A few pieces of gear deserve mention from this tour. Most of what I used worked great and, of course, a few things didn’t perform as well as hoped.
A few years ago I purchased a nice little tent from LL Bean. I had seen this review from Backpacker Magazine for the 2 person version, caught a good sale, and assumed the 1 person model would be just as good.
I’ve used the tent for a few trips now and, in general, it has been a trusty shelter for summer nice-weather camping. However, what I discovered on night two of this trip was that there are not enough guy points on the rain fly. It was quite breezy and cold that night, and there was no way to secure the fly closer to the ground and keep it taught such that the wind wouldn’t come up and under into the main shelter. I’ve camped in the rain with this tent and not had a problem, so the lack of guy points really is just an issue when the wind kicks up. I do, however, like the light weight of this tent, the features, quick and easy setup after a hard day of pedaling, etc.
My Garmin Explore 1000 was fantastic. Before purchasing it I read many review on the Edge 1000, Edge Touring and Touring Plus, and other models. I owned an Edge 705 for several years as well. The Explore 1000 was reliable and never steered me wrong, literally. Garmin has recently switched formats such that the .fit files are the most reliable for navigation. In preparing the route for this trip I created the entire route as one long loop on RideWithGPS.com and stored it as a .fit file in the device. For turn by turn navigation each day, I would simply tell it to ride that course, NOT to navigate to the beginning of it, and off I went. Additionally, I downloaded the digital files from the Adventure Cycling Association, so I had all the services stored as POIs in the device in case I needed them. I never did, but I did look a few times to make sure they were listed and the device could guide me there. Battery life was great. I turned off all extra features (Bluetooth, wifi, emergency alert) and lowered the screen brightness to conserve battery. The only “extra” that I turned on was the handy little remote that I attached to the inside of the right brake/shift lever. It was great to be able to switch screens without having to move my hands from the controls.
Here is the link to the route file on RideWithGPS: CO Overall
Especially fun on the Garmin is the ability to customize the fields on each screen. My “home” screen had elapsed time, speed, distance, elevation, and heading. My elevation screen had current speed and percent grade. The temperature function was also handy.
My MSR Whisperlite International deserves mention simply because of it’s long-term reliability. I’ve had this little guy for more than 20 years and it never fails. I keep looking for excuses to replace this with a fancier more modern stove but I just can’t justify it. It was easily the best $100 or so I ever invested on a piece of camping gear…back in about 1995.
After almost 10 years of solid service from my old Axiom panniers, I finally replaced them this summer with brand new Arkel Orca 35 bags. These things are rock-solid – the fabric is sturdy and waterproof, the mounting system is great, and they look really classy. I think the only drawback could be that they don’t have many pockets for organizing. It’s not a big deal, but it would have been helpful to have specific places for some specific items so I didn’t have to dig each day. I found myself essentially completely unpacking and repacking them each night. Not a big deal, but when you’re tired and/or you just want to get going it can mean a few extra minutes of work that could have been saved. Admittedly, I also just need a better system.
Okay, finally, the bike. This was the perfect route for this bike, and this bike was the perfect one for this route. A big factor in riding Old Fall River Road was that I knew I had the right equipment for it, namely the bike itself. Also most campgrounds have dirt access roads, and some of the bike paths and shoulders were unpaved.
For the most part it’s a stock 2018 Trek 920 “Adventure Touring” bike. See the specs on Trek’s website. The modifications I made included adding fenders, changing the saddle (Bontrager Racelite Ti), and a change of tires. The bike comes with 2.0″ mountain bike tires. Knowing that I would mostly be using this on the road, I had them swap out the stock rubber with Schwalbe Marathon Mondial 700 x 40c tires. These were GREAT both on the dirt and the pavement. They had enough tread for solid traction in the softer stuff and on the dirt road, but were also glued to the road when descending the paved mountain road at 30-40 mph. Also, no flats. I had zero mechanical issues with the bike, and loved the hydraulic disc brakes on those long descents.
For my fellow touring pals and gear enthusiasts, I hope these thoughts are helpful. I always enjoy reading other people’s experiences with gear as I make selections for future adventures. If you are in that camp and have any questions about these items or any other things that I didn’t mention, send me a message and I’ll be happy to share my thoughts.