The gear for the Japan to Switzerland cycling leg:
A recumbent bicycle and:
- Bicycle computer – Expensive Cateye one died in Tajikistan. Bought a US$5 replacement at an Uzbekistan bicycle bazaar and this is going strong. And it has temperature read out.
- Water bottles – I only use PET bottles. Two 1.5 litre PET bottles in summer, one 1.5 litre PET bottle, and one 1 litre stainless steel thermos for winter.
- Bags – Two Ortlieb front rollers, two Ortlieb back rollers, and one medium size Ortlieb rack pack (picture). Also lots of stuff sacks to make sense of the mess of gear.
- Bottle cages – One. To hold the MSR fuel bottle.
- Lizard Skin shock boots – Essential for keeping the grit out of your suspension.
- Bicycle Multitool – Topeak Alien DX with some unused tools removed.
- General purpose multitool – Leatherman Charge Ti. I am wishing now that I had gone for the Leatherman Crunch instead (has vice grips).
- Bicycle pumps – Two. One Topeak Masterblaster Einstein and one Buzzy’s Cross Pollinator (shock/tyre pump). When I was about 15, I went on a back-country mountain biking trip with about five friends for a week. We only took one pump. Murphy struck and the pump broke. Therefore my friend (this guy) had no choice but to stuff his tyre with tussock grass and ride on a lumpy tyre for about two hours until we happened to come upon a random gold mining operation with an air compressor. Remembering this episode, I figure a spare pump is a good thing.
- Spanner – Has a ‘hollow’ handle so is very light. Also, get the smaller spanner even if it doesn’t fit the biggest bolt on your bike. You can always grind the adjustment knob to make it open further.
- Crank remover – Including a little ‘knob’ required in order to not destroy the thread on the Shimano 105 hollowtech crank.
- Chain whip – With some of handle removed, and holes drilled to save weight.
- Bottom bracket socket – Spanner ground to fit.
- Cone spanners – Handles removed. When it comes to use them, I can attach the handle stubs to the chain whip handle or spanner handle with hose clamps.
- Freewheel socket – To remove rear gear cassette. Very handy. I have used this on a few occasions when the cassette has come loose.
- Hacksaw blade
- Tubes – Two for front and two for back. Started out with three for each wheel, but the Schwalbe Marathon tyres are so puncture resistant that I chucked some out.
- Tyres – Schwalbe Marathon XR folding tyre for rear wheel (26 inch) and Schwalbe Marathon Plus for front (20 inch). Got a puncture in the Marathon XR tyre when I put it on for the snow in Turkey. The first puncture of the journey.
- Big puncture repair kit – Hardly a necessity with Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres.
- Brake pads – Seven. I replaced the front brake pads on my bike after 2,500km of commuting to work. On tour they have lasted between 2,500km and 3,000km. Get even a little mud on them though and they’ll wear down in a week.
- Chain oil – I was using Tri-Flow. It seemed to last well. I am now using T-9 lube which I was given by one of the Baku Bicycle Club members. Lasts better than the Tri-Flow. I am also a chain application freak. I only oil the pivots of the chain. That is, I give each pivot on drop of oil, making sure to drop into the ‘inside’ of the chain. Wipe excess oil off chain to avoid picking up dust and converting your chain into a big glob of black gunk. Check out Sheldon Brown’s very comprehensive explaination about chains and chain lubrication.
- Spokes – Four for the front wheel and six for the back. Still no breakages after almost 10,000km (I am riding a full suspension recumbent bicycle).
- Cable ties – Very handy for random repairs.
- Selection of hose clamps – Handy for clamping stuff to stuff.
- Epoxy resin and fibreglass cloth – For seat repair.
- Length of chain (about 15 links) and various nuts, bolts, and washers
- Duct tape – Difficult to find in central Asia when I was there in late 2006.
- Rim tape
- Brake cable – With the way that cables ‘freeze’ when you get some moisture in them, I would be tempted to go with hydraulic brakes. But only tempted.
- Gear cable – Two
- Metal wire – For random repairs.
- Roll up bag – To hold all the tools and spares .
- Tent – Forget it. Get a bivy bag and sleep under trees, in abandoned huts, in ruins. Works fine – you can even sleep in relatively populated areas in this way – you are less noticeable.
