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Back on the road

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013


I’m back on tour again, another shortish jaunt; this time a bit over a week. I’m heading up to Victoria, B.C. In Canada to see some experimental classical music concerts. I don’t plan to “live blog” this one but I’m thinking I’ll use Track My Tour. So if interested follow along here: Tour into Silence. I will post pics and write-up as per usual upon my return. If you are curious about the concerts I’ll be writing about them on my music blog: Wandelweiser Concert series.

May Micro-Tour

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

May Micro-tour - prepping the Atlantis

Prepping the Atlantis for tour

Mid-May brought the PNW some unseasonably spectacular weather: about ten solid days in the mid-seventies to mid-eigthies fahrenheit. After going through a weekend in the 80s (F) I felt that sweltering in my apartment was all well and good (I took some top notch twilight rides around town) but that I would enjoy the cooler weather of camping out at night. So I spent some time on Google Maps working out a route and packing up some gear. This was Monday May  5th and I decided that I’d leave on Wednesday the 8th — I had some work I needed to get done on the bicycle before setting out. I spent the next day doing this work along with packing and buying of some supplies.

On the bicycle I put my charging system back on, I did a thorough clean of the drive train (plenty of gunk left over from the cross country tour and winter riding), fiddled with the wiring to the rear light, adjusted the front deraillur (there was way too much slack in the cable), cut my kickstand a bit shorter and numerous other minor adjustments. Then I loaded up everything but the food, toiletries and electronics so I’d pretty much be able to depart within about 15 minutes of deciding to do so. I did make some changes to the setup this time around to facilitate some new gear (more on that as the reports progress), primarily moving my tent out of one of the front panniers and onto the free space at the back of the rack.  This did free up sufficient space and worked out well enough. It does make access to the saddle bag a bit of a pain, so I tried to keep things I wouldn’t want during the days ride there (clothes primarily).  I was pretty much all done by dark and ready for the next days departure.

This post will serve as the index for this Micro-Tour and I’ll update it with links to them  as I write posts for each day. These should follow on over the next four days, so stay tuned!

May Micro-Tour
Day 1:  Olympia to Rainbow Falls State Park (report, pics)
Day 2: Rainbow Falls to Grayland Beach State Park (report, pics)
Day 3: Grayland Beach State Park and Westport (reportpics)
Day 4: Grayland Beach to Olympia (reportpics)
Complete tour photo collection: May Micro-tour set on Flickr

An efficient use of space

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

Touring Kit - An Efficient use of space

Touring Kit - An Efficient use of space

Touring Kit - An Efficient use of space

Touring Kit - An Efficient use of space

Charging Systems Revisited

Friday, January 4th, 2013

No Nukes

About a week before I set out on my cross country Journey to the East last year I put up a post about my charging system that I had worked out for that tour. It seems worthwhile to post the results of how that worked out for me.  For the tl;dr crowd: in the main it worked as intended but there were some issues on the margins.  I feel it is worth examining in depth the caveats, issues and workarounds I found with this system plus my thoughts on improvements, change and additions I’d make to the overall system.

The charging kit


System Overview
The charging system had three main components (top row from left to right in the above photo):

1) Biologic ReeCharge Power Pack
2) New Trent IMP60D
3)  Sanyo USB Charger

plus various wires, adapters and accessories. With this I could charge AA/AAA batteries, my cheapo  Samsung dumb phone and my third generation Apple iPad. There are two external battery packs involved: the BioLogic ReeCharge and the New Trent IMP60D. The ReeCharge could charge the batteries or the New Trent but not the iPad. The New Trent could be used to charge any device that could be plugged into the USB port. The Biologic ReeCharge Rectifier (which connects to the generator hub and converts the AC power to DC) has a 3.5mm barrel plug in it which connected to the ReeCharge Power pack. It turned out that it also could plug right into the mini-USB adaptor for the New Trent so I could charge the New Trent directly from the generator hub. But it also turns out that you can plug any USB devices into the ReeCharge Powerpack while riding and it would funnel the juice out to that device. So you could say charge the New Trent or AA/AAA cells with the ReeCharge itself not charged.

