My beginner bikepacking setup

I’ve been hiking for years, more than a decade, two if you count from when I was in the scouts. But in all fairness there was a big gap in there where there closest thing I got to hiking was the odd spot of camping here and there. But I’ve never tried any kind of cycletouring or bikepacking before. I know my dad used to go cycletouring when he was younger. More than once he’s told the story of that one time he was cycling around Scotland or Ireland.. Or maybe both, broke his leg in an accident, didn’t tell his parents about it and just came home with one leg half the size of the other. Now, I do like that story but I did wonder what the take away was supposed to be. I would certainly be in for a stern look from my mother if she found out I’d broken my leg in some foreign country and hadn’t told them about it.

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I cycle every day, have done for all my life, here they put you on a bike the moment you can walk… Actually they put you on a bike as soon as you can hold your own head. My mom had a child seat mounted on the back of her bike, and my dad had one on the front – the front one was more fun, you hold on to the handlebars and it feels like you’re the one steering the bike.

Until a couple of years ago though, cycling was just a means of transport, something you do because you have to get to work or to school or you’re going out. In all honesty mounting heavy panniers to my city bike and trundling along at slow speeds never really appealed to me.

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Then a couple of years ago I got a racing bike and I cycled out to my parents place from the city quite often and wanted to bring a set of fresh clothes that I could wear for dinner, but didn’t want to carry a backpack, so I made the frame pack. Later I started doing some even longer rides, once with a friend to a beach house we were going to for the weekend and later to my parents summer house. That’s when I really started looking into bikepacking bags and bikepacking in general. Because clearly the frame bag alone was nowhere near big enough to carry all of the stuff I need for a weekend trip. But after a bit of googling I rather thought it might be entirely possible to fit it all onto my bike, and I admit I was beginning to like the idea.

It’s taken a little time but I think I’ve got a working setup going. I’ve now got a frame bag – actually I’ve got two, a handlebar roll with a detachable pouch, a seat post bag and a top tube bag.


With this setup I can squeeze all my gear and a little food on to my bike.
I’ve got a few ideas of how to extend the setup a little. I’ve made one little stem bag that fits a bottle, a can or some snacks, but really isn’t very accessible when I’ve got my phone attached to the stem and using my map app. Another little stem bag on the other side will fit more snacks leaving room in the handlebar roll pouch for more dinners.
Also I’ve got an idea for a small bag that sits below my bottle cages. I’m thinking I’ll put my tools and spare tubes in that since it really doesn’t need to be accessible on the go. And it’ll free up some room in my frame bag for.. yup you guessed it – more food.

Right now I’m carrying warm clothes, cook kit and bike lock in the seat post bag. Tent and tent pole, tools, spare tubes and lights in the frame bag. Power bank, cables, ipod, knife and wallet in the top tube bag. Sleeping bag, inflatable mat and ground cloth in the handlebar roll. Food and snacks in the front pouch.
And of course a smattering of bits and bobs all over the place how else would I raise my base weight just over the limit I’ve set for myself.

As I said it’s a working setup, but of course it’s a beginner setup, it can and will be improved. I’ve already got a few ideas for the next generation of some of the bags. Feel free to comment with tips and ideas… or questions. Next year I want to take a longer bikepacking trip, either down in the alps or up into northern sweden or possibly norway, I guess we’ll see what time and money will permit.

 

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MYOG Solo tarp tent

My one stop solution(actually there may be two stops, but more about that later, look out for something like “turning your sleeping bag into a quilt”) to not pissing my pants whilst trying to wriggle out from under my not so sufficient, made in a hurry a-frame tarp.

As you may be able to see from the somewhat blurred picture below, it’s not a bad rush job at that but it has a number of limitations. At the time I was trying to see just how minimal I could go – notice how I’m using my rain jacket as a groundcloth –  the answer: not that minimal. For one this tarp was not nearly wide enough to give adequate coverage in a Scandinavian environment(read rainy as f..k). Secondly, to form a ridgeline, I just folded over the fabric, this was mainly because I couldn’t afford the loss of width a catenary cut would’ve meant. It really could’ve done with one though.

