Molly Fin 2 – Frame and Wheels

I think I’ll break the Molly Fin build list into a few separate posts. lest I bore people unto death. Better multiple short, skim-able posts than one ignorable one! So this one will cover the core of the bike: the frame and the wheels.

The manufacturer, Salsa, describes the frame as a mid-tail to distinguish it from real longtails like the Surly Big Dummy or Extracycles. Seems right to me. Eyeballing it, there’s approx 8 extra inches between the bottom bracket and the tube that ties the chainstays together right in front of the rear wheel. Here’s the frame, as delivered – the big gap behind the seat tube is obvious.

The long rear triangle does 2 things – one obvious and one maybe not so much. Clearly it allows for a huge rear rack, suitable for fly rods and smol hunting dogs. More subtly, it changes front/rear weight distribution, balancing the total rider and load weight more evenly between the front and rear wheel. The back wheel always gets more load than the front, but this setup moderates the imbalance.

There was one thing about the frame that I was not wild about: the fork. It was carbon fiber with 150mm through-axle spacing. The front wheel was definitely getting a SON hub dynamo, and the 150mm version is $$$! And, though I’m not quite the crabon-hater Grant Petersen is [inside baseball: big big name in most favored niche loathes carbon fiber], still, the vulnerability of carbon fiber to scoring (a hazard when you’re riding trails) combined with shattering/delaminating as a failure mode gave me serious pause. Turns out that dropping back to 135mm front spacing would save enough money on the hub to cause a Surly Ice Cream Truck fork to net out at approx +$30. Steel and more mount points? Done. That left me with a bit of a dog’s breakfast, paint-wise, but Mike at Maine Bike Works knew a powder-coater. Paint swatches, ahoy! The result:

The wheels were easy but interesting. I went with 27.5 Plus as the target tire – one nice thing about disc brakes is that you are not locked in to one rim diameter – and really liked the look and size of Velocity Dually rims. The hubs were obvious – SON dyno in front and a DT Swiss in back (there were other options but omg the extra $$). And the tire had been in my cross-hairs all along: Schwalbe G-Ones. Good on the road, good on dirt, just plain good.

Big pieces, decided upon and built:

Next: cockpit and controls.


Molly Fin (the bike) 1

Before I get too deep in the weeds regarding component choices, a couple words about how the bike I’ll be hobo-ing on came to be…

I’ve been riding a Surly Long Haul Trucker for a bunch of years now and have it pretty much dialed in as a comfortable fast-enough touring/utility bike. It was what I was planning to ride until I did a test load-up this spring. Two big issues emerged. I’m taking a couple fly rods with me and even though they are both 4 piece, the rod tubes are long enough that they’re going to stick out inconveniently somewhere. And Lotte the teckel is coming with me – a crate for her, plus tent etc. on the rear rack is a pretty tall pile. I’d been daydreaming about a Salsa Blackborow ever since I saw this bike

credit link

on The Radavist and in Maine Bike Works’ Instyfeed. After the test load, the daydreaming became scheming – not only would the Blackborow solve the cargo volume issue, it would allow me to ride much more challenging terrain (it was going to be Rte. 1 rather than Baja Divide on the Trucker, for example) and disc brakes would be good for my peace of mind on big descents out west. I pulled the trigger and asked Jason at Maine Bike Works to order a bare frame. Component selection is next post, but let me tell you, it was fun.

Not all my bikes have names, but some do, A name for this one was obvious (to me at least). My motto/mantra/theme for this venture is “M’allé couri dans deser” – Louisiana Creole meaning “I am going into the wilderness”. It’s the phrase that morphed into the opening call and response of Indian Red: “Madi cu defio, en dans dey, end dans day”.

Molly for a first name then. Reinforced much later when my son told me that the most bad ass rider classification in the Dakar rally is the Malle Moto – motorcyclists who ride the event unsupported. Proper. It was apparent early on that the bike was going to get a custom paint job; inspired by Mike ‘Kid’ Riemer’s Ode To Trout build, I decided to use ‘spawning brook trout’ as my color palette. There’s an old married wing wet fly I especially like – the Fontinalis Fin. It’s supposedly inspired by folks using clipped-off brookie pectoral fins to bait their hooks. A lovely fly.

from my copy of Ray Bergman’s Trout

And there you have it – Molly Fin. 


Sam Gribley goes for a bike ride

I’ve been dreaming about going nomad for a long time. Events of the past few years, both personal and on the world stage, have convinced me that there’s no time like the present. I’ve considered different ways to go mobile: Airstream, van conversion, motorcycle, but kept coming back to my favorite way to move through the landscape — a touring bike. Bicycling is the cheapest, most flexible and lowest impact of my alternatives, so saddle up! it is. More on the bike itself in the next post; the general plan is to leave New Hampshire in early September with an eye towards arrival in Los Angeles at Xmastime for holidays with family. From there I’d like to ride the Baja Divide route to La Paz, take the ferry to the mainland and ride from there up into Barrancas del Cobre. Eventually I’ll make my way back to the US and then – assuming I still feel the way I do now – it will be decision time. One option is the Great Divide route north and then a jog east to hang with my kids in the northeast; another is to head to Long Beach and hop a container ship bound for the Pearl River delta and ride the silk road (with a detour to Yunnan?). Regardless of where I go or how long I’m on the road, this is an exercise in reclaiming possibility and expanding horizons.

Boojum Tree!

Boojum cactus

The title refers to the narrator/protagonist of My Side of the Mountain – a kid’s book that had a huge role in shaping me.

