12 May, 2009

Minimalist Cyclo-touring

The short summer "credit card tour" is the basis of cyclo-touring. You can take this sort of trip most any nice weekend. Stay at a nice B&B or small country hotel and take your breakfast and dinner at the local cafes or casual restaurants. Lunch is best a picnic of locally-bought treats.

The key is traveling light. I find that the more I travel the less stuff I need to take, and not just on bike trips. Even on a six-week trip to Europe, I require only a single bag that stows easily in the plane's overhead bin. The trick is to cut out anything that's not essential and to take light clothes that you can wash yourself. So here is what I'd take on a one or two-night summer bike trip

In the saddle bag:

A small saddle bag, like the VO Croissant, is perfect for everyday riding as well as overnight trips. It almost always stays on the bike and usually contains the following:

  • multi-tool
  • mini-pump (if you don't have a frame pump)
  • two tubes
  • tube patch kit
  • rain jacket or windproof vest
  • optional: tire irons, car keys, power bar
Remember that you only need one pump and one set of tools for a small group.

In the handlebar bag:

The following stuff fits in a VO Campagne bar bag with room left over.

In the rear pockets:
  • cell phone (that only gets turned on once or twice a day)
  • small camera
Tip: it's always lighter to take an extra battery rather than a battery charger.

In the main compartment:
  • light travel pants (Patagonia Gi 2 are my favorite)
  • Cool Max t-shirt (I use it as a spare jersey)
  • shirt with collar (quick dry)
  • under shorts (Ex Officio quick dry)
  • cycling socks
  • book
  • knife with corkscrew (for cutting fruit, cheese, hard sausage, and opening wine)
  • snacks (nuts, fruit, hard cheese)
  • optional: film camera, down vest or ultralight sweater, collapsible walking shoes (if you ride with cleats), small cable lock
I try to take some reasonably nice looking clothes. Looking grubby gives all cyclo-tourists a bad image. There is no need for fancy duds, but I do take a short sleeve shirt with a collar as my evening wear and try to keep it and my pants clean. All these clothes can be washed in a hotel sink with regular bar soap in just a few minutes. And they will dry overnight if hung someplace where there's a bit of air circulation.

In the front pocket :
  • toilet kit with toothbrush and travel size deodorant and toothpaste (not shown)
  • a few aspirin tablets
  • bandanna
Side pockets:
  • wallet
  • more snacks
Of course your packing list won't be exactly the same as mine, but the point I'm trying to make is that you don't need to take much.


Mike said...

This is great. That really is all you need for a couple of nights. However, it gets a bit more complicated if your camping out.

About the shoes: do you ride in those?

Chris Kulczycki said...

The shoes are for walking if riding with clipless pedals, which I don't usually do.

Gino Zahnd said...

How often do you do this each year, Chris?

(That's a good minimalist inn-to-inn kit.)

Anonymous said...

I really need to add to your list. Never leave home without a handfull of zipties--if a bag strap breaks, threads shear on a fastener, a weld comes apart on a rack....whatever...zipties are the answer.


Jon R. said...

Those Patagonia shoes are some of the best that I have ever worn. Light, incredibly comfortable, damn good-looking, and you can squish them in half to fit them in tight spots.

I wore mine out in about a year because I wore them so often.

Anonymous said...

Nice post Chris. Years ago I used to buy from a company called Cyclo-pedia out of Michigan, and the catalogs used to have nice info articles like this one. Thanks for bringing this kind of thing back!

Gino Zahnd said...

It's kind of weird how many of us own those shoes (me included)... and yes, they're super nice.

Andrew Karre said...

Second on the Patagonia Honeydew shoes. They're fantastic travel shoes.

frankenbiker said...

I agree with the kit for light overnights,with the addition of zip ties and duct tape 10-15ft.wrapped tightly on a short pencil with a pad of paper.Add a book a headlight,a small stove with required fuel abit more food for the morning's breakfast plus a good Hennesy Hammock(no sleeping bag needed if you bring a fleece layer in case the night gets cool)and you are ready for a VERY! light overnight camping trip.Oh! 2 good cigars and a small bottle of wine to share with a friend.I do this at least 3-4 times per summer, I may have left a couple of things out but you get the idea that you really don't need much.

Lee said...

Good idea weight-wise to take South of the Border rather than something like The Wind-up Bird...

Chad said...

Chris, can you tell me the minipump you're carrying? Also, I'm wondering if you carry both the frame pump and the minipump. If so, why both?

Chris Kulczycki said...

Chad, That's the Lezyne Pressure Drive M pump that we sell. That particular pump actually goes with a different bike, but I needed one for the photo. I carry only one pump and these days it's usually a mini-pump.

kevin said...

Murakami. Excellent.

Kilroy said...

Maybe the best post so far? This is useful info and I found my thoughts opened up to all kinds of possible trips to take. Do I need this? Can I really go there with that? Thanks.
This could be the start of something. A catalog with helpful hints on using the products you sell. Great photos with interesting artwork. Attractive models? You could call it "VELO-PEDIA"

Patrick said...

yes, extra toe straps/zip ties/etc. are a good idea.

case in point - my decaleur broke on a 200k this weekend and the extra toe straps i had in my bag really came in handy.

Steve said...

How much does all that weigh, Chris?

Yehuda Moon said...

Wonderful post, Chris. Good suggestions as I carry wayyyyy too much most of the time on my trips.

