Updated Lightweight Packing List for Bicycle Touring Couples

Now that we have a few tours under our belt, and our last tour was in a place where the temperatures were a bit cooler (New Zealand), our packing list needed to be updated. Here’s what we’re taking with us for our upcoming ACA Sierra Cascades tour. Total weight is everything but the bikes and racks.

Category Name Pieces Discussion Grams Pounds
Total       27 kg 59.5
Camping       4471 9.85
Tent Big Anges Copper Spur UL2 tent Tent Nice tent, fits two normal sized people snuggly, two doors, two vestibules. 450
Rain fly Rain fly Could have went with UL3 for another 500 grams, but don’t see need? 510
Overall Bag Overall Bag Left behind stake bag 11g 25
Ground Cover Ground Cover 175
GC Bag GC Bag 11
8 Stakes 8 Stakes 89
Emg Splint Emg Splint 10
Poles Poles 440
Pole Bag Pole Bag 13
Sleeping Bag ZPacks 20F 900 Fill Down w/ Draft Tube Sleeping Bag Evaluating durability, so light it is unbelievable. Regular girth is snug on me and I am skinny. 600
ZPacks 0F Sleeping Bag Smaller bag, but lower temperature rating. 595
w/Draft Tube
Stuff Sacks for Bags Sea to Summit UL Dry Sack 8L Roll up dry sack 56
Sea to Summit UL Dry Sack 8L Roll up dry sack Found that the version of these bags with compression straps weren’t really needed because we had plenty of space and the straps added 100 grams. 30
Sleeping Bag Liner Cocoon Silk Mummy Liner Liner Keeps sleeping bags cleaner, works as lightweight cover on hot nights, adds warmth if needed on cold nights 115
Cocoon Silk Mummy Liner Liner 115
Sleeping Pad Exped SynMat Duo Pad for two Lightweight & insulated; schnozzle bag makes inflating a breeze. Two independent inflation points so you can both sleep comfortably. 797
Pump Exped Schnozzle Pump Bag Store the sleeping pad and pillows inside the bag. The bag can inflate both sides of the sleeping pad in about 3 bags of air. 58
Pillows Exped M Air Pillow M Air Pillow 72
M Air Pillow M Air Pillow 72
Headlamp Black Diamond Headlamp weight includes 4 Lithium AAA batteries. Much brighter than previous headlamps. 100
Headlamp 100
Bug Netting Ben’s Invisinet mosquito protection 19
Bug Netting Ben’s Invisinet mosquito protection 19
Eating       3074 6.77
Stove Soto Windmaster  stove + bag 73
Stove Trangia Alcohol burner 110
Stove Trangia Gas burner  + bag 194
Pots & Pans Trangia  Pots, pans, and handle 858
Orange Bag Trangia 27
Bowls Sea to Summit Delta Bowl Bowl 87
2 Spoons & Forks REI Plastic 37
Measuring Spoon MSR Fold-able Useful for measuring/scooping 30
 Stirring Spoon  GSR  Long handle. 17
Can Opener John Wayne Style  +carabiner for storage 129
Dish washing Towel Small Camp Towel 22
Dish Drying Towel REI travel towel  Fluffy drying towel 57
Kitchen Sink Sea to Summit 5L Sink Makes dishwashing/peoplewashing easier when facilities are lacking 135
Bag 35
Dish washing Sponge Scotch-Brite Stay Clean Scrubbers Sponge Great easy to clean sponge 7
Fuel Primus 230g Gas Can 375
Bear Can Bearikade Weekender store all of our food in here don’t have to worry about critters, nor bears on future rides. 881
Hygiene       1109 2.4
Shovel Montbell Scoop if nature calls, while in nature 39
Toilet Paper Tiny Travel Roll 30
Towel Travel Towel Grey 113
Travel Towel Green 142
Turban  Green Helps dry long hair. 73
Wilderness Wash Citronella Body Wash 110
No Smell Other Wash 110
Shower Shoes Airwalk (Pam) Flip Flops 138
Cushe (Matt) Flip Flops 192
Toothbrush Crest Spin Brush Toothbrush Luxury choice to have battery operated toothbrush. Weight includes batteries. 100
Extra Head 0
Toiletry Bag Eagle Creek Lightweight 42
Fingernail Clippers Generic 20
Survival       1086 2.4
Space Blanket / Tarp / Picinic Blanket Space Tarp/EMG Blanket terrific all around tarp, used on side of roads, picnic benchs. Can act as emergency blanket if needed. Very versitale 345
Water Storage Nalgene 96oz Cantene going through arid areas, up to 90 miles between services, empty they weigh almost nothing 80
Nalgene 96oz Cantene 80
Bug Lotion 3M Ultrathon Lotion Excellent bug repellent, does contain DEET 70