So how did it all work out you ask?  Pretty good I have to say. However I still primarily relied on mains power for my charging needs. But I think if one used something less power hungry then the iPad you’d be pretty well served by this system. Let me lay out how things went.  Two days after I sent out from Olympia I found my iPad running pretty low on juice.  Now circumstances on that day found me unexpectedly in a motel on day two so I recharged there and did some research and changed my behavior with the iPad to maximizes power usage (I should do a post on using the iPad on tour sometime but basically you keep the backlighting at the lowest setting unless you need it higher (in direct sunlight for instance), keep it in airplane mode (which disables the various wireless radios) when you aren’t online and turn off any push/auto uploading features).  Once I had done this I very rarely ran out of power but as I said I was plugging it in whenever I could.

Mains power on tour
My general routine is that I cook breakfast and dinner almost everyday and I try to eat in the communities for lunch (though in some locals this wasn’t an option).  I typically would try to have this lunch somewhere where I could plug in though of course sometimes that didn’t work out. When I was camping at non-park campground there often was an option to recharge. Any campground that has plug-ins for RVs for instance. A lot of ‘grounds now just have those plugins in every site so you could charge there. Other times I’d be in the camping section but there’d be unused RV slots right nearby. So I’d plug into those and keep an eye on the gear. Sometimes when I was staying at the parks in a town they’d have a covered shelter which would oft have power.  So in contrast to my 2011 tour which was more remote and much more in state and national parks I felt like I was a slave to the power source, this tour I rarely went to places or lingered longer explicitly for power. A key factor of that of course was being able to recharge from my own power when I had to.

Charging system in usein situ: ReeCharge hooked up to the battery charger

The charging system in situ
Charging batteries and the dumb phone was pretty straightforward. I would run with the ReeCharge Power pack installed and the Sanyo USB battery charger plugged into it. The Sanyo recharger charges one battery more than the other so after it indicated it was completely charged I’d swap the batteries and let it continue charging. When that was complete the batteries were pretty well charged. As this power was trickled out the ReeCharge battery pack would also (very slowly) charge as well. I could charge a pair of batteries fully in a given days ride.  By the end of the tour most of my AA/AAA batteries were pretty well memoryed and needed replacing. The Sanyo charger also crapped out so I dumped it in Bar Harbor. But there are many USB battery chargers and they are cheap so apart from the irksome-ness of the waste not a huge deal.

My Samsung dumbphone was also easily chargeable by plugging it into the New Trent. I deliberately bought this cheap phone as it had a long standby battery time and I wanted it primarily for emergencies. I made very few calls myself – mainly the occasional call to the ‘rents and once I hit the NE I’d have to occasionally call campgrounds to find out if they had space (or where even still in existence).  It needed charging pretty infrequently and I typically could top it off with the remaining charge in the NewTrent after charging the iPad. As all my devices could be charged via USB I had only carried one AC adapter with me – the iPad charger. I could plug the USB cables for any other device into that and charge them up. However it turned out I’d always plug the iPad into power when I could so while on tour I bought a second AC USB adapter so I could charge the phone or more typically the New Trent.

Charging the ReeCharge and the New Trent was the primary activity that my charging system was engaged in. I generally was always charging – it was the rare case that everything was fully charged. The ReeCharge unit is a 1600 mAh battery capable of recharging the phone and batteries but also could be used as a conduit to charge any USB devices. That is it gives a constant output of power at the correct USB values (it puts out 5V at 1 amp. This won’t charge the iPad for which you want 2A) so I could use it to charge the New Trent. It took a day or so to fully charge the ReeCharge depending on how much riding you did and the terrain (spending the bulk of a ride at 5mph climbing say Washington Pass doesn’t go so far in charging).

The New Trent IMP60D is a 6000mAh external battery pack with both 1 amp and 2 amp ports. Thus it could charge the iPad and any other device, took about three average days to fully charge.  Fully charged it would recharge the iPad about 40% with enough juice left over to charge up my Samsung. I would also sometimes use the ReeCharge in series with the New Trent which I’d say gave me about 50% recharge. I could as I mentioned above charge it directly from the rectifier with an adapter but I also could plug it into the ReeCharge Battery pack to charge which turned out to be fortuitous as I will describe below.

