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  1. #1
    Seek the Joy
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    why all the weight

    I understand the need for certain amenities when on a long tour, and i understand lots of weight on tours in harsh weather; however, when touring in fair weather do you realy need any more than a light tarp to shelter you from the rain, a pot, a spork, a light stove, food water, maps, a change of clothes, a lighter a flashlight and a light blanket? perhaps a sleeping pad. (and what you need to repair your bike)


    idk it just seems like half the fun would be the simplicity. Why haul around all the junk?

  2. #2
    Senior Member grolby's Avatar
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    Well, I'm not going to argue in favor of hauling a lot of stuff. Touring is not a monolithic enterprise bound by rules and regulations. If you want to tour light, go for it! There are a few other folks that frequent this forum that travel on the lighter side of things.

    Personally, I've found myself taking what I think I'll need. I tend to use most everything I bring (except hopefully the repair kit!), so I don't worry about it too much. I am going to try to trim some weight on my next longish tour to give my knees a rest, though! Dropping 10-15 lbs would be very nice.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by ivegotabike
    I understand the need for certain amenities when on a long tour, and i understand lots of weight on tours in harsh weather; however, when touring in fair weather do you realy need any more than a light tarp to shelter you from the rain, a pot, a spork, a light stove, food water, maps, a change of clothes, a lighter a flashlight and a light blanket? perhaps a sleeping pad. (and what you need to repair your bike)


    idk it just seems like half the fun would be the simplicity. Why haul around all the junk?
    well, for 1 thing, "long tour" and "fair weather" are two sets of words that rarely go together and can never be counted on. so, you'd better also include some rainwear in your list and add another 2 lbs or so.

    then while you can have all the privacy you want in the mountains with just a tarp, most people would prefer even a very small tent for both privacy and protection against driving rain. an extra 2 lbs maybe.

    on long tours, most people would want to stop at some point and enjoy a nice meal in a restaurant where cycling shorts would just stick out too much or not even be allowed, so, better throw in a set of "regular" clothes. 2 or 3 pounds there, too.

    how about a camera? or some reading material? etc.

    i consider myself a minimalist. i've even done 1 or 2 nighters where i've scrounged up some cardboard to sleep on and some newspapers to stuff in my clothing and gotten a fair night's sleep. it wouldn't cut it on a long tour though. even in the mountains when i do week or 10-day long trips with just a tarp, after the first few nights, it's hardly "relaxing". if you've got a goal, shedding weight is fine. but if you want to enjoy a trip, a certain amount of creature comfort is necessary. for some, that might include a cast iron skillet! why not?

  4. #4
    Every lane is a bike lane Chris L's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by philso
    well, for 1 thing, "long tour" and "fair weather" are two sets of words that rarely go together and can never be counted on. so, you'd better also include some rainwear in your list and add another 2 lbs or so.

    then while you can have all the privacy you want in the mountains with just a tarp, most people would prefer even a very small tent for both privacy and protection against driving rain. an extra 2 lbs maybe.

    on long tours, most people would want to stop at some point and enjoy a nice meal in a restaurant where cycling shorts would just stick out too much or not even be allowed, so, better throw in a set of "regular" clothes. 2 or 3 pounds there, too.

    how about a camera? or some reading material? etc.
    What he said. I've been caught out by enough sudden weather changes to realise that it's better to be prepared for everything. Then there are those hours after a particular day's ride has been finished. Yes, they're a good time for exploring the area on foot or whatever, but sometimes you'll be camping somewhere that doesn't offer a lot in the way of interest. In that case, reading material or even a small radio might just be a slightly more entertaining way to pass the time. For the sake of a few pounds, I'd rather be prepared.

    I also find it a little surprising to hear people constantly talking of "saving" 2-3lbs off what they're carrying when their own body weight is considerably larger. If I was that worried about 2-3lbs (and generally I'm not), I know where I'd start.
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  5. #5
    Senior Member Sebach's Avatar
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    Obviously, we use "need" in relative terms here. All we truly need is bike, food, water... all the other stuff can be seen as extra, depending on climate. Imagine touring in these conditions, saw a homeless guy doing it once (he called it travelling), now that's hardcore. There's simplicity and then there's simplicity.

