How do you pack 3 weeks of stuff into 4 panniers?

Short answer: don’t bring a lot of stuff.

We each have 4 pairs of bike shorts, socks and exercise shirts.  We each have something nice we can wear to church. They have to serve double duty if we go out to eat somewhere nice. We each brought a puffy and a bivy sac, which we hope not to use – our plan is to stay in hotels, Airbnb, and normal bed and breakfasts. If we ride according to our plan, we won’t be sleeping under a park bench. (Fingers crossed.)

We are using bike shoes that have low profile clips, so they can be our normal day to day sightseeing shoes as well. We each have a pair of flimsy lightweight loafers we can use for nicer venues.

Toiletries are at a minimum. For the first time TSAs regulations were not the limiting factor.

The balance of our free space is filled with snacks and tools.

Laundry is going to happen along the way. We have a clothes line that we can string up on the back of our bike, in case we need to make it more obvious we are tourists.

We squeaked through check in at the airline with both bike boxes weighing 2 pounds under the 70 pound limit. That was without our large panniers in the boxes – those are going with us as carry ons. This is one heavy rig.


Schlepping this thing around

Many have asked us how we transport this awkwardly-sized bike.  That has been a bit of a journey in and of itself.

We started by taking it apart in the middle, folding it, and lugging it into the back of our truck. This had a few drawbacks. First, it wasted a little time before and after each ride. Second, it seemed to put stain on the cables that route below the frame. Third, it was a pain in the rear.

Then Eric came to visit. Whenever Eric is around everyone’s redneck game improves a bit. Nothing says “high class bike rack” like a few 2x4s. We drove to Lowe’s to buy the wood and couldn’t stop changing the design all along the way. It is a good thing we don’t live closer to each other. Our neighbor’s property value would be impacted.

This design was ok, but it was heavy and awkward – like our bike. When we would park the truck and take our bike out, we would have to leave a long board poking out the back. It didn’t fit with the yuppy biker vibe at the local trailhead. It did seem extra long for some reason. More of the board was outside the truck bed than was inside. It also was about an inch too high which would cause the redneck neck rests to hit the garage door when pulling in. But it worked.

Our latest iteration involved taking parts from two bike racks to create one. This approach leverages the trailer receiver hitch to lower the height of the bike, and by not having it sit on a 2×4 we lowered it even more. It is super easy to pull off and lock in the back of the truck while we ride and it seems to hold the bike in very securely. Unlike the previous two iterations, I can load the bike on my own with this design.

The final question is how do we get this thing on a plane. We think we are going to accomplish this by boxing it up per the airline’s specifications and then paying extra to bring it as checked luggage. I’m actually more perplexed about how to get it through the airline red tape than I am about riding it a thousand miles through unknown roads and countries.

We took the bike apart on Saturday and boxed it up, being careful to only use tools that are in our panniers as that is all we’ll have to put it back together when we land in Amsterdam. Once assembled we’ll recycle the bike boxes, ride for three weeks, then do it all in reverse. The airport in Amsterdam sells bike boxes, which saves us the trouble of spending our last day dumpster diving behind bike shops.

We are packed and ready to go – going big.

Wind at our backs

Our stay at the mansion in Nephi was just what we needed: an outdoor pool to cool off in, hot tub to soak sore muscles, big meal from random Mexican restaurant (mostly rice and beans), comfy bed (we sleep well when exhausted), and a spinach smoothie for breakfast to fuel our ride.  The ride out of Nephi was beautiful – we’ve always been on I-15 for this section of Utah and had never taken the time to be on the smaller roads to the west. We rode down through Goshen Valley with the wind at our backs, then worked our way around the west side of Utah lake, finishing our ride where we started 3 days earlier in Sandy. Our total was a little over 200 miles and 6000 vertical feet.

Some of the things we learned:

  1. Headwinds with panniers create significant exhaustion.
  2. Hills on a heavily loaded tandem recumbent hurt – we already knew this, we just relearned it really well.
  3. We can do this – we just need to accept a slow pace and churn out the miles.
  4. We need a lot of water – we came super close to running out on our first day and that seemed to effect us a lot.

We highly recommend the route. On a road bike it could be done in one long day (especially if you start closer to Eagle Mountain). The shoulders are reasonable for much of the ride and for the parts where a shoulder didn’t exist the traffic was light.

Next big ride: Europe.


Day 2 was so much better

We both slept really well last night. Our camping spot was perfect. It was a small park on a ranch. We put our tent near some big trees to block the wind, cleaned up, ate, and passed out.

This morning we left a little after 8, because that is when this small gas station opened and we were committed to packing more water and Gatorade this time. We loaded up with lots of ice and hit the road. We probably should have left about 2 hours earlier, because there wasn’t wind until around the time we left. It wasn’t head on for much of the ride and we seemed to tolerate it better. About 40 miles into our 60 mile trip today we turned from riding South to riding North-East. Having a side wind and tail wind changed everything. We went from having to pedal to go downhill (seriously) to riding a good pace uphill. The wind hitting a bike with big wide panniers makes a huge difference.

We are now in heaven, sitting poolside and eating chilled watermelon at an outstanding bed and breakfast in Nephi. Who knew Nephi had such a place?

That hurt

Today we started in South Jordan and rode to Vernon via Eagle Mountain. The ride was about 70 miles and a little under 3000 vertical feet.

We had a big headwind the last 30 miles. It was a ride-at-6-mph-in-first gear headwind. By the time we made it to Vernon I collapsed on the floor of the small convenience store and cafe and let Natalie feed me fries and root beer. Then I collapsed some more. #bonk

Update: laying in tent in an awesome campsite, ate a late dinner, feeling much better.