Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Quad-B Setup

Like when I'm hiking or kayaking, when I set out on my bike, the Big Box Beater Bike, better known as the Quad-B, I'm usually on my own.

In an attempt to slant my solitary Quad-B excursions away from fool-hardy and more towards a calculated risk, I don't just jump on wearing a few scraps of spandex (Now there's a disturbing visual!) and a helmet with cool graphics. When I set out on my two wheels it's more of a reasonably equipped expedition.

At $159 from Walmart the bike itself is nothing special, which is kind of the point. Since I have so little invested in it I'm not too worried about it hanging out there on the rack behind The Van in all sorts of weather and I'm less likely to have an emotional meltdown if something destructive or larcenous happens to it.

But I have added a few aftermarket items to the bike such as the rear rack and a small saddle bag under the seat. (Which is also an aftermarket item since the original seat looked like something a doctor would use in unpleasant ways while your feet were up in the stirrups!)

I'm not quite sure what was in the marketing department's minds when they named this particular model the Fragment! Is that supposed to remind me of what happens if I crash???

The tires are slimed to deal with small punctures, but just in case I also have a pump strapped to the down-tube 

and patches and a set of tire pries in the saddle bag.

When I'm not using it to keep things in place, the adjustable bungee-cord is wound up and stuffed into the saddle bag too.

The hooks are always larger on these, which can be an issue once in a while, but I love adjustable bungees. Put it in place, adjust the tension, and pull the loose end into the lock to keep it there. No muss, no fuss and it always fits. This particular model is adjustable from either end.

Speaking of bungee, I've got a cheap (Again, Walmart) 1.5 liter hydration pack that I carry. As a bonus the $20 pack also has a small compartment accessed from either side by full-length zippers that is just large enough for carrying a small lunch or a snack or two. If and when the cheap bladder fails I have already test fit a couple of 700 ml water bottles into the bladder compartment. (What's all that got to do with 'speaking of bungee' you ask??  Wait for it. . .)

But instead of wearing the pack on my back I strap it onto the rear carrier with my handy-dandy bungee.

Depending on the ambitiousness of the current outing, I slip another water bottle into the pack's tie downs.

And, subject to the current chill-factor relative to workload, I can remove any extra layers I have on, roll them up, adjust the bungee a little, and tuck them away right there on top of the hydration pack.

Speaking of clothes, when on the Quad-B I dress the same as if I was hiking, Long cargo pants, a long-sleeve shirt and the same layered socks and boots I wear when hiking. And, depending on the weather I'll either be wearing my extra layers or they'll be strapped to the carrier behind me just in case. Oh, and of course there will be a proper helmet on my noggin. I'd feel pretty stupid splattering my brains all over during a minor fall because I was too macho to wear the helmet!

Of course I'm always dragging my camera along and to deal with that on the Quad-B I use this. It's actually designed to carry two of the lenses a serious photographer lugs around and can be slung from an over the shoulder strap or hooked over a belt or pack-strap via the secure Velcro'ed flap on the back. It wasn't designed for it, but it just so happens that this bag is just the right size for my compact-but-too-big-for-a-pocket Cannon SX50.

I hook it over the left side of the handlebar with the bag facing me and it works out very well. Extra camera batteries slip into the front pocket of the bag and if the trail is rugged enough I can secure the camera in place with the top-flap's Velcro closure. If the weather gets wet there's a rain-cover inside the zippered compartment at the bottom.

But the heart of my Quad-B gear is a lightweight sports vest. The kind with lots of pockets for all my crap.

One of the most important pockets is the big one that goes across the width of the small of my back. It's zippered on one end and can handle two of the 700 ml water bottles I use for just about everything - water related that is. Since I don't actually wear the hydration pack but rather use it as extra water storage, these are my 'active' water bottles.

Between three water bottles and the hydration pack I can carry just under 4 liters of water with me. I have never actually used all this water on any one outing, but I'd rather it be there than to run dry if I end up being out there longer than expected, which can be a far more serious situation (Running out of water that is.) than a lot of people seem to realize. I say that because I'm constantly seeing people out on the trails with far too little water for the planned outing let alone if they get into trouble. 

In the top-right pocket of the vest I carry small bottles of sunscreen and bug-repellent as well as a tiny headlamp and spare batteries.

In the bottom right pockets (They're stacked, one accessible from the top and the other from a side zipper.) I carry a signal whistle with a very small but serviceable compass on one side and a tiny little thermometer on the other, spare batteries for the GPS and a medium-duty full-length poncho just in case I get caught out in a cold rain. The poncho can also be used as the basis for a shelter if necessary.

On the left side of the vest I keep matches and fire-starter in the upper, side-zip pocket, a multi-tool in the lower side-zip pocket and the GPS in the lower top-opening pocket.

That might seem like a lot of crap to carry, and when it's on the hanger, including nearly a liter and a half of water in the back pocket, the vest is pretty dang heavy, but once I have it on with the zipper pulled up at least a few inches to stabilize it, I really don't notice the weight..

My pack for hiking, the multi-pocketed life jacket for kayaking, and this Quad-B vest all have their own dedicated inventory of similar 'stuff' and each stays packed and ready to go all the time. (Yep, I'm the guy that refills the water and restocks the pockets as soon as I get back to The Van rather than wait until I'm getting ready to head out next time.)

One other small but very handy thing I did to the Quad-B, after much testing when I first bought it, was to scribe a mark on the seat-tube. 

For casual, everyday riding I set the scribed mark right at the top of the clamp.

If I find myself on a really rugged trail, which has happened more than once even though I don't go seeking these out, I bury the scribed mark about a half inch below the top of the clamp to lower my center of gravity and get my feet closer to the ground.

And when I find myself with some serious pedaling to do, such as when going uphill into a stiff headwind for miles and miles, I set the scribed mark about a half inch above the clamp, like pictured above, for maximum leg power.

OK, that's it, the Quad-B and gear. So if you see some guy out there on a cheap-ass bike wearing a ridiculously lumpy vest, wave hi, And if he crashes while waving back he'd probably appreciate you checking on him, you know, just in case.


  1. That's a great writeup showing things would have never thought about taking while riding. Of coarse most of my mtn bike riding is on pavement going to town and then checking out the big city. By the time I get back to the homestead I've had a pretty good workout. With my road bike I go much further distances, depending on what my screaming knees tell me.

    I would have thought those liters of water in your vest would be hard to ride with. Yet, water is very very important while riding and maybe even more important that taking a tire repair kit.

    It's good to see someone gets good use out of their bike.

    1. The stuff I carry is probably a little over-kill but I'd rather have it and not need it than the other way around. Some of my riding might be along paved roads, quiet paved roads, when getting to a trail-head, but the majority of it is on tracks where help is probably not going to come along anytime soon.

      Actually carrying a liter and a half of water down low on my back in the vest is more comfortable for me than wearing the hydration pack up high between my shoulders. I keep at least a couple inches of the vest zipped up so it doesn't flop around and the water bottles ride very secure and quietly. In fact I don't really notice them while riding.