Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Packing List: Credit-card touring on the C&O Canal/Great Allegheny Passage Trails

I am leaving early Thursday morning to check off another item on my bike bucket list, riding the C&O Canal and Great Allegheny Passage Trails from Washington, DC to Pittsburgh, PA. Back when I lived in Pittsburgh, I used to ride parts of the GAP trail between McKeesport and Confluence, just 20-50 miles at a time on day trips, but I've never pedaled the entire route.

I'll be joining a group of seven other riders, two of which I know from my first job in Wheeling, WV. Since the three of us are all IT industry veterans, and they and most of the rest of the group are at or near retirement age, we have dubbed the trip as the "Geeks and Geezers DC to Pgh Bike Tour."

We'll be "credit card touring," meaning that we'll be staying in hotels and eating in restaurants instead of camping and cooking on our own. We're driving to Pittsburgh, then taking Amtrak to DC, then will ride the 350 miles of trails back to Pittsburgh over the course of 5 days.

I've been thinking about my packing scheme for the past couple of months, and got it all together last night. I started with my standard bike-touring packing list, and pared it down based on no need for camping and cooking gear, clothing needed based on the season, etc.

I'm not a "professional" bike mechanic, but as the one in the group with the most bike maintenance experience, I am the de facto support staff for the trip. That mean's I'm taking more tools than I'd typically take on my own, which has added a few pounds to my gear.

I got everything gathered up at home last night:


  • On-Bike Clothing
    • Bib shorts (2)
    • ¾-length baggy shorts (2)
    • Short-sleeve jersey (2)
    • Sun sleeves
    • Socks (6)
    • Cycling shoes
    • Gloves
    • Helmet
    • Prescription sunglasses
  • Off-Bike Clothing
    • Short-sleeve t-shirt
    • Long-sleeve t-shirt
    • Wool boxer shorts (2)
    • Shoes
    • Regular eyeglasses
  • Cool weather clothing
    • Convertible jacket/vest
    • Wool liner gloves
    • Wool Buff headband
  • Wet Weather Clothing
    • Rain Jacket
  • Bike Gear
    • Bicycle
    • GPS w/ charging cable
    • Chain lock
    • Rechargeable headlight (w/ charging cable)
    • Rechargeable taillight (w/ charging cable)
    • Water bottles (3)
  • Bike Maintenance
    • Mini-pump
    • Tool kit
      • Tire levers
      • Allen wrench set
      • Phillips/flat screwdriver
      • Chain tool w/ spoke wrenches
      • Chain whip/pedal wrench combo
      • Cassette lockring tool
      • Crank arm wrench
      • Leatherman tool
      • Torx-25 tool
      • Tube patch kit
      • Tire boot kit
      • Tenacious tape
      • Duct tape
      • Zip ties
      • Chain lube
      • Teflon lube
      • Grease
      • Super glue
      • Rags
    • Spare parts
      • Inner tubes (2)
      • Brake cable
      • Derailer cable
      • Chain links (8, 9, & 10-speed to cover the group)
      • Chain master link (8, 9, & 10-speed to cover the group)
      • Rack bolts/washers
      • Cleat bolts
      • Disc rotor bolts
      • Cable tips
  • Food & Drink
    • Clif bars
    • Energy gels
    • Trail mix
    • GU Brew hydration tablets
  • First-Aid Kit
    • Antiseptic wipes
    • Antibacterial ointment
    • Band-Aids
    • Wound closure strips
    • Ace bandage
    • Benadryl
    • Aspirin
    • Acetaminophen
    • Ibuprofen
  • Personal items
    • Toiletry kit
      • Toothbrush
      • Toothpaste
      • Dental floss
      • Razor
      • Shaving cream
      • Deodorant
      • Nail clippers
      • Tweezers
      • Small scissors
      • Vitamins/medications
    • Sun screen
    • Lip balm
    • Travel size laundry detergent
    • Smartphone w/ charger
    • iPad (for blogging)
    • AC/USB outlet adapter
    • Wallet
      • Cash
      • Credit cards
      • Photo ID
      • Medical insurance card
    • Car keys
For last weekend's Bike Camp-Out Night Ride on the Towpath Trail, I used two panniers on a rear rack for my camping gear and spare clothing, with my tent strapped to the top of the rack. That setup put a lot of weight on the back, with a too-light front end, but I figured it was fine for a short 10-mile trip.

For this trip, I originally wanted to use my Topeak MTX DXP Trunk Bag and my Salsa/Revelate Designs frame bag. I figured I could put my chain lock and a few other heavier items in the frame bag to help distribute the weight, plus I could take advantage of the extra water bottle holder on the trunk bag. And, with Topeak's MTX QuickTrack system, it would be easy to take the whole bag in and out of restaurants, hotels, etc. with me.

Our cat Stevie wanted to help me pack. Or maybe she just didn't want me to leave at all. You never know with cats.


I stuffed everything into the trunk bag and frame bag, leaving out what I'd have on my person or on the bike:

Everything fit, but it was a tight fit. I went to bed. As I was getting ready to head to work, I had a change of heart. The stuff was packed into the trunk bag so tight that it would be a real pain to unpack and repack every day, and even worse trying to find something if I needed it while on the trail. And, the Salsa Fargo has room for 5 bottle cages, so I could live without the extra bottle holder on the trunk bag. With the track record we've had with weather this season, it would be foolish not to expect and plan for rain, so that was another argument for using my (waterproof) panniers.

I traded the Topeak MTX Explorer rear rack off the bike, put the Salsa Wanderlust rack back on, and dug out my panniers. I got everything packed to where all I'd need was the small Revelate Designs Tangle frame bag, where I could keep my chain lock in the main compartment, and my phone and wallet easily accessible in the left-side pocket.

This worked well, but again, was a little too heavy in back. I could use a front rack and both front and rear panniers, but then each pannier would be less than half full, which seems kinda silly, and I'd have to be lugging four panniers around hotels instead of two.

The bottle cage mounts inside the main frame triangle aren't usable with the Tangle frame bag anyway, so I figured I may as well use the full-size frame bag to balance the weight out better:
This looks and feels like it will work well, plus I'm out of time to change my mind again, so this is how I'll be rollin'. I put the chain lock, two inner tubes, snacks, sunglasses case, wallet and phone in the frame bag, and everything else in the panniers. I threw on the rear clip-on fender for good measure.

I hope to post daily updates on this blog with photos and highlights of the trips, so check back here!

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