Any experienced bicycle touring cyclist will tell you that the most important piece of equipment you will need is a proper bike. A bike that is built for touring and is properly sized for your height. I was looking for a touring bike that will also double as a road bike when not outfitted with panniers and other gear. I followed that advice and in my opinion purchased the perfect bicycle to fit my needs – a 2017 Co-Op ADV 1.1 touring bicycle from REI, Inc.
Co-Op ADV 1.1 touring bicycle
Although I have only ridden about 60 miles on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Asheville, NC, I am very happy with this bike. This bike fits my height which makes the ride very comfortable. It has ultra-low gears for touring while carrying a tent, clothes, food, and other gear. The 30-gears make climbing mountains so much easier than the hybrid bike I previously rode. My son gave me an apt description of climbing hills with this bike when he said, “it’s like cheating.” And he was right. You are still pedaling but the gears are such that you exert much less effort.
Rear cassette and derailleur
Some of the features that drew me to this bike are its light weight (30.1 pounds), the steel frame that provides comfort and stability while carrying gear, the 30-speed drive train, and the bar-end shifter’s which took some getting used too. The shifter for the front crankset is a floating shifter that allows for fine tuning the placement of the front derailleur while the rear shifter involves incremental shifting. I would have liked disk brakes but they were not available on this model so the bike has rim brakes which I have had on every bike I ever owned. This bike is also equipped with rear pannier racks which I will soon outfit once I find a suitable set.
I look forward to putting a few thousand miles on this bike and am planning to bicycle the Florida Overseas Highway from Key Largo, FL to Key West, FL during the first week of September. I hope to resume bicycling the Blue Ridge Parkway beginning at Roanoke, VA some time later this year. I might end up completing the Parkway in a couple segments rather than one trip.
At any rate I have a new mode of transportation that will keep me moving for years to come.
There are many excellent books available for novice bicycle touring cyclists to get vital information that will aid in planning the trip and make the experience more enjoyable. I didn’t want to re-invent the wheel so I used my resource from Elizabeth and Charlie Skinner in their book Bicycling the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Skyline Drive: A guide to the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Skyline Drive. This book provided a list of necessary items to include when packing for a self-supported bike tour.
The first decision I had to make was to decide between a single wheel trailer or panniers. This was a big decision that I should have spent more time researching and ultimately lead to what I consider a big lesson learned. I looked at panniers but for some reason felt drawn to a single wheel cargo trailer. I purchased a single wheel cargo trailer from I10direct.com. This is a good trailer for road touring and it tracks well. It included an orange water resistant bag, has a load capacity of up to 75 pounds, and is very well built. The downside is it’s weight. The trailer weighs 21 pounds. I could have spent another $200 or more for trailers that were 5 – 6 pounds lighter. Panniers and the mounting frames on the other hand can weigh, depending on the manufacture, anywhere from 3 pounds to 8 pounds. When climbing mountains weight is an issue that I did not give much consideration during the planning stage of this trip. This was a major lesson learned. A touring pro by the name of Darren Alff has a website called Bicycle Touring Pro.com. He once did a survey of subscribers to find out how many bicycle tourists used panniers vs. trailers. Ninety-five (95%) of over 2,500 respondents said they used panniers. Now I know why.
Other equipment I carried included:
- Mountain Hardwear Spirit 1 tent – 2.2 pounds
- Mountain Hardwear Lamina sleeping bag – 1.7 pounds
- Coleman singlel-burner propane stove – <.5 pounds
- BV bicycle strap-on bike saddle bag
- Blackburn mountain mini-pump for presta and schrader valves
- Roswheel sport cycling bike frame pannier front top bag w/cell phone pocket
- Sigma 1200 wired bike computer
- Clothes – 2 pair bike shorts, 2 bike shirts, underwear, socks, rain gear, long pants for biking, hat, short and shirt for evenings, helmet, windbreaker.
- 3 days of food. Water bottles
- Toiletries, towel, medications, sun screen
- Small cook pan
- Small propane bottle – 7.75 oz.
- Shower shoes
- Matches, small flashlight, plastic for under tent, maps, spare tubes, bike multi-tool.
My gear weighed 21 pounds which I felt was a good number. But add the weight of the trailer and I was pulling 42 pounds. Had I used panniers I could have reduced the weight by about 15 pounds which would have helped on the long, winding climbs along the Blue Ridge mountains in Virginia.
Now that I’ve researched, planned, and trained it was now time to ride.