Touring Equipment

 

In order to get ready for touring, we needed to really expand our cargo carrying capabilities.  When we got it all decked out, it looked like we needed a caution sign on the back!  In fact we have had people kiddingly ask us if we need a special license to ride it.  The items below are what we have added to our rig.
 
Performance Disclaimer...
Before going any further, I should say a few things about what all this extra equipment does to the handling of the bike.  It most definitely changes things.  I'm glad that I had a great many miles of experience on the bike before I loaded it down in this manner.  The total added weight of the panniers, trailer, camping and personal gear is around 100 pounds.  When you're on flat ground at "cruising speed" you forget the trailer is there.  It handles very well.  However, there are times when it feels quite different.  Right off the bat you notice how much harder you have to work to get it rolling from a standing stop.  The biggest difference is climbing hills!  You are a few gears lower and a few miles per hour slower than with the bike alone.  The most challenging thing for me is maintaining my balance under 5mph on long steep hills.  I am not complaining, we love touring!  I am making these comments as more of an "honest disclaimer" to anyone reading this who may be considering touring themselves.  When you make the decision to tour, you just need to know going in that it involves more work than riding the bike by itself.  You need to approach it with a different mindset, or it could be discouraging.  We share the best wisdom that we have found regarding starting touring on our Touring Tips page.
 
Map Bag
We added this bag with a map holder on the top for the  "navigator."  The first time we tried it out was on a 80 mile organized ride.  It was very nice having the map and directions handy since we were on unfamiliar roads.
 We carry all of our personal items in it (wallets, phones, sunglasses, etc.).  When we stop for lunch or shopping, we just pop it off the bike and carry it with us using it's shoulder strap.  I couldn't find a bag like this that was designed to fit on a recumbent.  This is actually a handlebar bag for an upright bike, the "Cruiser" made by Detours.  Most such bags were way too big for our needs.  This one is just perfect.  I did have to fabricate a way to mount it on our bike. 
 
Panniers
Our next addition was a set of small panniers under the stoker's seat.  We purchased both the rack and panniers from TerraCycle.  They make underseat  racks to fit most brands of recumbents.  The size of the Axiom "Monsoon" panniers are perfect.  The hooks that attach them to the rack are located near the top of the bag so they fit nicely under the seat and you can still get into the bags while they're mounted on the bike.  These bags will also help us keep our center of gravity low.  
(pannier rack  -  shown with seat removed)
 
Cargo Trailer
We spent a lot of time debating:  "trailers vs. panniers" and "single vs. double wheel trailers."  On the pannier debate we reached the conclusion that it would be very difficult to physically locate enough panniers on a tandem recumbent bike to haul the necessary gear for two people on a long trip.  That led us to trailers.  The major advantage of two wheeled trailers are their stability.  However we ended up choosing a single wheel trailer, primarily because I didn't like the width of the two wheeled cargo trailers.  On many roads, in order to keep the right wheel out of the gravel, you'd need to ride farther left out toward the traffic than I wanted.  We chose a BOB trailer that we purchased online from the Bike Trailer Shop
We like the low center of gravity of the BOB, and the way it tracks perfectly behind the bike's rear tire.  Numerous times on our trips we've encountered very narrow shoulders and sections of poor pavement.  I was glad I only had to find a clear path for one tire (since all three tires are inline)!  The negative side of a single wheel trailer is that as you ride, you are balancing the weight of everything in your trailer in addition to the riders.  This is especially an issue when grinding it out at 5mph up steep hills.  So, if I had to do it over again what would I do?  I would likely still choose the single wheel trailer.  However, there is an alternative that I would consider.  That is a custom narrow two wheel trailer.  I have not seen one on the market that is both narrow enough for me, while at the same time large enough to haul all our gear.  By making a trailer narrower (no wider than the handlebars) and longer (to increase capacity) I think you might have a winner.  It would have some of the advantages (and yes disadvantages) of both the single wheel and standard two wheel versions... in theory.   :) 

We did make a few modification to the standard BOB trailer.  We added a pannier rack over the tire.  It's one designed to fit the 16 inch tire of a Greenspeed trike.  It just takes a little bit of fabricating to make it work.  These panniers are the Axiom "Typhoon," they're a little larger than the ones we use under the seat.  I also added the rear fender from a Greenspeed trike.  The stock fender didn't have the full coverage of the tire that I wanted. 

