I’m embarrassingly aware that this blog has started off as a self-obsessed, navel-gazing bore-fest and I’m hoping it will get much more entertaining once I actually start the trip.
Before then though, here’s a (boring, but in a different way) post about packing for a long-term bike tour complete with obligatory exploded birds-eye (like a messy fish finger) views of all the junk I’m taking. I’ll write more about individual bits of clothing and equipment later, as and when they become relevant by irritating or impressing me.
People often ask what I’m taking and how I’m going to carry it. In some cases it’s because they are non-cyclists and can’t really comprehend living off a bike, in others they are just as much of a bike dork as I am and want to know details.
To start off, I should say that this trip is neither ‘lightweight’ nor ‘bikepacking’ in style and so is deeply unfashionable. I’m taking loads of stuff because in this case I’m prioritising comfort over speed/distance-covered and I don’t really know where I’m going or what I’m going to be doing. I’ve aimed for flexibility and multi-functionality in as much stuff as as I can.
The bike is the first thing that will serve up to three functions. Day-to-day touring with all my luggage, mountain biking and general errands/transport if I stay in one place for a while.
Accommodation-wise, I’ve got a tent and all the junk that goes with it (sleeping mat, bag, chair, cooking equipment) so I can wild-camp, pitch up in people’s back gardens or relax in a proper campsite for a day or two. All that takes up a load of space and is the bulk of the weight.
I’m also taking a range of electronic items. I’ll use my laptop to plan routes, store photos, download podcasts and update this blog and social media. My phone can do some of those things too but will primarily be for contacting hosts and maybe some navigation too. I’ve got an e-book and two retro iPods for on-bike distraction and off-bike entertainment, and a Garmin GPS for (I hope) most of my navigation needs. I’ve go lights for day and nighttime use and for camping. That all sounds sensible, right? I’m taking more than that though; up to and including an electronic nose-hair trimmer. I’ll keep most of these valuables in one pannier that I’ll take into shops/bars with me while the rest just stays on my bike wherever I lock it up.
Clothing is much simpler. 8 pairs of pants and socks, some shorts, t-shirts, jumper, waterproofs, hats and gloves. Easy. It all squashes down quite tightly too. One pair of cycling shoes and one pair of trainers. I might get some flip-flops at some point. I’m not taking cycling shorts because I don’t want to look too ridiculous and I’ll be stopping and starting and I think sitting in a sweaty chamois for a few hours is likely to cause problems!
Many experienced cycle tourists would say I’m taking way too much stuff, and I’m sure I’ll agree with them when I’m slogging up mountains, but I’m pretty confident I’ll use everything I take with me. I’ve toured a few times in the past, carrying a fair bit less than this, but the aims were different. Eating dinner squatting on my haunches before retiring to a tent I can’t sit up in are not options for this one!