Marin Four Corners: Initial Impressions

I’ve had the Marin Four Corners for about 3 months now but i havent had a chance to tour with it. Recently, a couple of friends and i had a short multiday trip up north and used this bike for that purpose.

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For starters, the Marin Four Corners  (check the specs here https://www.marinbikes.com/bikes/2019-pavement-drop-bar-utilitour-four-corners) was designed for bikepacking expeditions.

Made of chromoly steel, lots of mounting points for racks and cages, the frame also features varying wheelsizes depending on the size you’d get. In my case, i got the small size with 650b wheels. In terms of drivetrain, it sports Shimano sora 3×9 components with 50-39-30 upfront and 11-34 for the sproket. For stopping power, it has the TRP spyre mechanical brakes. the rest of the pieces are typical OEM components with the exception of the tires which are wtb resolutes (650bx42)40025462_10212822169855755_7147014241277444096_n

In terms of the ride, the Marin four corners reminded me of the Surly Disc Trucker on 650b wheels-slow yet the low bb height and chainstay length gave you sure footed stability during climbs. While i haven’t loaded this much as i packed light during the tour, i felt that the bike has a livelier feel when loaded with racks and panniers.

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With regard to gearing, i felt that this was adequate giving a wide range of gear ratios, the 3×9 sora can definitely be a good option for long haul touring. while it is the first time ive used TRP mech brakes, there’s nothing really special about them. it does the stopping with fine modulation. One of the interesting things about the stock build is the compact 12 degree flared drops which to me were comfortable despite the sizing (mine had 40mm width). It reminded me of the soma condor in terms of comfort as you would prefer to stay on the drops while cruising.

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While the recent trip ive had gave me an idea of the comfort and adequacy of the Marin four corners for touring, what i look forward doing with this bike is some off road expeditions as well as loaded trips using racks/panniers.

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Overall, similar to the Marin Pine mountain, the Four corners’ specs are value for money for a built bike which may appeal to those interested in starting their own expeditions on two wheels without breaking the bank.

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Rain Gear review: Waterproof Socks (Antu, Dex Shell, Seal Skinz, Showers pass)

The wet season is a bane for all cyclists. In the Philippines, the rainy season lasts for about 5 months (June-October) and typhoons can get really strong. Another problem is the prominence floods in the metro.

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Since 2013, ive tried all sorts of rain gear, ponchos, jackets etc. But I couldn’t find a solution to wet feet. Getting your feet wet isn’t just uncomfortable (I just hate the feel of soggy socks) but wading in flood water increases the risk of waterborne diseases.

I’ve learned about waterproof socks early this year and was able to get some and test them over the course of a month. From lights showers to torrential rains, here’s my take on 4 brands-Antu, Dex Shell, Seal Skinz and Showers Pass.

If you choose waterproof socks, there are several considerations:

Waterproofing-how long can the insides of the sock stay dry?

Breathability-Can it wick sweat and stay cool while pedaling?

Price and Availability- Which is best for my budget and are they available locally?

 

For this review, I did two tests:

The soak test:

Simulating similar conditions while cycling, ive placed each sock in a small container filled with water-around 500ml and let it sit there for 1 hour (average time of my bike commute/leisure rides)

 

The field test:

Ive done a range of rides over the month using each in varying conditions (light showers and heavy rain) between 2-5 hours. Using cycling sandals to allow exposure as well as easy draining of water, these socks were exposed to varying weather to simulate conditions on a tour or longer ride.

 

Antu (Php 1350, locally available at M Paps cycling house- https://www.facebook.com/mpapscyclehaus/?timeline_context_item_type=intro_card_work&timeline_context_item_source=1135239754&fref=tag)

The Australian brand, Antu (https://antu.com.au/) is a three layer sock made of nylon and breathable fabric assuring you that water won’t get in but you remain cool inside . Among all the socks tested, this feels like a regular sock despite its layered construction.  Sizing is exact (I have a medium for my size 42 shoes)

It performed well in the soak and field test as no water came in but it did feel damp suggesting that extended exposure may cause a leak.

