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Part Deux – A Very Biased Opinion on What to Bring on a Long Haul Bike Trip

With GPS, I would have never found this random Church!


So GPS, is a nyet for me. So what should you bring on a long haul bike trip that I think is vital for survival and sanity? Alright, here it is, I can do this…Two more things to add to your bike list

With all of the following stuff…make sure that at least the bike repair stuff is new. The paniers, the bike, etc etc can be hand me downs, but if you are even thinking about replacing a shotty tube with it’s equally as shotty brother, you are going to hulk smash something or someone sooner rather than later.

1. A Bike Pump – This is one of those things, along with a Patch Kit that you most definitely cannot skimp on. A friend of mine learned that the hard way. Pop goes my wheel and my friend offers me her handy dandy, generic, completely made of plastic pump. The purpose of a pump for this cyclist, in layman’s terms, is to fill my tube (inside you wheel) full of air and make my bike happy to ride again. Well, for with this little blue devil, being a helping hand was not in the cards. POP! Part of the bike pump is launched into a German cornfield, almost making it’s way directly into the noggin of an unsuspecting cow (or maybe it did suspect something, I think it’s just in their demeanour to always look lost). Make sure you know what your tube’s valve (the metal part you attach the pump to) type is. There are a few types, which I shall explain later in Numero 2.

A patch kit is also a very important thing to have with you. While there are many ways to jerry up a substitute (with pieces of rubber, glue…twist ties…I’ve heard many interesting inventive choices) nothing beats the actual thing. It’s the choice between tobogganing in the snow or tobogganing down your stairs. The end result with a real patch is lasting results and no surprise ending. Also patch kits come with everything you need, including the sandpaper and the adhesive, so you don’t have to play Inspector Gadget. Both a pump and patch kit can be bought at pretty much any bike shop or Canadian Tire.

By the way. This is not a bike pump, this is a pumped bike:

2. Xtra Tubes – That’s just an extra tube…I’m trying to be cool with the kids (last time I was cool with the kids, staircases was a rad type of haircut). First off, with the tubes and wheels that on your bike currently, there are a few things you should know. These are basic, kiddlings. If they weren’t, I wouldn’t know about ’em either. Puncture Proof. Know if your tires are puncture proof. If they aren’t, I would highly suggest you pick up a pair of puncture proof tires. Just go into any bike shop and say that you are going to do a bike tour and they will say the same. Unless you have a fetish for patching tires, sitting on the side of the road, ear to your tube, trying to hear air escaping above the sound of whizzing cars, then please, please, please get puncture proof tires.

Okay. Now that I got that out of my system. I can get to your tubes. Make sure your bike tube valves match your bike pump. Some bike pumps can pump numerous types of valves, but some do not. I recommend getting the multiple system pumps, just in case you find yourself on the road with the other option as your only replacement. Here are your options:

Schrader Valve

Presta Valve

Learn these well, the names are quite universal. Also, dependent on what country you are traveling to, one valve type may be more common than another. Just do a quick search on the inter-ma-nets and stick with the most popular valve type.

3. Paniers – Do not try to do a bike tour with a backpack, please, or by the end of it you will be as bent over as that perverted old man in Family Guy (talking about his physique, not his perversion). I did the backpack thing and could barely lift my head while riding to see straight. I looked like a reject costume for the Rocketeer movie and was in constant pain.Each person has their preference for paniers and their setup. I am a big fan of zippers (even though they break) and only doing back paniers, because for me, less room to store stuff means less crap I decide is necessary to haul along with me and weigh me down. Lots of compartments means more places to separate things into some form of organization, but it also means that banana you forgot about two months ago may be the culprit for why your panier smells like a dead or dying skunk. Whatever setup you try, test it out before the big send off day. While wear and tear is a way of life, starting off on the wrong foot can be avoided.  Make sure the securing system to your rack, actually secures the paniers. All you need is one of them to fling off, mid pedal, into traffic behind you (or into that unsuspecting/possibly suspecting German cow).

More to come with Part Trois!

Pre-Ride – What do I think you should know and have

Me in a tent, somewhere in California in a closed camp site

As I you can tell by the first video…I had no idea what I was doing. I think the longest jaunt I ever took on the bicycle prior to day one of the trip was maybe 40 km. That was my first error of several.

If you are going to go on a tour, getting your body prepared is uber important. Now this has nothing to do with physical fitness per say. I don’t think you need to be in peak performance mode to do a bike tour. It’s not really a test of strength, but more so, it’s a test of endurance. By endurance I mean, how long you can stay comfortable and alert on your bike.  Lucky, my bum is made out of Tatinium, so my terribly wilted seat didn’t really bother me. For others, if your not use to sitting on something the shape of a smooshed banana for long hours it maybe a good thing to get use to. Because you’ll be sitting on that hard smooshed banana…a lot.  A don’t even think about getting a wider seat unless you are super bow legged. If your seat is too wide, your calves are going to gnawed down to the bone as they run against it.

Riding in a variety of environments is also important pre-bike tour. If you are just riding around your neighborhood, waving at all the friendly people you pass as you leisurely cruise around quiet streets, you are going to be painfully surprised when you realize that highways aren’t as quaint as the hood.  Loud trucks, construction, scary drivers and scary bikers as well as a tonne of other scary things are something you should get use to, because on a tour they are constant.

When it comes to gear, it really is up to you. People will advise you this way and that way, but it really comes down to what do you want. Do you want to cook? Are you going to want to tent? Do you need an outfit for everyday? These choices will greatly impact your choice in gear. One thing you want to make sure is that you get good gear that works well. I am not talking top of the line, sponsored by Nike, type deal, I am just basically pleading with you to do your research and make sure your gear isn’t going to fall apart in between No Where Ville and Lonely Town. Also, make sure that everything is attached to your bike properly. Loose screws are bad, but random things attached by bungee chords is just annoying. I did this for both bike tours I have done with water bottles. A story that will come up later is, that if someone is going to do this and you go on tour with them, be prepared to constantly stop so they can reload their gack. Also do NOT ride behind them, unless you’d like a sudden obstacle course laid out in front of you at possibly a very inappropriate time.

On that same line of thought, DON’T OVERPACK. You will see my backpack in the film. DON’T BRING A BACKPACK asides from a daypack! The unnecessary weight will make it feel like you are tandeming with sleeping sumo wrestler. It’s also hard to look up with a heavy backpack hitting your helmet onto your eyes.

You don’t need to necessarily plan where you are going, but plan where you are NOT going. Make sure if you are going somewhere, that you can do it and that all roads are good to get there by. As I learned from experience, logger roads are no fun when they are over 140km long to their final destination. I am directionally challenged, so I brought a GPS. I regret bringing it, as it kind of took a bit of the surprise out of where I was going. I kept looking at it’s countdown to see how many more kms I had to go before I could eat next, instead of my pedalling taking care of distance and my eyes focused on the scenery. Also maps are cool! And you can put them up on the wall later!

If clips don’t work for you, don’t use em. I learned that bike pants didn’t fit me comfortably, so I threw them away. I also hated the repetitive swooshing sound of rain gear, so I got rid of it as well.

And something that I think all touring cyclists should do: Keep a blog! Take notes! Bring writing gear! Film it! Your adventure may inspire someone else to go do it! I think even from the get go, the pre planning, the pre packing, take notes, write, so people can learn how they to can cycle wherever their hearts take them!

I will add some more ideas of pre-planning suggestions as they come to me as well as post a somewhat accurate list of what I brought on the trip with me and why.