Sleeping Bags, Pannier Bags, and Hose Clamps
Thursday November 20, 2014,December,12, 7:30 a.m.
I’m doing the usual things here in Kuala Lumpur as I wait for my tent and other things to be put in the mail. I’m shopping while altering my traveling gear and bicycle. The last couple of days, I’ve been trying to put the final touches on the oversized water bottle cages. I’ve ended up with three entirely different units – a Minoura AB1600, a BBB Fueltank XL cage, and a Bike Buddy MK3. You couldn’t possibly get three more different units, and not one of them fits on my bike in the normal way – at least not when you put them on at the same time. One alone would work fine, but that would be a bit silly. The point is to increase the volume of water I can carry on the bike’s frame, and to do that, I need more than one bottle. To get the two in the internal frame triangle to fit, I can’t mount the cages on the two braze-ons meant for water bottles. I have to raise each cage up and screw the bottom of each cage into the top braze-on. That leaves the top of each cage swinging freely unattached. I considered various ways of attaching these and I settled on hose clamps as the best. It took me a few days to find suitable hose clamps. Hardware stores here had hose clamps for sale, but they were made from thick metal and were very heavy. I had vague memories of lightweight ones in Canada made from thinner strips of metal. I had almost given up on finding these when I stumbled across a couple in the DIY hardware store at the Publika Mall. They had just two left and they were adjustable from 21mm to 44mm, so they would fit on my bike frame. I’d just have to saw off the excess portion. I also purchased a roll of heavy-duty duct tape. It is a brand called Gorilla Tape. It was expensive, but it was one of the few rolls that was one inch wide as opposed to two or three inches. The idea is to wrap some of that tape around the bike frame before I screw down the hose clamp.
To attach the water bottle cage to the hose clamps, my idea was to drill a hole through them and insert a flat head bolt and secure it with a nut. I felt guilty about asking Eddie at PedalSpot to help me again, but I shot him a Facebook message and he seemed more than happy to do so. On this occasion, he seemed doubtful that he could drill through this stainless steel, but it was no problem and in a few minutes, I walked out with what I hoped were suitable holes in my two hoseclamps.
I didn’t have suitable bolts, but I did have two that might serve if I cut them shorter. Back at the guest house, I went to work and I ran into quite a few problems. The hose clamps were much too large, and I needed to cut them shorter even to test them. I borrowed a hacksaw from Willie, but without a vise to secure the hose clamps. It was hopeless. Willie suggested I use a pair of shears. I scoffed at the idea, but to my intense surprise, they worked just fine. They cut through this stainless steel easily. Then with a lot of fumbling and dropping of things while peering through the stupid glasses that kept falling off my nose and scrambling around in the narrow space of the storage room with the guest house staff glaring at me, I attempted to assemble it, and it worked out okay. I ended up not using my two bolts but the bolts that came with my MK3 Bike Buddy. My one concern is that with the head of the bolt on the inside of the hose clamp, there is a strong pressure point on the bike’s frame. The hose clamp doesn’t tighten around the tube in a nice circle. It is distorted by this bolt, and a lot of pressure is being applied right where this bolt presses on the tube. I’m worried that if I overtighten the hose clamp, I could bend the bike’s frame tube. I just don’t know.
Overall, despite the fumbling nature of my efforts, the end result wasn’t bad, and the water bottle cage seemed secure. I had done all this work with the BBB cage. This cage is much stronger and heavier than the Minoura cage, and since it has a strong neck clamp, I will use it with plastic water bottles. The Minoura one is better suited to hold a Nalgene bottle.
I don’t know at this point what kind of arrangement is best or whether I want to even use the Bike Buddy. It is a heavy, complicated unit. Its only advantage is that it is fully adjustable and could be used with fuel bottles or thermoses or anything. And that is its only advantage. I think I will use the Bike Buddy MK3 as well instead of buying another BBB cage, but I don’t know the best way to arrange them. The problem is that most bottles won’t fit in the section underneath the bike between the chain ring and the tire. There isn’t a lot of space down there.
Never has one man worked so hard and for so long just to put on some water bottles.
My search for a suitable lightweight sleeping bag continues. I’m looking forward to today because the young man at CoreZone told me that there really was a camping store at the MidValley Mega Mall, and it is a huge store. It is called Urban Adventure and it is up on the third floor. I’m going to go there today to check it out.
Friday November 21, 2014
I managed to track down the big store Urban Adventure in the Mid Valley MegaMall. I guess this was the store that the dude from Outdoor Pro was telling me about, but I never did get the name from him, so I didn’t find it last time. This time I had the name and the location – on the third floor – so I found it easily. It’s pretty hard to miss once you know what you’re looking for.