    I would guess that you're thinking of the shorter distance, warmer weather variety of touring. But even then, I'm not sure if simplicity equals half the fun. I mean, you cook and that's a lot of extra stuff right there that you don't need because you could just eat "cold" food. If you cut out that "junk" (spork, pot, stove, lighter, dish soap, etc), would you be having more fun? Lots of people I met on tour don't cook just because it entails having more to carry and to do in terms of chores. Cooking is kind of an un-simple affair.

    Lots of the nearly-needed stuff is dictated by the length of tour you're doing and where.

  6. #6
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    Mosquitos?
    You have heard of them, eh? I would be willing to bet that in 20 years of touring - lots of multi-1000-mile tours - that I have used my tent more for protection from mosquitos than from rain. If you are going to be in the Western U.S. or any mountains, you should be prepared for fairly cool temps - just check out journals at Crazyguy. So that's tent, drop (to protect tent), sleeping bag, pad.

    I believe that some people carry an entire bike shop's worth of tools. Still you need to be able to make basic repairs. Tire kit, levers, pump - essential. Multi-tool, pliers, maybe some zip-ties, duct tape. What about spoke wrench and chain tool? Extra spokes, brake/shifter cables? Those are optional if you are willing to wobble in to a bike shop.

    I think two changes is a lot better - and they really don't weigh much. Socks are really important because foot crud can really put the kibosh on your tour. Some people are totally immune, others need to be really careful. The same goes for other places where rashes can be quite painful. Basic rainwear is really important - exposure, hypothermia in a hailstorm, etc. A pair of long nylon pants also are nice in cool weather or if the bugs are bad. I've seen cyclists eaten alive when a pair of long pants and a long t-shirt would have really helped 90%.

    Then there is the issue of personal hygiene - in addition to the toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, deodorant - you need bring a few aspirins or tylenols, anti-diarrhea pills, sunscreen, insect repellant. Most cyclists swear by baby wipes. Good way to clean up when there's no shower around.

    You feel pretty stupid when you come to a screeching halt and think - if I only had a zip-tie or some duct tape - and you don't. I'm not saying you should have everything to rebuild your wheel, but enough to handle a range of possibilities.

    Check out Crazyguy and see the equipment lists that people have. Find trips similar to the one you have planned. Also, read the diary and see if they had too much - or were sorry that they didn't bring something.

  7. #7
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    I don't carry a pot, lighter, stove, or many maps (depending).

    I'd rather have lightweight gear than any other amenity, but bike touring isn't backpacking. Just to start with, bikes weigh about 25-30 pounds more than hiking shoes. Cyclists need a lot of stuff to get on with the bike, Helmets (i don't indulge but usually carry one in case there is a local law I don't know about), cycling shoes, clothing, stuff to keep clean and chafe free, gloves. In summer I can get by on foot with a rain poncho or jacket, but on a bike going 10-20 MPH all day, I need pretty complete protection. Then the bike has it's needs. There is no way I can fix everything, but I at least carry a spare tire.

    I agree about the tent as Mossi protection. I'm a big believer in tarps anywhere where there aren't any bugs, but up here you can get the outside of your tent covered with thousands of mosquitos, it would be a blood bath without netting. Where netting is required, a tarp is just a clever argument for the efficiency of the A frame tent. A-frames dwindled under the onslaught of clever curvy tents that weigh a ton. The Tarp argument go people thinking sense again, just so long as they actually use an A-style tent with a flour and netting.

    So once the load gets up there no mater what one does, it then become rational to ad a little bit of weight here and there because the total impact on the weight budget is pretty low.

  8. #8
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Two questions:

    1. Have you added up the weight of: "a light tarp to shelter you from the rain, a pot, a spork, a light stove, food water, maps, a change of clothes, a lighter a flashlight and a light blanket? perhaps a sleeping pad. (and what you need to repair your bike)". You might be surprised to discover how much all that actually weighs!!

    2. Where do you live where they have fair weather all the time ... or where were you planning to tour where there is fair weather all the time? I've yet to discover this fair weather nirvana, but if you have, do let us know where it is!!


    I think you can tour with what you've mentioned there ... I know a person who has done just that. But he did the tour more as a mission to get from one place to another as quickly as possible (riding a century or more a day usually), and he was the first to admit that he was not comfortable.

    So I guess it depends on your goal.

    If your goal is to relax and see the world, I'd recommend bringing a few more things because you are going to encounter bad weather (in my experience, bad weather seems to follow and lurk over cycletourists for some reason), you will likely encounter mosquitoes and other insect/spider/snake life, and if your tour is at all extended you may experience a desire for some variety and luxury.