Asian Horse-back Falconry

Via DongSeuk Woo on the Facebook, comes a link to “Ethnoarchaeology of Horse-riding Falconry” (PDF), Takuya Soma’s paper published in the 2012 Asian Conference on the Social Sciences Official Conference Proceedings. Well worth a look for those of us who are interested in the origin of things. Some pictographs (I was already familiar w/ the top left via Steve Bodio):


And a rhyton from the Met, referred to in the paper:


A frieze depicting a religious ceremony decorates the rim of the cup, illustrating the type of libation ritual for which the cup may have been intended. A prominent figure, probably a deity, sits on a cross-legged stool, holding a bird of prey in the left hand and a small cup in the right. The deity wears a conical crown and has large ears, typical of Hittite art. It is unclear whether the deity is meant to be male or female. A mushroom-shaped incense burner separates him or her from another, distinctly male deity who stands on the back of a stag. He, too, holds a raptor in his left hand, while with his right he grasps a small curved staff. *

Up north

It’s the time of year when I load the dogs up and head north of the notches (that part of NH on the north side of the White Mountains). Some photos, with commentary:


A pano of one of my favorite views. Not a good cover, but we just left one and this is much easier walking – a chance for Dinah and me to relax a bit.

White Baneberry

Berries! A not-good-to-eat one, White Baneberry


and a quite tasty (if sour) one, the Cranberry.

And of course, humans leave their mark.


A pile of rock with toys and a worn-out whirligig on top – I’m guessing a grave. Pet? I hope so.

crab trash

And I’m used to finding piles of trash at the end of tote roads (aka jeep trails) at the point they become impassable, but the debris is usually demolition waste, old teevees, that sort of thing. First time I’ve ever seen a pile of crabs. Thankfully, they’d been there quite a while – Dinah was neither interested in rolling in nor eating them.

A long time ago, I went on a bike ride


Bike Trip of the Ancients

Here’s how this post started:

Karl responded and generously sent along scans of all his photos from the trip. Those of you with eyes for detail may notice a certain, how to put it, consistency in my dress. At that point in my life I had borderline Cayce Pollard levels of clothing signifier fear. JPUs for the trip consisted of jeans both long and short, a wool jac-shirt and a couple (trip-famous) identical t-shirts. I figure I wore cycling shoes a lot more than I remember – off the bike, I seem to be always barefoot, with w-h-i-t-e feet.

The trip itself? It was organized by Project Adventure (in the person of Karl Rohnke); we loaded up a U-Haul trailer in the parking lot of Hamilton-Wenham H. S., drove up to Montreal, put everything on a CN (thus no spiral tunnels – that’s CP) passenger train, rode same to Vancouver, debarked and rode our bikes home (the North Shore of Massachusetts). An amazing and wonderful trip.

trans canananananada

More photos after the jump.

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Kettle Hole Expedition II – pano and vids

As promised, a little more visual info from the great bog outing.

First, a panorama of the open water area of the bog. Side note: I downloaded and tried Hugin as a panorama stitcher (the source pix were taken w/o any assist – I can never find the pano mode on the camera and it has never done me much good anyway) and found it to be really quite excellent.

Bog pano

A video of me settling in to the mat, posted mainly for the sound of the water percolating up as I sank down.

And two videos of the mat undulating, the 1st mild and the 2nd a bit more wild.


Kettle Hole Expedition

I’ve known about our local kettle hole for many years, but for no good reason, have never visited it. I fixed that yesterday. It’s an amazing place; I know that there are kettles and potholes elsewhere that make ours look like a teacup, but think about the size of the ice chunk that made this landform. Impressive.


You first see the bog itself through the trees – lots of oak and some pitch pine as befits the very sandy soil – at the bottom of a steeply sloped dish. Most of the bottom of the kettle is a quaking bog, with some open water at the center (and around the perimeter). Here’s a shot of the bog showing the open water edge and, through the trees, the black spruce growing on the mat:


And a shot from the mat, back at where the picture above was taken:

Spruce on the mat

On the mat, Sarracenia purpurea:

Sarracenia purpurea


Sarracenia purpurea

A flowering bog laurel (Kalmia polifolia):

Bog laurel

And an especially stunted spruce:

Spruce on the mat

Expect a second post soon with video of the bog quaking (I hope) and audio of the water gurgling through the mat as yr humble correspondent stops and settles (again, I hope).

The Bathyscaphe Trieste and Captain Don Walsh, USN Ret.

With all the hubbub over James Cameron’s planned dive to Challenger Deep, a little attention should be paid to the  first and, at this point, only people to make it to the deepest point in the ocean: Auguste Piccard and then-Lieutenant Don Walsh. They did it in 1960 on the bathyscaphe Trieste.


The Trieste was, essentially, a dirigible. It was mainly buoyancy cambers filled with gasoline (here water:gasoline::air:helium) supporting an untethered bathysphere; there’s a huge difference in compressibility between liquids and gases, so I’ll leave the blimp vs. zeppelin distinction alone. *saunters away, whistling*

The point of this post is an interview NPR did with Capt. Don Walsh. I was blown away. Check out his Wikipedia bio – adventure scientist extraordinaire – and yet in the interview (unsurprisingly), humble and thoughtful. I’d encourage folks to give him a listen either at the NPR link or here (right click and save the mp3 locally).


Cosmonautics Day/Yuri’s Night

A movie detailing Yuri Gargarin’s flight, 50 years ago today.

Rather than being an oversight, this probably had more to do with the fact that filming technology had been left behind by our sudden leap into the Space Age, and there simply wasn’t enought room inside the cramped Vostok 1 capsule for Yuri Gagarin to wield a primitive, bulky TV or film camera.

So in early 2010, with the new giant cupola window installed on the International Space Station, and with digital filming technology now firmly in the Space Age, I began to wonder if it might be possible to trace Gagarin’s pioneering orbit around the Earth once more – and this time to film it. *

Watch it full screen!


More info at and on the firstorbit YouTube account.