Berlin to València by bike | gear set up.

I have been asked numerous times about my gear and how I carry it on the bike. So in this post I list the gear I had with me, discuss some and how I distributed it on my bike. I will post some product links, they are not affiliated and I do not earn money if you click on them, nor do I get money or free products for posting them here. 

Saddle bag (tools)

I kept all the tools (except the chain oil )and backlight in a 0.4 litre btwin saddlebag  (Decathlon):

  • spare screws for saddle and carrier
  • rubber gloves (I always forgot about them and got my hands dirty)
  • wrenches + allen keys
  • 2 tire lifter
  • spoke spanner (bought during the journey)
  • zip ties in different length and strength
  • bowed cables (1 break, 1 gear)
  • toothbrush 
  • duct tape
  • chain lock

Tent bag

I could have fitted the tent into the 22 litre stuff sack but decided to keep it separate in case I have to pack it wet. The tent is a High Peak Minilite. I exchanged the steel pegs with aluminium pegs. As well the original fibreglass poles were exchanged with aluminium poles. Although I made a longer and v-shaped entrance pole for a more comfortable access I got the weight down to 670g. It’s listed as a two person tent. To be honest, just the thought of two people in there makes me feel claustrophobic. I never managed to straighten out the walls, so even as one person I often touched them when turning around. I cannot imagine sharing this tent with another person. It’s a perfect summer tent, but in the mountains, where the temperature dropped at night, the condensation was pretty bad and I woke up in a wet tent. 

I don’t like worrying about my equipment being stolen, so this 23 EUR tent is perfect for me; if it was stolen I could have just gotten another one and wouldn’t have lost an expensive piece of gear.

I also transported my little air pump with gaffer tape rolled around it and a tennis ball for massaging the muscles in this bag.

The bag itself is a 12 litre packsack from motorbike outfitter Louis (12/22/42 litre set). It’s waterproof and not very heavy compared to the outdoor packsacks available for hiking and biking. Also, the lighter packsacks are more fragile in my experience.

 

Food pouch

The food pouch is a pimped camera lens bag. It’s made of neoprene and just as waterproof as especially made food pouches. Instead of plus 35 EUR it costs 7 EUR in a set of 4 on Amazon. It held my suncream and bags of nuts, sweets and power bars for on the road snacking.

 

Camera bag

I carried a small Quechua camera bag (Decathlon) on the handle bar to transport my analog SLR, power bank with chargers (RAVpower 12000 mAh with 2 USB ports), tripod (Joby Gorilla Pod Smartphone), knife and spork, two camera lenses for the phone, a little sack for my sun glasses, Petzl eLite headlamp (I have the older version with the thin twister though), some leaves of toilet paper, Pibella and hand sanitiser, a little tube of sun cream (for the face), lip balm and chewing gum and a plastic bag for rain protection of the bag. On the front, I attached my btwin rain jacket (Decathlon).

I also carried two buffs, one little bandana and arm- and leg warmers I made from left over nylon stockings. Sometimes in the camera bag, sometimes in the food bag.

The charging of the power bank via the dynamo worked incredibly well (see set up below in the “bike” section). I didn’t have to charge it via a power plug throughout my entire trip, the power I got from paddling was enough. I chose this kind of power bank because it allows through charge, meaning it can charge whilst cycling and at the same time charge devices without damaging them. because the power bank regulates the current. I had to charge my smartphone (iPhone SE), activity tracker (Garmin vivosport) and a tiny power bank for my backlight with the power bank. I charged the vivosport every night and sometimes during lunch break since I used it to record the GPX tracks. Depending on the navigation usage of the phone I needed to charge it every one to 5 days. The small power bank for the back lite needed one charge throughout the entire trip. For this kind of usage the power bank was probably too big, but it’s my first one and I didn’t know how much charge I needed and how the dynamo would perform. Now, with the experiences I made, I would probably take a smaller one with less mAh and therefore lighter .

Everything else

The majority of my stuff was held in a 22 litre packsack from Louis. It’s the third long distance bike trip I took the sack with me and it’s still waterproof. Throughout the time some little holes were ripped into it. I taped them with small gaffer or duct tape patches from both sides and it kept everything dry, even through pouring rain for over 3 hours.

I’m 168 cm and a short air mattress is absolutely sufficient for me (Decathlon trek 700). I carried two “sleeping bags”, a thin silk liner which was enough most of the nights to start with, and my beloved As Tucas blanket. I needed the blanket in the mountains and on most nights in the early morning hours.

Additionally to the cloth I wore I carried:

  • 1 cotton boxer shorts and one pair of cashmere socks for sleeping
  • 1 merino wool long sleeve (Dilling)
  • 1 plain cotton spaghetti strap shirt
  • one pair of long Zephyr pants (I tried both shapes and they are both comfortable and well made. I went for the looser cut with bigger pockets)

The cloth and sleeping bags were compressed in a 12l Exped compression bag.