Charging BatteriesCharging the New Trent from the ReeCharge

Caveats, problems and work arounds
While everything worked as intended there were a number of issues and some problems. First off the Samsung phone couldn’t charge from the ReeCharge unit. This was strange as it was the device that came with the adapter for the phone and was marketed as charging all these devices (it came with adapters for dozens of different phones). This was not much of an issue as the New Trent could charge it, but not being able to charge it while in motion was a problem a couple of times. Usually though I’d plug it in to mains power and even after a short period of time would have enough of a charge for emergencies.  So a minor concern but without the New Trent this would have been more of an issue.

The biggest problem I had was with the New Trent’s micro-USB charging port. It’s output is two full sized USB ports which very firmly hold the cable(s) in place. But the micro-USB is so tiny and very easily jogged out of place which could also bend the plug itself.  The first few weeks of the tour I tended to charge up the ReeCharge and then stick it in my panniers and then plug the New Trent in directly. I’d keep in in one of the rear facing pockets in my handlebar bag with the flap loosely strapped down. In this configuration I’d never be sure it was charging as I couldn’t see it but generally this worked well enough. However on May 25th (day 26) my bicycle fell over while in this setup and the micro-USB adapter got bent and no longer worked. Thus I could not re-charge the New Trent anymore. Luckily the next day I arrived in Newport WA (right on the Idaho border) where there was a Radio Shack. I couldn’t get a direct barrel connector to micro-USB but I was able to go from full size USB to micro-USB via the iGO system which utilizes a USB cable with interchangeable tips for virtually every connector known to man.  So I was again able to charge the New Trent as long as I ran it through the ReeCharge (I had at one point thought about sending the ReeCharge home  as superfluous extra weight. Good thing I didn’t).  However as the tour wore on the connector on the New Trent became increasingly flakey requiring the battery to be flat on a table with the cable attached and usually held down by some object. So it could no longer charge while I was in motion so I’d charge up the ReeCharge and then transfer its power to the New Trent. Needless to say this wasn’t optimal. It is now as of the time of this post almost impossible to recharge do to the connector.

Optimizing use
The other learning curve on the tour was how to best use the system.  I’ve already mentioned some of the power saving tactics I took with the iPad to maximize it’s battery use but usage patterns in general is worth examining. I used the iPad a lot it turned out: I stored my photos on it (I had an adapter to transfer them from my cameras SD card), I blogged daily on it, I did the bulk of my reading on it (Kindle and iBooks), I used Google Maps a bunch (primarily to find stores and such, but also when there were detours or I was off route), I checked email and a few websites, I used Twitter a bit (not heavily; I primarily sent out road conditions for others using the #ACANoTier hashtag) sometimes I streamed internet radio (less so once I got my windup radio).  Some of these activities I’d only do while plugged in (radio, photo transfering) but some I relied on doing every day (blogging, reading), so it was important to me to have a charge. My initial plan was to plug in when I could and then if I was desperate to get a partial charge from the New Trent. I did this at first and this was problematic – once you charged off the New Trent it was empty and needed three+ days to be full again. A 40% charge didn’t last three days of even typical use. So what I learned is that what you really want to do is keep the iPad as fully charged as possible. So what you do is charge it when you hit the amount the New Trent can recharge – that is about 40%. When the iPad would reach about 50-60% charged I’d then charge it from the New Trent. Then I’d have a near full charge which I could make last 3-4 days. By then the New Trent would be charged again. Obviously this is always on a downward trajectory but it’s rare that during any given week one couldn’t plug in. And when I’d plug in I’d also plug in the New Trent (After I’d gotten that second AC adapter) which would speed it’s charging along as well.  After the first month or so I almost never had serious power issues though I did run right down to the edge numerous times.

So the goal is to basically be charging all the time. If I had everything fully charged I’d sometimes just charge up the iPad no matter where it was at so I could then dump the days charge of the ReeCharge battery into the New Trent. Then it’d be back to being charged. The iPad, especially the third (and now fourth) generation ones with the retina screen really are power hungry. With a lower wattage tablet, smartphone or netbook I bet one could pretty rarely have to utilize mains power while on tour with this setup.

