Out with the old. In with the new.
Or in some cases, out with the new, and in with the old.
My mum’s recent visit allowed some tweaking of gear. Until I knuckle down to writing a full packlist, here’s a brief breakdown of the swapshop. And check out Joe’s choices for what a minimal, long distance packlist could look like if travelling in these Andean parts.
Not exactly gear, but I LOVE Marmite. The glass jar is heavy, but this elixir is more valuable than gold dust, so I’ll enjoy it while I have it.
As if sensing its own doom, one of the rails on the WTB broke the day before I reached Caraz. Which was just as well, really. I’ve been looking forward to this particular swap for some time… I don’t wear padded shorts, so a comfortable perch is pretty darn important. The stock WTB model on my Ogre wasn’t that, to say the least. (I much prefer their Speed and Rocket Vs). In the meantime, this is one of my old saddles from home. It’s a Selle Italia, and if I’m not mistaken, it’s actually a lady’s model. Works for me!
I normally carry a cable and padlock – the theory being that this is a relatively light but versatile setup. I can replace shonky guesthouse locks with my own, or make use of a locker in a hostel. But the reality is that my bike is rarely left unnatended – I’ve needed a lock twice since leaving Quito. If I’m in a city, I’ll store my bike in a guesthouse – generally in my room. If I’m camping, I’ll tie it to my tent – should anyone tries to grab it in the night, they’ll wake me up. So… I’m shedding at least 500g by replacing it with this little wire cable lock. I’ve no illusions that it will delay even the most bumbling of professional of thieves… but it will be useful when I’m darting into a grocery shop for a resupply, to deter opportunists.
You can’t beat Dr Bronner’s Magic All in One Soap and a splash of tea tree for all your hygenic needs. Dr Bronner is concentrated stuff, so these super compact 2oz bottles seem to last an age. I like the peppermint flavour.
I also needed a new seal for my Trangia, which I run with the excellent Clikstand. Alcohol stoves are wonderful robust and low tech. One aspect of the Trangia I like – and which justifies its extra weight compared to a homemade coke can cooker – is the fact that it has a screw top closure. This is handy for both overnight trips – I just fill the stove and without the need to carry a fuel bottle – and for storing alcohol that’s not burned. However, after several years of rugged use, the seal had begun to degrade, causing the threads to leak alcohol when packed away – which has now been dealt with for just a couple of dollars. Incidentally, denatured alcohol is called alcohol industrial in these parts, and found in better stocked hardware stores – ferreterias.
Trawling through the internet unearthed this 11-34T Sram cassette on special at on-one.co.uk. With my lightweight setup, I’ve been fine with my current 11-32T, but a couple of extra teeth are no bad thing when riding a 29er. It’s mated to a new chain, which should see me through for the foreseeable future – a Sram too, for its ease of removal with its quick link.
Mud clearance is inevitably tight on a 29er, with such big wheels to cram into the frame. The do-it-all Deore model that came with the Ogre was big and bulky, so I’ve replaced it with a more svelte, old school XT model. Running derailleurs has worked out fine (I’ve had a few minor issues with sticky freehubs), but as an owner of a Rohloff, I’ll be rebuilding the wheel and moving it over when I next get the chance. As a wheel-related note, I’ve been really pleased with the Sun Rhyno Lites – they’ve stayed remarkably true.
On an internet roll, I found these full fingered gloves on special too. I’ve had a pair before, and while they’re not padded, I like them – probably the way they look more than anything else. They’ll be good for cooler days, and at $7, I can always cut off the fingers and transform them into mitts if things heat up. I tend to prefer fingerless gloves for taking photos.
New shoes. Almost. My current ones (see above) are hanging to life by but a few thin threads – note gaping toe box hole. Sadly, the perils of ordering online meant my replacement pair were too small, even though I chose the same brand (Shimano). Unlike many tourers, I prefer to ride in ‘proper’, stiff soled mountain biking shoes, despite how impractical they are for around town. I figure most of my time is on the bike, so that’s where I want to feel best. Next time, I’d chose a model with a ‘soft’ rubber sole – rather than the hard rubber on the ones I have now – which should make them better suited to hike ‘n bikes. Sometimes I think about going back to platform pedals (I’ve always liked the look of these MKS Lambdas) – but I always miss SPDs when I do.
My old pair of Ergon GP1s had completely worn out, so I was delighted to get my hands on a new pair, as it were. For riding with a rigid setup, I find these grips are a must. I favour the smaller size, as they feel better suited to mountain biking. Highly recommended.
Although the Micro Shift thumshifters that came on my demo Ogre are doing just fine, I’ve swapped them out for Dura Ace levers and SJS thumb shifter brackets (for US residents, Velo Orange do something similar). The advantage of the 9 speed Dura Aces is that you can run them with 8 speed cassettes on friction setting – handy if that’s the only cassette and chain available, or if I want to save some cash over more spendy 9 speed parts. From what I understand, they’ll even run with a 7 speed cassette (with an extra spacer), making them super versatile for travel.
