Bikes. Parts. Chaos.

The nature of my job often entails riding the hell out of the newest Surly products to test them pre- and post-production. It's not uncommon for me to ignore an older bike for a year or two while the newer stuff gets flogged on a regular basis. Such is the case with my Tuxedo Blue Pacer. I rode that bike for more than a year in all conditions…enough to break the drive-side Ultegra crank, shred a few tires, and wear out 2 drivetrains. But when the Karate Monkey protos came out, the Pacer got shelved, so I could focus on monkey love. A rare garage-cleaning event occurred a few weeks ago, and the Pacer caught my eye, for some reason, as I shuffled my bike stock around. I took it down into my dungeonous basement shop, and looked it over. It needed a new bottom bracket, headset, handlebar tape, and wheel-truing, but, otherwise, it was ready to roll. So, I made the necessary repairs and got it back on the road. It didn't take long to realize why I'd previously put so many miles on that particular bike. The Pacer is one of the sleepers in our line. It isn't super-light, and it doesn't really stand out in the crowd of carbon-fiber and supermetal wonderbikes. But it does possess a pleasantly ordinary geometry that lends itself to a day in the saddle and a toughness that allows one to stack on miles without worrying about catastrophic failure. The Pacer was telling me that it wanted to go camping. I've done a couple overnight rides with it, using racks and panniers. But it seems more suited to rackless touring. So, I installed a Carradice Camper Longflap on the loops of my Brooks B17, a Carradice Nelson Longflap bag on my unorthodox handlebar set-up (you're just jealous, J-Dogg), and a small Jandd frame bag in the front triangle. That's enough volume for a night or two on the road or trail. After work, on Friday, I made my way down to the riverside single-track that points towards home. 700 x 28mm Rivendell Ruffy Tuffys aren't ideal for some of the soft/sandy/rooty sections of trail…especially after a previous night's rain, but that's part of the fun. As a general rule, we tend to classify our machines and not give them the opportunity to play out-of-bounds. I wanted to find the limits of this “road bike”, and find some of my own limits as I rode through some challenging parts of my route. As it turns out, there were very few trials that completely halted forward progress. And when I hit hard, dry trail sections, I shifted into tall gears and made up for some slow sessions in the tough stuff. After reaching a familiar campsite, I had time to set up my hammock and fill my bottles, from a ground water source, before the sun dropped out of view. The water needs to be boiled or filtered before consumption, but that's not a huge issue when one has fire and time on his hands. My breadpan stove would have fit in a Carradice bag, but I wanted to try something new. So, in lieu of a woodstove, I brought a piece of aluminum flashing to form into a bottomless chimnea-like heat reflector. Thin aluminum isn't ideal for high-heat applications, but it lasted long enough to tell me some things for the next stove design. As usual, I spent most of the evening stoking the fire, eating, drinking, watching traffic move up and down the river, and sketching shelters, stoves, packs, and other bits that I'll build in the future. At 1:30am, I retired to my Hennessy Hammock. I was in no hurry to break camp after waking up to a clear, blue sky and a light breeze. I made breakfast on my little Esbit stove and went for a hike at the river's edge. Then I simply sat for a while and enjoyed the view from my campsite. Eventually, I got the Pacer packed up and pointed toward the deer path that gets me back to the main trail. I didn't really have a schedule to keep, so I moved down the trail at a leisurely pace and explored some off-the-beaten-path routes when opportunities presented themselves. I pulled into the yard at 5pm. Noah had been home with Lynn all day, and he needed to burn off some kid energy. So, I immediately unpacked my camping gear, replaced it with my Jetboil stove, a cold beer (Surly Coffee Bender) and some dinner items, filled my water bottles, and got the little dude ready for a ride to a sunny spot along the Mississippi, south of downtown Minneapolis. We rode, ate dinner, threw rocks in the water, and climbed around the riverbank before returning home as the sun set behind the city center. This day will go down in the books as another awesome camping/riding/hiking session. I enjoyed every bit of it…the beautiful weather, the periods of solitude, the time with Noah, and the opportunity to play on one of my favorite bikes for a whole day. The Pacer is going camping again soon…maybe this week, but with some component changes that will make it a little more dirt-worthy without compromising its road manners. Stay tuned… -----