System Iteration
It is a constant learning curve with power systems and there is always improvements in the tech and choices. So what have I learned from this one and what I would I change for the next tour?  First off I think the large external battery pack is the key regardless of what kind of tech you are using (barring using no tech obviously). However the Micro-USB is not ‘tour tough’ and I would use a battery pack with a different input connector.  The current, largest New Trent seems ideal for touring: New Trent iCarrier 12000mAh Heavy Duty and it uses a barrel connector of some sort (no size listed on the stats). This may or may not fit right into the ReeCharge rectifier connector but making a small tough adaptor would be trivial and shouldn’t be as susceptible to the problems of the micro-USB adapter. This also is nearly twice the capacity of the IMP60D that I used and thus would be closer to a full charge on the iPad. Though of course it would also take nearly twice as long to recharge.

The other thing that I felt I really learned with this setup was the usefulness of the USB charging configuration. You can plug virtually anything into the ReeCharge battery and charge while you are in motion.  I only used this for the battery charger (as I said my phone didn’t work with this, but I’m sure many would) but there is no reason to limit oneself to that. I’ve long been a big advocate of having my digital camera, my non generator powered lights, flashlights and the like all use AA/AAA batteries so that I can a) swap them out when needed and b) not need any additional charging devices (wall warts et al). But now you can easily find USB charged cameras, lights and other devices (e.g. an electric shaver) and it would be pretty straight foward to keep them charged and no additional cables or wall warts required. Certainly would be as easy as it was for me to charge the batteries. I think it’d be nice to only have the batteries needed for blinkies, which last a long time and only use AAAs, thus reducing the amount of  batteries needed.

I should note that IMO if you have a generator hub you absolutely should buy the ReeCharge rectifier. This is a small, light, cheap unit that zip-ties to your forks and has a wire out with the afore-mentioned barrel connector. It’d be quite easy to mate that connector to any given device, make one’s own powerpack (there are tons of DIY lighting/charging systems out there) and charge on the go.  Barring wanting to leave your lights on all day (which would still allow charging but at significantly reduced effectiveness) there no reason to not be charging as you ride. At least with my Schmidt Dynohub I find riding with it on unnoticeable and the rectifier is only a US$30 item. However it looks like they have changed the system to use Micro-USB which as I have noted is problematic. However it probably mates solidly to the ReeCharge battery and then one can of course plug in any USB device. Of course then it’s not as cheap.  But regardless the system overall is not a great expense, it should last a good while and I think it would save one time and money in many ways.


Reducing mains power dependency
I mentioned that on my 2011 tour, where I was more in the mountains and using state, national, BLM and NSFS campgrounds that I had a harder time keeping just an iPhone charged using just mains power.  The tour before that I’d used a different charging system and mains power to fairly easily keep my iPhone going (though that system had it’s own problems as detailed in the charging systems post). But how to keep a more power heavy system going in these more remote destinations?  First off the number one thing is conservation – use your devices as infrequently as possible, set them up in the most power sipping mode and do not let it try to connect to wireless networks when there aren’t any. Of course you will still need to charge and as I said above the key to this is a large battery pack like the New Trent iCarrier and then using multiple charging systems to decrease the charge time. So what I’d do is use my current dynohub charging setup but also have a solar array on the back and/or front rack. These wouldn’t all need to be wired into the New Trent (though f you worked out some sort of DIY rig for that it’d be ideal) you could just use them to charge their own batteries and then dump them into your New Trent every night. While in camp you could use a stove like the Biolite Stove which also does USB charging. With this setup you’d have three non-mains methods of charging your external battery – the question of course is how much of the New Trent you could charge per day. I think one would like to get that fully charged about every three-four days which seems possible. I haven’t read muchs on how much charge people get out of the Biolite yet though it doesn’t seem like a lot (8% charge per hour on an iPhone one site claimed, but not much data there). But the point being that since I’m going to be cooking every night anyway, if it can trickle in a few watts into the battery pack all the better. There is a lot more info out there on solar and people have used that as their sole power source on tour (+ mains of course) so I’d think a modest solar setup plus generator would go a long way.

