Cycling Along The Way...

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Silver City, NM, United States
Riders of the wheel. Racers, Roadies, Mountain bikers, Touring cyclists, Commuters, and others. Diamond frames, recumbents, trikes, and more. Sharing a web of connections often misunderstood or unappreciated by those who don't ride. Herewith, my attempt to share some of the more rational thoughts that flit around inside my head while bicycling, knocking back a brew or three, or just thinking about life. Reviews of bicycles, gear, touring, and more, plus some unsolicited posts about people, politics, and philosophy. Other things, too. Me: retired, gave up my TV in 1988, avid cyclist, several cross country tours completed with more to come. Your thoughts?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

BICYCLE TOURING: Accessories and Gear

"Life is like riding a bicycle - in order to keep your balance, you must keep moving." - Albert Einstein

Bicycle touring, like most things we do in life, is personal.  There's no complete registry that you can go to, get a check off list, and purchase everything you need.  Well, that's not quite true.  Sites are plentiful where there are lists and you can buy the basics that others think you need.  If you've ever been backpacking in your life, you'll have a good idea of what's needed for bicycle touring.  In previous entries, I've dealt with some of what I consider basics.  Now, on to some clothing, shoes, tent, sleeping pad, and maybe a few other things.
    • RAIN GEAR:  First thing I think of with clothing is rain gear.  It's important to have a really good rain jacket and rain pants, as well as waterproof covers for your shoes and helmet.  I have Showers Pass rain gear
      Showers Pass Club Pro Jacket
      Showers Pass Club Convertible 2 Pant
      Fine stuff, in my opinion.  These are expensive, but well worth saving up for them.  I bought the hood that goes with the jacket, too...$25.  Using these two pieces along with wool cycling clothes/underwear will also keep you warm in wind and cold.  There are much cheaper options out there, so don't take my word on this product.  Some just like a poncho...and they work well, too.  They're cooler because they allow air to flow under the poncho.  The jacket/pants can capture sweat.  Oh, right, the material that "breathes".  Well, IMHO, I've not found anything that "breathes" that good.  Only ponchos.  For shoe covers, there are several brands out there to use, depending on whether you're riding in the winter or warmer weather.  As for a helmet cover, you can buy an expensive waterproof cover or, like me, just carry a shower cap you'd use in, where else, the shower.  Lightweight, inexpensive, available everywhere.  And they fit easily into the pocket of your rain jacket.  Lose it?  No worries.  Buy another one.  Some "breathable" covers can cost a fair amount of money.  No need.  Or buy a hood for your rain jacket if it doesn't come with one.  
    • CYCLING/TOURING CLOTHING:  As for the rest of your clothing, your choice.  I like the spandex style cycling clothes.  More comfortable, I think.  Others wear t-shirts, shorts, sandals, etc.  Depends on what you like really.  My preference for cycling shorts is wool.  I also use wool jerseys, too.  Along with some synthetic jerseys.  I also prefer full zip jerseys and bib shorts.  Again, it's personal.  Find your comfort clothes.  My preference is Smartwool over IBEX.  Smartwool seems to hold up better.  From experience on my cross country trip in 2010.  For clothing needs off the bike, I like pants with zip off the legs.  These give you pants and shorts to wear off the bike.  Also, think wool for some of those off bike clothing items...t-shirts, underwear, zip t's, etc.  Even wet, it'll keep you warm.  You can buy lightweight, mid-weight and heavier weight shirts, tights, etc., that can be combined to handle colder weather or removed for warmer weather.  Wool combined with rain gear give you all the warmth and protection from the elements you might need.  Not talking extreme weather, but, rather, weather you'd normally encounter out on the road.  With cycling gaining a larger presence in cities, there are even more clothing options for cycling.  Take a look online.
  • SHOES: Shoes?  I like good cycling shoes that I can clip into the pedals with, but that's my preference that I developed over several decades of using clip-in style shoes.  I use a clip-in sandal and a regular pair of touring specific shoes made by KEEN
    Keen Austin Pedal Cycling Shoe
    Keen Commuter II
    They look like regular shoes or sandals but the cleats on the bottom are receded and you can walk normally with them.  These have worked very well for me.  Some like sneakers, boots, shoes, etc.  One of the pluses with shoes designed for cycling is they have a stiffer sole, which work better on pedals for touring than regular shoes do.  I also throw in a pair of regular sandals.  Lightweight, easy to store, great to have on hot days off the bike or to wear around a campsite.  Something light to put on for the trip to the outhouse in the middle of the night.
  • TENT, SLEEPING BAG, AND PAD:  First thing first.  If you use a tent, make sure you get one that is lightweight but not at the expense of roominess.  Considering the amount of overall weight you're carrying on the bike, don't skimp on the size of a tent due to it's weight.  Larger is more comfortable.  Particularly if you get stuck staying inside one for a long period of time due to weather.  Get one that's seam sealed at the factory.  Yes, you can do it yourself, but why?  My tent is a Black Diamond Skylight.
    Skylight Tent
    Black Diamond Skylight
      I also have a Bibler Ahwahnee 4 season tent that I bought back in mid 1980's. 
    Ahwahnee Tent
    Bibler Ahwahnee Gore-Tex Tent
    There are many other options that cost less and will suffice.  Should you want an extra door or window in your tent or if your tent needs one beats Rainy Pass for that.  I prefer a tent that doesn't require a fly and before I head out on another tour, I'm going to have Rainy Pass install a larger window in my Skylight tent.  Sleeping bag?  A mid to low range bag allows for a greater variety of weather.  Down or synthetic?  Your call.  I use down.  Pad...too many to talk about here.  Go to an outdoor store of your choice and check them out.  I use a Big Agnes sleeping bag which allows you to use any 20" wide sleeping pad, which is inserted into a sleeve on the base of the sleeping bag.  No sliding off the pad.  I like it.
Enough for today.  Next, I'll go over some of the extras that are so prevalent these days...electronics, etc.  For now, a tune to exit with....hmm, what should I add here?  "Four Strong Winds" by Neil Young.  A rocker whose talents have carried him through the decades and I never tire of hearing him perform.