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New Gear For This Summer’s Bike Tour

July 13th, 2012 18 comments


This month we’re cycling for over 2 weeks through the Netherlands, Belgium and France. It’s our first extended bike tour with our son Luke and we’ve tweaked our gear to suit bike touring with a baby.

We’ve also acquired some new things, as you do. We can’t blame all of this new stuff on Luke! Here’s the list of recent additions:

1. A Baby!
You probably figured out already that 5-month-old Luke is our most significant addition. We’re excited to take him on his first big bike tour. We’ve already done a few test runs and we’re confident that as long as we go slowly it won’t be any problem to combine cycle touring with parenthood.

Luke hanging out...

2. Chariot Cougar 1 Trailer
“If the baby is happy, then everyone is happy.” That’s our motto on this trip and in order to keep the baby happy, he’ll be riding in the very plush Chariot Cougar 1. We’ve done many shorter day and weekend tours with this trailer and Luke loves it. We’re confident it’s up to the job.

Chariot Cougar 1

3. Vaude Sioux 500 XL Sleeping Bag
We’ve used our PHD Minim sleeping bags for many years now but for this trip Friedel is swapping to Vaude’s Sioux 500  synthetic sleeping bag. There are a few reasons for the change.

First, the PHD bag doesn’t have a zipper. That’s great in winter (when you don’t want a draft to come in from the side of the bag) and also cuts some weight from the bag, but it makes it much harder to attend to a crying baby in the middle of the night.

Vaude Sioux 500 Sleeping Bag

Also, the square shape of the Sioux bag means it will be easy to open up the bag and spread it like a blanket over mum and Luke, if baby just wants to cuddle at night.

Finally, this is a good-value bag that will be fine for summer trips but doesn’t cost too much. By the time next summer comes, Luke will likely get his own sleeping bag.

4. Aeropress Coffee Maker
Aeropress Coffee Maker
For us, a good day of bike touring starts with a good cup of coffee. This is especially true when your nights are broken up by baby! To that end, we’ve recently fallen in love with the Aeropress coffee maker.

It’s light, robust and makes an excellent, strong cup of coffee (the coffee is so good that we’re also using it at home).

Before we bought the Aeropress, we used the “cowboy coffee” method. That technique also makes a good cup of coffee but the process is a little messier and uses more water than the Aeropress.

5. Thermarest NeoAir Mattress
This is another baby-related purchase. Are you spotting a theme yet?

Initially Luke was sleeping on a foam Zlite mat but it’s bulky to carry around and not the same height as our Exped mattresses. The different heights makes nighttime breastfeeding difficult. That’s why we upgraded Luke’s mattress to the thicker Thermarest NeoAir. The NeoAir also weighs a minuscule 230g and is very compact when packed. We hope it will last at least until Luke is 4-5 years old.

Thermarest Neo Air

6. Helinox Chair One
Finally, we leave the baby-related additions and find something for mum and dad: two comfy chairs. Until now, we’ve never carried a camping chair but we’re at that point in life when we want some extra luxury.

The Helinox Chair One is brand new on the market. It’s lightweight (850g), packs down to a compact size and is very comfortable – if a little on the expensive side at €80 a chair (about $100 U.S. dollars).

Helinox Chair

Here’s a review of the Helinox Chair One from two bike tourists.

7. Ortlieb Rack Pack
Things like mattresses, sleeping bags and the Helinox chairs are relatively lightweight but take up a lot of space in our panniers, so for this trip we’re going to put all of these items in a 31 liter Ortlieb Rack Pack. The bag will go on the back of Friedel’s bike.

Ortlieb Rack Pack 31 Liter

8. Xtorm Power Bank
From A-Solar, we bought the Xtorm Power Bank 7000. Between that and our dynamo hub, we should now have plenty of extra power for our GPS, mobile phone and other gadgets.

A-Solar Battery

9. The Behold Tool Case

BeholdThis nifty little tool case arrived for us to review a few months ago but we’ve just now managed to get it on Friedel’s bike.

It slips into a cage which is mounted between your water bottle and the frame, and it’s just big enough for the essentials: a spare tube, a few patches, glue and some tire levers.

The idea is that it’s always there (you don’t need to think about packing a separate tool kit if you’re quickly jumping on your bike to run an errand) and easily accessible. See an Adventure Cycling review of the Behold.

10. iPad 3

Last but not least, we’ve finally caved in and joined the iPad crowd. We bought our iPad 3 more for use at home than on tour but we can definitely see that it could have a place on a bike tour so we’re trying it out. Lightweight cyclists will be horrified to learn that we’re also taking a laptop with us because we just can’t bear the thought of not being able to edit photos and do other work with our normal software. Will we use both? Probably. Do we need both? We’ll let you know…

iPad 3

 

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Of course some of the old favourites like our MSR Whisperlite stove and Ortlieb panniers will still be on the bikes. As for the new gear, we’ll be giving you our full thoughts on it after we return.

What new equipment are you carrying on tour this summer?

Dreaming of a Bike Tour? see our Survival Guide
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16 Responses to “New Gear For This Summer’s Bike Tour”

  1. Ken Rowan says:

    very helpful post, thanks. I have been using the same aero press every day for the past five years and love it. I have ordered the rackbag, as I have been using a dry bag up to bow and didn’t know that Ortleb did one. Thanks. I want the chair but that will have to wait :) Happy cycling with baby Luke.

