Gear

Because the bike and gear forms such a large and critical part of a journey by bike, it seems customary to post a packlist and details of the bike setup. Not everyone agrees with this, and I understand that view point. Equipment is very personal: for some, perfecting a bike and gear setup is a central part of the enjoyment of a long, self-supported trip, but for others it’s is purely functional, the specifics are of no real interest, and overly focussing on kit can actually distract you from just going.

However, knowing that I want to spend my time riding off road trails as far as possible, and having spent a few weeks trying to do this with a fully loaded bike a couple of years ago, I’ve been slowly trying to pare down my gear to make riding more enjoyable and the camping less of a faff. Before that ride to Switzerland I remember thinking that I would probably get frustrated by only having limited belongings with me. What I found was in fact the opposite. I got frustrated by having too much gear, by the weight of what I did have, and by how I went for weeks apparently without needing to use anything that I had in one whole front pannier… What was in there??

Whilst trying to work out how I could carry what I needed with the minimal weight, I’ve found other people’s bike setups and packlists really useful to peruse. Whilst my bare minimum is going to very different to someone else’s, I’ve gained inspiration from many other people’s setups in terms of working out what gear seems to be up to the job, and trying to understand how little gear it is possible to get away with on a long journey (even if I then have decided that I’m not prepared to go quite that far…)

I’ve taken inspiration from many other people in trying to lighten up, and spent two weeks riding across northern Spain with a much lighter bikepacking setup based around a framebag, handlebar roll and large seatpack.  Although some people seem to manage to keep to this absolute minimum for very long trips (Joe and Kurt, for example), I just don’t think I can (or perhaps want) to go quite as minimalist as that, and so I am carrying a lightweight rear rack holding two small panniers.

So, this list is not the lightest setup (I constantly wish I was carrying less) and is not right or wrong. It is slowly changing over time as I realise that some things are unnecessary, some don’t work as I intended, and as some gear wears out and needs replacing. But for now, this is the stuff I have with me…

Carrying
Tubus Vega rear rack
Salsa Minimalist front rack [Update: I wasn’t really using this for anything as there wasn’t enough space underneath the harness, so it has been removed and sent home…] – Salsa Anything Cages mounted on each fork leg, each holding a Porcelain Rocket Anything Cage Bag [replaced with Alpkit dry bags as the Anything Cage bags weren’t keeping the water out]. This is the updated, more robust version of the cage. One holds my bivvy bag, the other my waterproofs.
Carradice Super C front panniers (mounted on the rear). One carries all my electronics (except the camera) in a large Alpkit drybag as well as the first aid kit; the other holds my cooking and eating gear, toiletries and other odds and ends.
Porcelain Rocket El Gilberto framebag. I use the top portion to carry food, with bike spares, tools and pump in the bottom section. The large pocket on the left holds a spare torch, chain lube, and hip flask 🙂
Revelate Terrapin Seatpack with removable dry bag, holding clothes
Revelate Harness with removable Salty Roll dry bag, with a down sleeping quilt, jacket and sleeping mat, plus an Alpkit drybag holding the tent.
Revelate Pocket, carrying the camera, sunglasses, wallet, documents etc.
Revelate Gas Tank, holding snacks, and the Sinewave Revolution.
Revelate Jerry Can, containing a leatherman, an Abus cable lock, headtorch and couple of other tools.
Bike Buddy Mk2, holding a 1 litre Trangia meths bottle
– 2 x Alpkit Stem Cell, mounted either side of the stem, each holding 750 ml Camelbak insulated water bottles

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Camping
MSR Hubba Hubba HP (lightweight, roomy 2-man tent). [Update: On many occasions I’ve just pitched the outer and used my bivvy bag inside which makes me wonder whether I really need the inner at all, or whether some kind of Tarptent might be the best compromise.
Thermarest Xlite, lightweight, warm, packable sleeping mat.  I originally had a Klymit Static V air mat which was really wide and comfortable but had to be replaced after the valve this broke after just a few weeks).
Enlightened Equipment Revelation 850DT quilt (rated to 4 degrees C, and to be replaced by / used with a Cumulus Quantum 350 during winter)
Exped Air Pillow UL M (packs tiny and weighs nothing) [Update: I was finding this hard to get to stay in place at night and ended up using my clothes dry bag half stuffed with clothes, which is great, unless its been covered in cow shit by the days riding…]

