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Now for the detail………..

Like accountants and engineers, cycling nerds like to get their noses into the minutiae of the detail. So for those of you wanting to know exactly what has gone into my 8.5 kilos of luggage, here is the list. Enjoy!

Ultra-lightweight cycletouring

Clothing                                      Other

2 base-layers                                               Spare glasses

2 cycling tops                                              Toiletries

2 pairs socks                                                 Travel towel

1 undershorts                                               Comb

2 lycra shorts                                                First aid

Arm/leg warmers                                        Cash/cards

1 cycling shoes                                              Watch

1 Gilet                                                                YHA card etc.

2 waterproofs                                                 Notebook + pen

Helmet                                                              Books (on smart phone)

Gloves                                                               Passport

Flip flops                                                         Money pouch

Buff                                                                    Sunscreen/lip salve

For the bike                                   Anti-chafing cream

Puncture repair                                          Travel insurance (+ EHIC?)

2 tubes                                                            Smart phone

Mini-lube & grease                                     Sun shades

Rag                                                                   Camera

Multi-tool                                                      Charging leads

Pump                                                               Flight socks

Cycle lock + 2 keys                                    Battery pack re-charger.

Pliers/spoke key/spare spokes             Maps

Zip ties                                                       

3 bungees/2 straps

Petzl E Lite headtorch

Cycle computer/GPS

Saddlebag/bar bag

Camping kit                                  

Tent                      Plastic mug + spork

Sleeping bag          Footprint

Army knife             Toilet paper

Thermarest

Inflatable pillow

Total weight (including saddlebag and barbag): 8.5 kilos (18.7lbs).

The boxed bike ready for check-in

The boxed bike ready for check-in

North Island route, hanging in the study, for Jenny to follow

North Island route, hanging in the study, for Jenny to follow

...and the South Island route.

…and the South Island route.

 

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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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For more cycling-related topics, go to Love Cycling

Preparing for the ride

I am frequently asked if I have started my training for the ride. The truth is, I ride bikes for pleasure, and frequently. So my state of physical fitness should not be an issue. What is always an issue is the repetition of high mileages day after day, sometimes in terrain and weather conditions that are little conducive to comfortable riding, and carrying luggage that will inevitably hamper the pace. As I cycle southwards, I will catch the backend of a continental summer (which can frequently be hot and humid) and the terrain will inevitably go skywards as I approach the Alps. The vital thing is to adjust your pace and expectations to suit the conditions, and adapt your schedule to make it more comfortable. Starting early to catch the coolness of the morning, and avoiding the heat of the midday sun are essential ingredients if it is to be a success.

My trekking bike, far from being an expensive bespoke machine purchased specially for the venture, is no more than an old adapted (pre-suspension) off-road bike. I’m a great believer in adapting and making-do with kit that I already have, and it’s a lot cheaper! My old Raleigh has been thrown about on rough tracks and bridleways for the past 15 years, and the only modifications I’ve made to it have been to put on semi-slick tyres (allowing both on and off-road riding) and a pair of SKS mudguards.

In terms of luggage, I might be classed as a lightweight (or even super lightweight) adventure cyclist. I seldom carry a tent (though frequently a sleeping bag) and I try not to carry anything that might be superfluous (what the average traveller might include as a “just-in-case”). The fewer “just-in-case” items in your luggage, the easier it will be to climb over mountain ranges and less to drag behind you against a headwind. My policy is: what I can’t fit into an average-sized saddlebag and small bar-bag, does not go with me. This does, of course, mean that careful calculations have to be made about luggage contents, and sometimes I get it wrong. It is always a calculated risk.

I have met far too many long-distance travellers, both walking and cycling, who have been severely encumbered by the luggage they carry. I was much encouraged by Nick Sanders’ account of his attempt in the 1980s to cycle around the world in 80 days. His entire luggage fitted into two small front panniers and, even though he slept outside most nights, he didn’t even carry a tent! Impressive.