Monday, February 5, 2007

The Equipment

It has taken a couple of months to gather all the right gear for this trip. Since I'm a beginner a lot of research, reading and Internet surfing has taken place in the last months. Now I have finally brought together all that I need for the 100 days bicycle journey. Here is a list of the main equipment:

Front rack
I had the bicycle store mount a front rack at the time of purchase. Here I carry two small front panniers.
Rear panniers
I ended up picking the most reliable product, Ortlieb waterproof panniers. Since I will even out the weight with front panniers as well, I chose the smaller Sport-Packer Plus, 30 litres. They lock quickly to the rear rack, and are as easy to release.
Front panniers
All I need here is something simple and waterproof. Ortlieb Front-Roller Classic will do the job, 25 litres.
Top dry bag
On my rear rack I carry a simple dry bag for various bigger gear. Also Ortlieb, Dry bag PD 350. This bag is flexible in size. I can fill it to 35 litres but also roll it down to 15 litres. This comes handy when I travel by plane, bus or train.
Handle-bar bag
Here I find that Ortlieb's bags are lacking pockets and flexibility. I ended up selecting a bag that is not 100% waterproof without the built-in rain cover, but offers many pockets, inside as well as outside of the bag. It also has a built in plastic sleeve for a map.
Bag carrying system
Ortlieb has a carrying system that fits all their panniers. It simply turns your bicycle pannier into a backpack. As a result, I do not have to carry yet another bag. I need a backpack for trekking tours or a long day in the city.
Bicycle computer
Also from a German company, Trelock. Actually, my mother gave me this Trelock FC 900 which turned out to be perfect. It has all the functions I need and its wireless.
Bicycle rear mirror
This comes handy in busy streets. You also want to know where those noisy, dirty and unpredictable trucks are when they are approaching from the back. I chose a discreet one that mounts easily on the handlebar.
Tent

Since I won't be camping much I don't want to carry a heavy and big tent. Vaude, also German, makes a very small one person tent, called Vaude Bivi. Just perfect for me.
Sleeping bag
I won't use this very much either. I have a small one since previous trips that handles zero temperatures, and takes little space. Could also be used as an extra pillow or mattress.
Camera
This was obvious for me once I tried it out. Canon 400D (US - Digital Rebel XTi). A great SLR camera which takes beautiful pictures. It's also relatively light considering its capacity.
Water filter
When biking you obviously sweat considerably, especially in a warm climate. Drinking water will become an important part of this journey. Buying bottle water every two hours is not an option. The best small filter on the market today is MSR MiniWorks EX Microfilter.
Water bottles
There are thousands of kinds of water bottles. The only requirement I have is no plastic bottles. They make the water taste plastic and breed microbes. I will carry three 0,6 litre bottles at all times.
Pedals
I had the bike store replace the pedals to in-step pedals. This helps ease the pedalling. Clip-in pedals were never an option.
Compass
This is necessary. I place the compass on top of the map in the handle-bar bag plastic map sleeve.
Helmet
Also necessary. There are many brands out there and prices ranges just as much. Most important is that I wear one and that it's comfortable.
Rain gear
I have to bike no matter the weather conditions, therefore good rain gear is crucial. I have a wind and rain set of pants and jacket. However, when heavy rain will fall I need extra rain protection. A poncho I easily put on in a few seconds. It covers my entire body and I can even cover parts of the bike and gear with it.
Pepper spray
Most likely I will not use this. If I do, it will be in an extreme emergency, involving a very aggressive and large dog. 50 ml will do and I picked the fog alternative so I don't miss. On the other hand, I have to watch where the wind blows.
Mosquito net
I will not be eating Malaria pills regularly, nor am I vaccinated against Japanese Encephalitis, thus a continuous protection against mosquitoes is necessary. (I do have Malarone should I get infected my Malaria. See Vaccinations).
Clothes
But for normal clothes, I need two pairs of bicycle pants. They are not sexy but very comfortable on the bike. There is extra padding for the more sensitive areas. I also have a pair of light shoes with an extra sole, but other than that I will travel in regular, comfortable clothes.
Extra bicycle gear
Outside of larger cities it will be difficult, if not impossible, to find extra gear. Obviously I cannot carry all extra components of a bicycle, but I plan to take the essentials and the parts that tend to break; inner tubes, chain link, brake/gear cables, extra bike computer batteries, spokes and brake pads. I also carry a standard tire repair kit.

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