Minimalism is alive and well!

Being fastidiously conscious about luggage weight leads one to extraordinary solutions.

I know many of you will have heard of some of the little tricks, or may even have practised them yourselves. The Crane cousins, in their bid to cycle across the Gobi desert and reach the remotest point known as the ‘centre of the earth’, christened a ritual that has become anecdotal in the cycling world, and is frequently quoted by long-distance cyclists as a term of reference in identifying each other. The ritual I am referring to is commonly known as the “sawn-off toothbrush”.

Some would say you can’t be a serious long-distance cyclist if you carry a full length toothbrush. Fail to conform and you will be relegated to some lower form of cycling life. Now, if you want to reach the heady heights of being classed as an “ultra-light cycle tourist” (which is precisely my own aspiration), cutting your toothbrush in half is only the start. Cast your eyes over the following and, remember, this will be a 2 month trip:

Toiletries: bodywash,intradental brush,toothbrush,floss,disposable razors, paste (122 grs)

Toiletries: bodywash, intradental brush,toothbrush,floss,disposable razors, paste (122 grs)

Headtorch,cardreader,spork,ear plugs,flash drive,adaptor,water purification tablets,smart phone + case (282 grs)

Headtorch,cardreader,spork, earplugs,flash drive,adaptor,water purification tablets,smart phone + case (282 grs)

Bungee,pliers,army knife,spoke key,spare cable,pen wrapped in tapes, small pots of lube + grease (344 grs)

Bungee,pliers,army knife,spoke key,spare cable,toothbrush to clean chain,tapes, small pots of lube + grease (344 grs)

Plastic cup,battery charger pack,camera battery charger,medical kit,passport,spare glasses (487 grs)

Plastic cup,battery pack charger,camera battery charger,medical kit,passport,spare glasses (487 grs)

2 tubes,lock,zip ties,multi-tool,puncture repair kit (756 grs)

2 tubes,lock,zip ties,multi-tool,puncture repair kit,speedlink (756 grs)

Saddlebag filled with clothes and tools (4kgs) camping equipment (3 kgs). Total: 7 kgs

Saddlebag filled with clothes and tools (4kgs) camping equipment (3 kgs).
Total:  7 kgs

Handlebar Bag: 1.34 kgs (including the camera used for this photo!).

Handlebar Bag: 1.34 kgs (including the camera used for this photo!).

Total (excluding water, food and sundries picked en route): 8.34 kgs.

The bike, primed and loaded

The bike, primed and loaded

Notable absence of: books, cooking equipment, pannier racks and panniers; clothing is general multi-purpose, lycra-based, which means it is all easily washed and dried. Warmth is created by thin layers. My secondary footwear is flip flops. I carry 2 waterproofs (one for the campsite) and a high viz vest; my smart phone carries e-books and guides, GPS, camera and can be used for emailing, texting and blogging….oh yes, and for phoning too!

I hope this post opens the doors to some friendly banter and sharing of opinions. I have friends in the world of cycling who would feel distinctly uncomfortable about travelling this light.  One particular friend confessed to me that he would carry much more than this even on a non-camping weekend! Some have no qualms about loading up their machines with 40-50 kgs of kit. After all, it’s not you carrying it, it’s the bike!

But my humble contribution to the world of ultra-light cycle-touring pales into insignificance when compared to a certain Igor Kovse from Slovenia. He will happily cycle across some of the remotest deserts and landscapes carrying less than 7 kgs (and that includes a tent!). Check out his website for tips here.

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About Frank Burns

My journeys around the world are less about riding a bicycle, and more about what happens when I get off the bicycle. Click on the Personal Link below to visit my webpages.

Posted on January 16, 2013, in New Zealand End-to-End 3000kms and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 22 Comments.

  1. I’m very impressed, Frank, though one toothbrush for the teeth and ANOTHER for the chain looks like unnecessary doubling-up!


  2. mouthfulofwords

    Now that’s what I call travelling light! Good job! I admire you very much, I think what you’re doing is fantastic, and very inspiring. Now, I have to go check out Igor. 😉


  3. mouthfulofwords

    Just finished reading Igor … I think if he could travel naked, he would 😉 Certainly a light packer.


  4. Hey come on Frank, is it not a bit excessive to carry BOTH an intradental brush AND floss !!


  5. We carried 50kg on our Lejog but then the pace was very genteel 🙂


  6. Frank,
    I am sure you can reduce the weight further by finding thinner/lighter rubber bands for your spare inner tubes.
    Wow! No wonder you gasped at my weighty kit.
    With age I have decided to attempt to jettison some but when on a long tour with mountains and seasons I do like having warm clothes and comfy sleeping bag & very light weight pad.
    Good luck. Looking fwd to reports from the south…..way south.


