Shopping Season 2011 Gear Review

He holds him with his glittering eye –
The Wedding-Guest stood still,
And listens like a three years’ child:
The Mariner hath his will.

Well its Black Friday and the 2011 shopping season is here. I thought I would review a number of items that we have with us on the trip. After over 1600 miles I have a good feel for our gear. Hopefully this will be of some help to anyone planning their own bike touring trip.

First off the Bike!

This here is my Specialized Tricross Sport 2007. I have named it

“The Bebop”

This bike has so far worked out great for me. Its a 54 cm aluminum frame with a carbon fork. 700 rims. Shimano 105 components. This bike is light, strong and provides a comfortable ride on road and thanks to its design it handles fabulously off road. It has tapped holes for both the front and rear racks. As long as you balance the weight it handles fabulously and I have not had a single problem with any of the components. The only change I would make to my set up is the gearing. It is a cyclocross bike so it’s geared rather aggressively, this can make for some tough uphill days so I plan on changing out the crank before heading to Europe.  Some people tend to go for full steel frames when touring. In general this tends to be a good call for long tours through remote areas as steel is a very easy material to repair. Secondly steel can provide a smoother ride than other materials. So far I am very happy about my choice and suggest giving one a ride at the local Specialized Rep.

One word of caution. Every model before the 2011 model has the tapped holes for the front rack, they eliminated these in the 2011 model. They realized afterward that the taps were in demand and brought it back for the 2012 model. Just keep that in mind.

Racks:

Surly Front and Rear Racks.

I did a large amount of reading before settling on my bike racks. I am very happy with the Surly rack. The front rack is rated to 70 lbs and the rear 80 lbs. I currently have the rear rack on my bike and a different one of the front. The rear rack has held up wonderfully, structurally and cosmetically. While my front rack is still structurally sound it has not held up cosmetically and large areas of the paint have chipped off resulting in rust. I have had to clean this off several times. I will be holding on to my front rack until there is a structural failure. At that point I will be replacing it with Surly, no doubt about it.

Panniers:

Ortlieb Front and Rear Roller (Classic or Plus)

This here is the Ortlieb Roller Classic. If you do any reading on the thousands of websites reviewing what panniers to use the Ortlieb company comes up again and again as the best choice. I now cast my vote with those who have come before, Ortlieb is the best! For long tours the Roller Plus or classic seem to be the best way to go. The most important feature in any storage bag for any trip is durability and waterproofing and these bags pass with flying colors. I have been through driving rain, light hail, crashes both on and off road and been hit by a bus. These have suffered zero structural damage and maintained their waterproofing. There are a few cosmetic marks from soot and dirt but a bit of soap solves this problem quickly. The attachment system is simple and convenient. It can be quickly adjusted to easily fit most any bike rack. Not only are they simple to put on and take off but they are also very convenient to carry around as they provide a shoulder sling for the bags.

Tent

Stoic Arx Xl 2

I greatly enjoy backpacking and camping so I spent a long time picking the tent for this trip. In the end I settled on the Stoic Arx XL 2 tent for several reasons. First of all its a fairly light tent,   with everything packed it weighs a total of 4lbs 11 oz. It sets up quick and easy and breaks down just as fast. The only real downside is that it does not come with a footprint which I would suggest getting. While this tent has proven to be wonderful we have not had to use it on this trip due to the overwhelming generosity of the CouchSurfing and WarmShowers communities.

Clothing

Sarah and I each have a varied assortment of clothing, and rain gear I will just briefly highlight a few companies that I really enjoy

Mountain Hardware

The people over at Mountain Hardware make excellent gear for nearly every situation. I personally have three of their products with me along for this trip. The Pac-lite shell, the Micro Grid zip tee Fleece and the Micro Power Stretch zip tee Base Layer . Each of these products have functioned perfectly and I have been through some pretty rough weather so far. In addition to great performance the company stands behind their products and work with any complaints very quickly and often will outright replace the product if they are unable to repair it. I have had a great relationship with Mountain Hardware and encourage anyone undertaking any sort of expedition to use them.

This is a great company from New Zealand. They specialize in Merino wool products and they are all amazing. I have two of their GT200 Chase shirts and they are amazing. The wool is soft, very warm wicks sweat and moisture away  and is antimicrobial so for those trips where you haven’t seen running water for days and thus no bathing, these shirts don’t smell.Another interesting thing about the site is that there is a code associated with every garment and you can put that into the website and track precisely where the wool came from.  I strongly suggest any of IceBreakers clothing for warmth, comfort and adventure.

I have two pairs of their bike shorts and a fabulous wind breaker. They have all served me fabulously over the course of 1600 miles. There are tons of reviews and sites on how to pick a pair of bike shorts. I am not going to get into it, go find those sites and read them. In the end though pearl iZumi makes a good pair. As for the windbreaker its fabulous. It packs down to the size of a soda can, its highly florescent and can be seen from several hundred meters and keeps off wind and light rain.  Again Pearl iZumi, good stuff.

Well thats the short version. More reviews and other thoughts to follow. Thanks, cheers everyone.

Phil

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Posted on 25 November 2011, in Providence to New Orleans, Reviews. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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