Pepper Spray Fox Labs 2oz Spray Bottle Best pepper spray on the market. 145
 2oz Bottle 145
Filter Hydrapak Filter Bottle Collapsable filter bottle. 56
Purification Tablets Iodine tablets for emergencies. 0
First aid kit Assorted 135
Emergency Tape Tenacious Tape Terrific repair tape, have used on rain pants and toiletry bag holds very well 30
Bike Stuff       5515 12.2
Panniers Axiom LaSalle 45 Rear Pannier Have lasted two tours, work well 855
Rain Cover 75
Axiom LaSalle 45 Rear Pannier 855
Rain Cover 75
Randonnee Aero 60 Rear Pannier New/waterproof 885
Randonnee Aero 60 Rear Pannier 885
Axiom Cartier Front Pannier 775
Axiom Cartier Front Pannier 775
Repair Stuff Fiber Fix Spoke Kevlar Spoke Just in case can replace a spoke 16
Fiber Fix Spoke Kevlar Spoke 16
Bike Care Tri Flow Lubricant 68
RavX Retractable Cable Lock Extremely lightweight deterrent 50
ACA Maps 185
Luxury       575 1.27
USB Cord 17
Battery Backup Anker Bar 242
USB Cords Startech 6″ USB A to Mini B These weigh in a few grams less then other cables 12
1′ USB A to Micro B Yes I am obsessing over every gram 17
1′ USB A to Micro B Yes I am obsessing over every gram 17
Misc Micro B 17
Misc Micro B 13
Headlight for Bike Diablo Exposure Light 1000 lumen’s 🙂 109
Helmet Mount 10
USB Cord proprietary 🙁 25
Reusable Shopping Bag Chico Bag Bag included carabiner to clip to pannier, folds in to small pouch on its self to store small 41
Clothes Line REI Easier than string 55
Matt’s Clothing     5132 11.3
Rain Jacket Showers Pass Event Event Jacket w/hood 472
Rain Pants Sierra Designs Pants Cheap rain pants also used in cold weather to keep wind off legs 377
Bike Shorts AeroDesign 210
Bike Shorts AeroDesign 210
Cycling Base Layer Showers Pass  Top 176
Bike Shirt Ibex Neo Long Sleeve Wool 260
Ibex Indie Short Sleeve Wool 190
Giro 179
Cycling Base Layer Assos  Long Sleeve 215
Cycling Tights Castelli  Windproof pants 198
Down Jacket Patagonia 361
Leg Warmers D 117
Leg Warmers  Pearl Izumi 130
Arm Warmers  Cutter 65
Sun Sleeves Novara great for keeping sun off the arms 45
Cycling Vest Garneau High Visibility 126
Cycling Shoes  Pearl Izumi  MTB shoes  805
Shoe Covers GoreTex 176
Cycling Gloves  Pearl Izumi Full Finger for most days  68
Showers Pass Insulated Full Finger for cold days 142
Camp Pants REI 360
Camp Shirt Smartwool Long sleeve wool is great for not smelling, breathes well 161
Camp Underwear Exofficio 2 pairs 172
Stuff Sack Sea to Summit Event Bags Roll up dry sack not compression type bags with straps, they are 100+ grams heavier 50
Down Vest Marmot Zeus 268
thermal underwear  Icebreaker  wool 147
Balaclava Pearl Izumi Full Face protection 51
Beanie Zpacks 30
Bathing Suit 190
Socks Castelli 2 Pairs 54
 Showers Pass  1 Pair  67
 Swiftwick  1 Pair  49
Pam Clothing     6067 13.4
Underwear Exofficio  Travel underwear. Durable, washes and dries easily. To be worn off the bike. 3 pairs. 78
Camp Bra Victoria’s Secret 94
Camp Shirt Ibex wool Long Sleeve 143
Camp Pants REI  Long pants, convertible to shorts 352
Boy Shorts Stoic  Wool Underwear 83
Base Layer Under Armor  Bottom 187
Camp Socks Wigwam  Wool 75
Down Jacket Big Agnes 324
Down Vest Isis 309
Bathing Suit generic 129
Cycling base layer Showers Pass  Top 154
Heavy cycling shirt Assos Cycling  Cycling heavy layer-top 206
Sports Bra Victoria’s Secret  Front enclosure makes for easy removal at the end of a tiring day 145
Sports Bra Victoria’s Secret  Different style 156
Jersey Ibex  Wool S/S jersey 164
Jersey Garneau S/S jersey 116
Bike Shorts AeroDesign 217
Bike Shorts AeroDesign 212
Bike Shorts AeroDesign 200
Socks Smartwool 30
Socks Smartwool 33
Socks Ibex 28
Socks Swiftwick 38
Cycling Wind Pants Sugoi  Heavy, but necessary for me, I like them better than leg warmers. 449
Bike shoes Shimano MTB shoes 745
Balaclava Pearl Izumi Full Face coverage 50
Earwarmer phd 27
Riding Beanie Showers Pass  Also use as camp beanie 69
Glove Liner Showers Pass 30
Outer Glove Showers Pass 118
Arm Warmers Cutter 66
SunSleeves Novara 42
Rain Jacket Showers Pass  Elite 2.0 458
Rain Pants Showers Pass  Refuge 346
Shoe Covers Gore Tex 194

