If there’s one topic more likely than route options to spark debate among end-to-enders then it’s what gear to take. In advance of our trip I thought I’d share my own kit lists, this one covering my bike and associated gear and the second covering our camping and non-cycling gear. I’d be interested in any feedback – and will update this post after we arrive back from John O’Groats to comment on what was most and least useful.
Rather than simply provide a list of equipment I thought I’d also offer my thoughts on my choices, which will hopefully be slightly more useful.
First of all, having become a convert to lightweight hillwalking and camping years ago I’ve approached the task of selecting gear with the same thought process: why take heavier gear when you can travel lighter and enjoy it much, much more ? Interestingly, the lightweight philosophy doesn’t appear to have permeated the world of cycle touring in the same way as it has in the world of walking and camping. (Or at least, perhaps it depends who you speak to ?)
When asking ‘daft laddie’ questions in various cycle shops about the weight of gear I didn’t find anyone who was really passionate about this; most responses can be summed up in the attitude “once you’re moving along on a bike, weight doesn’t matter“. This is utter nonsense of course. Gravity tends to work against you cycling uphill and it stands to reason that the more stuff you’re carrying the more energy you need to use. Given I’m a bit of a lightweight gear geek I’ve therefore listed the weights of my various items.
Bike and equipment:
Of course the heaviest item of gear is the bike and here I had taken the decision to buy a steel-framed touring bike (see my rather frustrating experience in finding the right touring bike), to provide comfort and long-term durability. However – to completely counter the previous paragraph ! – my Dawes Galaxy weighs in at a fairly hefty 15kg, which means that my LEJOG journey will be at a rather more sedate pace than had I taken a carbon road bike, for example.
I also decided that function trumped weight when it came to my choice of panniers. It was a fairly easy decision to go for the robust, waterproof Orlieb panniers given that these are waterproof, easy to use and bombproof, although I’ve since discovered the ultralight Arkel panniers (454g for 29 litres volume) which would have been tempting at one-third of the weight. Similarly, while not the lightest I really like my Vaude Road II handlebar bag; lots of room, very practical and with the extremely easy Clickfix attachment system.
You will note that I’m taking no pump, puncture repair kit, tyre levers or spare inner tubes. That’s because I don’t need them. I have puncture-free Tannus tyres on my bike – look out for my future product review – which I’d recommend. Not only is there a weight saving but the peace of mind to know that I won’t have any punctures over 1,000 miles feels good !
Panniers: Ortlieb Back Roller Classic [1720g / pair]
Handlebar bag: Vaude Road II [700g]
Helmet: Bell [285g]
Water bottles x 2: [170g]
Bike lock: Kryptonite [470g]
Multitool: VeloChampion [210g]
Latex disposable gloves: [negligible]
Cable ties: [negligible]
Oil: small ’emergency’ tubes [40g]
J-cloth (for cleaning he bike): [negligible]
My plan with cycling clothing is broadly to take two pairs and to alternate each day (merino wool helps things smelling reasonably fresh !). I have lightweight waterproofs (my Gore Path jacket has seen a lot of use over the winter and I love it) and overshoes for wet and/or cold weather, and long track suit trousers and arm warmers for chilly mornings.
April 2015 has seen a real contrast of weather and I’m wondering what the weather will hold in store for our trip in the second half of May. At this time of year, sometimes it can’t decide if Spring’s around the corner or if it’s still Winter. Over the last two weeks we’ve basked in gloriously sunny, calm days of up to 18 degrees as well as been blasted with snow, hail and bitterly cold northerly winds once the weather system switched completely. My choice of clothing below is selected for ‘typical’ May weather but I think I’ll need to review my decisions at the last minute should colder weather be forecast.
I did consider taking normal trainers to cycle in rather than my Shimano cycling shoes to save some weight. However, on balance I think the advantage of having clip-in cycling shoes is worth it given the additional power they give up hills and the avoidance of slipping on wet pedals. I’m taking a pair of Crocs as well for evenings.
Waterproof jacket: Gore Path [255g]
Waterproof trousers: Mountain Equipment Firelite [250g]
Cycling shirts x 2: Torm T1 short sleeved merino/polyester [440g / pair]
Cycling shirt x 1: Icebreaker Skin 200 merino [240g]
Shorts x 2: dhb Dyno Baggy, inc. padded inner [800g / 2 pairs]
Long trousers: Ronhill tracksuit trousers [320g]
Socks x 2: On One Merino and Aldi [80g / 2 pairs]
Mitts: Roeckl [80g]
Winter gloves: Aldi (120g)
Cycling shoes: Shimano MT34 [890g]
Overshoes: Planet X neoprene [120g]
Buff: Standard plus merino wool neckwarmer [90g]
Arm warmers: Aldi [75g]
I’d be interested in any feedback on my choice of gear – are there any surprises or omissions ? If you’re a cycle tourer, what gear would you not be without and why ?
Having now returned from my end-to-end trip I thought it would be useful to report back on the gear I used most often and didn’t use much or at all.
The weather plays a big part in any cycling tour and we found that overall it was reasonably kind. We only had one wet day, plus a few mornings of sunshine and showers, but rain combined with cooler temperatures (particularly in the north of Scotland) meant that full winter gear was needed. Waterproofs are of course a must but I also appreciated my winter gloves and overshoes (although these were showerproof rather than waterproof).
Temperatures were in the 12 – 15 degree range typically. I wore shorts in England and switched to long trousers in Scotland. In the end I only took one pair of each (a good decision) but threw in an extra long-sleeved top for cycling in (another good decision). The arm warmers were really useful but interestingly, I only used my buff as a pillow case rather than head gear (for all the weight it is I would certainly take it again though).
As for bike gear, the only items I didn’t use were cable ties although again, for the few grams of weight I would take those again in case of emergencies. Even though it didn’t get dark until 9.30 – 10pm in late May we did use our bike lights in showers which were essential from a safety perspective.
This article forms part of my Online Guide to Cycling End-to-End:
- Why cycle LEJOG ?
- Planning a LEJOG cycle ride
- Top 10 tips for planning an end-to-end cycle tour
- Route planning and route options
- What to take – Camping and other gear
- Accommodation options
- Getting into training
- Nutrition and hydration
- Getting to/from Land’s End and John O’Groats