A recent lamentation from a friend who reads this magazine revolved around their lack of time for participating in any of the adventures we write about. A weekend here and there, but how could they join in on a touring excursion with only a weekend surrounded by the SoCal suburbs?
After making my case for the numerous opportunities for finding adventure, even in the hustle and bustle of glitzy and modern Orange County, California, the question of equipment presented itself. How much was all this ‘adventure’ going to cost? At that time, I didn’t have a good answer.
For the mechanically inclined, a used steel frame built with a yester-year mix of mountain and road parts from the local shop offers a low cost of entry. But that’s a tall ask for my friend, someone only just getting accustomed to changing their own tires, let alone building up a bike from sourced components.
Bikes have had a long deserved reputation for being costly. The amount of specific gear needed to get rolling extends beyond the machine itself. To make the dreams of your local outdoor retailer come true, you’re introducing a form of backpacking and camping into the mix, pastimes that give riding bikes a pedal for it’s money in terms of money spent in search of lightweight, specialized gear. in terms of money spent in the pursuit of lightweight, specialized gear. Is there any hope for the wanderlust-er looking to explore, but without deep pockets for provisions ? How can this industry have any exception of younger people adopting the pastime when the perceived barriers to entry are so high?
We previously rode and reviewed the Poseidon Triton back in issue #142, where Victor Prestinary wrote its praises and marveled at the value for price, a competent race-ready road bike priced at $600. This has been our go-to recommendation when someone asks for a good road bike for a first century, Gran Fondo or triathlon they would like to train for and participate in. Their frames are backed by a lifetime warranty and their support staff are based out of La Habra, California, clicking off their fifth year this summer.
With my earlier conversation still present in my mind, I was pleased to learn of a new bike from Poseidon looking to fill this adventure space. And to do so with money leftover for pedals and shoes, a kit, bidons and cages, a helmet and all the other random stuff you find out you’ll need after you purchase a bike. Oh yeah, also the sleeping kit, racks, bags and whatever is left over for moving food into your face as you travel by two wheels.
Announced at Interbike 2018, the X was released at the same price point as the Triton ($600), with the latter being reduced $100. The Poseidon pitch? A less costly adventure bike that aims to get all the important things right, while making concessions in areas thought to be less significant or of little detriment to the experience and enjoyment of turning pedals.
Reviewing the X components and preparing for an adventure, I make a checklist. Double-track or fire-road bike-packing? Check. The stock 700c wheels accommodate up to 40mm tires, and if you drop to a 650b wheel size, the max-width increases to 1.9”. Traditional bike touring? Definitely! The rear chain-stays geometry is proportioned to keep heels from slapping bags. Eyelets for front and rear racks, as well as four sets of bottle cage mounts provide a litany of accessory options.
The use of Tektro mechanical disc brakes keeps things in control even on the heaviest loads, steepest grades and wettest roads. Speaking to heavy loads, 32-spoked double-walled aluminum wheels wrapped with Kenda Small Block 700x35c tires out of the gate offer a plush, get-behind-me-Satan approach to road and trail, though if you’ll be primarily on asphalt, the beaded tires will slow you down ever so slightly. But if you’re adventuring, you’ll get there when you get there.
There-in lies the most important part of touring that gets the least amount of consideration: the getting there, more specifically the gearing to get there. What makes sense unladen can be confounding when faced with steep grades, a heavy pack, and many miles to camp.
In the case of the X, a Shimano Claris group wrangles the chain around a 11-32 cassette out back, and 34/46 chainrings doing the turning business in the front. Though many of the latest whips tout proprietary bottom bracket designs that promise ever better intangibles, the X goes with the old standard of 68mm BSA, a welcomed option when well-provisioned bike shops are scarce out on the road, a frequent occurrence in our world of dying retail.
All of this sounded great on paper. But what looks good on a spec. sheet may not always translate in the execution. Especially when adding significant weight, dirt and the lack of mechanical sympathy that bikes on multi-day adventures typically receive. I was interested in seeing how it would fare, especially with my own previous experience of the Triton as a baseline.
The first BICYCLIST Adventure Team field trip. Or BAT trip. Maybe BATventure? With a name, and an idea, some calls were made and a trip was set. A 24-hour overnight that would challenge different aspects of the bike, and the individual.
