Nancy's bike and gear

(This is Nancy's bike that she used from Inuvik to Denver. At that point she switched to a Stumpjumper mountain bike. See the current gear article.

Here's Nancy's beautiful redone bike. She spent an enormous amount of time and money retooling it since our New England Trip. This is a custom Serotta Rapid Tour. She has fairly standard racks and has Ortlieb Classic Roller panniers on the back, and waterproof Nashbar panniers on the front. The handlebar bag is new - it's from Ortlieb.

Randy's Bike and Gear

Randy has a regular Specialized Stumpjumper mountain bike with the heavy-duty Old Man Mountain racks and Ortlieb "Classic Roller" panniers. Total weight of the stuff in the bags: between 40 and 60 pounds, depending on how much food and water we're carrying.

For the Dempster Highway section we're planning to carry about seven days' worth of dehydrated food to get to Eagle Plains (which we estimate to be 5 days) and then we'll pick up another 7 days' food from the Eagle Plains Hotel - we'll ship it there in advance. Normally we don't use dehydrated food, because it's expensive, hard to get in most places, and probably not as good for you as real food. However, since the Dempster is 450 miles long with no services, and since it's at the beginning of our trip, we decided to go with the dehydrated stuff from Mountain House which we actually like quite a lot.

Sierra Designs tent

Here's Nancy inviting you into our Sierra Designs Lightning tent. No, it's not very big. But it works. You need to be very friendly with your partner to use this one.

Our criteria for choosing this tent: We wanted something light , warm enough on the cold nights, but not a terrible condensation machine. It's really light. Maybe not warm enough on the cold nights (although we've been out below freezing on two recent nights) and maybe not good enough on the condensation angle. We've had a couple of nights where the condensation was quite surprising. I think you probably can't have everything!

Bearproof food bags from Ursack

Nancy did an enormous amount of research on bear issues for this trip, and of course she's still concerned about it. She found that these Ursack bags were the best combination of weight and value. The only problem we'll have in the treeless north part of the trip is figuring out how to secure them.

MSR Whisperlite Stove

Here's our old faithful (mostly) MSR Whisperlite stove. It will run on nearly any kind of fuel. White gas (coleman fuel) burns the best, but it's really quite hard to get an appropriate amount of white gas when you are bike touring, and it's really easy to get regular unleaded gasoline. So we just pull up at the pump and buy 50 cents worth of gas every 3-4 days. (It used to be 30 cents before the big gas price run-up!)

We use denatured ethyl alcohol to prime it - and never have to clean it any more. It's so much more reliable. See the article here.

Platypus Water Bladders

We usually carry 3-4 of these Playpus 2-liter bladders. Most of the time they're empty (and light! and compact!). But they when you need them they're there to haul water. We can camp the night, fix dinner and breakfast, and start riding the next morning with about 6 liters of water, although that's pretty tight. When we know we're going to have a "dry camp" at night, we load up with water so we can do it.

We've also ordered a new item from Ortlieb: A 10-liter water bag (with shower fitting!). We'll use it for unfiltered water. It can be used to haul water before it's filtered with our Pur.
(Katadin) Hiker water filter.

Our bike touring gear

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Randy's bike and gear
Randy's bike and gear (View on flickr)

Nancy's bike and gear
Nancy's bike and gear (View on flickr)

On private road to Chiquicara
On private road to Chiquicara (View on flickr)
Click on the picture for a larger view

Lots of people ask what bikes we used for the trip, so here they are.

We both used Specialized Stumpjumpers with front shocks, trekking handling bars with extenders, Old Man Mountain racks, Ortlieb panniers, kickstand, wide touring tires from Continental and 36 spoke wheels.

In Peru, Randy switched from panniers to a BOB trailer. See the update and the picture on the right.

We both started out with Brooks saddles but both of us switched to various version of the Terry Liberator Y - we never did get comfortable with the Brooks saddles, despite waiting thousands of miles and the rave recommendations of so many people. Neither one of us use clipless pedals - we just use regular shoes with flat pedals. We always wear a helmet and use a marvellous helmet mounted rear view mirror. We ride with riding shorts for comfort.  read more here... lee mas aquí... »

Priming our MSR Whisperlite Internationale with Denatured Ethyl Alcohol

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This is just a note for other bike tourists and people who travel with their MSR Whisperlite stoves. The wonderful thing about the Whisperlite is that it will burn plain old gasoline. The terrible thing about it is that (if you use the gasoline to prime the stove) it makes a mess every time. You're always dealing with ugly black soot on the stove.

Well, we've started using regular denatured ethyl alcohol to prime the stove, and we never have to clean it, and rarely sense any kind of fumes. Ethyl alcohol has been easy to get in Mexico and Central America - you just go to the drugstore and ask for Alcohol Etílico in a high percentage (88 or 90 grados). It's cheap and wonderful. Our stove is more reliable, but most important, I don't get dirty all the time from it. (And we can surrepticiously run it in a ventilated room because it doesn't make any smells.)

Here is a great writeup on all types of fuels and where you can get them around the world.

Bike Maintenance Log

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Several of you bike touring people have asked us about bike maintenance and the problems we've had, so we decided to put together a log.

July 2006: Cassiar Highway. Broken spoke and wobbly wheel on Randy's drive side of rear wheel. We broke the Hyper-Cracker tool (that takes the cassette off) in a hailstorm trying to use it. Took us 300 miles to get to a place with a tool to take it off, but we made it.

September 2006: New tires in Victoria, BC.

October 2006: California: Spoke nipple broke through rim on Randy's rear wheel. Got a new wheel built, hoping for the best.

January 2007: New bottom bracket for Randy's bike. New drive train, cables, housing, tires (Continental TravelContact), touring handlebars, many other things before starting out. We also had to buy a replacement set of Old Man Mountain racks for Randy's bike because the 5000 miles of the trip so far had created big abrasions in the (aluminum) racks. Old Man Mountain gave us the new racks at cost.

February 2007: Randy's new rear wheel (from California) failed in Tucson. It was a fancy downhill rim, too. We'll never use another Mavic rim of any type for bike touring.

April 2007: Randy gave up on the fancy Brooks saddle (never did get comfortable) and got a new one, Terry touring saddle that seems to be OK.

May 2007: New chains and cassettes on Oaxaca, Mexico.

January 2008: New chains in Guatemala.

January 2008: Nancy's seatpost clamp failed in Honduras.  read more here... lee mas aquí... »

Randy switches to a BOB trailer... Advantages and Disadvantages

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On private road to Chiquicara
On private road to Chiquicara (View on flickr)

When we came back to Peru I started riding with a Ibex BOB trailer trailer again instead of using panniers as I have for the last few years. It was kind of a return to my roots, since I used a BOB for our first several rides in 2001-2005. So far, I'm happy to be pulling my old friend Bob again. It feels good on the bike.

You may not know it, but since the BOB was introduced, US touring cyclists have often raged at each other about its advantages and disadvantages. As one who has used both the pannier system (front and back racks with saddlebags attached to them) and the BOB, a single-wheeled bike trailer, I thought I could weigh in on advantages and disadvantages.

  • I think when you ride with the BOB it's more like riding a bike and less like driving a truck, which is how I feel when riding with panniers.
  • The BOB is a bit easier on the bike, since there's one more wheel to spread out the load. The frame of the bike gets almost no strain (and it can get quite a bit going over bumps with the panniers). The rear axle still gets about half the load, but the frame itself gets almost nothing.
  • My kickstand doesn't work any more! In general, it's just harder to manage the bike+bob configuration when you're off the bike. I think it's easier to manage when you're riding, but harder when you're off.
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