Every time I do a bike tour, I learn something about how to pack. Something I could leave behind, something that can serve multiple purposes, or something that’s more useful than I originally realized.
On my first tour, my bike weighed roughly 35 kg (80 pounds). The bike itself was a steel frame, including the fork, and it had a double kickstand. My packing setup included a front and rear rack (both steel), front and rear panniers, and duffel bag across the back.
12 years later, with much more experience, my bike is down to roughly 20 kg (45 pounds). For the first time, I’ll be doing a road tour without any racks or panniers. Instead, I’m using a bikepacking setup, which saves 3.3 kg (7.3 lbs) just by ditching racks and panniers and also makes a significant difference when it comes to aerodynamics. According to an excellent article at CyclingAbout, the aerodynamic difference alone is worth as much as reducing your bike’s weight by 20 kg (44 lbs). Those two factors combined should be roughly the equivalent of being 2-3 gears higher at all times.
Incredibly, my level of comfort hasn’t changed much, if at all, despite slimming down the packing list considerably. Doing a lot of bike touring teaches you what you need and don’t need, as well as what small luxuries you appreciate and what discomforts you’re willing to deal with.
It certainly helps that this is likely to be one of the easiest tours I’ve ever done. A sizable portion of the route is in the midwest, which is mostly flat, and nearly half the route is on rails-to-trails, which are even flatter. On top of that, I’ll never be at high elevation, which means it’ll never get too terribly cold in the summertime. And finally, this route is in the most densely populated area I’ve ever toured for more than a week at a time, which means I’ll never have to carry much food or water, since the towns are so close together.
On my most recent bike tour, which was essentially the first half of the same tour I’ll finish this summer, I used a rear rack with smaller front panniers on it, and I got a lot of comments on my light setup. This summer, with no racks at all, I expect I’ll get even more.
from Eastern States