Thursday, August 30, 2012

usbackroads product-Yakima HoldUp Bike Rack

 usbackroads product--Yakima HoldUp Bike Rack

If your into the outdoors you will own a Rack system sooner or later.   The two big dogs in rack systems are Yakima and Thule.  We have owned both their products and they are solid and well made.  Yakima was the favorite since it was founded just a hundred miles south of Wenatchee.  However, chose carefully a rack system since you will live with it for a long time and spend lots of money.  Yakima has round bars.  Thule has square bars.  I will review their product lines later, today we will just focus on Yakima HoldUp bike rack.

The picture above shows the rack in the upright position.  You pull on the little red knob and the 60 lb rack drops into position to carry bicycles.  The rack is about sixteen inches from the front of the Ram in the upright position.  Two feet or more down.   So instead of 21 feet we are now almost 23 feet in length.  Good thing I bought the mid-sized Ram instead of the largest model.

Here is the side view of the rack in the folded up position.  Not too bad.  Notice that we chose to put the rack up front, rather than the back due to the 5th wheel.   Don't let the picture fool you.  That is sixteen inches!  Measure it on your vehicle.

Here is what the rack looks like in the down position with the bike mounted.  Notice the little red knob. That is the pivot point.  Notice that the receiver point is BELOW the pivot point.  The good news is this make the front of the bike rack higher in the hauling position.  This is good from avoiding slopes and small shrubs in front of your vehicle.  It does mean you have to lift the bikes that much higher to put them on the rack.

How much higher??   This is a picture from the other side with a gallon water bottle for scale.  They are about 10 inches high.

It looks like you have to life the bikes two feet to place them on the bike rack.  Your decision if that is too high or short.  Since the rear receiver is higher on the back you have to life the bike a couple more inches.

Here is the photo of the previous Thule rack that we sold.  As you can see it sits much higher due to placement on the rear rather than the front of the truck.  On this Thule rack the bikes are held by the center tube.  Not as good a system as the HoldUp.

Compare to the HoldUp system.  Go back to the water jug picture.  Notice the funny stick with the hook directly above the crack in the sidewalk.  That arm pushes down on the front wheel which is held in a channel.  The rear wheel is also held in a channel and is held in place with a strap.  So it is quick and easy to lift the bike onto the rack, secure the front wheel with the "hook" and then strap the rear wheel.  That's it.  Quick and simple.  The best feature of the HoldUp rack.

To be fair to Thule they also make a bike rack similar to the HoldUp.  We bought the Yakima because all our other stuff is Yakima.

But shop carefully if your just starting to buy a complete system.  We can get towers for our Dodge Ram truck from Thule, but not Yakima!!  So look down the road for all your outdoor rack needs not just this purchase.

Here is the view from the drivers seat.  If your taller you will probably see less of the bike.

Here is what the front of the truck looks like.  Notice the placement of the bikes around the headlights. The Ram does come with fog lights.  A feature that it appears I will appreciate more in the fuure.

So what don't I like about the Yakima HoldUp?  That pivot point.  It could be lower.  Not sure how it would work out on dirt roads and not sure how many bumper stops I would have hit with the truck.  That's the trade-off for a lower rack  is maybe a new bike when you destroy the old bike by hitting low stuff.  So maybe that is ok.

You will not want to cover the bikes if they are up front.  Your view will be blocked and the wind will probably shred everything in short order.  Likewise, remove all batteries and packs before transporting.

The rack comes with a cable bicycle lock.  I tossed mine and just use the regular cable bicycle lock that I already owned.   I have never used the rack on the rear.  But we have driven it on dirt and high speed and so far everything has held together.  BUT check everytime you stop to make sure everything is still secure.  Lots of stuff moves more than you think at 70 MPH!.

You don't want to know how much we have spent on racks to carry our outdoor gear over the years.  Soon I will review more outdoor rack gears and offer my thoughts on why spending thousands of dollars on stuff to carry stuff is worthwhile.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Olympic National Park--Hurricane Hill Trail

usbackroads destination--Hurricane Hill Trail, Olympic National Park

We looked at the weather forecast and the National Weather Service announced that summer would show up for a week or so in western Washington.  We quickly drove over to the Olympic Pennisula to catch some views.  And the place to catch those views is Hurricane Ridge inside of Olympic National Park.

