This one is for the gear geeks. I’ve been asked several times what we’re bringing on tour and it seems that this is an obligatory post in every bike touring blog. So here we go.
As I think I’ve mentioned before, we are planning this as a lightweight tour. We are not camping on tour – we will be checking into some sort of hotels/motels/B&B’s each afternoon, so right off we eliminate a lot of gear other bike tourists carry (tent, sleeping bag, cooking stuff, etc.). I’m hoping to keep my load at about 20 pounds (Carolyn’s load will be a bit less because I’m carrying the electronics).
So what does that 20 pounds include?
Clothing, which Carolyn already talked about in the What to Bring post.
Each day we’ll check into the hotel in the afternoon, shower and change into our “walking around” clothes. We’ll reuse the shirt, socks and underwear on the ride the next day. From time to time, we’ll wash out the biking clothes in the hotel bathroom or stop at a Laundromat. One nice thing about bike touring is that you really enjoy going to the Laundromat, because the entire time you are doing laundry you are not sitting on the bike seat.
- Bikes – duh! (but not included in the 20 pound estimate)
- Panniers – the paired saddlebags where we’ll keep most of our stuff
- Front pack – I’ll have an extra pack on the handlebars to hold the electronics
- Tire pump with pressure gauge – we have to pump the tires every day
- Spare tubes and tire – we’ll each carry a spare tube and I’ll carry a spare tire
- ACA Maps – the paper versions of the Adventure Cycling Association route maps
- “Head” lights – hopefully we won’t need these, but just in case we get caught out at dusk
- Tail lights – a blinking light to make us more visible to cars, these will be on in daylight too
- Bike Lock – unfortunately quite heavy, but not really an option
- Mirror – makes it easier to see each other and cars coming up from behind us
We bought our bikes back in the early 90’s they are aluminum/carbon fiber hybrid frames. I realized the other day that the only thing original on my bike is the frame – every other part has been replaced or upgraded in the 24 years I’ve owned it. A lot was replaced recently in anticipation of this ride. Because part of the ride will be quite hilly (Connecticut I’m looking at you), and we’ll be carrying a fair bit of extra weight, we upgraded both bikes with new Shimano 105 10-speed triple “gruppos” (front/rear derailleurs, front/rear brakes, brake lever/shifters, crank set, chain rings, and rear cluster) to give us some lower low gears. (As an old timer, it sounds weird to say 10-speed when referring to 10 gears in the rear cluster!)
- Patch kits and tire levers to fix flats
- Bike multi-tool
- Spoke wrench
- Cone wrenches
- Oil – for the chains if we get caught in the rain
This is all stuff I normally keep in my seat pack anyway. I’m not planning to do any serious repairs – we’re riding close enough to civilization that we should be able to find a bike shop for anything big. However, there are a lot of basic repairs and adjustments that we’re likely to need and that I feel comfortable doing on the road.
- Phones – we both have the Motorola RAZR HD Maxx phones which have terrific batteries – we got them in anticipation of the ride to ensure that we’d be able to run the GPS for most of the day without worrying about the battery.
- Helmet intercom – I bought a pair of Cardo BK-1 bike intercoms – these let us chat comfortably while riding single file, eliminating the temptation to ride double. They also function as Bluetooth headsets for our phones. This lets me listen to the turn-by-turn from the Cuesheet navigation app, listen to music, and even take a call while riding.
- Tablet with Bluetooth keyboard – this weighs less than a laptop (unless you want to spend a lot of money on the laptop!). I bought a Nexus 7 without LTE – I can use my phone as a Wi-Fi hotspot if we want to use it somewhere without Wi-Fi. The Bluetooth keyboard is a luxury and will help us (mostly Carolyn) writing posts for this blog.
- Battery – a 13,000mAh battery to charge the phones on the ride, it can recharge one phone three or four times. It also serves as a flashlight.
- Camera – I don’t like the picture quality on the phones, so I bought a very small point and shoot camera. It has a Wi-Fi interface that lets us download the pictures to the tablet to post in the blog.
- Charger & Cables – I got an Anker 5 port charger with a 5 foot AC cord. That’ll help deal with badly positioned outlets in the hotel rooms. We need the ports for the tablet, 2 phones, and the intercoms. We actually need more occasionally for the camera, keyboard, and the battery, but the intercoms charge pretty fast and we can switch what’s plugged in before going to sleep.
For apps on the phones/tablet, we’re using Cuesheet for turn by turn navigation (and probably Google maps on occasion). I used MapMyRide to convert the ACA maps into an electronic route (see The Route Details). I’ll use Runkeeper to track the ride, and sync the data with Strava when training – I don’t think I’ll worry about Strava on the ride. I expect we’ll be using Google a lot to find hotels/restaurants/etc. as we go. I also got OSM (open street maps) and downloaded maps for all the states on our route so we will have maps even if we don’t have network access (unless we get really lost).