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So what do I want from my new tarp? Well… first and foremost I want more coverage. Secondly I want a side entrance. I want to be able to sit up, swing my legs out into the vestibule, put on my shoes and get out of the tarp feet first. What I don’t want, is to crawl out of the tarp on my hands and knees, fighting to get my shoes on, getting muddy in the process and possibly soaking my back in condensation as it scrapes against the inside of the tarp. What I do want is to be able to get out of my tent in time to not pee my pants – even if it was just a little bit of pee. Because frankly I get disgusting enough when I’m hiking, there’s really no reason to add pee to that fragrant mix of sweat and grime. Also I’m a grown up and grown ups are not supposed to pee their pants.

What’s my way of achieving these goals you may ask – enter the new and improved tarp 2.0

It’s 2,5m(8.2feet) long which should be long enough to cover my height of 1,74m(5.7feet). It’s 1,2m(3,93feet) wide not including the vestibule, which adds another 0,5m(1,64feet) of cover. The height is 1,2m(3,93feet) which is enough that I can sit up comfortably.

Step 1 – Design and sizing

One of the strong points of making your own gear is that you can choose exactly the size and the design features that you want. For me that means I can save a bit of weight by going for quite a minimal design and by tailoring the width, length and height to my needs. For a taller person it might mean not having to always make themselves smaller in order to fit in a standard tent. My point is that your tent need not be one size fits all and mine certainly isn’t so keep that in mind. If you’re taller than 1,74m(5.7feet) or you want more coverage, I can do with less than most I think, you might want to size up.

Step 2 – Fitting your design onto your fabric

The most important thing is of course that you get enough fabric. I cannot stress this enough, you wan’t to make sure you’ve got enough. Coming up ten centimeters short is not worth saving a penny or two. That being said there’s no need to buy more than you need. What I like to do is lay out my tent design flat, factor in seam allowances and fit it onto the fabric that I want to use. Usually the fabric that you buy comes off a roll so you’ll have a set width and “endless” length to play with.

For the design above there are only three different sides or panels but you need two of each. If the fabric that you buy has a very pronounced right and a wrong side, meaning it has the coating on one side and not the other. You’ll want to think about laying out the panels so that the right side is alway facing out. For some fabrics this is important for others it’s more of a cosmetic concern.

Step 3 – Marking and cutting out your pieces

I used a protractor for the angels and measured out the lengths in between the corners with a ruler. Then I cut out the pieces and marked out the cat cuts using a template made out of cardboard I found in my buildings recycling bin.

(Fixes for the 2.1 shallower cat cuts it’s beautiful when I pitch it really tight and wonderful, but it does take away a bit too much height at the foot and head end of the tent.)

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Step 4 – Seams

ffseam2I recently bought a new special foot for my sewing machine that makes this step a lot easier. But it’s still just a flat felled seam, you sew once where you’ve marked the seam, cut down the inside flap, fold the other side over, lay the the fold down and stitch through again.

Step 5 – Working yourself into a tight spot and wishing you’d thought things through a bit more… or as I like to call it “ideas for future design improvements”

Next time instead of all of the panels joining in one very tight fitting spot I would fashion the peak out of one piece of fabric and sow the panels onto that piece. That way I’ll feel less like killing myself.

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Step 6 – Reinforcing corners

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Step 7 – Seam sealing your tarp/tent

Pitch your tent inside out and seal the seams with seam sealer. Leave it to dry, preferably in a dry place. If for a example it starts to rain shortly after you’ve sealed the seams, move it into your parents green house instead.

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Step 8 – Use your tent in the wild

More on that later… 🙂

Finished weight ended up at 244g(8.6oz) for the tent alone. 287g(10.12oz) for the tent with pegs. 335g(11.81oz) for the tent with pegs and ground cloth. 390g(13.75oz) for the tent with pegs, ground cloth and tent pole. The configuration that I will likely use the most for hiking is the tent with pegs and ground cloth, but without the pole because I’ll use one of my hiking poles instead. For bikepacking I’ll bring the pole as well. If I get around to trying my hand at fastpacking I might leave the pegs at home and use sharpened sticks for pegs. Also I will quite likely trim down my ground cloth to fit the tent, it’s a bit big right now. Incidentally if anyone is looking for a light weight ground cloth, I can recommend using a survival blanket. It’s light, it’s surprisingly sturdy I’ve had mine for years and if you get chilled during the night you can use it as it was originally intended.