    If your goal is to cross a country in as short a period of time as possible, then what you've listed will work.

  9. #9
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    Don't forget to add whatever is needed to carry that little list, too. At least a large handlebar bag. Probably, though, a large saddlebag (but you might need a heavy Brooks saddle for that). Most likely, you will need to add a rear rack and a pair of panniers. There's probably two kilograms (likely more) just there*.

    I think the OP needs to get out there and start doing it. Experiment to find his own levels of comfort for the touring destination he expects to enjoy, and what equipment he needs to find those levels. He might surprise himself once he settles down to compile a *practical* list.

    Lightweight is all well and good on overnight or three or four-day tours. But once you get into extended touring, the parameters change. What you are prepared to tolerate on an overnight tour may become torture on longer rides.

    Or... you could go the lightest possible way -- with that very lightweight little rectangle of plastic that sits in your wallet. You can even do a cross-country tour on a lightweight carbon bike. Toss in a support vehicle, and you've got yourself something like the Pac-Tour (just combining my opinion on a few threads here all at once!)

    *The more I think about this, the more I come to the conclusion that just carrying stuff involves its own weight penalty. Wouldn't it be nice if a manufacturer could come up with an ultralightweight set of front and rear pannniers -- CF stiffeners and waterproof cloth construction on par with the lightweight sailcloths -- at a competitive price? I only started to think about this during a thread on BoB-versus-pannniers, when someone pointed out the weight of a BoB is about equal to front and rear panniers and racks combined, especially if waterproof covers are included. I know my original set of panniers, which were converted fabric backpacks (not Army surplus, however) were very light compared with my current set of bike-specific panniers. The backpacks didn't have stiffeners for a start.
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  10. #10
    Left OZ now in Malaysia jibi's Avatar
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    It depends where the tour goes as well.

    If the next town/village is 2 or 3 days away then food and water need to be carried, and something to carry them in /on. Water filters, tablets, MP3, phone, GPS so you need a solar panel for charging batteries.

    But if the tour is through a populated area then less is needed.
    some tours I use a fully loaded trailer and on others I can make do a couple of rear panniers.
    BUt .....I ususally find the first thing I need is the thing I chose to leave behind.

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  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by jibi
    It depends where the tour goes as well.
    If the next town/village is 2 or 3 days away then food and water need to be carried, and something to carry them in /on. Water filters, tablets, MP3, phone, GPS so you need a solar panel for charging batteries.george
    I would consider above an expedition, and not a tour. If you cannot call yourself a tourist, then it's not a tour.
    Quote Originally Posted by Machka
    If your goal is to relax and see the world, I'd recommend bringing a few more things because you are going to encounter bad weather (in my experience, bad weather seems to follow and lurk over cycletourists for some reason), you will likely encounter mosquitoes and other insect/spider/snake life, and if your tour is at all extended you may experience a desire for some variety and luxury.

    If your goal is to cross a country in as short a period of time as possible, then what you've listed will work.
    Above is what I consider an essential element in cyclo touring, to a degree, with the joy of cycling thrown in. That means traveling reasonably light, and travel fast. I like to visit places of interest, meet and talk with local people, and eat local food. Yet i carry some dry food, in case I get caught by some unexpected event, tent and sleeping bag when local accommodation cannot be found. So, essentially, I tour and cycle. I don't like camping with bicycle. I go camping with my family with car.
    Last edited by wheelin; 10-30-06 at 04:05 AM.
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  12. #12
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    There isn't anay reason whay paniers can't be made out of silnylon, afterall they carry about 1/4th what a backpack does. And the weight of paniers could be hugely reduced if they didn't have to be easily removeable, which I don't find necesarry, myself. Removeability requires the stiffeners and hooks bungies. The whole thing could be tied on with a few small straps.

    I actually enjoy carrying weight on a bike, I mean if it was all just a fake thing it would be silly, but bikes are so efficient at carrying weight it is a little exilerating. So If I could get my weigh down to just a few pounds, then it would kind feel like credit card touring, which would be fine, but different.

