Author Topic: What have you taken on tour and later wished you hadn't?  (Read 2821 times)

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Offline neilbrew

What have you taken on tour and later wished you hadn't?
« on: January 18, 2024, 05:04:10 pm »
I have a personality trait as being a preparer; I don't like being caught out not having something when I need it. However, when on a long tour, I realize this contingency plan philosophy can get out of control quickly adding a lot of weight and needless complication to the situation. I think each gear choice is personal and largely dependent on where you're touring and under what conditions. Some items increase general comfort or peace of mind on a bike tour. For me, I have to weigh the importance level of each essential vs non-essential item. I'm ok with taking some non-essential items if they substantially contribute to my overall well-being.

What gear items have you taken on tour and then realized are not needed or just not worth the weight?

Did you:
A: Send it back home from a post office
B: Discard it along the way
C: Carry it the whole way and vow a different approach next time

Offline John Nettles

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Re: What have you taken on tour and later wished you hadn't?
« Reply #1 on: January 18, 2024, 05:16:06 pm »
As a obsessive planner, I can relate.  However, this is a very subjective area.  What I may think is essential to bring along, others may laugh at or vice versa. 

For instance, several years ago, I met a guy carrying a regular cast iron skillet, maybe a 10".  Thing probably weighed 3 pounds or more.  While I would not take that, he says he needed it since he did a lot of "cowboy cooking" over a fire and the little thin aluminum or other such skillets were worthless to him. 

Same goes for pretty much all areas of gear.  How many days on/off bike clothes do you bring.  A bivy or a 3-person tent with a gear shed. Every tool and part needed to fix anything that goes wrong vs. a multi-tool.  Full blown first aid kit vs. nothing.  Tons of electronics vs. nothing. Sure some things like a spare tube might be considered essential but what about 3 tubes?  Pretty much every item is debatable.

The take away is bring what makes YOU smile.  If it doesn't, send it back. You will probably figure out what works and doesn't work for you within 2 weeks.

Whatever you pack, I wish you a wonderful tour! Tailwinds, John

Offline davidbonn

Re: What have you taken on tour and later wished you hadn't?
« Reply #2 on: January 18, 2024, 07:00:21 pm »
Two entertaining stories.

Long ago, I took my first extended bike tour (I've done short bike tours since I was about fourteen).  Not having very much experience, I let my partner on the trip guide me.  He gave me a very elaborate gear list and made it clear that he expected me to bring everything on that list.  My first reaction was that he was asking me to bring more gear for this two week bike tour than I brought for three weeks on the Ruth Glacier in Alaska.  But I decided not to argue too much...

Anyway, we launched from Santa Rosa heading for a friend's house in San Diego.  Our bikes were ridiculously overloaded and we were literally staggering under the weight.  After way too much time (and a lot of stops to make adjustments on the ridiculous loads) we came to Sebastapol (about ten miles by the bike computer).  Without a word we went to the post office, and took up two parking spaces sorting gear and shipped over half of it back home.  What was wild was we repeated the process a few days later (in Santa Cruz, I think) and shipped half of the half we were still carrying back home.

Some years later a mountain biking buddy and I decided to go on a tour.  He was also a bike mechanic (bike mechanics make awesome tour partners) and he decided that he was going to buy an old bike on craigslist for the tour, restore it and rebuild it over the course of the trip, and sell it and the end of the tour.  To make that happen he brought an astonishing collection of tools and parts, carried in a huge bag on the top of his rear rack.  Even with all that we had to hit a few bike shops along the way for more parts and to negotiate access to tools he did not have.  Riding with Stan had its advantages, but longer rest stops were not among them.  Even with him stopping frequently and working on his bike his average travel speed was insanely fast and much faster than I could ever manage.

I think this goes back to what your expectations are on your tour and what kind of trip do you want it to be.  Is your trip about the journey or the destination?  On that first trip I'd summarize what got sent home as:

1.  Clothing that we didn't need and weren't going to need.
2.  Camping gear that we didn't need and weren't going to need.
3.  Ridiculous luxuries and toys that we had no energy to play with after putting all those miles down, especially when we were so heavily loaded.  This had some overlap with #1 and #2.
4.  Food that we weren't going to eat.

On a very long trip, especially for the first few days, your expectations should be that all you'll be doing is riding, eating, and sleeping.  So you probably won't have the energy to play disc golf in camp. 