The verdict: Among the ones tested, this is the best bang for your buck sock if you intend to go bike commuting or urban rides rides and can serve as a back-up while on tour.

 

Dex Shell (Php1250 available at Lagalag Store SM North Edsa-http://www.dexshell.com/)

I got these when I was about to get home from a meeting and realized that rain was about pour down. Getting my bike from the shop, I pedaled for an hour under heavy rain and encountered flooded parts down south. The Dex shell socks also has three layers that claim to repel water and wick sweat. While it did the job for my commute home, it was never the same after washing it. Apparently ,it lost its waterproofing quality and the soak test verifies this. As some reviews claim, this is the problem with the socks. While I was advised to hand wash them, the packaging and website suggest that these socks are machine washable which I did. But I suppose regardless of the method of washing, quality should be better.

 

The verdict: don’t even bother

 

Seal Skinz (Php 1500 available x7107 outdoor gears-https://www.facebook.com/Xplore7107/)

The UK brand Seal Skinz (https://www.sealskinz.com/) is claimed to be as one of the best out there but pricing has been quite high in the US. In fact, I was surprised that a store in the Philippines carried this at a lower price. Aside from the typical 3 layers, this had a silicon type material surrounding of the sock to prevent entry of water. Sizing is a bit odd as you need to size up (I’m using XL for this one)

For the soak test, this remained dry but during two test rides, I was a bit mixed about them.

For the first ride which was five hours, we encountered heavy rain and flooding at the middle of our journey and it ended up trapping water inside my feet. I suspect that the absence of rain pants was the culprit and the extended period of use saturated the socks’ limit in taking in water.

For the second ride which was shorter (about an hour), it held pretty much well despite the heavy rain and flooding. This time I was wearing rain pants preventing entry points for water.

The verdict: This may be a good choice if you’re commuting to work but you might need to search elsewhere if you want something on tour.

Showerpass cross point (34 USD available from online sellers in the US-https://www.showerspass.com/)

Claimed to be used for bikepacking ( see for a review of this one https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oatYzLAti5E), this pair is quite snug fit (I use M/L). Testing suggests that this has characteristics for a bombproof sock due to the thick material and intricate weaving making sure that your feet are dry outside and inside. It performed well under the soak test and even several rides under varying weather conditions. While I happened to stand in flood water for a few minutes, the sock didn’t even feel damp or soggy. In addition, unlike the other three socks, this sets quite higher in the calf of your leg allowing greater protection from entry when passing by muddles or flood

 

Verdict: If you could source this, this is would be an ideal choice.

 

 

To conclude, while waterproof socks can help you get through your bike ride, I’ve learned that using a combination of other clothing (rain pants, overshoes) increases your chances of staying dry amidst extended periods of rain.

 

 

Note: this is an independent review and no sponsorship/financial support was given for the conduct of this review

 

 

 

 

 

 

Basketpacking Baguio

In the Philippines, Baguio is considered as one of the foremost destinations if one decides to do serious cycle touring. Located north of Luzon, it is the one of the places that offers stunning views amidst challenging terrain and weather conditions.

In 2015, together with several friends, I went on my first multiday tour but failed to reach our destination due to bad weather. Late last year, I wanted to complete the trip but with a different setup. Ive heard of basketpacking from friends who have done tours and have read initial experiences from their trips

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my disc trucker with a basketpacking setup

So, with two friends Edan and Prixie, we took off early morning and we’re lucky to be accompanied by Dennis of Bulacan. For day 1, our trip was fairly straightforward- riding through 180 plus km of flat road. Good thing cycling to the Pozzorubio, Pangasinan was less miserable as the weather was cool even in the afternoon.

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with Dennis (right) of Bulacan
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Steel Bridge to Tarlac

Day 2 was a challenge as we had to get to Baguio via Kennon road which was a narrow road varying grades of climbs in addition to the many vehicles passing by.

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With Donald Uy of Pozzorubio, Pangasinan (Courtesy of Sagada Loopers)

The trip was quite fine-though we had difficulty looking for accommodation on the second day as many people were in Baguio during the holiday season.

