Lifesystems Mosquito Net, Bikebuddy, and Trangia Adventures
Wednesday November 5, 2014
Yes, the time is correct. It’s that early in the morning. I woke up and I just couldn’t get back to sleep.
Only the usual type of news to report. The BikeBuddy water bottle cage from the UK arrived in the mail yesterday. It is stamped October 27 in the UK and arrived here on November 4, so that’s pretty fast.
Buying the Bikebuddy was a bit of a risk. It’s a specialty item designed to allow you to put bottles and containers of nearly any diameter onto your bike. You can see how that would instantly lead to problems. The unit itself has to be infinitely adjustable to hold many different sizes. And then it has to be further adjustable to fit on the wide range of bike frames and styles available in the world. Of course, there is no way it can fit on every bike. The only way to see if it will fit on your bike is to buy one and test it. And that’s what I did.
My first impressions were not good. The package I was handed was quite heavy – far heavier than I expected and much heavier than a simple aluminum water bottle cage. It doesn’t fit into my current quest to use only light gear. It’s silly to put on an ultra-expensive lightweight saddle to save a few pounds and then add a pound of steel in the form of a water bottle cage.
My negative impressions continued when I sat down with a cup of coffee and opened up the package. The Bikebuddy is a very complex gadget consisting of 34 individual pieces. I couldn’t believe it when I saw the bags of nuts and bolts and springs and washers and clamps. It came with a page of instructions, but they were pretty limited and not very clear. Reading the instructions didn’t help at all. The only way I could understand how the Bikebuddy fit together was to slowly work through all the pieces and see how they fit together. I felt much like a caveman faced with the components of a nuclear bomb and trying to put it together. It took me a long time. And even when I figured out how the thing fit together and how it all worked, I struggled for a long time to see how I could get it to mount on my bike.
In the end, I figured out a way to get it on my bike. It was far from ideal, though, and I had to mount it in a way that it was never intended to be mounted. The water bottle cage braze-ons on my bike are located as low as possible on the frame’s tubes. This was done to keep the weight of the water as low as possible and keep the bike’s center of gravity low. That’s wonderful, but it made it impossible to attach the Bikebuddy properly. And even the way I did it was possible only because I had written an email to the company about my concerns and they had included in the package a special adapter that might help. Without this adapter, it would have been impossible. I’m still not happy with it at all. The main problem is the weight. The second problem is that the only way I could mount it was to end up with a big piece of the steel frame sticking out from the end of the water bottle. I forgot to mention that this Bikebuddy is a quick release system. A complex set of springs and hooks and bars attach to the water bottle and stay on the water bottle permanently. This allows you to detach the whole thing from the bike and then reattach it quickly. But the way I had to do it left a couple of inches of steel sticking out past the bottom of the bottle. With that steel in the way, it is now impossible to put the bottle down on a flat surface like a normal bottle. It can only lay on its side. This is pretty ridiculous, but there is no other way to do it.
One of the reasons I couldn’t get back to sleep was that when I woke up, I had a crazy idea. A really crazy and stupid idea. It occurred to me that it might be possible to combine this Bikebuddy with a Minoura over-sized aluminum water bottle cage. I can mount the steel plate from the Bikebuddy onto the bike’s braze-ons. This steel bar will extend far up the bike’s frame tube and it might be possible to attach the Minoura water bottle cage to that portion of the steel bar. It’s insane and stupid, but it might just work. I kept thinking about it as I lay in bed, and I had to get up and have a cup of coffee and then test my theory. Without having looked at it yet, I’m thinking that to make this work I’d have to get a set of longer bolts. And then there might be a big problem with torque. The Minoura cage is designed to attach directly and tightly to the braze-on points on the bike. The Bikebuddy’s steel bar will lift the attachment point quite high off the frame tube and this could mean that it won’t be stable. The heavy water would twist and turn and move back and forth and perhaps twist itself right off and break the aluminum. Ideally, I would use just the Minoura cage. However, just as there isn’t enough room for the Bikebuddy without extensive modifications, there isn’t enough room for the Minoura at all. As I thought about this problem, I wondered if I couldn’t just attach the Minoura to the bike frame with hose clamps. That would be an ugly but much more efficient and lightweight solution to my problem.
It’s typical that I face so many complex problems. It’s never a case of just buying something and attaching it. I think if I ever bought something and it simply fit and worked properly out of the box, I’d fall over in a dead faint. I wonder if there are people out there who live in such a world. It must be amazing to just go through life and buy things and have those things fit how they were supposed to and work the way they were supposed to.
