Nov 3: Gear

Nov 3: Gear

You may be wondering what exactly one might bring on a long-distance, solo bicycle trip. Enough people have expressed interest that I figured I should take some photos of what I'm carrying and describe what goes where and why.

My bike is a 2002 BikeE CT XL semi-recumbent. Sad to say, BikeE has now gone out of business, so if any really unusual parts break, I'll be at the mercy of eBay, but so far I've only had to replace really standard parts like tires, bearings, and such. The CT was the cheapest model of the cheapest brand on the market at the time; it cost me $700 including fenders. There are now some semi-recumbents on the market for as little as $300! A few bike mechanics and other cyclists have looked down their noses and questioned whether the CT is suitable for long-distance touring, but once they learned how far I had gone, their attitude changed!

One of the undocumented features of the BikeE is that the main tube of its frame is open at the back, which means you can put stuff in there. That's where I keep my tire pump, patch kit, and bike tool, so that they're always with the bike, even when I'm not carrying anything else.

My trailer is a Bikes at Work truss-frame cargo trailer, the smallest size they make. I bought it for its versatility: it's great for moving furniture as well as touring. It hasn't required any maintenance at all in over 8000 miles! Its only drawback is a tendency to flip over when one wheel goes over a curb before the other, but that's probably the case with any two-wheel trailer whose hitch is low to the ground.

The rest of my gear was stowed based on when I planned to use it. Click a container and then click the (i) button to learn about its contents.

  My person: items I might need anywhere, anytime.
White bag: items I needed to be able to reach without getting off the bike, or that I'd like to carry into a library or store with me.
Gray Bag Gray bag behind the seat: items I needed to be able to reach when I stopped for a break.
blue bin Blue bin: Stuff I didn't want to get dirty.
green bin Green bin: Stuff that could get dirty.
Yellow bag Yellow waterproof bag: My autoharp -- an acoustic musical instrument that can't get wet! (note: after carrying this for the first four months of the trip, I left the autoharp behind to save weight.) The tent, rainfly and groundcloth also rode on top with (and later in) the yellow bag.

Additionally, I had a solar battery charger that rode on top of the trailer on sunny days and charged the AA batteries for my radio and AAA for my PalmPilot.

Of course there were changes to my gear during the course of the trip, but not as many as you might think. Here's a list of everything I replaced.

Ben Wed, 11/03/2004 - 00:00

Stuff I Carried on my Person

Stuff I Carried on my Person

Here's what I wore on a typical day:

  • T-shirt and shorts -- I generated enough heat while riding that I was comfortable in summer clothes unless the temperature dipped below 50 F. Even then, the prevailing wisdom is to dress in layers, and I liked to have something decent underneath the other layers!
  • Biking shoes -- until mid-November, I was riding in ordinary shoes, and it looked for a while like I might have damaged my joints by doing so. Biking shoes have clips that fasten them onto the pedals, ensuring the "biodynamically optimal" range of motion.
  • Socks, underwear, glasses
  • Belt -- useful for clipping on my radio and dog dazer
  • Dog Dazer -- I call this my "remote control for dogs". I bought it online for $15 and wasn't sure it worked at first, because it only works against hostile dogs. But now I've had plenty of opportunities to watch them stop in their tracks when I press the button. Friendly dogs hardly notice it.
  • Helmet -- I got one with a visor for this trip, and I was very glad to have it!
  • Sunglasses -- I like wraparounds, because I hate getting glare in my eyes. I know they look silly, but I don't care.
  • Rear-view mirror -- I used to have one on my handlebars, but it broke off, so I got the kind that attaches to my helmet. It took some getting used to, but now I wouldn't use anything else.
  • Bike lock key -- I rarely locked my bike when the trailer was attached, because there was no way to lock down the stuff on the trailer, and because bike racks aren't designed to accommodate a 15-foot-long vehicle that likes to fall over. But I carried the key for those few times when I did lock up.
  • Multi-tool -- I got used to carrying a knife, screwdriver, etc. when I was repairing computers on a daily basis, and now I'm not comfortable without that functionality in my pocket.
Ben Wed, 11/03/2004 - 16:17

Gear Changes

Gear Changes

Naturally on a trip like this you expect to go through some supplies, like food, sunblock, tire patches, and so on. Here are some of the less obvious changes to my inventory during the trip.

Items that were lost or left behind

  • a water bottle
  • a bag of bagels
  • a pair of long johns
  • a clothesline and pins
  • a poncho (blew away)
  • a pair of sunglasses
  • a bungee cord

Items I replaced because they wore out or broke

  • at least half a dozen tires and at least a dozen tubes
  • half a set of wheel bearings (10) (got rusty)
  • a whole lot of bearing grease and chain lube
  • the entire drive train of the bike (crank, chain, gears, and derailleur)
  • two rear-view mirrors (the mounts broke, not the glass)
  • two water bottles (they leaked)
  • hydration bag and tube (developed an advanced culture)
  • a solar battery charger (damaged by water)
  • three T-shirts
  • three pairs of shoes
  • four pairs of socks
  • PalmPilot keyboard (water damaged)
  • one brake cable and housing

Items I replaced even though they hadn't worn out

  • pedals (in favor of ones with clips)
  • tent (in favor of one that weighed half as much)
  • sleeping pad (in favor of a larger one)
  • a tire pump and gauge (in favor of a pump with a built-in gauge)
  • gloves and mittens (in favor of a slightly larger pair)
Ben Sat, 06/05/2004 - 16:16