Ed Noonan's '96 Final
From Jasper, Alberta,
I offered you my preliminary observations about the equipment
I was carrying with me. Now that I've ridden more than 6,000 miles
with the gear, I have even more to say about it. I've rated major
products and services on a 5 star scale: 1 star being poor and
5 stars being perfect. The producers of the four and five star
products ought to be real proud. These reviews
are subjective on my part, but they are not influenced
by any sponsorship relationship. The products are not in any particular
order. Links checked and updated 4/98.
© Ed Noonan 1996-2002
- Cannondale T700 bicycle
Including training miles and my DALMAC
side-trip, I rode this Cannondale T-700 about 7,000 miles in
this (its first) year. It was amazingly well-built. I experienced
NO significant mechanical problems. A few years ago, I took my
Cannondale mountain bike with me
to work, intending to ride after work, but because it was raining
in the afternoon, I decided to head straight home instead. I
forgot the bicycle was on my roof rack and drove into the garage.
My BMW sustained about $3,000 in damage (the rain gutters were
torn right off the car and the bike & rack were thrust through
the rear window) and even the house was damaged, but the aluminum
Cannondale was unscathed. They're tough bikes.
In the not-real-significant category on this trip were the following
- Front hub--after 7,000 miles--had a bad bearing.
On my return to Michigan, I took the bike to Central
Park Bicycles for an overhaul. They replaced 2 front bearing
cones and 1 rear cone, checked the bottom bracket (good), replaced
the headset, the handlebar tape and the Shimano SPD pedals
(under warranty) which failed when they tried to check them.
Central Park indicated that the hubs were of a lower quality
than advisable for my sort of use, so recommended that I get
Phil Wood hubs instead. The hubs cost the Cannondale half a star
in my rating scheme.
- Chain--I massacred my chain at Moon Lake, Alaska
when I shifted the wrong way going up a steep gravel road. That
incident occurred because this bike has bar-end shifters and
my road bike had shifters on the down tube. To help avoid a repetition
of this sort of coordination error, I changed the road bike to
bar-end shifters. The Sachs chain I purchased in Whitehorse to
replace the original is still running strong.
- Nicks & scrapes--The paint managed to hold up
quite well despite several mishaps: the bicycle crashed on the
road in Tennessee, and, fell on the ground several times; it
received the impact of numerous rocks along the Alaska Highway;
and, endured the friction of loads ranging from 40 to 90 lbs.
- North Face Tadpole tent
For a tent weighing only about 4
lbs (including the rainfly and ground cloth), this tent served
me real well from Alaska to Michigan. I didn't take it with me
from Michigan to Florida and wished I had. In the future, I'll
take it wherever I go. I love the tent. It is perfect for long
There is some evidence, however, of structural failure:
several of the aluminum tent pole sections (connected
by shock cord) have started to split for about 1/2-3/4 inch near
the ends (it is 3 years old). I've taped them up and will try
to order replacements. [After the end of
my trip, I sent the defective poles to North Face and all 3 were
replaced under warranty] This defect (and the fact that
North Face doesn't have a website) cost North Face a star. For
descriptions of North Face products see the Campmor
- Casio QV-30 digital camera
In my Jasper preliminary report,
I was not fully supportive of the Casio. Subsequently, I learned
to use the Casio more effectively by utilizing the editing capabilities
of Photoshop expertly and have received a number of positive
comments from viewers, so, I've changed my mind about the Casio
and now give it my endorsement.
The resolution of the Casio QV-30 was only half as much as the
Kodak DC-50, but the Casio is far more compact, simpler to use,
stores 95 pictures and you can view them on the built-in LCD
monitor. And the good news is that Casio has released a couple
of new models (the new QV-100 and QV-300) which have resolution
(640x480) similar to the Kodak. I've examined the new products
and feel they'll resolve most of my objections to the QV-30 (or
QV-10), but I still believe that the Kodak DC-50 is a better
camera, as is the Olympus D-300 (which I just purchased--1,024
x 768 dpi) and the new Kodak DC-120 (with even better resolution).
