Category Archives: comparison

Rotation, Rotation, Rotation!

Don’t the size of the tires, on some degree, define what bicycle you have and who you are? Bikes such as monstercrossers aren’t that different than a regular cyclocross bike – just with wider rubber. And what about the veritable 29er? Not so different than a hard-tail 26in-wheel mountain bike in everything except wheel size! As it stands right now, there are four well-known sizes for bicycle wheels: 26in, 700c, 29in, and 650b.  Yes, 700c and 29in wheels and tires are technically the same, but for the purposes of everyday cyclists (and morover, the cycling industry), 29in is a buzzword for width.

26in is by far the most common – the VW Beetle of bike wheels if you will. Ubiquitous all around the world (especially the 3rd world, as the Beetle used to be!), and often easy to find cheap replacements, it is loved for its smaller size as this increases its durability. If you ride this size, you are a no-nonsense, function-over-form kinda cyclist. 

36er?!? Now you’re just showboating!

700c is for those who love the open road, and speed – the sports cars of bike wheels. The large diameter wheel and thinner profile tires make them roll over road bumps more easily, and have low rolling resistance. Often a little harder to find and slightly more expensive, the can be slightly more delicate as their larger diameter makes them less forgiving to rough treatment. If you roll on 700c, you are concerned about speed, and love the cruising on the roadways.

29in tires and wheels can be likened to SUVs in the car world – requiring a lot of energy to roll fast, but  fun when off road or in the gritty stuff. Also like SUVs, they can have a bit of a “status factor”. They can be a little more delicate the their 26in cousins, but that special ability to roll over all obstacles often makes them desirable for the offroading crowd. If you have a 29er, you like to be proud of what you ride, but you are willing to have fun along the way.

And of course, how can we forget 650b? They are the Austin Mini of the cycling industry, in that they once were very popular, but fell out of favour and production was stopped. With a ‘rebirth’ into the nostalgic minds it was launched, so just as new Mini Cooper, the 650b tire is making a come-back in popularity. An odd size in-between 26in and 700c, but with a 29er’s thickness, it is the French tire size from a bygone era. If your bike is equipped with 650b wheels, you may just be a “Retro-Grouch, loving the “tried and true” of yesteryear. That or, you are a hipster trying to keep up with the latest, if not most functional, cycling trend.


Of course, these are stereotypes – but I think from the websites of Velo Orange and TwentyNineInches and the endless personal and forum experiences we’ve all had, we can say they are often true!

Gear Review: Trangia Alcohol Stoves

My first post of the new year will deal with my little Trangia stove I’ve picked up a while ago. Now that I’ve been able to use it on a few day-hikes during the Christmas break, I can confidently review it. The first, and most obvious point, is that this is an alcohol stove; these stoves can burn the commonly found methanol, ethanol and even isopropyl rubbing alcohol. This stove cannot burn anything properly but alcohol – I tried white gasoline and ended up with a sooty, fireball-prone mess – and this could leave much to be desired in a third-world setting where kerosene/autogas (petrol) is all that may be found. But, here in Canada along with the US, most of South America, and Europe, methanol is easily found in nearly every hardware shop. Often it is labelled as ‘methyl hydrate’, and so people overlook it, but 4L can be be had for $10.

Trangia burner w/ homemade soup can pot stand. The port is
wide enough to allow use of the simmer ring.

It is important that I say that the Trangia I review was purely the stove unit and not the cookset. But, here’s what I had to say about the stove in my review for MEC (Mountain Equipment Co-Op):

Great overall little burner – stows away well, is relatively lightweight and has a high heat output for an alcohol stove. What I love about the Trangias is their ability to store unused fuel inside them – this helps to reduce wastage, and on a day-hike, I don’t have to bring a separate fuel bottle. I just end up topping-off the burner and using the fuel left inside.

I sprung for this burner because I was not willing to invest 60+ dollars on a full Trangia kit; instead I hacked apart a soup can and used that as a stand. Don’t hesitate to use this ‘replacement’ in stand-alone configuration; it still boils quickly and is quite wind proof *if* one uses a wind screen.

Not the fastest boil times I’ll admit ( 7:10 for 2 cups @ room temp), but who’s counting minutes on the trail? It also doesn’t seem to have any problems in winter (unlike canister stoves), and my testing had 2 cups of water boil in 8:30 @ -10C. Comparable to or better than other alky stoves, IMO.

Bottom Line: One of the best and well-rounded alcohol stoves out there.

True to my MEC review, the stove I use isn’t part of a Trangia Cookset. I have a real appreciation of the simpleness of the stove, which makes it near indestructible, albeit at the cost of a few BTUs of heat output. Pressurized stoves of all kinds cannot beat the venerable little Trangia when it comes to durability and the interval between maintenance periods (there IS no maintenance!). For the rough n’ tumble hiker who needs to boil a few cups water for a quick meal or even to frying an egg over-easy, it would be a good choice. For groups above 3 people, you will want to look elsewhere. Here, its benefits are complicated by the low heat output, limited fuel capacity, and large fuel consumption. It *will* take a good 30 minutes or so to bring 3 litres to boil in good conditions, and the low energy density of alcohol fuels means sometimes 2-3 times the volume of petroleum fuel needs to be burnt to cook equivalent meals. 

The results of a boil test. 8:16 for 500mL to a rolling boil @ 0 Celcius
with light wind.

 The benefits vs. an isobutane (canister) stove are obvious – far cheaper fuel costs, cheaper investment in the stove, and they work well even in winter conditions. Also, depending on the configuration of pot stand/wind screen, the alcohol stoves can outclass a canister stove in being lightweight. 


I really do like the Trangia stove units – which can be bought for $12 – and the complete cooksets, but I firmly believe that because of their niche status and lack of other competition (Sigg has not been manufacturing its version for a while), Trangia over-inflates the prices of their cooksets.  Unless I found a 2-person cookset going for $30 or under, they are out of my league, and I feel them overpriced for the quality of the product. I own a Sigg Inoxal mini-cookset, purchased for $15 3 years ago. These pots are beautifully crafted, and well designed. They feature a black-painted aluminum exterior for strength and heat dispersion, but have an 18/8 stainless interior for cooking. This makes them lightweight, but sturdy, scrubbable with rocks + sand, and usable without fears of scratching the cook surface – or getting Alzheimers. Why then does it cost me $30 to buy a trangia mini cookset, which is just plain aluminum? The quality of the pressings isn’t up to Sigg’s snuff either. 

 Packed-up: Homebrew cookset. Sigg Inoxal cookset at right,
Trangia stove, DIY tin-can potstand, 75ml fuel bottle, and MSR windscreen at left. 
Unpacked: Potstand uncovered to show MSR windscreen and  fuel bottle.
The Inoxal cookset’s lid doubles as a frypan. Inside: 2 Guyot squishy bowls,
a compact lighter, folding knife, salt+pepper shaker, and DIY SS spork+knife.

For those minded like I am, purchase only the Trangia burner to use with another cookset. My homemade setup consists of the brass Trangia burner filled 3/4 with alcohol (160g), a steel soup can converted to a potstand (55g), a plastic softdrink lid to insulate the burner in winter (2g), and an MSR aluminum windscreen (45g). Very lightweight, and a good deal more windproof than a stock Trangia mini cookset would be. 


Stay tuned for more bike and gear reviews!