This is what a BIG bike looks like

Following up on yesterday’s post, I promised a pic to show how much space I have under my seat:

Dry bag on my rear rack

A 20 liter dry bag sitting on top of my rear rack.

That orange blob is a Seal Line 20 liter dry bag.  That’s 40% more volume than a Revelate Viscacha for 1/5 the price (not counting the rack, but I already own that).  This is why the dry bag solution is so appealing to me.

Note that I ride the largest Pugsley frame (22″) and I still have that much seatpost sticking out.  I am a big guy.  All my gear is big too. My sleeping bag and pad are extra long; my clothes are XL or XXL (tall, of course) and take up more space. My shoes are size 15 and I need a spare pair for when I am off the bike and trying to pass as a normal human.  Where am I supposed to put all this stuff?  It’s hard for me to imagine fitting everything I need without resorting to something like this.

Gearing up

I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about how I’m going to approach my gear needs for this trip. Given the choice between camping and a hotel, most of the time I’m going to choose the hotel because, let’s face it, I’m an old fart. Camping is an inevitability on the GDMBR, but since it won’t be an everyday thing, I’m going to try to go as lightly as possible.  If I can cut my travelling weight down enough, I might be able to get by without panniers or a trailer (more on this later).

This means I needed a new, lighter tent, and fortunately REI Outlet had the Big Agnes Seedhouse SL1 on closeout.  After reading lots of enthusiastic reviews about this tent, including many from tall users, I decided to pull the trigger on it.  It arrived yesterday, and it’s perfect.  Just big enough for one 6’4″ person to stretch out in, enough headroom to sit up, and it tips the scales at 3lb 2.5oz including all stuff sacks, stakes, fly, and the optional footprint.

This got me in the mood to drag out all of my camping gear to see how much it really weighs.  I was pleased to find that my North Face Blue Kazoo down bag weighs only 2lb 9oz (vs. manufacturer’s claim of 2lb 12oz), but I was shocked to discover that the new pad I bought last summer — an Exped Synmat 9 — clocked in at 2lb 11oz (vs manufacturer’s claim of 2lb 9oz)!  I have a hard time rationalizing carrying a pad that weights more than my sleeping bag or my tent!  It makes me wonder about these superlight Klymit Inertia pads that I stumbled across the other day. The XL model is extra-long for us tall people and still weighs under 17oz.  Amazing!

Another way in which I intend to cut weight and space is by changing my meal philosophy.  When I’m staying in a hotel, I’m going to be eating in a restaurant.  So I will be cooking only a minority of my meals.  Because I’m not anxious to have a grizzly bear over for dinner, I’ve decided that on the nights that I cook I’ll just be rehydrating a freeze-dried meal. This means I don’t have to carry around a lot of fresh food, and also that the only thing that will ever touch my cooking gear is boiling water.  So my needs for stove and cook gear are very minimal, and all I’ll need is a superlight alcohol stove.

It might seem strange to count ounces when you’re riding a beast like a Pugsley (after all, a spare tire and tube weight as much as my tent and sleeping bag combined!).  But my main concern is compactness, not weight. I’d like to obviate the need to pull a trailer or carry panniers.  I’m inspired by the setups I see at bikepacking.net. I’ve already purchased the new Revelate Designs Pugsley full-frame bag (I’ll review this tomorrow, after I’ve used it on a ride).  The typical setup for the ultralight crowd is the full-frame bag, a giant seat bag like the Revelate Viscacha, and a handlebar sling to hold a bedroll.  Now I’m lucky in that my frame bag is gigantic because I ride the 22″ Pugs; but the flip side of this is, I don’t want to put a bunch of extra weight way up high.  I have a ton of room between my saddle and my rear tire (I’ll post pics when I review the frame bag), and between my bars and my front tire. So I’m thinking about lightweight front and rear racks with a drybag on top of each one. I believe this will keep the center or mass lower than the seat bag / bar bedroll.  It won’t be as low as panniers, but it won’t have the wind resistance of panniers either.  And it will encourage me to pack more minimally than if I were using panniers.

Whew!  These thoughts have been careening around in my head for a while now, it’s good to finally get them out of there!  I welcome comments and suggestions.