I recently made a "slide show" presentation to the
Tri-County Bicycle Association utilizing nothing but the Casio
QV-30, by uploading 92 images from my computer to the camera
and then connecting the camera to a classroom monitor. That is
a nice feature of the Casio (and the Olympus).
Casio's reliance exclusively on an LCD monitor and lack of an
optical viewfinder, is a serious flaw. In bright sun, it is impossible
to to see the LCD viewfinder. The better CCD's of the Kodak and
Olympus offerings cost the Casio another star.
- Cannondale panniers
I was told to buy more expensive
panniers, but decided I could only afford Cannondale panniers
and found some positive reviews from other bicyclists on the
Internet, so went with the Cannondales front and back. I was
very pleased with the results. They worked just fine.
The panniers didn't leak much even in heavy rain. I don't believe
in rain covers on panniers. Instead, I put everything inside
the panniers into OneZip bags and clear garbage bags or waterproof
OR (Outdoor Research) bags. After all day rains, some things
did manage to get wet, but I experienced no significant problem.
The computer and high tech gear all stayed absolutely dry.
Only one pannier showed any sign of wear, but that was the computer
pannier where the weight is particularly concentrated, and the
damage was confined to the failure of a few stitches in the seam.
I mended the seam in Michigan with my wife's carpet needle and
some heavy duty button thread. The repair lasted all the way
to Key West. The seam failure cost Cannondale a star.
I used Blackburn expedition weight racks front and rear.
I used "low riders" on the front and initially, I also
had a Blackburn front rack on top of the front wheel, but any
weight at all up there destroyed my steering control to the point
that I stopped loading anything there but food before I even
left Fairbanks. When I got to Michigan, I removed the upper front
- Macintosh PowerBook® 5300c
I am completely pleased with the
performance of my Apple Macintosh PowerBook computer. I firmly
believe that I couldn't have produced this website with any other
computer. No Windows machine could have done it.
I purchased this 100 mhz 5300c (active-matrix color monitor)
with 16 Mb of soldered-in RAM and a 750 Mb hard drive. When I
got back to Michigan in August, I increased the RAM to 48 Mb
(75 Mb virtual memory--using hard disk space as RAM--for Photoshop).
This is my first experience with a trackpad instead of a mouse
and I love it. In fact, I like everything about this computer.
Early on, 5300s tested out as slower than 100 mhz Intel machines,
but Apple revised the operating software and this Mac now screams
along; I believe faster than a similarly configured Intel lap-top.
I am certain in retrospect that the keyboard trouble I experienced
at Kluane Lake was due to faulty power. When the Macintosh PowerBook
receives inadequate power, the power management component of
the operating system shuts down some of the hardware. In my case,
it was the keyboard. As I understand it, when the human body
is threatened by some unfamiliar protein, such as a bee sting,
it does the same thing by going into anaphylactic shock; it shuts
down the extremities to protect the heart and brain.
The BTI power supply that I purchased to replace Apple's heavier
original seemed to suffer a bit more from bad power than the
Apple power supply. The BTI is smaller, lighter and doesn't need
a 3 prong outlet or extension cord, but it may be too light for
Somehow, the computer was a bit the worse for wear when I got
to Michigan. After riding 4,321 miles on the back of a bicycle
(385 miles on unpaved roads), I expected trouble and I got it.