Also, I carried

  • one zip lock bag with first aid stuff (ibuprofen, anti histamine, bandage, Traumeel cream, desinfection spray,  needle and thread, spare batteries for the headlamp and water purification drops)
  • one zip lock bag with hygiene articles (tooth brush and paste, dental floss, soap (body and washing cloth), face cream, tiger balm, vitamins)
  • pillow
  • emergency blanket
  • dried out wet wipes
  • small travel towel
  • ultra light down jacket (Uniqlo)
  • herbal sweets (the only ones that help me when I have a cough)

I really love my Uniqlo down jacket. It’s light weight, comfortable and warm enough for me so far. It’s not waterproof but coated against splash and lasts through enough rain until I find a roof or tree or something to hide under. I’ve taken it on several hikes and biking trips and compressed it highly sometimes – without damage to the insulation so far.

Food bag

I didn’t take a cooker this time, so I stoped at supermarkets pretty often. I had a little squashable 8 liter backpack and, even when it was empty, usually kept it on top of my large stuff sack, because the bright yellow would make me a bit more visible I thought. I kept a spare tube and a yellow vest with reflective stripes in it, sometimes the buffs and arm/leg warmers and gloves, a tube of Hirschtalg I used as chamois cream, and food.

What I wore

My normal old running shorts (yes, no cycling shorts), bike jersey (old mens mesh shirt with three pockets), sports bra, cycling socks, light mash running shoes, Rapha pro team cycling cap and helmet. In the shirt pockets I carried my phone, 1-3 power bars, compass, zip bag with passport, cards, money and diary and sometimes tools I needed that day.

Bike

My bike is a 30 year old Kuwahara High Pacer 28 steel frame with 3×7 gears. The carrier with back reflector is small and was installed when I bought the bike. The front wheel has a Shimano dynamo DH-3N72 for front light and charging. The front light is a AXA LUXX 70 PLUS headlamp which has a built in USB port for charing. So far I always had Schwalbe Marathon Plus 35 mm tires on my previous trips, this time I tried Continental Grand Prix 4 Season 28 mm tires. I am very happy with them: They weigh much less, are thiner and therefore roll faster and still have a good protection. I cycled gravel tracks with them and sometimes couldn’t avoid glas but didn’t have one hole so far (+4000 km). The weight of the bike including these parts is 13.5 KG.

On the bike, I carried two waterbottles (500 + 750 ml), a wireless bike computer, chain oil and Ottolock. I bought the Ottolock especially for this trip and so far am happy with it. It’s very light, long enough to tie the bike to lamp poles, bike stands or smaller trees and no one has pampered with it during the trip. I don’t know how long it would last in a city, but for a trip where I spend 98% of the time one or next to the bike it’s sufficient for me.

For strapping the main bag to the carrier and securing the tent bag I used two tension ropes and two tension belts.

 

Learnings and weight saving ideas

The next time I would take a t-shirt instead of a spaghetti strap shirt. It would have been more appropriate in a couple of situations and given me more sun protection as well.

I would leave the cycling gloves behind. I needed them on the last trip because I had a sun allergy on my hands, but this time nothing happened. And if it came back I would just buy some on the road.

I needed the cashmere socks one night only. I would probably still take them, because I really cannot sleep with cold feet. At all.

I took an emergency blanket because I remembered the sentence “never go to the mountains without an emergency blanket”, but I guess in the summer and under 2000 m it’s not really necessary.

Also not necessary was the down jacket. I did wear it a couple of times just to use it, but the long sleeve in combination with my rain jacket was warm enough even at night in the mountains.

The two lenses for my phone were not used once. I thought I would make some videos, but I actually really just wanted to cycle and not stop for filming. So I wouldn’t take them the next time. Also, I didn’t even finish one role of film on this trip. With every trip I make, I take less and less photos and I’m sure the next trip I will have a different photo setup. Highly probably without the SLR camera but a lighter and smaller solution. In this case I will have more space in the front bag and might not need the food pouch anymore. Or vice versa, leave the camera bag and reduce to the food pouch.

I also took a little tripod I could use for filming as well as phone holder when needing it for navigation. It’s a great tripod for filming, but it wouldn’t hold the phone safely when cycling +30 km/h or on bouncy roads. So the next time I would look into either a phone holder for navigation, or a proper bike tripod if I really wanted to film. Or maybe just get a little action camera and use the phone for navigation and snapshots.

For my cycling trip last year I bought a cheap and too large cycling cap. I barely wore it. It was too loose under the helmet, made me sweat even more instead of holding it back and after two weeks the shield broke (plastic). This time I invested in a Rapha cap. First, they have two sizes and the little one fits perfectly. Second, it took a lot of heat from me and prevented the sweat running into my eyes. My hair would stay dry and my head cool, even whilst cycling in +40 degrees. I don’t know how, but it works and I don’t want to ever cycle without it anymore.

As stated above, a power bank with less mAh would probably efficient. So there is definitely space for saving some weight here.

My luxury item on this trip was a Dr. Best Vibration toothbrush. In terms of environmental factors this toothbrush is a thumbs down product plus it’s heavy, but I really, really like brushing my teeth with an electrical brush and I was happy about it every day. When the battery is dead I recycle the head for cleaning the bike chain.

The past trips, the tennis ball was well needed for massages during breaks and before going to sleep. However, this time I did not have any physical problems I could not save with my hands and didn’t need the ball. Depending on how I feel before my next trip I might leave it at home.

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