Urban Adventure was spread out over two floors. The first floor contained clothing. The second floor had camping equipment. The selection was a bit haphazard. They had some high-end brand names like Columbia Sportswear, but then they also had a lot of Coleman products. Some lines were complete and some were not. A bit of a mixed bag. For example, they had a full line of Deuter accessory bags. I’ve fallen in love with the Deuter Tour Wash Bags. At Evergreen, they only had the Tour 1 model. At Urban Adventure, they had the Tour 1, Tour 2, AND Tour 3. I’m going to go back there today and buy one or two of those – one perhaps for a toiletries bag and another for a filter bag.
They also had sleeping bags, and I almost found a good one. They had various Deuter bags that would be suitable, such as the Deuter Dreamlite. Unfortunately, nearly all their bags came only in the regular size, which is too short for me. They had one good bag in the long size. It was perfect in terms of length and pretty good in terms of width. It was a mummy style bag, but it had generous space around the feet and didn’t feel too confining. The problem – assuming it is a problem – was the temperature rating and therefore the size and weight. It is sold as a summer bag, but it had a “comfort” rating of 9 degrees and an extreme limit that went down to below zero, I believe. Combining that with the long size brought the weight up to a solid single kilogram, or 2.2 pounds. I was hoping for something in the 1.5 pound range. I was also a little annoyed to find that once the bag was out of its stuff sack, it was nearly impossible to put it back in. I would probably put it into a different stuff sack anyway, but when you buy a high-end product, you don’t expect problems like that. If it comes with its own compression stuff sack, you’d expect it to go back into that stuff sack relatively easily. That is particularly true for a compression bag. Compression bag are fiddly because of all the straps, and if the bag is difficult to insert in the first place, things get very frustrating and sweat-inducing. It’s not a down bag, so it also doesn’t compress that easily.
I was convinced enough yesterday to buy the sleeping bag, and I brought it to the counter along with a Deuter Tour 3 Wash Bag. The woman there totaled it up on her register and gave me a printout that I had to take to the main register downstairs. Unfortunately, that register was out of order. I waited about 45 minutes, but at the end of that time, it still wasn’t up and running. I ended up having to leave without making a purchase. I walked away thinking in terms of signs and omens. Perhaps this was an omen that this sleeping bag was not the right one for me. I haven’t come to a conclusion, but I’m leaning towards buying it. Yes, I’d prefer a lighter and smaller sleeping bag, but it is still less than half the weight of my old one. And it is possible that the super light summer bags would end up being too cold. Nine degrees Celsius is, after all, about 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
I was also pleased yesterday to learn that another cyclist showed up at the guest house. I discovered this upon finding a second bike in the storage area. I then glanced into various open doors as I walked through the guest house, and I was more delighted to see a set of Ortlieb pannier bags. This, assuming the dude was friendly, would give me the chance to take a closer look at the bags and see if they would mount on my bike. It would also be nice to see them side-by-side with my pannier bags.
The cycling dude turned out to be a very friendly Spanish dude and he was more than willing to give me a tour of his bike and let me play around with his Ortlieb pannier bags. His bike was not a dedicated touring bike but a fairly basic mountain bike, and this came out in the haphazard and somewhat crazy assortment of gear he had. Ortlieb pannier bags are among the best on the market, but he had combined them with some of the worst racks I’ve ever seen and this had resulted in a lot of damage to his bags. I was surprised to learn that he’d only been cycling for three months. His bags and other gear looked like they’d suffered years of abuse.
The biggest problem was that in order to mount his rear pannier bags, he had to push the mounting brackets very close together and then put the bag on the far rear of the pannier rack. He had to do this to give himself heel clearance. Otherwise, his feet hit the bags when he tried to pedal. It’s hard to describe, but mounting them this way meant that the ends of the bags got no support and the heavy weight of the gear caused the bags to sag and curve from the ends and this was tearing them apart. It’s best to have the mounting brackets as far apart as possible, but he had to push them right together in the middle. Perhaps worse than this, his pannier racks had sharp-edged nuts and bolts sticking out all over the place, and these were tearing into his bags. The rear rack in particular was very poor. It reminded me of the racks we had in high school. It had the spring-loaded doodad on the top for holding your gym bag in place. This rack wasn’t designed to hold pannier bags. The front rack was just as bad and was mounted on his suspension forks with a bunch of heavy hose clamps.
