Shopping for My Bike Tour

I am in pretty good shape in terms of gear for my bike tour. I don’t plan on cooking so I don’t have to bring a stove or a pot and that sort of stuff. There are a few things I know I need and one that I might experiment with.

  • Panniers: I have been using Ortlieb roll top panniers for over ten years. I have big ones for the rear and small ones for the front. They are fantastic. Basically they are a big waterproof bag. I am on my second set of rear panniers and they are starting to leak. I think I bought them less than 5 years ago and am trying to get them replaced under warranty. Not many people use the same panniers day in day out for 200+ days a year like I do. So we’ll see if I can get them for free regardless. Otherwise, I need to buy new ones.


  • Sleeping pad: I bought a 3/4ths length Thermarest self inflating sleeping pad about 12 years ago. It might be useful for a ten year old but I have never been able to sleep on it. This caused a bit of a problem when you’ve just ridden a tank for 90 miles and you’re body needs rest. My friend Michelle recently did some backpacking in Shenandoah National Park and raved about her REI sleeping pad so I bought one. ┬áIt’s more than twice as thick as the Thermarest and it’s 6 feet long. It is a little narrow. I am optimistic. Thanks, Michelle.

  • Mirror: I use a mirror on my recumbent. I really like it. In fact, for a while, I used two but this makes my wingspan a bit too wide for riding on trails as I do around home. The mirror on my recumbent attaches to the end of the handlebar. I can’t do that on The Mule, my touring bike, because it has bar end shifters. So I either have to use a mirror attached to my helmet or some other type. I don’t much like either but the Adventure Cycling Association sells a couple that I might give a tryout to this summer.
  • Tires: I might buy new tires. I usually use Schwalbe Marathons because they are very puncture resistant. They also last a really long time. The front one on The Mule is a Marathon Plus which is more resistant. It probably has 3,000 miles on it. Just to be safe., I will take a folding spare along just in case. (I had a tour ruined by a tire failure.)

Pre-tour Dry Run in Front

It is the last week of April. The weatherman didn’t get the memo. It was in the 40s when I left the house. I couldn’t bring myself to wear long pants. Suffice it to say, I was cold most of the way to work. I am less than two weeks away from the start of a week-long bike tour from Pittsburgh to DC so I thought it would be a good idea to try out the front low-rider rack on The Mule.

The front rack made by Tubus has wider diameter tubing than my old Blackburn rack. Since the attachment hardware on my panniers cannot easily be switched from one tube diameter to another, I have a set of small Ortlieb roll top panniers set up for use on the front rack. To my surprise they hold very little stuff. I could just fit my work clothes, shoes and a U-lock.

Front panniers for first time

The steering was sluggish. The Mule’s steers like a bus anyway so I didn’t have to make much of an adjustment.

Between the cold and the increasing foliage, I was in the zone for most of the ride. I totally forgot about the Tulane bald eagle nest. The Belle Haven nest has two ospreys near it.

The ride to Rosslyn happened without notice. It was one of those “How did I get here” rides. The Intersection of Doom was another story entirely. Bikes and runners and walkers and cars were going every which way. How I managed to get through it all without a collision is beyond me. A guy on a bike passed me on the sidewalk approaching 19th street. As he did I noticed the walk count down was at 2 seconds. He accelerated into the crosswalk in front of cars waiting to turn right. Dude, you’re gonna die young if you ride like that.

The ride home was about 15 degrees warmer. It didn’t feel like it though. As I approached the turn off for the Memorial Bridge, I noticed a big group of loaded bike tourists turning to cross the Parkway. I quickly pulled out my camera, aimed, and….beep. “Battery Exhausted.” So you’ll have to take my word for it.

I continued south toward home with a pleasant tailwind. Climbing up one of the flyover bridges at National Airport I was stirred from my trance by a “Hi John!” It was Sam from Friday Coffee Club. By the time I realized it was her she was almost past me. So for the record, “Hi Sam.”

I remembered to stop at the Tulane nest. It is barely visible now. The leaves on the trees obscure the view from the trail. I have landmarks picked out so I will still be able to see it once the trees finish getting their foliage.

One other odd thing happened. When I got home and unpacked my cell phone was warm. It turns out that it was in a very tightly packed pannier with no air circulation. I’ll have to make sure I don’t repeat this mistake during the tour.

So not a bad start to the work week. And one little detail checked off the pre-tour list.