Gear

This section is more for my own notes than for anyone else, but I keep it online because I know there are lots of cycling geeks like myself who just love to look through gear lists, looking for their own Best Version Ever of a specific thing.

Show All ItemsCampingClothingLuggagePhotography2009 Oregon To Idaho2011 Australia2011 Colorado To Ohio2015 New Zealand

Hah! I’ve been looking for a long time for some way to get rid of that bigass wall charger, and now I can charge my Canon camera batteries off the same USB sockets as everything else! EPIC VICTORY. So far so good with this thing — I’ve only used it to top off a couple of batteries. We’ll see how well it stands up to a real road test…

Since I’m using a Retina Macbook now, I don’t have an SD Card slot. Even if I had one, that wouldn’t allow me to read CompactFlash cards, and the Canon uses both kinds of card. I used to carry a combined USB hub and SD+CompactFlash reader, which required its own cable, but it ran at USB-2 speeds which was frustrating.

Now my solution is to just connect the laptop directly to the camera, which has a USB3 slot and can provide read/write access to both card slots all by itself. The cards store an insane amount of data these days, so it’s not like I’m going to be swapping them around all the time.

I already had a tripod for road trips and camping trips, but it was too bulky and heavy to consider taking on a bicycle. A carbon-fiber tripod was the way to go. This one folds up nicely and is sturdy enough to hold a full-size Canon camera plus a big lens.

A new front rim for my new Giro-20. Strong enough for a heavy load, and the right number of holes to fit a SON dynamo hub.

When building my new recumbent, I started with a frame kit, meaning no cranks were included. This gave me the opportunity to choose a different set of cranks, so I got a set designed for a mountain bike. All three cogs on it are smaller than the corresponding cogs on the stock cranks of my original Giro-20. Now I can climb hills a little easier.

When I upgraded to a Retina Macbook, I realized I could ditch the power brick that came with it and charge it over USB, alongside the rest of my devices, using my Photive 60 Watt charger and a USB3-to-USBC cable. Only one problem: It charged very, very slowly.

Turns out that a Retina Macbook uses the “USB PD 2.0” charging protocol to charge over USBC. Long story short, I bought this multi-charger, and it can charge a bunch of USB gadgets just like the old one and also charge a Retina Macbook at the full speed of 29 watts. Huzzah! More weight savings!

I bought this after my New Trent PowerPak Ultra stopped holding a decent charge. It hasn’t undergone a serious touring test yet, but I’ve used it around town and it’s a fine replacement.

Heyo! When your feet get as stinky as mine do, you need these. After 8 years of use, the ones that came with my Shimano cycling shoes were as flat as a lizard on a highway – and about the same color. Time for a refresh.

Canon still hasn’t built a focus-assist lamp into their fancy cameras, so I still need an extra doodad. This one is lighter, smaller, and easier to attach than the Yongnuo, and the pattern it generates is better as well.

The price on this item seems to have gone nuts! When I bought it, it was about $45.

These shirts turned out to be even better than the ASICS. Thicker and less expensive, though still prone to that bacterial stink thing. They say “antimicrobial” but I think what they really mean is “weird-o-microbial”…

I like being outdoors under the open sky, but I hate skin damage from sunburn. My compromise is to wear long sleeves almost all the time. This is especially important when riding a recumbent, since the handlebars are in front of me instead of below. Those skin-tight layering clothes that other cyclists seem to enjoy just feel weird to me, but these were perfect.

Only one downside: They’re 100% polyester, so they tend to skew the balance of bacteria on the surface of my skin, and at the end of the day I smell kind of sour. Cotton or wool shirts don’t have this problem.

I wish I’d had these in New Zealand. They’re hard to use, but I’ve been able to get some neat otherworldly shots with them. My favorite activity with these is to hunker down close to some bug on the forest floor, with the camera on a flexible tripod, and stick the lens a half-inch from my target. Then I set the aperture to f/16 for the largest field of focus, lock the ISO to 100, and use a timer to hold the shutter open for as much as 30 seconds while I stand back and wait. Bugs and salamanders have an amazing – and convenient – ability to hold perfectly still for minutes at a time to avoid predators, so even with a 30 second exposure the resulting photos are perfectly sharp down to a single pixel.

These adapters are not very practical, but they are really fun.

It took about eight years of moderate riding to wear through my last pair of these, so I called that a success and bought another pair. I take the upright bike offroad a little too often to trust it with city-style tires, and these are a decent compromise.

For some reason, this is the only seat I’ve found (after trying dozens over the years) that doesn’t give me a butt-ache after a day of riding. Of course, every butt is different, so I don’t know how useful this information is to anyone else!

I bought this after wearing out an older leather version of the same saddle from 2001 or so.

Way too small and unstable for a full-size camera, but perfect for propping an iPhone somewhere to take a time-lapse video, or wrapping around a bicycle stem or a backpack arm.

Since my phone remains in my Quad Lock case all the time anyway, this little adapter was perfect for turning it into a tripod mount.

An essential gadget for relaxing after long cycling days. Fine stereo sound for my music while sleeping, sorting photos, taking a bath, eating a picnic lunch, etc. No messing around with bluetooth streams.

I love night photography, but sometimes it’s hard to get the camera to focus. If the Canon 5D had a focus-assist beam built in like the Sony SLT-A99V, I wouldn’t need to buy this gadget. Also, nobody makes a focus-assist beam without flash sync hardware included, so I’m carrying around a lot of additional circuitry I’ll never use. But when you’re trying to get a picture of glow worms at night in a forest, you need focus-assist … so I tolerate this thing.