Offline ray b

Re: What have you taken on tour and later wished you hadn't?
« Reply #3 on: January 18, 2024, 11:18:33 pm »
"Leave the gun; take the cannoli."
(Ad libbed line from Richie Castellano as Clemenza in The Godfather - but in other threads, it summarizes various arguments about what to carry on the bike.)
« Last Edit: January 18, 2024, 11:26:52 pm by ray b »
“A good man always knows his limitations.”

Offline froze

Re: What have you taken on tour and later wished you hadn't?
« Reply #4 on: January 20, 2024, 10:35:38 pm »
Take short practice camping trips so you can whittle the stuff down BEFORE you go on a tour.  Take an overnight trip, see what you need or don't need, then go out again but stay 2 nights, or one night at one place and move to another if you have something fairly close you can get to; then do it again but 3 nights.  By the time you finish doing your practice runs you should be ready.

The other secret is not to buy a lot of stuff, buy the minimum needed to do a camping trip, then if you need to add to it, that is why the practice runs will help you determine if you need anything more, or less.  I limited my initial budget to just $500, this helped me not to buy too much crap.

I got lucky, I bought the bare bones needed, and the only two things I have added to my original stuff are a chair, and then a bit later added a Tenkara telescopic fly rod and of course a small box of flies. 

However, in those shake-down practice runs I discovered certain things that were not going to last or didn't work well. 

The first stove I bought was a $13 unit from Amazon that got high reviews, but it had a pinpoint flame that burned food in the center of the pan, so I got a Soto Windmaster, and because it had a built-in windscreen, I no longer had to carry a separate windscreen. 

I got a few things from Walmart, my first mess kit was an Ozark aluminum kit, it dented easily and got burnt too bad to save, so I tried an Ozark stainless steel kit, which works a lot better, easier to clean, for $10!

I can't think of anything else I got or changed.

 

Offline John Nelson

Re: What have you taken on tour and later wished you hadn't?
« Reply #5 on: January 21, 2024, 01:18:35 am »
Can of Halt, Leatherman tool. Both were generally useless weight.

Offline davidbonn

Re: What have you taken on tour and later wished you hadn't?
« Reply #6 on: January 22, 2024, 07:43:57 pm »
On that first bike tour out of Santa Rosa, my travel partner and I brought approximately eighty percent of the food we thought we'd need for the trip.  That was completely ridiculous and we were going to be perfectly able to buy food from supermarkets most every day anyway so there was absolutely no point to carrying that much food.

Arguably we could have started off with no food at all and it would have been 100 percent fine.

Similarly, we had two white gas stoves and four cookpots.  We could have easily got by with one stove and one pot.

Offline hikerjer

Re: What have you taken on tour and later wished you hadn't?
« Reply #7 on: January 22, 2024, 11:35:44 pm »
After a week on my first tour, I mailed home about half the tools I had taken. Never did need them.

Offline jamawani

Re: What have you taken on tour and later wished you hadn't?
« Reply #8 on: January 23, 2024, 02:54:07 am »
My ex.

B)

Offline froze

Re: What have you taken on tour and later wished you hadn't?
« Reply #9 on: January 23, 2024, 04:44:48 pm »
After a week on my first tour, I mailed home about half the tools I had taken. Never did need them.

All I carry in the way of tools to work on the bike is just a Park MTB3 multi-tool, of course, that doesn't include tire levers. It would be impossible to carry every single tool needed to work on everything on a bike, and if you're going to that then might as well carry a bike stand! If you have maintained your bike well, a breakdown on the road is rare, and needing a tool different than what a mini tool will have would be even more rarer.

Offline davidbonn

Re: What have you taken on tour and later wished you hadn't?
« Reply #10 on: January 23, 2024, 06:36:30 pm »
... It would be impossible to carry every single tool needed to work on everything on a bike, and if you're going to that then might as well carry a bike stand! If you have maintained your bike well, a breakdown on the road is rare, and needing a tool different than what a mini tool will have would be even more rarer.

There is kind of a sliding scale of necessity on what tools you need to carry on a trip.  A lot of that will depend on how long the trip is and how much of a drama it would be if you had a major unexpected failure.

100% agreed that maintaining your bike is the first line of defense.  Before the start of a tour of any length I try to make the bike perfect -- very few problems are going to fix themselves or even get any better over the course of a trip.

