I wear mine out, so they've not been stored for more than 2-3 years. Next fall it'll be time to watch the on-line sales emails again to restock.
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Folks on these boards advised me to go East to West, instead of the reverse.
I bought Ortlieb panniers. Waterproof and durable. Reading blogs and then seeing other riders on my test tour this is the most commonly used brand by far.
Minimize your clothing. Two sets of bike riding, one set of camp clothes. No chair. Jetboil cooker, one pan, one cup, plate and spork. The goal is to ride not camp.
Rain gear is where I am heavier than some. I have shower pass jacket, pants, water socks and hood. May go with just the jacket, I'm uncertain.
Most good shops would gladly switch out the handlebars for what you need. My LBS does this kind of modification for people all the time. It is usually more expensive to go from an up-right bar set-up to drop bars than the other way around. I don't think you will run into any trouble.Neither change is particularly cheap as you will need new shifters/brake levers, handlebars and probably a replacement stem. There are several flat bar road bikes and hybrids that come with flat bars and appropriate shifters, etc. Making them touring-suitable will be less expensive.
My mindset at this point is I will ride as much as possible in the time I have and if I make it to Idaho great, or if I make it to Washington DC great. I just want to increase the odds, and how many miles I'll make.
I am out riding with almost all the load and it acctually does feel different without the front panniers but not bad, i think. regarding the wind it might be better with just the rear? I will check and see if my host has a scale. Oh, and there are absolutely no steep winding hills out here in the middle of kansas.