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Hair Brush
- Small scissors
- Reading Glasses
- Beard trimmer
Bringing my beard trimmer was a harder choice than it should have been. It is pretty heavy, but I hate it when my beard grows out – I need to trim it once a week or I get itchy. The trimmer is cordless and the batter should last two months so I won’t bring the charger. It’s messy, but should be OK in a zip lock bag. Oh yeah, we’re carrying a lot of zip lock bags! All the electronics will be in bags, and we’re going to use larger bags inside the panniers to hold the clothes – the transparent bags make it easy to find stuff and are waterproof in case we get caught out in the rain – a virtual certainty in a ride this long.
- Water bottles and camelback
- Powdered Gatorade/lemonade
- Ibuprofen – I’m afraid we’ll go through a lot of it
- Small pack of baby wipes
- Small first aid kit (band-aids, disinfectant, etc.)
- Bug spray
We’ll be riding in hot weather and bringing enough water is really important to stay healthy. We’ve each got two water bottles we’ll be carrying on the bikes and we bought camelbacks which we’ll use as it gets warmer or when we’re in more rural areas (a camelback is a big water bag that you wear as a backpack with a drinking hose that clips to the helmet straps). The water is heavy, and is not included in our 20 pound budget. The powdered Gatorade/lemonade is to flavor the water (the water in parts of the southeast can have an unpleasant sulfurous flavor). We’ll only use Gatorade or lemonade in the water bottles – it is a pain to clean out the camelback and if you don’t get it really clean it can grow mildew.
As to food, we’ve learned our lesson in previous tours – always bring something to eat. The most consistent factor in a “day from hell” on tour is a lack of food – bringing along enough snack-y foods will hopefully avoid that cause of very bad days. We’ll probably carry snack bars as they keep well, unfortunately we can’t carry chocolate bars because they melt. I’ll try to buy some fruit from time to time when we hit a grocery store.
I suppose we’re a bit crazy, but we’ve even discussed what we’ll bring in our wallets (or if we’re bringing wallets). I’m bringing by driver’s license, credit card, bank card, and health insurance card. We’ll be paying with most everything with the credit cards, but I will carry some cash for times when we can’t use the cards. I’m still not sure if I need a wallet to hold it all.
Irwin Abrams said:
Don’t see anything about down days. 57 straight days sounds unhealthy.
We’re planning to ride 3 out of 4 days on average – lots of down days, just nothing specifically planned. We’ll take a day off if we find somewhere interesting to explore or if we’re feeling tired.
Torben Haagh said:
Hi Dana. It is fun to read about your trip. Do you know that you can cache google maps? Just zoom to the area you want to cache and type “Okay Maps”. We should chat soon!
Nice to hear from you, indeed we should chat soon. I had found the caching feature, but it seems so ad-hoc :-). I got a copy of osmand+ which uses the open street maps project maps – I’ve downloaded the maps of all the US states we’re travelling through so unless we get _really_ lost, I’ll have maps even if I don’t have cell connectivity.
Garry Sager said:
I was thinking about your wallet. Those badge holders from the tech shows make pretty good light weight wallets. They seal up pretty tight and when you want to get off the bike and bring them they can hang around your neck so you don’t need pockets to keep them in. Have a great trip you guys are crazy going so far.
Hi Garry! I like that idea, I’ll have to dig one up and give it a try.
I got a tiny wallet free recently – if you want a small leathery zip-up with keychain ring, I’m your girl. Oh wait, I’m your girl anyway. love you Dad!
My comment would be to take more than one credit card on the off chance that there is a fraud alert and your card is cancelled. This happened to us in Spain and it was not pretty.
Thanks fit the suggestion. I had this happen to me on a business trip to France that left me stuck in a train station – it was a very unpleasant morning. We’re taking several credit cards, plus I will be calling my primary credit card’s customer service to let then know we will be traveling.
Carol Levine said:
I am thoroughly enjoying reading this blog, Dana! I was about to suggest a PowerStation when I saw that you got a 13,000 battery. I got the IoGear 11,000 one and found it quite useful in Europe last month.
May I assume that you’ve scanned copies of important documents (e.g. driver’s license, credit cards) to some cloud, such as Google Drive?
Are you also calling your bank to let them know that you’re traveling?
I’m hoping we won’t need the backup battery – needing it means we didn’t find a hotel room for the night :-). Yes, I’ve got everything we may need available for the ride. I haven’t called the banks/credit card companies yet, I was planning to do that just before we leave.