youth, sometimes I took the train there and a number of times I just rode the 100 km there on road with the Fargo.

After I got a fatbike, I still used the Fargo for winter outings involving spending more time on roads.

For a few years I also had a road bike, but I found that I rather took the Fargo when going out for riding roads, since it allowed me to take detours into the forest when I came upon interesting places.

It has seen three Mammoth Marches.

Almost daily commuting is another task it is used for. (I do have to possibility to commute on mostly trails when I feel like it).

The Salsa Fargo has been an excellent bike. It is very versatile and is a good choice if you only want to have a few bikes. For me it has been a good complement to the fatbike, though if I could have only one bike it would be a fatbike with a separate 29+ wheelset for the summer. For commuting and everyday use a simple fully rigid bike is a good choice, since it doesn't need much maintenance. Most of the components have stayed the same for five years. The drop bar was switched to the excellent Salsa Woodchipper as soon as it was available, the saddle was exchanged to a Rido R2 and the Avid BB5 brakes were recently switched to the better BB7 model, but otherwise it's the same (not counting worn out drive trains and bearings).

All-in-all, a good five years and I see no reason why I wouldn't be happy with it for another five years.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The End of the Kayaking Season - Fifth Attempt

The weather continues to be unstable. During the Christmas it was cold, and it looked like the winter was here. For New Year the weather became warm and rainy and the snow mostly melted. A few days later we got snow and fairly cold weather, followed by a few days of rain and warm weather. Now we again have snow and cold weather, but warmer weather is forecasted. Quite frustrating.

I've thought the kayaking season to be over a number of times already, but it hasn't happened yet. The inner bays are ice covered, but my usual starting point is still not close to getting ice, which is one parameter that defines the end of the kayaking season. The other conditions are that the typical winter activities like skiing, skating and fatbike riding on snow should be reasonably possible. And we are not there yet and hence I went for yet another final kayaking outing. This might actually be the final one, since for the following two weekends I have Vigu courses scheduled.

The starting place was the usual one at Ruissalo. The water level was a lot higher than normal.

First I went a little to the west to check the conditions a bit after the cape shown here, where the wind would start to affect things. Fairly hard wind was predicted and the weather station three kilometers to the south recorded wind speeds of 12-13m/s in the gusts during the time I was out.

I decided not to do the crossing and instead chose more sheltered waters. The hard wind and an air temperature of -5C is not the place to use smaller margins, especially not when being out alone.

I could have gotten through, the ice didn't seem solid, but it didn't seem smart, since e.g. bracing isn't possible, should the need arise.

The water level was 60 cm above normal.



I continued a while until I run out of wind shelter.

Another selfie.

Going back.

There was still a crossing of little over one kilometer, but with mostly head wind it was safe. I do feel there is a clear advantage to the Greenland paddle in situations like this one. The wind doesn't affect it much and the higher cadence means that paddling against the wind doesn't feel heavy. I made about 6,5 km/h against the wind without especially much effort.

This was a rather short trip, 10 km in two hours, but it was fun nonetheless. Afterwards the kayak was covered with about five millimeters of ice above the waterline.

Except for this one, which has a spacer for temporarily putting away the paddle, the grab lines were unusable, since they were under the ice cover.

That's it. I'm definitely ready to welcome the winter.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Epiphany Day Rogaining

It was time to try something new, or at least something slightly new. Soon after the Mammoth March I stumbled upon an announcement about an eight hour rogaining event on the Epiphany Day, Loppiaisrogaining. It seemed quite interesting and I got Jarkko to join me. We were to do it on bikes, though most of the 300 participants did it on foot.

The weather around New Year was somewhat unstable. After a very wintry Christmas, the weather turned warm and the snow mostly melted. A very uninspiring bicycling weather, but it allowed a very interesting paddle trip on New Year's Day. A few days later the winter returned and when it was time for the rogaining event, the weather was quite crispy.

I picked up Jarkko a little before eight in the morning and we started to drive towards Espoo. After ten minutes Jarkko noticed that he had left all his food behind and we turned back to get it. This led to us being somewhat late and we got started about ten minutes after everyone else. The start was at 11:00 and the temperature was now -17C. It was a crisp and sunny day.

Already when we studied the maps, it became clear that for we would have to leave the bikes and continue on foot for the final approach to most checkpoints, which had several sides to it: It was easy to keep warm when walking, though the clothing needs for biking and walking turned out to be quite different. It was also a little challenging to estimate the distances, since the walking and biking speeds differed a lot, and a more formal method would have been needed for that.

Even at noon, the sun didn't go especially high. Jarkko "punches" the Emit card, which registers the checkpoint into it.