NOTE: It is recommended that you only put bulky lightweight items in these panniers so as not to alter the proper weight balance of the trailer.   We use them as the "stuff sacks" for our sleeping bags.  The heavier gear goes in the main compartment of the trailer.  I should also say that the soft-sided cooler (on top of the pack) is very lightweight and is usually empty while traveling.  We take it along so we can stop at a store shortly before arriving at each day's campsite and purchase food items.  On really hot days it's also nice to be able to carry some ice to add to our water bottles!
 
Solar Power
If you think you see a solar panel in above picture of the bike trailer, you're right.  Yes, we added solar power to our touring rig.  We carry a lot of items that consume power:  cell phones, cameras, bike lights (using rechargeable AA batteries), a laptop computer (for editing & posting photos), and a Kindle.  In our travels we appreciate that many campgrounds provide "hiker / biker" areas that are set aside for travelers arriving on foot or by bike.  However, those spaces do not usually have electricity.  Keeping everything charged while traveling can be a problem.  We investigated solar, and chose the "Sherpa 50" kit from Goal Zero. Actually that system is a bit undersized for our power needs, but the next larger system added more weight than I wanted to carry.  This works but I have to carefully monitor our power usage.
 
Reflectors
You may have noticed in the pictures above that we went crazy with reflectors!  You can never be 100 percent safe on the roads no matter what you do.  I just want to make sure that I have done absolutely everything in MY power to be as visible to motorists as I possibly can.   My inspiration was the number of reflectors on commercial trucks.  All those red and white reflector strips on trucks are required by the Department of Transportation.  I purchased the same DOT approved reflectors, cut them down to size a bit and placed them in several locations on our rig.  After all, our bike is the semi-truck of the cycling world.  The picture to the right was taken at night with only the flash on the camera to illuminate the reflectors.  I talk about our choice of lights on our accessories page.  I also added a rear light on the trailer. 
 
Flag
One other detail we added was a new flag.  You can see it in the picture on top of this page.  We wanted something more interesting than the standard one that came with the trailer.  We found some really cool flags from South Winds / Air Arts.  It looks cool and adds one more little piece of visibility.
 
Camping Gear
We have chosen our equipment from the "backpacking" category of several different outdoor equipment companies (REI, Moosejaw  & Campmor).  Our goal is the same as a backpacker, gear that weighs as little as possible and takes up as little space as possible.  After a whole lot of research, the items below are some of what we picked.
  Obviously a tent is one of the major items for camping.  Our choice was the "REI Quarter Dome T3 Plus."  It is listed as a three person tent, with the plus referring to longer than standard.  (Note: the people who say a sub-compact car seats 4 adults, also rate the size of tents!)  In order to have sufficient room for both of us and some of our gear, this size has ended up being perfect!  It is relatively light for it's size and is easy to set up.
We debated long and hard as to our choice of sleeping bags.  We settled on synthetic rather than down even though it is slightly heaver.  We liked the idea that even if wet, it maintains some insulation value.  The brand we picked is "Big Agnes."  They have a pocket in the underside to hold the pad, so you don't move off it during the night.  The pad is also one of theirs.  We chose an "Exped Air Pillow" that is quite comfortable and packs very small.   
  Here are a couple cool items.  Once we set up camp, we wanted something to sit on.  But most camp chairs weigh 8 pounds or more... out of the question!  This one is called the "Alite Monarch Butterfly Chair." It weighs only 18oz. and is very comfortable!  The second item is the "Tek-Towel" by "Sea to Summit."  It's like a "Sham-Wow" for your body.  It's a full size bath towel that takes up very little room, sucks up water quite well, and dries fast.
Personal Note:  Prior to entering into the world of bike touring, we had never been campers.  In fact I don't think either one of us had ever been tent camping!  So in addition to the "riding heavily loaded" aspect of touring, we were more than a little bit hesitant about the camping side of things!  We thought long and hard, not wanting to spend a ton of money on gear, only to find we really didn't enjoy it.  As it turned out, we loved it!  There is something exhilarating about traveling to a location with only what you have carried with you, and setting up your campsite.  Our biggest concern was sleeping comfort.  After a long exhausting day on the road, we wanted to make sure we ended up with a good night's sleep.  Our longest debate about equipment centered on that issue.  We are very satisfied with our choice of sleeping bags and pads!  Our bags are not "mummy bags," but the more roomy rectangular bags.  The inflatable pad is very comfortable.  They may be a tiny bit heaver, but are well worth it when you turn in for the night!
 
Ahhhhh... now this is what it's all about!!!
 

 
 
Copyright 2015  -  TandemRide.com  -  USA