I’ve sat down several times to write about my experiences during the Oregon Outback and every time, I feel like words have fallen short of the experience. Instead of talking about what the Outback was, I want instead to write about how it affected me, my approach to design and ideas of how a bike should handle situations and what limits the designs inevitably will have.
I rode my FaTRoB prototype during the Outback and I loved it. Every time I get on the bike, I can’t help but smile at how much fun it is, how it handles and how I love the build. It’s a great rig that has versatility built into it from its ability to shod wide tires to the open frame design to fit a good sized partial frame bag in it with full size water bottles, at least in my 56×56 sized 650b machine. I’d absolutely do the route again on the same bike, but it got me to thinking about something different and more capable of handling the rougher sections of this route and doing other routes like the AZT or the CDT or such, and how I might want to go on even more remote, single and rougher double track and how wider tires and Hydro disc brakes might be an improvement. There are points on the Outback where the limits of a 1.75″ (45mm) tire are realized. A bigger volume tire would’ve been nice to offer more float and suspension in a particular section of soft pumice road that many participants called lovingly “red sauce”.
When the roads get rough, the bikepacking style of touring is the way to go. Rackless luggage is a far superior way to carry a load through these rough conditions, leaving such a neutral effect on the handling of the bike. I grew up riding MTB and doing some camping and backpacking. I can’t believe that I haven’t combined them all before. It’s kinda the best. Low to no volume roads to ride, the joys of being in a remote place, as well the camping and cooking over an alcohol stove or camp fire. I feel very much in my element here.
Let’s get one thing straight; if I were trying to race Ira Ryan and Jan Heine, the FaTRoB would’ve been the bike of choice. But, I don’t have any desire to race. I want to enjoy the experience along the way. I’m OK to dig deep on occasion and to suffer a bit. Cycling just is that way sometimes. But I’d still like to stop and cook, or make coffee, or take some photos, or drink a beer, or take a dip in cool waters on a hot day and not really worry so much about the timeline. So its with this in mind that I’m designing a steed worthy of handling super rough conditions and carry a load for camping (I’ll discuss those details in another post) and doesn’t hold you back from handling those 100+ mile days. Check in on the page “NFD” in a bit to see what I’ve come up with, but in a nutshell, its a bikepacking rig suitable for something like the Tour Divide or a couple weeks on the Idaho Hot Springs MTB Route, or the like.
The NFD will be a mid-fat, 650 B+ with geometry to handle rough stuff and long days in the saddle combined with the ability to shod super wide 3.25 tires and disc brakes and integrated luggage from Porcelain Rocket. Suitable for an IGH or conventional drive-train and even the ability to use a belt drive system. A back roads bike to take out where there aren’t really roads.
I’ll have further details of the NFD up this fall, so stay tuned.