The transformation into a bikepacking setup

In Finland a couple of days before getting on the bike in 2014.

Starting point

I have always been weight conscious in my outdoor gear, but I do have un unfortunate tendency to take with me absolutely everything I might need. I always prepare for everything. 110 per cent self sufficiency. Ugh. For me there has not been earlier such thing as a lightweight touring setup, even though my gear itself has been pretty light. Instead of having experience and knowledge I was carrying stuff. Spares, doubles, might-needs, just-in-cases and imaginary must-haves.

When I started my big trip in October 2014, I had four big panniers, two fairly big dry bags and a traditional bar bag. My setup was very heavy. I did not weight it, but to give you a picture I could barely lift it off the ground. The first 6000km the bike was so wobbly in downhills that I was have to stabilise the bike my keeping me knee against the stem in downhills. I was afraid every day that the frame would break. I was doing roughly half of the distance per day what I thought. I had ridden the bike loaded, but not that loaded, I learned during the first 1000 meters into my trip.

Fully loaded, but still unaware how unstable the bike would be when you load it with one weeks food.

I was carrying, well, everything you could imagine you need on a word tour. It is a long trip, you want to be comfortable, right? In addition to everything I was carrying my fly fishing gear, a lot of it, still hopeful that I could easily find some good natural fishing grounds on my way. I thought that long distance bike touring, winter and fly fishing could be a matching combo in the long run. Fail.

Keen to go bikefishing, not yet knowing that I live in one of the best countries in the world for my my beloved hobby.

Where are we standing now then?

Now I can proudly say that I have walked the path of shame, I have learned my lesson, I have been there and done that. I have got wiser through experience. Here we go. Before getting on the plane toward Patagonia my bike and gear weighted 30kg, 18kg the bike with Surly nice front rack and 12kg all the gear in the bike packing bags. Unfortunately I do not know the precise starting weight of my setup, but it seems that I could comfortably say that I am now at least 10kg lighter compared to when starting the trip. At least 10kg.

Setup ready for the Americas in Tolhuin, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina

In this point it could be good to point out, that for some people this is not a light touring setup. There are for sure people on the road who have a 20kg setup (meaning the dry weight of bike and gear in total), I have met two in Patagonia, so they do exist. Anyway, for me, this is a light setup to tour in cold climates. However, the urge to cut down the weight further exists.

How was all that weight shaved off?

I started to ditch stuff pretty soon after my start, I think I sent the first parcel (mostly clothes at this point) home from Stockholm three weeks into my rip. Then I gave away my beloved ax in France to a friend, send 4kg home from Spain (like 100 items) and then sent home my waders and some fishing gear from Croatia. Additionally I have been giving away some small stuff along the way. By the time of reaching Indonesia I had been 19 months on the road – and significantly lighter.

I kept updating a list of potential weight saving in my setup along the way. After 19 months these were a couple of  things left on the list (in addition to some gear change ones):

  • Less medicine
  • Remove stickers from the bike frame
  • Drill holes to tools
  • Send the water filter home
  • Disassemble Leatherman and remove tools you don’t need

Once it got on this level, the next steps started to be obvious. The carrying system revision. Bike I wasn’t willing to touch, the carrying system shall be first, I thought. I am an engineer by education, and by a spirit I suppose too, so I excelled everything. The result was that it seemed I could get rid off more than 2kg by swapping to a semi-bikepacking setup with a rack soft light pannier and a full bikepacking bag setup. The trade off would be that I would need to sacrifice 15 litres of carrying capacity volume, possibly more. Not a big deal though, as I had  some empty space in the panniers.

Ortlieb was nice enough to send me their new saddle bag, handle bar roll and an accessory bag as a replacement for my worn and broken panniers. Frame bag I designed by my self (lets call it benchmarking or reverse engineering) and it was built by a friend. Top tube bag and stem bags I bought.

When I finally had all the bags and packed them for the first time it was evident that I would have a lot less volume that I thought. The dry pack would need to be packed pretty small and especially I could use only a certain amount of the volume of the new bar bag to make it fit between my narrow drop bars. Still I could nicely fit all my gear into the bags and there was there was still room for food, but would it be enough? How many days food I could carry?

I decided to make an investment and two sacrifices. Investment was to get a lighter, more packable rain jacket to replace my excellent, but heavy and bulky 3-layer GoreTex jacket. 2 litres gained, 400g lost. The first sacrifice was get rid of my beloved tea pot, which enabled me to store the stove inside the pot. 1 litre gained, 150g lost. The second sacrifice was to swap for a smaller lock, I had been carrying a pretty heavy cable lock with a motion detection and cutting alarm. It gave me a peace of mind when doing groceries in bigger stores, if somebody would touch my bike or cut the cable the alarm would set off and I would possibly hear it. This amazing piece of technology was replaced with a tiny two dollar suitcase cable lock. The small suit case lock would be enough to prevent someone dragging my bike away, but not much more. More volume and 1kg weight loss gained.

After this modifications I did a simulated bike tour food shopping for 7 days and  managed to fit the food in the bags, with two full water bladders which increased my water carrying capacity to 10 litres. Puzzled solved. Setup ready.

Is this a troll?

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