With everything on bar her down jacket, sleeping bag and the tent – Choices and Carrying things

It’s rained overnight, then because we’re above 4000m, it froze.  We’ve camped in what turns out to be the shady side of the valley, so there’s no sun to help us pack.  Sarah starts a downhill day (wonders!) with everything on bar her down jacket, her sleeping bag and the tent.  No regrets at having carried these things through the tropics, and we’re warm enough to enjoy ourselves.  Successful reckoning, perhaps?

Why carry these if you don't use them - ample opportunity above 4000m with nothing much to stop the wind - Lago Junín

Before we began this trip, though our planning didn’t get far beyond choosing a continent and the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route to set us off, we had given some thought to our kit.  Actually it mostly involved a lot of tent research and packing the outdoor gear we already used for Tasmanian bushwalking – minus the gaiters..  I fiddled away quite a few hours on the bike-related stuff, which only came together in Calgary when I built my bike in our friends backyard.

Even now we’ve been at this game a while, and have actually met a few other cycle tourists, we still don’t think we fit into a particular mould.  Maybe that’s the whole point – there is no set way of doing things.

Dagmar and Mete are in for the long haul - 3-5 years all over the world they tell us. Lots of gear, but enjoying it all

We’ve met cyclists carrying what seems like enough stuff for several people – and benefited when circumstances prompted a bit of down-sizing.  We’ve also hauled our bikes up cow-tracks with those that started with lots less than me.  He (Joe, you know who I’m talking about) then proudly announces that he’s managed to leave yet more stuff behind at the last hotel.  Somewhere there’s a mounting list.  I don’t have any argument at all – the ability to pick my bike up and carry it on my back past boulder fields with bar-bag sized rocks would be lovely!  We spent quite a lot of time in the States pointing out that a pan-continental trip was bit different to a couple of weeks ‘bike-packing’ (the term for this ultra-light bicycle travel).  They were very polite.

The Pugs in its glory. "Bikepacking" means light-weight and all non-essentials at home. It does mean that multi-day stretches between food sources lead to going hungry and catching up in towns...

We have got ‘buenas bicis’ though – components and other bits and pieces that we’re told should ‘last the trip’.  Even in the relatively small world of cycle touring, the majority of people get swayed by the ‘things you should have’.  Tyres (Schwalbes), Saddles (Brooks England), Frames (Thorn if you’re English), Steel frame if you’re not European – they like Aluminium, Hubs (Rohloff internal geared, if you can afford it).  The list goes on – all much debated (http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/forum/?o=1r4vFZo).

We’ve also met people doing the same thing as us on so much less – money/bike/kit.  At Mayapedal (Guatemala) we built a bike for a guy who wanted to cycle to Colombia – he turned up and strapped his (huge) backpack on the back and off he went.  Recently we met Eugenio and Angus.  They are having a ball – complete with inflatable surf mat, flippers and wetsuit.  Some plastic sheeting, a pair of scissors and duct tape soon produces rain covers for it all.  They did admit that having a stove, a water filter and a functional pump could be useful.  It would also be easier to fix broken spokes if you’ve got a hypercracker.  But, they’re testament to what you can get away with.

This is how a journey begins - leaving Mayapedal with a $60 bike
It all fits in - the boys heading for the Amazon and points north
A bit back heavy - lots of broken spokes - going to be great when Angus finds some ocean to surf in :-)

(It probably helps to be 23 and strong too…)

The best bit about all of this is that we’re all out here doing this, and living it our way.  Sometimes it’s good to ‘be prepared’ – it’s also good to see other styles and adapt a bit.  I really want bigger, fatter tyres having trailed behind Joe…

Ivan and his friends on their first multiday tour. A bit soggy round the edges and bemoaning a sub-functional pump, but raving about things done and to come

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