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Sunday, September 22, 2013

Bike Touring Special: How to Pack Your Bike | adventure journal

Photo by Aaron Teasdale
Photo by Aaron Teasdale
For as long as people have been touring on bicycles, people have been carrying too much stuff when they tour on bicycles. In fact, the central image most people have when you mention bike touring are the people you see with a full set of front panniers, rear panniers, and a mountain of crap — pillows, guitars, their dog — strapped on top. The eternal debate in cyclotouring is panniers vs trailers, but more than once I’ve seen people loaded down with both like they were punishing themselves for past crimes.
The truth is that both panniers and trailers work great, though panniers are a better choice for road touring and single-wheel trailers for dirt. Panniers are fine for mellow dirt, but put more strain on your wheels and affect bike handling more than a trailer. Trailers are fine for pavement, but I’d suggest a two-wheeler like the Burley Nomad rather than a single-wheel trailer. Single-wheelers like BOBs require more handlebar input to balance and make more sense off-pavement, where their narrowness, tracking, stability, and durability all shine.
While the traditional ways still work, the whole concept of packing for bike touring has been upended in recent years, and now there’s a third contestant in the debate that many people argue is better, more fun, and just plain cooler. Those people would be correct.
Bike touring and bike racing have long had opposing world views. Touring is about the soul-nourishing experience of traveling under your own power and finding new places in the world and in yourself. Racing is about the challenge of getting through a landscape as fast and efficiently as humanly possible, often through a haze of pain. The roses will not be smelled. But there is one area in which the two disciplines share an interest and where racing pushed touring in a much-needed new direction — efficiency.
Photo by Joe Cruz/Revelate Designs
Photo by Joe Cruz/Revelate Designs
Mountain bike racing was all about laps on a course until the Iditarod and the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route came along. By the late 1990s cyclists had started racing both routes and by the 2000s the Iditarod Trail Invitational had grown to 1,100 miles and the Tour Divide, which followed the GDMBR from Banff to the Mexican border, covered 2,753 miles. Both races required riders to carry food, clothes, and overnight gear for days at a time. After winnowing gear to a bare minimum, racers began finding clever ways to affix it to their handlebars, seatposts, and main triangles. At the same time, the ultralight boom was hitting the backpacking world, creating gear that made it easier than ever to travel with less...

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