Just returned from the pacific coast, 2100 miles and at least 100,000 feed (by my altimeter), or 200,000 feet (ACA cue sheets) climbing. This was my first long tour, and I'd like to give a rundown on what I thought worked, and what didn't.
I rode a 60cm LHT complete, with many mods as below.
LHT - Loved it, usually quite stable and comfortable. However, I did sometimes get major shimmies at > 18 mph. I could tamp it down by moving my hands as wide as possible and exerting a bit of force, but still not good. I never narrowed down exactly the conditions that caused the shimmies, but I think it was just related to the amount of weight in the front panniers. As most people recommend putting a large amount of weight in the front, this is a problem. When the front panniers were lightly loaded, there was no shimmy. The shimmies were aways controllable; I still felt comfortable enough to go >40mph on the downhills.
B17 saddle - I had about 2000 miles on this before I went. I'd gotten to the point that a 50 mile ride didn't cause my butt any discomfort. However, on the tour I had at least some pain each and every day (after the first week), despite chamois cream and the occasional desitin. I think this is more related to the fact that I weight >250 lbs than anything else.
mountain (44-32-22) crankset - This (in combination with a 34-tooth ring on my cassette) gave me a minimum gear inches of 17.something. Between my weight, and panniers, I really needed this. My filled panniers weight 46 lbs. The bike also carried the handlebar bag, water bottles, and some limited amount of group gear (in my case a small single-burner stove, bottle of camp fuel, sometimes a bit of food) and me. Between all this I did get into my lowest gear at times. Usually not on the >1000 foot climbs, but often on short steep stuff. I would have liked a slightly larger top gear (44 to 11, I think it's currently around 109 gear inches)
tubus logo and tara racks - Both were extremely solid, no problems at all.
Peter White/Phil Wood/Velocity Dyad 48-spoke rear wheel - despite all the above weight, I never even needed to true it. Fantastic.
Ortlieb rear panniers - we had almost no rain, but they were still tested, and did fine. The external straps on the panniers were useful for drying cloths, quickly attaching stuff, etc. An external pocket or two would have been useful. Attachment system rock solid.
Ortlieb handlebar bag - I love it, but it's so large and convenient that I can't resist overloading it. The result is that the back is now quite curved. The map holder worked well.
Novarra front panniers - small (good), the interior backs have large protruding bolts, which occasionally caused problems when shoving additional stuff inside. The major problem was that the attachment system was not great. The little levers that catch the underside of the rack's top bar are near the middle, while the hooks that catch the top of the top bar are near the outside. The difference was enough to cause a pannier to unhook several times after big bumps.
Marathon plus rear tire - No flats, no problems.
Continental travel contact front tire - 2 flats! Both were from metal shards/staples that went right through the thickest part of the tread. In both cases I was extremely lucky. The first time it was a relatively slow leak that I noticed at the end of a fast downhill when I stopped to pay for a ferry ticket. Not that slow, though, the tire was dead flat by the time I'd wheeled it on the boat. The second was an explosive blowout. The tire/tube had not been touched in a couple weeks, but that morning I pumped it up to 90psi (> the recommended max of 85psi, but everyone always says these are conservative!). Then the day was quite hot, and we had been probably been moving at >23mph for most of ten miles (no panniers on this, the very last day). We stopped for a gelatto, and the tire blew as I was paying, noone was even near the bike. It was explosive, so I assume the tube leaked over the rim. Once again, incredibly lucky that it happened when it did. Note that I routinely pumped the
marathon plus to >90psi, despite all the weight, and despite the recommended max of 85psi, without ever having a problem.
Pleischer 2-legged kick stand - Heavy, but incredibly useful. I got lots of admiring comments, plus two of the other riders talked about getting it as well.
SIGMA BC1106 DTS - I liked the altimeter. However, had intermittent connection problems (would occasionally go to zero while moving, come back a few seconds later). At one point it stopped working and I changed both batteries. A bit later it stopped working again and I chucked it.
REI half 2 dome HC - easy to set up, quite roomy inside for one, even with panniers. Or, the panniers could be left in the vestibules. However, 1) weighs almost six lbs, 2) bulky - basically took half of one of my back panniers, plus the poles did not fit the pannier and so had to be carried on the rack, 3) stakes stunk - they all bent, were difficult to use with either hammers or rocks. I found a couple easton alumn stakes (see REI) in a raccoon box at some point, and they usually worked beautifully: stiff, nice flat top, cord for pulling out of the ground. However, I did manage to bend one of them the last day. 4) last thing is that though the floor dimensions are supposed to be 90 inches, presumably fine for a 74 inch guy, not really true. I sleep on my side, so I need a few inches above my head, and I always seemed to end up w/ the base of the sleeping bag pressed against the tent wall. Where we had a lot of dew, the bag ended up wet.
big agnes extra-long extra-wide (25") pad - fantastically comfortable. However, it developed a leak about an inch away from the valve. I patched it, but there still seems to be a very slow leak somewhere else. I haven't yet submerged the whole thing to look for it.
big agnes dry bag/pump - On a good day, I could do it in about 10-11 bagfuls, plus a few lungfuls at the end. This was no faster than other folk were able to blow up their big agnes' using lung power alone, but none of them had the 25", and I don't even know if theirs were the long type. The pump bag is not for everyone, but I liked it.
big agnes buffalo park 40-degree bag - comfortable (I'm a very big guy, so I need a lot of room). However, the 40-degree rating is laughable. We were around 40 many nights, and I was only comfortable wearing many layers, including polartec pants and my rain jacket. Also, it does not compress well. It took up almost half of one of my back panniers. I think I'd go with a goose down bag next time.
Lake biking sandals - wore them the whole way, very comfortable. I used socks the first half, no socks the rest. They aren't as stiff as most shoes, but comfortable to walk on. The only other shoes I had were crocs.
iPhone 3G - Fantastic. Keeping up on email, a bit on news was great. I was the one everyone went to in order to get info on attractions, tickets, weather etc. The GPS saved my butt a couple times. I blogged the whole time with the wordpress application, using pictures taken from the phone. Coverage was generally pretty good, but usually not 3G until we got down to San Fran. I upgraded to 2.1 when I got back. I really wish I'd had it on the tour, because call handling and connectivity is much better, and everything is snappier.
For my next tour, I intend to shave quite a bit of weight: mostly from me, but some from the equipment. Lighter tent/sleeping bag top the list.
By the way, the tour was fantastic overall.