 

Handlebar bag 2.0 – now with added snack pack

I really like the handlebar roll, it just works. It could only really be improved by one thing – a detachable snack pack.

What I needed was a place to store food where it was easy to get at during a ride. I basically want to be able to graze continuously without getting off my bike any more than I have to. I need all the help I can get making up the miles.

I also wanted the handlebar roll to work independently of the snack pack. So that I didn’t necessarily need to take the snack pack on every ride where I used the handlebar roll. As it turned out I had buckles lying around that where the same size as the ones I had originally used on the handlebar roll. So I quickly worked out that I could just add the pack in line with the two webbing straps furthest from the center of the harness. In order for this to work I had to move the webbing straps and buckles back from the front edge of the harness. Otherwise the pack would end up sitting too far away from the handlebar, hindering easy access and possibly hitting the front wheel.

As you can see from the pictures below, the outer straps now sit considerably further back on the harness.

 

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Since the snack pack was already easily detachable I thought why not use that. So I added a shoulder strap, that way I can remove the pack, snap on the shoulder strap and take the pack with me into a shop if I want to. Might come in handy for keeping any valuables with me while I’ve left the bike. And you know for keeping my shopping in.

The snack pack is basically a box shape with curved sides so that it fits the handlebar roll better. It’s not too hard achieving this curved shape but if you think it will be easier to just do a straight box shape then by all means do that, I’m sure it’ll still work.

When considering size the pack can be just as wide as your handlebar roll. And at least as long as the handlebar rolls diameter. Meaning that depending on the clearance you’ve got below your handlebar roll you can maybe stretch you luck a bit and let the snack pack hang a bit lower than your roll does.

And that’s pretty much it – the handlebar roll with detachable snack pack. Take a look at the post Myog handlebar roll/bag if you want a look at how to make a handlebar bag.

Myog handlebar roll/bag

So… Eh it’s been a while and I’m sorry for that. I certainly didn’t think that it would be this long, events conspired, as they say.. But I’m here and it’s time to write up some MYOG projects for all you lovely people out there. First up is my take on a handlebar bag.

Quickly after getting my racing bike I realised I’m very much the kinda person that likes to use my bike as an alternative form of transport, after all I am a dane and cycling as a means of transport in daily life is very much a thing here. And so while a ride across town, to or from work, or down to the grocery shop won’t necessarily leave you sweating profusely. A ride from the city and out to my parents in the suburbs certainly will. Also and don’t get me wrong I love me some lycra when I’m riding, it’s just that sitting down to dinner in sweaty and rapidly cooling bib shorts is much much less lovely. So not long after I got my bike I made a simple frame bag for it, so that I could bring a change of clothes for those occasions when wearing lycra is either not practical… or indeed socially acceptable.

Of course once I’d made that first bag… I soon started to think about how it would be nice if I could maybe bring a pair of shoes. And maybe a bit of other stuff… Well to be honest a lot of other stuff. Which brings us to the here and now and the handlebar bag or roll. Which I judged to be the easiest bike bag project right after the frame bag, which is both easier to make and impacts the handling of your bike less than the handlebar bag. And yes I do realise that with that in mind the logical thing to do would be to post about making a frame bag first. Unfortunately either I didn’t think to take any pictures or they might’ve perished along with my old phone.

Step 1 – Size does matter

And more so if you have the classic road bike drop bars because the bag sits in the space between your drops. On a mountain bike or any bike with straight bars you’ll have more freedom to choose a length. But if you want to keep using those drops without the bag getting in the way you will need to measure the space between your drops and factor in a bit of space for your hands to grip the drops.

Aside from length there’s also a question of girth or diameter. This too will depend on the geometry of your particular bike. Here you are limited by the distance from the top of your bars to the top of your wheel. You won’t get anywhere fast with your handlebar bag resting on your front wheel. Although it will of course add extra breaking power on long descents… But I wouldn’t recommend it.

