Right Stuff de Rigueur

BICYCLE TOURING 

985 words

Title: Right Stuff de Rigueur; Terry Connellan

Right Stuff de Rigueur

Having the right tires and enough gears is critical 
for touring backroads. For pavement, I recommend 
a tire width of 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 inches; for dirt or gravel 
1-1/2 to 1-3/4 inches, and opt for smooth non-knobby 
treads. 

It is common to encounter grades of 6 to 12 per cent, 
so on a bike weighing over a hundred pounds, fully 
loaded, a low gear of 18 inches, or less, is a necessity. 
It doesn't matter if the bike has 15, 18, 21, or 24 speeds, 
what matters is the lowest gear. 

To calculate gear-inches, count the number of teeth 
on the smallest front sprocket, put that number over 
the number of teeth on the largest rear sprocket, and 
multiply that fraction by the diameter of your wheel 
(700 mm is the same as 27 inches.) The resulting 
number is your low gear. 
          
Any good local shops will give you lower gearing by 
selling you, and installing, either a smaller front sprocket 
(chain ring,) or a larger rear cassette (group of sprockets.) 
The poor shops will give you a blank look or worse, 
the rule is; if you don't get a solution, go elsewhere. This 
is also a good time to switch tires, and make any other 
modifications.   
         
Straight handlebars on mountain bikes are perfect for 
hauling the front end up and over logs and rocks on 
the trail but are hell on the backside on long rides. 
Fortunately they can be replaced by "drop bars" 
or modified by cutting them to 20 inches or so, and adding 
"steer horns" to give you a variety of hand and body positions. 

Blackburn racks are the accepted standard in the industry, 
and are fully guaranteed. I had a"low rider" front rack break 
after 12 years and 50,000 kms of use. It was replaced without 
cost or delay. Add a rear view mirror and your bike is ready 
to go touring. 
         
Knowledge is power. You've heard or read that adage. 
John Foresters book, Effective Cycling, is the bible of 
bicycling, and next to your helmet and bicycle the most 
important investment you can make. The publisher is; 
The MIT Press, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 
This may be the best twenty bucks you'll ever spend. 
But why settle for less? 
         
Extended riding relies on a balance of weight between 
the hands, seat, and feet. Riding gloves begin at around 
$9, and if their padded palms aren't enough, add foam 
to your handlebars. Eight-panel Lycra cycling shorts with 
a chamois crotch liner are the best and will cost upwards 
of $35. Expect to pay $45-$90 for good shoes with the 
necessary stiff soles. If you try to tour in runners you'll 
only do it once. 

Seasoned cyclists have a term for people who don't 
wear helmets: organ donors. I'm on my third highly 
rated Bell helmet   (it replaced one that broke my fall 
when the shell and the foam liner broke, and I suffered 
a small cut. Had I not been wearing it, you wouldn't be 
reading this.) Shop around, the Image model sells 
for between $65 and $90, depending on the shop. 

Now let's talk wardrobe with the emphasis on panache 
and debonair. Around here I wear a $165 Goretex cycling 
jacket, very stylish and Hi-Tech. When I leave on my 
summer travels of 4,000 plus kilometres it's time to get 
serious. 

At the end of a day's ride I do a complete wardrobe 
change into my "pajamas," operating room "blues" 
that look like they've been liberated from a hospital. 
I've just acquired my second rain suit  (bright yellow 
jacket, olive green pants) from a thrift shop for just 
under $10. My tasteful, blue on blue, nylon shell jacket 
and pants also came from there ($6) as did my 
"dress-up pants" of dark blue, two-way stretch 
polyester at $5. 

Thrift shops are a cyclists' Eldorado but because 
I have a suave image to maintain, let's keep this 
between ourselves. 

So your bike is "geared and tired," and you're 
"dressed to the nines," now where do you sleep 
and eat, and what do you call those bags you 
see on bikes? 

Invest in a Youth Hostel membership (yes, even 
for this over 60 year-old.) In B.C. there's a growing 
list of well-located, clean, low-cost hostels. Add 
to this a free-standing tent, a Thermo-rest self-inflating 
mattress, and a +15 degree sleeping bag. A valuable 
addition is a sleep sheet (obtainable at a hostel for 
$15). An effective pillow is the liner from a four-litre 
box of white wine. 

Restaurants never seem to be handy when I'm 
hungry and I don't like trail mix, so I carry and cook 
my own food. Breakfast is usually a porridge of my 
own mix of various cereals, brans, and raisins. Lunch, 
a giant lettuce and cheese sandwich; for supper an 
ichi ban pack of noodles with a can of salmon, or 
tuna. 

I have a wonderful stainless steel coffee maker that 
makes a 16 oz. cup, or when re-configured will steam 
an equal amount of green vegetables to add to the 
east. I never light campfires so my cooking is done 
over a Coleman Peak 1 that will boil a litre of water 
in four minutes burning un-leaded regular gas. 

Panniers, that's what those bags are called. Buy 
good ones because "el cheapos" will make your 
life miserable. The Mountain Equipment Co-op 
across Canada sells their own brand of Serratus 
bags. I have a set that started out touring with me 
bright red, over 50,000 kilometers ago, they're 
now a well-bleached pink. The ultimate panniers 
are made by Ortlieb. They are waterproof and 
virtually indestructible.
                                   
Terry Connellan spends a good part of the year 
touring on a fully- loaded bicycle, and writing about 
it. In the past 16 years, Terry has ridden more 
than 120,000 kilometres, over 77,000 of them through 
both territories and every province but Newfoundland, 
plus the more interesting parts of the U.S.A. 


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