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Cooking
Esbit alcohol burner (Trangia imitation but with a very handy handle on the simmer lid)
Vargo Hexagon Wood Stove, used as a wind shield and pot support with the Esbit burner, and allows use of wood as fuel.  I was using the Honey Stove but found that it made the simmer ring for the Esbit really tricky to use
Fozzil solo set folding plate and bowl (double as chopping board)
Evernew ECA-417 0.9l non-stick pot with frying pan lid [replaced a larger 1.3l version to save some packing space] – Snow Peak Ti 450 Single Cup (just because its cool in blue)
Steripen Ultra UV water purifier (USB chargeable)
– Moraknif
– Leatherman Suspension

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Electronics
Sinewave Cycles Revolution, to provide USB power from the front hub.
MacBook Air, 11 in, solid state and tiny laptop that just fits in my small panniers.
Western Digital MyPassport Air 1TB drive for backups
Kindle Paperwhite, contains the GTMC guidebook, a camp cook book and a host of other reading stuff.
Fuji X100S fixed 23mm lens digital camera
– Petzl Zipka Plus USB-chargeable headlamp
– Exposure Joystick USB chargeable bike/headlamp
– Chargers and plug for Fuji X100S, 2x Fuji X100s spare batteries, USB cables for charging Steripen, Kindle, Exposure Joystick, Macbook Air, iPhone. One double USB plug adapter with European plug, one travel adapter for Macbook Air and Fuji X100S chargers. Spare SD cards. UK/Spanish/French sim cards. 16GB memory stick for extra backups of important stuff.

I originally brought a GoPro out with me but found I just wasn’t using it. Perhaps on a trip with other people it would be easier to get some good footage, but I decided to stick with my static photography.

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Clothes
Ground Effect Submerino long sleeve merino blend top
Ground Effect Median Strip short sleeve merino blend riding top [Update: Sent home as I just wasn’t using it] – Howies Tech Tee merino blend t-shirt [Update: this has become my favourite riding top, despite the fact that it holds my sweat more than the Ground Effect ones. I like it because it looks like a normal t-shirt and not too bikey].
Endura Humvee Lite 3/4 shorts. [Update: I wasn’t wearing the outers so got rid of them, but have found the inners very comfy – these have become my only pair of biking undershorts][Update 2: I have ended up finding that riding in just boxers and my Haglofs shorts is perfectly comfortable, and so have sent the inner shorts home] – Haglofs Lizard shorts. Not bike specific but comfy and stretchy and dry quickly, and don’t look too bikey. My normal biking shorts.
– Haglofs Schist trousers. Comfy and stretchy, discreet and dry quickly.
Endura MT500 3/4 length showerproof shorts. These have a waterproof bottom and showerproof top. They were also ripped to shreds in brambles on Day 2 and so aren’t looking their best! [Update: My Haglofs shorts dry really quickly so I ended up sending these home also] – Haglofs Fuse Vest. Windproof gilet for riding on cooler days.
– Finisterre long sleeve merino top, for sleeping in.
– Finisterre merino long johns, for sleeping in when cold.
– Finisterre merino short sleeve t-shirt for off the bike days/nights
– Haglofs down jacket for chilly nights.
Rapha Merino Boxers x2
Ground Effect Toe Rags merino socks x2, for riding in.
– Teva Links clipless shoes for riding in. As cleated bike shoes go, these are pretty good and the cleat is pretty unobtrusive. But it can be felt when walking, and they don’t have much grip on mud. I’m using these with Superfeet black inserts, which appear to mild to your feet and are SUPER comfy! I’ve tried many bike shoe inserts before (having issues with flat feet) without great success, but I’ll definitely be buying these again.
Vivo Barefoot offered shoes for off the bike. In the future I’d consider biking on flat pedals in non-clipless shoes to avoid having to carry a separate pair of shoes, and to give more grip when pushing those steep muddy bits!
– Wooly hat
– Outdoor Designs foldable cap – so as to not scare the locals with bike helmet hair when stopping for coffee!
– Gore windproof full fingered gloves – for colder days
– Gore fingerless gloves – for hot days.

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– First aid kit
– Repair kit: patches and glue for sleeping mat & tent. Superglue. Thread & needle.
– Tool kit: Gerber Suspension multitool, TACX TORX tool with T20, T25 & T30 (for AVID BB7S & Rohloff), PDW 3Wrencho (for Rohloff axle nut), 2 metal tyre levers, 2 x Rohloff cables, 2 x AVID BB7 brake cables, two 26×2.5 in inner tubes plus patch kit, tyre boot (section of margerin tub lid), Lezyne multi tool, spare section of chain, 2 quicklinks, spare rack bolt, 2 spare brake caliper bolts, Rohloff sprocket removal tool, Fiberfix Emergency spoke replacement, spare spokes (3 for each wheel), 2 spare pedal cleats & 4 bolts, 2 x spare brake pad sets, spare tubeless valves, presta-schrader valve adapter, spare connectors for dynamo light cable, seat post clamp & bolt, assorted zip ties, electrical tape, duct tape (wrapped around pump), Lezyne Pressure Drive pump, chain lube, tyre sealant, rag.