Of course this is all adding up weight wise (and cost) so it is a tradeoff. But there are ways to minimize that – everything could hacked to feed into the New Trent thus you’d only have the one battery which is the bulk of the weight. Using less power hungry gadgets and minimizing their use will reduce needed charging time as well. But there is always a tradeoff. My iPad was used as an eBook reader, a camera and journal and could certainly have replaced physical books, cameras and journals (though I did not on this tour at least). What one needs to reach is the point where you are recharging your battery pack more then you are using your device and then you have reached mains independence. You only need to approximate that if you know you’ll have at least some  access to mains power at bars, cafes, motels etc.

This turned out to be a lot longer then I originally anticipated but that’s not really unexpected: there is a ton of variables, options, experiences and trade-offs. To try to cover all of that with any sort of persuasiveness requires a lot of verbiage. Of course I only scratched the surface on options, especially for future tours and on resources but I did mainly want to document my experience with the current setup. For my next tour I’ll more likely as not use an iteration of this system with some of the changes outlined above. Whether I try to get more mains independent will depend a lot on what sort of touring I do in 2013.

Rivendell Atlantis

Sunday, June 26th, 2011

Rivendell Atlantis - 00

2005 Rivendell Atlantis

As I mentioned in the post about my Safari these entries are based on the bicycle pages on my old Those Who Look at the Sunset website. My whole philosophy of cycling evolved from touring – I’d been reading tourist accounts and started off quite practical.  I came to Rivendell from that stance and their focus on practical, durable and elegant really matched up with me.  After I’d come to the conclusion that my Safari didn’t really fit I bought an Atlantis and it was such a revelation.  I’ve of course written all about this bicycle, the tours I’ve taken on it and posted countless photos of it throughout these pages. This post reflects the original state of the bicycle when I got it. That picture above was taken before I’d even ridden the bicycle – see how shiny new everything is and I hadn’t even put on the Hobo Bag yet. You can see a few more of these pre-ride pictures by following this tag: Virign Atlantis.

Check out more of these early pictures plus many more on my Atlantis gallery.

2005 Rivendell Atlantis 58cm

Custom Paint: Pea Sage Green with Cream highlights
Handlebars: Nitto Mustache
Stem: Nitto Technomic Dlx (8cm)
Shifters: Dura Ace 9 sp Bar End
Brakes: NOS Canti Deore
Brake Levers: Shimano 600 Levers
Bottom Bracket: Shimano 113
Crank: Sugino XD2 170 46/36/24
Front Derailleur: Shimano 105, Triple
Pedals: Shimano M324 platform/SPD
Seatpost: Nitto Jaguar/Frog
Saddle: Brooks b.17
Rear Derailleur: Rear Shimano Deore 2002
Rear Wheel: 700c R 36H Deore Hub / Velocity Synergy Rim
Cassette: Shimano Deore HG50 9spd 11-32
Front Wheel: 700c F 36H Deore Hub / Velocity Synergy Rim
Front Rack: Nitto/Rivendel Front 700c
Rear Rack: Nitto/Rivendell Rear, Large
Tires: Pasela 700×37 K/TG
Handelbar Tape: Yellow Cloth, Amber Shellaced
Handlebar Bag: Rivendell Baggins Hobo
Seat Bag: Berthoud Micro Seat bag
Fenders: Berthoud Stainless Steel Fenders
Mud Flaps: Berthoud Leather Mudflaps
Computer: CatEye Enduro
Waterbottle Cage: King water bottle cage


Tour 2010: On the road

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

Tour 2010 day 1 - Atlantis

Tour 2010 begins now! This year I’m heading to the Great White North, on a route of my own devising and will be exploring the Cascade Foothills in Washington State then onto British Columbia in Canada where I’ll ride the Sunshine Coast and Vancouver Island. I’ve worked out routes that put me on new roads and will let me most see new places than I have on my other trips up north.