  2. Chris says:

    Yes Aeropress, the greatest cycling accessory ever. I keep one at work too.

  3. dave says:

    I would be interested to hear how the x-storm performs. Recharging all the gadgets can be a bit of a pain when camping in the back of beyond for days on end.

  4. Chris says:

    I have a TeckNet iEP380 charger which looks similar. Does three good charges on a smartphone or iPod. Excellent for both travelling and everyday. It’s rated at 5000 mAH (which I guess is 5AH). Bought from Amazon UK

    There appears to be an iEP387 which is 7000 mAH and strangely that’s what came up when I googled for x-storm powerbank 7000 so maybe these are the same products or same company? Obviously biggest storage (more Ampere Hours – AH) would be best on tour. Also great as you can continue to use your device on the move while charging.

  5. Rich E says:

    ROkstraps has a new adjustable luggage strap for bicycles that is similar to the one that they sell for motorcycles. It stretches like a bungee but is adjustable like a ratchet. They never come lose and they attach using loops instead of metal hooks so they never fall off.

  6. jeroen says:

    New equipment this year

    GSI ultralight java drip, for the best coffee in years, with a minimum amount of weight.
    The helinox chair one
    2 powerbanks 7000 and a solar panel, solar panel was not a great idea if you are travelling in the rain. Why 2? one is loading, the other is in use.
    You cannot use the powerbank to charge a GPS while loading the powerbank. That was a bit of a dissapointment, but I bought a second one and all went well on our 4 week trip

  7. With regards bringing your laptop. I have just got the iPad 3 too and there are some pretty good apps for editing. iPhoto, Photogene and Snapspeed. Each one has it’s own quality. They are either free to download or very cheap. My mate who works for the Daily Mail swears by the latest version of Filterstorm Pro for editing his pix on the ipad. I haven’t got it yet but everyone says it’s the closest to using Photoshop. It’s £10.49p. In fact i will download it now.
    Just out of interest, how did you store your iPad on the bike? I’m to scared to take mine on my weekend trips in case i break it.

    • Steve Jones says:

      The iPad won’t easily break Peter. The screen glass is specially toughened which is why they call it Gorilla glass. Just keep it in a padded sleeve and it should be fine even if you drop it. i carry mine all the time like that even in a saddlebag on my road bike. No problems.
      A good tip:
      The iPad fits easily into waterproof map cases like the one made by Osprey
      so getting one of those will mean you can still use it in the rain.

  8. jeroen says:

    in the ortlieb pannier where my clothes are, in that nice compartment at the back
    hard side out, screen side inwards

    Never had any problems that way. In the other pannier, with the wives clothes is the E-Reader, same sollution

  9. Rik says:

    Our Helinox Chair One x 2 arrived in the mail today. http://www.helinox.com.au/pages/helinox-chair-one.asp
    Will be road testing them this weekend – ahh the luxury :) . All we need to find now is a decent travel pillow….
    Will also be testing our new Vango tent (the Big Agnes UL3 leaked horribly) & Trangia cookset…

  10. Thanks Steve Jones. I have swapped the iPad 3 for the mini and keep it in the bar bag. Your right, it is is tough. I like the idea of the map case. I use a Sainsbury’s zip top freezer bag at the mo. The mini is the way forward as you hardly notice it compared to the normal size iPad.

  11. Chris Rust says:

    In case anybody is wondering about alternatives to ipad I’m using a Google Nexus 7, a lot cheaper than the imini and lovely quality. Served us very well on a recent trip to India with offline google maps and all our documents on Google’s cloud drive available offline. Only time we used the Nexus GPS it pointed out that we were a long way from any mapped road which was a properly Indian experience.
    No need for an apple vs android war here but it’s good there is such a choice of useful gadgets available.

  12. Tom says:

    Can anyone please recommend a suitable tent for cycle touring

    • Chris Rust says:

      That’s a huge question. Depends what’s available today where you are but, as somebody who is weight conscious but likes his comforts, I’d look out for:
      Light colour inside, especially the groundsheet, mine is black and it’s horrible trying to find stuff in the nights and packing is much harder
      Ability to sit up in the tent (with a thermarest armchair to convert your mattress) and have plenty of side opening beside you, so you can have stove etc to hand.
      Opening both sides is good, as is flysheet storage space on both sides, you want all your stuff to hand but you need the space inside the tent for you.
      One person tents are very small these days, I have a two person tent that is just big enough for me and my comforts.
      If it’s for two people then really make sure it’s a decent size.
      And if you expect dew, rain and damp ground (as here in the UK), make sure the groundsheet is properly waterproof, otherwise you’ll be rolling up up damp and that damp will permeate the whole fabric of the tent by the next night.
      My tent is a Mountain Equipment AR Ultralight 2, very light and ticks most of my boxes apart from the black groundsheet and a slightly fiddly assembly. I have fitted that tent, thermarest and everything else I need into a Brompton Touring Pannier.

  13. MSR Do a great range. The Hubba one man tent is free standing with a mesh inner. It’s a 3 season and comes in a light..ish green. They do a Hubba HP which has a solid inner. Also they do a 2 man of the same called the Hubba Hubba too. Both quite lightweight. Hilliberg do a range. The Akto is a 4 season 1 man tent. It’s not free standing but is bomb proof. Google them and have look. MSR have some videos on their website.

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