One of the most common questions I get when I am biking around is How heavy is your bike? The comic answer is usually some sign gesture Too heavy! followed by wiping of the brow or mock attempt to lift it. I had a hell of a time doing metric conversions for the curious of Europe, but I am guessing that I’ve got about 50 pounds of stuff with me. The nature of solo touring is that you are carrying everything that you would gladly split with a group and of being a homosexual is that you overpack.
Here is what is on the bike, knowing that you’ve got to leave some room for a bit of food and beer:
- Synthetic sleeping bag in a bright yellow dry bag. It is the one thing I can’t risk getting wet. The bag is in a stuff sack that I use as a pillowcase.
- Tent. I used a one-person REI Roadster. It leaked from the very beginning in the grommet seams. By the end of the trip, it leaked from all seams. I figure after 60 nights of camping, maybe it had outlasted its natural life. I’ll probably go with a slightly larger tent on the next trip. Every single night someone in camp would stop by in their respective language and comment on the small nature of this tent. It is the 8th Wonder of the World.
- Cook Stove. I took an MSR Pocket Rocket and usually had 2 canisters of fuel. It was hard to find the right gas for it in Europe. They have their own more readily available type of canister, Blue Gaz. Next time I would get the canister stove in Europe. I did find the canister stove easier to lug than the MSR WhisperLite I used on my first trip to Banff. I primarily boiled water for instant espresso.
- Cooking stuff: small pot, fry pan, drinking cup, spoon, Outdoor Research portable kitchen
- Cascade Designs 3/4 length sleeping pad (from the knees down you are sleeping on the ground)
- 5 water bottles (three on the frame, two in the back panniers, unless I needed room for wine)
- Jerseys: 1 sleeveless, 1 plain short sleeve jerseys, a Black Butte Porter racing jersey, 1 long sleeve jersey
- 2 pairs of lycra bike shorts
- 2 pairs of bike socks
- Shimano bike shoes. Not true road shoes as they had a bit of traction for walking around cobblestones.
- Rain jacket
- Bike helmet
- Levi’s. Sure, they’re heavy, but they’re comfy. I felt hip enough in the cities and sexy in camp. They are a trusty friend when you have no other. If I had a better ass, I might go with some poly outdoor pants but till then going with vanity.
- Short sleeve check shirt. Generally favor a breezy button-up over a t-shirt
- 2 t-shirts. A white one and sassy fiddling shirt from Portland Old-Time Fiddle Gathering
- Shorts. Nylon camping shorts with liner.
- Sweater. Light, but warm sweater. I had a great cashmere sweater until I ruined it in the wash. Replaced by a cotton sweater. Stick with wool.
- Kickabout sassy shoes. Started with running shoes just in case I wanted to go for a run after a 60-mile bike ride but switched to some decent gay boy kick about Adidas sneakers. Worth it to not look like an idiot while sitting at some bar.
- Running pants. Perfect when doing laundry. Doubled as bike pants on cold days.
- Tevas. I bought some that had cork bottoms. Big mistake. They got really stinking in Germany because they never dried out. You could have cultured off them.
SPEEDO (two pairs, very low cut) and swim goggles.
- Extra tire (used in Normandy)
- 2 extra tubes
- Extra cables
- Extra screws and pretty much anything else that could rattle of the bike
- Superglue (to fix my bike computer often)
- Rear bike light (left in Slovakia with Ms. Karkov as a thank you present)
- Patch kit
- Fancy bike multi-tool that was a gift from Niko
First aid kit. Just in case.
Small bathroom kit: toothbrush, soap, contacts, suntan lotion, condoms, etc.
Fiddle and a bit of music to work on.
Odds and Ends
- Journal and Pens
- Pocket knife for cutting up cheese
- Photocopies of Guidebook pages that I thought might be relevant
- Back up documents of passport and visa card
- Phrasebooks so I could at least butcher the native languages in good faith
Super additions along the way
- Sleeping bag liner. What a dream to sleep in a cotton sheet. Just like home and better sleep, particularly on hot nights when this is all I used.
- Gerolsteiner Bike Cap. I AM A TOUR DE FRANCE STAR!
- Portable speakers disguised as a CD case from TDK. Lovely to listen to music without headphones.
- Beach mat. European campgrounds do not have picnic tables! so at least you have something to sit on. I much preferred the reed roll-up mats over the plastics ones as they felt nicer to lay on.
- Umbrella. Next time, I’ll have a little portable umbrella. It rained. I still walked around.
- Fancy pants. I love my pair of Land’s End’s Wrinkle-free pants. I mailed them to Austria and had them for looking sharp in Vienna. I would not have done this if I had a lot of mountains in my future.
- Tour de France magazine. To ponder and analyze.
- New books to replace old books. Henry James’ The Ambassadors replaced with the poems of Paul Celan.
- Sleeveless jersey that did not have an elastic bottom. It drove me crazy as it bounced around
- “Respectable” bike shorts for short days when I thought I might go to lots of churches. They were never comfortable and showed my sweat so I always looked like I peed my pants by the time I got to the church I was supposed to visit. Pointless.
- Running shoes: As if.
- Third sassy t-shirt.
- Maps when I was done with them, same goes for phrasebooks
- French gay mag Tetu which I bought because the cover guy was so hot and on billboards everywhere in France. I could not stop looking at him
- Dirty socks