We’ve worked really hard to get these numbers as low as we can. I’m sure there’s still some places where we could shave off ounces, but we’re both pretty comfortable that we’re not carrying any extra unnecessary weight this time around.

Why Scheduling Rest Days is a Good Idea

I recently ran a 7.5 hour race with some friends. OK, so I didn’t so much run as hike. The course was at a mountain ski resort, and took us up and down some pretty steep ski runs. I’m in decent shape, and the hike itself wasn’t super challenging. The duration was what almost did me in. My body is not used to moving constantly for that length of time. I was definitely feeling it the next day. And the next. And, I’m ashamed to say, the next. Three days later, and I finally feel close to normal.

This experience got me thinking about some of my past tours. Tour number one was really rough. We had anticipated being able to cover many more miles in the first days than we were actually able to. However, since we were unprepared, and our bodies weren’t used to that much physical stress, we found ourselves needing breaks. We took twice or even three times as many days off as we planned, which put us way behind schedule. Since we had a hard deadline to finish, the last fourteen days of the tour came with zero breaks. Fourteen straight days of riding almost did me in. After, I felt very similar to the 7.5 hour hike, and spent several days recovering. To me, it’s not fun to have difficulty walking first thing in the morning. And I’m sure it’s not really good for your muscles and connective tissue, either.

Bottom line is, your body needs rest. You build your most strength during rest days. That’s not to say you should sit around on your butt on your day off. Nope! Go on a hike, walk around, explore. Even take a short, unloaded ride. Plan the next few days of riding. Get plenty of sleep. Make sure you’re ready to get back on the bike and give it your best effort.