For those of you more interested in a usbackroads destination we recommend the Deer Park Road leading to the Deer Park Overlook.  It was a good gravel road twenty-five years ago so we suspect it probably is in better shape now.  However, we had never been to Hurricane Ridge so decided to head in that direction this year.  Scenery is almost identical at both sites.

The road to Hurricane Ridge is double lane and easily driven up to the visitor center.  The visitor center is no great shakes AND the cafeteria there does NOT have ice cream!!

So we quickly took the 1.5 mile road to Hurricane Hill trailhead.  From there the trail goes 1.6 miles to the top of Hurricane Hill for a spectacular view of the Strait of  Juan De Fuca.

As we left the visitor center the skies were sunny and blue with just the right amount of cumulus to add a bit of white to the sky.

The trail was rather scenic passing through open parklands and stands of timber.  The trail is mostly up, but there are long flat stretches where you can catch your breath.

After this point in the trail the view to the south was blue the view to the north was gray.

As we approached the top of the hill we could tell that the gray was slowly moving in on the blue.

The photo above shows the exact transition point.  Yes, you can see the fog moving across the landscape from right to left.  As always you can click on photo to enlarge and show full size on the screen.

Now views in western Washington tend towards gray in many cases.  I believe I visited Mt. Rainier National Park five times before I saw the mountain.  In those cases, I got to read and see a black and white sketch of the mountain  while viewing a wall of gray.  I am pleased to report in the past twenty-five years the National Park Service interpretive program has made significant strides in enhancing the visitor experience.

Yes, now when you visit a western Washington National Park with a scenic vista there is a COLOR photograph showing what you are missing when viewing the wall of GRAY.  Much better than those old drab interpretive signs.

Scenic overviews in western Washington are a ZEN experience.  So much so that even when you pick the TWO days of summer in western Washington you can still get the WALL OF GRAY.  Normally, the WALL of GRAY is the boundary between eastern and western Washington and resides on the Cascade Crest.  But for this visit, we were lucky and found it on the first ridge in from the Straits.

Such stunning scenery calls for a stunning lunch and we headed over to Lake Crescent Lodge for lunch overlooking the lake.  Just past the park entrance you can take the Little River Road and have a usbackroads experience back to Highway 101.  Good gravel and and single lane paved road that connects with 101 and then Lake Crescent.

The good news is that they know how to cook seafood at the Lake Crescent Lodge.  We had mussels and Dungeness Crabcakes.  The crabcakes were much better than the east coast crab, but the mussels were the highlight.  Oh, the house wine is Maryhill Winery from just outside Goldendale.  Here is more information on Maryhill Winery and Goldendale.  We were impressed that they picked Maryhill as their house wine.

The views from Lodge are typical of the Olympics and it is worth the short walk to the lake to view its crystal clear waters.

We did see some blue sky on our visit to Olympic National Park.  A most unusual event.  Check with the weather service and pick the two days of summer for your visit.  It is worth it just for the sunset views.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Trek Electric Bicycles--Warranty Service

usbackroads product--Trek Electric Bicycles Warranty

One of the primary reasons we ended up buying Trek Electric Bicycles was the ability to get warranty service throughout the world.

There are plenty of good, small electric bicycle companies.  Unfortunately, we would have to returned to Santa Cruz, San Diego, or Vancouver, Canada depending on the company.   The thought of returning thousands of miles for warranty service made us look at a national company.

Electric bicycles are fairly sophisticated electronically and repairs involve computer software as well as mechanical parts.

Well, Susie's bicycle battery decided to quit charging.  My bicycle continues to function just fine.  At first I thought it might be the charger, but swapping my charger produced the same effect.   So I took the battery to the local Trek dealer on July 28th.  Now the Trek dealer does not sell electric bicycles, but you have to go through them for warranty service.

Well, this has good points and bad.  The dealer is trapped between you and the company.  Also Trek's warranty service seems to be geared towards fixing YOUR battery.  Most companies  handle battery failure by shipping the dealer a new or refurbished battery for replacement.  They then repair the batteries on their time rather than yours.

