Surly + Big Agnes = Pedal Powered RV

On Monday I wrote about some of my favorite touring items from inside my panniers. Today I cover the bigger ticket components of my tour: Bike, tent, shoes and, of course CAMERA!

Next super nerdy gear post will be about how I approach food.

If these gear posts make you want to take a nap, I apologize. I get lots of emails about nuts and bolts stuff like this so I’ve vowed to do a better job this year publicizing the more boring how-to components of my adventures.

And, don’t worry, I’m sure there’s some good drama on the way shortly. :) In the meantime, you can get a quick fix by hitting the Rapha Blog to read my first post there. It’s about Tina Brubaker and Michael Jackson. How can you go wrong?

Bike: Surly Long Haul Trucker

Boom! I bought this bike from Seven Corners Cycles (go see Corey, he is super awesome) last summer the day before I was set to leave for a tour. My retro-fitted cyclocross arrangement had failed its test ride miserably and I was in a panic. The Surly had always been my emergency backup plan so I pulled the trigger. The next day I got on and rode 124 miles from Portland to just past Detroit, OR.

Let’s be clear about one thing: this bike is HEAVY. And with the rigors and repetition of long touring miles, the ideal solution is probably a custom steel bike. But in terms of access to entry? The Surly will get you up and cyclo-touring for right around $1200 out the door. That’s awesome! Huge value.

Also, it’s mad-crazy rock solid. Big and burly and safe and stable. Bulletproof.

We are bonded for life for many reasons, not least of which is the fact that this bike has a good soul. I know that’s just spiritual mumbo-jumbo and not real bike review material, but it’s true. And it’s the same reason that I bought the house I live in. Good bones. A feeling. Gut.

This bike has 26″ wheels which is sort of awesome when you start thinking about traveling in other parts of the world…

Tent: Big Agnes Copper Spur Tent

I’m going with the use-what-you-got theory this time around so there are a few things that aren’t ideal, but will be fine. For instance, I’m carrying our 3-man Big Agnes Copper Spur tent even though it’s overkill from a size perspective – still working on getting an lightweight single-person option. Even though it’s more tent than I really need, the Copper Spur is lighter than a lot of smaller tents out there and performs well (I think they claim a packed weight of 4lb 12oz, which is impressive for a 3-person tent but the one-man version is almost 2 pounds lighter!).

Camping (with bears) on the southern tip of Anderson Lake in British Columbia.

Camping (with bears) on the southern tip of Anderson Lake in British Columbia.

I selected this tent for a number of reasons, but one of my less obvious criteria was that I get a tent with a neutral-toned rainfly to keep me camouflaged in the event that I might need to *ahem* hobo camp somewhere in an emergency. This tent’s fly is a nice light-tan-green tone that blends in nicely with natural surroundings when necessary.

I picked this up after a few months of agonizing research during one of REI’s 20% off member sales last year and used my dividend. I feel like it was money well spent even though it was a bit of a stretch ($400 AFTER the 20% discount).

*This tent won an Editor’s Choice Award from Backpacker Magazine in 2008.

Shoes: Sidi Dragon 2 Carbon SRS

You do not need shoes that are this fancy for bike touring, that’s for sure. And many people prefer to tour in regular tennis shoes with cages so they can hike or walk around with greater ease. So far, for me, that hasn’t been a priority (I prefer to get up with the sun and ride until almost dusk – I’d just rather be on my bike).

Since I spend almost all day in the saddle, I’ve chosen to ride in good mountain biking shoes so I can still walk around without clip-clopping but get a nice snug fit, stiff sole and good power transfer while I’m pedaling. (When I embark on a multi-year bike journey, I’ll probably opt for tennis shoes so I can do more off-bike exploring.)

These shoes also came to me through the Sidi sponsorship of the 2009 Wend Cyclocross Diaries (this is also part of the use-what-you-got approach), but I didn’t get them until the very end of the season, so they didn’t see active duty until my Central Oregon and British Columbia tours last August (2010).

