Here are all the details you could ever want to know on what we brought, what we tossed along the way, what broke, and what we absolutely couldn't live without.
BicyclesWhen choosing bicycles for this trip, we had three criteria: strong, simple, and comfortable. We wanted bicycles that we could ride all day and that we would spend relatively little time repairing and maintaining. The frame needed to be strong enough to handle loaded touring and have a long wheelbase so we could maneuver it with heavy loads. We looked for touring-specific frames with eyelets and braze-ons for attaching racks and fenders, instead of buying a road or mountain bike and modifying it for touring.
We ended up considering the Rivendell Atlantis, Koga-Miyata World Traveler, and Surly Long Haul Trucker. All three of these frames are designed for touring and the biggest difference among them is that the Koga-Miyata is an aluminum frame and the Surly and Rivendell are steel frames. There are varying opinions on steel vs. aluminum for a touring frame. Some claim that a steel frame is better because it can be repaired by a welder anywhere in the world, but others dismiss that as a myth. Sarah and I are both tall, and all three bikes in our size use 700c wheels instead of 26" wheels. Wheel size is another point of contention among the touring community. Some claim that 26" wheels are more common in developing countries and thus are easier to get repaired or replaced. In the end, we made our choice based on convenience and price. The Koga-Miyata was available only in Los Angeles and was hard to find in our size, so Sarah got a used Atlantis from Elliott Bay Bicycles and I got a Long Haul Trucker from Counterbalance Bicycles.
In outfitting the bikes, we again focused on durability and comfort. On a touring bike, wheels take the most abuse so we went with heavy-duty, hand-built wheels. Sarah has DT Swiss TK 7.1 rims and I have Mavic A719s. Both are laced to 36-hole Shimano Deore XT hubs. Both bikes also have primarily 9-speed XT drive trains with v-brakes for stopping power. In terms of gearing, we have a 26-36-48 up front and an 11-12-14-16-18-21-24-28-32 in the rear which gives us a minimum of 21.9 gear inches for those steep New Zealand hills and we went with Shimano bar-end shifters for their simplicity. Last but not least, Sarah has a Terry Butterfly saddle and I have a Brooks Champion Flyer.
RacksSarah's Rivendell does not any have eyelets or braze-ons on the front fork for attaching a rack. Rivendell says they designed the bike this way because it doesn't reduce the strength of the front fork. In order to get a front rack on the bike, Bill Davidson built some struts and some custom mounts made from some old brake parts to attach the rack to the front fork. We were then able to get two Tubus racks on Sarah's bike. Since Tubus racks are universally regarded as the best steel racks around, I was going to get them as well, but the guys at Counterbalance put on Surly's Nice Racks instead. The Surly racks are extremely heavy and sturdy - even more so than the Tubus racks.
Panniers & BagsNo surprise here, we went with Ortlieb panniers. We got the Bike Packer Plus for the rear and the Sport Packer Plus up front. We heard these models were better than the roll-top panniers because they can be closed and are still waterproof when they are packed to the brim. I got a Jandd Handle Bar Bag and Sarah got the Topeak TourGuide. We both have Jandd Frame Packs. We got everything in black because that's how we roll.
TiresI have 700x32c Panaracer T-Servs, which are a little different than the 700x32c Panaracer Pasela TGs that Sarah has on her bike. We've heard varying opinions from the touring community on tires. Some people swear by the Schwalbe Marathons or the Continental Top Touring tires. Those tires seem to be preferred by people who value puncture resistance over comfort. The Panaracers are supposed to be very comfortable tires that also have decent puncture resistance.
Notable Spare Parts, Tools, and Accessories
TentOur tent is a Mountain Hardwear Haven 3. Sarah did a lot of research on what kind of tent we should get for the trip and she came up with the following.
The Haven 3 met all these requirements and is pretty light at 6 lbs, 9 oz. We also got the gear loft to make living with our gear and each other easier.
Sleeping Bags, Liners, and PadsWe also have Mountain Hardwear sleeping bags. Sarah has the Women's Phantom 15 Long and I have the Phantom 32 Long. We have silk liners so we can get into them when we are dirty without having to worry about washing the down bag afterwards. We also have the REI Trekker Self-Inflating Pads. We were originally going to go with the ultralight model but got some advice that the weight savings is definitely not worth the reduced comfort.
CookwearOur stove is the world renowned MSR DragonFly. This stove is designed for international travel and runs on white gas, kerosene, unleaded auto fuel, diesel, and jet fuel. We have two 22 oz fuel bottles that will fit in our bottle cages and an expedition service kit so we will not be going hungry on this trip! We have a GSI Cook Set along with a GSI Tea Kettle and two Starbucks Barista Thermal Travel Presses for our caffeine addiction.
Other Notable Camping Gear
Notable Health and First Aid Items
LaptopOur laptop is an Averatec 1100 ultra-portable 10.6" widescreen notebook. When looking for a laptop, size and weight were of utmost importance but we didn't want to sacrifice on speed and power either. We considered laptops from various manufacturers and the Averatec 1100 series seemed like the ultimate laptop for extended bicycle touring, so we were extremely pleased when Averatec agreed to sponsor us on this trip and provide us with a laptop. Our 1100 is extremely light and compact at 3.4 pounds, but packs a punch with a 1.1Ghz Intel Pentium processor and 1GB of RAM. We were also very happy to have an 80GB hard disk drive and a DVD burner so we can take a lot of pictures and burn them to DVD for safety and storage.
CameraWe carried a simple point-and-shoot camera, a Canon PowerShot SD550. We considered bringing a digital SLR, but decided against it due to the price, weight, and the worry of it being stolen.
RadioBased on advice from multiple bicycle tourists, we decided to bring a shortwave radio on the trip with us. We purchased a Grundig Mini 300 Shortwave Radio to stave off boredom on those lonely nights on the road.
© Copyright 2006-2008 James & Sarah Welle.
Graphic design courtesy of James Erck.
Need more details? Contact us at jamesandsarah at erck dot org.