Here’s what we carried on our cross-country bike tour, with updated notes where we made some changes to our touring bike set-up.
The Bike: Crystal rides a light blue Surly Cross-Check. Stock chainset was swapped for Shimano Sora triple (50-39-30T) to help a little with climbing the inevitable mountains. Stem swapped for one with a higher angle for more upright riding. The saddle – very important! – is the Terry Liberator X. Chris @bilsko donated his lightly-used Continental Contact tires which lasted a long while – fairly puncture-resistant and rolled great, but we eventually wore them through.
The Racks: Front rack is a Tubus Tara rack. This is a great low-rider rack with a minimalist design – made for panniers to clip onto, but no platform to load more on top. Carries the weight nice and low in the front, which helps balance the higher weight on the back of my bike. Pretty indestructible and powered through the whole trip, zero issues. The back rack is a Topeak Explorer rack, which is a basic commuter rack I picked up when I wanted to start carrying more groceries on my bike. Rated capacity for the Topeak Explorer is 55 lbs – I don’t think I’ve ever tried to carry that much on it, so it suits my purposes.
The Bags: I have Ortlieb Front-Roller panniers on the front and Axiom Lasalle DLX panniers on the back. Ortliebs are similar to dry bags used for kayaking and other water sports, meaning they’re completely waterproof. We were able to pick some up at a 20% discount at a local bike shop (full price is quite high). The Axiom panniers are not waterproof, but come with bright orange rain covers that help in downpours. I chose these for the extra outside pocket, bungees, and straps – bungee seems good for keeping wet stuff away from dry items – and also for the lower price point compared to Ortlieb panniers.
The Bike: Adam rides a bright orange Raleigh Furley that he converted from a single-speed into an 11-speed with an Alfine 11 internal hub. He took a class with master wheelbuilder Bob Mould and built the back wheel himself. His saddle is the classic Brooks B17. All cyclists who ride Brooks seem to swear by their saddles.
The Racks: The front rack is the Old Man Mountain Sherpa rack. Old Man Mountain sells bike racks meant to fit almost any kind of bike (whether or not they have eyelets for a rack) that are handmade in Santa Barbara. The back rack is a Tubus Cargo Evo rack.
The Bags: His bright orange Ortlieb panniers, front and back, are hard to miss! These are great waterproof panniers that we started using for commuting in DC. It was a natural decision to get the set of them for touring – they’re not cheap, but well worth the price since we use them daily.
Our home away from home is the REI Camp Dome tent. It’s just big enough to fit the two of us, plus a small bag or two. We’ve found we get some condensation collecting inside the tent wall wherever it touches something else, though. Maybe waterproofing is in order? Replaced in Pittsburgh with the MSR Hubba Hubba 2 Person Tent. Huge improvement – lasted the rest of the trip, keeping us warm and dry all the time.
The Kitchen: For our cross-country trip, we picked up the MSR Micro Rocket Stove, which is a backpacker-sized, lightweight camping stove that has improved pot stability from the earlier Pocket Rocket model. It’s seriously tiny and hasn’t ever let us down, though we had to find ways to shield the flame on especially windy days. Our cookset is the MSR Alpinist 2 System cookset: one pot and lid with strainer, two deep-dish plates, and two mugs with lids. The whole set nestles nicely into the pot. We cooked a lot of easy one-pot recipes and experimented with what works best along the way – lots of combinations of pasta, tuna, and chili.
The Tools: Almost an entire pannier is devoted to spare parts and bike upkeep tools – spare tubes, spare tire, chain tool, chain lube, multi-tools, extra hardware, spare brake and shifter cables, and so on. Extra spokes are zip-tied to the bikes. Adam is the main mechanic, with Crystal serving as sous-mechanic.