Riding a 29er means I have to be more forward thinking when it comes to tyres, especially in Peru, where Lima is the only place they can be found. I’ve been pleased with my cheap and cheerful CST Caballeros, but they’re getting to the replacement stage. Taking advantage of another On One offer, I snapped up these relatively light Geax Aka 2.2’s for $25 each. They fold too, which is a lot more practical than the wire-beaded Caballeros. I’ve also been carrying an extra Schwalbe Marathon Dureme, running it at the rear to pep up speed on pavement, and save wear on my knobbly mountain bike tyres. This method has worked fine, and now I’ve also added a second spare. I’ve found Duremes perfectly adequate for most dirt road conditions, so I imagine I’ll leave them on for much of the time, saving my mountain bike tyres for harsher terrain and singletrack side trips. It’s an extra 600g to carry, but I have the space now that all my tyres are folders.
Scott at Porcelain Rocket kindly built me an uber-large front pouch, to better fit my camera. I’m in two minds as to what camera system I like to use when travelling. I love the quality inherent in a fully-fledged DSLR, and I find it better for action photography too – but I bemoan its bulk and weight. I expect I’ll revert to my Lumix mirrorless setup when I next travel, especially if I invest in a few key lenses that have recently become available – namely a fast wide angle and portrait len. In terms of making cash, I’ve had photos published with my Lumix that I’ve been very pleased with – but overall, I have to say I’m still more confident of getting the results with a DSLR. If revenue sources aren’t a concern, I think mirrorless systems offer by far the best creative solutions for their weight – and if any interchangeable lens system seems like too much to carry, then the little Sony RX100 looks to be a great contender.
Unfortunately, I lost my Favourite Top in the World – Ground Effect’s Robin Hood, made from a merino blend, with an cosmonaut-like hood that fit snugly under my helmet for chilly descents. An old, coveted and somewhat luxurious Rapha cycling jersey replaces it, supplented with some new rasta Sockguy ‘arms’ for those cold Altiplano mornings; quickly rolled down when conditions warm up. I favour wool or merino for their odour-staving abilities. Money quandaries aside, I have to say that Rapha stuff looks sharp, fits well, and really lasts.
The Cordillera Blanca abounds with hiking (and hike n’ biking), so I asked my mum to bring me out my Vibram FiveFingers, aka my monkey shoes – I have the tougher-soled KSO model. I love being bare foot and these lightweight, flexible shoes are as close as you get without slicing up your soles. Effectively gloves for the feet, they inspire me to run – as does the excellent and appropriately titled book Born to Run. The only issue I have with FiveFingers is that the accompanying toe socks are a pain to put on. As a result, I end up going sockless – which makes for much stinkyness. A key component in my wardrobe, I’ve worn leggings for many years now, despite them doing out, and in, and out of fashion. I don’t pack trousers when touring, so thick leggings keep me toasty warm, worn over thermal leggings with a pair of shorts in times of cold. The pair above was just a couple of dollars, sold on a street corner in Huaraz. I don’t care what you say – I like them.
Talking about the perils of street litter, this is what you have to look out for on the streets of Huaraz…
Oh dear, every time I see one of your wishlists I need to check my credit card… I hadn’t seen that new Sony camera before, it looks amazing.
BTW, I think the Rapha fashion police may have something to say about wearing that top on a mountain bike, its just not right 😉
Please let me know what it’s like if you succumb!
That Rapha jersey was from back in my C+ days. It’s been to China (not just at time of manufacture), so it’s actually stood up pretty well. I considered the blasphemous act of cutting off the arms…
Jeez, don’t go cutting off the arms, you’ll give Rapha ideas – they’ll market them as hipster wife-beaters at twice the price….
Hipster wife-beaters. That’s an image!
Cut ’em off. I very much enjoy a well written gear list. Apart and separate from the narrative, the gear is the essence of the truth of a journey. The tools never lie.
In a frenzy of uneven scissoring, sleeves have gone, as have fingers on gloves.
I like the way a gear list focuses you on exactly what you have, in plain black and white; a good way of sorting the wheat from the chaff.
This is a fun note, Cass. For what it’s worth, I’ve been very pleased with the MKS Lambda pedals: they were on my LHT in the Middle East and then the Pugs in AK and South America. Still no play or catch in the bearings after all that. The grippy and wide platform has been great with all kinds of footwear.
I’m a bit ambivalent about SPD’s. I’ve done long tours with them, too, and loved the connected feel and never much minded the hard soled Sidi racergeek shoes (except for semi-serious hiking, as you’ve indicated). But having one pair of everything shoes and then one pair of flip flops is just so enticing. I’ve tried many, but haven’t found a pair of soft-rubber SPD compatible shoes that don’t flex so much that they leave my feet achy; will be curious what you come up with.
Ever been caught out finding fuel for the Trangia? My guilty secret, given that I try to travel ultra light, is that I’d been using a ridiculously portly MSR XGK because it was what I had and I was too stubborn to replace it. I solved that problem by giving it away to some young mountaineers in Buenos Aires! I had imagined going with the old standard whisperlight international — alas, the whole world has gas stations — but am intrigued by alcohol fuel stoves.
