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  • Weighing in for a Bike Tour

    Posted on May 17th, 2018 admin No comments

    I just weighed myself, my bike, and my panniers as part of my planned trip to Saskatoon. It’s an OMG total, for sure! Am I packing too much?   How much is the right amount of gear weight for a two-week summer tour?

    My friend Susan is planning to cycle solo to Newfoundland.  We’re both part of a cycling group and have been on many trips together.   I offered to travel with her for the first week, to keep her company and see her off.   She’s planning to loop south on Hy 13 in Alberta to Hy 31 and 15 east in Saskatchewan.   Okay, I said, I’ll come with you to Rosetown and loop up to Saskatoon and back.

    We did a 76 km overnight training run last week, fully loaded, into moderate headwinds.  Tough, tiring ride, but we both did okay.   I had 42 lbs (about 19.1 kg) and Susan carried 66 lbs (30 kg) of gear.  We both agreed that we needed to pare down our loads.


    When we first started training, it was March, about the coldest March in memory, and the forecast for May was more of the same.  High temperatures in the low teens, lows in the single digits and down to freezing.   I had lots of cold-weather gear and my panniers were stuffed full.  Long undies, warm base layer,  fleece pants, wool socks.

    But what do weathermen know?  Nothing.  Their computer models just provide a best guess (and meteorologists have the hubris to think they can predict climate!)  By the time May rolled around, we were seeing unseasonal highs in the upper 20s and lows around 10C to 15C.

    So, out went the long-johns, the fleece, and all the other stuff to keep me warm.  And out went a bunch of other stuff that I hadn’t used on any of my training rides, such as a nice plastic mess kit, an extra nylon tarp, some clothespins (I might regret leaving those).  Took out one bike jersey.  I cut down on spare undies and sox to two pairs of each in the pannier.  And I might yet cut down to a single spare of each.


    On the training runs, I had no insect repellent: too cold for bugs.  But now the mosquitoes have hatched.  Add bug spray.  OMG, 30C on Sunday?  Add sun-block.  A week of hot weather?  Hydration is vital.  Add another litre bottle of water.  With the two bottles in the cages, that makes 2250 mL of water…almost 5 lbs!!

    One problem with handlebar bag is that it’s so handy, anything you need quickly can go there for easy access.  One problem with a large Arkel handlebar bag is that you can put so much in it.  Bought a beautiful ultralight nylon wind jacket, only 4 ounces, gotta put that in.  Mini-binoculars, missed them on the training rides, toss them in.  Oh, need a ball cap….

    Stocked up on Clif bars, granola bars, fruit leathers.   Gotta have snacks to keep the energy up.  That’s one pound of stuff that will get lighter quickly!

    My panniers aren’t stuffed full.   There’s room in three of them (and the Arkel) for food, souvenirs, extra clothes, whatever.  Available room tends to get filled.  They won’t get lighter as I travel.


    After taking out and putting in, here’s what I have (all numbers are in pounds):

    • Rear rack bag (tent, sleeping pad): 5.2
    • Front A (sleeping bag, stuff sack, liner): 6.0
    • Front B (rain gear, repair stuff, electronics accessories): 6.0
    • Rear A (camping & cooking): 9.4
    • Rear B (clothing): 9.2
    • Handlebar Bag: 6.4

    Add that all up and you get… 42.2 lbs.  Exactly what I had before.  Who would have thought that the added mass of a little tube of sunblock, a bottle of bug spray, and compact binoculars would equal the stuff I took out?

    Now, that’s not really bad.   Most bike touring sites recommend a load of under 20 kg (44 lb).  Note that my bags are pretty well balanced left to right.  Ratio of rear to front is (5.2 + 9.4+9.2) to (6+6+6.4) or 23.8 to 18.4 or pretty much 4:3.   The recommended balance rear to front is 60:40.   I’m a little heavy on the front.  I might re-arrange while en route, or after tomorrow’s training ride.


    Add it all up:  44 lbs of gear.  Plus 5 lb of water.  Plus 30 lbs of bike.  Plus 165 lbs of me, fully clothed.

    That’s  242 lbs of stuff to move down the road with every pedalstroke.

    It sounds enormous.  I’m sorry I worked it out.



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