Sidebar: Tools of the trade

I haven’t had much of a chance to talk about my equipment yet, other then all my electronics, so here’s a brief overview.

First my bike. Now, most avid road cyclists will shake their heads when they see what I ride. This ain’t no composite carbon fibre featherlight Porche on 2 wheels. My bike is built for endurance and touring. Some might call it a contraption. I call it home. At least for the 6 weeks I’m on tour.

Let me walk you through it:

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  1. Handlebar bag – this is where I keep everything I need to quickly access, sometimes even while I’m riding. Things like snacks, camera, voice recorder, lip balm, sun glasses, power gels, bear spray (not in the prairies of course)
  2. Aerobars – not the chocolate variety, these grips make it easy to get into a tuck position reducing drag. Not only that, they allow for a different hand position, which have saved my palms from going numb, always a big problem in the past. But not only that, leaning forward more to grip the ends of the bars seems to give me slightly more power to climb hills. But not only that, they make you change your seat position, and you can imagine how that helps. But not only that, they make julian fries, uh no, they don’t make julian fries (all the “kids” are scratching their heads right now). Seriously though, they’re awesome but they take some getting use to, like about 1000kms of getting use to.
  3. Saddle – yes you need a saddle, it would be really painful otherwise, but this isn’t just any sadde. I bought this French made Ideale leather saddle nearly 30 years ago and I swear by it. Most people think a cushy seat is better, it’s actually not. The leather forms to your butt and I’ve found it to be the most comfortable seat I’ve ever used. Still, most people look at it and think it must be uncomfortable. Let them be fooled. The only hassle is you can’t let it get wet so I carry a stylish shower cap to secure over the seat when it rains.
  4. Camel pack – it was a last minute decision to bring this but I’m glad I did. I use it to carry up to 1.5l of extra water and as well it serves as a backpack when walking around town. It also came in handy when I climbed Prairie Mountain. But to be clear, I don’t wear it while I’m riding.
  5. Tent, trap and sleeping mat in a dry sack – this is essentially my mobile shelter. I have a lightweight tent that I can set up in 5 minutes and a very comfortable and compact Thermorest sleeping mat. I brought the tarp for raining days but I haven’t had to use it and in retrospect it’s probably unnecessary. One gentleman I met from France brought nothing but a tarp and a hammock to sleep it. There may be something in that, so long as you can find trees to hang everything from.
  6. Sleeping bag in a dry sack – I have a very light weight down-filled sleeping bag that’s good to about -5C. The only problem with down is it can’t get wet, hence the importance of the dry sack, but you can’t beat down for light weight. I find it helps to let it lay out in the sun to let it puff up every now and then.
  7. Rear panniers – panniers are like saddle bags for horses. You never, ever carry a backpack when you ride: the centre of gravity is too high making it very dangerous and in any case it’s very uncomfortable. These panniers were made by Cannondale before Cannondale even made bikes. These ones have lots and lots of pockets to keep things organized. Good panniers will last you a very long time. They’re not water proof but I have MEC covers for the rain which seem to work pretty well. They need to mount on a very sturdy bicycle rack.
  8. Water bottles, pump and clip-less pedals – I carry two 640ml bottles, usually on with water and one with Gatorade. I drink a huge amount of liquids while I’m on the road. You have too. The Gatorade is important to replace the salt you lose while you sweat. The pump is obvious but it needs to be a good one able to inflate your tires to 70 to 100lbs of pressure. If find the term clipless pedals confusing. Cycling shoes are usually paired with a compatible pedal to hold your feet securely on the bicycle. The so-called “clipless” shoe-pedal combination offers unmatched control with a minimum amount of your pedaling energy lost before it reaches the rear wheel. Yes, they do take getting use to, but they are essential.
  9. Fenders – they make your bike look klutzy but when it rains you’ll be so happy you have them.
  10. Front panniers – I was hoping I wouldn’t need front panniers but in the end I just had too much stuff to bring. I really like them and they’re not completely filled but I can find stuff really fast. In one I keep all my camping accessories and the other cooking gear and food.

Well, that’s it, all 50lbs worth. You can certainly go with a lot less stuff if you stay in hotels every night, or if you don’t cook. But I’m going through some parts of the country where the towns are few and far between. With this gear I can literally set up camp anywhere: on the side of a road, on someone’s front lawn, in a park, and even sometimes at a camp site. It’s truly my home on wheels.

Lee Valley, where Vicki works, and which I consider to be one of the best companies in the world, actually makes a lot of stuff you can bring camping/cycling with you. I thought quickly mention some of the things I brought with me:

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  1. LED illuminating bracelets – slap them around your pant leg when you’re riding and they light up too. Great in the tent for low lighting as well.
  2. Bungy cords – I’m not sure if this is the right name for these but they’re a godsend. I use this little puppy to strap down my GPS to my handle bar.
  3. Squishy bowls – they serve as drinking cups, bowls, measuring and mixing cups, they fit in my thermal mug and they’re very light weight.
  4. Tie downs for tarps – These guys clamp down on anything. I actually use these for multiple purposes: clothes lines in hotels, securing a wet towel or bathing suit to the back panniers to dry out, etc.
  5. Mosquito netting – need I say more? So far I haven’t needed this but the time is coming soon, very soon.
  6. Buglit LED micro flashlight – With it’s cute little flexible steel wire legs it secures on to my bike helmet, my wrist watch, or I just hang it from my tent for some quick illumination in the middle of the night. Very useful.

Once again, I’ve run out of time. I’ve got to hit the road. In a future post I’ll talk about camping gear, clothes and first aid.

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2 responses to “Sidebar: Tools of the trade

  1. Cécile

    Chris, I don’t know if you realize how “funny” you are. I got a few laughs in the last couple of days. I call that looking at every “bad news” or how did you call it??? I forget now, on the bright side. I would have lost it the second time around with a flat tire. But then again, that’s just me, Mrs. Impatient. It’s my second name. LOL….Keep up the good work, both on your bike and the IPAD.

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