And speaking of that, my modifications to the Lifesystems mosquito net continue. As I mentioned, my new mosquito net is a box net with an attachment point on each corner. (As opposed to my old net which had just one attachment point on the top.) I was instantly displeased with the cord that came with the net. It was too flimsy, too short, and it wasn’t sealed on the ends. It was already fraying badly. It also was just cord. There were no rings or hooks or even loops. The only way to attach the net was to tie big, ugly knots. Then you are faced with tying and untying knots every time you use the net. That’s pretty stupid.
I took off the cord and replaced it with much higher quality cord. This cord came with my Marmot Peapod tent and was intended to serve as guy ropes to peg out the tent fly in high winds. These guy ropes also came with tensioners. I cut the rope into four equal lengths, put a tensioner on each one, and attached them to the four corners of the boxnet. This was a big improvement, but the net was still something of a pain. In my room at the Bird Nest, the only attachment points I can use are up high right where the walls meet the ceiling. It’s a big effort to climb onto the rickety bed and reach up there and attach those four cords night after night. I had been thinking about buying some light carabiners and putting them on the end of the cords to make it easier to attach them to the hooks. Then it occurred to me that there was a more efficient approach. Instead of attaching the carabiners to the ends of the cord, I could attach them to the four corners of the net itself. This would allow me to attach the four ropes to the walls in whatever way I could manage, and then leave them there. With carabiners on the net itself, I could then just clip the net to the ropes to set it up and unclip it to take it down in the morning. It would be far easier and faster – a very elegant solution to the problem.
I had been keeping my eyes open for appropriate carabiners, but I never did see any that were quite right. Again, I have to wonder about this mythical person for whom everything works perfectly. Wouldn’t it be amazing to want a certain type of carabiner and then just go to the camping store and find and buy exactly those carabiners? I went to multiple camping stores and hardware stores over a period of many days and never saw the type of carabiner I needed. I know they exist. I’ve seen them in the past. But now that I needed them, I couldn’t find them anywhere. I did buy some carabiners. They were the best I could come up with. They aren’t right for the job, but they do work in a fashion. And they weren’t expensive. So I will use them until I can find something better.
I got an email from Trangia. I had written to them again about my continuing problems with the X2 burner. The reply was about what I expected – totally unhelpful. The best the dude could do was to tell me to clean the jets and the fuel line and to use only the highest quality, cleanest white gas. Of course, I have cleaned the jets and the fuel line and everything else about a million times. And I’ve used the best fuel available. The fuel is actually a bone of contention because the fuel that everyone uses and everyone has to use is unleaded gasoline. That’s what all bike tourers use. Stove manufacturers say that it is a poor fuel. It is too dirty. It creates too much soot. It reduces the lifespan of your stove. And it means you have to clean your stove more often. So when you have a problem with your stove as I do, they instantly blame the fuel. They say that the stove isn’t working because I’m using unleaded gas. I should buy white gas. That’s all well and good but there is no white gas anywhere in Malaysia, period. And other people use unleaded gas for years without a problem. Yes, it means they have to clean the stove more often, but they’re talking about once a month instead of once every three months. I have to clean and overhaul my stove every single time I use it. That’s insane. Something is wrong. And even then, I can’t get it to light.
An interesting sidenote, however, is that the Trangia dude replied to my email, but he didn’t answer any of the questions in the email. Why do people do that? I’ve noticed this pattern ever since emails became common. I write to people and ask them a question in an email. They reply to my email, and they don’t answer the question. And the question was the whole point of the email. I don’t understand this at all. I’d written to Trangia to ask them if the filter in the fuel pump intake line was supposed to be hard or soft. The filter in my intake line is as hard as a rock. It is solid plastic. I wanted to know if this was normal or not. Is it supposed to be so hard or is it supposed to be a regular soft, cloth filter? I was wondering if this filter had solidified over time and this was why my stove was not getting any fuel at the jet. I thought I was pretty clear in my email about this question, but I guess I wasn’t because the dude didn’t answer it. People read emails, see the question, and then they reply but don’t answer the question. Very strange.
I had another small adventure. I went to the big shopping mall Publika to go to the camping store there to buy carabiners. I went there by bus B115 and I planned to return by bus B115. When I left the mall, I went out to the benches where I knew the bus stopped. There are no bus stop signs there and nothing to indicate that a bus comes there or that it is a bus stop in any way. It’s another one of those enduring puzzles of life. It IS a bus stop. It IS one of the biggest and most popular malls in Kuala Lumpur in one of the richest neighborhoods. Bus B115 goes there every day, many times a day, stops there, drops off passengers and picks passengers. It is a bus stop. There are even several long benches with roofs over them for protection from the sun and rain – a place for passengers to wait in comfort for the bus. BUT there is no sign of any kind.
