KIT LIST FOR A 2300 MILE CYCLE
One of my first questions when planning this cycle was ‘How on earth am I supposed to carry everything I need to take me over 2000 miles across the USA on a bike?’. Well, here is my list of gear and some of the tricks I used to squeeze everything in and keep it all dry.
Food and water is stocked up on as I go. It’s not an unreasonable distance between towns so this has not been a concern. What do I always forget to pack though? Nail clippers, soap, tooth paste (though I always remember the toothbrush, somehow) and, most unfortunately, a hair brush. I now have three blossoming dreadlocks as punishment. Though I recently had a very pleasing lightbulb moment and discovered that a plastic fork from Subway can act as a decent replacement.
First up in my expedition prep was getting a bike, without which I was going nowhere. Offers of everything from an off-roader to a recumbent came through, but my gut told me that I needed to find something both fast and strong. After scouting the length and breadth of St Louis I eventually stumbled upon a recycled cycles company. They had a secondhand Cannondale touring bike for sale. Bingo. And to top it off she was red and fierce looking. Cannondale’s are all carefully hand built, and a reliable bike was what I needed to take me over the multitude of terrain types I was to encounter. Patches, 3 inner tubes, a toolkit and a hand pump finish off the bike bits. I have also used electrical tape to fix my ever falling apart seat.
Then there is the technology. I have an iPhone for taking images and getting onto the internet when I manage to find a cafe with wifi. I also have a cheap as chips Samsung mobile with a pay as you go USA number. I don’t have any GPS of any sort due to a tiny budget so I rely on maps, memory and screen shots of the road ahead taken when I can find internet at all. A nightmare in the vast maze of a city though. But doing this journey in an old school fashion has been a brilliant experience, as I find we are all so used to relying on on-demand technology to find our way around. I have my laptop with me which acts as my mobile office – though the poor thing is missing a hinge and sounds like an F-16 taking off at its best. A hard drive gives me peace of mind as all the images and film get backed up onto here regularly. A cycle computer helps me clock my milage progress. Last but not least a GoPro camera to film my entire journey and share it with the world at large!
OK, bike sorted, technology sort of sorted, what about the gear? I managed to get hold of a very old (as in 1960’s vintage) and frayed saddlebag pannier for the rear and two large front panniers. From my previous Missouri River SUP expedition I still carried two Aquapac waterproof bags that would sit nicely on the rear of the bike, strapped down with bungee I bought. So that’s storage space and waterproofing ticked off. Someone lent me a Kelty tent, and I had an inflatable mat and sleeping bag, also left over from my last adventure. Some warm layers for night time get packed away into zip lock bags and stacked into the splash proof panniers.
Cycle clothing consisted of men’s old trainers (two sizes too big, mind) till I bought my own hard bottomed cycle shoes, padded cycle shorts, my old running leggings, an old gym top and an old long sleeve running vest. BAM socks and BAM men’s boxer shorts are my under layers. I have a gortex jacket and borrowed waterproof trousers in case of rain (notice a theme of ‘borrowed’ and ‘secondhand’ gear running through?). Plastic bags are worn over my socks to keep any rain and/or icy wind out. I wear a Buff under my helmet – keeps sweat off when hot, and keeps icy wind out when cold. Yellow Ali G style glasses keep me looking stylish… *ahem. Finally, one pair of gel padded fingerless cycle gloves – that have given me an epic tan line – and one pair of ski gloves.
So, finally, what about safety on and off the bike? One thing I will preach till the cows come home, and then still more, is never ever to compromise on safety when cycling. If I’m on my bike then my helmet, flashing lights and a horrifyingly luminous, garish long sleeve layer are all in place. I may look like a dork to some, but this is what will potentially save my life. Twice now cars have almost hit me and swerved at the very last second. Had I not been wearing that sickeningly bright top they may not have seen me and missed a collision. And had they not missed me my helmet would have been vital. On the front and rear of the bike I have Superflash Turbos from the brilliant Planet Bike. I wear a whistle that doesn’t leave my neck day or night. And in my front pouch I carry mace (given to me buy a concerned couple halfway through my cycle).