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Gear Talk Tuesdays – Packs or Racks?

When I originally thought of this trip, I pictured myself laden down with four saddle bags and a little rack pack just rolling down the bike highways of Europe. I also saw myself cycling solo. This image was confirmed for me during a recent excursion on foot to Northern Europe, all around me were spandex bound men or couples on roadsters rockin’ well ballanced panniers (Note: I did not see a single female solo cyclist). Thankfully my cycling companion, Blue, has a less narrow view. Bike-packing.  At first I was unconvinced, so let me share with you some of our process to make this first of our many gear decisions.

Weight:

Bikepacking wins this category. Smaller bags and a closer centre of gravity makes the weight feel like part of the bike instead of forces pulling the bike around.

Racks also add some tear to the bike that bags would eliminate. It’s nearly impossible to get panniers to balance perfectly, and even if you get close they still pull against the rack on every bump. Eventually the screws come loose, the racks break, and you end up constantly maintaining them.

Space:

Clearly the panniers are the winner in this category, assuming of course that you want more space. I’ll admit I debate this extensively with myself and Blue. I am a minimalist and I look forward to this experiment in discovering what little I need to survive, but also I’m going to EUROPE. Where there are cool spices and wines and clothes and beautiful things found nowhere else in the world (ok, I’m mostly interested in the food stuff), I just can’t imagine not collecting a few things to bring back to home base. Panniers also free up the frame for water bottle storage, a major issue with these long treks.

On the flip side, I also have to carry all the stuff I bring with my own person-power. Being from a relatively flat geographical corner of the world and hills encountered will be a challenge without being weighed down by quadruplets on my wheels.

Rider experience: 

Packing all the gear close to the frame and the rider is better balanced and allows for a much smoother riding experience. Removing variables and wear that more gear brings to the unit will allow us to be better prepared for less than perfect road conditions and weather.

Loaded touring bike from Wikipedia
bikepacking
Bikepacking bike from bikepacking.com (the same bike Blue will be riding!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Notice the difference in the weight placement, especially in the wheels. If we experience any rougher terrain or want to do any technical riding without leaving our stuff behind, we’ll want that front wheel freedom.

Price:

Often a deciding factor is costs, but unfortunately I don’t think that will help us out much here. Any decent pannier starts at about 80 plus you need a rack to put it on. Some of the bikes we’ve looked at come with racks (almost always a better deal), otherwise you’re looking at another 100-150 for a light, durable, high-quality rack. On the bikepacking side, one locally made seat bag runs north of 200 at a neighbourhood bike shop.

This has led us to consider building our own bags to fit our bikes. Blue has all kinds of ideas and I have the materials, we’ll let you know how that goes!

Finally, by far the most important quality to lead us to bikepacking is: Flexibility

While the panniers offer many extended comforts, one conversation with a Hungarian stranger about the incredible mountain biking in parts of Italy confirmed in my heart that bikepacking is the way to go. I would never forgive myself for going so far from home and accomplishing so much, only to miss out on off road experiences. Because when it comes down to it road biking is just our mode of transport, this adventure is a cycling trip and we want to do as much as we can.

Hope you enjoyed my thoughts, until next time!

– Bonni –

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Pay Day Update!

Goals

(currency to be revealed)

 

1,000 per month of travel

= 12, 000

2,000 for supplies and bike stuff

1,000 for moving and storage of our stuff

= 15,000 before September 1st

We are both saving separately to purchase our bikes.

 

Savings progress:

January 30: 1,857

February 21 : 3,351

March 3: 4,050

 

 

Spending progress:  

March 3, 2017

screen-shot-2017-03-03-at-1-28-43-pm

 

 

Starting Somewhere

When beginning the plans for this trip there was no grand idea of where to start, just that we had to go. So I pulled up a google map, picked a point, and bam! – we had a plan.

Portugal

 screen-shot-2017-02-21-at-7-10-53-pm

Just a glance at this map can tell you why we are choosing to start in the little pacific country. There is nowhere to go but onward! Since we are planning to camp and ride to cut costs, there is a lot of research we need to do on each place we visit. Everywhere will have different laws for cycling, camping, length of stay, etc.
As it turns out, flights from our corner of the world to Portugal are hella pricey, so it might be best for us to fly to London, UK with one of our national companies and then catch a European flight to Faro or Lisbon.