Once again I’m going to try to blog the trip though I don’t have quite the setup that I had last year. Those who have read my Tour 2009 posts may recall that I had setup an integrated battery charging system using my bicycles generator hub. Well that system worked, though it took about two days of riding to charge four double A batteries which could give my iPhone 3GS about a 3/4 charge. However the Ride and charge unit did not work as advertised: it would not switch to the headlamp when the Ixon IQ+ was unplugged. This didn’t really come up until the final day of the tour when I was riding home at night from the Seattle Amtrak station. So its 11pm at night and I discover that it won’t run my headlight and that the Ixon IQ+ itself wasn’t working as a light. I pretty much ripped the wires our of the Ride and Charge and twisted them together for my ride home. This year I won’t be using that system…

Tour 2010 day 1 - hobo bag

Most everything else I’m using this year remains the same, so if equipment lists are of interest, check out my tour 2009 packing list. There are of course a few changes here and there, but they aren’t really that big of deal. As I mentioned in my Atlantis repair post a couple of days ago, I’ve been waiting for my Hobo Bag to get its zipper replaced and I’m happy to report that I picked it up yesterday and it is better then new: they put in a metal zipper as opposed to the original plastic. I’m pretty happy about that as I inquired if they could replace it with a metal one and they said they didn’t have one. But when I picked it up they said they had a few and that this bag cried out for one. I fully agree. So a big thumbs up for Rainy Pass, I wholeheartedly endorse them.

Anyway enough preamble, I’m on the road in just a couple of minutes. Keep an eye on this blog for further updates as I can and power willing. I’m going to try to do a daily post but it may be a bit less journal like than last year. I’d like to post a more coherent narrative when I get back, so I’m planning to do quick updates here and keep a more thorough journal from which I can write that.

Tour2009: Itinerary

Friday, July 3rd, 2009

This is my basic Itinerary for the tour. This will also serve as an index of sorts, as I’ll turn all these pages into links after the tour.  This basic route is from Kirkendall and Spring’s Bicycling The Pacific Coast, with my own route for the first couple of days and ending in San Francisco. From San Franciso I’m taking the Coast Starlight Amtrak home which I’m also looking forward to – I haven’t done a train trip of this length before.  Of course there is a bit of flexibility in this schedule, especially in Oregon where the next campsite is never that far down the coast and thus could easily stay at different places then those noted here. This is a popular tour route in the summer and its often better to not slavishly follow a published route if you don’t have to. The key is that about 55 miles needs to be ridden every day to make it to SF within my allotted time.  So watch the blog to see how the trip really progresses.



Day 01 ““ To Shelton
Day 02 ““ To Twin Harbors State Park
Day 03 ““  to Bush Pacific County Park
Day 04 ““  To Oregon Border


Day 05 ““ To Nehalem Bay State Park
Day 06
““  To Cape Lookout State Park
Day 07
““ <Rest Day > Oregon Coast
Day 08
““ To Beverly Beach State Park
Day 09
““ To Jesse M. Honeyman Memorial State Park
Day 10
““ To Sunset Bay State Park
Day 11
““ To Humbug Mountain State Park
Day 12 ““ To Harris Beach St. Park (California Border)   ~56m


Day 13 ““ To Elk Prairie Campground CA
Day 14 ““  To Eureka KOA
Day 15 ““ <Rest Day > Redwoods
Day 16 ““ To Marine Garden Club Grove
Day 17 ““ To Standish Hickey State Park Recreation Area
Day 18 ““ To  MacKerricher Beach State Park
Day 19 ““ To Manchester State Beach
Day 20 ““ To Bodega Dunes State Beach
Day 21 ““  To  Samuel P. Taylor State Park
Day 22 ““ To San Francisco
Day 23 ““ SF
Day 24 ““ SF -> Seattle Train
Day 25 ““Arrive Seattle

Tour 2009: Packing List

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

This year I’m doing a three week tour along the West Coast of the United States.  Over the next couple of days I’m going to post some of the information from my tour document that I always produce. This document includes the basic itinerary, my packing list, routes and maps that I’ve worked out myself, address and directions for any important destinations such as booked hotels, transportation and brewpubs and so on.  I’ve found that its good to have all my tour information in one place but for the last couple of tours I’ve been putting bits of it online as well as its been basic information about the tour. This first post is my packing list, containing the bulk of the items I’ll take on this tour. Over the next few posts, I’ll cover the bicycle, the route and a few other tidbits from the tour doc.