Not Trek.  So here we sit as they try to fix the battery remotely!!  We are headed into week three with no repair!!  The bike has been at the dealer for three weeks and it looks like Trek Customer Service does NOT read the e-mails you send them.

Here is the e-mail from Trek Customer Service:

> Hello Susan, 
I'm sorry, but we do not have the ability to send you a battery, or any
replacement part for that matter, directly to you. Any and all warranty claims
must be processed through a local Trek dealer. Furthermore this is likely not a
warranty situation. This is likely a case of a battery in a state of deep
discharge, and we have the ability to troubleshoot this issue with a local Trek
dealer. If you take it to them, they will be able to troubleshoot this issue,
allowing the battery you have to take a charge. If this is the case you may yet be
able to take the bike with you on your vacation. Please use the dealer locator to
find the nearest dealer to you, and set up a time to take your bike in along with
the battery and charger. Please have them contact us with any questions as to the
procedure if they have done it before. 
> Enjoy your vacation, 
> Sincerely, 
> William Rand | Trek Bicycle Corporation |Technical & Customer Services
Representative | 801 W. Madison St, Waterloo, WI 53594 | 920.478.4678

I am not sure what Trek means by........

"Furthermore this is likely not a warranty situation".

The battery on an electric bicycle is NOT covered by warranty??  Is that like buying a car where the warranty excludes the engine???

I really like the closing line of "Enjoy your vacation".  The point of the vacation was to take the electric bicycles on a tour.   Well, maybe I can go bike touring with my bicycle and Susie can hike!!

There are great companies out there and I have featured quite a few on this blog.  However, when companies fall short on customer service, I feel obligated to warn readers.  Trek Electric Bicycles are great when they work, but customer service is important for us to recommend a product.

Stayed tuned as we figure out what if anything to do with our $700 paperweight.

UPDATE:  October, 2012.  It was soon after posting this article that Trek threw in the towel at fixing the bike.  Trek did get the battery charged and working, but the bicycle at that point decided that it had free will and would accelerate on IT'S own.  

At this point Trek decided that we had been patient enough and shipped Susie a brand new bicycle.  We picked it up in Eugene and  where we were storing the 5th wheel  in preparation for our trips south this winter.  

A very generous offer from Trek.  Susie was concerned that her silver bicycle would now have the same blue color as mine and she was not quite ready for matching bikes!  However, the bike came in gun metal gray.  It is this years model, with some significant improvements and upgrades.  

We took it for a ride in Eugene and we impressed once again with the ease of riding electric bikes.  With the perfect fall weather it was a very pleasant ride up the McKenzie River and back to our campsite.

So this winter we will be looking for some bike trails in Arizona and New Mexico.  

Looks like that paperweight is back on the bicycle where it belongs!!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Dog Days of Summer

usbackroads--Dog Days of Summer

For some reason the Dog Days of Summer in my mind have always been associated with the rising of the full moon in the east at sunset.   The expression, however, comes from another astronomical event that is the rising of Sirius the dog star in the mornings of late August.   The very low humidity, warm temperatures and longer nights of August is really the start of astronomy season in eastern Washington.  The Persid meteor shower of August starts the season with a bang.

But for us the dog days of summer are really the dog days of summer.  For Bugaboo, the upland bird dog training season officially starts on August 1st and there is only 30 days until grouse open in September.  So for Bugaboo this is part of his pre-training for fall.

Now for Snowpatch there is a LOT of confusion.  Wait, what's Bugaboo doing?  Am I suppose to hold up the right paw or the left??  Hey, I need some help here.  Am I doing this right??  Seems the little white dog has more questions than answers at this point.  He does notice the quail, but also seems to have learned the cheat-grass and Bichon's do not mix well.

He might be a little white dog, but he is not stupid.  I am not sure how he managed to engineer this trade of pillows.  They both seem happy, but Snowpatch does look a lot more comfortable.

Soon Fall with its fishing, bird hunting, and clear skies for astronomy.  Must save my energy through these dog days of summer for fall!