- Sleeping pad – Thermarest Classic 3/4. There are lighter ones on the market, but this one is very warm and comfy. Chuck your pannier bags (or seat cushion if you’re riding a recumbent) under your feet for insulation, and you don’t need a full length sleeping mat.
- Sleeping bags – Fairydown Superlight (1,100g) and Fairydown booster bag (650g). Should see me right for down to -15 degrees celcius (fully clothed). In the really chilly temperatures of eastern Turkey (-20 degrees celcius) I was wishing I had a warmer sleeping bag.
- Repair kit for Thermarest – Including spare valve. Repair kit is very easy to use.
- Silk sleeping bag liner – Much easier to wash a liner than a whole sleeping bag.
- Stove – MSR Whisperlight International. Thanks to Malcolm for lending me his stove for the whole trip. Legendary. Great stove that has not missed a beat. The shaker jet jet clearer is fantastic, especially when you are using cheap quality petrol in central Asia.
- Wind shield for stove – Of course.
- Fuel bottle – 650ml bottle has been sufficient. If you ever need to carry more fuel, do it like the locals – in a PET Coke bottle with the label still on (?!).
- Repair kit – For stove.
- Billie – 1.5 litre. Perfect size for one person.
- Cup – I use this more for measuring rolled oats for breakfast than drinking out of it.
- Spoon – Spoon with short fork-like prongs at the end.
- Foldable sink – 10L. Folds up small enough to fit into my palm. Very handy when washing clothes at hostels etc. Not totally necessary. Hotels and hostels will always have a spare bucket that you can wash your clothes in.
- Water filter – Katadyn Combi. Too heavy. Next time I will be using a SteriPen. At 220g, it is 400g lighter than the Katadyn Combi. Even though the SteriPen cannot treat murky water, I cannot think of one time during my travels when I ever filtered murky water with the Katadyn Combi.
- Water bag – Ortlieb 10L. Only used once. Even then it wasn’t neccessary. I’ll only be taking this with me again if I know I will be cycling through human-less desert terrain. PET bottles are much more cost effective and robust.
- Toothbrush and paste
- Comb – For my beard
- Small towel – Micro fibre thing that is long and narrow. Can be used as a scarf.
- Toilet paper
- Nail clipper
- Woolly hats – Two thin 100% wool beanies. Layering possible.
- Sunhat – Cotton sun hat.
- Sunglasses – Wrap around. I break these with alarming frequency. Cheap Chinese rip offs of major brands are available however almost anywhere other than the developed western world.
- Helmet – I lost my helmet in Turkey. I removed it as I was cycling up a hill, and it blew off the bike with strong wind. I never wore it much anyway. When the weather was hot, it didn’t provide enough shade or cooling. When it was really cold, the helmet didn’t fit correctly when I was wearing a woolen hat and jacket hood.
- Sandals – Shimano SPD cycling sandals. Very comfy. Up until Azerbaijan these were my only footwear.
- Socks – Two pairs of thick woolen socks and one pair of Gore-Tex waterproof socks. A combination of two pairs of thick SmartWool socks, Gore-Tex waterproof socks, and SPD cycling sandals was sufficient enough for cycling in temperatures down to -5 degrees. Any colder than that and digits began to hurt.
- Boots – Shimano SPD Gore-Tex ‘hiking’ cycling boots. I had these sent to me from Japan to Azerbaijan for the Europe winter leg. So long as the socks and boots are dry, and you are careful about keeping your fuel intake constant (lots of carbs and fat), they are warm enough down to -23 degrees celcius (as experienced in eastern Turkey). I added two 2.5mm thick closed cell foam insoles to help prevent the cold from coming through the sole via the SPD cleat.
- Thin woollen gloves – New Zealand merino wool. The fingers of these didn’t last long. They do however make good fingerless gloves now.
- Waterproof ski gloves – Gore-Tex lined. The GoreTex doesn’t keep up with perspiration when climbing on long uphills. After about two days of hard cycling, gloves that were dry at the start will be damp. Still doesn’t affect warmth much though.
- Waterproof shell jacket – On a recumbent, water tends to flow down the front of the neck, so you need one that you can close tightly around the neck. It also helps to wrap a towel around your neck between the jacket and your neck to absorb any stray drips. I wear a New Zealand brand jacket with its own breathable membrane that doesn’t breathe enough when cycling hard. Then again, any rain jacket will never breathe enough for cycling.
