Bicycle equipment and personal gear for your cross country tour

Nine days into my trip we shared a campsite at Lewiston, ID with another cross country biker. He was coming from East to West and had been riding for 2 months. He proudly stated something along the lines of, “I have 56 items that I’m carrying and I know where every one is located.” At that time, I did not appreciate the significance of his statement. Frankly, I thought, “BFD.” As my trip progressed, I got it. Each piece of gear is critical. If it is not critical, then you mail it home. Size, weight, comfort, durability are all important factors when packing. I’ll share my equipment list but ultimately it will become a personal choice. Also, check out The Frugal Cyclist page for some ideas on getting good deals on touring gear.

Trek 520 Touring Bike

cross country touring bikeReliable, heavy duty, low maintenance, built for touring – replaced the saddle. Worked very well.

Front/Rear Racks

Rear rack came with the bike. The front rack was from Old Man Mountain in Santa Barbara. I got a cool tour of the manufacturing store!

Panniers

I chose panniers over a BOB trailer even though some people swear by the trailer. My Performance stock panniers (front and rear) worked OK but Ortlieb and Arkel are much better quality. My main complaint w/ the Performance panniers would be that the straps were often difficult to remove at the end of the day and the questionable quality. Next time I’m going w/ Ortlieb.

Bontrager SelectK tires

Also used Continental Top Touring. The Bontrager tires were higher pressure and lower rolling resistance (and stiffer ride). No problems with the Continental tires. Only had 2 puncture flats but had several “wear” flats because of the Mr. Tuffy puncture protection strips. You might say that Mr. Tuffy rubbed my tubes the wrong way. I’m guessing Mr Tuffy doesn’t handle the heavy touring loads well. When I removed Mr Tuffy from my tires, no more wear flat issues. Both the Bontrager and Conti tires performed well. Also, consider Slime tubes for puncture/thorn resistance.

Head light/tail light

I used a small LED head light. My plan was to not ride at night but a couple times I had to use my lights. Funny how that works.

Rear view mirror

I found my rear view mirror invaluable on this trip. At one point, I dropped my bike and cracked my mirror into 5 pieces but it held together for the whole trip. Seeing 5 big trucks in my mirror was a little intimidating.

Cateye Enduro odometer

Very reliable.

Rockshox seatpost suspension

Jury is still out as to whether it smoothed out the ride.
I had it in my garage so I put it on my bike and never took it off. Personal preference.

Terry Fly saddle

The stock Trek saddle was uncomfortable from day 1, so I replaced it with my “broken in” Selle Flite saddle before I left. After 3 weeks, I had a very sore buttocks. I purchased the Terry saddle in Bozeman and never had an issue since. Again, personal preference.

Zefal front/rear fenders

I debated whether to add fenders. The fenders fit pretty tight where small road debris would sometimes drag through and there was some fine tuning to make sure that there wasn’t a rub. I was happy that I had them when it rained, though.

Shimano SPD pedals and touring shoes

Comfortable and easy to walk in.

Topeak Morph Frame Pump

Sometimes had problems with head blowing off of valve at higher pressures but otherwise a great pump.

REI Quarter Dome Tent

4 lb, “2 person” tent was very reliable and easy to set up. Calling it a 2 person tent is a stretch. I ended up sleeping in the middle of the tent with my panniers on either side of me.

REI 30-degree sleeping bag

Synthetic fill, sub 3 lb worked well. I was initially concerned that it might be too warm. Turns out, several nights I needed the warmth. Also, I recommend the Thermarest Neo sleeping pad. It packs very small and light. Surprisingly comfortable.

WhisperLite Stove and white gas fuel bottle

I use this backpacking and it worked well here. Some people prefer butane stoves as easier to operate. Availabilty of the butane cartridges may be an issue.

Cookware

Teflon coated frying pan/pot, plastic cereal bowl, Swiss Army knife, fork, spoon, lighter/matches, soap/clean up.

3 – H2O bottles

Cycling Clothing

  • 3 – shorts (2 mtn bike shorts w/pockets, 1 rd shorts). It became apparent real quick that I liked the pockets in the mtn bike shorts. Turns out 2 shorts is really all that I needed.
  • 3 – jerseys (2 short sleeve, 1 long sleeve) Again, pockets!
  • 2 – socks, darker colors preferred for the obvious – wool socks worked great.
  • 1 cycling gloves, 1 full fingered weather gloves
  • Raingear – When you are riding in the rain, you are happy that you paid for the Gortex jacket, pants and socks. I generally had good weather and only rode in the rain on a couple of occasions. Even with good rain gear, riding in the rain is a drag. I was mostly able to plan my rest day when it rained. Try a test ride in the rain before you go.
  • Arm warmers, leg warmers – used a lot.
  • Good sun glasses

Apres Cycling Clothing

  • 1 – shorts
  • 1 – light weight long pants
  • 1 – cotton t-shirt
  • 1 – polo shirt (In case I need to be semi-presentable)
  • baseball hat – I had some pretty funky helmet hair at the end of the day
  • wool winter hat
  • fleece jacket
  • sandals

Odds & Ends

  • Chain Lube and rag – Triflow worked fine for me. I cleaned my chained every 2 or 3 days. Maybe overkill, but seemed like a good idea at the time.
  • Spare spokes
  • Bike tools
  • Spare tubes, patchkits, spare tire – flats are inevitable, don’t skimp here
  • Blue Locktite – For all bolts on your bike.
  • Spare nuts and bolts – Have at least 1 spare nut and bolt for every one on your bike.
  • First Aid Kit
  • Towel
  • Maps – As you can imagine, lots of maps and travel guide books. I mailed maps ahead so that I didn’t need to carry all of them.
  • Book
  • Notebook & pen
  • Ziplocks and garbage bags
  • Mosquito repellant
  • Zip ties
  • Bungee cord
  • Cell Phone/charger
  • MP3 player/charger
  • Camera/USB/charger
  • Toiletry bag – include sunscreen, earplugs
  • Headlamp
  • Food – Lots of snacks

 

Also, check out my Gear for the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route page.