  7. You’ve got some cool gadgets here!


  8. You know Richard, when I contemplated the photos, I had exactly the same thought……….. So now, will he take both?…….watch this space.


  9. ….and I know he can travel even lighter than that!


  10. You’re absolutely right Sam……but then I’m having my dental check-up three days after I get back to the UK. Got to keep the dentist happy…..;0)


  11. Ha! Joe, when you say ‘way south’ I know you are implying something! It’s going to be cooler/cold/wet, and I am going to pay the price for not having enough kit (serves you right!)………..My choice will be either to put a brave smiley face on it (and continue with ‘wish you were here’ type posts on the blog) or come clean, admit defeat, beg for forgiveness from the cycling-powers-that-be, put on a rack and panniers, and fill them to the brim!

    I am sure the cycling community of weight-carriers (like yourself) will then see me as a ‘born-again’ believer, saved from the everlasting fires of ultra-light damnation…..and I will be welcomed with open arms by the ‘prayerful faithful’. I await the day!


  12. ….and the trouble is, friends in the cycling world (who like travelling light) keep telling me about more ‘cool gadgets’ that shave off grams.There is no end.


  13. Ah yes, Bob, but then that was for two people, and on one bike (though it was a tandem). You both almost creep into the category of ‘lightweight’ 🙂


  14. For a man with very little kit that is a VERY large tent!!! Speaking as someone who is regarded as being somewhat obsessed with minimal touring kit I take my hat off to you with most of your packing…but that tent!!!!! If you run low on cash you could hire it out for weddings and bar mitzvahs. My own packing has taken a rather different path – my tent weighs just 1.8lbs (sorry but I don’t do metric) yet I have somehow got over 30lbs in total to haul down the country. I have been persuaded by my usual touring companion that the effect of modest payloads is marginal compared with the comfort of having everything you need, though ask me again on a long steep haul up a mountain and I may change my position!

    Very best of luck with the trip, fly safely, enjoy the adventure and keep looking over your shoulder for a guy with a bike full of crap (but a very small tent)!



  15. Ah Steve, the photo doth deceive you. I may speak with forked tongue or, more accurately, be economical with the truth………….
    What you think is only the tent strapped to the back of the bike is, in fact, the tent with footprint and sleeping bag. Compared to your tent though (which must be made of Kleenex, I reckon) it comes in at a relatively robust 3.9 pounds/1.8kgs (including poles, pegs and footprint).
    For reference: it’s a Vaude Hogan Ultralight (1/2 person). What’s yours?
    The sleeping pad (Thermarest) is stuffed in the saddlebag.
    Now that iPad you’ve just acquired………1.44 pounds (660 grs)……Mmmnn, food for thought there.


  16. sorry Frank but if you look carefully your meagre medical supplies appear to be out of date!


  17. Ha! And I thought you had 20/20 vision David! But you are right about the meagre…….. Now I wonder what you would include in my position?


  18. Frank, great packing very impressive. It was good to meet you on the offchance in Kimbolton the other day. I must admit I own several cut-down toothbrushes as well, for ultralightweight hiking though not cycling. I’ve drilled some in the past too but these have snapped. Additions you might consider are a better first aid kit including a full blister of painkillers, ibuprofen, duct tape (good for repairs and first aid), a couple 12x12cm tegaderm dressings (ultrathin, perfect for road rash), small pot of antibiotic lotion. It also might be worth carring a spare seat post to saddle bolt (if it snaps you’ll have an uncomfortable ride to help), and a spare derailleur hanger (if your bike has one). Are you going to post on food plans and supplies?

    Cheers, Chris


  19. María Pérez Narciso

    Me parece genial el viaje que vas a comenzar Frank! Mucha suerte y espero seguir tu rastro por este blog! Mi sueño, es ir algún día a Sidney, así que echa un par de fotos por mi (please) y me las haces llegar 😉 Un abrazo!


  20. Nice to have met you too Chris, and thank you for that input. I happen to carry most of your medical suggestions, but not the antibiotic lotion. I’ve always carried antisceptic wipes, but I think your suggestion is better.
    When it comes to seat bolts, hangers, pedal spanners, tyre covers, extra tubes, cassette removers etc…….., you can see I take a calculated risk. I am fully expecting that one day I will learn my lesson!!


  21. Gracias María. Lo haré. Y abrazos a toda la familia.


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