Rob English’s mum keeps me stocked on the marmite front!
Joe, the only way I have found to rid myself of the things I can’t get rid of is to give them to someone who needs (or think they need) them. The spirit of the gift imbues it with a kind of magic, maybe, and my load becomes lighter, which is a kind of real magic.
Definitely – and finding new homes for possessions is very satisfying.
Right on, TJ. A good piece of wisdom to inspire.
I’ve yet to be caught out with the Trangia. Sometimes finding fuel takes persistent enquiries, and leads you to parts of town otherwise unknown – that’s part of the Trangia experience. I noticed a lot of Brits use this system; swapping notes on the best place to buy denatured alcohol is a kind of bonding ritual.
One of my biking buddies here is going to show me a place where they can vulcanize a new bit of grip for my shoes – only in Peru!
I’m a big fan of FiveFingers for running/hiking (you need to check your second toe isn’t abnormally long though). If I didn’t have extended hiking plans, I’d go with Crocs as my second pair. They make a pretty good ultralight all rounder I find – and they’re cosy with thick socks.
Interesting to hear about finding fuel. I’ll continue to give some thought to giving an alcohol stove a try.
Yeah, Crocs, super comfy and versatile. I’ve so often brought them, but I hate being such a fashion disaster. I mean, sure, we’re cycletourists and all, but seriously…
Do you really not bring any trousers? Gotta wrap my head around that one. I’ve packed Prana’s Stretch Zion pants for years.
ps. Sorry for all the gear nerd enthusiasm I’m exhibiting here. Do know that I appreciate your photography and writing way more than kit lists.
I’ve given up buying Crocs as I’ve lost too many, and paid too much. But I can live with the fashion faux pas.
I’m a jeans or shorts kind of guy. And my jeans, at 664g (http://whileoutriding.com/2009/06/23/electronic-gizmos-and-a-decent-pair-of-jeans/) sadly had to go…
hi cass regarding your broken seat. do you you think using a big seat pack had anything to do with it. i have always thought those big seat packs put the seat and seatpost under alot of stress, which has put me off using one.
Possible, but I haven’t heard it to be a problem generally. I think that saddle was a cheap stock model. I think it was probably down to rough roads, and excessive use.
I’ve broken saddles before, in the same place, without running a seatpack. Maybe I need to lose some weight!
Cass, after years of sticking with film cameras for travel photography I caved in and bought an Olympus OM-D EM5 and it’s fantastic. Light, compact and I’m finding it capable of doing everything a D-SLR can do in a more compact package. You might want to check it out if you plan on upgrading at some point. it fits nicely in saddle bags even with a couple of lenses ( takes the Panasonic ones too ).It’s not as tiny as the Sony of course but doesn’t sacrifice any big camera versatility and still allows you to pick your own lenses. Big advantage over the Sony? The built in EVF anytime you’re outside in bright sunlight and you can set it up ( program it ) however you like.
Most ‘touring’ cameras fall short in some way or another but this one ticks off all the boxes.The kit zoom is much, much better than you’d expect with an amazing macro setting AND the icing on the cake… it’s dust proof and splash proof.Leave your D-SLR behind and get one of these!
Thanks for the commment Steve. I’m glad to hear the OMD is working out for you – I’ve heard great things about it. It’s on my wishlist, but as I own already a Panasonic GH2, it’s hard to justify upgrading quite yet… The GH3 is due out soon, so no doubt I’ll be lusting over that too…
What lenses did you invest in?
I very much agree though – the M43 system (or other mirrorless cameras) offer the ideal solution to bicycle tourists looking for great image quality without the heft of a DSLR.
I bought the OMD with the kit zoom as mentioned it’s a 12-50 Zuiko ( 24 to 100 equiv.) with a Macro setting that is giving me results that compare with a true Macro lens. I also bought the 45mm 1.8 which weighs next to nothing and is good for low light or de-focusing a background. With these two lenses you’re all set really unless you need a long tele. Just returned to Japan from a trip to the U.K. and gave the camera system a good workout. I have a Leica which stayed in the bag because I was enjoying the lightweight and ease of operation of the OMD outfit.
I usually hate special effects but the built in dramatic filter is SO good for landscapes!
You have certainly been getting your money’s worth out of your GH2. Biking and travel photography are great partners as proved by all your images on this site.
It looks like Panasonic’s 12-35 (24-70mm) is a nice one too – though on the more pricey side. I’d be really interested to try out the OM-D some time.
OM -D takes a few days and some patience to set up the menus but once you get past that, it’s a dream to use and you just find yourself getting on with taking pictures.It goes on all my bike trips now, long or short.Have used tons of cameras in my time but they just seemed to get the design right on this one.It doesn’t get in the way of what you’re doing but still bags the shots.Worth the money if you can afford it somehow.
Thanks for the feedback Steve.
I’m curious as to how the weatherproof GH3 is going to turn out too.