So first up measure the space between your drops and the distance from the top of your front wheel to your handlebar. Or alternatively you can fill one or more dry bags of different sizes(volume) with clothes and experiment with what size will fit best and base your harness on that dry bag. Given that this style of handlebar bag is based on creating a harness for a dry bag it’s an easy option if you already have one or more dry bags lying around. If you have a long head tube and/or haven’t slammed your stem you might have more room in that case you can experiment with using a bigger size dry bag but only filling it half way to make a short fat handlebar bag.

Step 2 – Measure and cut your fabric

Remember to factor in a bit of seam allowance. I went for quite a wide one in order to stiffen up the edges a bit. No need to think too much about right and wrong sides of the fabric since the design is completely symmetrical.

I chose to round the corners because I like the look of it. But I don’t think that it affects the function of the harness in any way. So you can leave out this step in the process it’s entirely up to you.

Step 3 – Get out your sewing machine

Place the fabric right sides together, pin it and sew the pieces together along the marked line. Remember to leave an opening for later when you have to turn the fabric inside out. If you cut slits along the corners the rounded edge will come out looking better with no bunching or overlapping of the fabric. Turn the fabric inside out, pin it along the edges and sew along the edge taking a bit more care to make the seam straight and even since this is the seam that will show. I did two seams about a centimeter apart, again trying to stiffen up the edges a bit.

Step 4 – Webbing, buckles and spacers

I chose to have three straps but you could probably get away with having only two. If so I would however choose to place the two straps closer to the center of the “roll” so that there’s less risk of the straps sliding of the ends of the slippery silnylon dry bag. For me with where I wanted to attach the roll to my handlebars, it made more sense to add an extra strap in the center of the roll instead. If you have a dry bag made of a less slippery fabric there might be no need to worry about this. I know that they come in a more sturdy version made from what I would describe as a rubber coated fabric and these are much less slippery.

To make room for your fingers to grip the tops on your handlebar you will need some form of spacer between the handlebars and the bag. Here I’ve used some pieces of an old foam sleeping pad. It works fine but i don’t doubt that something less easily compressed would work even better. It’s actually something that I’m looking into for my own bag. Finally it’s worth thinking about the kind of webbing that you choose to use for attaching the harness to your bars. You want to be able to cinch it down tight and for it not to slip over time with the movement and bouncing of the bag. And that’s about it. Although I do have an update coming for this bag sometime soon.

Myog projects coming this year

I’ve worked up quite a backlog of myog projects, which I’m going to try and get done this year. I’ll probably do a write up on most of them with sketches, measurements and costs, but for now a quick presentation of the different projects.

You don’t know this about me, but I love projects. As in I really really like having a project. I like researching the project, I like planning out the project and I like the execution. I think I’ve always loved working out how to do things. This may all stem from some kind of early childhood conditioning. I mean we all know that primary socialization plays a crucial role in shaping ones personality. And so I suspect it may be a result of all of my fathers do-it-yourself home improvement projects. Oh the dangers of being born to parents who thought it would be a good idea to buy a house that hadn’t been renovated since its construction sometime in 1944-45. You really haven’t lived until you’ve scraped 50 years worth of old wallpaper off your stairwell walls using only an atomizer(waterspray thingy?) and a putty knife. Child labour was always very popular at my house. I swear that house was renovated mainly with the help of my siblings, my 80-something year old grandfather and me.

Sure all of these MYOG projects started out as a way of lightening my load and getting exactly the gear that I wanted for not much money. But oh my are they fun to plan out and make. To date I’ve made two tarps, one tent, one double-quilt, a hammock and whoopie slings, two backpacks, a frame bag for my road bike, a stove, a shit load of windscreens and a pot cozy or two… Tarps are cheap, light and so easy to make. The tent was a bit more of a challenge. The quilt was a hassle, not difficult to make as such, it’s just that dealing with down is a bit trying. But oh my are backpacks a shit storm, so many overlays, so many details, undoing stitching, redoing stitching, reinforcing stitching… Backpack no. 1 was no good at all. Backpack no. 2 was better, much better, we took that one up the alps and all around Europe the summer before last. But still it lacked stability and it didn’t carry as well as I would’ve liked.