On that sliding scale of necessity, I see four layers of things you might carry:

  • Tools and spares that you'd carry on most every ride of any length.  So that's a basic multi-tool and everything you'd think you need to fix a puncture.
  • Stuff that you'd use less frequently but still might plausibly use a longer trip.  So for me that includes a bunch of spare bolts (mostly rack and fender bolts), a spoke wrench I've rarely used, chain lube if I have a chain, brake pads, spare derailleur and brake cables and housing, spare valve cores, more duct tape than fits around the pump, cable ties, &c.  Note that I almost never carry all of that on any given trip.
  • Stuff that you don't strictly need but makes life easier.  For me that includes a full sized 6mm hex key because it is easier removing and installing wheels with it than using the 6mm hex key on my multi tool.
  • Stuff you have no business carrying, or you're just showing off.

My own view is anything past (2) on the above list you should look at with a very critical eye.

My thought process on what tools and spares to bring usually is around how far I'll be from a decent bike shop and having just enough to improvise and jury-rig my way to that bike shop in the event of a major failure.  I usually find that approximately one trip out of five there is at least a brief emergency visit to a bike shop to deal with some minor problem that cropped up and that I couldn't fix out of my own resources.

One thing to be careful about with multi tools is making sure that you can get to all of the bolts on your bike with the multi tool you bring.  Some of the multi tools out there don't have very much reach.  And a lot of bolts that you might need to adjust (or at least tighten) can be challenging to reach.

Offline froze

Re: What have you taken on tour and later wished you hadn't?
« Reply #11 on: January 24, 2024, 10:26:46 am »
Good list of stuff, we were talking about tools to bring, not spare parts. 

But since you brought up spare parts, I carry 3 fiberfix spokes, these spokes allow replacement without taking off the cassette, and they're lighter in weight and fit in a very small tube-shaped container.

You shouldn't need spare bolts for racks and fenders if you go over all the bolts before that day's ride;   Brake pads are a given, as are a couple of spare tubes, some even take a folding spare tire, usually a lighter weight tire till they can find a better replacement but some carry the same tires they use, guess that would depend on where you're going; a single spare valve core, I see no need for a spare derailleur unless you're going off-road, but if you're going to that you can put on a crash guard instead, they're cheap and easy to put on, on a road trip the panniers will protect the derailleur; duct tape you don't need a lot of, just 3 feet at the most, a couple of different lengths of zip ties, because zip ties do have a habit of breaking; extra bungee netting or cording if and depending on what you use; chain lube; and spare chain links, cables? I haven't broken a cable in a very very long time, probably for at least 45 years, I don't worry about carrying a spare cable, even if a brake cable breaks I still have another brake, I can get to a bike shop and have it replaced.  I'm surprised a spare rotor wasn't mentioned, not that I would carry one, but some might, especially if offroad; but on a road bike if a rotor goes bad, I still have the other brake. 

Spare chain isn't necessary, if you break a chain and don't have spare links you can refasten the chain minus the broken link or links, all that will do is make it so you can't use the first one or two gears and last one or two gears, all the other gears you can use, then simply find a bike shop, you're going to want to get a new chain even if you do have links, so you're going to a bike shop regardless.

All of this should be checked before you go, why run on a rotor or pads that's half worn out? Replace it before you go, or start a trip on a half or even just a quarter worn out chain? be safe and replace it before you go.  Same with cables, if the cables haven't been replaced in a while just replace them so their new at the start of the trip.  Eliminate things that can go wrong before you go, then once underway do a pre trip inspection before the start of every ride, checking for stuff, making sure bolts are tight, the chain has been wiped down and new lube applied if needed, etc.  A pre trip should only take 10 minutes at tops, most people do post trips and not pre trips, I do post trips because I'll arrive at a campsite before 2 in the afternoon, I have the time after I set up camp, but the morning I just want to pack and go and leave as early as I can and not fool around with checking stuff.

Offline staehpj1

Re: What have you taken on tour and later wished you hadn't?
« Reply #12 on: January 24, 2024, 10:45:25 am »
All of this should be checked before you go, why run on a rotor or pads that's half worn out? Replace it before you go, or start a trip on a half or even just a quarter worn out chain? be safe and replace it before you go.  Same with cables, if the cables haven't been replaced in a while just replace them so their new at the start of the trip.  Eliminate things that can go wrong before you go, then once underway do a pre trip inspection before the start of every ride, checking for stuff, making sure bolts are tight, the chain has been wiped down and new lube applied if needed, etc.  A pre trip should only take 10 minutes at tops, most people do post trips and not pre trips, I do post trips because I'll arrive at a campsite before 2 in the afternoon, I have the time after I set up camp, but the morning I just want to pack and go and leave as early as I can and not fool around with checking stuff.
I at some point stopped treating a tour even a multi month one as a reasong to start with all new stuff.  I started just changing consumable stuff like tires, chains, and brake pads when they are due even if that is mid tour.  Why?  Because I never used the half worn stuff again.  Chains and tires are not that cheap to throw away when the have half of their life left and that is what I would be doing if I swapped them before a tour.  They'd wind up never getting used again.