Beyond just a shakedown for a new low cost bike, it was an opportunity to introduce some strong riders and racers in their own right to an entirely different way of spending time in the saddle; touring. Or if you end up in the dirt, ‘bike-packing’. Semantics aside, the idea is simple: ride your bike with provisions to sustain the basic comforts of home on the road or trail, in this case for 24 hours, essentially the first two days of any multi-day tour. Also, it would offer a stress test demanding enough to ascertain the value proposition on offer. Though it must be restated, we are considering a complete bike for what some spend on their bibs. The value proposition is strong on this one.
I talked to Luis to help find willing participants who were interested in this adventure and we’re capable to ride under these conditions. Luis recruited friends from his monthly club ride, The Fixed Beer Crew, bringing Ignacio Oseguera, Johnny Morphis and brothers Alex and Mario Parra on board to join us on this overnight excursion. All from various backgrounds, mostly with race or daily commuting experience, few having experience mixing camping and bikes.With six demo bikes, and six riders testing them in different wants, any quality or construction issues would present themselves. The trip would also provide an instructive guide for future adventures, serving as a preparatory introduction to the overlaps of camping, bike travel and backpacking.
Carrying your home away from home, contained on your bike, is a freeing experience. When everything you carry has to be considered for usefulness and utility, it can provoke a realization that you can not only exist outside the advertised comforts of modern life, but that you may find it a more enjoyable experience. This can be a profound realization, one that provides a security and self-reliance that is fleeting in todays lattice work of interlaced technological dependences.
It’s clarifying, and you’ll come home seeing your world differently. The longer you’re on the road, the more changed you’ll come to be upon your return home, just like any travel, though I’ve always found travel by bike accelerates this process. This dilation of time gives you a sense of being away for a long time, when in actuality, your time away was much shorter. That### sense### is a recognition of the mental development, a building of resourcefulness and tenacity that carries the spirit after the ride is over. Your mental strength is improving, and your sense of time distorts to accommodate this experience.
This shifting sense of time becomes especially pronounced when the only goal for the day is not getting lost, getting to camp by sundown and bringing enough water for coffee in the morning. Though we managed to fail at these specific goals for this inaugural trip, our mistakes become your ‘teachable moments’. And minor setbacks aside, the trip was a resounding success.
For the trip we all carried our own gear for the night, including food, cooking utensils, tents, sleeping bags, and various other necessities for the trip. All of us rode on the Poseidon X, courtesy of Poseidon Bikes, to get the full experience of the new model. We all used our own versions of touring gear to carry our camping supplies.
Preparations for Camping
We planned to camp at Crystal Cove State park because of the proximity to the central location. It’s also a beautiful location that many locals and tourists visit.
Before we left, it was determined we’d head straight to camp, prepare dinner when we arrived, coffee and oatmeal in the morning alongside materials for making sandwiches. By mid afternoon, a decision was made to head to another camp, The Camp, an outdoor shopping center of sorts, with a wide variety of options for a range of diets. Enjoying the atmosphere and false sense of accomplishment, beers were drank, burritos eaten and schedules missed. After everything was said and done, a 3:30 departure from the late lunch left another 15 miles of road to clear, 5 miles of grades over 6%, the final push to the hill-top campsites.
Making a stop at the Newport Coast Shopping Center (see map, page 11) for some further delays of the final ascent provided us an opportunity to wave goodbye to the sun just as we reached the entrance to the State Park after the grueling trip up the 11% of a local extra credit, Ridgepark Road. As lanterns and lights clicked on, this merry band of travelers bobbled and bounded down the miles of double-track to our campsite for the evening located at Moro Flats.
How did it turn out? Did we all survive? The ride continued without incident, the best conclusion for a trip that was pushing for surprises, anomalies and anything that would creep up on a longer tour. The only complaint that came up was a unanimous feeling the handlebars weren’t wide enough for the frames. That was the whole of it. The landscape is shifting when -that’s- the complaint for a $600 bike amongst demanding riders with fully loaded packs, going down rutted out double-track, and up 11% road grades. Quite impressive how far the industry has come and specifically to Poseidon, what they’ve been able to achieve in terms of logistical and operational efficiency, making a bike that helps open up the sport to more people. ▲