Packing Your Panniers

P.B.cropWhen packing your panniers, it is important to remember where you put things. This allows for ease in locating emergency items in a pinch. It also helps you to quickly set up for camp and quickly pack up in the morning for an early start.

For rear panniers, we stuff the down sleeping bag into the left panniers to prevent accidentally dragging it over a greasy chain. For ease of packing your sleeping bag, sling it over your shoulder while stuffing it into the pannier. The sleeping sheet should be the only other item on that side.

In Bob’s right rear pannier, we put the spare bike parts, bike tools, tent (without the stakes and poles), and lotions. In my right rear pannier, we pack the tent fly. Emergency food and anything else remaining can be tucked in anywhere. We roll our tent poles and stakes inside a sleeping pad and secure it on top of the rear rack.

The front panniers are loaded with clothes. Tops on one side and bottoms on the other. It doesn’t really matter what side you choose for each. Just remember where you put them! You will be grateful when you can quickly find that rain jacket.

When packing, it is best to keep the heaviest item on the bottom for a lower center of gravity for better bike handling. Depending on what you pack, it may be different from our heavy items, but we find that the bicycle tools and spare bike parts are among the heavier items.

We like to pack in an orderly fashion so we can easily locate items. Orderly packing also allows us to pack with speed when necessary, like when we have to stealth camp. Please read my blog article, Stealth Camping, if you would like information about that.

There really are no rules on how to pack. If there is one piece of information that I can stress that you follow, it is to keep the heaviest items at the bottom of your panniers. It really does make a difference in how your bicycle will handle.

Bike-Packing to Drake Bay, Costa Rica

Back in 2011, Bob and I attempted taking the only road to Drake Bay. We had a late start because we were fascinated about the process of making thatched roofs. One of the camp’s huts were being worked on while we were there. It was a great opportunity to talk to the workers and ask questions.

Once we got to the road to Drake, the series of hills we tackled got steeper. At the point where Bob and I turned around, we had already encountered four hills; two of which I had to push my bike. It was one slow step after another to reach the top of that fourth hill. The heat and humidity hit me bad. The thought of having to turn around bummed me out, but my endurance was pushed beyond my limits that day.

After Bob got home from his trip this past March, he told me that the point we turned around at was only about a fourth or a third of the way to Drake Bay. We would have never made it there before dark.

Here is Bob’s description of the road as emailed from an Internet source after he got back out from Drake Bay.

It was all hill climbing like we left it for 4 more km. Nice hard packed road. I made all the climbs except the last 300 meters, because I thought it would go on for the next 1 k or so with the unseen bends. I was gassed making all of the climbs pouring out sweat like a roasted pig. If i knew there was really the end of the first 12 k of climbing right in front of me, I could have made that; but I said sheeeeet, this is time to stop before my heart blows or my legs blow out. Visualized that was twice as easy as what was next to come.; not including all the dump truck hauling gravel to drake airport. They are extending it bigger – dusty nasty gravely giant hills. No fun at all. Impossible to continue riding for anyone. Steep

Rode 125k to Drake. Got a bus ride out this morning at 4 a.m. It was wicked the last half ride in there. Worst roads ever. Truck traffic; dusty with rolling stones and tall climbs with slippery shoes; all after doing 115 k already.. Help Mr bus driver.

Did I tell you about my bus experience this morning?

While we were un-roping my bike on the roof 10 feet up on the bus to unload, a guy on the street yelled to the bus driver that the bus n rolling towards a car. He flies off the top to the ground and runs in to the door to stop the bus from hitting the parked car while I’m on top. No big deal – PURA TICO – hahahaha.

I was laughing – chuckling while I was on the roof. It was like nothing out of the ordinary for them. The bus rolled 5-10 feet with about 10 extra feet before a parked car was in front of it.

I remember thinking, WOW how fast he flew down off the roof to the ground. Didn’t hesitate a second when he realized the bus was rolling. He was off the roof fast. I was just trying to get braced on the rack – haha.

If only Bob had a camera.

Following the Trans-Am Bike Race

Bob and  I have been following the participants in the Trans-Am Bike Race from the start. The winner finished two days ago in an Alpha 7 Velomobile. That is a first and it might make big news in the Velo world. Marcel even broke the men’s record.

The second place finisher, Peter, also beat the men’s record.

One participant got way off track in Montana. She was lost, running into dead end roads. When we saw she was finally out and in a hotel, Bob called her to make sure she was all right. It was then we learned that her GPS went out. Thankfully, she is all right and has been riding hard to make up for lost time. She certainly was not the first person to get off course. A few men have gotten off course in past races.

The main other people we are watching is a friend of ours and two musicians. The two musicians will be performing live at Newton Bike Shop. George wrote a song in tribute to Mike Hall, who was a pioneer in the bicycle world. It will be at least a week before they arrive. Here is the YouTube video: Be More Mike.

The prize for first place is bragging rights. Yes, you read that correctly. There is no prize at the end. This race is for all the crazies who just want to tackle the challenge. Next year or two, I hope to be one of those crazies. Maybe even crazier since I am much older than most of the participants.

If you want to see some of the video clips of the racers, visit Newton Bike Shop Trans-Am 2018.

Trans-Am Bike Race

This past Saturday, June 2, the Trans-Am Bike race started from Astoria, Oregon. It is a 4,300 mile, self-supported bicycle race that ends in Yorktown, Virginia. Bob and I are following them on-line, watching returning participants. This is the fifth year for the race. The route follows one of the several Adventure Cycling routes.

Bob has bicycled that route years ago a couple times on his own. A few years back, he participated in that race. He started great until he reached Montana, where his bike frame broke. With over 100,000 miles on that bike, I guess that was due to happen. Thank God that Bob was coasting into town, rather than high speed down a mountain.

Bob was surprised that happened. One of our friends, who owns a bike shop, told us that he has seen cracked bike frames. There is a lot of stress on a couple points on a bike.

Last year, the race started to allow pairs. That is the only way I would think of participating in the Trans-Am race. Maybe within the next few years, when I can get my brain wrapped around the total distance I would be riding.  It would certainly  be the biggest bicycling challenge in my life.


A Road I Will Never Get to Bike-pack

Bummer – I was hoping to be able to explore that one stretch of road that Bob tried while in Costa Rica. When I inquired about that particular road, Bob said that he would never take me on that stretch. At least not the second half.

Why? That road is 22 km of dirt, straight up, that shredded the cleats. I cleaned up the language quite a bit here. Bob was told by a family that lives halfway up that hill that even the locals do not bicycle up that road. They opt for the easier route.

Yes, it would have been the biggest challenge of my biking life, but if I were there, I would have wanted to try that mountain. It is in my veins to tackle challenges that face me. Now, I will never know.

The first half of that route is one Bob said he would take me on. He described the first half challenging enough, followed by a downhill with fast-ass switchbacks.

Next trip to Costa Rica, I look forward to biking that first half of the road.