Brian's Blog

…one man's contribution to the Weeeeerly Wild World

Bike Touring – lightening the load

So I’m planning a little touring trip with my bicycle and a tent – it has been a few years since my last trip which was pretty much my first week away cycle touring – I loved it and have some vivid memories of it. A couple of things I want to improve for this time are 1) my eating habits (getting enough calories each day was a challenge and I need to be more sensible about it this time) and 2) the weight of all my gear.

The weight of myself is pretty much fixed, and so is the weight of my bike – I didn’t choose a particularly light bike when I bought it; mine is a steel-framed one built for touring – I’ll not complain about this; I have read about the equipment the early bike tourers used. Therefore it’s everything else I’m to take with me that I have considered in turn.

Here is how my bike looked last time out camping:


Two panniers on the front, two on the rear, and the tent strapped to the rear rack. The whole thing ended up weighing half as much as me.

As with most holidays, you have to consider what you ‘need’ to take – often when packing a suitcase and hand luggage, we pack too much and a lot doesn’t get used; quite often we could take less and just buy anything we discover we need along the way. When it’s all being loaded into the boot/trunk of a car, if it fits then it seems fine, when backpacking or cycle touring you have to carry that extra weight with you each and every day.

There are certain bare essentials I will need:

  • A tent
  • The right clothing
  • A warm enough sleeping bag
  • Cooking equipment
  • Food and water
  • Some bike spares and tools

Here are things I’m considering for the purpose of this post:

  • The tent
  • The map

As for everything else, clothing, food and water, and bike spares and tools, I will carry a bare minimum. Actually this time I’m substituting my flask of coffee for a second bottle of water – and while I ran low on water on my last trip, and even though my bike can have three bottle holders, that’s an extra half a kilo; so I’ll just have to keep topping up where I can.

The Tent

My original tent was a ‘2 person’ one – I liked it because it had enough room for me and my panniers. For this trip though I looked at alternatives, asking the question: “How much weight will I save by having a 1 person tent?” It turned out my current tent weighed 3KG and a 1 person tent could weigh half that, or down to less than 1KG if you wanted to pay silly money for exotic materials and big brands – considering how little my current tent cost and how well it has served me I wasn’t going to spend a lot here.

Sadly, when my new tent arrived (a ‘Highlander Blackthorn 1 Man Solo Occupancy Lightweight Backpacking tent’ and I practised assembly in my living room for the first time the smaller of the two poles snapped! It seemed the shorter pole (measuring only 6mm wide) was fractured to begin with, but upon closer inspection I discovered that one segment was an inch longer and I suspect that when I proceeded to insert it into each eyelet expecting it to fit, it was too much tension and that’s what snapped it – I heard it cracking and eased off but the damage was done…. and feeling my way along the pole was a rookie mistake too; fibreglass shards are nasty fine things. I sent the supplier a picture and they agreed to send me a replacement; in the meantime I practised repairing my new tent, first by gluing the pole with fibreglass resin (which didn’t hold) then wrapping strong tape round it (which seems to hold well enough). I’ve also cut that extra inch off the long segment and now it all fits, although that skinny pole takes a lot of strain.

The Map

These days you can perhaps do without a map and opt for a satnav or maps on a smart phone (which combines weight), but I like proper maps and paper and I’m trying to avoid ‘tech’ and gadgetry on this trip. For my last trip I printed my route from Google Maps as it was only a handful of pages, this trip needed more so I went out and bought a road atlas. I considered the overall size, but I needed a practical scale (3 inch to a mile) and for it to include camp-sites (some atlases omit these to enable them to present a clearer map). I browsed the book shop, found the one I wanted… and then went home and bought the previous year’s version online for 1/3rd the price! Then when it arrived… I tore half the pages out! That thing weighed close to 1KG and I didn’t need it all.


Old tent, new tent, and two halves of an atlas!

Once you learn to live like this, on a bare minimum, for a week or so, you either return home to feel blessed by all the stuff you have, or you feel suffocated by it all and realise so much is unnecessary.


2 comments on “Bike Touring – lightening the load

  1. meltdblog
    22 May, 2016

    Tip for the body fuel on a longer trip, peanut butter is possibly the densest energy food thats edible and its excess salt probably isn’t bad if you’re sweating a lot.

  2. Annika
    24 May, 2016

    Great post! Me and my boyfriend have just bought a tent yesterday and hope to be able to set out on a few camping trips ourselves this summer. Hope everything goes well, and do keep us informed 🙂

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This entry was posted on 19 May, 2016 by in Cycling, Health and Fitness, Hoarding and tagged , , , , , .
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