It was either this or the 85mm 1.2, and ultimately I went with a lens that would allow me to shoot wide and then crop when I wanted to, instead of never getting to shoot wide. It’s a great walk-around lens, indoor or outdoor, and of course it does an amazing job in low light. It can be augmented to take good macro photos with a simple adapter, though the adapter makes focusing a chore. (You’ll be shooting things about a half-inch away from the lens with it.)

I was worried that I would miss the ability to zoom, but in practice that’s only come up when I’ve tried to get unobtrusive shots of wildlife or people, or when I’ve been stuck inside a vehicle of some kind. For those situations I bought an f/4 zoom lens, which works wonderfully during the day, but when it gets dark I’ve got to go back to this lens, which I usually set to f/2. That gets me four times more light than the zoom lens. That’s the difference between a usable 1/4-second exposure and a totally ruined 1-second exposure. (Even with a stabilized lens, 1 second of hand-holding is going to wreck all your photos.) Or put another way, I can walk into a dimly lit room, lean on something to hold the camera still, set the aperture to 1.4, and take a 1/4-second exposure that looks like I used a 5000-dollar lighting kit and spent half an hour setting it up.

This is by far the most expensive piece of gear I’ve ever purchased. You can bet I agonized for quite a while knowing that by getting it I was extending my mortgage for six months. But how often do you get the chance – and the time – to tour New Zealand?

My Canon 50D was starting to show a lot more grain in photos than I remembered seeing when I bought it. I don’t understand why; maybe some kind of sensor degradation after thousands of photos. Or maybe I was just expecting more from the camera. When I got the 5D I swapped my old lens onto it and took a walk around town shooting photos at night, and the grain was completely gone. In fact, the difference was as big as the difference between my old camera and my cellphone. This thing absolutely devours light.

After thousands of photos in New Zealand and elsewhere, I have only one small regret: It’s still a chore to add GPS data to photos from this thing. It still requires an extra step, instead of happening automatically and with no secondary device. That aside, I would confidently take this thing around the world, knowing that with the right accessories I could get exactly the shot I wanted, any time, any place.

The overriding factor in most bicycle touring purchases is weight, but there is also convenience to consider. Having a partner for my New Zealand trip meant adding the Cardo headsets, plus another phone and two headlamps, to the list of gadgets – for a total of nine that needed charging every day. Swapping all these things between a couple of USB ports on a laptop was not going to work.

With this, we only need to find one power socket and carry one international adapter, and we can cluster everything in one place on a desk, and leave every other USB charger at home. So far it’s been worth it.

I would never use this to lock up a regular upright bike, especially back home in Oakland, but for traveling with a recumbent in the civilized world this lock is fine. No worries about losing a key, and it doesn’t weigh a lot even though it looks imposing – like it would be tedious to cut through.

In the whole New Zealand trip, there were only six situations where Kerry and I had to use this lock, since the rest of the time we had the bikes stashed in a hotel room … but each of those six times, it was a huge convenience and justified the extra weight of carrying a lock.

After I got home I purchased a second one and kept it in the parking garage at work.

This fit my huge cranium a little too tightly, but I endured it for the sake of nice underwater footage in New Zealand. I used something else to mount the camera to the bike and my helmet, so this strap got very little use overall.

Garmin no longer makes this case, which makes sense because their new video camera doesn’t require a waterproof case at all. I used this with the Virb Elite to get shots of sea life at the Poor Knights Islands, and it did the job fine … but who cares, eh?

My experience with the Contour GPS camera was awful, but I still had the dream of attaching a camera to my bicycle and making time-lapse videos. Plus I knew there would be snorkelng and swimming in New Zealand and I wanted to get footage of that. So, in an explosion of spending, I bought this camera and a heap of accessories for it.

Amazingly enough, it did what I wanted. I was able to get pretty good-looking time-lapse video, and if I’d had time to tinker with the mounting system and my software I could have done something crazy like record the entire trip and turn the whole thing into one super-speed 15-minute video. The underwater footage turned out okay, and again with more time I could have had it looking great. Overall I’m pretty satisfied with this device, except I wish it was lighter, and that the accompanying iPhone app had more features.

That said, this device is also pretty redundant. I should probably not have purcahsed it, since my iPhone takes perfectly acceptable time-lapse videos. Now if only there was a good way to mount an iPhone on the masthead of a recumbent…

This is Schwalbe’s self-proclaimed ultimate touring tire. After riding them through New Zealand I can understand why. They’re just about the toughest design you can make while still keeping the tire usable on flat road. With these on our wheels, Kerry and I detoured through BMX tracks and up rough shoulders without concern.

Nevertheless, if you are traveling in a first-world country with relatively few hills and you don’t plan to do any off-roading, this tire is overkill. I took the Primo Comet 100psi tires all the way across the US and only had two flats, and those flats were a decent price to pay for less rolling resistance on those featureless midwestern highways. I wish I could recommend one tire for all touring situations but instead I’ll recommend these Marathon Mondials for rough or remote country – where a mangled tire could ruin your trip – and the Primo Comets for everything else.

Some of the New Zealand route was over dirt and gravel trails, so it was time to move from the 100psi Primo Comet street tires to something more solid. These held up perfectly, with no flats and no slipping in the rain.

