Stuff you take...
Have you ever wondered what you take on a two-month bike trip? Or have you ever been interested? If not, skip this blog post, it is long and into a lot of detail. I write these posts for the curious, but mostly for Chris and my kids who don't really know exactly what I am doing (or why).
The more stuff you take, the more weight and the harder the ride -- especially when climbing hills. On the other hand, taking too little stuff can mean doing laundry more frequently or maybe getting stuck because you don't have what you need to fix your bike or ride in bad weather.
I solved one problem by not camping. I plan to spend every night in a hotel. This is sometimes called "credit card" touring. I have never been much of a camper anyway. And if you camp even just a few nights, it means you need to bring at least a tent and sleeping bag. I am carrying an emergency sleeping bag (space blanket technology, the size of a beer and weighs less).
I solve another problem by riding with a couple of other people (though we plan to split up somewhere down the road) and by meeting up with Chris (my wife) every 2-3 weeks. Seeing Chris regularly will allow me to offload stuff I no longer need. For example, we go over some high passes out west, which may mean cold or snow. I am packing some warmer clothes that I shouldn't need in the second half of the trip. I could mail those home or give them to Chris when we meet up.
Another problem is solved by local or online bike shops (or Amazon.com). A mechanical problem might slow you down, but it (hopefully) will not end the trip. I might have to stay in a town for a day or two longer than planned, but thank goodness for overnight delivery (though we all know supply chains are bad and might create other delays). Anyway, that means I don't need to carry every imaginable spare part. It comes down to a tradeoff between size/weight, likelihood of needing it, and the cost of delays. I read books and blogs (many people share lists), talked to biking experts, and then made my own best guess.
My best guess weighs about 20 pounds more than a usual ride (where you have water, maybe a little food, lights, a couple of tubes and materials to fix a flat). I have lost almost that much weight training for the ride. The stuff falls into a few categories and if you are interested, you can see more below.
The first category is your basic bike clothing. I am bringing two jerseys, two pair of shorts, gloves, hats, sun protection sleeves, helmet, shoes, socks...
Then, you have your what if the weather gets bad clothes. Heavy jacket, light jacket, base layer, N95 breather mask (in case of smoke - we are riding out west), and that orange thing below is the emergency sleeping bag--which may come in handy if I cannot get hotel reservations one night.
Then you have the essential on-board stuff--water bottles, food, sunscreen, glasses, tripod (maybe not essential) and religious medals (Chris insisted).
Next, you need stuff to fix the bike if it breaks down and just for general maintenance (chain lube). The most common breakdown is the old flat tire, so there are extra tubes, pump, etc. Back home, a worse breakdown might just mean a call to Chris to pick me up. So there are other supplies that might help me get to the next town if I break a spoke or chain.
Finally, in this modern world, there are the electronics. Some of these are for safety and others for entertainment. I am on the high side of riding tech support. Besides the obvious lights, Garmin computer, and smartphone, I have electronic shifting, power meter pedals, a heart rate monitor, an iPad, and then a battery pack backup in case anything essential runs out of juice while still on the road.
And when I get to San Francisco I plan to buy some CO2 cartridges and a Leatherman with pliers and knife. Those won't go carry on for the flight.
Thanks for reminding me to add this Paul. Fortunately I did remember to pack it, but initially forgot to post it. You do need something for off the bike--I have one t-shirt, one shorts, pair of Crocs (lightweight and waterproof), two pair of undies, and some sleeping clothes. And of course you need your vitamins, toothbrush/paste, and a some first aid stuff.
That's it! You bike experts, did I forget anything essential? Let me know in the comments below.