  13. #13
    aspiring wannabe hoogie's Avatar
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    [QUOTE=ivegotabike]a sporkQUOTE]

    i hate sporks ... i got one thinking i could remove two items and replace them with one ... it doesn't hold as much liquid as a normal spoon so eating soup takes ages, and it dribbles through the tynes, plus it is really hard to eat noodles or spaghetti with the really small tynes ...
    i have retired mine after one tour, and gone back to a full cutlery set, lightweight steel which at least doesn't bend when you are trying to cut something ...

    sometimes you need to go with the extra bit of gear or non-lightweight item to have some modicum of comfort and sanity ...

    to each their own though i say ... i probably do take too much and will most likely continue to do so, but i am prepared for the most of the worst and i am in no hurry when touring ...
    thought for today: "Does my ass look fast on this bike?"

  14. #14
    aspiring wannabe hoogie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka

    If your goal is to relax and see the world, I'd recommend bringing a few more things because you are going to encounter bad weather (in my experience, bad weather seems to follow and lurk over cycletourists for some reason)
    yes indeedy!

    headwinds too!
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  15. #15
    40 yrs bike touring
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    The idea that you can only go light weight comfortably for a few days does not fit my experience at all.

    My base equipment weight of 15-18 pounds includes a warm bed, shelter with mosquito protection, rain protection, warm clothes for layering to meet all conditions from 10F and up, the ability to cook real food, a short wave radio for entertainment and information, camera, binoculars, bike maintenance and repair items, first aid items, H2O treatment, maps, guides and reading material. This setup has served me well from Alaska to South America from below sea level in Death Valley to 17000 feet in the Andes.

    When I rode the Great Divide other riders I met and even Adv Cycling staff questioned my seemingly inadequate amount of equipment. They suggested that I would be cold wet and stranded unless I bulked up to more than two front panniers and a rack top stuff bag could hold.

    Yet along the way I was the one who did not have mechanical breakdowns like cracked rear DH rims on suspended bikes pulling BOBs piled high with everything the guide books <suggested>. Their excess weight placed inordinate stress on wheels and running gear that I did not have although my rigid Gordon RNR only had 700X45 tires on 36 hole rims. Many did wonder why I could ride the steep sections and passes while they were pushing their bikes and BOBs. It was not because I was older than their parents or was in better shape. Gravity does exist and never sleeps.

    I heard the second guessing so often that I began answering critics by saying that this experience had almost made me religious in that it was a miracle that I was able to ride the Divide at all according to their orthodox equipment requirements.

    There are many sources of lightweight equipment from backpacking that transfer well to bike packing. They make climbing easier and with less stress on bike and human motor. No deprivation or discomfort required!

  16. #16
    Senior Member CyKKlist's Avatar
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    Please post your basic equipment list!

    [QUOTE=arctos]The idea that you can only go light weight comfortably for a few days does not fit my experience at all.

    My base equipment weight of 15-18 pounds includes a warm bed, shelter with mosquito protection, rain protection, warm clothes for layering to meet all conditions from 10F and up, the ability to cook real food, a short wave radio for entertainment and information, camera, binoculars, bike maintenance and repair items, first aid items, H2O treatment, maps, guides and reading material. This setup has served me well from Alaska to South America from below sea level in Death Valley to 17000 feet in the Andes.

    ARCTOS, as a touring newbie, I'd be very interested to see your packing list. I'm here to learn and I'm still making my initial equipment choices for 1 week excursions in 2007 and hopefully a full x-country ride in 2008.

    Thanks!
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  17. #17
    40 yrs bike touring
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    CyKKlist:
    I just searched for my prior posts and to my surprise found 61 references. I have rambled on about what works for me along the way. Try searching for Arctos and read some of those for equipment suggestions. See if some of your questions are answered there. I do not have Excell spread sheet capacity on my old Mac iBook so would have to type a long list in my painfully slow two finger style. I will check back for any questions that you have in this thread.

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    I shouldnt have even included long in the post, the ride im planning is only about 200 miles one way, im sure there are people who could go up in a day or so and back in the same (not comfortably) (at all) My main gripe isnt with weight, its with complications, why do you NEED all the stuff. I would realy like to keep it as simple as possible. On top of my desire to keep it simple, theyre is also my desire to not make climbing ceasers head any more of an ordeal than it already is.

    as for the weather, i live in south carolina, so while the weather may not be comfortable all the time, its never realy cold, especialy not during july when i plan on doing my trip. So that eliminates the need for cold weather gear.