I really just wanted the New Zealand-style adapter from this. If I’m lucky the rest will come in handy some day too. The nice thing about these is that they’re two-prong only, which drastically reduces their size and weight.

Kerry and I used these almost every day during our month in New Zealand, even in pouring rain, and they fundamentally changed our riding experience.

Wearing them, we just speak like we’re right next to each other all the time. We never have to raise our voices over road noise. The software inside the headsets automatically turns up the volume of the speaker, and turns up the threshold of the microphone, when ambient noise increases. When you draw up close to another rider, the units actually detect their own echo and shut off temporarily. This will keep you from going insane. The software driving them is obviously very smart.

Before, it was impossible to communicate if one of us was going faster than 15mph, or got more than 25 feet away. Now, it’s effortless, and the experience of biking together is much more intimate. They also enhance our safety a great deal, because we no longer have to crane our necks to hear each other when riding single file, or when it’s windy, or when there’s traffic noise. We can say things like “pothole ahead” or “turn left” or “watch out for the next curve” even at 20mph on a downhill. When we’re farther apart we can actually hear an approaching car in the other rider’s headset, so if we’re on a quiet road we have longer to prepare for the car, and the person in front can even tell how far behind the other rider is by listening to the delay.

In addition to using them as full-duplex intercoms, you can use them as bluetooth headsets for your phone, and they work just as well in that mode. They will also play music, via bluetooth or a line-in jack, and switch between audio sources automatically when prudent. The music part is a disappointment though. The speakers don’t have very good bass reproduction, and the switch between music and voice has a long delay. It would be much better if they just reduced the volume of the music around the voice – what audio engineers call “ducking” – but they don’t do that, even with the line-in.

Every now and then they will forget their pairing when they’re first started up, which delays things by about 15 seconds in the morning. But then they will last for an eight-hour ride, so there’s no need to shut them off until you’re done for the day. Recharging them will take hours, though, so you better have a free USB port for each unit, and you’ll want to charge them every day – because you will miss them sorely once you get used to them. The unit can unclip from the helmet, so you don’t have to stick your helmet next to your USB hub while you’re charging it.

If you’re traveling on a bike with a partner, or in a group, get a set of these as soon as possible. They are worth the price.

(In 2016 Cardo’s cycling products were acquired by Terrano, so look there now.)

This doodad provides a high-amperage USB charging port without requiring you to carry along another plug adapter, when you travel internationally with your laptop. Great for us weight-obsessed gadget freaks, especially if you’re traveling with one of those new MacBooks with the USB-C charging port. Now, you can charge your laptop and your phone at the same time, like a normal person!

So is this item worth carrying around? For a solo international trip, I’d say yes. For more than one person, you’re better off getting one dedicated multi-port high-wattage charger, so you can charge your spare batteries, helmet intercoms, speakers, lights, and phones all at the same time.

I bought this when the smaller battery pack began to lose capacity, after years of heavy use. I decided to go up a size so Kerry and I could swap it back and forth.

In retrospect this battery was overkill, and we could have gone with something about 2/3 of the size and never worried. Now my sister uses it to charge her youngest son’s power-hungry iPad 3 on car trips.

Comes with several waterproof bags you can use to place your phone, wallet, keys etc inside. Then you clip it around your waist and dive into the water. Made specifically for those times when you’re in unfamiliar territory and concerned about theives.

So far in two years I’ve only used it once, to conceal a car key inside a wetsuit. My paranoia probably got the better of me when I purchased this.

I got this after my previous backpack was stolen. It’s spacious, with a removable aluminum back support and plenty of compression straps, and also has a top pocket and side pockets that you can get to while it’s stacked on the top of a rear rack. A couple of tie straps will keep it securely in place, and you can even pass the tie straps through the loops made by the compression straps, keeping everything aligned.

So far it’s been an excellent choice, as extra cycling luggage and as a regular hiking backpack. When placed on top of a long rack, the top pocket and side pockets are easily accessible under two crossed bungee cords.

Another item purchased to replace one that was stolen. This jacket is rain-proof and has three external pockets and one internal one, a liner that can be partially unzipped, straps to tighten the wrists, and a pass-through for a headphone wire. It’s also extremely lightweight.

It doesn’t have an attached hood, which is a positive thing for a recumbent rider – you either want the hood on, or absent, not hanging down your neck squished against the seat. On rainy days I use this with a waterproof hood that wraps around the collar, and on windy days I use this without the hood.

After two years of use it has stood up perfectly, except I’ve learned over time that any “waterproof” zipper on a jacket is not really waterproof when you’re riding in torrential rain leaned back on a recumbent seat. So you’d better keep your electronic devices in a plastic bag or some other additional layer.

This carries a huge amount of water, and you can bury it underneath your laundry to keep it cool. It has all the doodads you’d expect, and is easy to fill and doesn’t seem to affect the taste of what you put in it.

Having an ice-cold drink on your journey is a fine indulgence if the extra weight of the container doesn’t bother you. This thing is much easier to drink from than a regular thermos, and keeps things cold or hot for almost as long.

Perfect for anchoring things down on your rack. You can lift up one strap and pin something underneath temporarily – like your gloves or a bag of chips – while the other strap stays in place.

After my Bike Friday got stolen at Fruitvale Bart station, I decided it was time to get serious about bike locks. I call this my “Big F-Off Lock” and I use it whenever I need to lock up a bicycle anywhere in Oakland. Your average local bike thief is equipped with a pair of cutters that can be concealed in a backpack – and unless your bike is being stolen by Hercules, he’ll need something with longer handles to cut this chain.