The hard drive crashed. I called Apple's repair hotline (1-800-SOS-APPL)
and the computer was picked up by Airborne Express the next day
(Tuesday at Noon) and shipped at Apple expense to its Rochester,
New York PowerBook repair facility. Just 75 hours later (Friday
at 3:00), the computer was returned to me fully repaired under
warranty: new hard drive; new main logic board; new keyboard;
and a partially new case. The only major component not replaced
was the monitor. I don't blame Apple or the computer for the
- 230 Mb Magneto-Optical Drive
Just a week before departing for
Alaska, I bought a 230 Mb Magneto-Optical Drive from VST which
I installed into the disk drive slot of my PowerBook in place
of the 1.44 Mb floppy disk drive. In addition to disk space needs,
I was looking for a bullet-proof data backup system. Magneto
optical drives are slow (hence one star mark-down), but, the
big advantage to them is that, like CDs, they are impervious
to influence from magnetic fields, sunlight, water, etc. I intended
to rely on the VST drive for backups and emergency startup, but
2 of the 5 MO-230 diskettes I had with me failed, leaving me
without my primary backup system. I can't blame VST for that
though: one disk was a Fujitsu
MO-230 and the other was a Komag brand. I spent a day in Grand
Prairie, Alberta trying unsuccessfully to recover my data from
the first failed disk (some of the problem with recovery may
have been due to the fact that these are IDE, not SCSI, drives
and Norton Utilities is aimed at SCSI drives). Then, I discovered
to my dismay that I couldn't rely on another MO-230 in attempting
to recover from the effects of a PowerBook hard drive crash at
home in Michigan. The VST drive itself has always seemed to be
working just fine. After all the bumpy roads, my MO-230 disks
are now starting to show wear. There is a film of white powder
on the diskettes which appears to be caused by the disks rubbing
against their carrying cases for such a long period of time.
VST technical support has been excellent.
PC card modem
I have been real pleased with my
Global Village PowerPort Platinum pc card (formerly known as
PCMCIA cards) modem and have just upgraded to the PowerPort Platinum
Pro version so I can access my cable "modem" via an
Ethernet network at home (it works great). While some folks have
complained of software conflict problems with Global Village
PC card modems, I've not experienced any of them. A modem is
a lot like a telephone, in that the best thing you can say about
it is that it functioned invisibly. My Global Village modem has
performed flawlessly in its MOdulating
and DEModulating function, so I
am very happy with it.
Global Village's fax software is superb too; including excellent
OCR (optical character recognition) software for use with incoming
Over the years, I've owned about a dozen brands of modem. I've
found Global Village modems to be the very best. Global Village
modems (I have 3), the software that comes with them, and the
support behind the products, is all first rate.
I have had some trouble getting the Global Village PC card to
eject. I don't know whether that is the fault of the modem or
the computer, but pushing the modem into the slot causes it to
eject, so the problem is minimal. The failure of GV to produce
a "cellular connection kit" as promised and the ejection
problem cost GV a star.
I was dropped frequently (typically every 5 minutes) by my Canadian
internet service provider Web Networks (Toronto), and often couldn't
connect to their 800 number (it typically took me 4-5 tries to
get connected). I did not attribute the drops or access difficulty
to the modem or computer, because I did just fine when I got
fed up with WebNet and dialed long-distance to Voyager in Michigan
(the bad news was that one call to Voyager cost $53). I was very
dissatisfied with the services provided by Web Net and wouldn't
recommend them. It seemed as though Web Net was just too small
to handle the volume of traffic coming to it through the 800
I was always fully satisfied with
Earthlink as an internet service provider. I never even heard
a ring when dialing in to Earthlink's 800 number. It worked almost
flawlessly from Montana to Florida. When in urban areas like
Covington, KY and Atlanta, I was able to access Earthlink via
local POP's (Points of Presence) thereby avoiding the hourly
800 access charges.
I had difficulty accessing Earthlink only a few times and always
felt that the problem was "dirty" lines. Some rural
lines had obvious static. I failed, for instance, to connect
to Earthlink from Clewiston, Florida, but could hear considerable
static whenever I picked up the telephone.
I was always fully satisfied with
Voyager, my local internet service provider, but if Voyager had
offered 800# access throughout the US and Canada, I wouldn't
have needed WebNet or Earthlink, so for that I reduced Voyager's
rating by a star. From home, I have 500 kps Ethernet cable internet
access through Horizon Cablevision and Voyager.
- & YukonWeb
also always fully satisfied with my internet service providers
in Alaska and the Yukon: Polarnet and YukonWeb, but they had
very few remote POPs (Points of Presence), so I was forced to
use my 800 accounts or call them or Voyager long-distance.
