Sunday, July 6, 2008

Back on Tour

I figured since "The Tour" has officially begun, I better get back to my tour stuff too. Yes, I know this is long over due.

Before I get started, I want to share some thoughts on where I think loaded touring is going and explain a little bit about the products I'll call out over the next week or so. To be clear, I'm not talking about touring that involves riding from hotel to hotel and eating at restaurants. I'm writing about loaded touring where you carry all your gear and camp each night.

Loaded touring is difficult. Think of all the stuff you generally like to have to get by when you are home. Now think of taking all that stuff and strapping it to a bicycle. Yikes! Yes, think about that. Got an image in your head? How are you going to pedal that thing that used to look and feel like a bicycle?

As I've been researching new equipment, I've been seeing a lot of stuff that I think falls into one of three categories, Ultra Lite, Luxury and Expedition. Some products do cross over into other categories. These classifications aren't just about product. They are about intention and how much product you bring. Let me explain.

Ultra Lite - Ultra Lite touring is touring with the bare essentials. Usually, the Ultra Lite folks are going for the most miles in the least amount of time. Right now, I'm seeing more of this happen off road. Just take a look here and look at the bikes and set ups these folks are using. Ultra Lite tourists have the lightest and smallest equipment. Super lite shelter. Minimal cooking supplies, usually titanium. Just enough food to get to the next store. Just enough water to get to the next water stop. At times, their bikes don't look like traditional touring bikes. This is probably the fastest growing area of touring and often involves custom products made to solve specific problems or needs.

Luxury - This is the category that my Alaska to Utah adventure tour fits. Luxury touring is taking some items that aren't essential for "the tour". When I look back at my tour, I'd say my large tripod, my spare bike parts, my padded frisbee, my kite, and some other luxury camping equipment weren't 100% necessary. Luxury tourers generally find ways to pack or strap more stuff than they really need. In the end, they haul a lot of extra weight around but find ways to use it.

Expedition - Expedition touring is taking a tour through incredibly remote territory where your life is likely in danger. It requires highly specialized equipment, often times made specifically for the journey. It also requires you to take everything you would need to survive. Just click here and page down to the February 10th blog post and you can see what I mean. Survival and function are keys to the Expedition category.

My personal experience lies in the "luxury touring" category. That said, I will be looking at products and discussing items in the other categories. Additionally, the Ultra Lite category has caught my fancy so I'll be looking at a lot of product that falls into this category. Ultra Lite is bringing new technology and products into the market and folks are doing things that they never thought possible.

Stay tuned.

1 comment:

Jason said...

Great post. Over the past week or so I've seen several types of touring cyclists. Both on the road and on the rail trail (a popular option in our area given that you can take it the whole way to D.C.). One thing I've noticed is that when in a group of two or more, at least one rider is pulling a B.o.B. trailer. When it's a solo, it's usually much more stripped down. Most of the ones I've seen have been on mountain bikes with one on a 29er (woot woot!).