Well, I’ve aborted my Nawlins-Natchez-Nashville tour for the second Spring running and I’m tentatively planning it for Fall of this year. In its place, I decided, a bit last-minute, to join the Bicycle Ride Across Georgia with a group from my local cycle club. I don’t know the exact numbers we’ll have, but I think it is going to be about a dozen. I’m not really sure what to expect from this group since I don’t know most of them, but I can imagine there will be a wide variety of abilities and preferences. I mention preferences because that’s what determines whether you fit or not with someone on tour. I’m an early riser and have a lot of energy in the mornings so I like to get going very early and I’m a bit worried that I’m going to be torn between the desire to ride with the group and my impatience watching the mornings tick away while the group slowly forms up. I just won’t know until we get there and get started. But despite that small worry, I’m really looking forward to this ride.
BRAG is a supported tour so I don’t need to count grams when choosing what to take or leave behind. Our gear will be transported from stop to stop via a truck and the only limitations are two, 50-pound duffel bags. That allows quite some luxury when compared to 28 pounds (including panniers) spread around your bicycle. That and the fact that we’ll have access to warm-weather or indoor camping (our choice) means deciding what to take is pretty easy. But being a planner by nature, I have prepared my list, checked it once, and will check it twice before I begin to pack.
There are two decisions that have taken some thought cycles, however. The first is what computer or tablet I’ll take and the second, related question is whether or not I ride with some form of bag (either handlebar bag, seat bag, or backpack).
I have three reasons for wanting a computer or tablet on tour. First, I want to blog daily. I really like to be able to write about and post photos of my experiences every day. On our Emerald Coast Bike Tour, I did exactly that and I could tell that family and friends were following along. I love the fact that I have people following shortly behind me even if in thought only. I do the same when others post trips on Facebook. Second, I plan to include geocaching in this tour and I’m not sure I want to load my GPS with all the caches for the entire, 470-mile route. Third, I may want entertainment for the evenings. Since this is a large and mature organization, they appear to have a lot of entertainment scheduled, but I can’t imagine they’ll be able to fill up all of the downtime. Even if they’ve arranged enough activities and entertainment to fill the downtime, I occasionally wake up in the middle of the night and I’m quite sure there will be nothing to do then. See my previous post titled Bicycle Touring with iPad.
For these reasons, I will take a tablet or a computer, but the question is exactly what tablet or computer. My choices currently are a Macbook Air, an iPad Mini, or a Dell Venue 8 Pro (Windows 10). The most capable of the devices is the Macbook Air, of course, but there is no special provisions for laptops so I would need to pack it in the bag with the rest of my gear and try to make sure it gets on the top of the pile every day. That or I need to strap it to my back. Erg. So, just take the iPad. I can blog on the iPad, although having the keyboard on the Macbook means I write about 3 times faster, but the iPad cannot interface with my GPS unit to manage the GPX files with cache locations. Well, then. Can you interface with the GPS device from the Windows 10 table? Why, yes. Yes, I can. But there is just a small problem with that. Windows 8 and 10 are simply terrible on tablets. TBH, I consider them terrible on laptops and that is reason I switched to a Macbook this year. But as much as Windows frustrates me on a computer, it is pretty much unbearable on a tablet. So, I’m now flip-flopping between figuring out how to pack the Macbook safely in my bag to prevent damage, simply taking the iPad and pre-loading the GPS before I leave, or taking the iPad and the Dell tablet. I pretty much change my mind on that daily. Check back on my final decision.
The second decision is whether to ride with some form of bag or not. I’ve pretty much ruled out riding with the Macbook on my back so you might wonder why I think I need a bag. Can’t I just stuff my jersey pockets with whatever I need to carry? Yep, but I just don’t enjoy filling those pockets to have my jersey sagging down over my ass and I don’t care what rules the Velominati may have about it. I really don’t carry that much stuff with me. In addition to the tool bag under the seat, I’ll carry iPhone, ID/CC/cash, glasses, cleat covers, and gels/snacks. And it’s nice to be able to carry a real camera, but I don’t normally. Adding geocaching into the picture adds a dedicated GPS unit, a pen, and a small, telescoping mirror although I can use the iPhone instead of the GPS and the telescoping mirror. So, I can pare it down to fit in my jersey pockets plus top-tube bag, but I still might mount the handlebar bag for this ride. Having the cue sheet (augmented with geocache cues, of course) on top of the handlebar bag is quite nice. I rode AMBA in 2012 with the handlebar bag on. So, I guess I’m flip-flopping between just the top-tube bag and the handlebar bag right now. Check back on that decision as well.
I have a little bit of bike maintenance to do as well. It hasn’t been that many miles since the Surly was in the shop for a major tune-up, but it needs new tires and the aftermarket brake hood from Hudz need to go. They’ve just never fit as well as the factory hoods and I’m tired of the despite living the look of the white. I’ll put the original black SRAM hoods back on.
And I’m sorry to say that the white tires are going the way of the DoDo. I have loved the look and those tires have been very consistent through about four paint since 2013. I consistently got around 1500 miles with no flats. But they are no longer available at a reasonable price. I used to be able to find them at around $28 each, but can only find the now for around $40. At the moment, I don’t wish to pay an extra $24 per pair just for the look, cool as it is. I caught a pair of Michelin Protek Urban tires on sale for cheap so I’ll see how those go.
And finally, I need to identify the geocaches I want to search for along the route. In the towns in which we stay, I can just pull up the list of local caches and go find. But if I want to find a few along the route, I need to know when to look because I’m not going to ride with my nose in my GPS unit the whole time. Im going to experiment with location-based reminders on the iPhone to see my f I can get warning when one or more a coming up. If not, it will have to be a low tech solution. I.e. Notes.
So, that’s my prep…
- Packing list and packing
- Tires and brake hoods
- Tablet or computer
- Bag, backpack, or no
- Geocaches and location-based reminders
Looking forward to it.