  19. #19
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ivegotabike
    I shouldnt have even included long in the post, the ride im planning is only about 200 miles one way, im sure there are people who could go up in a day or so and back in the same (not comfortably) (at all) My main gripe isnt with weight, its with complications, why do you NEED all the stuff. I would realy like to keep it as simple as possible. On top of my desire to keep it simple, theyre is also my desire to not make climbing ceasers head any more of an ordeal than it already is.

    as for the weather, i live in south carolina, so while the weather may not be comfortable all the time, its never realy cold, especialy not during july when i plan on doing my trip. So that eliminates the need for cold weather gear.

    200 miles one way is like a longish 600K brevet (like some I did in Manitoba). You can pop one of those off in under 40 hours ... one day, one night, and a second day. So, no, you don't need much stuff for something like that. For rides like that, I just bring a handlebar bag, and my Carradice Nelson Longflap.

  20. #20
    Walmart bike rider gpsblake's Avatar
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    Carrying weight on a bike is not the same as carrying weight on your back like in hiking. I remember seeing this guy in Tallahassee who must have had at least 100 pounds of gear on a bike with 700x25 tires. I remember seeing a guy who didn't even have a tent, just a sleeping bag and not much else.

    I guess it depends on your level of comfort. My stuff weighs about 35 pounds total not including food or drinks. I generally will average 2mph less with an empty bike then with a bike fully packed with my gear.

    My next tour probably will be slightly more weight, I'm going with a bigger tent instead of a bivy tent mainly so I can change my clothes without getting out of my tent.

  21. #21
    Senior Member BigBlueToe's Avatar
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    To each his own. What is a necessity to me might be frippery to you.

    One thing I recommend to everyone: bring a notepad and a pen, pencil (lightweight, of course!) When keeping your journal, write notes to yourself about what you're so glad you brought, what you brought that you are finding you don't really need, and what do you really wish you had brought. I've done this on several tours and each time my packing list gets more refined. But my list would probably never do for you; you simply have to create your own!

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    As for me, I carry a lot of stuff partly because I do self-contained touring, and partly because I like having those "extas" with me for additional comfort, safety, etc. That's one reason why I'm one of the slower touring cyclists out there, but I don't care, because I'm doing it for the experience and not for speed. Last year I did a ten week tour and used everything I brought, except for maybe one or items which I won't bring next time.

    Quote Originally Posted by ivegotabike
    I understand the need for certain amenities when on a long tour, and i understand lots of weight on tours in harsh weather; however, when touring in fair weather do you realy need any more than a light tarp to shelter you from the rain, a pot, a spork, a light stove, food water, maps, a change of clothes, a lighter a flashlight and a light blanket? perhaps a sleeping pad. (and what you need to repair your bike)


    idk it just seems like half the fun would be the simplicity. Why haul around all the junk?

  23. #23
    Gone, but not forgotten Shiznaz's Avatar
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    I'm personally still on the fence about whether I should bring my lucky cinder block with me on tour, or leave it languishing at home.

  24. #24
    Senior Member Keith99's Avatar
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    I have not done any unsupported bike touring, but have done a few doubles and also a fair amount of backpacking.

    One thing I missed on the lists (it could be there and I jsut missed it) was some form of lighting. Here I'm thinking campsite more than bike. On a short trip in known territory this is not needed (usually), but I can't count the times I've had to make camp after dark, and it is no fun with inadequate light. In some cases it is no fun even with great light.

  25. #25
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    Energiser has a cheap LED head torch for cheap in the usual big-box places. It runs on three AAA batteries and can provide different spreads or focus of light intensity. It weighs all of 100grams including batteries.

    For a randonneur, helmet-mounted LED is essential for map-reading, roadside repairs, reading road signs, finding junctions and so on. But you look a bit funny prancing around a campground all night with a helmet on... so I take a second one that goes in the handlebar bag. I wear a cap when I'm off the bike, so the light goes over the top of that, and head strap and the pressure of the light body on the forehead then doesn't become quite so irritating.

    I think personal lights are the way to go, rather than a single communal light. With personal lights, the beam is right where you want it, so long as you are courteous to others around you (by not shining the beam directly in their eyes). In the tent, one of the lights suspended from the roof is handy for pre-sleep activity...

    Certainly I think LEDs is one revolution in camping that has occurred in the past 10 years.
    Dream. Dare. Do.

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