On a cross-town trip, some people wear their bike chain over their shoulder or around their waist while they’re riding, but this chain is just too heavy for that. It’s also way too heavy for touring, and not appropriate anyway because the bigger problem while you’re touring is thieves who will loot your bike in-place, taking your luggage. But if you wanna park a bike in Oakland and come back for it later, this is what you put on it. (And if you’re really worried, you remove your seat and take it with you.)

I used these on several trips to link together my USB hub, iPod, GPS unit, portable speakers, and iPhone, and charge everything at once overnight.

Of course, nowadays the socket for iPhones and iPads has changed, so you’re better off getting something else.

Losing my headphones in the middle of a tour is terrible (no audiobooks!) so I brought a spare set of these. This over-the-ear design is fairly comfortable, and can be worn under a helmet or inside a rain-hood, and is not prone to fall off your head when you hit a bump. Oh, and they sound alright too!

I obsessed for quite a while about the best way to charge gadgets on a bicycle. Eventually I settled on a portable USB-charged power pack.

Over many days of riding, I have never needed any more capacity than this 5000mAh battery pack in a single day. On my ride from Colorado to Ohio I put in one 18-hour day of riding, and used it to charge the iPhone twice and an iPod once. (Love those audiobooks!)

It’s about as heavy as an apple, and about as wide across as the iPhone is tall. It’s seriously bright, and it can be charged off any USB part, or hand-cranked in an emergency. It comes with a fold-out handle that doubles as a stand, with a hook on the end so you can hang it from a nail or a tent loop. It’s just a great thing to have around. I’ve used it while camping, while riding at night, and once to go scouting under furniture for a lost keyring.

Finding a pair of rain pants that fit me was a chore. I was also dismayed to realize how expensive rain pants are in general. … But once I actually put them on and rode through a rainstorm, I was glad I’d spent the money. The velcro-and-zipper apparatus at the base of each leg is a great design. It helps you seal the pants tightly over your other protective layers, and it helps you rearrange those layers when they inevitably bunch up around your groin after pulling the rain pants up for the first time. Yikes!

These particular pants have a zippered pocket directly on the back, which is handy for riding on an upright bike, but worthless on a recumbent. No great loss, since actually using it means you stick your hand directly behind you in a way that makes you look like a zoo animal picking its butt.

This is the only cage I’ve found that works when mounted on the back of my Bacchetta seat. The frame of the seat, and the netting stretched over it, bulges outward above the anchor points for the bottle cages, so if you’re using a stiff wire cage you can only slide very short containers into it. Longer containers collide with the frame of the seat. It’s a pretty dumb design flaw.

This cage solves the problem by gripping bottles with curved blades of carbon fiber. The grip is quite strong even when the bottle isn’t seated all the way into the cage. So, I can slap a large water bottle into it while cycling along, and it won’t fall out.

I use these on the recumbent, and keep a spare pair in my toolkit. Ya never know how the road is going to treat your brakes. … Or when your rim will crack and mangle the brake pads currently in use.

I bought these because, after eight years of use by me and the previous owner, the bar grips on the Giro 20 had almost completely disintegrated into tacky plastic mush.

The only real choice I needed to make was between the 13-inch and the 11-inch version. There was no question of whether a geek like me would need a laptop, or what kind of laptop would be appropriate for long-range travel. I went with the 13-inch because I knew I would be messing around with photographs a lot, and the weight difference was not a big deal.

My only worry with this machine was that I would end up in a motel room that offered an ethernet jack but no wireless internet. So far, in all my travels, I have not been in this situation. (There’s a USB-to-Ethernet dongle available, but I don’t use it.)

Fat lot of good that spare tire does you when you can’t inflate the sucker, eh? This pump is compact, comfortable, and has a pressure gauge for taking the guesswork out of roadside inflations. It felt a bit awkward to use until I realized that you’re supposed to flip up the handle on the top and then place the heel of your hand on it, with the end of the handle pointing towards your index finger. It’s pretty easy to pump a tire up to 100psi and beyond in this position.

Incidentally, the FastBack NorBack Frame Bag has a velcro arm inside it that fits this pump perfectly.

I use one of these to store my sleeping bag (the larger one) and the other one to store all my laundry. They do their job well. No complaints.

You might ask – why not just skip the bags, and use waterproof panniers instead? Well, sometimes it’s nice just to organize things by putting them in separate bags. And, these bags can be rolled up and then squished to drive out all the air, making their contents take up a lot less space. A wad of laundry the size of a watermelon can be become a chunk the size of a cantaloupe instead.

This cute little bag fits perfectly between the front edge of my seat and the handlebar stem, on my recumbent. I usually place little snacks inside it, or a charger for my phone, or occasionally my house keys.

At first it seemed like a brilliant piece of hardware to bring on a bike trip. It’s always connected, easy to show people when asking for directions or trying to communicate, it charges with only 5 volts, and it’s capable of doing most of the things I would want a laptop for.

But as I traveled I found that there were common situations where a laptop did a much better job. The biggest one was working with photographs. Aperture and 4GB of RAM and a real CPU just beat the pants off any low-power iPad setup. The second biggest was correspondence. A trackpad and a responsive keyboard with no Bluetooth lag made long letters and journal entries and chats much easier. The third situation was trip planning. I could open many browser tabs of maps, plus Google Earth, and drag route markers and points all over them, and cut-and-paste notes, rapidly and easily. The only unique advantage the iPad offered was that I could put it inside a waterproof bag and use it safely in the rain. … But I have a phone for that.

