Touring Gear

Touring GearGeorge Carlin, the comedian, had a routine about all of the ‘stuff’ we have that we can’t live without. He could have been joking about me preparing for my cross country bicycle trip.

I started out like Santa Claus: making a list and checking it twice, just to find out what’s needed and nice. Then I gathered everything up and spread it out on the living room floor, and the dining room floor, and the dining room table, and . . . oops . . . 72.6 pounds.

So, I separated everything into two piles: needed, and nice. The needed items came in at 43 pounds. I asked through bikers for suggestions and many people responded with great ideas on how to reduce the weight:

  • Will you be traveling through towns fairly frequently? If so, only carry enough ‘stuff’ to get to the next town. Food, fuel, water, first air, bicycle repairs, etc. can all be replenished as you pass through each town.
  • Look at larger items, such as bar soap, scrub pads, and towels; can they be cut in half or more?
  • Consider mailing cool weather items home once the weather warms up.
  • Consider having special items mailed in small quanitites to you along the route.
  • Minimize specialty clothing where possible. Layer clothing for multiple purposes where ever possible. Synthetic materials dry faster and tend to be lighter in weight.
  • Consider washing every night; you only need 2-3 sets of clothing doing it this way
  • Look at the weight of items like the tent, sleeping bag, mattress, and cooking equipment.  Consider purchasing lighter weight items.

I will be traveling through towns almost everyday so replenishing items like soap, insect repellant, sun tan lotion, first aid items, bicycle parts, and personal hygiene should be easy. With this in mind I drastically reduced the quantity and different types of consumables: 37.8 pounds.

The next place to look included repair tools, the tent, sleeping bag/pillow/mattress, and food preparation. Saving weight in this area meant spending money on lighter equipment.  A lesson learned: lighter gear = more expensive gear. I bit the bullet, spent almost $400, and got the weight down to 33.4 pounds.

The only thing left was clothing. Riding a recumbent has some advantages: you don’t need special riding apparel. Also, you can get by with two sets of clothing if you wash every night. I decided to go with three sets of clothing: one on me, one drying off, and one ready to use. Most clothing can be layered on top of each other to minimize the need for extra warmth in cooler weather. I am taking long sleeve (versus short sleeve) shirts to minimize sunburn, and also, I find them cooler in the hot sun. Many of my clothing items are nylon, which tends to weigh less and dry faster than cotton.

The final weight came to 31.08 pounds. Some people do not include the items they will be wearing as part of their ‘stuff’. Using this criteria the weight is 26.5 pounds. It took a lot sacrifice, suggestions from other people, and some money to get there, but I think George Carlin would be proud.  Here is a copy of my gear list .

Gear For Trip

Well, I finally have a semi-final list of equipment, with weight, assembled for the cross-country trip.  The list does not have the weight for water, fuel, and food.  Fortunately, many items were available in good used condition on eBay so I was able to save money  while purchasing what I hope are some good items.

Our intent is to camp out most of the time and occasionally stay in motels & churches.  We plan on cooking most of our breakfasts and suppers while eating lunch in various restaurants.

If anyone reading this has the time, I would appreciate suggestions on where something is left off or where there are items that could be removed.  All suggestions are gratefully appreciated.

Thank you.


Weighing In

Bike Front With BagsToday, curiosity finally got the best of me; I decided to weigh my trusty steed.  I used a Park Tool DS-1 scale suspended from the garage roof and two short peices of rope to suspend the bike from the scale.  Bottom line: 55.25 pounds.

The bike is now set up in racing trim (in my case maybe creeping trim).  All accessories have now been added, all modifications are complete, and the panniers are mounted and ready to go.  The weight doesn’t include any gear, food, fuel, or water.

Breaking the weight down:

33.50 pounds Giro 20 bicycle with re-curve seat (without pedals)
 8.55 pounds all added accessories
13.20 pounds Arkel RT40 & RT60 panniers
55.25 pounds total weight for my trusty steed

A decent upright touring bicycle similarly equipped would probably weigh in about 44-45 pounds.  The bicycling enjoyment that comes from leaning back leisurely in a soft seat, shoulders relaxed, and hands resting easily on the handlebars comes at a price: 10 pounds.  Yes, in this case at least, comfort does come with a price.  After the trip I’ll let you know if it was worth it.