Bikes & camping gear
Cycle Touring Vancouver Island
People are very interested in bikes, biking gear and camping gear for cycle touring. So, I've shared a little info on what I've used, and my experiences over the years - what has worked for me, and not worked. Over a lot of tours in a lot of places, I've gone through a whole bunch of lessons learned.
The sharp-eyed may note from the photos that none of the bikes have clip-in pedals. I rode with clip-ins for some years, but eventually concluded I preferred platform pedals, which have gotten really grippy in recent years. I'm an outlier here. There's a bunch of reasons for this, but it's a much debated (sometimes passionately) issue that's best left to another time and place.
I have not included my Trek Domane carbon road bike here, as I don't really use it for cycle touring (although I do occasional lightweight highway overnighters). But I do want to note it here, so I don't hurt its feelings.
My first really good touring bike, a Jeff Bock (senior Rivendell builder - see more below). Crossing one of many rivers in a local canoe, making my way down the wild NE coast of Madagascar. I still use this for some trips, including my Iran tour a few years past.
I started bike touring close to 20 years past, after I came back from my years working overseas. My first serious bike was a Trek 520, which I took on rides up to the Yukon & Northwest Territories. But the 520 didn't hold onto me (particularly the geometry) as I got more serious and experienced.
See links below to pages on my touring bikes. I still have dreams about one or 2 further additions. My latest bike, a 29" Surly ECR Bikepacker on plus sized tires, has had some unexpected impacts on my thinking, on several levels (read more in the ECR page linked below).
And check out the page on my assessment of some key camping gear - tents, stoves, water purifiers, keeping warm, etc. I estimate I've spent well over 500 nights out camping over the past 20 years, most of it on Vancouver Island & the Sunshine Coast. I've had some pretty good gear failures and successes. The last camping page, 'Staying dry & warm', also talks a little about staying dry & warm while on the bike (dream on...).
At the bottom of this page, below the page links below, I talk about a few key bike parts and brands that have really worked for me when touring.
Bike & camping gear - discussions
Below is a guide to the other pages in this 'My bikes & gear' section. Click on the pics to jump to the pages.
Let me finish off this page with some thoughts on a few bike things I particularly like and have come to rely upon.
I'm a huge fan of Brooks leather saddles, though one does have to break them in.
For years, after some painful lessons, I've come to rely on Schwalbe tires, particularly their touring lines with high levels of puncture protection. There's a modest weight trade off here, as that protection comes in part from extra rubber. If you meet other cycle tourists in remote corners of the world, odds are they may be using Schwalbe tires.
Update here - Schwalbe does not make good 29+ ("fat") tires yet, so I need to find the best 29"+ (2.5" or 3") tires for backroads touring on my ECR. I'm trialing some Surly 2.5" Extra Terrestrials, with a good impression
I use both flat bars and drop bars, depending on the bike and the ride. Given my increasing focus on rougher road riding, I've been using flat bars most often in recent years. I use bar ends with flat bars, to give an extra hand position. I also use Ergon grips, which give you one extra position for resting the heel of your hands.
Another update: my new ECR has Jones 'H Bars' which have a real back sweep to the design - and I'm loving them. I've put Ergon grips on. See ECR page.
I have a Rohloff hub on my Thorn, and have become a real believer. I've taken it on some grand rides, and pounded the #%! out of it. At some point, I'll put a rohloff on my ECR, though they are expensive.
I've been touring years with a Schmidt dynohub. They're as tough as mountain bike hubs. Once in a blue moon, I get into a situation where I need to ride through darkness; having a dynohub means that lighting is not dependent on batteries. In recent years, the quality of the dynohub lights has improved dramatically.
I've now added a dynohub front wheel for my ECR.
For some years now, I've used a Sinewave battery recharger, with USB outlet, nestled inside my front stem on the Thorn. This means I can keep my phone, e-reader or camera at a basic charge level.
In terms of resourcefulness and originality, I can't resist sharing this picture, received from Jeff of Errington, who ran into troubles when his tube patches were not working as they should on a backroads ride north from Port Alberni to Comox Lake.
His leafy solution here enabled him to limp his way along to Cumberland and a fix at the local bike shop.
My new Surly ECR 29er has been a little disruptive, forcing me to consider lighter packing options and new parts such as plus sized tires. Here along the upper Oyster River