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Going Light: Our Packing List For Bike Touring In Cuba

Posted December 12th, 2012

We’ve been planning for months and now it’s almost here: departure day for our flight to Cuba!

With less than a week to go, we spent yesterday packing our bags. Thankfully – for once in our lives – we have plenty of room to spare. It helps that we’re going on a ‘credit card’ bike tour: staying in hotels and leaving all the camping, cooking and cold-weather gear at home.

Normally we love camping but on this trip we have to contend with a couple factors. The first is a limited luggage capacity. When we booked our flights, we were quoted €800 to fly two full-sized touring bikes to Cuba and back with KLM (it seems this fee has now dropped by half but that’s not what we were told at the time). This was a great incentive to use folding bikes and work within standard baggage limits. The restless sleeping habits of a young baby were also a good reason to go for hotels and B&Bs instead of camping. After years of budget bike touring, it’s time to splurge a little!

That said, you could easily camp in Cuba if you wanted to.

Our full packing list is below. The luggage weighs about 22kg (including the weight of the panniers). All of this will go as carry on (we’re each entitled to a bag of 10kg as carry on luggage). Note:

  • About a quarter of the weight in our bags consists of diapers and food for Luke (rice crackers, dried fruit). Our bags will either be considerably lighter on the return flight, or full of rum and cigars.
  • Electronics such as our laptop and iPad also account for a lot of weight. These sorts of things aren’t necessary for everyone but they are something we like to take along.
  • There are no toys or books for baby. There will be plenty of entertainment from the two jokers this kid has as parents, not to mention the adventures that Cuba itself will bring.
  • The clothes we’ll wear on the plane are not included in the weight but are mentioned in the packing list.
  • We think this list is complete but – as always – we’re human and sometimes we forget stuff. If you think something’s missing let us know and we’ll update the list if necessary.

Put together, our collection of “stuff” looks something like this:

Our stuff for Cuba All packed up in 3 neat bags

The bikes and the bags they’ll fly in total about 30kg (Brompton – 12kg; Speed TR – 15kg; bike bags – 1.2kg each). Luke’s Chariot Cougar 1 trailer weighs 11kg but technically it’s a stroller, not a bike trailer. We can gate check this and it doesn’t count in our luggage allowance.

Want the full details? Read on!

Dahon Speed TRThe Bikes & Bags:

Bike Parts, Tools & Accessories

Electronics

  • 1 Panasonic Lumix GF1 camera
  • 1 iPad 3, plus case
  • 1 13″ Macbook Pro laptop, plus case
  • 1 Kodak Zi8 video camera (a few years old but fine for our purposes)
  • 1 Gorillapod tripod ($80 from REI)
  • 2 USB sticks (for back-up of photos)
  • 1 cellphone (very old; not a smartphone; only for emergencies)

Clothes for Friedel

Clothing (Friedel)

  • 3 pairs socks
  • 3 pairs underwear
  • 3 pairs trousers (3/4 length, lightweight, zip-off)
  • 3 lightweight tops (2 long sleeved)
  • 1 bra
  • 1 large, lightweight scarf (for breastfeeding cover, as a picnic blanket, etc.)
  • 1 sun hat
  • 1 pair Teva sandals
  • 1 pair cycling shoes
  • 1 swimsuit
  • 1 Gore-tex paclite jacket (£159.99 from Wiggle)
  • 1 merino wool hoodie
Andrew's clothes.

Clothing (Andrew)

  • 3 pairs socks
  • 3 pairs underwear
  • 2 pairs trousers (1 pair zips off into shorts)
  • 3 lightweight tops (2 long sleeved)
  • 1 merino wool t-shirt
  • 1 sun hat
  • 1 pair Teva sandals
  • 1 pair cycling shoes
  • 1 pair swimming trunks
  • 1 Gore-tex paclite jacket

Baby clothes!

