Sunday, April 15, 2018

Spring kayaking

The beginning of the kayaking season 2018 was rather humble, but this weekend had more possibilites. The area I would need to scout still had too much ice, but closer to Kasnäs there was more open water. A total of nine of the local paddlers started from the Högsåra ferry port, in four different groups.

More protected places still had too much ice and the closest route out to more open waters was not feasible.

A fun little "iceberg". Why go to Greenland when you have the Gullkrona Bay?

We didn't go for distance this time and paddled only around 10 km before setting camp.

Mounting the beer refrigerator...

... before taking a stroll around the island.

Lots of survival food.

A cup of coffee and a sandwhich cured the worst hunger, so there was no hurry to make dinner. The last paddlers arrived during coffee time.

Starting the wood stove. My new kayak has lots of packing space and a bag of firewood fitted without problems.

An opportunist immediately took advantage of the fire.

Lots of cranes migrating.

I had meat and sweet potatoes. Quite delicious and in addition to the kayaking season, the barbecue season is also opened.

A fire can also be used to temperate wine.

And the sun went down a little before nine.

I had my winter sleeping bag and enjoyed a warm night. The temperature did probably not go below freezing this night. I managed to sleep until half past seven in the morning and then got up and took a stroll to the part of the island I hadn't yet checked out.

Whiches' broom, generally the consequence of a fungal infection.

The birds have started to arrive.

My tent and kayak.


Due to family obligations I had to leave at ten in the morning. The others were awake making breakfast.

Now that I was alone, there was no reason not to check out the "iceberg" a little closer.
Skim Beaufort


And since no one saw me I climbed to the top of the ice berg.

My new neoprene boots are nice. They are big enough (size 48) to allow thick wool socks in the drysuit and very comfortable with good soles and flexible waterproof canvas shafts. They also also high enough to keep the water out in most landing situations.

Continuing back towards the Högsåra ferry.

I was back a little before twelve after 11 km. It started to rain a little as I unpacked the kayak and started to rain a lot more when I tightened the kayak to the car roof. Good timing.

A nice litte trip and I was happy to test the Skim Beaufort on an overnighter. There really was plenty of packing space in the kayak, just as expected, and it still feels very comfortable.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

The beginning of the kayaking season 2018

By now I should already have been on a scouting trip in the Archipelago Sea for some upcoming kayaking club trips, but there is still ice everywhere. Open water can only be found around the shipping lanes, which from which the melting has begun.

The northern part of Airisto looked good on satellite photos and even photos on site, and we agreed to open the kayaking season there with a four hour trip. Arriving at the place showed a different reality, though.

The wind had obviously blown all the ice flows to this part of Airisto, and paddling was almost impossible. We gave it a try, though. Ice prods were more useful than the paddle.

I was smart and took the PE kayak due to possible ice.

After around 300 m we gave up and landed to go up on some cliffs to take a look at the situation.

It looked even more hopeless further ahead, so the only sensible thing to do was to drink and eat our snacks and then turn back.

The kayaking season is still started, and this is actually not the shortest paddling trip I've done from this place in winter conditions.

Next weekend I have to go on a kayaking overnighter. It remains to see where.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Bontrager Gnarwhal 27.5x4.5 studded fatbike tire four month review

I've now had the Bontrager Gnarwhal studded fatbike tires in use for almost four months and have used them in all sorts of conditions: powder, firm trails, ice and crust. Though we had a nice winter only a few days ago, the snow is now melting rapidly and after this weekend I think I'll put on the summer tires. Thus a good time to write a little review.

The tire is in the new 27.5 fat format and I have them mounted tubeless on 80 mm wide Bontrager Jackalope 27.5" rims. This combo is probably as easy as a tubeless setup can get: The tires can be easily inflated with only an ordinary floor pump and they hold air even without tubeless liquid. The tubeless liquid is of course still necessary to prevent flats if the situation arises.

I really can't say that the 27.5 fat format is noticeably better on smooth winter trails. Some prominent names claim the the difference is massive, but I'm skeptical. I do think the root infested and rocky summer trails will show a bigger difference, though, and I will return to that topic after the summer.

The tires were studded up with the Schwalbe studs, since they were easily available and cheap. The Bontrager studs would have been about the same price, but were harder to get. The Bontrager studs are also a little shorter, but one or two tenths of a millimeter should not matter. The picture below shows them after three and a half months of use. As can be seen, the edges of the studs have lost a little of their sharpness.

Another option for studs would have been the 45NRTH concave studs. When new they give a little better bite, but seem to wear faster. Riding only on snow or ice does not really affect the studs, but harder surfaces, like asphalt, wear out the studs quickly. The 45NRTH studs are also quite expensive at around 50 cent per stud, while the Schwalbe studs are 10 cent a piece. With over 200 studs per tire this does have some relevance. The 45NRTH studs on a 45NRTH Dillinger 5 is shown below.

The Gnarwhal is 109 mm wide on the 80 mm Jackalope rims, mounted tubeless and with an average snow pressure (~ 5 PSI). That is about 2 mm wider than the Dillinger 5 on a 80 mm rims that I have measured. On really difficult snow I've used around 3 PSI and a few times on a harder surface closer to 10 PSI. Anything above that and you are not doing the fatbike thing right.

The floatation is hard to compare between tires, since you would need to perform systematic testing in identical conditions, and preferrably in a quantifiable way, to really say anything, so I'm going with the feel here. Clearly there is a lot less floatation than with the Vee 2XL on 100 mm rims (127 mm wide), a little less than Surly Bud on 100 mm rims (~114 mm if I remember correctly) and pretty much on par with the 45NRTH Dillinger 5 on 100 mm rims. The 27.5 does give a little longer footprint, though, which probably counts for a mm or two of width. The pattern of the tire is rather coarse, which gives better grip in powder, but there are marginal conditions when a coarse pattern like that can punch through a weak surface and start digging down. Snow is a medium with lots of variation.

I can only compare this tire with the Dillinger 5, since it is the only other studded fatbike tire I have experience with. There are other alternatives as well, and I would imagine that the 45NRTH Wrathchild is rather similar to the Gnarwhal. Compared to Dillinger 5, the Gnarwhal is a lot more aggressive tire, giving a better grip on all surfaces, including ice. The Dillinger 5 rolls noticeably better, though, and that's a feature which would have been very nice on the Åland ice trip.

To sum it up, I think the Gnarwhal 4.5" tire with studs is the obvious choice if you have 27.5 fat bike wheels. There are a few 4" tires, but I don't see the point for my use. The Terrene Cake Eater 27.5x4.0 probably rolls a lot faster, but where I live we have no groomed trails, everything is created through use and during a winter there are lots of situation when floatation is needed.