Getting there

September flight to London – 800/per

           – I have been doing some basic travel hacking, enough to earn at least one of our tickets there. 

London to Porto – 48    

London to Lisbon – 78 (it totally makes sense that Lisbon is closer to London than Faro but way pricier, right?)

London to Faro – 58  

Timeline : Mid to late September

Average temperatures:

Day: 23    Night: 19       Rain: 16 days, 80mm

Attractions and events :  September 8 – Our lady of Nazare festival

Mostly we want to cycle, eat, and meet people. This will be our first stop of our tour and we don’t want to push things too hard, let us get in the groove a bit first. We want to swim, surf, dine, and soak in a new place. We will of course stop for some sight seeing in Lisbon but we would rather decide as we go than plan too much in advance. 

Accomodations: According to Rick Steeves, everything is so affordable its not worth camping to save money. “Wild camping” can result in some hefty fines because of issues with litter and fires in the past. Isn’t it swell how the sh*ts of the world ruin it for everyone? 

According to Camping Portugal, there are over 100 campgrounds in Portugal averaging about 4euros per person and 2.5euros for the tent, though most of these campgrounds are parks so it’s hard to know if you have to pay per person if you are paying to camp. The 2 star campgrounds are about 4.5/night/person.

Food: Thanks to Anthony Bourdain, we know to anticipate all kinds of fish on this leg of the trip, and we could not be more pleased! Paprika is the spice of choice 


Coming up next…

Next month I will open my Workaway account to start booking work stays for us which will help plan our route a little better. I think we will start in Porto and cycle our way down the coastline. Between Workaway and Couch Surfing I think we will meet lots of interesting people to guide us further. 

Until then meus amigos!

– Bonni – 

This post was originally published February 28, 2017. As we continue to plan and learn (and reveal our identities!) I will update it with our plans, links,  and post how things actually went after each adventure!

The “Plan”

The “plan”. Ha. My philosophy has always been “If you don’t have a plan, it can’t fall apart.” But even my free spirit knows an adventure of this sort needs to have some sort of guideline to be successful. To be successful, B and I have divided the planning duties in to two parts: routes and budgeting for me; cycling needs and training for B.

Right now, our living expenses run about 1000/mo for just rent and groceries. I believe traveling should not cost more than normal life, so that’s what we’re aiming for. Plus bikes, gear, flights, and an emergency fund, I’m aiming to have  15,000 put away over the next 10 months.

Monthly travel budget: 1,000

Bikes and gear: 2,500  (the bikes themselves will come partially from personal savings)

Flights: 800 – should be able to pay for at least one with travel points.

Buffer: 800-1000

PLUS

We don’t want to come home empty handed, so I have set up a long term self-directed investing account with a 10,000 nest egg to cover living expenses for some time when (if!) we come back “home”.

If you follow our social media pages and Pinterest, you will see our decision making process as we weigh the pros and cons of Bikepacking vs. Touring, Mountain bikes or Road, cycling vs. train, and all the other fun little choices we get to make on this adventure.  Each month I will post about our planned route, update you on our savings plan and purchases, and leak a little info about who we are and where we’re from!

Thanks for joining us in this adventure to somewhere,

-Bonni-

The Dream

-Bonni-

If you knew me in 2009-2015 and asked the question that everyone asks a university student “what will you do when you graduate?” my answer was always one word. “Leave”. I’ve always wanted to go places, get out, adventure, just…go. If you asked for more detail I would have said “I’ve always wanted to bike Europe, I’ll probably go in January”.  In my head this would have been January 2016, 8 months after I finished my Bachelor’s degree and ready to rule the world at 23 years old.

Oh dreams, its strange how convinced you can be of something but as the deadline draws closer you look at your friends, your job, your cozy apartment, and think “but I like it here.” These are things I never thought I would find such contentedness in, and yet I did. And so the months passed and I worked, I danced, I attended events, enjoyed festivals and music and people and food. I made dear friends, and I realized that I loved my life, and that maybe it was ok for me to stay put for awhile. I found a job in my field of study that is fulfilling and stuffed with people dear to my heart.  I met a boy, I spent a month wandering the UK and Ireland by myself, and I biked all the time – year round, and I was happy.

And yet… its still there. That urge to get out, go, move, conquer. I’ve sat “still” for  a mere 1.5 years and I feel as though I’m suffocating. Time to stretch my legs and see if I’m truly capable of all the things I think I am.