Everyone is different, and every tour is different. On our most recent tour, we typically rode 6 days and rested one. That seemed to work pretty well. I’m sure other people can ride more days (or less) before needing a break. Do what works for you. Just don’t plan your trip, anticipating 70-100 mile days with no rest days factored in. You’ll make it very difficult to accomplish the goals you’ve set for yourself. What kind of riding schedule do you like to keep? Let us know in the comments below!

Pain While Touring

So, you’ve bought your bike, and it’s been professionally fitted. Great! You’ll never have any pain, it’s a perfect fit, forever, right? Wrong! Chances are, at some point as you put miles on your bike, you’ll experience some pain. I’ll give you an example. Before my first long distance tour, I put about 500 miles on my bike, and it felt great. However, after just 250 miles of the tour, my knees were killing me and there was a pain in my shoulder that wouldn’t go away. What gives?

Well, turns out that as you ride, especially loaded, your body changes. If you do all of your training unloaded and then load up to go, there will be an adjustment period while your body gets used to the extra weight and you may pedal, sit, or grip different than your training.

Proper seat height is crucial to saving your knees over long distance rides. I’ve met some riders who are afraid of changing the fit of their bikes from what the professional fitter set it at. Unless that fitter is following you on your rides, he won’t be able to get the perfect fit for you, and it may need to be adjusted as time goes on. Initially he may be able to get the fit mostly there, but you’ll still may need to dial it in to get it just right.

I’m not a doctor or a professional, so take my advice for what it’s worth. I am a person who is not afraid of making the small adjustments necessary throughout my tours to minimize aches and pains. Here’s something that I find key: small changes can make a big difference. On that first tour, my seat height needed a few millimeters of adjustment to give my knees relief. My shoulders were helped by a smaller stem and a slight change in handlebar angle. I’m constantly tweaking my bike to fit better. I have found that if I pay attention to my body, and make an adjustment early on, I can prevent an injury before it happens. I can then ride longer and further, and enjoy my rides much more.

If you’re not sure how to make adjustments to your bike, find a local bike shop and talk to the mechanic. Hopefully he’ll show you where the adjustments are and how to do it. It’s much better to ask the questions before you leave instead of trying to figure it out on the road.

I cannot stress it enough: if you’re in pain while riding, make an adjustment. For example, mark where your seat currently is then change the seat height a few millimeters. Then ride 10 miles. If it didn’t make a difference, move it back, and adjust the seat forward or back. Ride another 10 miles. And so forth. (Another adjustment that you can make is where the clip is on your shoe. I had to change that one time, and it helped.) Don’t fear change. It just might make all the difference

High Altitude Riding

I don’t know about you, but I live at a pretty low elevation. We’re not right at sea level, but pretty close (just over 1000 feet). When we’re planning our bicycle tours, it’s inevitable that we’ll be running into some high altitude stuff, even just momentarily. Riding at sea level doesn’t prepare you very much for the challenges of higher elevations. Luckily for us, we have a National Forest nearby, with elevations up into the mid to high 7000s feet. We definitely like to get up there and ride as much as possible, not only because it’s cooler on a hot summer day, but it helps train our bodies to know how to breathe when the oxygen levels are lower. When we climbed up over the pass from Arizona into New Mexico last fall, we were unprepared for the difficulty of breathing. We just took it slowly, and tried to rest when we needed it.

I recently visited a family member in Wyoming, and found myself struggling to breathe doing normal activity. My brother’s house sits at about 6700 feet, and I could sure tell a difference. One thing I found useful to getting myself acclimated was physical activity. The second day after I arrived, I went for a run. Sure, my pace was slower than normal, and I didn’t go nearly as far as I usually do, but after the run, I felt better and had an easier time breathing. And then came the real challenge: a bike ride. After I’d been there a few days, I borrowed a bicycle and went for a climb. By the time I had climbed 1000 feet and reached the summit, I was huffing and puffing. I took a break at the top, enjoyed the view, and then coasted back down. It took just about a week to get fully acclimated, but the addition of physical activity made a huge difference.