I can see the logic in starting with fresh consumable type parts if that makes sense to you, but I quit that quite a while ago and have not regretted it.

Offline froze

Re: What have you taken on tour and later wished you hadn't?
« Reply #13 on: January 24, 2024, 01:30:18 pm »
All of this should be checked before you go, why run on a rotor or pads that's half worn out? Replace it before you go, or start a trip on a half or even just a quarter worn out chain? be safe and replace it before you go.  Same with cables, if the cables haven't been replaced in a while just replace them so their new at the start of the trip.  Eliminate things that can go wrong before you go, then once underway do a pre trip inspection before the start of every ride, checking for stuff, making sure bolts are tight, the chain has been wiped down and new lube applied if needed, etc.  A pre trip should only take 10 minutes at tops, most people do post trips and not pre trips, I do post trips because I'll arrive at a campsite before 2 in the afternoon, I have the time after I set up camp, but the morning I just want to pack and go and leave as early as I can and not fool around with checking stuff.
I at some point stopped treating a tour even a multi month one as a reasong to start with all new stuff.  I started just changing consumable stuff like tires, chains, and brake pads when they are due even if that is mid tour.  Why?  Because I never used the half worn stuff again.  Chains and tires are not that cheap to throw away when the have half of their life left and that is what I would be doing if I swapped them before a tour.  They'd wind up never getting used again.

I can see the logic in starting with fresh consumable type parts if that makes sense to you, but I quit that quite a while ago and have not regretted it.

Yup, I hear ya, but for me it would depend on how far I was going, if I was going across the US I would want everything new, but if I was only going in state, or 2 to 4 states out I wouldn't bother getting new stuff put on if they all look good.  But that's just me.  It could be, for example, that the cables could be used but good to go for a long time, so why replace them?  My cables on all my bikes last a very long time, I don't replace them every season like most do, but why replace them every season when mine last 8 to 10 years?!  So if my cables are still good even if they're 3 years old, they would make a 3 or 4-month tour trip easily.  But a person needs to know their bike, they need to be comfortable with doing as you do, or doing as I do, or doing something else.

I will say this, almost every person I spoke to at campgrounds who was touring a long way, did tell me they started out with fresh stuff.  There was 1 guy who was a bike mechanic by trade, he never started out with fresh stuff, he just went until something needed attention like you.  Some said they were considering putting fresh stuff on but the bike shop they took the bikes into before leaving said their stuff was fine.  So certainly it will depend on the person, where they'll be going, what they're comfortable with.

The tires I use are supposed to be good for 7,500 miles on average and maybe more, loaded, so I could make it across the US and back on one set of tires assuming nothing destroys one of course.  Tires are a situation depending on how far you are going vs how many miles are on the tires before you leave thus you might have to replace one or two.  If I was going across the country the tires I use would be difficult to find in a bike shop, so if my tires were say 1/2 worn, I would order a new tire put it on the rear, and then carry the used one with me, otherwise if I had fairly new tires on before starting I wouldn't carry a spare.  I find in the real world people I spoke to about half carried a spare tire the other half did not, it seemed that the half that did were using more fragile tires, vs the others that didn't carry a spare were using more robust tires like mine.  Again though, carrying a spare tire comes down to what a person is comfortable with.

Just opinions of course, different strokes for different folks.

Offline neilbrew

Re: What have you taken on tour and later wished you hadn't?
« Reply #14 on: January 24, 2024, 04:56:40 pm »
For my upcoming 2024 TransAm, I am rebuilding my bike; replacing tires, shift and brake cables, brake pads and chain. For my own peace of mind, it's necessary to do this step even though it's probably not completely necessary in every case. Doing this allows me to do a thorough checkup on bearings, re-applying threadlocker, tightening bolts, checking spokes, and making adjustments were needed.

The last thing I want to be dealing with is something falling apart on the side of the road somewhere in Wyoming and not having the correct tools for a more major repair. Anything could happen, of course, but some preventative maintenance now will go a long way to avoid it. I know my enjoyment factor will go way up and my stress level will go way down if my equipment is in top working order.

I will take an extra folding tire in my pannier as insurance. It's well worth the weight and bulk to me. I've had an unrideable slashed tire from glass two miles from home on a ride before and had to call for a ride. I won't have anybody to call.