Don’t get me wrong; I love the iPad and use it in many situations in my “normal life”. But on long bike trips where I was passing through civilization, and guaranteed to find electricity and a room out of the rain, it was frivolous.

Away from civilization it’s a different matter. Unlike a laptop, you can charge an iPad with a meager portable solar cell, and it can be charged with the same cable you use with your phone. You can put it in a very nice case to protect it from impacts, and it can be used easily while still inside a waterproof bag.

Elsewhere I’ve done even more dithering about the iPad / no iPad travel decision.

These may seem like a strange thing to have on a list of cycle-touring gear, but I assure you, they belong here. One area of the body that the majority of outdoor travelers forget to protect is their hands, and when you’re cycling all day, the backs of your hands are relentlessly exposed.

These gloves are cheap – 3 bucks a pair – and they weigh almost nothing. They protect my hands when cycling and hiking, from heat and cold and dehydration. When it’s extremely hot out, I just get them wet. When it’s extremely cold, I stick them inside larger gloves. They protect my hands from sharp rocks when I’m splashing about in a river. I can make very messy repairs with them, and then just throw them away.

Two days out in blazing sun, and your bare hands will turn red and start to sting. Two months out in the sun with these, and you will end up with a pleasant, even tan.

Work gloves like these – slightly sturdier versions of a glove liner, essentially – are typically sold in bulk, ten pairs at a time. Grab a bunch.

I bought this to replace my Garmin Forerunner 305. Except for one thing, it’s an across-the-board improvement and does its job perfectly.

Here’s the one thing: The Garmin product management department, in a spasm of divine inspiration, decided to remove a feature from the 500 that was present in the 305, in order to encourage an up-sell to the Edge 800: The automap. On the 305, you can press a few buttons and get a line showing where you’ve been since you last turned on the device. If you’re riding around an unfamiliar area, that feature can be a godsend, because it will show you exactly what direction you’re headed, and can help you retrace your steps. For some reason, they ripped all auto-mapping out. Either you run a pre-loaded course, or you have no map. Lame.

That gripe aside, it’s a lovely device. I use it as a kind of pinch-hitter for the iPhone, because if I was to use the iPhone as a primary GPS tracker with an always-on display, the battery would be toast.

Here’s what the Edge 500 gives me: Constant, set-and-forget recording of my location, for the entire day. A trip-timer telling me how long I’ve been on the bike. My speed, in bright readable numbers, all the time, at-a-glance. How far I’ve traveled for the day. And, as a bonus, a rough estimate of the altitude, and of the ambient temperature. I do not need to poke any buttons to read these things, they’re just there.

Plus, the device synchronizes quickly with standalone software like Ascent or Rubitrack, charges rapidly, and has an impressively secure twist-mount for my handlebars.

And, the battery life is outstanding. I have turned this thing on in the morning, taken it 80 miles on a bicycle, then gone to bed without remembering to turn it off, and found it still gleefully tracking away when I got up in the morning, with the timer at 18+ hours. U JELLY?

A pretty smart design for a mount, and cheap too. The GPS has never come off accidentally.

I’ve used four mounts designed and manufactured by RAM Mounts, for the original iPhone, the iPhone 3G, the iPhone 4/4S, and the iPhone 5. Every one of them has held the phone in place brilliantly. Potholes that have knocked my sunglasses off have not budged the iPhone one bit, and there’s a handy space for connecting a charge cable.

Once when I was riding through East Oakland, a guy came running up alongside me and tried to yank the phone off my bike. To his surprise, the mount didn’t budge. I slammed on the brakes, cussed him out, and then rode angrily away. East Oakland is crazy.

(… And West Oakland is worse. If you’re going to ride around with a fancy phone in West Oakland, either put it in your pocket, or don’t slow down for anything. But I digress.)

RAM Mounts went on to make a mount for the iPhone 5 that didn’t perform as well – the plastic tab at the top had a tendency to snap off after heavy use – and when the iPhone 6 came out they decided not to make a custom-shaped mount at all. I moved on to a mount made by Quad Lock.

Back in 2010 when I bought this, smartphones were still marching their way across the cultural landscape, changing everything, but nowadays it’s obvious: A smartphone is a game-changer for bicycle trips, especially long ones.

Suppose you’re biking at night, on a route you’ve never taken, and the road loses shape and changes to dirt. The phone is right there on your handlebars, so you press a few buttons, and instantly you get a daytime satellite photograph of the entire woods. There in the center is a glowing dot, showing where you are. As you ride on, you can glance down at the dot and confirm that, yes, there’s the tree you should be seeing, and there’s the spot where the road bends,… et cetera. In addition, the phone is playing music for you. And checking your email. And if the woods are getting spooky, you can call someone up and ask them to tell you jokes.

All with one lightweight device. Frankly, it’s like having “cheat mode” for a bicycle. It turns your bike into a mobile command center. With a few bars of signal, I am just as connected to the digital world and my social network as I am when sitting at home.

On my ride across Oregon, I used it to look at satellite pictures of the roads ahead, to make sure I wasn’t going to end up on dirt or gravel. In Indiana, I used it to check the evolving weather forecast so I knew when to switch to rain gear. In Kansas, I used it to search for the next motel I would be staying at. I could get directions, read a review, look at the place in “street view” to make sure it wasn’t decrepit, then call them up and make a reservation, all without dropping below 15 miles an hour.

