27 September, 2013

Product Review: Yeti Tundra 45 Quart Cooler

"Dude, it's a $400 cooler - seriously?" That's most people's reaction to their first encounter with a Yeti Cooler. I know it was mine. It's especially fun to watch with non-outdoors types.

I have many friends with Yeti's, so I've had quite a bit of firsthand experience. But it really hit home when I borrowed a buddy's last year. Due to an overly large college football tailgate, out of town, I needed another cooler. We get our beef with a group of friends who goes in on a whole beast that's free-range, grain-fed, etc. And, of course, we had to pick it up on game weekend. I packed this Yeti 65 quart full of frozen beef and ice and put it in a car on an 80 degree weekend. When I returned home on Sunday everything was frozen rock f*cking solid. Wow.

So this year I decided one key item needed for the Clackacraft 16LP was a 45-quart Yeti Tundra. This size fits perfectly in the rower's pod, providing comfortable clearance for the oars.

This thing is BOMBER! It truly does hold ice incredibly well. Seals up super-tight. And will stand up to just about any abuse. Plus it's cool to tell your friends it's "Certified Bear-Proof" (seriously -- there's an o-fish-ul looking sticker inside to prove it. While the walls are definitely thicker than a standard cooler I've found the capacity to be more than adequate for pretty much every use. It's now my go-to tailgate cooler, too.

My only complain is that the interior is just a LITTLE too short to stand up a standard sized beer growler. BOO! But my Hatch Premium Beverage Containment Device fits perfectly. A minor complaint really.

Also, the non-skid bottom pads are exactly that. They don't slide. At all. You'll be surprised by how often you move coolers around by sliding them. You don't do this with a Yeti.

My advice is simple. Shut up and buy one. Yes, they are ridonkulously expensive. They are also worth every cent. You won't regret it. I don't - in fact I'm already thinking I need a Yeti Roadie....


26 September, 2013

Random Intriguing Outdoor Gear

As the Summer begins its wrap-up, and Fall steelhead and Winter skiing and fishing make there way onto the horizon, lots of assorted (and largely random) gear is on my mind.

Speyco Reels
I've developed a passion for click-pawl reels. I think it grew out of fishing a centerpin in Winter. I love that almost mythical connection from me to that surging fish. No fancy-ass sealed, carbon-ceramic-nanotube drag system. Man vs. Fish, with a little clicker help. I've already got both the Abel Spey and the Kingpin Spey. Tim Pantzlaff's beautifully machined brutish reels really have my attention. No, I don't have a stick that needs one, though maybe the Scott L2H might benefit from a smaller reel. Yeah, that's it...

Scott Radian Fly Rod
Damn you, Scott. I was done buying rods! But I have a deep lust for a super fast 7 weight for all-around streamer fishing.

Rockered Powder Skis
After only a single day on my Volkl RTM 84's, I quickly realized the impact of rocker on ski design and performance. Now my traditionally cambered Line Prophet 100's look sadly outmoded. All the great reviews of the Line Prophet 98 rockered ski are NOT helping.

Next Generation Helmet
It is quickly coming to light that current SNELL/ANSI helmet standards do little to protect your melon from much other than blunt force trauma. Reality is that concussions and rotational damage are being recognized - from the NFL to snow sports - as more serious threats to your health. I haven't done a ton of research on who has them out, etc. but look for more on this blog on the topic soon. I'm thinking it start with my ski helmet, but may later move to the cycling brain bucket.

Bozeman Reels
My name is Sean and I'm a Reel Junkie. There I said it. And as regular readers will know, I'm in love with well-made click-pawl style reels. Over the Summer I ran across this relatively new company. While all of the products look sweet (and 100% made in the U.S.A.), I'm really captivated by the SC Series. Do I need it? Nope. I may just need to admit that I collect reels and call that a hobby.


11 September, 2013

Product Review: Kool Stop Brake Pads

The real deal - Olde Schoole Kool Stops
from back in the day!
Yeah, I know what you're thinking, "Brake pads? Seriously, that's the most interesting thing you can find to blog about, dumbass?" On the surface, that does seem a logical conclusion. but I've been a big fan of aftermarket brake pads since I first ran the big Olde Schoole Kool Stop's on my BMX bikes. With a fat, tall 2.25" BMX tire, you needed some fairly long calipers to reach the rim. And what do long calipers do? Yep - they flex. And what does flex cause? Sucky braking performance. But with the addition of the Kool Stops, its definitely better. Plus, hey they looked trick...

Fast forward a couple of decades with me. It's 2005 and I purchase my 2004 Giant OCR 3. For some unknown reason Giant decides to position the brake mounts such that they require long calipers. Maybe they thought everyone would want to run 28mm tires? Or fender? Or God-knows-what? Anyway the braking suuuuuuccccckkkkksssss on this otherwise pretty good bike.

