Finally, my last post about my little 3 day tour, I may have spent more time writing about it than I did actually riding. Lets see how some of my gear choices worked out.
That looks like it would work fine, but trust me, next time my tarp will be big enough to almost tough the ground.
Hammock Camping: I decided to take a hammock instead of a tent. This was ultimately a bad idea, not because of the hammock so much as my inexperience with them. The problem is that I just didn’t realize how cold my backside would get overnight in the hammock. The other problem was that I simply didn’t buy a large enough tarp. Another negative about the hammock is the lack of an interior space. Having a tent provides a private place to change clothes and sort out items which is very important when it rains. Still I think if I was going again I would leave the tent at home. If it was going to be 50-60 at night I’d bring my Thermarest pad for insulation and a bigger tarp. The hammock was much more comfortable than any camping I’ve ever done, up until I became freezing cold.
Wal-Mart Sleeping Bag: I got this lightweight bag at Wal-Mart for 40 dollars and its rated to 40 degrees. This sleeping bag is a quarter of the size and weight of my old Wal-Mart sleeping bag and is roomier, it comes with a compression bag and packs down tiny. There is no way that it should be rated for 40 degrees, 50 maybe. Really I won’t know until I try it with insulation under me. It did keep my top half warm enough. For the money though you can’t beat this tiny bag.
Cross Bike for Touring: I decided not to build up my Nashbar Touring Bike and instead ride my Jake the Snake Cross bike since it has mounts for a rear rack. This was fine and caused me no problems. The Jake is a few pounds lighter then the Touring bike and I like it’s geometry better.
Open Pro Wheels: About 6 years ago I bought a set of super cheap 36 spoke wheels on ebay for touring. I used them touring twice but mostly used them as gravel wheels, they saw so few miles I expected them to last forever. A Couple of years ago the rear rim cracked and became unrideable. I replaced them with some 32 spoke open pro wheels which I’ve used for the last couple years with no problems, even doing some light trail riding. Well I can’t recommend the 32 spoke open pro for touring since I broke a spoke on the first day, but I can say the wheels are pretty darn good since I rode 230 miles on the back wheel with a broken spoke. For the front I’d be fine, but for the rear I think you probably need a stouter wheel.
700×32 Contiental Gatorskin Tires: These tires were ideal. I don’t really think a bigger tire would be beneficial, and I think maybe a 28 would be OK, especially on the front, but the 32s made for a comfortable ride and I had no flats.
Aerobars: Leading up to the tour I spent a lot of time adjusting the Profile Jammer aerobars my Dad loaned for this trip. Once I finally figured out how to set them up they worked well. I mostly used them for the downhills, though there were some long occasional flats I used them to power through. They also made a great place to attach the map. I had no issues with my hands on this ride and thank the aerobars for that.
Sandals: I used my Nashbar SPD Sandals which I bought long ago and have almost never used. They were fantastic, my feet felt great the whole time. They are nowhere near as stiff as a riding shoe, but stiffer then a tennis shoe. Besides comfort the sandals were great to walk around in and since they were the only footwear I brought they did quite a bit of walking. Even when it was raining they were fine, wool socks kept my feet warm even when wet and cold then for an added bonus once it stopped raining they dried out way faster than shoes. Really ideal for touring in my opinion.
Adventure Cycling Map: This map was not really necessary because of signs along the route, but I wouldn’t do a tour without one. Having the map to orient yourself and know when intersections and towns are coming is invaluable. Everyone I met touring had the same map attached to their bars. The map proved to be very tough and waterproof. I highly recommend them.
Cheap handlebar bag: I bought a 9 dollar handlebar bag from ebay and it was a great purchase. The bag was very handy for keeping snacks, change, my vests, jack, gloves, or anything that I might need fast access to and kept me from having stuffed rear pockets all the time.
No Front Paniers: I only used rear panniers, which was fine, but I noticed most people using front and rear lowriders. My Nashbar panniers are really big and just waterproof sacks that hang on the rack. Having some side pockets would be nice. Having the weight spread around the bike more would improve handling I think.
Garmin Edge 500: I took my Garmin Edge GPS which was fine, it has about 18 hours of battery life and charges up pretty fast on my portable battery. It lacks maps or even the ability to see a trail which would be really nice for touring. I also own an older Garmin 60csx handheld unit which I think I’ll take next time. It runs 16 hours on two AA batteries so that’s one less thing to worry about charging, and it has maps and unlike my phone doesn’t need phone tower signal to work.
Now some final thoughts: Most of the people I talked to seemed to be riding 60-70 miles a day and going across country. That kind of mileage would make for around a two month tour. I got the feeling they were stopping to smell the roses way more then I was. There were many places and things I would have liked to spend more time checking out, for instance I still can’t figure out where Falls of Rough is, but because I was trying to get the miles in I rushed myself. My goal when I started was 3 85-90 mile days but that was really too far for me to start with. I haven’t even rode a century yet this year. Still I was in pretty good shape riding wise, I just got a really sore rear end by around 60-70 mile mark making the last 2 hours of riding tough.
Near the end of the second day when I was climbing big hills that wouldn’t stop I said out loud “I’ll never do this again.” Funny thing is I’m already thinking about my next tour, and maybe trying to ride for more than three days.