- Hefty OneZip plastic bags
This is one of my favorite products. Instead of the usual
plastic bag groove closure, these bags have zippers. The zippers
simplify opening and closing and provide a very good waterproof
seal (they're so airtight that you must open the zippers a bit
to let air out before you put them in the panniers). I buy the
OneZip freezer version as opposed to their food storage bags;
they are thicker and more durable. The OneZip bags I packed everything
in when I left Alaska, made it all the way to Florida. All of
the zippers had failed by the end of the trip, but, they fared
far better than their competitors' products ever would have.
- Adobe PageMill
After riding a bicycle an average
of 67 miles a day, I can't imagine programming effectively in
straight HTML code. At the end of the day, I was too tired and
my thinking was too muddled. I needed a web "processor"
and there's really one only such product: Adobe PageMill for
the Macintosh. I started out with version 1.0, upgraded along
the way to several experimental "Beta" versions and
now use version 2.0. This product is as revolutionary to web
publishing as PageMaker was to desktop publishing. It is early
in the evolution of web publishing tools, so I realize there
are limitations, but I must say I couldn't have produced this
website without PageMill. It is a great product.
- Adobe Photoshop
This is another great product I couldn't
live without. I edit every picture with Photoshop. I made the
Tailwinds logo with Photoshop. It is powerful and thus relatively
complex, but I took a couple of short Photoshop courses at Michigan
State University and after hammering away at Photoshop for thousands
of pictures, feel I am expert now at using the program. I grade
Photoshop down one-half star because it requires huge amounts
of RAM (random access memory). I've upped my PowerBook to 48
Mb of RAM, but still manage to have insufficient memory sometimes
when using Photoshop.
- OR (Outdoor Research)
Hydroseal® Stuff Sacks
I am using 3 OR waterproof Hydroseal®
bags to protect my gear (sleeping bag, computer) from rain, dust,
dirt, etc. I am real impressed with them. After Jasper, where
the roads were a bit smoother, I sent the Clam computer case
home to save weight. I pack my PowerBook, in two OR waterproof
bags: one with the Velcro roll-top closure (advanced stuff sack--model)
and one without (standard stuff sack). Not one drop of water
ever got through to the PowerBook.
- Continental "Conti Top Touring" tires
In my mind, there is no doubt at
all that these are the best tires made. From Delta to Dawson
Creek, 7 of the 10 of us used Conti's and didn't have a single
flat with them. That's approximately 10,500 miles on one of the
worst roads imaginable--I'm impressed.
I changed my rear tire at Havre, Montana (just so I wouldn't
have to carry a spare anymore) and my front tire at Duluth, Minnesota
(because it was looking a bit ragged, but hadn't failed) and
went on all the way to Key West on those tires. More than 7,000
miles (including my training miles and DALMAC miles) on 2 sets
of tires with only 4 flats is unbelievable. I won't ever use
any other brand. I've noticed that almost all the serious bicycle
tourists I've seen on this trip use Conti's. My thanks go to
Al and Dave at Central Park Bicycles (sponsor) for suggesting
them. I even like the big 37 mm tires I used; they're great on
bad roads and railroad tracks. As I write this, I have 4,700
miles on the tire I bought in Havre, Montana and it doesn't appear
to need replacing--just amazing!
- Girvin (now K2)
I tore the rotator cuff of my left shoulder last year
when I hit a serious pothole riding at dusk. I underwent physical
therapy all winter and was afraid a normal handlebar stem would
transmit too much road shock to my sore shoulder, so I had a
Girvin Flex Stem installed
on both my Trek road bike and my Cannondale touring bike. The
road shock didn't bother my torn rotator cuff at all on this
trip, thanks I believe, to my Girvin Flex Stem. It adds a bit
of weight, but has made the washboard roads tolerable to my shoulder.
- Wigwam Ultimax socks
On those cold wet days riding (or walking with my Teva
sandals--the only street shoes I take with me) I've been wearing
Ultimax socks. They keep my feet toasty warm (but not usually
too hot) even though they're wet. I didn't bring any neoprene
booties (I recommend taking booties on a trip in cooler temperatures).