Mercutio Stencil said...

Wine? Please, whisk(e)y is a much more compact and portable (and potent) potable.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you completely on traveling light. I too only go with a carryon. If it doesn't fit in that one bag, I don't need it. I often go for a month or so. I'm not bragging. . . recently I took a class of grad students abroad for a couple of weeks, and I actually felt sorry for the burdens they felt compelled to carry.

as to the inn-to-inn cycling, I can only envy you if you have nice inns like in the Loire Valley or something. Here just a little bit south of you, it would be more like biking to the Super 8 and dining at the Goody Goody Omelet House . . . I mean, I guess it's doable, and I've done it, but somehow I feel we're not on the same page.

michael white

Gino Zahnd said...

"biking to the Super 8 and dining at the Goody Goody Omelet House" sounds like a great time. Especially if there's a pub near the Super 8!

mpetry912 said...

Great post. I'm leaving on a 3 week credit card tour and it will be minimalist, carrying just a bit more than you describe here. The patagonia paddle pants are lightweight and quick drying. I also use kayak shoes - slip on - as lightweight off the bike shoes. They are black and work fine.

Nice camera - Is that a Leica M3, or an M8? I have a D3 and it's great.

Mark Petry
Bainbridge Island, WA

patates frites said...

Nice if you can do it. I and many sleep apnea sufferers, however, have to lug around a CPAP machine so we can breathe while we sleep (always a good thing). Therefore, I will always need panniers.

Andrew C. said...

murakami is great! my favorite was kafka on the shore.

Bill Gibson said...

And, your little Laiguole style pocketknife with a corkscrew, of course! Just on the edge of the crop...I love the shape and their hand made individuality. I hope they gave satisfaction to their maker.

Maybe it's serendipity, or inspiration, but I also like this:
Look for the entry "Closer To Fine"
Each in our own way!
Thank you for your work Chris, and your blog.

Karl aus Jena said...

What is that a Fed 5C with a leica cap?

Ron said...

Great post, Chris with some fine ideas.

By the way, Mark, that's an M3; one of the greatest cameras ever made.

Chris Kulczycki said...

The camera is a Leica M3 with the Leica Summicron 50 mm - F/2.0 lens. But nice as this classic combination is, the little digital gets almost all the use

robatsu said...

Good list! While plenty of people enjoy loaded touring, slogging around loaded like this just doesn't appeal to me.

Me, I usually only carry one innertube and allot the remaining space to a couple of small bike specific tools - chain tool, spoke adjuster. I like to carry the freewheel/cassette remover as well, the theory being that finding someone with a big wrench to actuate it is a lot easier than finding someone with a a big wrench and a rear cluster removal fitting that works on my bike.

Anonymous said...

I keep my spare tube stuffed up inside my Brooks saddle in a little bag. Fits perfectly between the leather top and the rails and frees up some luggage space.

Wheelsmith91 said...

Chris, it doesn't appear that there is a decaleur on the bike in the photo. Can you get by without one?

I ride a 64cm bike so I'm concerned that the new Campagne bag would not sit on my front rack if I were to use a headset mounted decaleur....

Chris Kulczycki said...

That bike has the VO rack with an integrated decaleur, but the bag does work without a decaleur.

jimmythefly said...

robatsu -look at the Hypercracker -no big wrench required! for most rides I just carry a Fiberfix replacement spoke. Works on any bike with J-bend spokes, and will serve a whole group as spoke length isn't important. I've actually used on in the field, on a Rolf low-spoke count wheel, and it's survived just fine. I was kind of amazed, but it really does work as advertised.

All -Thanks for the tip on those Patagonia shoes, I'll have to look them up (especially once my Alp sandals finally die).

Max said...

Great post! Thanks for the inspiration. I'm already planning my getaway.

Doug said...

in the summer, a small rack could carry a sleeping bag and small ground tarp. you hardly ever need a tent in the summer in most places.

Hiroko said...

I'm reading that book!

Dabiddo said...

That's the book I have in my front bag right now, except that I have the smaller, lighter, much longer-lasting (because slower reading) Japanese version.

Egg Genie Review said...

Great post. This will be an ideal test run for an all-out bike camping trip.

Anonymous said...

I go as light as possible but fully self-contained - have done many long trips & am always amazed at the piles of crap strapped on many tourers' bikes. That said, I find the ultralight tent & sleeping gear essential (it's security - too many times I've found myself out too far from any kind of "inn"). And those who say a tent is not needed in the summer must be in some mythical place where it doesn't rain & there are no mosquitoes & ticks.... Still, everything I need for a fully self-contained trip fits in my smallish old-school Ortliebs & a handlebar bag.

- Mark

Anonymous said...

Chris, do you recommend the Annapolis area for this kind of touring. We're comfortable city riders, but recognize we have it relatively good and wired in DC and unfamiliar terrain might have unpleasant surprises.


Chris Kulczycki said...

Andrew, It's not uncommon for folks to ride from DC to Annapolis, spend the night in one of the little B&Bs here, then return the next day. There is lots of opportunity for strolling and eating seafood and visiting historical sites here. If you have an extra day, you might also spend a night in to tiny Galesville, which I love. But I think the whole town has, maybe, 6 rooms to let.

Another popular DC trip is to Harpers Ferry. That trip is almost all on the C&O canal towpath.