Is Fifty-Four Pounds Enough?
With less than two weeks before Elisabeth and I depart for our bicycle tour from Seattle to San Diego, I spent this weekend packing and repacking my bike to find the best distribution of equipment for the long haul (2000 miles, in case you wondered).
Six years ago, in the summer of 2010, I departed St. Augustine bound for Taos, New Mexico, with a set of rear panniers (luggage for bikes) adorning my trusted Surly Long Haul Trucker and a B.O.B. bike trailer in tow – all of which, when packed, added 75 pounds to my own weight and that of the bike. While the trailer was great because it allowed me to carry lots of stuff in a nice, big, rubberized bag, it created a problem: I could carry lots of stuff. (Did I mention the 75 pounds?)
When I started climbing the hills of northern Texas, especially cresting the cap rock south of Amarillo, I felt like I was towing an anchor. There, under the blazing Texas sun, I swore (like Scarlett O’Hara) that I would never drag a trailer again. So this weekend, I experimented with a set of front and rear panniers, to see if it would get done what needed to get done – and weigh in at less than that staggering 75 pounds.
Here’s how my new kit and kaboodle shakes out:
Front left bike pannier: 10 lbs.
Front right bike pannier: 9 lbs.
Rear left bike pannier: 11 lbs.
Rear right bike pannier: 11lbs.
Front rack carry bag: 5.5 lbs.
Rear rack: Marmot three-person tent: 7.5 lbs.
Grand Total: 54 lbs.
It took a while to achieve this balance. I had to move a few items around to level out each side, while at the same time attempting to maintain a semblance of order by categorizing my stuff. For example, my front left pannier is filled with office-related items (laptop and electronic hoo-hah) and my ditty bag (my toiletries are minimal; I am a guy). The front right bike pannier is dedicated to clothes: jackets, tops, cycling shorts, long underwear, poncho, and an extra pair of pants for when we get to town. I’ll keep my rain pants and poncho under a spring netting on the back of the bike where it’s easy to grab them.
The left rear bike pannier is filled with camping gear. Sleeping bag, Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow (oh, Mommy), my REI Flex Lite Chair (more on this killer piece of gear later), and my 3.5 inch Big Agnes insulated Q-Core blow up mattress (gives me a warm and fuzzy feeling just thinking about it.). The right rear bag is all the kitchen stuff: stove, pots, gas bottle, pans, and utensils.
Elisabeth and I purchased a most excellent three-person tent – the Marmot Limelight 3P. Check out the video. Not only are we sleeping in style, but the Limelight is roomy! It was heavier than I would have preferred (7.5 lbs.) but it has two doors and two separate vestibules, which means Elisabeth can stow her gear in a covered area on her side of the tent, while my stuff resides undercover on my side (let’s just call this baby The Peacemaker), and It sits on the rear rack strapped with two bungee cords.
My front rack holds a great carry bag made by Detours (actually my front bags are detours as well, the Interlaken set – detours.us). It is made from a waterproof material with a waterproof zipper and has Velcro straps at each corner that secure it to the rack. In it, I carry tools, my wallet, a homeopathic remedy kit, a miniature altar with native American fetishes, and a tiny Buddha. I will also keep my phone and external battery inside it, charging with my new dynamo hub! (I am so excited about this new piece of equipment I might just short circuit).
Life is busy coming into the homestretch. Schedules are tight. But in the final run up to our departure, I wanted to take my well-packed Surly out for a spin around the city. Yesterday, I did just that.
And then, the magic happened.
As I cycled out of our drive and through beautiful downtown St. Augustine, I was transformed. Suddenly, I became a traveler. I was on an adventure – a tiny one, but an adventure, nonetheless. As I tooled around the plaza on my fully loaded Surly Long Haul Trucker, I saw people watching as I pedaled by. Their expressions were full of interest. Where is he going? they seemed to ask themselves. How far he has traveled?
Yes. I was a traveler, once again.
* * *
The bike handled great, although I did not climb any mountains. The 312 bridge would have been a nice test, but there simply wasn’t time. And now that the packing trials are done, my Surly and Elisabeth’s new REI Novara Safari have been delivered to our local bike shop, A1A Cycle Works, where they are being lovingly disassembled and packed by Jeff and Nancy for their own journey via BikeFlights.com. BikeFlights will deliver them to REI’s main Seattle store for reassembly.
And those fifty-four pounds? They will be enough. In fact, for almost two months, those pounds will comprise everything I shall require, as Elisabeth and I make our way from Seattle to San Diego.
Here are a few photos from my packing experience and of the Surly loaded for the ride.