So naturally I have to give it another go. This time I’ve been a bit more thorough in sketching out the pack before hand. I’ve done more reinforcements and I’ve gone for a more stiff and heavy fabric. This will of course add weight, which bothers me, but so be it.
Further more I’m going to add extra padding to the hip belt and shoulder straps. I’ve got a foam mat lying around which will do nicely. To save weight I am however going to punch as many holes in the foam as I can possibly manage without compromising its structural integrity. The hip belt and back piece will be padded with 3D netting. But I’m not going to use this in the shoulder straps unless I can find some way of searing or laminating the edges so that it doesn’t scratch my neck and collarbone. Because that s**t is enough to drive you halfway crazy on anything more than a long walk, trust me!
As seen in the sketch-up below the backpack will have one big compartment with an internal volume of about 33L. A small front pocket, that can be removed completely if I should so wish, with a volume of about 1,8L for maps, that days food and my phone. Hip belt pockets hold my knife, extra snacks and my headlamp. On the outside of the backpack, two mesh pockets on the front will most likely hold my rain gear and tent/tarp. Large side pockets slanted for easy access will hold my water bottles and my poles when I’m not using them. A large inside pocket next to my back will hold my sleeping mat, preferably slightly inflated for extra padding.
Not shown on this sketch are details, which are too time consuming for me to want to draw in such as a sternum strap, buckles and the like. Still I’ve written in most of the buckles and straps that I’m going to need.

With 2cm seam allowance added for all pieces of fabric the backpack will fit nicely on a piece of fabric 1,55x2m. I guestimate the cost of the backpack will come to approximately 35-40€/30-35£/37-42$. But I will tally costs when the backpack is actually done.

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As if one backpack project wasn’t enough, I’ve actually got another one in progress. This one is a bit less planned out. As the sketch below shows I’ve not got as far along in the disintegration of all the layers of the backpack as I have for the one above. It’s not exactly a loosely formed idea either though I have got quite a clear image of what I want for this backpack.
What I want is a running pack that will bridge the gap between my hiking packs and my trail running pack. I recently got into trail running and signed up for a few races with a friend. Subsequently I had what I would call a slight epiphany and I now want to try my hand at fastpacking. I need it to be light, tight fitting, enough volume for a light load, yet not so much that it wont stay put when I’m running. I’m undecided as to whether I want bottles up front or just snack storage. But I’ve definitely decided on a vest-like design, it works great for the running pack I’ve got already, I swear that thing does not move an inch when you run.

I’ve also got plans and have indeed already started to make a single person side entrance tarp/tent. The design is approximately the same as the two-person tent I made the year before last for the aforementioned hike in the alps and trip across Europe. The design is sound, it’s lightweight and the side entrance will hopefully keep me from pissing myself whilst trying to worm my way out of the front of an a frame tarp in the middle of the night. No traumas about that at all… well maybe just a little.
The tarp is made of 3,5m of 36g/m2 ripstop nylon. Who among us doesn’t love ripstop nylon, it’s cheap, it’s light, it’s lovely. Cost of fabric 11,9€, total cost of tarp approximately 14€/12£/15$. I’m going to have to get back to you with the exact weight and cost, when it’s done.

Last but not least I’ve got plans to beef up my summer sleeping bag with some left over down from a double quilt project. I’d intended to use the down for a down vest or two, but even summer nights in Scandinavia are somewhat chilly and either the temp rating was a bit optimistic or maybe I was, I no longer remember. Either way I’m always too cold in that bag so I’ve decided against the down vests in favour of the sleeping bag. The plan is to turn the bag into a quilt and at the same time beef up the fill a bit.

Planning a hike instead of actually going on hike

…Or how I’m trying to stave off a spiritual death by thesis

My father will on occasion refer to a quirky aunt of his who would plan out amazing trips in great detail only never to actually go anywhere. She would allegedly research everything about her chosen destination, the history of the place, how to get there, what to see, where to stay… where and what to eat. – If he remembers my father will at some point during the retelling of this story highlight the fact that this was all done without access to the Internet. Insert wink and knowing look here. If somehow you’ve escaped experiences like this I’ll just quickly explain that this is done to let ones child know that things were more difficult when dad was young, also known as “you kids have it so easy now a days” – I guess in this context you could argue that it serves to highlight the amount of work she put into planning these trips. But really it does nothing to further the point of the story. Which is that she enjoyed planning amazing adventures, not as a means to an end, but just because she enjoyed the planning… and also that she was a little quirky.