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the sleepy dog
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Bridal Veil Falls (Courtesy of Sagada Loopers
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The Iconic Lion 
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heading home

Below are some insights on the use baskets for cycle touring:

  1. I used a wald 137-a medium sized basket attached to a surly 8 pack rack using zipties. For storage, two drybags for clothes and items for the trip. Given the generous space of a basket for goods and stuff, I found this as a big plus as I don’t need to remove all the bags whenever I need specific items. Easy access even while pedaling is an advantage when you’re riding using a basket.
  2. Given that all the stuff is just in one place, securing the load is fairly easy (I used a bungee cord for my bags). No need for attaching different bags on parts of your bike.
  3. In terms of durability using a basket works best when it is attached to a front rack. During the trip, the basket didn’t move or sway even on bumpy roads.
  4. However, there are two issues when using baskets. First, though I have experience in riding with light to heavy loads, steering with a basket can sometimes get twitchy. And second, basket commuting can pose issues in tight spaces during heavy traffic. So far,I don’t find these bothersome in the overall quality of the ride.

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Cover Image Courtesy of Sagada Loopers

Review of the Marin Pine Mountain

I got the Marin Pine Mountain mid 2017 (got it from Ross Cycles in Cartimar, Pasay) and this is my first plus bike…So far after clocking in 850km, mostly used in bike to work trips/urban rides, a two day bike tour and trails hits, I’d have to say the bike is a nice piece of kit.

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Among the available 650b plus bikes in the market, the pine mountain is a solid bang for your buck ride. What I like about the bike is its comfortable geometry fit for touring and xc riding-the Columbus steel frameset is a big plus for its flex and toughness. The SRAM 1×10 speed drivetrain is quite capable in handling different types of terrain with possibilities of upgrading to a fun monstercross. Though the bike is equipped with non series shimano hydraulic brakes, the stopping power is quite adequate given the wide wheels. It’s sure footed on the ground with the nobby nic 27.5×3 tires set on tubeless 35mm rims on asphalt and trails (ive set them up tubeless using the Orange sealant and so far it’s been great). What’s good is that there’s no toe overlap which is a hassle when climbing

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I have done minimal upgrades on this bike-I changed into a Surly moloko bar and brooks C17 which are both fit for touring even on off road trips. Moreover, the rack mounts extend the potentials for the bike for extended trips and cargo hauling.

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at the Filinvest Trails (Photo Courtesy of Arnold Herrera)

 

My only gripe with the Marin Pine mountain is the new rear hub  spacing (Boost QR, 141×9) which may limit the options for rear hubs in the market.

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Overall, the bike will appeal to bikepackers and trail riders seeking a decent built 650b plus bike  that wont break the bank (you can refer to the specs of the 2018 model here https://www.marinbikes.com/bikes/pine-mountain)

 

Surly Troll Single Speed Trail Build

After touring the Philippines by bike (which you can read stuff about the tour here by the way https://pedalpowerphilippines.com/2017/04/05/biketouring-the-philippines-preliminaries-and-leg-1-manila-to-matnog-sorsogon/), i decided to take a rest from long distance cycling and for three months, I’ve taken shorts trips around the metro.

Since 2012, i’ve ridden exclusively in paved roads (well, except for occasional unpaved ones in routes we’ve done) and curiosity of doing trails bit me. Since my Surly Troll was an off road touring bike by design, I had the bike reconfigured into a single speed off road rig.

 

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setup courtesy of Ross Cycles
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Grimace the Troll with his pet Fleegle the Beagle!

Specs:

Frame: Surly Troll 2013 model

Fork: Epicon 2011 model, 100mm travel

Wheelset:

Araya TF840 rims, 32 holes, Surly Ultra New Hubs (Front), Hope Pro 2 Trails Single Speed Specific Hub (Rear), Origin 8 Spokes, WTB Race Nano Tires (26×2.1)

Drivetrain:

Truvativ Firex 1.1 with Hope 36 chainring, surly cog 18t

Brakes:

Avid BB7

Cockpit:

Stem: Ritchey 90mm, Handlebar: On One Fleegle, 25.4 clamping

So far, ive tried this rig at the Filinvest and Malipay Trails down south and handles quite well in the xc portions and the bike is stable with climbs and some jumps (not to high though!). In the future, i look forward to doing tours on the off road path and for now, this build is helping me develop a new skill set for exciting new routes in the future

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Got Goat?
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At the Filinvest Trails
lovin mud
loving all that mud!

