Gear Thoughts – UK and Iceland Touring

I have been avoiding writing this post for a few months because everyone writes one, and I have been super happy with my gear (a few part failures excepted) that it seemed like a redundant activity,however as I leave summer (ish) touring behind it seems like a good time to do this. Beware it will be edited!

Tent: Exped Venus 2 Extreme
I bought this tent for the trip on yhe basis it could be free standing if need be, was four season but still fairly light. So far everything has been great. I broke a tent pole in the first week of touring through laziness by not making sure the new poles were fully home, and both poles are now notably bent thanks to an early autumn storm in the Icelandic Highlands that was ripping almost everyone other tent to shreds (think 6ft star pickets being ripped out of the ground while they attempted to hold down a marque). The ability to take down the inside of the tent while the shell is still standing has been a godsend and has meant i have had a dry tent inner to sleep in every night.

image

Sleeping Mat: Sea to Summit Comfort Plus Extra Large.
In summary, I have been sleeping on a plush king single matress for the whole trip. It is comfortable, lighter than my old thermarest was and so so big! An exped schnozzle bag makes it super easy to inflate and hugging the bag is a nice comfort each night in a weird way. It is funny the little routines you get into.

image

Sleeping Bag: Mont Brindabella
This bag is super warm, I’ve only zipped it up fully twice. Once because it was genuinely cold,and the second time because all my clothes were damp and I wanted to wear them dry.

Handle Bar Bags: I have a conventional Ortlieb handbar bag hanging off the front of the bike which is great as always, but on this trip I have also been using an Oveja Negra top tube bag and a Bike Bag Dude chaff bag. The tt bag holds my battery cache, and the chaff bag holds a water bottle, snacks or Niew Vine depending on the day. It has really made a difference, particularly on the days with strong wind where reach down into the frame triangle is a little hairy.
image

Bike etc is all super normal otherwise. A Surly Bike, Ortleib panniers, Optimus stove etc etc.

Generic Thought: Mould
This trip has been wet, constantly raining or heavy dews or any number of other things and I have noticed a few items going a bit mouldy. My sleeping bag developed a small mould patch near the feet which is the bot of the bag that often has damp dirty feet plus is also stuffed into the sleeping bag first and rest up against the end of the tent so I am not at all surprised.
More surprising is that my rain coast is going mouldy whilst I wear it. It has been on and off every day of the trip, bit has been washed a few times so there you go. A little spotty but all good!

image

Practicing for Cold Rides!

Now that I live in Sydney cold weather is even more of a novelty than it was in Alice Springs. Today is a full month into winter and I am walking around town in shorts and tee-shirt because it is so warm. Now that I own an ECR I am on a mission though. These bikes were made for snow and slush and mud and all things fun.
I recently found mud of a satisfying depth and consistency while riding around Sparrow Hill and Canberra. That leaves snow.

With that in mind, I am went up to the Blue Mountains today for a practice ride with my fully loaded Surly.

The gear packed on the bike included:

  • Snow gloves (which I wore some of the time to see how easy it was to shift gears)
  • down vest
  • rain gear
  • extra thermals etc
  • 3.5 litres of water
  • stove and gas canister
  • tools
  • GPS
  • Food!
  • lots of Bike Bag Dude bags
  • k-lite dynamo lights

All in all I am pretty impressed by the amount of stuff I could fit on the bike without even trying to be efficient. I can see that with a bike seat bag or a bag on the back rack I could easily head out for a night or two without adding to much extra bulk or impacting the handling.

So…. The ride!

I had been reading the forecast all day yesterday and this morning and new that the weather had a strong potential to be miserable, which was exactly what I wanted. Unfortunately when I got to Faulconbridge in the lower Blue Mountains there was nary a cloud in sight, and the sun was bleating down.

So I loaded up and off I went along the lovely fire trail I had found described on the NSW Mtb forum last night. It was almost as flat as described, and gave me a good chance to play with the loaded bike. Just like my Long Haul Trucker the bike feels more stable and fun once it has a bit of load on it, and I couldn’t resist riding over every sand patch on the trail just to see if I could make the thing wobble. I couldn’t!

As I reached the point of the ridge, and the nice little lookout situated there, the wind dropped, the sun came out and everything was just spiffy for a spot of lunch and some chill time. Riding back to the car the wind picked up and the clouds came out. Looks like  picked my window perfectly if I hadn’t have been looking for the bad weather!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Gear

One of the commonly asked about is what gear I use and what I carry  on a cycle tour. On this page I aim to cover the basics of what we carry with a few little rants about things I think are important.

Bikes

I like bikes, and I like to have the right one so I have Surlys. Surly makes big heavy steel framed bikes, and then they fit them with big heavy steel racks and everything ends up being heavy. The upside of this is that you can carry an immense amount of stuff and never worry about hurting your bike, or as experience has shown you can be run over at low speed and hurt the car more than your bike. The downside of this is that the Long Haul Trucker weighs in at 21kg before it is loaded, and for a longer trip can easily reach 50kg on the road. Thank god for gears!

My Surly loaded up for an 8 day ride.

My Surly loaded up for an 8 day ride.

The ECR

So for my current trip I am using a different Surly, an ECR which I have taken to mean Everything Combined Really, but Surly themselves have since defined as Escape Common Routine. Eitherway it is an awesome bike and it what I recently spent five months riding around Europe.

Panniers

I use Ortlieb Panniers. No particular reason other than that I like them and I could order 7 at once when I wanted to get our panniers. They are super tough and very reflective so I don’t think anyone could have a bad word to say about them.

To be specific I have back-roller plus and front roller plus models with a large handlebar back. I also got the map case that fits onto the handlebar back which has proven to be a great investment because it is just so convenient.

I also use a Bike Bag Dude bar roll on the front of my bike to carry my sleeping bag because otherwise it just takes up too much useful space in my panniers!

Wet Weather Gear

Over shoes! I don’t really have much else to say because raincoats are raincoats and safety vests are safety vests, but if you are planning on riding a lot invest in some water proof overshoes to keep you feet warm and dry. We both use Gore City Overshoes which are great.

I’ve previously invested in a pair of dutch RainLegs which are a great invention. They are a waterproof rain cover for the tops of your legs, that leave the underside of your legs free to sweat and stay cool.

For my latest trip I have bought some brilliant rain gear from Showers Pass who make some rather cool gear such as rain jackets and pants specifically for cycling.

Useful Links

If you want to read more come back and read again one day, or go to the following links which provide excellent advice on gear.

http://estherwarren.wordpress.com/equipment/

http://estherwarren.wordpress.com/equipment-the-hardware/

http://northernwalker.wordpress.com/2013/05/31/cycle-touring-iceland-gear-list/

Frame Bags and Cool Gear

Frame Bags and Cool Gear

Today I won some cool gear from Kath & Kedan at Bike Bag Dude. Although I haven’t met them yet (hopefully I’ll get the pleasure on my next east coast adventure) they are doing some great stuff with bike-packing gear, and doing their bit to support functional, useful and cool cycling bags.

For those of you who don’t want to add racks or panniers to your bike, it might be worth considering a frame bag to carry those groceries.