8 Comments

  1. Wow. I take more (unnecessary) tools when going to Afan!! Zip ties and Gaffer tape are essential items (for maintenance purposes).

    • Hey Greig… It does look like a fairly succinct list but really didn’t feel like it and filled a whole four panniers, a bar bag etc… I’m just about sorted with gear for this year, and once I’ve worked out if I can fit it on the bike without all those panniers, I’ll update this page!

  2. Pingback: the bike and the gear | (Un)Inspired Ramblings

  3. Serious question here…
    I had a similar amount of kit to you on my trip (minus the cooking gear and an iPad rather than Macbook), but had 2 rear panniers, sleeping bag and mat on the rear rack, tent in a harness at the front and a tiny frame back which contained my tool kit, loo paper and water sterilisation tablets so not much at all in there. I found that other riders with more modern bike-packing kit took forever to pack up in the morning, stuffing stuff into the smallest of spaces whilst I chucked stuff in panniers and rode off.
    Do you think with the larger number of bike-packing bags vs. 2 panniers, the weight ends up pretty much the same? And might the balance / cumbersome issue of panniers be equaled by modern-day set-ups meaning many bikes end up either front or rear heavy?
    Do you think we’ll ever go full-circle and end up with panniers and be done with it?
    Yours truly, biking luddite Williams

    • Good question Williams. Its tricky – I experience the same slow stuffing of gear into small spaces that you describe, and find it frustrating. I suppose one benefit of the ‘bikepacking’ setup is that it encourages you to take less, and to take smaller, lighter gear. My setup isn’t a great example – ideally I wouldn’t have the panniers. Without them, if you can squeeze your gear into a bar harness, frame bag and seat pack, that the bike is lighter & better balanced and therefore handles much better, and is much easier to push and manhandle when needed as the panniers really get in the way. You also lose the weight of the panniers themselves and the rack. For proper mountain biking, I think the hassle of packing stuff into small spaces to enable this, is worth it.

      I’ve been contemplating what I’d need to do to get rid of the panniers, and it wouldn’t be that hard… I’d need to ditch the laptop (small as it is, it still needs a decent padded case and has a large charger) and some associated gear (hard drive etc) and just go with something like a small iPad. I originally found the WordPress iPad app glitchy but perhaps its improved now, and decent photo editing software (e.g. Adobe Lightroom) also comes in versions for the iPad. I do like my little laptop though. I’d also need to shrink my kitchen with a different shaped pot that would possibly fit in the frame bag or in a fork cage. My seatpack, used for clothes, is never full so I could squeeze my bivvy bag or waterproof jacket in there instead. I could also ride with a rucksack, although I’d rather not.

      So I think that the answer depends on the kind of riding you want to do, and the duration of the trip, how far you’re prepared to sacrifice comfort by leaving additional things out, and whether you want to be forced to actively seek to take lighter, smaller kit, and less in general. I do want to try to do this because I naturally take too much gear, and I’m sure that if I let myself have big panniers I’d end up just chucking all sorts of extra crap in!

      • Thanks CJ!
        Ultimately, I guess I’m wondering what the weight difference is between 7 bike packing bags (I’m ignoring your panniers as you say you could lose those) and one rack and two big panniers. Can it be THAT much?
        And is the manoeuvrability advantage of modern set-ups THAT significant given a tent on the front and fork cages can make bike packing bikes front heavy?
        I agree with the principle of no right or wrong way of doing it and there’s pros and cons to each. Just genuinely interested to know about the scale of supposed weight and manoeuvrability advantages.

        • Cass Gilbert threw some figures together on this in a post on his blog, and estimated that two large panniers and rack weight 2kg more than the three main bikepacking bags (bar harness & bag / frame bag / seatpack).

          I find that balancing the weight out between the front and rear of the bike makes it handle better than having it all in rear panniers (I even hated commuting with just two rear panniers on days where they were full!). You had some weight at the front also which must have helped – but trying to put some heavy stuff in the bottom of the frame bag is useful as its central and low. Its a bit of an experiment to shift stuff around to find a good balance that is still practical for accessing stuff and to make sure the bike isn’t too heavy at the front or back.

          • Oh, that’s me put in my place then!

            I’m surprised it’s that much difference in weight but I believe him!

            Pannier Girl out 🐌

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