Thursday, June 19, 2014

Bike ride - Reflections and Thoughts on Gear

I've been back in Anchorage a couple days now and spent most of it repacking my stuff for the rest of the summer and the coming move to Galena. I also spend some time hanging out with Matt, the guy I rode with for a couple days and chatting about his Trans-America bike trip. I'd like to do more bike touring in the future and maybe even a much longer trip.

On food: (How to loose 10 lbs in 2 weeks with no work!)

1. Quit your job (or if you'd rather just take two weeks off). Note: now you have no work.
2. Ride an average 56 miles a day pulling a trailer (or 70 miles without).
3. Eat out no more than once a day but eat whatever you want to when you do.
4. Eat as much as you possibly can of mostly healthy food for the other two meals.
In this case I'm pretty happy with losing most the weight I gained working in an office the last year. However, if I do any trips more than twice this long I am going to need to figure out a way to eat more calories. I cooked a cup of rolled oats most morning with a handful of raisins, a couple tablespoons of butter, and a couple ounces of cheddar cheese. I like the way it tastes and I really like the long lasting energy and full stomach it gave me. I ate eggs with veggies and cheese for breakfast a few mornings and I really enjoyed them but I felt hungry much sooner. Eating lunch out was a good way to break up the day. When I didn't find a place to stop I would eat "Raw Meal" and a cliff bar or equivalent. It's hard to eat enough cliff bars to call it a meal. The best afternoon rides all came after eating out. I suppose finding a place to eat out once a day wouldn't be an issue most places. The wild rice, cheese, and butter for supper plan didn't work as well as I had hoped. It just takes too long to cook wild rice. I'll have to think of another option for supper.


Bike - Novara Strada, about 8 years old. This is more of a low end road racing bike than a touring bike. I love sprinting down the highway with it empty, but I think I'll look for something else. I'd like something a little more comfortable with lower gearing and mounting points for front and back panniers. After talking to a few others touring people I think I would also consider a steel frame if I were traveling a really long way. It is much easier to repair steel. A kickstand might also be useful though I am pretty sure both these last two are blasphemy in the world of ultra light bikes.

Trailer - I borrowed the Bob trailer and it was perfect with the bike I already had. I also really liked the waterproof bag that came with the trailer. I did get pretty used to pulling it over the course of the ride, but next time I'd like to see if I go light enough to just use panniers.

Panniers - Because the bike lacked anywhere else to install a rack I used a Topeak seat post mounted rear rack I bought years ago. I liked the simplicity of the slide on and clip mounting system they use for the panniers. However, it would be really convenient to have waterproof panniers and they might be worth the investment on a long trip.

Rain Gear - Still using the REI eVent rain coat and pants that I bought for the trip around the world. They pack as small as any breathable fabric rain gear I've seen (The jacker packs to 1/2 the size of the REI Taku jacket which is Goretex) and they were as effective on the ride as they were backpaking through Nepal. Note: I’m pretty picky about rain gear, I’m usually to warm anyway and the non-breathable stuff tends to make me sweat enough to render it pointless. If you are usually cold and/or don’t sweat you can save a lot of money buy getting quality non-breathable rain gear.

Tent - REI 1/4 Dome 2. This seems to be a pretty solid tent plus it is lighter and packs much smaller than my 10 year old Tadpole 23 which is finally starting to show it’s age. It is also really easy to set up by myself so with luck I’ll be using it for the next 10 years.

Sleeping Bag - Mountain Hardware Phantom 45 and a liner. This is more excellent equipment I purchased for the world tour. The bag is rated for 45 degrees and packs to a little larger than a Liter. The liner adds another 10 degrees if I need it and packs to less than ½ a liter. It is also much easier to wash than the sleeping bag which is nice on the road. I’ll probably be using these for several more adventures.

Sleeping Pad – Thermarest Neoair. This is an inflatable pad with a heat reflector built into it. It’s a little noisy if you move around in your sleep, but it’s really warm and it’s light.

Stove - WhisperLite International. I've been using this stove for years. It will burn white gas, gasoline, kerosene, or diesel and it's really simple to take care of. Their are lighter stoves but I do like the fuel flexibility. Matt had a hard time finding the fuel canisters for his stove but gasoline is sold just about everywhere.

Water Purification - I took the Steripen I carried on the world tour, but i never actually used it on this trip since I almost always camped with good water available.

Backpack - Once again I reused the same Deuter Futura 42l pack I carried around the world. I was originally planning to do some backpacking along the way but never really felt like it after a day of ride. I could have saved myself a couple pounds by leaving it at home. On the other hand I don't really feel like I'm going somewhere unless I've packed my backpack...

Computer – I composed the last dozen blog posts on an iPad I borrowed from Corrie. It’s really nice to have an ultra light computer that charges over USB. However I did find myself missing the keyboard and some tasks are much easier on my MacBook Air. Someday a tablet may be enough for me, but the extra weight of a laptop will be worth it for a while longer.

Time – Perhaps time isn’t “gear” but it’s the most important thing on this list. I might not have been as comfortable, but I could have made this trip happen with nothing but a bike from Craig’s list, time, and a little creativity. All of the fancy gear listed above just sits on a shelf collecting dust unless I make the time to go out and have an adventure. I spent a lot of time thinking about how time, money, and stuff are related while I was loosing track of the hours and days riding down the road. That probably warrants a post of it’s own though…

Petroleum – I started this post in Anchorage and drove to Fairbanks before I could finish it. What took me seven days to bike took me less than seven hours to drive. Not only that, but the gasoline to drive it cost less than the food I ate to pedal myself here! It has plenty of drawbacks, but petroleum is amazingly useful stuff. Even riding the bike everything from the food I ate to the surface of the road is possible only through Petroleum. It seems to me that all our eggs are in this one plastic basket though, that too deserves a post of it's own…

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