A little time with Google reveals that Kool Stop is still around, and they now make brake pads for road bikes. With a few clicks of the mouse, I have a pair of Kool Stop Dura Road Pads on their way. One great feature I notice immediately are that these are pad holders with replaceable inserts -- nice touch! And they include two sets of inserts - salmon for wet and salmon/black for wet/dry. Figuring two must be better than one, I install the salmon/black.

Kool Stop Dura Road Pads

Braking goes from fairly awful to not-so-bad. In fact, it's pretty good. Amazing how such a small thing can help so much. A bike that had been sort of scary on descents is much more confidence-inspiring.

This year, I move to the Ultegra grupo. Nice upgrade, but naturally the Ultegra brakes don't fit on the OCR. Crap in a hat. But hardly a surprise. However, when I make the move to the new Giant Defy Advanced carbon frame, I now have normal reach brake mounts - YAY! Bike shop does a quick swap and set-up and I'm on the road on the new bike.

After a couple of weeks dialing things in, I decide to try the Kool Stops to replace the factory Shimano Ultegra pads. The Ultegra's have been fine, but I figure if the Kool Stops can make bad brakes good, they'll only make good brakes great - right?

Well, not quite...

Figuring I might as well install fresh pads, I use the remaining new set of Salmon inserts. From the first ride, I'm not that happy. Grabby (makes sense -- they're for wet conditions), not that much more powerful. And just flat out weird. Now, I'm not so happy. But as a good tweaking mechanic, I remember the Salmon/Black pad inserts. Again, a few clicks of the mouse brings them to my doorstep. A quick install last night and I head out on a ride.

Yeah, baby -- that's what I remember! Braking is now smooth, progressive, and powerful. Tons better than the Salmon inserts, and a nice step forward from the factory Ultegra pads. Now I could stop a freight train. Very happy.

So, if you have a ride with questionable braking, or if you want to make a good stop better -- Kool Stop brake pads are highly recommended. But, I'd just skip the Salmon inserts and go for the Salmon/Black. A world of difference.


09 September, 2013

Planning Ahead

Summer is quickly winding down. The days are shorter. The nights chillier. Soon the woods will be ablaze with color and we'll be into the thick of college football season. Of course, in typical Michigan fashion, it will be 95 degrees here tomorrow. Seriously, you can't make this shit up.

All of this change hasn't led me to abandon warm-weather pursuits -- I'm going to try to stretch my cycling season well into October, and I figure there's at least one more smallmouth fly fishing float in my September. But my favorite cold weather activities are coming. As is my bent, this has my head spinning so I'm ready when the time comes. With that in mind, here are a few of the current projects:
  1. I've been looking to upgrade my base layer bottoms for skiing. It's time to leverage technology and get into the new millenium. So I have a pair of CW-X Stabilyx Insulator 3/4 tights on order. I'm hoping these will enable me to ski without an additional knee brace, and will provide some solid muscle support.
  2. Scored a deal (I love the off-season; $57 shipped free!) on some SWEET lime green Marmot Motion ski pants to match the new coat I picked up last year. I've been looking to get out of dullsville and step up my look a bit. Rather than shredding them with my crappy, toothy $7 clip-on hunting suspenders I'm putting in some Duluth Trading suspenders using real buttons. We're finally doing it up right.
  3. Considering a boat net for steelheading. The Fisknat Grande Ronde is the current leading candidate. I have a Fisknat trout net and it's sweet. No more beaching. It's just not nice.
  4. Looking at an oar upgrade for the Clacka. Sawyer Dynelite Square Tops are the current leading contender. Everyone I talk to says the difference from the Cataracts that came with my boat will be "life changing". I want to row the flywater of the Pere Marquette, so I think this will definitely help my manueverability and make a long day in the rower's seat shorter.
  5. The boat bag is on the workbench, ready for the Summer-Winter switchover. Goodbye smallmout and trout gear, hello STEELHEAD!!!!!
  6. I'm thinking about guns. I think this year, my Kimber 1911 is going to get a few upgrades. I've started a discussion with a gunsmith about the best bang for my buck in upgrades (bad pun intended).
Beyond this, some important issues have already been handled:
  1. After breaking the winch strap on my trailer, a new heavy-duty repacement has been installed. And at the sage advice of Jon Ray, a back-up is in my tow box.
  2. Winter boat storage has been secured. Parking in the garage is driveway is swell and all -- until you have to scrape.
  3. Cycling season has given me a solid level of both cardio fitness and leg strength. Western ski slopes, be prepared...
  4. I've started to transition from cycling to gym. Painful, but don't want to lose the fitness (and weight loss) base I've built.
  5. Starting to tie up some cool swing flies. Greg Senyo's Artificial Intelligence and Slim Shady will be key this year.
So, yeah, I'm kind of fired up for the cold. Bring it!!!!