Well, I was sitting there waiting for the bus when a man with his wife and young son approached me. He asked me if this was a bus stop. I said that it was and I explained as best I could which bus came there and the route it followed. It turned out that the man and his family were Christian refugees from Pakistan. We talked for a long time (I couldn’t get him to shut up) and I asked him dozens of questions, but, of course, I couldn’t make any real sense out of his story. I could only glean little bits and pieces. I find this to be a common experience in Asia. And it isn’t a language problem. It’s something conceptual. Within two minutes of meeting a Westerner, I can get and understand their entire story in terms of dates and places. When someone talks to me, they learn very quickly that I lived and worked in Korea for X amount of years, then Taiwan for X amount of years, and then I left Taiwan and I was in the Philippines for a year and a half and then I’ve been in Malaysia for about a month. Simple, neat, clean. But no matter how long I talked to this guy and how long his answers to my questions were (and they were VERY long), I still could not figure out when he fled from Pakistan and how long he’d been in Malaysia. He even got out his passport and showed me a range of entry and exit stamps and visas and whatnot. But none of it made any sense as far as I could see, and even though I asked him the question “How long have you been in Malaysia?” many times and in many different ways, I still have no idea how long he has been in Malaysia.
Anyway, his story was interesting and dramatic. He was a strong Christian to the point of running a kind of ministry in Pakistan caring for young children – orphans and that sort of thing. This did not sit well with the local Taliban and folks like that, and his house and business were all attacked and burned and things like that, and he had to flee the country. I could make no sense of the years and countries and events, but he’d been a refugee for a very long time and has been to a whole range of places like China, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, a whole bunch of other “stans”, Turkey, Thailand, and now Malaysia. This also puzzled me immensely, but he showed me a plastic laminated appointment card for the UNHCR. This card showed the date and time (8:00 a.m.) of his appointment with the UNHCR. That’s fine. But why, you might ask, was this appointment card laminated? It was laminated because his appointment with the UNHCR in Kuala Lumpur was in the year 2017. I’m not joking. I saw it written down. It had the month and the day and the time (8:00 a.m.) and in the year 2017.
It was a very strange encounter. The man was a nice guy, I suppose. It’s hard to tell. The best answer I got was that he had been in Malaysia for only two months. But he already had a job as a cook. That was his profession, and he was able to cook food from many different countries. He had been in Thailand before this and he didn’t like it there at all. The language barrier was hard to overcome. He didn’t like the people or the food and there was no work. Malaysia was a huge step up for him. Everyone speaks English and he got a job right away. He was dressed as you would expect a poor but proud refugee to dress, especially since he had gone to Publika for a meeting with immigration. His clothes were neat and clean and pressed – dress pants, a dress shirt, and leather pointy shoes. Yet, his clothes were all clearly from decades ago. The shoes were clean and polished, but they were of a style from 1960. He had clearly bought them at a junk shop or a garage sale type of place. The same for the clothes. He reminded me of the way that Rod always looked – neatly dressed in clothes from Goodwill. People who buy their clothes at Goodwill always have a certain look. (The way I’m spending money, I’ll soon be shopping there myself.)
The man’s wife was also interesting. She was very direct and loud in her questions for me. She was dressed in traditional Pakistani clothes and had clearly also gotten dressed up for the visit to immigration. Their son was also interesting. Apparently, he had a passion for photography. He really was quite the shutter bug. He had a brand new Sony digital camera with a 20X zoom lens on it, and he was snapping away. It was funny to watch him watching me. He desperately wanted to take my picture, but he didn’t want to be rude. He nonchalantly got up from the bench with the camera and walked around as if he was looking at the sky or the buildings. But the whole time, he was watching me and then he leaned against a railing and slowly raised the camera and aimed it in my direction. It’s funny that people with cameras imagine that you can’t see them, but there is nothing more eyecatching than a person pointing a camera. It’s like someone pointing a rifle at you. You notice these things. Of course, I don’t care if he takes my picture and I smiled at him and let him know through body language that I was comfortable with it and he could take as many pictures as he liked. He’d take a picture, run over to show his mother, and then come back to take another.
I think being a refugee is a weird thing. I’ve had similar encounters and they follow a typical pattern. The refugee needs stuff – money, sponsors, jobs, etc. And meeting a Canadian is a good thing for them. This guy actually mentioned at some point how hard it is to get into Canada. It can take years, and the first step is always to get a sponsor. (hint, hint) Through my conversation, I tried to tell him that I wasn’t sponsor material – no job, no house, no money, no nothing. But he still wanted to know my name and he wanted us to be Facebook friends. And when the bus finally came (it took FOREVER), he tried very hard to pay my fare. Paying my bus fare would be a symbol that he wasn’t after my (imaginary) money. He wanted to show me that he had money. He wasn’t a beggar. He just wanted to be my friend. When we got to Pasar Seni, where the bus stops, they tried to treat me to lunch. But the conversation was so stressful by that point that I just wanted to get away. I don’t think I could have taken another minute of trying to understand what this guy was talking about,
End of stories for now, I guess.