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Bicycle Mobile

Bicycles are fun. So are radios. Why not combine them.

Bicycle Mobile

For overnight trips I run my Yaesu VX-8DR in the handlebar bag, with the MH-74A7A hand mic and FGPS-2 module, and a Diamond SRH320A. This let’s me broadcast APRS, letting people know where I am, and is everything I need to hit area repeaters to see if there’s anything interesting going on. Calling in as “bicycle mobile” usually generates interest, and it’s fun to check into a net without having to stop pedaling.

Bicycle Mobile

After pitching camp I can kill time by making more contacts. Also on this trip was a Nelson Antennas Slim Jim, but I didn’t bother putting it up.

Making Contacts

I’m not quite up to Steve Roberts’ level, but I’m also only pushing a fraction of the weight.

This post was published on . It was tagged with radio, bicycle.

The Axolotl Tanks

I’ve been using an isolation tank every few weeks since the beginning of the year. The tanks are large, enclosed bathtubs, filled with body-temperature salt water, in which you float and not much else.

Before my first float I wasn’t sure if claustrophobia would be a problem. I’d never experienced claustrophobia, but I’d never enclosed myself in a bathtub before either. What I was missing here is the key component of the experience: sensory deprivation. With the tank closed, there’s no light, and the tank is large enough that I don’t touch the sides. Without any incoming data telling you that you’re in a small tank, you could be in an Olympic-sized pool, or simply floating through space.

There are odd an unusual claims about the benefits of isolation tanks which match the odd and unusual experience of the tanks themselves. To me, the tank is just a venue for mediation. It eliminates distraction, making the process a bit easier, but does not offer any additional benefits of its own. (Telekinesis has yet to manifest.) If you are not comfortable in your own head, you won’t have a good time.

I enjoy playing music during my sessions, sometimes for the whole hour, more often just for the first and last 15 minutes. Ambient textures are best, as anything with a beat requires too much attention. I tune in to SomaFM’s Drone Zone every now and then, which usually ends with at least one new purchase that I’ll queue up for the next tank session. Tom Heasley’s Where The Earth Meets the Sky and Massergy’s The Vast Colure have recently been useful. I’ll also sometimes go a less electronic route, opting for chanting from Gyuto or Georgian monks. It should go without saying that I’ve tried ending a session with Akira’s Requiem.

Isolation Tank

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Tactical Chucks

The Altama OTB Maritime Assault Boots are a great pair of everyday footwear. Modeled off of Chuck Taylors, they’re a fairly simple concept: a 1000D Cordura upper, large rubber toe cap, and low-profile outsole with minimal lugs.

Altama OTB Maritime Assault Boot

The boots provide excellent grip on wet and dry concrete. Altama claims to use some sort of special sticky rubber, though it feels like typical shoe rubber to me. It is not noticeably sticky, like Five Ten’s rubber. The lug pattern is not ideal for dirt and mud, but for an everyday urban shoe I have no complaints. After 6 months, my boots shoe a reasonable amount of wear.

I bought them in a size US 10 / EUR 43, which fit me perfect. In most brands I alternate between a US 9.5 or 10, which usually translates to a fairly consistent EUR 42. They tip my scale at 29.3 oz (832 grams) for the pair.

The laces that come with the boots are ridiculously long. Unless you tuck them into the boot, they’ll catch on things. They constitute a hazard on the bike. I replaced them with Lawson Toughlaces, laced in a double helix and tied in a bowknot. Lawson’s laces are just heavy pieces of Technora with metal aglets on the end. Abrasian resistant, fire resistant to 932 degrees Fahrenheit, and with a breaking strength in excess of 1,000 lbs — you can saw through restraints all day with the Toughlaces and they will still probably last until the heat death of the universe. I have them cut to 54” for these boots.

Altama OTB Maritime Assault Boot

Altama ships the boots with removable polyurethane insoles. This material makes sense for the intended water application of the boot, but I worried that they would be hot and uncomfortable for my more pedestrian use. So far I’ve not found that to be the case, but I’ve only had the boots since the end of September, so I can’t comment on their comfort in hot weather.

Neither the insole nor the boots themselves have any arch support, but they are not zero drop. There’s a heel to toe differential that feels like it is probably in the 6mm-8mm range. All of this lift, however, comes from the insole. After replacing the laces, my second modification was to purchase a pair of Ortholite Fusion Insoles. These are completely flat. The size 10 insole fit perfectly in my boots without any trimming, transforming them into zero-drop footwear. Unfortunately, the boots really want a slightly higher volume insole. With the Ortholites installed, I get a small amount of heel slippage that cannot be addressed by lacing. This is not an issue for my typical everyday wear, but would become problematic if hiking.

Altama OTB Maritime Assault Insoles

I still find myself switching between the stock polyurethane insoles and the Ortholites, but I lean toward the Ortholite being a more comfortable choice. It’s worth experimenting with them if you find high heels uncomfortable.

The Altama OTB Maritime boots feel like they come out of a latter Gibson novel. Black, minimal branding, fairly gender-neutral, and able to be worn, to a general lack of comment, during any year between 1945 and 2000.

Feather AS-D2

I’ve been shaving with the same Merkur Classic since I transitioned to wet-shaving a decade ago. This past January I treated myself to an upgrade in the form a Feather AS-D2.

