Stuff: Selecting Gear for a Cross-Country Bicycle Trip

Reader Contribution by Rick Stiles
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George Carlin, the comedian, had a routine about all of the ‘stuff’ we have that we can’t live without. He could have been joking about me preparing for my cross country bicycle trip.

I started out like Santa Claus: making a list and checking it twice, just to find out what’s needed and nice. Then I gathered everything up and spread it out on the living room floor, and the dining room floor, and the dining room table, and . . . 

My wife finally asked if the mechanical popcorn popper, the big cuddly pillow, the cellphone music speakers, my favorite frypan, and the small portable TV was really necessary. Adding insult to injury she then asked what everything weighed. Huh? Who was taking this trip: me or her?

Suddenly it dawned on me; I was the one pedaling all of this ‘stuff’ across the country. Maybe, GULP, she was right. My first weigh-in came to 72.6 pounds; not bad for two month trip. Then I discovered information recommending 30-40 pounds (no fuel, food, or water) to minimize bicycle and knee joint failures. Oh, no! She was right.

So, I separated everything into two piles: needed, and nice. The needed items came in at 43 pounds. I will be traveling through towns almost everyday so replenishing items like soap, insect repellant, sun tan lotion, first aid items, bicycle parts, and personal hygiene should be easy. With this in mind I drastically reduced the quantity and different types of consumables: 37.8 pounds.

The next place to look included repair tools, the tent, sleeping bag/pillow/mattress, and food preparation. Saving weight in this area meant spending money on lighter equipment. A lesson learned: lighter gear = more expensive gear. I bit the bullet, spent almost $400, and got the weight down to 33.4 pounds.

The only thing left was clothing. Riding a recumbent has some advantages: you don’t need special riding apparel. Also, you can get by with two sets of clothing if you wash every night. I decided to go with three sets of clothing: one on me, one drying off, and one ready to use. All of my clothing can be layered on top of each other to minimize the need for extra warmth in cooler weather. I am taking long sleeve (versus short sleeve) shirts to minimize sunburn, and also, I find them cooler in the hot sun. Many of my clothing items are nylon, which tends to weigh less and dry faster than cotton.

The final weight came to 31.04 pounds. Some people do not include the items they will be wearing as part of their ‘stuff’. Using this criteria the weight is 26.5 pounds. It took a lot sacrifice, suggestions from other people, and some money to get there, but I think George Carlin would be proud. Here is a copy of my gear list

Next time I will talk about my practice rides and how everything is coming together. Talk at ya later.