One thing to keep in mind if you’re making a big climb and you’re is not used to the elevation is to take it slow. Don’t expect too much from your body. Even a few thousand feet of elevation higher has a noticeable difference in oxygen levels. You will have to breathe more to get the same amount you are used to. So, go easy on yourself. If you have a chance to do some high altitude training before your ride, great! It can only help. But if you don’t, that’s ok, too. Just take it slow and steady. Give yourself lots of breaks. And enjoy those views from the top!

What is for Lunch?

We’ve talked about breakfast, but now let’s talk about the second most important meal of the day: Lunch. (P.S. When you’re touring, all meals are important.) While breakfast and dinner are usually eaten in camp, bicycle tourists typically eat lunch “on-the-go”. A good lunch can take you right past that afternoon slump and help you finish your day’s ride strong.

Obviously, the sky’s the limit when it comes to what you can eat for lunch. For us, we prefer simple and easy lunches. I do, however, get tired of eating the same thing every day, so I like to switch it up as well (Matt would eat the same thing all tour if I let him). Here’s a list of our favorite bicycle touring lunches:

Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. The old standby. Every kid’s favorite meal is definitely appropriate for a bicycle tourist. The protein/fat from the peanut butter and the sugar from the jelly restores energy reserves from the morning and helps energize you for the afternoon’s ride. Peanut butter jars are heavy, so we like to buy the small plastic ones (they also take up less space). We end up buying peanut butter more often, but that’s ok with us. Jelly, surprisingly enough, keeps for a long time without refrigeration. We like to buy the smallest jars we can find, which last us a couple days. If it smells off at all, we toss it, but they are definitely good for at least 3 days. To add variety, we try different kinds of jelly, or grab some honey and add fruit. If adding fruit bananas are especially great, but blackberries are also awesome. We’ve tried every type of bread that grocery stores carry, as well. Our favorite is Ezekial bread, with the sprouted wheat berries. We also like the sandwich thins, which don’t get smooshed as much as regular loaves.

Salami and cheese sandwiches. Getting enough protein while touring is key to keeping energy levels up. Salami is a great option, since it usually comes in small sizes and keeps well without refrigeration. Cheese also lasts longer that I would have thought. We just buy small blocks. Cheese is also great to add to your pasta dinner at night. So, bonus! Multiple uses [Symbol]

Deli Food. Most grocery stores in the US have a deli section with pre-cooked chicken or other meats, potato/macaroni salads, and other great picnic food. Normally they will pack as much or as little as you want and you pay by weight. This stuff easily will last for 2-3 hours so you can grab it mid-morning then sit down and have a proper picnic later for lunch with no preparation required.

Eating out. Sometimes, we’ll be riding through a town right around lunchtime. When this happens, we like to find a good local restaurant and enjoy a sit down meal. It’s nice to be able to support the local economy. Plus, we usually take the opportunity to freshen up a bit, use the restroom, and even charge up our phones if we need it.

Lunch is sometimes my favorite part of the day. It can be a chance to spread out our “picnic blanket” (really our emergency blanket/tarp) and enjoy the beautiful scenery. It’s times like those that make me feel really grateful to be alive and on a bicycle tour. What are your favorite lunches? Let us know in the comments below.

Choosing the Right Lock for your Touring Bicycle

Because Pam and I tour as a couple we always have one person to watch the bicycles while the other runs to the store or bathroom. However, if you want to leave your campsite and hike, or take a day trip somewhere else, a lock can do wonders to ease your mind. Last tour we brought a tiny portable lock on tour with us, which a pair of scissors probably could have cut through. We basically would just lock our bikes together to keep honest people honest. However, there were a few times I wished that I had brought a more substantial lock.

