Gear posts are always interesting for some people – pondering what to take and what to leave at home is a big part of preparation for a bikepacking race.
To be honest, I both enjoy and loathe the process. On the one hand, it’s fun to think about what you’ll need and to buy awesome stuff, on the other hand there’s always the risk of a wrong choice and as the bank account is slowly drained it can hurt.
One thing to keep in mind when looking at other people’s packing lists is that everyone has their own preferences. Some people get away without using a sleeping mat, some don’t plan on camping anyway, some like to take a lot of tools and some don’t know how to use those tools and leave them at home. In the end, it’s a personal choice, but I too take inspiration from other people’s gear and ask them for advice.
I’m participating in the “Tuscany Trail” bikepacking event this weekend, so I had to assemble everything and do a trial packing. I looked at my packing list for the Trans Am Bike Race and it turns out they aren’t very different.
After the Tuscany Trail, I’m going to turn the Fargo into a road warrior – different fork and wheels, plus my aero bars from last year. I can’t wait!
Now, to the packing list.
I’d much prefer to take panniers, but I’ve been told over and over again that they are such an aerodynamic disadvantage that I shy away from that personal choice – and truth be told, I’m not sure it would be the best choice anyway. It does put all the weight on the rear wheel which makes it more prone to broken spokes and also changes the handling of the bike. With the weight evenly distributed along the bike it makes for a more stable handling.
Last year, my bike looked like this:
It held a Revelate Designs Viscacha with Sprocket on top, a Tangle frame bag (size S), a Gas Tank on the top tube, a Large Pocket as a handlebar bag and a Mountain Feedbag to hold a water bottle.
This year, I’ve managed to go without the handlebar bag (which I found annoying). I added a second Mountain Feedbag to have two water bottles on the bars and a Jerrycan for tools.
Instead of the Viscacha, I’m taking the Terrapin system, which is a holster and dry bag. I also have a full frame bag now.
So, let’s summarize:
Seat bag: Terrapin holster + Ortlieb 13L drybag – 570g
Frame bag: Ranger Size S – 266g
Top tube bags: Gas Tank – 100g + Jerrycan – 75g
Handlebar bags: 2x Mountain Feedbag – 300g
That’s 1311g for all of the bags with a combined volume (without the Feedbags) of approx. 20L. Compare this to a set of Ortlieb front rollers: 1440g for the bags, add a very lightweight rack (Tubus Fly) at 350g, providing 25L. So the extra 5L would cost you 479g. That isn’t actually that much – but I would still be keeping the top tube bags and feedbags, so in reality it would add 954g. That’s a significant amount of weight.
Now let’s go through the bags one by one, front to back!
1. Mountain Feedbags
These hold two water bottles, Specialized HydroFlo Purist. Love those.
The small pockets on the bags hold my sun sleeves (Specialized UV deflect), sun screen, a Spork, and one or two Clif bars. Also a good place to keep a bag of Sour Patch Kids or M&Ms.
2. Gas Tank
This usually holds some sort of food, my iPhone and sunglasses if they’re not on my head. Also charging cables to run from the dynamo hub.
3. Frame bag
The frame bag will hold:
- ACA maps
- An extra set of clothes – shorts, jersey, socks
- Toiletries – toothbrush and paste, Bronner’s soap, deodorant and plastic brush
- Cycling cap (Vaude Warm Cap), waterproof socks (SealSkinz) and waterproof gloves (SealSkinz)
- Leg warmers (Pearl Izumi Elite Thermal Leg Warmers)
- Scarf (Ahrberg Loop)
- Tire pump (Lezyne Pressure Drive)
- Spare tubes (Schwalbe)
- 10.000mAh PowerBank (backup if the dynamo hub fails or I’m stuck somewhere)
- Multitool (Topeak)
- Separate Torx
- Tire levers
- Patches & glue
- Pedal wrench
- SRAM chain link
- Chain lube
- Duct tape
- Cable ties
- Spare brake pads
- First Aid kit: anti-diarrhea, pain meds, band aids, anti-stomach cramps, skin disinfectant
5. Seat bag
- Sleeping pad (Thermarest ProLite)
- Bivy bag (TitaniumGoat Ptarmigan with full-net hood)
- Inflatable pillow (Exped Air Pillow UL M)
- Warm jacket (Patagonia Nano Air Hoody)
- Warm shirt (Ahrberg baselayer)
- Merino leggings (Icebreaker Oasis)
- Rain jacket (Auguste 86 custom tailored)
I managed to attach the Sprocket to the Terrapin despite RD writing that it isn’t possible (ha!):
- SPOT tracker
- 500ml collapsible water bottle (Platypus)
- can only hold another Clif Bar
According to my Excel sheet, all of this comes to 6300g including the weight of the bags and I don’t find it too much.
