It is surreal to think that in less than 48 hours, I will be boarding my flight to Beijing. And after two days in Beijing I will be loading my bike and gear onto the Trans Mongolian Train bound for Ulaanbaatar. I have been planning and dreaming about this trip for years and it’s finally happening. I have been running around like crazy in Toronto these past few weeks. Mainly I have been visiting family and friends and doing some last minute shopping for gear. I have been stressing myself out about minor details – do I have enough spare batteries? Are my GPS maps good enough for Mongolia? Do I bring 2 or 3 shirts?..and it goes on. As the cliché goes, this isn’t my first rodeo – I have toured before, stressed out about the same packing details. I just have to remind myself that once I arrive, I really won’t care much about all of it. I will be happy enough to be pedalling and I will get by on what I have. I do personally believe, however, that it is always good to invest in the best gear you can afford.
I have spent years accumulating stuff for bicycle touring and my investment reaches into the thousands. I will also say that not being able to afford top end gear shouldn’t stop anyone from touring. Go with what you have, get out there, ride and have a great adventure! There are two things though that you should never cheap out on – tires and racks. My Schwalbe Marathon Mondial tires will still be good for many miles yet and my Thorn racks are bombproof. I think that the rear rack is rated to up to 35kg alone. This is reassuring, because I will be carrying more weight with me this time than on my past cycling trips to Asia and South America. A lot of it has to do with my chosen routes and new techie additions like a Macbook Air 11″, tripod and selfie stick for filming with my GoPro.
Crossing Mongolia, I will have to carry all of the bike spares that I could possibly need as many parts will not be available. For some stretches I will also need to carry up to 15L of water and food to last 3-4 days as settlements are far apart. All of this will probably amount to 80-100lbs of gear on my bike. Good thing I have low gears! For a comprehensive packing list, check it out here. And below is an idea of what will be inside my panniers (minus food and water of course).
There are many items that I have taken on my previous tours that will be making another appearance in my luggage. Here are some of the more noteworthy ones..
This jacket has kept me dry in all but the heaviest of downpours. The jacket is well designed for the needs of cyclists with plenty of zips for ventilation. I also find that the event fabric breathes slightly better than Gore-tex. There is also the option for a detachable hood that fits under the helmet. The customer service is also excellent. I was having some problems with seem failure and Showers Pass very quickly provided me with a replacement jacket for my trip. Great company all around.
I have the Back Roller Classic 40L, Front Roller Classic 25L , Ultimate 5 handlebar bag and 31L rack pack from Ortlieb. In my opinion these are the best panniers available and I expect them to last me for many years. After about 9000km of touring with mine, I havem’t seen much noticeable wear and tear. They are completely waterproof and I like the roll top design because I find it easier to fit more gear.
Brooks B-17 saddle
I think there is a reason why I have met so many other bicycle tourists using this seat. Yes, there is a bit of a break in period (about 1000km for me) but the leather will eventually mold to your shape. Mine is now so comfortable that I don’t even need to wear padded bike shorts with it (still do anyway).
Go Lite Adrenaline 0F (-18C) sleeping bag
This bag is awesome because it is down, very warm and packs super small (soccer ball size). I bought this bag for my last cycling tour to Patagonia and I’m sure it will keep me just as warm crossing the Himalayas and Mongolian Steppe.
These are a just few of my favourite pieces of gear, another is MSR Hubba Hubba tent and these Shimano SPD mountains bike shoes that have lasted me 8 years! All I had to do was get some leather inserts put into back when the heels were wearing out.
I apologize to those non-gear freaks out there that may find this part of post rather boring. I like talking about it because, from experience, having the right stuff can make a bike tour more comfortable. I will say it again though – go with what you can afford and don’t let it stop you from taking off on the trip of your dreams!
I can’t wait to start cycling Mongolia. I am anticipating that it will be quite challenging due to prevailing winds (Westerly mainly – the direction I am cycling) rough roads, lack of signposts and unpredictable spring weather. I will be staying with Warm Showers hosts in both Beijing and Ulaanbaatar, which is great way to ease into the local life of a new country. I am really looking forward to it after the great experience had cycling Vancouver Island. My next update will likely chronicle my experience in Beijing and the train journey to Ulaanbaatar. Can’t wait for the adventure to begin! Check out my route here.