After some research I decided that a frame lock (which attaches to the rear triangle of the bike and stops the rear wheel from moving) is the ideal touring lock. While a frame lock alone is not going to prevent someone from picking up your bike, the fact that it is fully loaded and said person would have to carry 50+ pounds where ever they wanted to take the bike might be enough of a deterrent.

Another benefit of a frame lock is how easy it is to engage the lock, you simply partially twist the key while pushing down on the lock lever and the bike will not roll away. If a bit more security is needed a plug in chain or any cable with loops can be attached to a fixed object. But there isn’t any fiddling with getting a lock out of your bags and finding an appropriate place to attached it. The lock is always on your bike ready to go.

Additionally when the lock is engaged your rear wheel won’t turn. Since neither of us have kickstands, engaging the lock means we can lean the bike against anything we want and it will stay upright and not roll away.

If someone really wants to steal my bicycle they will; no lock can stop that. But this will give me peace of mind that someone can’t just ride away with my life, and it is so easy to use that it is unlikely for me to not lock the bike. It may even allow my wife and me to spend more time together (in case being on a tour wasn’t enough time together anyways).

Bicycle Repair Equipment: 5 Must-haves for your next tour

Where you plan to tour and how long you’ll be out there play a big factor in deciding how much repair equipment to bring. If your tour is in the US on highway and state roads, chances are that you can get away with bringing fewer repair items. However, if you are touring in the Siberian Tundra, you might want to bring everything, including a spare bike if you can! Here are 5 things I think every cycle tourist should bring.

  1. Multitool. Do not leave home without it! Instead of having separate tools in varying sizes, the multitool makes it so much more convenient. You will need this at some point on the tour to make adjustments, or to make repairs. A proper bicycle multitool with the appropriate sizes for your bicycle is very, very important. If you are going around the world the Topeak Alien III  has every tool you can cram in. For something simpler try the Avenir Woodsie 10.
  2. Spare tubes. Even with the world’s best, toughest tires, you will have a flat tire at some point on the tour. Road debris or nails or thorns will most likely cause a flat. Make sure you have at least two spares; we have had valves fall off and other oddities that would have left us stranded if we didn’t have more than one spare. Tube manufacturers recommend no more than 2 patches per tube, however we have easily doubled that. Slime tubes can help prevent tiny holes, but are still susceptible to large punctures; we found them less useful than we hoped. Tubeless tire systems are touted as being better, however a common complaint is the difficulty of riding with them. It is easiest to bring along spare tubes and know how to change a flat before you leave.
  3. Tire Levers. It is much easier to change a flat with these. They are usually cheap and you can pick them up at any bike shop or store that sells bicycles. Make sure you get a sturdy pair; the flimsy thin ones will break. They come in packs of three typically however two is all you really need.
  4. Hand Pump with Gauge. Many hand-held pumps are difficult to use and impossible to tell how much air is in the tire. With a gauge, you know you’re putting the right amount of air in. We’ve tried several small pumps and the Topeak Turbo Morph G Mountain Mini Pump  was by far the best. I would recommend it to any tourist.
  5. Duct Tape. When all else fails, duct tape can be the difference between having to walk and being able to hobble to a bike shop for repairs. We like to keep a roll wrapped around parts of our pannier racks for emergencies. You can use duct tape as a tire boot, to patch clothing/tents, an emergency bandage, and much more.

If you are traveling to extremely remote areas, consider bringing along some extra tools. For example, a chain tool, extra spokes, lube, extra tires, cassette removal tool, pedal wrench, and spare derailleur cables might come in handy. These tools all add weight and take up space, but might be necessary if you are hundreds (or thousands) of miles from the nearest bike shop.


What to Pack: Clothing

As with everything related to cycle touring, careful planning beforehand can payoff big time. This is especially true when it comes to clothing. Weather prediction is a tricky thing, and having the appropriate clothing for any weather situation is difficult. But, with a few guidelines, you can make the right decision and pack your panniers with the right amount of clothing.