Depending on how the weather develops this time, I may mail home a couple of the warm layers.
No sleeping bag?
Nope, no sleeping bag. The warm and light bag I took last year is filled with down which isn’t great to use with a bivy bag that isn’t water proof. I will have plenty of layers for a cool night: merino leggings, a warm top, warm jacket, scarf, hat.
All of this can be worn while riding, so if I bivy somewhere and am told to move on – or encounter a situation where I’d rather move on – I can quickly roll up my mat and bivy and ride away. Plus it means that if it gets as cold as last year on the high passes, I’ll have plenty of warmth this time.
Some people take a sleeping bag but no pad – however, I have a picky back and the sleeping pad provides insulation from the ground, a factor that is often underestimated.
If it gets really cold or wet, I am going to ride on until I find a hotel.
Why all those tools?
I’ve gotten smirks for carrying a pedal wrench. It is very small and light. Pedals tend to start squeaking after a while in harsh conditions unless you re-grease ’em and I hate that sound, so I take them off once in a while and put some grease on. Also it just makes packing up for the flight in the end easier and faster.
I carry a Multitool with all relevant Allen keys and screwdrivers, a Torx key (for the brakes), an extra chain link (using a link instead of pins makes fixing the chain easier), patches (I didn’t use any last year),… in the end, everything fits into that small bag and it enables me to make most repairs roadside. Bike shops are far apart on the Trans Am route. I’ve learned that being able to repair your bike is really key.
Spare brake pads are never a bad idea and weigh next to nothing, however, the Avid BB7 brakes I have are commonplace in the US and I shouldn’t have problems finding new pads in bike shops.
I’ll be sticking some spare spokes inside the seat tube. The CX-Ray spokes I have aren’t that common because they are very expensive so if against all odds I have a failure it’s a good idea to carry spares.
Is that enough water?
The two bottles in front hold 700ml each, the collapsible bottle (which fits into a jersey pocket) holds 500ml. Last year, I carried 1.7l and most of time it was enough. For the most part it wasn’t hard to find water, gas stations are an excellent place to get water as they usually have soda fountains with chilled water and ice cubes which we always got for free. Restaurants also always filled up our bottles on request (some offered right away).
Since the Fargo has another set of bottle cage bosses on the downside of the downtube I will probably put a bottle cage there and carry another 500ml Nalgene bottle. This brings my total capacity to 2.4l which is plenty.
I now know the areas where water is hard to find and have marked them on my map. I have enough space in my bags and jersey pockets to add a couple of small water bottles if absolutely needed.
Can you still stand over the top tube?
Yes. Barely. My crotch hits the Jerrycan, but it is soft enough not to matter. 😀
How much does your bike weigh?
I don’t know. I haven’t weighed it yet. After I’ve converted it into the road warrior I’ll step on the scale with it, promise. Judging from it’s heft now I’m estimating that everything together will not weigh more than 16kgs. That’s pretty equal to last year – I’m carrying less stuff but the bike is heavier.
For the Tuscany Trail, there are some obvious changes: no ACA maps for example. Also, a few of my sponsored clothes haven’t arrived yet, so I’m carrying my Mammut rain jacket. I’ll also take rain pants since the forecast says rain for Friday. I was going to take my sleeping bag, but have decided to test out my Trans Am setup instead. The route has plenty of villages and again, if it gets really cold and wet, I’ll find a hotel.
I’m also not carrying extra clothes except for very light running shorts for the evening.
On the Trans Am, I’m planning to mail a couple of things to the Newton Bike Shop: new shorts and socks, new tires, chain and cassette. Last time I bought new shorts in Pueblo and while they were super comfy, they wore through at the seams really quickly. I was very disappointed at the quality so I’ve decided to stick with what my butt knows and send a replacement out. I use Gore shorts.
If you have any questions – ask me! Lots of the things I’m taking this year have been tried and tested last year, so I’m fairly confident in my choices. There will always be some unknowns and not everything will go to plan. That’s normal. I’m always open to inspiration and suggestion!