Getting kitted up

How are you going to carry all your stuff around the World and how much gear are you going to take? Is a question we are commonly asked and the short answer is simple:

‘We don’t always travel light…

On the bike and just as much as we need but no more!

The longer answer, I figured, is worthy of a blog post!

Choose what to take, and potentially even more importantly what not to take, can be key to the success of a ride or any other adventure for that matter. Not only do you need to be safe and have the essentials you need, but on longer events, there is a lot to be said for the motivation of comfort and being self-sufficient on the road. Taking too much though is a massive no-no as weight is key to speed and speed is key to success.

I think knowing what to pack is very much down to experience. Many riders and adventurers will publish their kit online or in their books such as Jenny Graham and Alastair Humphreys have done for their round the World trips but there is a massive amount of variation between individuals. We are of course packing for two as well which has the benefits of being able to share some items, but we will have only one bike to put it on!

And sadly Geoffrey won’t be able to packhorse us…

When we retraced a few days of the Pennine Way recently on foot with full camping weight I was impressed by how much it is now second nature to pack for these sorts of trips for us. You can read forums and streams of posts online about people agonising about what to take and how heavy their pack should be but we have a sense of what we will need and use from numerous previous trips of this sort and came back with a few extra layers of clothing unsued but pretty much everything else served a purpose. Similarly, a long weekend away bike touring was a simple case of a couple of panniers filled with the essentials and a few creature comforts to reflect our more sedate pace.

We’re used to camping up and making do- note the sock drying system!

Another nice system that has developed over time is how we can now pack separately with very little discussion but still, everything gets packed without duplication. Stevie: packs tooling, toiletries, lighting and I pack: Food, first aid kit, charging, caffeine and we both pack our own clothing.

It didn’t always work out like this and I once went on a cycling weekend without cycle shorts and we may have started a 200km without waterbottles recently but we certainly just keep getting better and better and packing smart and slick.

A new look for cycling?

I think it helps that we are of a similar ethos and both of us are quite minimalistic in the way we live anyway; not using a vast array of different products just a few key ones, (mostly Sudocrem, Aveeno and argan oil) and are quite happy in the same set of clothes for days on end… even if people around us are not!

We also are both keen on getting the most out of our kit and don’t believe in buying in the next new fashion or upgrading kits every few years. We want stuff that lasts. Some of Stevie’s legendary fixes involve patching and mending with rubber sealant and cable ties. His oldest Carradice is the Junior bought in 1998 and used lovingly for 33 years- I’m always proud to have this bag on my bike, it could certainly tell a lot of stories! We are keen to recycle kit where possible too, often coming up with hidden gems from the bargain bins at York Rally and all my cycle shorts are 2nd hand from eBay (new not used…!)

However, some kit needs to be 100% reliable and durable and this is where we do invest more. We splashed out on new walking waterproofs last year and the developments in terms of weight, comfort and performance have obviously been massive compared to our old ones. We are sizing up options for a tent, sleeping bags and mats which will probably weigh less than half and take up a lot less room than our current set up and Alpkit seem to fit the bill. Alpkit is a fantastic locally based company which not only has amazing kit but also promotes sustainability and going nice places to do good things! We would love to have them sponsor us in some way towards kit and are on a bit of a campaign to liaise with them on our round the World adventure!

We even went to visit them!

We have been massively fortunate to already have some amazing companies on board to support other pieces of kit and have a massively exciting one in the pipeline! Cycle Touring Life are not so local, being based in Canada, but we were so impressed with their Erro panniers we asked them if they would like to help us out and they have agreed to kit out the tandem with all the luggage we could need! We will be taking 4 panniers- 2 front and 2 rear with a couple of frame bags-including a new “nosebag” for me and a bar bag to carry everything we need. We had a similar set-up when we road LeJog and considering we had a much bulkier kit this should be more than enough for day to day around the World.

LeJog packing- how did we get that lot on one bike?!

Day to day is one thing, but 180 days is a bit different and we can expect to wear kit out in this time. We have a list of spare/ replacement parts we will need for the bike based on the mileage we are doing and carrying up to 10 new chains is not really practical.

Some of the spares…

So we are planning 4 kit drops around the World to take the pressure off and pick gear up. At the moment we are looking at Biskehk, Singapore, Vancouver and New York for these and if anyone has any contacts in these places (and Auckland), especially with bike shops we would be keen to know as we will be needing bike boxes to pack the tandem in two too! We are delighted that Schwalbe are helping us out with tyres and tubes, the Tandem Shop are helping us get all the gear together and around the World and even Village Biltong are sponsoring us brake pads to “break for Biltong!”.

The rest of our cycling clothing is being specially designed by another potential sponsor we have in the pipeline which promises to be an amazing collaboration… details TBC!!

So some things are obvious: we have decided having lightweight camping set up will give us the most options in terms of where we stop so tent, sleeping bags and mats are all a must. We feel we would find trying to find accommodation too restrictive and bivvying, although fun for a couple of nights, would decrease our comfort over more than that and could affect our recovery each day. It is vital we are well-rested and recovered to keep the pedals turning consistently for 180 days.

One sticking point we have at the moment is the stove. Advice from Mark Beaumont is not to take one and technically this makes sense, we should be able to get refreshments all over the World and we can make do without hot drinks and meals for as long as we need to. But there is just something about a nice cuppa tea in the morning! I failed to not take the stove (as in gas canister with screw-on attachment) twice recently walking and bike touring and not only does making your own pint of tea in the morning save money but also often time and there is no doubt that a hot meal helps raise morale when it’s cold and wet far more than cold sandwiches… one to ponder more…

And then there’s all the other “bits and bobs” we will need over 6 months; we already use solid shampoo and conditioner (which I make myself!), suncream will be p20 where a little goes a long way and lasts all day but we do have the issue of maintaining Stevie’s molasses consumption for beard health- maybe some form of molasses toffees? Some things may seem a little luxurious but can work wonders in terms of motivation and motivation= speed. Listening to (and singing along to) cheesy music on our tiny 180g speaker on our recent 600km event certainly helped us up the pace in the wee hours and sleepy spell midafternoon.

Wander Wye 600km audax

We will have to keep all these electronics charged, making sure we have a solid GPS track around the World to ensure our ride is verified by Guinness. A dynamo in the hub of the front wheel is one option and what we run on our serious Audax solo bikes, but if it failed it would leave us in a right pickle so we plan to use a combination of solar panels and a power pack, recharging whenever we stay somewhere with power points to use.

Powered by the sun!

We hope and plan to have all our kit tried and tested before we begin because as much as our experience means we know pretty much what we will need it will be important to trim down on anything excessive. I am thinking my luxury item with be my shawl which (hitch hiker’s guide to the galaxy style) also doubles up as a towel, blanket, cardi, pillow, sarong, beach towel, headrest for planes, headscarf where locally cultural, scarf, skirt and I’m sure some uses I haven’t discovered yet.

Another aspect to try and test is how we are going to (virtually) take lovely people like you with us! Mobile phones nowadays are so versatile we will be able to do live updates and maybe even podcasts around the World. Filming is more of a work in progress but I’m getting used to what works and what doesn’t with my little action camera and have been recording all our significant rides this year. We would love to have a collaboration with someone more professionally involved in adventure filmmaking, but in the meantime, I’m loving all the different shots you can get from the back of a tandem!

Now, what have I missed? What would you take? Let us know in the comments below 🙂

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