2004 Bike Trip: The gear

Leif Johnson — 13 Jun 2004, 01:06

this trip has, to some extent, been all about the gear that i've taken along with me. while i'm not roughing it in the sense of sleeping on billboard ledges or in the backs of uhaul trucks, there is a certain lack of material comfort that accompanies a person riding a bicycle across a continent. the things i've chosen to push across the united states, then, each have a purpose (or, if possible, several) and are all more or less necessary for the success of the trip. i know there are many lists out there of things to pack on a bike trip ; i just want to record the particular things i've chosen to take with me this time.

the bike

first and foremost is the bicycle itself. i ride a beautiful, wonderful, excellent cannondale t700 (purchased new in 1999) : green, triple front crank. since this is my first large tour i started the trip with all stock components and parts (even the tires) and have had absolutely no problems—not even a flat—while cycling through rivers, over gravel roads, and through potholes (not recommended ; i dented my rims on the first day of riding, but impressively did not get a flat, and the bike shop in raleigh was able to get them straightened out ok).

the bike came equipped with shimano rx mountain bike components (shifters, brakes, derailleurs). the wheels are built up from 700 sun rims and shimano rx hubs, with continental top touring 2000 tires (38c, i believe). these tires are amazing : literally all the other tourists i've met or heard about have used these tires, and i have personally been consistently impressed with their performance.

bags and such

for storage on the bike i have four jandd mini mountain panniers, hanging from a jandd mountain rack in the back and a jandd rack in the front. on the top of the back i lay my blanket and my smallish timbuk2 messenger bag.

in the left rear pannier are my extra clothes :

  • two extra performance bike jerseys
  • three extra pairs of performance padded bike underwear
  • an extra pair of pants (i brought one cotton and one wool pair ; definitely recommend the wool only for future ventures : cotton is cold when wet)
  • five extra pairs of euro coolmax socks
  • a wool hat, gloves, and a top and bottom of patagonia capilene thermals (it's summer, but it gets really cold when it's rainy and windy out)
  • my sf bike coalition t-shirt, and a hawaiian shirt (for rest days)
  • a gill waterproof cycling jacket (also useful for keeping out skeeters)

in the right rear is my sleeping gear and some miscellaneous stuff :

  • sierra designs clip 3 tent (i started out with just the rain fly, but the bugs and the thunderstorms brought me to my knees)
  • standard 3/4 length thermarest
  • amazonas traveler's hammock
  • olympus om-1 camera (packed in the top for easier access at short rest breaks ; i have been shooting slides with kodak elite chrome 100 film)
  • toiletries (toothbrush, floss, sunscreen, bug repellent, nail clippers, msr packtowl, soap)
  • 2 spare innertubes
  • pedro's ice wax (chain lube, highly recommended for that post-thunderstorm maintenance session)

on top of these sits a 4-foot by 5-foot fleece blanket, and my timbuk2 bag, which holds journals, books, maps, pens, letters, etc. i also carry a cell phone and a minidisc recorder for capturing interesting sounds.

the front panniers hold my food and cooking gear. because the rear of the bike supports both my weight and the weight of three bags, i wanted to shift the denser objects toward the front. fuel, then, along with pasta, tuna, oil, trail mix, fruit : these things got stuck in the front panniers. i use an msr cooking pot with lock-down handle (great for cleaning and packing), along with an msr whisperlite internationale backpacking stove. also, i've noticed that if you have trail mix with chocolate anything in it, it melts less quickly if you stick in on the side away from the sun.

everything is packed in ziploc bags for water resistance (their air-reducing quality does not really last long) ; even though i've been through a couple severe thunderstorms the gear inside the bags has stayed fairly dry as a result.


under my seat i carry a small jandd wedge bag filled with tools and another spare innertube (that makes three). i carry a complete set of tools with me : 2mm through 6mm hex wrenches, tire irons, phillips screwdriver, spoke wrench, 6in crescent wrench, swiss army knife. the set only weighs a couple pounds, probably, and in my experience is worth it for its just-in-case value. if you're not into carrying all those tools, take the 5mm hex wrench (fits 85 % of the screws on a bike), a spare tube, tire irons (they're plastic anyway), and a spoke wrench.