I am not that quirky, I enjoy the adventure as much as the planning. But since I can’t have the adventure right now… I’ll settle for the planning.

Basically I wish I was here:

Instead of here:

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And so I’m using the planning as a means to an end, which is surviving the living death that is my THESIS. Incidentally I keep coming across these articles that argue that sitting down all day is literally killing us, so maybe my experience is not that far of target.

What to do and where to do it

I’ve been hiking for years, I’ve been running for years… And for years I never thought to put the two together. But apparently it’s a thing and it’s called fastpacking. Now I know I’m late to the party and this thing has been around for years and years. But I’m quite excited at the prospects. Going fast, light and far seems like just the kind of thing I’ve been trying to do for years. I guess it took me getting into trail running for it to dawn on me that there was a crossover between the two.

A couple of years ago I had this plan to thru hike two Swedish hiking trails, Bohusleden(370km/230miles) and Hallandsleden(270km/167miles). The two are connected and if you hike them in continuation of one another you can follow the west coast of Sweden from the Norwegian border and almost all the way down to the ferry crossing between Denmark and Sweden. At the time I was watching all of these youtube videos of people thru hiking the PCT and I was super keen on doing any form of long trail. Long story short it rained… a lot… so much in fact that when I eventually wanted to bail I couldn’t catch a train home because the train tracks had washed away. So naturally I want a rematch.

I’ll most likely only have a week free so I can only do one of the trails. Right now the plan is to fastpack Hallandsleden. It’s further south than Bohusleden, which means that not only is it closer to home, also the weather is going to be considerably milder. And since I’ll be doing this in late fall or winter weather is likely going to play a big part. Back in march of 2013 I hiked about 70km of the trail starting from the southern most end. There was a good 30cm of snow on the ground, the lakes and most of the rivers were frozen, even the Danish falls/Danska fall was frozen over. I nearly ended up getting hypothermia waiting for the bus at the end of my hike. I was shivering uncontrollably, I felt dizzy, confused and unnaturally tired. This lasted all the way home and most of the night. Even after a warm shower and huddled up under two down comforters I was still shivering. So even though I’m going to try and pack as light as possible gear choice is definitely going to be affected by the weather.

I can’t go as light on gear as I would be able to in summer. Luckily though the southern part of Sweden is quite closely populated and on several occasions the trail passes small towns where I can resupply my food. So even though my gear will be heavier to accommodate for the cold I will able to stock up on food every 50-60km. Most likely I wont have to carry more than a days worth of food at any one time, which is quite a weight savings. Depending on the time of day I may even have one of my meals at the grocery shop that way I wont have to carry that meal at all.

I’ve planned out my route using a site called Gpsies. It’s quite easy to use and I like that it’s easy to share tracks. The link to the trail is here: Hallandsleden trail and resupply options. From the site I download the trail to my phone and I can follow along without using any data. I use an app called maps.me but there are a ton of different apps that’ll do this.

Gear

I love excel I really do. It’ll do almost anything you want it to. And for anyone looking to lighten their pack I really recommend making a list of all your gear with weights added. It’s been said a million times but it really is a good tool when you want slim down your pack weight. And of course it’s also a good way to make sure your not leaving anything crucial behind.

My winter base weight right now is around 4kg but I am still missing the weight of some items on the list, that’s 8,8 pounds(*your base weight is the weight of your pack without food or water). On top of the base weight I’ll have to carry at least a liter of water, a days worth of food and some food items that can’t be restocked as easily. A bet would be an additional 2,5kg/5.5pounds. This lands my pack at around 6,5kg/14.3pounds, which is reasonable I think given the time of year. Whether or not running with this weight is comfortable, well I’ll have to wait and see.

Seems like maybe I’ve squeezed just about as much out of this planning session as I can possibly justify to myself.