My packing list hasn’t changed much from my 2007 tour.  Nearly everything I used on that tour worked well and I will be using them again. Most of the items are actually the same items from that tour as I tend to favor items that work well, are built well and last. Most of the items below are tried and true, but new this year I’ve worked out a new power charging system as the solar charger I used last  tour did not survive the it.  I also found that it is more important to be able to charge AA Batteries as opposed to a powerpack so this year I’m using a system that recharges these batteries via my dynamo hub.  This is the newest bit of kit I’ve gotten so hopefully it works well. Otherwise I’ll be buying a lot of batteries…

Tour 2009 packing list


Bicycle: 2005 Rivendell Atlantis
Front Panniers: Arkel GT-18 Panniers
Rear Saddlebag:  Nigel Smythe Paladin


Tent: Eureka Spitfire
Sleeping Bag: Kelty Light Year CD 25
Pad: Therm-A-Rest® Backpacker ¾ Length


Stove: Brasslight Turbo II alcohol stove + Alcohol
Cookset: Snow Peak Trek 900 titanium cookset
Utensils: Titanium Spork,  REI Plastic Knife


Cell/PDA/Etc:  iPhone 3GS
Battery Charging ““ Ixon IQ+ with Ride and charge,  iPhone Charger
Camera – Canon PowerShot S2 IS
Memory:  SD ~5GB
Rechargeable Batteries AA x8


Multitools ““ Topeak Alien II / Leatherman
Topeak Mini Morph Pump
Spare tubes:  x4 40×700  tubes
Patch Kit, Tire Levers,
Fibre Fix Spoke x2,
Chain Lube,
Extra E6 Lightbulbs x2


Pants:  REI convertible pants
Shorts:  MUSA Riding Shorts + laundry shorts
Shoes:  Teva Sandals
Socks:  Thin Wool Socks
Undies:  Wool Undies (3 pair)
Shirts:  Flannel Shirt, Seersucker (x2), wool undershirt
Hat:  Riv Cycling cap
Other:  Wool leg warmers, Backpackers towel
Raingear:  REI Raincoat, Rainlegs


Floss/holder, tooth brush/paste, Deodorant, Sunblock, Dr. Bronners All-In-One Soap, Vitamins, Tiger Balm, Nail file, Advil, Vitamins, Lip balm, First Aid Kit, Moleskin, Small sewing kit, insect repellent


John’s Irish Straps, Twist ties,  Length of cord, Ziploc bags, Waterproof stuff sacks, Bungee Cords x2, Journal, Kirkendall and Spring, Book


Green Tea, GORP, Gatorade powder, Instant Oatmeal, Granola Bars, Emergency Meal (instant soup or the like)

Thinking of touring

Wednesday, March 19th, 2008

Touring is my favorite cycling activity but in all honesty one I rarely get to do.  It requires a pretty serious block of time and in this era of “increased productivity” time is in short supply.  Time must also be divided between one’s interests and while cycling and touring are a great love it is not my only love. Touring in many ways is a mindset and I work to cultivate that mindset in my non-touring rides.  Day trips can feel like a day of touring where you get to stay in your home at the end. Or adding a series of day rides into another trip can be a great experience that significantly widens ones perspective on an area. This can be like touring and always returning to the same place. S24O-ers can give you that feel of exploration, self-sufficiency and pared down living.  These are all valuable, rewarding experiences that can capture some of the magic of touring and fit into 21st century life in America. But it is for this very reason that nothing quite compares to actual multi-day touring.

It takes a few days on the road to get into the swing of things. You need to get used to the difference in your bicycles handling, the effort require to start from a dead stop, to get used to riding many hours day after day and to let your mind slow down to the pace of the tour.  Once you are there then the real magic of touring opens up. It isn’t the bicycle, or sight seeing, or even the people that is the real magic; it is the change in pace, the slowing down of ones actions, a sort of detached focus.  Touring is a routine combined with novelty; every day you get up, make breakfast, break down camp, load the bicycle, ride, eat lunch, ride, find a campsite, setup camp, cook dinner, explore the campsite, journal, read, sleep.  A routine that once you fall into feels natural and mindless, you can just do the same things day in and day out. But every day you ride through new territory, the terrain slowly changing as you pedal through the miles. The campsites are all different, the sights to see change, the weather is a constant puzzle. The routine is just a familiar activity that propels you through the constant change.