In a way, it’s a good thing that his set-up was so bad. It highlighted the weaknesses of the Ortlieb bags. I mounted his bags on my pannier racks and was unpleasantly struck by how loose and wobbly they were. They wobbled and sagged and shook in a horrible fashion. They also bulged. My Arkel bags are rock solid and have a nice shape. I have almost perfect confidence that my Arkel bags will not fail, that the mounting hooks will not tear out. When I looked at the Ortlieb hooks, I saw them ripping free at any moment or snapping in half. His front pannier bags were in better shape, but he mentioned a few other factors that pushed me away from the Ortliebs and back toward loving my Arkel bags.
The big advantage to the Ortlieb bags over the Arkel bags is their lighter weight. This Spanish dude even lightly criticized my higher-volume Arkel bags by saying that having larger bags tempts you to carrying more than you need. I find this a spurious argument, and this view was supported when he then showed me the huge rubberized dry bag he had purchased in Thailand. He puts this drybag on top of his rear pannier bags. So it may be better to have smaller pannier bags, but that advantage is nullified when you simply buy another large bag and fill it up and lay it on top of your pannier bags – which is what most Ortlieb pannier bag owners do. Ortlieb even began manufacturing a large waterproof duffel bag designed for this purpose. The standard Ortlieb set is now two bulging pannier bags with a large duffel bag laid sideways across them. I don’t like that arrangement at all. It means that you can’t fill the pannier bags to the top. You can only fill them to the top of the pannier racks because this duffel bag has to lie flat on top of them. And now you can’t even get into the pannier bags without removing the duffel bag first. The Ortlieb bags are hard enough to access in the first place. Putting the duffel bag on top makes it impossible.
I’m still unhappy that my Arkel bags weigh twice as much as Ortlieb bags. However, the argument has lost a lot of its force. To make up for the lack of volume in the Ortlieb bags, this guy had to buy a large duffel bag. And to make up for the lack of accessible pockets, he has to use a handlebar bag. Therefore you can’t really compare the Arkel pannier bags to just the four Ortlieb pannier bags. You have to consider the overall system. And on those terms, the Ortlieb equivalent to my Arkel bags consists of the four loose and flappy and floppy Ortlieb pannier bags, plus a duffel bag, plus a handlebar bag, plus a separate and bulky backpack attachment. If you add up all of those, you are suddenly much closer to the weight of my Arkel bags.
Finally, this Spanish dude said something that was very telling. He mentioned that he had to buy sealable plastic bags to put his clothing in. He did this because the inside of his pannier bags became so hot and humid that everything began to get moldy and mildewy and start to stink. I remember that unhappy fact from my brief experiment with Ortlieb bags in Cambodia. Being waterproof, they keep moisture out, but that means they also keep moisture in and everything begins to stink really fast.
Saturday November 22, 2014
I’m tired this morning, so I don’t think I’ll have much to say. Yesterday, I returned to the Mid Valley Mega Mall to buy a couple of items at the Urban Adventure store. I had tried to buy a sleeping bag there the previous day, but their cash register wasn’t working. That turned out to be a good thing because it gave me time to rethink this purchase. I did some measurements and some weighing, and I realized that this sleeping bag was a bit large for me. Despite being a much smaller bag, it packed down to the same size as my full-size down bog from MEC. In other words, it wouldn’t pack down very small. I brought a scale with me to the store, and it weighed 2.5 pounds on the scale. My MEC bag weighs 4.5 pounds. So it’s lighter, but not as light as I hoped. It’s the only long bag I’ve been able to find in Kuala Lumpur, but it might not be the right bag for me.
While I was there, I purchased two more of the Deuter Tour bags. I bought a Tour 2 and a Tour 3. I wasn’t completely sure what I would do with them, but I thought the Tour 3 would be my new toiletries bag and the Tour 2, a filter bag for my camera gear.
For the rest of the day, I fiddled around with these two bags to see what I could do with them. The Tour 2 seemed to be the perfect size for a “take to the bathroom” toiletries kit, and I concentrated on making it work for that purpose. I was pleased with the final result, but I used it for the first time this morning, and I found that I missed a number of the features of my old toiletries bag. Well, just three features, really. The first was the ability to hang my razor blade on the outside of the bag in a loop. It’s fidgety getting the razor out of a pocket. And then I’m worried that the blade will cut up the bag if I put it back in unprotected. The second was the big, open mesh pocket that I could just toss things into. This new bag is much smaller – which is good – but it means that you can’t just toss things in and then rummage around. You have to carefully remove and replace items. The third was the Velcro attachment for the mirror. So after one failed experiment, I’m already thinking about returning to my old toiletries bag. But it might be possible to modify this new one still further and add a loop for the razor blade on the outside. Either that, or I can use this Tour 2 for camera gear as I intended.