Saturday, September 6, 2014

2014: 10 things that worked great on my latest tour

I am still going over my tour notes, but I wanted to cover 10 things that worked great for me on my most recent bicycle tour from Missouri to Indiana. Some were new, some were old, and one was borrowed, and they all contributed to a great experience and relatively problem free tour.

1) Continental Gatorskin Tires (700x28)
Most of the first 160 miles of this ride were on crushed limestone of the Katy Trail, so I had given a lot of thought to what tires to use. I had looked at the Continental Tour Rides, but they just seemed too heavy, at twice the weight of the Gatorskin.  I also had to consider that over 300 miles of the ride was going to be on pavement. So I went with the wire bead Gatorskin, and did not regret it. I had two pinch flats on the second day, first after I hit a rut hard, and the second, less than 5 miles later was because I didn’t inflate the tire enough with my mini-pump.  Lesson learned, and more about that later.

Handling and traction were not an issue on crushed limestone, even in the soft spots, and once past the Katy, the Gatorskins really shined on pavement. I was a little gunshy over bumps after the flats, but was then able to borrow a floor pump every couple of days over the rest of trip. (Surprisingly, it was the state of Illinois secondary roads that had me considering a more substantial adventure bike tire and wheel combo.)

2) Showers Pass Elite Jacket
I've had my Elite Jacket for a couple of seasons now, and specifically bought this heavier, technical jacket for touring. It met every expectation, as I encountered much cooler and wetter weather than I expected on mid-August ride. You can wear it in a campground in confidence, and the venting worked great while riding in damp, overcast, 65-70 degree mornings and late afternoons.
Breakfast near Effingham, Illinois. 

3) Arkel CamLocks (update to my Eclipse Panniers)
Our 1980’s Eclipse panniers started as the original “slide” mounts, but in the late ‘80’s, I changed them to a DIY copy of the hook & strap-secured system used by Bruce Gordon’s Needleworks bags. Though very secure, that choice later proved to be troublesome in moving the bags to different racks. So I picked up two sets of Arkel’s CamLocks, and breathed a few mores seasons of life into these classic bags. And after the first two days of rain, two of frozen pocket zippers were even sliding.

4) CamelBak Hydration - Rouge pack and Podium Big Chill Bottles
The CamelBak was great for cold water on demand and hands free drinking on busier roads and soft sections of trail. And 70 oz of water, plus two 25 oz bottles was very handy on the long vacant stretches of the Katy and rural Illinois. I have to rave again about the ability of these bottles to keep Gatorade drinkable after a couple hours. I was grazing through 4-6 bottles a day, (along with a 70 oz CamelBak). The combination made it easy to stay hydrated, and the pack was also a convenient source of water for camp meals.

Camped behind a phone substation in Brussels, Illinois.

5) REI Passage II tent
My Passage II tent was on its first extended test, and it passed in flying colors. Yes, it is supposed to be two person, but it gave me a good mix of elbow room and gear in reach all night. The double doors and vestibules were great for all my soaked gear that couldn’t come inside. Set-up and take-down were fast, and I stayed dry through a night of thunderstorms. Looking forward to many more nights on the road with this tent.

6) REI AirRail 1.5” Self Inflating Pad
I used to save weight with ¾ length pad, but I have been spoiled by the full length pad used on my recent supported tours. The AirRail was comfortable, easy to inflate and packed quickly. Just need to find a pillow that is as nice.

7) JetBoil stove.
I borrowed a JetBoil canister stove at the last minute, and now I want my own. The speed and convenience were amazing. I had been skeptical of backpacking meals for bike camping before this trip, and glad I thought outside box to bring this stove, and the meals along.

This was a Google maps BICYCLE choice in eastern Illinois.

8) Google Maps for iPhone
Once I kept my iPhone charged, the Google Maps app, and bicycle option worked great. Out of the 300 miles I was dependent on it, there were only two minor miscues, and there was a enough detail in the surrounding maps to correct for those. (Sorry Apple, but you need a bike option.) My only complaint was the confusing interface when you want step back from navigation to overview; there was not an easy way to do this in the current version.

9) Handbuilt wheels
In 1988, I built up my self a set of touring wheels around some Phil Wood hubs, using DT 2mm stainless steel spokes, laced 3-cross, into 36-hole, Trek Matrix Box rims. These wheels have at least 10,000 miles on them already. They were still true at the end of this trip. Maybe that is sign of overkill in design, but I can live with that!

Done with Illinois near Dana, Indiana

10) Assenmacher Touring Bike (1980). 
 I have written about the origins of my custom built touring bike before. This was the most challenging ride I have had chance to use it on, and I still love this bike. The first couple of days of this trip, I thought the handling was off, but when I made some adjustments to how I was loading the rear rack, the handling tightened up wonderfully, even in a standing climb. Thanks, Matt!

(I hope you will like The Ride So Far on Facebook.)

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the post Jay. I agree with your comments on the JetBoil cannister stove. I use mine for cycle touring, kayaking and hiking. That first cup of morning coffee can be ready in almost seconds! Can't leave home without it.