For me it is all about this changing of perception and attitude of letting go of things.  I slow down a lot on tour. I don’t worry about how much time an individual activity takes, I don’t try to optimize things, I let things take the time that they need. For instance if I stop to take a picture, or refill my water bottles or whatever I don’t push it to get to that activity. I don’t mind spending the time to lock up my bicycle, to remove my gloves and helmet maybe even put on or take off other clothing. There is no rush, you are moving through the day and that is your only obligation.

The pace of the bicycle, especially loaded for touring, opens up the land you are cycling through, but it’s still only in a narrow strip along your route.  Stopping often, taking interesting looking side roads, wandering around the little towns you ride through opens it up a lot more.  The impulse to explore is strong in me and I never can pass up a bicycle path, an interesting looking trail, a scenic road or a novel route. On tour these are constant and if you take the time to explore you widen the ribbon of your route and the opportunities to learn the region and for adventure expand dramatically. Of course there are always limits, the amount of time one has for the tour being the most constricting one. Working within limits can be very revealing and rewarding in its own right. Loose daily goals that can be changed, updated or altered as the situation develops allows for the flexibility demanded for these experiences but also keeps you within your limits. You can’t see it all and knowing when to let go is just as important as taking a chance, exploring and knowing when to change your plans.

Sometimes I think there is an overemphasis in the touring world to focus on epic undertakings.  Perspective is important and with the right perspective anywhere you tour is open to endlessly rewarding experiences.  Obviously there is nothing wrong with touring around the world, across the Tibetan plateau or to the north pole – whatever constitutes an adventure to you.  But with a touring mindset a tour around the county you live in can bring you just as much. There can be a tendency to equate “adventure” with pushing yourself to the limit, or with an epic undertaking. Even more limiting is the notion that anything less isn’t “really touring”.  These sorts of calculations push touring further away – how often can one do epic journeys? how far do you have to push yourself to top each adventure? At what point do you lose sight of what touring is really about in pursuit of some ephemeral notion of adventure?

There is pretty much unlimited information available to all with a computer and an internet connection these days.  This presents a double edged sword for the tourer. Yes is is very easy to plan a trip, to find the best routes, attractions, places to stay, things not to miss. At the same time you run the risk of over planing, of leaving less up to chance, of eliminating too many variables. And then there’s the sense that it’s all been done before, that you are just doing a typical tour that everyone has done. Or that it’s insignificant that your little tour around your state is nothing next to some guys tour across central Asia.  You can become bogged down in the minutia of equipment, gear ratios, frame material, waterproofing and so on. In the end you have to get out there, make your own trip and learn. Learning is always an adventure and experience the only real way to learn on a topic like touring.

In between tours you can document your past experiences, read about others experiences, plan the next tour.  These are all fun, rewarding activities and something I’ve spent plenty of time on.  Over the years, as I’ve toured some and read a lot more, I’ve gradually changed my perspective toward between tour activities. I’ve reached a point where I’m set with the basic gear and have the experience of what to expect on the road that I don’t need to spend much time when I’m not touring  thinking about those aspects of it. If the opportunity presents itself I can just up and go with a pretty short amount of preparation. Physically I may not be fully ready, but there’s nothing quite like touring to get you into shape. I think about how to use my time off, what works in those time frames and the logistics involved.  But I’ve let goof a lot of the obsessing over details, I’ve got gear that works, I’ll try out new things if they seem useful but I don’t spend much time seeking them out. What I’m really interested in cultivating now is what I began this piece with: that sense of touring in everyday riding. And then get out there and do that riding.

Tour 2007 – Photographs

Thursday, October 4th, 2007
Self portrait

I was pretty slammed by work upon my return from tour so it has taken longer then I’d hoped to sort through the 1200+ photographs I took on tour. But I have finally gotten through them all and have sorted them into galleries by day with a comment for nearly all of them. I made a new web page to organize all of these and to work as an index to the related blog posting. So check em out if interested.