Right Stuff de Rigueur
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Back to Bicycle Touring
Back to Home page