In the ensuing years I’ve upgraded to other phones – all iPhones so far – and they’ve only become more and more fun and useful.

After spending years with a Minolta Dimage 7i camera, I found myself without an upgrade path when Minolta sold their entire digital camera business to Sony. The first few versions of the Sony Alpha series were pretty uninspiring. Eventually I jumped ship and bought a Canon.

The build quality of the 50D has been outstanding, and the image quality has been excellent. After five years of pretty rough use I’m still enjoying it, though that’s more likely due to the lens than the camera itself. The Sony Alpha SLT-A99V tempted me as an expensive upgrade for a while, but Sony just doesn’t have the same offering of lenses. My next move will probably be the Canon EOS 6D.

This lens is astonishing. It appears to gather more light than my eyes do. I have never needed to use the flash with this lens, even at night in parking lots, taking pictures for San Jose Bike Party. The focus is lightning-fast, perfectly accurate, and barely audible. The detail is magnificent.

The price may seen crazy, but look at it this way: To find a superior lens (at least here in 2012), you’d have to start by doubling that price.

Incidentally, if gathering lots of light is your game, then you might want to try the Canon EF 85mm f1.2L II. Another tempting upgrade … if my money supply was infinite, which it ain’t!!

Mmmyep, it’s a media card. Nothing special. Gotta store pictures somewhere.

Not the right size to consistently hold up my Canon EOS-50D. I have to bend one of the legs upwards and then down again, making a kind of elbow that the lens can rest on. Better suited to a compact camera, I suppose.

I use this all the time on trips with the laptop, on or off the bike. It reads the media in my camera, and it adds two more USB slots. That means I can get to a motel room and plug my Macbook Air into mains power, then attach this hub, and charge my little folding speakers, my phone, my spare battery, and my GPS unit, all at the same time.

Of course I still end up having to swap things around on some nights, since I can also use the hub to charge my iPod, my iPad, my Countour video camera, and my rainproof flashlight. Usually those items stay home, though.

Since this item is discontinued, try this instead.

When you’re tromping around the outdoors this filter effectively doubles as a protective layer on top of your more expensive optics.

Plus there’s the indended advantage: It brings the intensity of the sky down to the intensity of the terrain, keeping it from washing out, and it helps reduce pesky reflections on water and other surfaces.

The rack on the back of my recumbent. It’s a very solid and long rack, and it uses an attachment system that is compatible with the strange anchoring design on the back of the Bachetta. Over the years it has warped a little, from riding over nasty roads with huge amounts of gear anchored to it, but it has never fractured.

This particular rack isn’t made any more. Its successor is just as strong, but doesn’t have the upward curve that acts as a handle. Damn.

This was the second rack I attached to the upright (the Bridgestone), when I got fed up with the first one. The design allowed me to attach it even though the Bridgestone had no mounting holes on the upper fork, and the additional bars in the frame allowed me to hang my panniers much higher off the ground, so that they were even with the rear ones. This increased my ground clearance, decreased my wind profile, and made the items easier to get at.

Three drawbacks: The rack is rather heavy, harder than usual to remove, and doesn’t pack into a shipping box very well. When I removed it for shipping to Australia, it wouldn’t fit in my Crateworks box, because it was too wide to fit on either side of the dividing compartment. So I left it behind.

These came with the recumbent as a package deal. I would probably not have them if I was looking for panniers separately, but that’s because I would have been heavily biased toward something waterproof.

Waterproof material hasn’t mattered as much as I thought it would. There were a few times in Missouri where it rained heavily and they got soaked, but all my luggage was packed inside in waterproof bags. The weight of the water being held in the fabric was probably a drag on my pedals, but I didn’t notice it. The next day I emptied the panniers onto the motel room floor and hung them from my handlebars next to the space heater, and they were dry before I left.

True, I could pay $350 and get the large waterproof Ortlieb bags, and stop worrying about rain. But then I would be giving a few things up.

For one, the Arkels are flush with the top of the rack, making it easier for me to stack large things – such as an oversize backpack and a sleeping bag – on top. The bags also unzip along the side, and have several side pockets and pouches, so I can get anything I need from them without disturbing the items above. They also anchor to the rack very securely. Any bump that could dislodge them would probably break the rack itself. They take maybe two additional seconds per bag to attach or remove compared to the Ortliebs, and that time is completely inconsequential.

And most important, these bags actually fit on my rack. The Ortliebs are designed to fit on the elongated racks that ship with some – but not all – recumbents. They do not fit on mine.

I use these bags all the time, and have exceeded the sensible weight capacity on them a few times, yet they show almost no damage. I say “almost” because one time I went around a sharp curve on the recumbent, with these bags suspended on the under-seat rack, and the bottom of the bags scraped against the pavement for 30 yards, making a constellation of tiny holes in the material. Totally outside the warranty. Nevertheless, as long as I don’t hang them upside-down in the rain or throw them into a lake, they still keep all of my gear dry.

The mounting system is very simple, and the external pockets are theoretically handy but I almost never use them. Sometimes I find items I’d put in there months ago and forgotten about, like food wrappers or gloves. The drawstrings and flaps are very quick to close, and I can open them with one hand while stopped at a stoplight. The interior of the main compartment is sensibly divided by a tongue of fabric that keeps flat things snug against the frame, which works well for transporting a binder or a laptop. There’s also a zippered mesh compartment inside for small things. With a little practice I discovered I could reach under the flap, undo the zipper, get an object, and re-zip the compartment all with one hand, without looking.

