Reflecting on Touring during these interesting days

The legendary British Tourist Ian Hibell on British TV ca. 1975. I love his kit! Those Carradice Bags are supposed to be custom nylon ones he got made. Unfortunately Ian was killed by a hit-and-run driver in Greece in 2008.

It’s a common practice for those who are into bicycle touring to think a lot about it during the off-season. Just check any touring forum during winter–lots of theoretical posts, questions about minutia, pontificating and bloviating about unimportant things. So much so that a common refrain/response to all of the above is to wish for summer, when there’ll be more doing than thinking.

This year? We may be in for one long winter.

We’re still in the “don’t know what summer is going to look like” phase of the pandemic. Everyone’s hoping for some semblance of normality when the weather gets good. But that may just be wishful thinking. There could still be restrictions of some sort, closed campgrounds, shuttered businesses, reduced transportation options.

At the bare minimum, I hope I can do something. I highly doubt that this will be a year for epic tours for anyone. But I really would like to get out for a bit. It’ll probably be pretty local, but that’s okay, since there’s so much around.

The “Overnight” Setup, from a Columbia Gorge Trip, March 2019.

So I’ve been thinking a lot about touring. Thinking about bikes, about equipment, about routes and places to go. About the good times and the bad times on the road.

I’ve been looking at old posts a bit, seeing my evolution. There were some heady years, from about 2010 to 2014, where I toured a lot and put a lot of thought and effort to refining what I brought and why, and how to carry it all.

And interestingly enough, most of the kit I had in 2014 I still have. I had gotten to a point where I knew what I wanted, hunted out good quality stuff, and maintained it.

  • Tent. I still have the “three person” REI Quarter Dome that I purchased from Russ and Laura in 2011, before the big tour. That’s definitely the “couple’s tent” when Emee and I go out for a camp. I still have the solo Marmot Eos 1 (purchased in 2014) that I use a lot, and a small Mountain Hard Wear bivy for when conditions are right.
  • Sleep system. The Mountain Hard Wear Hibachi down back I got in 2014 is still going strong. I also have a Rivendell/MUSA liner from around the same time. A Klymit pad and Exped pillow rounds it all out.
  • Stove. I got introduced to Trangia alcohol-burning stoves in 2011 by Russ and Laura. In 2012 I made my major investments in Trangia kit, getting both a 28-Backpackers kit that I mostly use for solo jaunts, and the bigger 27-Stormcooker set for couples camping and windy expeditions. I also regularly use my Esbit coffee maker (the small stove used pretty much for around-town stuff), and have a canister fuel stove if needed.
  • Bike and stowage. The Bantam Rambleneur has been my “go-to” tour/camp bike since I got it five years ago, though from time to time I’ve used the Raleigh Crested Butte and the Raleigh Superbe. I’ve got two primary set-ups:
    • The smaller “overnight” setup consisting of front load (can either be my North St. Rando bag or Velo Orange/Roadrunner Bags medium handlebar bag with Wald basket, plus small Jandd framebag and Carradice Camper Longflap saddlebag.
    • The larger “expediton” setup, where I’ll add either Salsa Anything Cages with Rand Jo Fab bags to the front fork, or maybe instead my Carradice panniers to the front rack. The framebag will be the larger Jandd version instead. Everything else remains the same.
The “Expedition” Setup, from my Central Oregon Tour in May 2019.

In the coming days/weeks, I’m probably going to go over some of the above, refining old reviews and seeing how my perspective has changed in the intervening years. Hope it’l be fun for you.

2 thoughts on “Reflecting on Touring during these interesting days

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  1. Shawn, I too have been thinking about touring and how I might change my set up. I expect overnights are still a possibility but not in organized campgrounds. Wild camping should still work, but self sufficiency is a must. Creativity is a must, but also doable with a companion. If it’s an important endeavor, I’m sure you’ll find a way to make it happen.

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