So this is way, way past due. I was planning on posting my post-tour thoughts immediately after my tour. Makes sense right? Well, after getting over salmonella poisoning and then Interbike, I finally have time to sit down and post about it.
My head was racing before I left. I must have sat all my equipment out on the ground and put half of it aside at least a dozen times. Traveling minimally is not my forte and neither was touring at the time. I had done a series of centuries and have done countless road rides but an unsupported and solo tour was foreign to me.
After a few weeks, I’m ready to share with you what exactly I learned from this trip. What to take, what not to take and how much this all cost me.
Check it out below!
First, let’s talk about touring preparation. Not so much the physical training required but the research. I used the Adventure Cycling Maps. They are a great resource for not only outlining routes, but also breaking down the best time of year to do them and what to expect for elevation and even tourist traffic. I looked at camping availability based on these maps and knew when the big climbs were. They were essential in making my tour run effortless.
Things to pay attention to on the maps:
-Camp sites. You don’t need to call ahead or anything but after you get a feel for your pace, try to have an end goal for the day and a “further” “closer” goal. I.e. If I projected 100 miles, I had two back ups: one for an 80 mile day and one for a 120 mile day.
-Elevation. Don’t carry food up hills. Buy it at the bottom. A few times I got stuck carrying an additional 10-20 lbs of food and water unnecessarily. The ACA maps show you town names overlaid on the elevation maps.
-Peak tourist traffic. If you’re touring when it’s nice out, chances are you’re going to deal with cars, campers and other vehicles. I chose the two weeks before Labor Day for my trip, with hopes of beating the tourists. Traffic spikes during the middle of the day, so plan your breaks around that.
-Weather. The ACA maps have almanac data showing weather. I knew that during my trip, it wouldn’t get any warmer than 80 and no colder than 50. I planned my clothing and camping gear accordingly.
So after you’ve researched your route, start to plan your equipment. I didn’t take a sleeping bag, just a bag liner and a merino hoodie. A good rule is to avoid cotton like the plague. It won’t dry and it’ll stink after a few hours. Here’s my clothing I took:
-2 jerseys (Rapha)
-2 bibs (Rapha)
-2 pairs of socks
-Arm and leg warmers
-Tech fabric shorts (Outlier)
-Merino Tee (Outlier)
-Merino hoodie (Outlier)
All this clothing was quick drying and even after washing it at the camp sites and letting it dry over the fire, I still had to let it hang on the back of the bike during the day. People tend to take way too much clothing. You don’t need any more than that, especially in warm weather. Trust me.
Camping equipment is essential. Know what to take:
-Tent (one person)
-Sleeping pad (roll up, packable air pad)
-Sleeping bag / bag liner. I found I only needed a 50 degree liner. Not a whole bag.
-Tarp (to cover your bike at night with)
-Pocket Rocket stove, can of gas (buy this after you’ve flown)
-A pot for boiling water
-A coffee pot? Mocha, pour over or Aero Press
-Rope for making a clothes line and hanging food if no bear boxes
-Three water bottles
-2 patch kits
-2 tire levers
-Topeak alien tool (every tool you need)
-Kevlar spoke (didn’t need)
-Extra chain links
-Misc hardware (rack bolts, washers, etc)
-Extra cleats (road)
-Fenders? I didn’t use them
-A bottle of Dr. Bronner’s for cleaning clothing, shower and cook wear
-Tooth paste, tooth brush
-Tea tree oil for any fungus attacks (jock itch, athletes foot, etc)
-Small first aid kid
-Road rash kit
Your bike should also have some logic for how you store all this. Put your clothing and hygiene in one pannier and your cooking equipment in the other. Then have your tent, drying clothes, sleeping bag and tarp on the back rack.
I found front-loading was the easiest way to go. You could still climb out of the saddle and you didn’t have to deal with that annoying side-to-side sway that a loaded bike often has.
Now for the bike itself. I went with a custom bike but any touring frame will do. You don’t need a triple but a wide range in the rear helps. I went with a compact front and a 11-36 rear cassette. Put a flat rack on the back, low racks up front and a handlebar bag. I used an Arkel handlebar bag and it ruled! I preferred road pedals but MTN pedals help. Get comfortable bar tape and a nice saddle. Brooks is the way to go IMO. What better way to break it in? A GPS is a luxury item but was nice to have. Which brings me to my other list…
-iPod (seriously, you’re going to be listening to cars and trucks zooming past you otherwise)
Now I’m glad that I took them along with me but if I wouldn’t have had all that glass and my laptop, I woulda lost 20+ lbs on my bike.
Finally, what everyone is wondering: cost? How much did I spend on all of this. Well, there are a few ways you can do this. First off, you don’t have to buy everything. Borrow your camping equipment. I needed it anyway so I purchased mine. I spent $475.00 at REI and an additional $115.00 on bike equipment. Your bike can be your biggest expense but like I said, it doesn’t have to be super custom. A Surly Long Haul Trucker was the most common bike I saw.
My per diem was $20-$40 dollars, depending on how much I cooked and if I wanted to treat myself. Camp sites are $8 for bikes and showers are $.50 for 5 minutes. You should eat one nice meal a day. I preferred to eat a nice dinner, loaded with carbs and protein. My meal of choice was whole wheat pasta with parmesan cheese and beef jerky. But a burger and a beer was my go to meal.
So let’s break that down:
Bike: $1,200 – $?
Bags: $200 – $600 depending on brand
Camping Equipment: $free$ – $600
Food per diem: $20 – $40
Camp sites: $8 – $10
Hotels: $60 – $100 (these are a nice treat so budget accordingly)
Hopefully that helps! I’ve tried my best to list everything I could think of. If you have any tips to share, feel free to list them in the comments!
Be sure to check out all my Summer 2011 Tour posts here!