Last week, I spent three days riding from Cleveland to Columbus on the bike pictured above. I was supposed to make it to Cincinnati across five days, but three was all I could handle. This was part of a game project I Kickstarted, and the backers were interested in the gear itself. I figured I’d write it up here to make it easier for everyone to read.
So, what did I ride and what did I learn? Let’s find out.
Packed and Ready
The bike itself is a Jamis Coda Sport that I honestly bought on a whim six years ago. My partner was getting a new bike and I decided to do the same, with little thought for how I’d be using it in the future. Turns out, I made a really solid choice. I love the frame on this bike, and if I take care of it, it’ll last me for years.
Prior to my deciding on this trip, everything on the bike was stock. As soon as I knew I was going to be doing hundreds of miles of riding, I started saving for upgrades. The first was a saddle. The stock saddle was in sorry shape after six years of riding. I upgraded to a Brooks saddle, and I’m thrilled with it. Like everything I saw ahead of time, it takes awhile to break it in. Once that’s done? It’s a comfy butt hammock that’ll last for years and years. I kept it covered in a trash bag at night to keep the leather in good shape, and that seemed to work.
I got new brake pads, tubes, and tires (though I’m pretty sure I ended up with defective tires, given that I had both front and back get holes in them). Nothing out of the ordinary there, just stuff a friend could help me learn how to install. I also put new grips on the handlebars because, again, six years of wear was enough for the original grips. Nothing fancy, just $25 mountain bike grips I bought online.
For all of my gear, I needed bags. Turns out, it was too many bags and too much gear, but we’ll get to that. I also installed new lights, and a phone mount. Let’s start from the front of the bike.
On the handlebars, I had, from right to left, a signal bell, a front light that was a removeable flashlight, a reflector, and a Quad Lock phone mount. The phone mount was designed to be positioned so I could see the screen (for maps and such), but I angled it so the rear phone camera could take video (for streaming and such). The Quad Lock mount was amazing, and I’m very happy I picked it up.
Right behind the front forks, on the main tube, I had a single tube bag with a transparent plastic top. Inside, I kept:
– Anker 13,000mAh portable charger
– Phone (when raining)
– Galaxy Buds case
– Solar Power Bank 10,000mAh charger
The solar charger kept my phone at or near 100% for most of the first two days. It was pretty cloudy, so I don’t think the solar cells were able to charge much. From there, the Anker charger got me through the third day without dying. If it had been sunny, I’m pretty certain I could have gone all five days (listening to music, streaming, taking pictures and videos, recharging the earbuds) without needing to plug anything into a wall. Pretty awesome kit, and I was very happy with it.
On the lower tubes, two 500ml water bottles. Standard stuff, and very necessary.
This is where things got tricky. I was new to camping, so I knew I didn’t want to risk not having what I needed. So instead of going with a rear back that can extend out from the seat post, I used panniers. And they were way, way too heavy.
I had two 25L Waterfly panniers, one on each side of the rack. In the middle of the rack, I had my tent (wrapped in a trash bag for waterproofing), and my bike pump (full-sized because I didn’t want to spend any more money) attached with a bungee.
The right pannier held my sleeping back, inflatable sleeping pad, and my tarp. The left pannier held everything else: two days of clothes, bike lock and chain, drone and controller, 1 dozen Cliff bars, two caffeinated protein shakes two firestarters, a small pot, two easy camp meals, and probably other stuff that I’m forgetting right now.
All-told, there was probably 35lbs of gear on the back of that bike. And wow, did it change things. Let’s talk about that.
What I Learned
Oh. My. God. Pack. Lighter.
Also, balance your bike better.
The back end was so heavy that if I lifted up too much on the handlebars while walking the bike, it would pop a wheelie. Not ideal when you’ve got to walk up as many hills as I ended up walking. If I were going to ride the same setup again, I’d find a way to strap the tent to the front handlebars, and I’d try and reduce what’s in the panniers by at least 1/3. It was just too much to try and get up the hills I was on. And when I had to walk the bike, it was sometimes a struggle to get it where I needed it to be. Hell, the only time I fell was while on foot, trying to back the rig away from two people who weren’t wearing masks.
When I go out to finish this trip in the Spring, I’m not going to camp. One back, on top of the rack, and a hotel at night. If I ever do another trip where I do camp, I’m going to go with a rear back behind the post, and pack way less stuff. This was all an amazing challenge, and I learned about about how I can do it better.
If y’all have any specific questions that I didn’t cover, feel free to ask!