Yours truly. Photo by Jarkko.

Another bike parking place in the forest.

There were also some occasional nice singletrack sections.

Jarkko enjoys the sun.


We continued riding and walking to the checkpoints, mostly without making any real mistakes. Only once did we have to search a little longer for a checkpoint. The maps were topographic maps and not orienteering maps, and were hence not very detailed and in some places rather confusing. At three o'clock in the afternoon we decided it was time for a little break, since we would only have a half hour or so before sunset, and there is definitely a value in seeing the sun in these circumstances. The mandatory space blanket was put to use as a ground cloth. (Second photo by Jarkko).

It probably was a little warmer during the day, but unsurprisingly the break made us very cold. Withing a short while we again had a checkpoint demanding some walking, which again made the warmth return to the body.

We continued riding and walking to checkpoints without problems and soon it became dark again. At this time of the year, the sun is up only for six hours.

About two hours remained when it got dark. The rules also say that if you arrive at the finish too late, you loose one point for each minute you are overdue. Hence we wanted to be done before seven in the evening, but not by much. On the way to the checkpoint which became our last, a thermometer showed that it was -17C again. We arrived at the finish at 18:40, after exacly 7 h 30 min and 61 km, of which 51 km were on bikes. The average speed was hence surprisingly low, which is only partially explained by us being out for fun and not for competition. By riding faster we could perhaps have won up fifteen minutes or so, but the real reason was probably that the terrain was quite slow even when walking.

All in all, this was a very nice event. Having checkpoints to find just is so much more rewarding than just riding around on a ready made course. Thanks to Jarkko for the company. Next year again!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Year in Review

The outdoor year 2014 started miserably. There was still no sign of winter, but that suddenly changed about a week into the new year. The temperature fell rapidly and the sea ice started to grow in thickness. While the lack of snow didn't allow any skiing, the skating was great and culminated with the Vigu Nordic Skating 1 course.

For the fourth year in a row I also managed to be on an overnighter during the coldest night of the year. While the three previous ones had temperatures of almost -30C, this one was only -18C, though.

In the beginning of February we had the only really acceptable snowfall of the winter. I managed to spend an overnighter with some fellow Vigu students that weekend.

After that weekend the misery started. The snow disappeared within two weeks and what should have been the most wintry part of the year was some sort of quasi-spring.

Despite the non-wintry conditions of  February, March didn't bring any signs of spring.

My sanity was saved by the Vigu Winter Fells 1 course in the Hemavan area in Sweden at the end of March. We had a fantastic week training telemark turns, practicing important winter mountain skills and living in snow caves.

In April the spring arrived. Despite the warm winter, the spring didn't come any earlier than normally.

An overnighter in Levaneva in Osthrobothnia in the beginning of May showed that we were still far from the summer.

In May we also finally did the Turku All Night Long ride we had had planned for a number of years now. This will hopefully become a tradition.

At the end of May it was already summer when we had the Vigu climbing course in Jämtland in Sweden.

June was colder that normal, but summer is always summer and personally I don't need the temperature to go over 20C. I participated in and passed the Vigu botany course.

June always passes too rapidly and suddenly I found myself starting my four week summer vacation in July. An overnighter was the perfect way to reset myself from the work life, much better than the vodka some people use.

The perhaps most important thing for me during the summer was that I started kayaking for real again, after an eight year break.

July ended with an excellent kayaking trip in the Archipelago Sea with two Vigu course mates.

The kayaking continued in August with the excellent Vigu Sea Kayaking 1 course in the Åland Islands.

After the kayaking course the weather changed and it rained quite a lot. An overnighter to the Kurjenrahka National Park showed that there was as much water in the terrain as in November.

September was surprisingly dry and the summer returned. I joined the local paddling club for a weekend trip in the Archipelago Sea.

In October I participated in the excellent Vigu Food course, which culminated in us preparing the dinner for 140 persons for the Vigu 20 year anniversary party.

At the end of October we participated in the Mammoth March for the third time. It took twenty hours and involved epical bike pushing, technical problems and one of our small group having to be evacuated due to tiredness.

In November we had the Vigu First Aid course...

... I continued paddling my new kayak...

... and the 6th annual Vajosuo Beer ride commenced in the usual demanding conditions.

In December the fall conditions continued, but the sun showed itself quit often, though it also rained very much.While waiting for the winter to arrive, the kayaking was great.

Just in time for Christmas the winter arrived and everything started to look much better.

All in all, I had an excellent outdoor year. I haven't counted the nights spent outside, but last year it was 35 and this year there should be a few more. Thanks to everyone who has accompanied me during the outings.

Happy New Year to everyone!