I use these bags for almost every excursion, recumbent or upright bike, across town to the store or across state lines. To get them to fail I’d probably have to light them on fire. (I once carried a full-size truck battery home from the hardware store. The bike leaned a lot but the bag was fine.) My only concern with them is kind of esoteric: When I’m riding in a large anonymous crowd, like San Jose Bike Party, I sometimes worry that the bags are too easy to remove. A stranger just behind me can reach out any time and yank on the handle, and then disappear into the crowd before I realize what’s happened. To deal with this paranoia I anchor the spine of each bag onto my rack with a large ziptie before I go riding into slow-moving group events.

Let me say this again, though, to give it due emphasis: I have used these bags almost every single day for over six years now, and they are just as sturdy as they were when I bought them. Not a single loose thread, torn seam, or broken clip. That is remarkable. They are worth every penny.

I have this bag suspended upside-down on my recumbent, beneath the main tube, just in front of the fender for the rear wheel. It’s where I keep my tire levers and my spare tubes.

I carry this bag suspended from the main tube of my Bacchetta, between the front fork and the clamp that holds the seat in place. It’s a little cramped in that position, but I’m still very pleased with it. It’s where I keep my repair kit.

It’s designed to enclose (among other things) a bicycle pump, but I decided to mount the bicycle pump elsewhere. Usually it contains: Chain oil, a tiny set of needle-nose pliers, a tiny adjustable wrench, a set of hex keys on a keyring, a bag of nuts and bolts, some brake pads, zipties, and a swiss-army knife with scissors, bottle opener, and screwdriver.

I have this bag mounted on the back of my Bacchetta seat. It hangs between the bottle cages, and has enough room for a small water pouch, or – when I’m riding in San Jose Bike Party – the enormous battery pack for my LED mohawk. The best thing about it though is the zippered pocket near the top. A BART card with a few bucks on it has permanent residence there.

This particular bag isn’t made any more, but FastBack has a couple of newer models like it.

When I bought this light I felt assured that it was the best design available. Since it draws power from the dynamo in my wheel, I never have to worry about charging it, or running out of power in the middle of a ride. After two years of constant use, I bought a second one for the recumbent. Both are still going strong, and both still provide excellent visibility and get plenty of attention from motorists without being an eyesore.

There are other lights available that generate a longer channel of illumination in front of the bike, but they also draw more power from the dynamo, adding to the drag the dynamo creates. After a few months of riding with a dynamo light, I discovered I was able to sense that drag at high speeds. From this I realized that there is a price to be paid – in calories and effort – for extra light. The urge to upgrade to something brighter passed rapidly.

I used one of these on each bike – upright and recumbent – to position the Inolight. Very handy.

An easily visible, easy-to-mount, dynamo-powered taillight. It stays lit for a while after you come to a stop, making you visible at intersections. I bought one for each bike, but had to improvise with a few parts to attach it to the rack on my recumbent. (These days most racks will have rear mounting holes that make adding a taillight easy, but my OMM rack didn’t have those.)

About four years after buying it, I accidentally knocked the back plate off against a rock while I had the bike upside-down. It snapped back in place with no trouble, but the fit wasn’t as secure, so I ran a ziptie around it to grip the front and back together. Now I’m on year 7, and it’s still doing fine. Busch & Müller have earned their money for sure.

Just another bike helmet. In the summer I find I have to ride with a bandanna on underneath the helmet, to keep the sun from shining straight through the holes and toasting my forehead.

When using a recumbent, the upright posture encourages you to face forward instead of down, and the visor on the end of the helmet stops being effective. There’s a product called “Da Brim” that you can use to address this.

I bought a pair when I got the recumbent. Six years and 7000 miles later they’re still in good shape.

You can use shoes like these for casual days – walking around the store, or getting between your bike and your desk at work – but you wouldn’t want to use them on an all-day hike. I like them because I don’t necessarily have to change out of them when I’m not riding. That makes them ideal for long trips when I’m on the bike most of time, but might stop any minute to walk into the woods, climb a hill, or use a scummy bathroom.

Gotta have these, or your fancy bike shoes are useless!

I really need a lot of room in a sleeping bag to feel comfortable, so I went big. Big Agnes big. This one packs up reasonably small and doesn’t weigh very much, and even if you don’t bring an inflatable mattress insert along, it makes a great alternative to crawling under the sheets in a motel room when you suspect the bed’s full of cooties. (Trust me, it happens.) Just pitch this thing on top of the blankets and crawl in.

Of course I’ve also used it inside a tent, on an inflatable mattress, and it’s great there too. Long underwear and a t-shirt keeps me from sweating too much in the synthetic lining.

These are exactly the right size and shape to contain a 13-inch MacBook Air! Huzzah! Also good protection for an iPad. Then you can take the iPad into the bathtub and watch The Daily Show in style.

I have two of these. Great for regular use in rough conditions. I’ve dropped them on the pavement many a time, and even used them as hot-water-bottles on cold nights. They can be sterilized over a fire or in a dishwasher.

This is a spring-loaded double kickstand that unfolds beneath the center of my bike, holding it upright pretty securely. It’s great for when I stop randomly by the side of a road and want to rummage through my stuff, or use my rear rack as a table. I never have to worry about finding something to lean the bike on.