The key is to pack only what you need and not a thing more. As I look over my gear list for my last two tours (check them out here and here), I notice a theme. Many items have multiple uses. Versatility is the name of the game.

Tops. Cycling jerseys come in a variety of sleeve lengths. Sleeveless, short-sleeve, long-sleeve, three-quarter sleeve. The most versatile is short sleeves in combination with arm warmers. However, I’m starting to find long-sleeved jerseys to be the best for me, as it cuts down on the amount of sunscreen I have to apply. Plus, if it’s really cold, I put my armwarmers on under my jersey, and then with my rain jacket as an over-layer, I have 3 layers on my arms and I’m very comfortable. I usually bring one short-sleeved jersey along as well. If the jersey is made of a material such as wool, it can go a few days before starting to smell funky. I like to at least air my jersey out from the day, using a clothesline (such as this one) or just draping it over the tent. Unless it rains or is overly humid, it dries overnight. Another great thing about wool is that it lends very well to hand washing, which can be great in areas where you are away from a washing machine.

Bottoms. Cycling shorts also come in a variety of lengths, from super short shorts to long leggings, and everything in between. The most versatile would be shorts, in combination with leg warmers. I’ve found that two pairs of bicycle shorts are all I need on a tour. I wash the pair I wore that day, let it dry overnight, and wear the other pair the next day. I generally wash the shorts in the shower with me at night, making sure to get all the soap out. You can even wear the shorts multiple days in a row if required, just make sure the shorts are dry completely, because wet shorts can rub you the wrong way. I also like to bring a pair of rain pants, which act as a windbreaker layer as well.

Undergarments. The other essentials would be underwear, bras, and socks. I don’t wear underwear while I ride, because of the rubbing and chafing that can happen. I bring 2 pairs of easily washable travel underwear (like these), 2 sports bras, 1 regular bra (which I recommend for every woman. Sports bras can be so restrictive, and having an actual bra can make you feel more human at the end of a long day’s ride.), 3 pairs of riding socks, and one pair of camp socks.

Rain gear. Invest in a good set of waterproof outer layers. For more on what makes raingear great, see this post.

Camp clothes. I recommend bringing a pair of pants and a long-sleeved shirt to wear about camp. I prefer pants that unzip down to shorts, because this adds to the versatility.

Miscellaneous. Other recommendations are a beanie (to keep your head warm in camp), a pair of walking shoes (so you can enjoy exploring camps and towns), and a down vest.

By getting pieces that have multiple uses, you can cut down on the amount of clothing you bring with you on tour, and still be ready for anything Mother Nature can throw at you.


Lessons Learned from my First Bicycle Tour

September 20, 2011
Ferndale, WA to Deception Pass State Park, WA
52 Miles

Woke up early this morning to a beautiful sunrise at Aunt Robin’s house. She made us a delicious breakfast (bison with eggs and hashbrown casserole). Finished up the bike prep, and away we left! We departed at 9am or so, and headed to Bellingham. We got to the bike shop in Bellingham around 11, and picked up two wireless bike computers. The guy at the shop was nice enough to help us install them. Then it was back on the road. We should have eaten in Bellingham then, since it was another 3 hours until we made it to a café for lunch. It was a hard fought 3 hours of riding, too. By then, we had gone 17 miles from Bellingham, only 29 miles for the day, and I was already so tired. That ride through the mountains was beautiful, and we even picked some blackberries, but I wasn’t sure I could keep going. But we did keep going. And going. Past Padillo Bay and Anacortes, up over Deception Pass to Deception Pass State Park. We had trouble finding the campsite, and then had to pay $21, but I’m so glad to be done. Tomorrow will be better! It is 730pm, getting dark, and after a baby wipe refresh, I’m ready for bed!

