Thursday, October 22, 2009

Packing Light ... But Not Too Light

We've all left homes on 50-mile group rides, only to find that we left something either at home or in the car. When the ride started, the sun was shining ... but an hour later it's drizzling and you wish that you had that light rain shell. It gets worse on brevets, when you start the ride at 7 am and it's 45 degrees, but by 1 pm it's almost 80 and your back pockets are now overflowing with a jacket, tights, and glove liners.

So, you can imagine trying to plan what to bring for a week-long trip that will cover 500 miles in late October. You want to be comfortable on the bike -- not too hot and not too cold in spite of potentially huge temperature swings, and certainly not wet but definitely not sunburned ... or bitten by bugs ... or stuck sitting on dirty shorts for unsanitary spans. You also have to be comfortable off the bike, with the right clothes for occasionally eating at a decent restaurant, some shoes you can walk around in, and something to sleep in. Now, double that ... because there's two of you! And you have to fit all of this in panniers, without making the bike so heavy that your knees explode on the first long climb.

Here's how we're doing it.

The Bike

We're riding our new Co-Motion Speedster -- the perfect blend of "strong" and "light." We opted for a steel front fork on this bike so that we could mount a rack, thus enabling us to tote four panniers. I've put a drag brake on the bike, to make the few long descents a little more manageable, and have new Continental Gatorskins (700x28c) to keep things comfortable and (hopefully) flat-proof. Of course, I will have the usual complements of tools, boots, spare tubes, patches, a spare tire, and even a kevlar fix-a-spoke, so we can repair most of the usual problems.

Yes, I've got a C02 inflator, but this pump has a gauge

Although we do not plan to ride at night, for safety I've got a light on the rear rack, a flasher on the rear stay, and a headlight. And, although we hope not to ride in the rain, I've put fenders on.

Headlight and "banana bag" full of food

Note rack and fenders on front ...

... and on the back

Although navigation is pretty simple most of the trip, I have plotted some circuitous routes to avoid potential traffic hassles in Tupelo and Jackson, MS. I programmed these into RandoGirl's Garmin Edge 705, which is mounted on the rear top tube. This allows her to navigate for us, and see how far we've been. She may even wear her heart-rate monitor strap so she can send data to her coach at Carmichael Training Systems, Tracey Drews.

The Luggage

I love Arkel bags. I commute using an Arkel pannier and I do longer brevets on my Lynskey with an Arkel bag on the rack. For this trip, we are using a pair of Arkel T-42s on the back, and a pair of Arkel T-28s on the front. That's 60 cubic inches of storage.

T-28 ... shown upside down just to illustrate its versatility

T-42 on the stairs

One set of panniers loaded with all of the stuff below, plus pump and tire and some other junk


I'm also going to put the Arkel Tail Rider on top of the rear rack, which should have enough space to stow jackets and tights as the day warms up, plus some space for tools, tubes, and such. There's a big bag under the captain's seat that holds some tubes, but is primarily a good place to mount our Tandem-Com. RandoGirl and I need this to hear one another on fast rides, but on this trip we primarily need it because we can plug an iPod into it. I'm bringing two spare iPods, plus lots of extra batteries for the Tandem-Com, lights, and stuff. Finally, on the front handlebars I will have a tube bag for food, glasses, camera, and stuff we want to be able to get to quickly.

What I'm Packing

I will bring three pairs of shorts and three jerseys -- two light-weight and one long-sleeved wool. I will also have two short-sleeve wool base layers, two jackets (one light rain shell and one heavier), two pairs of tights, one pair of knee warmers, and four pairs of socks. This -- along with helmet, sunglasses, and cycling sandals -- will enable me to layer up to stay comfortable into the low 40s with rain, or strip down and be happy at 90 and sunshine. We should be able to do laundry at some point (probably Tupelo or Jackson, unless we just wash stuff out in the sink and hang it up in the shower), so I will have enough riding clothes.

Three sets of riding clothes, bag of hat and socks, and bag of underlayers and tights

For off the bike, I will have a pair of khakis (lighter than jeans and more dressy), one nice short-sleeve shirt, and one nice long-sleeve shirt. I don't want to have to carry extra shoes, so I will still be wearing my biking sandals. With socks on, I just look like somebody's doofus grandpa up from Florida.

Off-bike clothing

RandoGirl will bring kind of the same stuff, but being smaller it will take up less space. Or that's the plan.

I will bring minimal toiletries (thank goodness for travel-size samplers), plus a beach towel. I have always found that a beach towel comes in handy -- either for an impromptu picnic, or to protect something, or sometimes even to actually dry off either you or the bike.

Toiletries and a towel ... these always come in handy

Because there will be times when we may not have a lot of store options, I'm also bringing a beef log, cheese, crackers, and a few croissants. None of these requires refrigeration, and you can either have them as a snack (much more filling than a sports gel) or hobble them together into a full meal.

Summer sausage, and the living is easy

Finally, I will bring my netbook computer, so I can blog whenever I get to a place with free wifi. We will take lots of pictures to upload, and RandoGirl may upload her Garmin data.

Netbook and iPods and chargers and stuff, in a cushy laptop sleeve

Watch this space for more ...


  1. Well, you definitely have you act together. For tandem touring, curious as to your thoughts on panniers vs. trailer. I see your conclusion, curious as to how you got there. I wish Shelly & I could accompany you on your first day, but I'll be busy climbing hills in Watertown. Bon Voyage! KBull

  2. Thanks, Kevin. Good luck on your first brevet!


  3. Thank you, Oh RandoMaster! We'll catch up on the trailer question next time we're in a paceline. You talk, I gasp. KBull