Feather blades have a reputation for being the sharpest on the market. I would occasionally use them in my Merkur, but generally I stayed away. They were too sharp and would result in knicks or burn for the first few shaves, after which point they would have dulled enough to be comparable to other, more normal razor blades.

So I was not entirely sure what to expect with the AS-D2. As it turns out, Feather knows what they’re doing. The Feather razor blades and AS-D2 were clearly engineered to work together. I’ve seen it described as a mild shave, which is true in that Feather blades in the AS-D2 result in no knicks or burns, but is a somewhat misleading term, in that it also consistently provides me with the best, closest shave I’ve ever had, with little effort.

My technique with the AS-D2 is the same as it was with the Merkur. One pass with the grain, one pass across the grain, and a final pass against the grain. The only difference is the angle. Compared to the Merkur, I hold the AS-D2 handle at a more obtuse angle (placing the head and the blade at a more acute angle against my face). I generally kept the handle of the Merkur at about 30 degrees. The AS-D2 is held at (or slightly above) 45 degrees.

Angle of Attack

The AS-D2 wants sharp blades. I find that the first 2 shaves with a new blade are great, the 3rd is mediocre (what I would have described as a good shave with the Merkur), and the 4th is poor. I have been replacing the blade every 3 shaves, where with my old Merkur setup I would get 5 or so shaves out of a blade. I buy Feather blades in packs of 100, which works out to about $0.25 per blade, and I generally only shave twice a week. A quarter every 1.5 weeks is an acceptable shaving expense.

Between the Feather and the Merkur, my sample size is only two, but it’s hard to imagine a better safety razor.

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A Better Towel

Discovery Trekking‘s Extreme Ultralight Travel Towels are the best quick-drying, packable towels I’ve found. Typical microfiber towels are scratchy and quick to stink. The Extreme Ultralight Travel Towel forgoes microfiber for Polartec Power Dry with a Polygiene treatment. They are soft, pleasant to use, and resistant to funk.

It’s use may be somewhat unintuitive for those who cut their teeth on traditional towels. Rather than the typical rubbing action, the Extreme Ultralight Travel Towels work best when you pat yourself down.

I bought my first of their towels in 2015. I go to the boxing gym in the morning and shower before work, so I’ve used that single towel multiple times per week for the past 3 years. It has no smell. In fact it is indistinguishable from the new towel I just bought last week.

I prefer the towels in size medium, which measure 28” by 34”. It’s the right size to dry off my whole body, though if I had long hair I may opt for the larger size. The only shortcoming of the towel is that it has no loop to hang it from, but this is easily remedied with a piece of paracord and some thread. On my scale, the size medium (with paracord hanging loop added) weighs 3.4 oz (98 grams).

I own the towels in charcoal and olive brown. The olive brown color is similar to that shown on Discovery Trekking’s website, but is what the rest of the world would call coyote brown. The charcoal color is nothing like what they show on their site. In their images it appears black, but in reality it is a grayish green, similar to foliage green, but slightly darker. I like it.

Normally I would not care about the color of a towel, but I note the colors here because the fabric is comfortable enough that I actually use the towel as a scarf — something which I cannot say about any microfiber towel. It provides warmth in cooler weather, and sun protection in hot weather. The Power Dry fabric is rated at UPF 15. This dual use makes it easy to justify the towel’s miniscule weight and volume in a pack, ensuring you always know where your towel is.

Any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still know where his towel is, is clearly a man to be reckoned with.

Douglas Adams

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PPE Kits

I began carrying an N95 respirator in my bag every day around 2007. The masks can be easily added to any first aid kit without much of a weight or size penalty, and offer respiratory protection far superior to that of a bandanna or a surgical mask. While useful during an influenza pandemic, my motivation for carrying the mask was centered more around urban disaster. Any time there are buildings coming down, I assume there will be asbestos, concrete dust, and similar contaminants in the air that I don’t in my lungs.

Most discussion of the extended use and reuse of respirators centers around contagions and the influenza use-case. While it seems safe enough to assume that the masks have an unlimited functional shelf life if stored properly, I’ve not found any information related to visual inspection of the masks for proper use. My own respirators get cycled every two or three years, but there is still a lot of room for abrasion in the pack, which I assume diminishes the protection the masks offer.

I had not thought much about this until last year. The respirator was something I carried but didn’t use. After a decade of carry, my first time actually needing to take the respirator out of my pack was this past October during the Napa and Sonoma fires.

After using the masks I had on hand during the fires (and unsuccessfully attempting to barter my surplus for chocolate), I began to better store the replacement batch for next time.

PPE Kit

By keeping the respirator in a 5” x 4” aLOKSAK I’m ensured that no damage is done to during storage. The airtight seal offered by the bag means that the inside of the mask stays clean, at least until the first time I take it out in a contaminated setting. By added a pair of nitrile gloves to the bag, I create a compact, wallet-sized PPE kit. The same thing can be purchased, but all the prebuilt kits I’ve seen are too bulky for me to want to carry. My PPE kits can easily be slid in with the medical supplies in various my first aid and disaster kits. Pair that with EDC eye protection and you have a decently comprehensive solution.

The only appreciable thickness comes from the vent on the respirator, but I’ve found that vented respirators are key. A properly fitted respirator without a vent hampers my ability to perform physically, which isn’t a great trade-off in any situation where I find myself needing to wear a respirator.

PPE Kit with Every Day Carry

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