For those of you who want to plan a similar adventure and need advice on what gear to use, this blog entry serves as the master list of the kind of gear I will be relying on for my upcoming MRT trip. I have found it extremely helpful to read the blogs and reviews of others and what they used on their cycle tours in order to make my decisions as well. Thus, during the “preparation stage” of my first cycle tour, I had to consider what I already have and what I still needed to make the long ride.
Bike: My TREK 7100 hybrid bike has been a vital and excellent source of transportation for me since the day I bought it in 2006. The bike is reliable, sturdy and comfortable – all the qualities that make it the perfect ride and companion for this journey. I know it’s conventional to do these types of tours on touring bikes, but I believe in my hybrid and it’s what I’m going with. All it needs is a bike rack and panniers to hold my gear: a tent, sleeping bag, ultralight backpacking stove and pot, clothes (both for biking and for running), food and water, first aid kit, and a toolkit for fixing flats – knock on road I won’t have to deal with that.
UPDATE: After completing my bike tour I’m happy to report that riding every day for 60-80 miles on a new similar hybrid (TREK Verve 2) was fantastic! I was extremely comfortable with the gear shifting, the seat cushioning, and the smoothness of the ride with it’s shocks when I rode over rocky terrain. However, one adjustment I HAD to make was to upgrade the handlebar grips to a pair of Ergon GP1 bike grips, which are pictured below:
This was crucial because after 1,000 miles of riding and gripping on the flat bar, my ability to hold on to and/or grab things (i.e. forks, spoons, phone, pen, snaps to my helmet and panniers, etc.) had greatly diminished. I was experiencing some form of carpel tunnel syndrome but after I rode the rest of the way with the new handlebar grips it made a huge difference and I got my power back in my hands!
Panniers: I thought about making my own panniers because there are a lot of websites out there offering DIY instructions, but with the limited time I had to prepare after living on the Bering Sea for the past 3 months, I opted to purchase the Nashbar Waterproof Rear Panniers. It has a carrying capacity of 2310 cubic inches which is plenty of space for my needs. And when I use these to bike commute in Seattle, WA, the waterproofing will be a life-saver!
UPDATE: These panniers worked out great! They truly are waterproof and they had so much room to store my clothes, sleeping bag and other gear. I’m really happy I went with these panniers and plan to do many more tours and commuting with these.
Rear Bike Rack: I searched high and low for the right deal on a rear rack that would properly fit my bike and be sturdy enough to hold the load of my packed panniers. I ended up with the IBERA Touring Rear Rack after almost purchasing the Topeak Touring Rear Rack with side bars. The reason for my choice was based solely on the reviews from other cycle enthusiasts so we’ll see if I share the same opinions.
UPDATE: This rear bike rack broke on me when I arrived in St. Louis, MO. I would not recommend this rack for anyone touring because as I learned, the adjustable part that attaches to the wheel is not strong enough to carry the load. Also, it’s advisable to get a rear rack that has a solid plate across the top to serve as a back fender to keep water and dirt from spraying on your back. Something else I learned the hard way! When I bought a new rear rack in St. Louis, MO it worked out much better and it will continue to be my bike touring rack for years to come.
Tent: I own a 4 person tent that has been amazing for all my other camping trips. Unfortunately, it’s too heavy (weighing in at 6-7lbs) for a multi-day backpacking trip – as well as this cycle tour. One of these days I plan on hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, the Appalachian Trail, the John Muir Trail and Patagonia so I needed to purchase an lightweight backpacking tent. After a lot of research, I went with the award winner Kelty Salida 2 Tent. I’m excited to use it for the first time to see how it holds up and how easy it is to set up. Weighing in at 3-4 lbs when packed, it’s going to be my home away from home for many adventures to come!
UPDATE: This tent is amazing! I really liked the amount of room it offered inside and outside and it certainly kept me dry during stormy nights. I’ve used this tent on a back country camping trip since my bike tour and my friend and I fit just right inside. It rained for two nights straight and we stayed warm and completely dried compared to our other friends who came along and slept in their tent. It’s also lightweight and packs down quite small giving me plenty of room in my backpack for other gear too. I highly recommend this tent!
Stove: Since I will be camping on this trip, I wanted to purchase a stove that I can then use on multi-day backpacking trips down the road. There are three fuel options on the market that one can use: Propane (jetboil), solid fuel, or denatured alcohol. I had to think long and hard about which one I preferred since all three are quite different. Waste, weight and space are important to me when hiking so I opted for the solid fuel stove and purchased the ultralight Esbit 3 piece solid fuel stove from REI. The stove unit fits inside the 20 oz pot for easy storage and it uses esbit tablets for fuel. Each tablet lasts 12 minutes, where it takes about 4-5 minutes to boil water. The best part: once the tablet burns out, it disappears and there is no mess which means I don’t have to carry empty propane cans. Plus, if I decided to use denatured alcohol as a fuel source, then I can buy the alcohol base for the stove and go in that direction. As well, if I’m still out on the trail and I run out of esbit solid tablets, then I can use timber or small sticks to make a mini fire with this stove and still get boiled water. This was a no-brainer.
Once I have everything installed, set correctly on my hybrid bike and packed properly, I will test “her” out on the trails in Seattle, WA and hope for the best! After all, “As you believe, so it will be”.