I promised to write some words on planning for my bike journeys… my thought processes for this next journey are no different to any other journey I’ve made whether it’s cycling, hiking or mountaineering…( though I haven’t done any of the latter for a few years… some pics here however)
I guess you could split the planning process into two…
Part 2) Gear… the fun part :-)
for a few weeks before a trip I start to accumulate a ‘gear pile’ in the toy room, all the bits and pieces I think I’m going to need. This works really well for me because for a good few weeks before departure I’m thinking about things like clothing and spare parts for the bike, first aid kit contents and so on, so as I have ideas I can toss it all in the pile and then make my final selections just a few days before I leave. You can probably figure I have quite a lot of gear accumulated over almost 20 years of adventures outdoors.. the benefit of experience I guess is that over the years I’ve tried and refined ideas so I know now exactly what works and what doesn’t, and more importantly in keeping weight down – I know what I can leave behind. Yellow post-it notes are useful too as I tend to remember things at random moments… like getting a fresh tube of super-glue for my spare parts bag and making sure my mini-roll of gaffer tape is still good to use. This way of working doesn’t make it very easy to write about, the planning all happens by osmosis over a few weeks… for this trip however there are some very conscious decisions that I’ve made regarding some items of equipment so I’ll write about those:
Shoes: last year in Colombia, and for most trips prior to that, I have used all in one cycling/hiking shoes – stiff enough for cycling with an SPD cleat in the sole yet OK for hiking trails and wandering around town.. but compromised in respect of performance for both activities. After two months of cycling and hiking in the Andes last year my shoes were pretty ropey and I’m not sure they would have lasted much longer.. so for this trip I’m taking my light weight carbon soled off-road race shoes for riding… nice and efficient and light and my light trail running shoes for wearing off the bike. The combined weight comes to only slightly more than a pair of combination bike/hike shoes but I think the extra weight is more than offset by having light, stiff shoes for pedalling and a decent pair of shoes for hiking that won’t slip on wet rocks and so on.
First aid kit: Most injuries on a bike tend to be cuts and grazes so my first aid kit has plenty of adhesive bandages, antiseptic wipes and a couple of lightweight stretch bandages. For anything more serious experience has shown I can save weight and rely on cutting up a t-shirt or sarong or similar should the need arise… I do also carry a needle… just in case. I’ve only had to stitch myself once, and only one stitch… but it hurt like hell and I hope I never have to do it again.. but at the time I was glad I had it. Believe it or not gaffer tape and super glue also work bloody well for closing wounds… first hand experience again unfortunately.
Clothing: Mountains tend to have extremes of weather.. for this trip, based on previous visits to the same part of the world, and the Himalayas I’m expecting to have to cope with temperatures from around -10C (maybe less) at night on the altiplano to +35 degs C or more in the valleys. I prefer the cold to the heat however so I’ll be staying high as much as possible :-) My clothing consists of thin layers that will work in combination over the whole temperature range.. from a featherweight short sleeve baselayer (that I wear always – it dries in a few minutes after washing and saves having to wash other kit so much), through a long sleeve merino wool baselayer that also works as a long sleeve ‘T’ to a Mountain Equipment Primaloft insulated jacket that is almost as warm as down yet only weighs 300gr, packs down to nothing and still works when wet. I have a down jacket but it’s very warm … I can achieve same level of warmth by wearing everything else in my bag combined with the ME jacket, so the down stays at home. I have one cotton t-shirt for off-bike wear and pair of cotton cargo pants for the same reason.. It’s nice having ‘normal’ clothes to change into when in town. For camping on cold nights I have a pair of light fleece long-johns that I can layer with waterproofs if I need to. I have tried in the past to use lycra cycling leg warmers as long-johns also when sleeping out but the elastic is uncomfortable at night so now I “put up” with the extra 100gr or so the fleece bottoms represent :-) Gloves come in layers too… I have a pair of light mesh Specialized Ridge gloves for temperate/cool weather… and then if it gets colder I can layer some very thin windproof gloves underneath.. and if it gets cold and wet then a pair of the polythene gloves you get at gas stations in between the two layers works just fine, weighs next to nothing and saves having to carry a waterproof shell glove. If it gets really really bloody cold on the bike then I can stick my gloved hands inside my fleece socks and ride like that :-) I also have a pair of light sealskinz waterproof socks (for my feet, hehe) as well for wet days… I hate riding all day with cold, wet feet – especially if camping.
Errm, what else is there… ah I know.. spare parts & tools for the bike… I have a few spare spokes inside my handlebars with a copy of my passport wrapped around them… useful for proving ownership if the bike is nicked and recovered. A small bag with a few nuts and bolts of the sizes used on the bike, spare inner cables for gears and brakes (one of each), a couple of spare KMC chain-links, a spare SPD cleat, zip ties, some steel wire, strong twine and gaffer tape… can fix just about anything short of a welding job with that as I found out last year in Colombia :-) I have a couple of cone spanners for the XT hubs, a little Park tool pouch with chain tool, multi-tool and a tyre boot as well as puncture repair patches and glue. I also take my Leatherman Juice multitool.
That’s about it really, I also have little pouch with spares for camping gear – for the tent a small section of aluminium tube for pole repairs and a fabric patch, a couple of patches for my Thermarest, a few basic spares (o-rings etc) for my stove and it’s fuel pump.. oh and that small tube of super-glue.. very handy… unless you happen to meet a twit of a ‘backpacker’ who asks to “borrow a drop to repair a shoe” and ends up wasting the entire tube.. OK no big deal but it was very annoying… I’m always ready to help a fellow traveller in need but in the interests of also being able to look after myself I’m a little more selective these days about the person and degree of need… that backpacker was just too tight to get his shoe fixed by a guy in the street for a dollar… he said as much himself.. after he used all my glue. British too… lol.
I can’t think of much else to write for the minute… the surf was cracking this afternoon so I’m kind of tired…ZZzzzzz… it was my first session in my surf boat for about 5 weeks so made the most of it. As I think of other things to write about I’ll post as I see fit. The complete gear list won’t exist until a few days before I travel… so stay tuned :-)
p.s. oh I just remembered another thing I think about far too much .. tyre choice.. but that can wait ’till next time I think :-)