I’ve always been a fan of Sidi because the fit and form work well for my long, skinny feet and the quality is hard to beat (I’ve had my original road Sidis for more than 10 years now and they will not die.) The Dragon is no exception and I’ve had nothing but good performance out of them whether touring or ‘crossing. They’re light, stiff and durable. The boa adjuster at the mid forefoot is probably my favorite feature – it gives a consistently snug fit every time.

Camera: Lumix DMC-LX3 and iPhone4

I get asked about this one a lot. Last year I went looking for a point-and-shoot to carry with me on the bike and I ended up with the Lumix DMC-LX3. I ultimately bought it for these main reasons:

  • It’s fast (2.0) and has super high-quality, wide glass (Leica)
  • It has pretty amazing manual controls and little features like flash intensity adjustment and on-the-fly exposure adjustment
  • It got great reviews from other photographer friends

(This camera is specifically aimed at DSLR users who are looking for a compact camera to complement their existing SLR gear.)

It also looks really fucking sweet.

I’ve been happy with it though I’d say that there are a few drawbacks worth noting:

  • Lens cap can be annoying when shooting from the bike.
  • Dials and buttons are a little too easy to bump. I’m constantly finding to rotator dial on the top of the camera in the wrong place when I reach back to grab the camera while riding.
  • It’s pretty fragile. Ideally for touring, I’d like something a little more burly because conditions are pretty rough on the road. So far, the Lumix is still in great working order, but I worry about longevity in this use-case. (To be fair, it really wasn’t designed for this kind of abuse. :)

I also use a small Joby tripod that works with both my phone and camera.

Next Up: FOOD

11 Responses to “Surly + Big Agnes = Pedal Powered RV”

  1. Caroline says:

    OMG that’s a huuuuuuge tent for 1-person touring. Hee hee. And not that camo, either! Hee hee hee. I use the Sierra Designs lightyear tent – camo, wicked small, and uh, wicked small.

  2. Caroline says:

    I looked into that Joby tripod. That’s so cool!

  3. Caroline says:

    Can’t you find GEAR? Geez! HAHA.

  4. Patrick says:

    I’ve bought two Surly bikes from Corey at Seven Corners and have no regrets whatsoever.

  5. Tony Pereira says:

    So jealous of your little tour. Would be nice to get away to some warm weather right about now. Let me know when you’re ready for that custom bike.

  6. ian c says:

    c, i have that same sierra tent and it’s REALLY wicked small (i am 6’2″). however, it does pack down very light and easily.

    heidi, timely piece…i’ve just started to goad my pals into nor-cal summer bike touring!

  7. rene says:

    Loving the gear posts, it’s awesome to see what other pack. You might want to look into the auto lens cap for the lx3 Makes the on bike shots so much easier. There’s a little bit of vignetting on wide angle shots, but the tradeoff is worth it.

  8. Heather B. says:

    i appreciate these posts so much! i’m currently just a single-speed commuter, but i’m interested in getting out on the road and touring, and this is all really helpful. keep it coming, and thanks.

  9. I’m planning a touring trip this spring and haven’t decided whether to go with the Long Haul Trucker or the Cross Check. I like the Long Haul because I can see myself doing some fully self-supported touring in the future and it’d be great to have a big rig. But I also like the versatility of the Cross Check. The sales guys at my local bike shop say the Cross Check’s geometry is also more similiar to the touring bikes in the 80s, when touring was the rage. Ahhh, decisions, decisions…

  10. Errin says:

    Wow, what similarities. I’ve got an LHT and a LX3 too. I agree that the LX3 feels a little fragile. I was using a G10 before that was more robust, but heavier. The LX3 takes better shots I think. The wider and faster lens is awesome. The G10 is like the LHT, built like a tank! I’m on the fence about my LHT though. I’ve got 2 Salsa Fargos, one steel and one Ti (Tour Divide bike), but if I had to pick between the Fargo and the LHT I think the LHT would have to go. Tough choice, because as you say the bike really does have a soul. There is something about the LHT. It beckons you to ride, somewhere, anywhere.