A visit to Decathlon Philippines

I first visited Decathlon earlier this year when i was in Singapore. A friend told me that this superstore had a range of sports gear for different activities at friendly prices. Since ive been on the look out for small parts for touring, i wasnt disappointed with Decathlon’s inventory (got my bikestand and cage mounts here!). This month, Decathlon opened its first branch in the Philippines and didnt disappoint. Occupying a large area on the second floor of Festival Mall, Alabang, a couple of friends and i visited the branch.

True enough much like their Singapore counterparts, Decathlon Philippines had a wide variety of sports items (even horseback riding!) at friendly prices.

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They carry the Quechua brand for camping and outdoor gear

For the bike tourer/cycling enthusiast, the house brand called BTWIN has decently priced bikes with satisfactory specs (i predict these can even rival the budget friendly Trinx brand that’s popular in the Philippines). What appealed to me is the large inventory of small items for the bike tourer-bags, accessories such as bike stands, pump, and even cages as well as racks. In addition, the camping gear section also has budget friendly items -sleeping bags, tents and hammocks which may be expensive in some stores.

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What i found also appealing is that the staff were really courteous and spent time talking to us about our gear and cycling trips. hopefully, in the years to come, the staff will maintain this to attract more customers.

While i cant say that the cycling/touring gear will be topnotch as opposed to established brands (dont look for ortliebs, revelate designs or a Surly here), Decathlon addresses the needs of those wanting to try bike touring or even bike to work at very minimal cost…so go check it out!

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the hundred peso bike pump!

 

 

A long term review of the Surly Troll

After 15 months and close to 6,000km of bike touring and commuting using this rig, I offer my long term review of the Surly Troll. While other riders have written similar reviews with more distance covered in varying terrain, I focus my review on the observed strengths and shortcomings in a range of purposes.

The Troll shines in three areas: versatility, comfort and cargo hauling

Dubbed as an apocalypse bike, the Surly Troll is a 26er touring bike made of Chromoly steel. The beefy build is complemented with a versatile set of dropouts that can accommodate a variety of drivetrain builds (Single Speed, Geared, Rohloff/IGH) as well as ample clearance for wide tires (as wide as 2.75). Some have even used 27.5/29 wheels for this build.

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Using for touring and commuting, ive setup the troll as geared and single speed. With the capacity to accept different parts, I didn’t experience problems with using existing parts from previous bikes (when I got the frame early 2016, I simply had the parts transferred from my old Cannondale badboy-which makes this model an economically sensible purchase).

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As regards comfort, the Troll allows you to ride in a relaxed position. Whether you’re cruising or tackling steep climbs, the frame geometry allows you to securely position yourself for a much more enjoyable ride. Moreover, the solid construction of the frame assures you that you’re ready to deal with a variety of terrain as the chromoly steel material can take a lot of punishment and satisfactorily flexes for more comfort. Personally, with the 26/27.5 and 29 configurations, I felt that the Troll was perfect for me as I didn’t experience toe overlap and  climbs have been more manageable as opposed to using a 700c/29er bike.

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Finally for cargo hauling, I believe the troll is perfect for those doing lengthy tours, bike commuting and carrying light/heavy stuff using your bike. With a lot of bottlecage, rack and fender mounts, you’re sure not run out of attachment points for your racks and others.

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Overall, though I believe that any bike can be made into something to fit your purposes, the Surly Troll’s features obviously makes conversions easier to meet your expectations.

you can check out one of builds i used in a tour here

https://pedalpowerphilippines.com/2016/12/10/the-gear-the-goods-and-the-bulky-review-of-gear-for-sagada-loop-45/