Clothing (baby)

  • 4 shirts
  • 1 hoodie
  • 2 pairs light pants
  • 1 pair heavier pants
  • 2 pairs shorts
  • 2 onesies (to be used as light, summer PJs)
  • 3 pairs socks
  • 1 pair sandals
  • 1 pair normal shoes
  • 1 sun hat
  • 1 swimsuit
  • 1 swim diaper (not something we’d normally use but it was given to us, so…)
  • 1 sippy cup

Toiletries

  • 150 disposable diapers
  • 2 packs baby wipes
  • 2 cloth diapers (just in case!)
  • 2 tubes toothpaste (one for kids, one for adults)
  • 2 bottles 50 SPF sunscreen (one for kids, one for adults)
  • 1 First Aid Kit with medicines (paracetamol, sinus medication)
  • 1 toiletry kit (shampoo, soap, dental floss etc…)
  • 1 travel towel
  • 1 Mooncup

Maps and Books

Emergency baby food.

Miscellaneous

  • A variety of snack food, mostly for baby (dried fruit, rice crackers)
  • 1 notebook with pen
  • 3 pairs sunglasses
  • 1 Eagle Creek Pack-It cube
  • 1 MSR Miniworks EX water filter ($89.95 from REI)

A Handlebar Bag Hack (and a newsletter ‘whooops’)

Posted October 24th, 2012

Our website might be called TravellingTwo but here’s a little secret: while Friedel does all of the writing, this site wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for Andrew’s IT skills.

Leave anything technical up to Friedel and something’s bound to go wrong, as it did with our latest monthly newsletter. We told you about a handlebar bag that our friend Blanche put together by attaching a Klick-fix bracket to the back of a normal Ortlieb front pannier.

Unfortunately, Friedel made a mistake inserting the pictures so everyone on the mailing list saw an error rather than a handlebar bag. Whooooops…..

We debated sending out the newsletter again but instead opted to show you the pictures here.

Blanche's Handlebar Bag

Despite our technical mistake, a few readers understood what we were talking about and one wrote to share his experience with this idea.

I did this a few years ago using a Karrimor pannier but the temptation is to fill it and it the weight has an adverse effect on the steering. I eventually fitted a Brompton front carrier block to the headtube and used a Brompton bag. That way the weight is on the frame and has little effect on the steering. -Derek

Ergon PC2 Pedal Review

Posted September 21st, 2012

Ergon PedalsAbout a year ago, we put Ergon PC2 pedals on Friedel’s touring bike.

She’s never been a fan of being ‘clipped in’ with SPD pedals (or anything else that fixes your feet to the pedals) but did want some grip. The Ergon PC2s seemed like a good compromise.

Their sandpaper surface is supposed to help keep your feet in place, without the hassle of remembering to clip out at red lights and other obstacles.

After a few months of trying these pedals, our verdict is mixed.

On the upside, we do like the wide profile of the pedals. They’re comfortable, supportive and still look surprisingly new – despite several months of commuting and touring in a relatively wet Dutch climate.

We also found the grip to be decent; not outstanding, but certainly better than the average, flat platform pedal.

There are some downsides, however. The main disadvantage is the hefty $80 U.S. pricetag.

Eric, who runs a popular bike touring store in Amsterdam, noted some other disadvantages after testing the pedals with his wife Carla in South America. He wrote:

The Ergon PC2 is a platform pedal and seems ideal for people who find it frightening to be ‘clicked in’. The surface is made of a type of sandpaper (developed in cooperation with 3M) that gives the feet a good grip. Due to the large surface, there’s a good pressure distribution and a raised edge ensures that you don’t hit the crank arms. However, Carla slipped occasionally from these pedals and that never happened with her previous PD-MX30 pedals from Shimano. Also, after 3,000km there was already play in the axles. Overall, this is a pedal that we won’t continue to sell at the Vakantiefietser.

PD MX30 pedals
The PD MX30 pedals from Shimano, favoured by Carla & Eric over the Ergon PC2s.

We’ll Keep Them But…
We personally plan to keep using the Ergon PC2 pedals for now.