This was my very first journal entry from my very first bicycle tour. I did pretty well conveying the mood of the day. But there were some details I left out. I didn’t really describe how miserable and tired I was. How I almost broke down and cried 5 miles from camp because I didn’t think I could keep going. We took a wrong turn trying to find the campground and ended up climbing up a steep hill, and I was so dejected and disheartened. If this was bicycle touring, I wanted to quit. But here’s the good news. As I said in the journal entry, it WAS better the next day. And the next. It just kept getting better. I got stronger, and it became easier to enjoy the little moments. There are definite moments bicycle touring when you will want to quit. But there are many more when you’ll just be amazed. At the scenery, at your strength, at how far you’ve come. I’d like to share with you a few of the lessons I learned (from that very first day of touring) that can benefit all of us.

  1. If you shipped your bike to your starting location, make sure you know how to put it back together again.
  2. Train (with distance and weight) before you leave.
  3. If you don’t train, plan for shorter distance days in the beginning until you get stronger.
  4. Make sure you know how many miles you are traveling the first day. Nothing is worse than thinking you’ve already finished the ride for the day, only to find out you have to go 12 miles further.
  5. You WILL get stronger and it WILL get easier.
  6. Eat, eat, eat!
  7. Always have an extra meal, just in case you need it. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are perfect for this.
  8. Bring fuel for your stove. Sterno cans just don’t cut it!
  9. You don’t need a pasta strainer! And it’s ok to ship back unneeded things you thought you would need on the trip, but really ended up just being extra weight.
  10. It will be harder than you think, but much more rewarding than you can imagine.

I thought I had prepared myself for that first tour. Boy was I in for a surprise. But the thing is, even though I collapsed onto my sleeping pad that first night and passed out from exhaustion, and even though my whole body was sore in the morning from all the hard work I had done the day before, I never gave up. And everything eventually came together. When I think of that first tour, the difficulties of the first day (or week) are a dim memory compared to the rest of the tour. I’m so glad I was able to push past those speedbumps and keep going. And I’m a better person for it.

Choosing a Bicycle Route

Why can it be so difficult to decide where to ride on a tour? We’ve been on two long bicycle tours (and countless small ones) and we are always pleased with the experience. However, in the early planning stages we tend to waffle on the details. Things like: where are we going? When are we going? How long do we plan to go? Answers to these questions continuously change as the planning continues.

Our latest tour took us across the southern tier of the United States through autumn. However, the trip was originally planned as a northern crossing in the spring. Why the drastic change?

As with many things in life, timing is everything. To complete a successful northern tier tour, without suffering through intense heat or deep snow, the timing needs to be perfect. If you travel west to east, you want to leave late enough to avoid snow in the mountain passes, but early enough to avoid hot, humid weather once you reach the plains. For us, this proved too uncertain. The southern route has similar issues, but we found that it worked for our schedule. We could leave late enough in the season to avoid horrendously high temperatures, but early enough to avoid snow in the mountains.

The main consideration when we plan a tour is flexibility. We give ourselves plenty of time to account for illness and injury, since these are two things generally out of our control. We plan for rest days. We’ve found that a rest day every 5 or 6 days is usually sufficient, and we account for this in our mileage estimates. We also try to plan for several different “early outs”. If something goes wrong on the tour, we think about where we could end it prematurely. Is there an airport along the way we could shoot for? What about the railroad? A large town with a rental car? Several friends and family members have offered to save us if we need it, as well. We’ve never had to call in that favor (yet), but it’s sure nice to know it’s there.

What’s that old saying? “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” I think it’s applicable to planning a bicycle tour. You can’t, and shouldn’t try to plan for everything on a bicycle tour. But thinking about the route before you leave can help you have an enjoyable, safe ride. We have found most of our least favorite days touring are when you lock ourselves in to being at a certain place at a certain time and have to push too hard to get there. In the end, it’s about the journey, not the destination. No matter where your tour takes you, you will learn things about yourself that you never knew before. And that’s what really matters!


Adventure Cycling Association has many preplanned routes, and their maps are top notch. Check them out!