There are people out there who believe that any kickstand is a luxury, and choose instead to save valuable weight by removing theirs, or never installing one in the first place. What can I say … I use this thing an average of six times with every ride I make, local or long-range. I love it. Since it holds the bicycle straight up, I can put a lot more weight in the saddlebags without worrying that it will tip over. For fine-tuning the weight of unevenly packed bags or a slope in the road, I just turn the handlebars left or right after parking.

Typically, you install this thing by loosely attaching it, then marking how far down you want the legs of the kickstand to reach. Then you detach it again and saw off the excess material with a metal saw. You can do it in an hour or so.

Exactly large enough to unscrew the pedals from my bicycle, and small enough to bring along for field repairs. This size is kind of important: When I got to New York and had to box up my bicycle, I had full access to a toolbox, and there were two adjustable wrenches available, and both were too large to fit between the pedal and the crank.

Just some chain oil for wet conditions, in a portable portion size. Turned out to be handy when I entered Missouri.

Chain oil for general use, in a small container. Nothing special, but essential for the toolkit. You’ll ride all day in the wind, and ten layers of grit and crap will stick to your bicycle. You’ll clean off some of the grit with cloth and your hands, but to work the rest out, you’ll need to apply (and re-apply) some oil.

I’ve read a few gripes in forums about how one should only use light grade oil and nothing else, applied often, to avoid drag. I’ve also met a couple of mountain bikers who used straight-up axle grease on their chains, applying it liberally with a stick before barreling down muddy hillsides, then wiping it off at the end of the day. Do whatcha want, yo. No judgement from me!

I’ve hauled this along on three separate tours, and only taken it out of the bag a couple of times. It has four problems that make it a pain in the ass to use.

The first is, it takes for-ev-er to boot up and acquire a GPS lock. Like, somewhere above two minutes even in open country. That’s unacceptable.

The second: It’s surprisingly difficult to mount. I’ve tried various angles on the bicycle, and they all cause too much vibration. I bought a mount for my helmet, but it holds the camera in a kung-fu grip that requires five years of training in a dojo to defeat. Plus I have to turn the lens slightly off the horizontal to correct for the incline of the mount, and if I get it wrong, everything I film comes out leaning to one side.

Third: The viewing angle is either too narrow or too wide, and the media files it generates are enormous. To get video in my specifications, I have to post-process the recordings, cropping 15% off the sides and cutting the resolution by 1/3.

I wrote an AppleScript to automate the process, but transcoding into h264 is no joke. My 2011 MacBook Air would grind away for 15 minutes on a 5 minute clip. You can forget about doing this “in the field”; your laptop battery would be dead in an hour.

Which brings me to complaint number four: The battery life. One of the big features that attracted me to this camera was that I could clip it to my helmet and set it in “picture mode”, which takes an endless series of decent resolution photos of whatever I’m looking at, one every 5 seconds or so. The idea is, I can ride out on the road and just look at something for five seconds, and then note the time, and at the end of the day I’ll have a picture of whatever I was looking at, ready for posting and commentary, and I never even had to take my hands off the handlebars or fumble for a camera.

But no. Even in what you would expect is a very low-power mode, the battery dies after only a couple of hours. So much for all-day riding.

Alas, I now leave this device at home on a shelf. Even the newer 2012 model does not adequately address these flaws.

The idea behind this little doodad is interesting. It will allow you to get a view of whatever your Contour camera is pointed at on your iPhone, via bluetooth. You can use this view to frame a shot or check the angle of the camera mount.

I bought it because I was curious, and because it was cheap. (Free shipping.) I would be delighted if the company enhanced their firmware and software so that I could send a stream of Contour photos to my phone, and upload them automatically to a gallery website as I rode along. Real-time hands-free photoblogging! Kickass!

The power requirements of bluetooth make this unlikely, though…

Just another memory card. Nothing to see here…

An accessory that came as a package with the Contour GPS video camera. I have used it precisely 0.0 times.

Bacchetta used to sell their bikes with these, but a few years ago they switched to another tire that’s cheaper. They’re 100psi tires with a slick surface, so they need good roads to run on, but you can make serious time with them. I ride with them daily on my commute to work. From Colorado to Ohio I only had one flat, from a really nasty thorn.

Using a recumbent bicycle for long trips is a totally different experience, and superior in many ways. If you want to know how a recumbent differs from a regular “upright” bike, check out this essay by John Andersen.

I’ve found the Bacchetta Giro 20 to be an agile, hard-working, and extremely comfortable ride. I’ve taken it 130 miles in a single day and gone to bed with zero joint pain – not in my knees, not in my tailbone, not in my neck or wrists.

The Giro 20 is a good balance between the low-profile rides of the more streamlined racing recumbents, and the forward-facing, upright rides offered by long-wheelbase recumbents. I have been tempted to move away from the Giro to the HP Velotechnik Street Machine, since the Street Machine has a nice integrated suspension, but that led me to the other great thing about the Giro: The pricetag. A Street Machine specced out to my requirements would have cost me twice as much as the Giro.

I’ve spent a lot of money on small degrees of improvement, in biking gear, computer gear, audio gear, camera gear … but that was too much, even for me. I’m quite happy with the Giro 20 and it’s probably good for another ten thousand miles.

When Michael Reed assembled the mountain bike I later purchased, he chose these handlebars. I’ve found them to be extremely comfortable. They offer a gradient of hand positions, and allow you to lean way forward with your elbows on the bars and your hands gripping the plastic joint in the center, giving you a low profile with relaxed arms. They’re lovely.

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