Author Topic: Essentials  (Read 6877 times)

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Offline backpacktobikerack

« on: February 18, 2012, 06:11:41 pm »

I am going to be cycling from LA to San Fran, then down the NPs to Vegas then onto WE/TA via Grand Canyon from end of March to Early July. I want to know what equipment/clothing is essential and which items I can make do without. I am on a tight budget after 6 months travelling around Asia/Oz/NZ so want to cut corners where possible. For example, Bib shorts, are they really necessary? and pedals and cleats? Will I be fine in just trainers and toe clips?

Pretty vague I know and apologise, but I am not an experienced cyclist at all, and have only been planning this trip since the idea popped in my head in Cambodia last November.

Any advice is welcomed warmly.


Offline DaveB

Re: Essentials
« Reply #1 on: February 18, 2012, 07:02:24 pm »
Bib shorts are not necessary.  Some riders love them and other find them a nuisance.  I don't care for them but it's a personal preference.   However, that doesn't mean I don't recommend purpose made riding shorts.  Those I definitely consider an essential, just not the bib variety. 

"Clipless" pedals with cleats and compatible shoes I consider an absolute necessity for me and I will not ride anywhere without them but, again, that's my personal preference.  I spent a lot of time with quill pedals and toe clips in the past and would NEVER go back to them willingly.   Clipless pedals and their shoes do not have to be terribly expensive.  Some of Shimano's lower line SPD pedals and Nashbar or Performance's house brand shoes are very functional and quite low cost. 

BTW, if you are going to be in the western mountains and northern Arizona in March and April, plan on cold weather and snow and lots of both. 

Offline backpacktobikerack

Re: Essentials
« Reply #2 on: February 18, 2012, 08:43:16 pm »
Thanks Dave, that's sound advice. I guess I'll just have to try and find somewhere to practice in cleats and see what I think. I suspect I'll end up getting some.

It will be more April/May in the Western Mountains/AZ, but I will still be prepared for snow. I think I can just layer up to protect against the cold?

Offline John Nelson

Re: Essentials
« Reply #3 on: February 18, 2012, 09:39:30 pm »

A bike
A patch kit
A tire lever
A pump
A water bottle
Something to carry your stuff in
A helmet
Enough clothes to avoid getting arrested
A toothbrush

Very useful:

Bike shorts
Warm clothes
Clothes to wear off bike
A map

Things you might find handy:

A camera
A bike computer
A sleeping bag
A tarp or bivvy or tent
A bike lock
A flashlight
Bike gloves
A rain jacket
Insect repellent

Offline onebikeoneworld

  • Tourist
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  • Posts: 11
  • Riding round the world, one country at a time
Re: Essentials
« Reply #4 on: February 29, 2012, 12:11:00 am »
I've done 11,000 miles on my Brooks without any bike shorts and it works just fine for me. I'm in a pair of Icebreaker boxers and a pair of Smartwool shorts most of the time.
World bike tour blog -

Offline johnsondasw

Re: Essentials
« Reply #5 on: February 29, 2012, 12:40:13 pm »
I'd add a multi tool like a Leatherman.  The pliers feature is very useful.  Zip ties of a couple of sizes have helped me several times.  And of course on of those multitools with the various hex sizes, etc.
May the wind be at your back!

Offline BikeFreak

Re: Essentials
« Reply #6 on: February 29, 2012, 03:12:50 pm »
and pedals and cleats? Will I be fine in just trainers and toe clips?

All my tours (Northern Tier, Pacific Coast, Atlantic Coast, Divide trail, Circle Australia and many more) I did using my leather boat shoes and a normal pedal. No SPD systems whatsoever. When I meet people on the road and they realize that I don't have any clipless SPD shoes/pedal they think I'm a crazy person. I don't care - it suits me well and I do 125 mi/day.

Actually, I have tried the SPD system using two different SPD shoes, but I don't like it at all, especially because my toes go numb.


Offline nlsteve

Re: Essentials
« Reply #7 on: March 02, 2012, 01:54:04 pm »
I have toured in trainers (sneakers) and platform pedals with toe clips, but I don't think it's a good idea for most people. You want a stiff sole in contact with the pedal.  Some shoes and sandals can accept a cleat and still allow you to get off the bike and walk almost normally -- look at mountain bike shoes, and sandals such as those by Keen or Shimano.  Or you can use road biking shoes and carry a lightweight second set of shoes/sandals to slip on when you get off the bike for more than a couple minutes.

Likewise, I've done gym shorts, but it really is wiser to choose cycling shorts.  Some of those, too, are a compromise with off-the-bike style.  Some of them have a semi-baggy exterior so they don't look too goofy off the bike.

Small note:  From L.A. to San Francisco, you will probably have a headwind in that direction most of the time.  It's not that bad, not a deal-killer.  Just don't be too surprised if you spend 4-5 days being annoyed by it.  Your itinerary is going to take you through a bunch of different weather.

Read up on the gear lists at this site, at, and in books like the Sierra Club's guide to bike touring.  Then read up on "ultralight bicycle touring" (Google it).  Then synthesize all that to fit your standards for weight, convenience, risk and cost.  There is no "right" gear list for everybody.

Enjoy the trip!

Sacramento, CA

Offline bogiesan

Re: Essentials
« Reply #8 on: March 04, 2012, 10:06:42 am »
Might as well use the resources here on Adventure Cycling:
I play go. I use Macintosh. Of course I ride a recumbent

Offline tksleeper

Re: Essentials
« Reply #9 on: March 04, 2012, 11:45:56 am »
Pedals.. Road clipless for many years and gave them up year and a half ago.  It's preference only.  Don't let anyone say you have to have them.  I don't use toe clips either and the freedom of shoes is wonderful.

Bibs.. I gave up spandex at the same time I gave up clipless.. Ride your bike without spandex at all .. Spend some time and see .. Then try padded underwear if some padding is needed or regular shorts. Point being there are no rules.  Regardless .. If you don't put miles in arse will hurt.. I was surprised how much more comfortable going without padding at all has become.

It's your comfort.. Trust what feels right for you and ignore those saying you HAVE TO WEAR anything.


Offline backpacktobikerack

Re: Essentials
« Reply #10 on: March 04, 2012, 01:04:15 pm »
Thanks guys, it's really helpful to get advice from people who have ridden where I plan to ride: it's been all very well going into the bike shops around Oz/NZ and asking advice but they don't have the local knowledge you do. So thanks.

My plan is to start as basic as possible (money is tight) and chat to cyclists along the way about any problems/niggles I am having.

Main concern is staying warm at nights but I reckon layered up in a sleeping bag will have me sorted. Cheers everyone!


Offline Susan

Re: Essentials
« Reply #11 on: March 05, 2012, 01:13:13 am »
In case you haven't heard this, a word about US post offices: 
Fortunately, every little town still has one (as opposed to my home in Germany, where many have been closed down).

In case you start out very basic and see that you need something, you can oder online or by phone (provided you have a credit card) and have the goods mailed to yourself c/o General Delivery at a post office that you expect to hit along your route.  Many towns have public libraries where you can get free internet access.  This has saved me hauling alot of stuff that I would have taken "just in case".   

The best investment I've made when touring has been for the Adventure Cycling Maps, which you can often get used via this website.   Even though I have GPS and paper road maps, the ACA map information about services along the way is invaluable.
Good luck!  Cheers!  Susan

Offline backpacktobikerack

Re: Essentials
« Reply #12 on: March 06, 2012, 03:21:33 am »
Thanks Susan, that's a really useful tip! That will come in handy no doubt! Cheers!