See Campmor catalog for
I love my little (1 lb) AA battery
powered wood burner blast furnace. It truly does boil water in
4 minutes without having to haul fuel. Instead of hauling flammable
liquid fuel, I've used bark, twigs, little pieces of wood left
over from wood-chopping, pine cones and charcoal--all work real
well--to power my Sierra stove. This was an excellent choice
thanks to Cartwright
& Danewell (sponsor).
- Oakley sunglasses
High quality sunglasses are essential
to bicycle touring. The cheap ones I bought at Delta wore out
by the time I reached Ft. Nelson, BC (the coating was worn through
by use). Your eyes are at risk from more than the sun on the
road. I took a blow from a serious rock (about 1.5"-2"
in diameter) in the chest one day from a semi traveling in the
opposite direction on the Alaska Highway. The bullet-proof nature
of Oakleys might have protected me if it had hit me in the eye;
others wouldn't have.
Also, the Oakleys do a better job of channeling the airflow to
keep the glasses from steaming up. My iridium Oakley M-Frame
sunglasses do quite well as the sun sets. They don't seem too
dark even though they work well in the bright sun. They're expensive
($135 each), but they're guaranteed. I broke two Oakley frames
on the trip and Oakley replaced them free of charge under warranty.
- The Clam hard carrying case
The Clam computer case performed
its job flawlessly--protecting my computer from vibrations, dust
and moisture for the month of Alaska Highway and Big Horn Highway
travel. Once I was on paved roads though, I couldn't justify
its 3 lb weight, so I sent the Clam home from Jasper (I switched
to a neoprene Wetsuit
case instead). There wasn't a millimeter to spare front to back
and just enough room for the BTI power supply on the side, but
I would have preferred a bit less depth (top to bottom) filled
with foam. I've knocked one star off for weight and another for
- Wetsuit PowerBook carrying case
After I sent my Clam hard case home from Jasper, Alberta, I switched
over to a Wetsuit PowerBook carrying case. The nearly weightless
form-fitting neoprene Wetsuit is perfect for protecting just
the PowerBook, nothing else. I've used the small pocket on top
of the Wetsuit to carry my PC card modem, but there is really
no extra room in the Wetsuit case. Where weight is my primary
concern, that's how I want it. Despite the name, the Wetsuit
does not protect the PowerBook from the wet; it is just good
padding and a means of carrying the PowerBook away from the bike.
I insert the PowerBook into the Wetsuit case and then the Wetsuit
into a waterproof OR bag
(see above). As I understand it, SILICON SPORTS, 2855 Campus
Dr., San Mateo, CA 94403 , maker of the Wetsuit, has been acquired
by Kensington, but the Wetsuit does not appear on . Most of the computer mail-order catalogs list the
Wizard sleeping bag
chose to use a synthetic sleeping bag instead of down because
traveling every day on my bicycle, I knew I would never have
an opportunity to dry out my bag. The human body produces moisture
all night long and unless the bag is dried out, it will hold
that moisture. Over time a down bag subjected to such conditions
would become saturated and unusable. Also, down tends over time
to pulverize and disintegrate, reducing its insulation value.
Synthetic sleeping bags need no longer be bulkier and heavier
than down. My
Marmot Wizard 3D (Polarguard 3D) is one of the very best of the
new synthetic bags. It has a regular stuff size of 9.5 x 15 in.
(24 x 41 cm)--a large loaf of bread. I use a Granite
Gear Tubular Rock Solid Compression Sack to compress the
Marmot bag to about 6" x 17"--a small loaf of french
bread--just a couple of inches longer than the down bag. Because
Polarguard 3D compresses less than down, I need less padding
below me, so I use a lightweight backpacker ThermaRest pad, thereby
cutting back on bulk and weight in another part of my load. With
a weight of 3 lbs. 4 oz. and a temperature rating of 15°
to 25°, the Marmot Wizard compares well with down.
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