On A Mission (Pt. 2)

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Part 2: Day 3, Gear list and thoughts on The Salsa Marrakesh

Day 3 – Ponderosa Campground to Arroyo Seco Campground Salsa Marrakesh and Gear   The last time I rode to Mission San Antonio de Padua it was on a 29×2.1 shod, singlespeed 2010 Salsa Fargo. Aka The “Original Fargoâ€, “Fun Guy Green Fargoâ€, “V1 Fargoâ€, or “What the Hell is that goofy looking thing?†Fargo. 5 years have passed and this time I found myself on a Salsa Marrakesh, whose real intended use is heavy duty long distance globetrotting. Built with serious steel tubing and meant to be ridden with no larger than 29×1.8 tires the Marrakesh, aka “the ‘keshâ€, is not on paper the best bike to be tackling Indians Road with. It’s heavy (more on that in a moment) and the stock 700×40 Schwalbe Marathons aren’t really meant for rougher dirt. While trying to find some 29×1.8 tires in stock ANYWHERE, my buddy Bobby Wintle told me, “Try some 2.1’s! We put some on a Marrakesh and there is plenty of room! It’s awesome!†So, I went out into my garage and lo and behold, found an old pair of used WTB Nanoraptor 29×2.1’s. Ignoring for a moment that they were probably 5 years old and pretty beat up, I put them on. The transformation was instant. The ‘kesh went from a pretty good looking touring rig to the bike equivalent of an Army truck in desert camp. Big. Solid. Tan. And, honestly, just…imposing. It suddenly took on the aspect of a bike that, as a friend of mine who works at a local dealer said after riding it post 2.1’s, …â€says fuck civilization! You ride this bike down the street and you just don’t want to stop until you’re out in the middle of nowhere with nobody near you. And then you want to keep going farther!†The big question, of course, is how did it handle being on a mission to the Mission? The Setup: From a setup standpoint, my ‘kesh is mostly stock except for a dyno front wheel (on loan from a friend, thanks Jason!), a KLite high output setup with USB charger, and a Salsa Regulatorti setback seatpost to get me in the right position and take the edge off. Oh, and it also looks dead sexy! Cargo wise, there was plenty of room for everything I wanted to carry on the bike. Up front in my Revelate Sling and Bag was my typical setup of:
  • Fuji X100S (bag)
  • Stakes & rope for tarp (bag)
  • BBQ firestarter (think a lighter with a long nose – bag)
  • Extra long camp spoon (bag)
  • LuminAID (bag)
  • Sleeping pad (dry bag – sling)
  • Non-riding clothes (long tights, capeline turtleneck, compression socks, Swobo wool beanie, mid-weight gloves in dry bag – sling)
  • Camera tripod (sling)
In the Revelate Tangle bag:
  • Spare tube, tire irons, Park Tools Rescue Tool, patch kit
  • Trail mix, 3 Clifbars, 3 Gels
  • First aid kit
  • Fuel tab stove kit (with stove, mug, eating utensil, 6 fuel tabs, cleaning rag)
  • Baby wipes (in sandhich baggie)
  • Power converter from dyno hub to USB for charging phone/GPS
  • Arm warmers and knee warmers (after I took them off mid-morning)
In the Revelate Seat bag:
  • MSR E-Bivy
  • MSR E-Tarp
  • Emergency blanket (used as ground cloth)
  • Enlightened Equipment 20 degree down quilt
  • Patagonia Nanopuff Jacket
I typically have a pair of Salsa panniers on the forks to carry my camera equipment, but with the rattling I was sure everything would be subjected to on the rough ride, I felt it safer to remove those and use a backpack instead. I have an old 2010 Ergon BC-1 that is, hands down, the BEST cycling backpack I’ve ever had. Full stop. Some day soon I will wax poetic in a review here about this pack. I’m sad that the market didn’t see or appreciate the genius behind it’s industrial design. The BC-1 is the smallest in the line yet it happily swallows up my 6×18 panoramic camera, Travelwide 4×5 camera, a large baggie containing various photography bits/bobs/aids and 8 4×5 sheet film holders. All while placing the weight on my body in such a way as to be completely forgettable. The Ride: Here is the thing about riding a Salsa Marrakesh: Never expect a light, nimble ride. Flat out, this bike is never going to be light. It’s made with big harcore steel tubing that will take out a tree if you crash into it. The whole premise behind it is to ride anywhere, over any surface, be tough as heck and easy to repair. On those fronts, the Marrakesh excels. If you want a go fast, light bike look to other models, this one ain’t it. What you get in trade, though, is an all day comfortable bicycle that is completely unflappable. By design it actually feels better the more you load it up with! It’s components are solid and dependable. A basic Shimano Deore 3×9 group with Microshift thumbies, Avid BB7 mechanical brakes, a Salsa Bend flat bar and a Brooks saddle generally just work. I went for the flatbar version because I found myself almost exclusively in the hoods or flats with my Woodchipper equipped Vaya. For me flat bars just work right now. What didn’t work for me on the trip was the Brooks saddle. I’ve put a few thousand miles on mine and we’re just not getting along. After the Mission weekend I swapped it out for a tried and true WTB Pure V saddle. My a** is much happier…the WTB V series aren’t sexy but for whatever reason they fit my behind to perfection. Who am I to fight it? But, back to the mission to the Mission. Overall I’ve got to admit that I absolutely love not just the look but also the *feel* of the ‘kesh with the bigger tires on it! With WTB 29×2.1 Nanoraptors installed there is no doubt I worked a little harder than normal on the paved portions. I was incredibly happy to have them on the Indians Road, however! The larger sized tires along with the big steel tubes absorbed more of the rough stuff than I expected it to. On the climbs it never felt unbalanced. On the descents it was steady, tracked well and stopped when I needed it to. The ‘kesh was, in a word, steady. It was just there, working, doing it’s job, going where I pointed it, shifting when I told it to, stopping when I wanted it to. I used every single one of it’s 27 gears and was happy to have them. While I occasionally (semi) jokingly swore at Johnny for his ultralight size S Cannondale Slate with no camping gear I honestly never really wished I was on a different bike. Once you put enough miles on a Salsa Marrakesh it becomes like that solid, steady old friend you know you can count on every time. In truth I’ve generally treated my ‘kesh really poorly. It’s been kept barely in tune, barely cleaned, barely chain lubed or anything for close to 9 months now since I picked it up from Huckleberry Bicycles. For all that mistreatment it has never complained, let me down, or sucked in any way. In a month and a half I’ll be taking it down Route 66 on Brian’s Ride and I couldn’t be happier with my choice!!