If nothing else, they’re a neat commuting solution that offers a bit of grip but won’t damage fancy work shoes. For touring, we don’t have any major complaints but then we have only tested them on the relatively tame bike paths of the Netherlands.

If we were to go further afield, especially on unpaved surfaces, we’d likely replace them with cleated pedals.

When An Exped Sleeping Mat Fails…

Posted September 5th, 2012

About a year ago, we reviewed our Exped sleeping mats. Our mats are still going strong, after about 75 nights of use, but we’ve also recently heard from several cyclists who complain of these mats failing.

Shane is cycling across Africa. His experience is a good example of the problems that are sometimes encountered with Exped mats on extended tours. He’s recently suffered 2 Exped failures. With the first mat, the down stuffing came loose.

Exped Failure

This is the first downmat that launched its down all over my tent in Uganda. It was still usable but a pain to deflate. Nights used: about 50. -Shane

Exped Failure

This is the second mat after 150 nights (it started failing after around 100 nights). It’s not very nice to sleep on. Now I have a Z Lite and I’m finding it no worse to sleep on than the broken Exped. I hope I get used to it! -Shane

The fact that inflatable mats fail is nothing new, and not specific to Exped mats. When we first started bike touring, we had Thermarest Prolite Plus mats. They too developed faults after about 6 months of steady touring.

Both Exped and Thermarest offer generous warranties on their mats so failure isn’t too much of a problem if you’re close to home and can easily claim on the warranty from your nearest dealer or camping shop.

On an extended tour, however, a failing sleeping mat is a hassle. You might not be able to get a replacement at all, or you might suffer heavy customs charges if a mat is sent to you. That’s why we always say that the longer your trip, the stronger the case for getting a solid foam mat such as the Z Lite.

Some people, like Shane, find the Z Lite a bit spartan to sleep on. We personally don’t mind it at all but then we like a very firm sleeping surface, even at home. As with anything, it’s a personal choice and every cyclist will have to find the right balance between durability and comfort for themselves.

Just keep in mind that if you have an inflatable mat that it’s not invincible. Keep your eyes out for any sign of failure and have a back up plan to get a new one, if you’re far from home.

Taking the phone number and email address of your local camping shop or dealer might not be a bad idea for extended trips. It’s perhaps also worth asking what service they could provide in the middle of a tour.

Would they send you a new mat, no questions asked, or would you have to send the old one back and twiddle your thumbs in a far away land waiting for the new one to arrive?

One Nifty Way To Carry Your Essential Tools

Posted September 1st, 2012

A few months ago, we received an email from Allen, who designs bicycle bags and sells them under the Tallac brand.

He offered to send us his Behold case for review. We gladly accepted and since that time it’s been carried all over the Netherlands on bike tours and for daily commuting. It also came along on our tour of Belgium and France.

The Behold

What is it? Put simply, the Behold is a compact and robust case that sits in a cage between the frame and a water bottle holder. The case is made of ballistic water-resistant nylon and the cage that comes with the Behold is made of stainless steel. Fitting it to the bike was a breeze.

Here’s a better view of the case, out of its metal cage. When riding, the case is held in place by clips at either end. It’s easy to clip and unclip.

The Behold

What can you fit inside? A basic puncture repair kit is no problem (you’ll need to also carry a pump, unless you take CO2 cartridges along). If you didn’t want to use a handlebar bag, you could also use this kit to carry some essentials like a bit of cash, a credit card and a mobile phone.

The Behold

We like many things about the Behold. It’s well constructed and could be handy if you want a nifty place to store a few essential tools. Because the bag is stored on your frame, it can stay there and you never need to worry about leaving the tools behind.

People who are primarily bike touring, however, may find it redundant. If you’re carrying panniers then you probably already have a full tool kit in one of your bags so you don’t need to carry tools on your frame as well.

We think the Behold is best suited to commuting cyclists, who perhaps also do a bit of touring on the side. For that reason, we’ll be swapping it from Friedel’s touring bike to our primary commuting bike.