- Merino wool jacket (Icebreaker) – Wool is king. Keeps insulation properties when wet. Merino wool has very high insulation per weight. One of my favourite winter clothing items.
- Softshell windbreaker/fleece – Not 100% wind proof, but blocks most of the wind and is much more breathable than Gore Windstopper.
- Long sleeve shirt for cycling – One. North Face desert shirt has vents at sides of torso, so it catches the wind and directs it into your back. Very light and breezy. You do end up looking like tourist though.
- Polyester thermal t-shirt
- Long-sleeve thermal underwear – New Zealand merino wool.
- Waterproof trousers – Stretchy Gore-Tex XCR pants made by Japanese company Montbell
- Trousers – North Face zip-off trousers. I don’t use half of the pockets. Should take these off to save a few grams.
- Thermal trousers – 100 weight fleece longs.
- Thermal underwear – Polypropylene. Will be getting merino wool long underwear for the next trip.
- Undies – One pair.
- PDA – Toshiba Genio e550GD (PocketPC2003 upgrade). Will not hold charge in temperatures below 0 degrees celcius.
- Digital Camera – Canon Powershot A540. Originally had a Canon A700, but this was stolen in China. The A540 was also stolen, this time in Tajikistan, but was recovered 5 days later.
- Data storage – 20GB Buffalo Direct Station Pocket. Has ports for most digital camera memory cards and backs the card up upon inserting it. It developed a fault in Uzbekistan however, and now asks for a password in order to access the files. I have contacted Buffalo Japan about the problem, and have been told that I need to send the unit to them to be fixed. Still looking for other ways…
- USB charger (mains) – Plugs into the wall. You can then plug a USB cord in and charge PDAs and other USB chargeable devices.
- Solar charger – With USB charging adapter (for PDA etc) and AAA battery adapter. Charges two AA batteries in 14 hours of full sunlight. In reality I have seldom used this. A full charge of six high capacity NiMH AA batteries will power my digital camera for more than 10 days. 10 days is the longest I went without staying somewhere with mains power.
- PDA sync cable
- USB cable for Direct Station
- 1GB USB flash memory – One.
- 1GB SD Card – I started out with three, but two were stolen (along with the cameras they were in), so I ended up with one. More than sufficient with just one.
- MP3 Player – This was a cheap $10 SD card player. It died an early death. An Ipod or similar would be nice for the long days.
- AA rechargable batteries – Six. Mainly for digital camera.
- Worldwide plug adapter – A great Japanese invention, the RoadWarrior plug adaptor changes a US style plug to any plug on the planet.
- PDA USB host cable – For plugging the mini keyboard in.
- PDA mini-keyboard – 220mm wide and just big enough to type without getting frustrated. Very handy.
- Mini camera tripod – Small plastic tripod – the UltraPod Mini. Very light. You can attach it to a long pole, stick the pole into the ground and you’ve got a 1m high tripod. Or use it for cool cycling video clips.
- Fisheye lense – Great for getting lots of area into a single photo. I use it a lot.
- Wristwatch – Suunto Vector with altimeter, temperature, barometer, bearing.
I’m as much of a nunce concerning medical matters as any other bloke, so don’t take this list as any form of medical advice. See your doctor for advice if you’re planning a big trip.
- Cloth bandage
- Cotton wool
- Bandaids – Selection of big and small
- Dust mask
- Thermometer – Digital. Handy for keeping an eye on things when you’re sick.
- Indigestion lozenges
- Rehydration salts – A normal Japanese sports drink called Pocari Sweat, in powder form. Has lots of good rehydration goodness in it.
- Eye drops
- Painkiller – Ibuprofen.
- Diarrhea pills – Usually I don’t take them, apart from when it’s really serious.
- Cold and flu medication – These pills are a Japanese concoction, and knock me out for most of the day when I take them.
- Bisolvon – For persistant coughs.
- Anti-parasite pills – Flagyl. For getting rid of nasties like Giardia that have found their way into my gut. ESSENTIAL!! I got Giardia in China, and it gave me troubles (spewing, diahorrea, fever, fatigue) for two months until I took Flagyl and fixed it.
- Wide range antibiotics – Sawacillin, Minomycin, Augmentin. I wouldn’t know when or how to take this medication, but better to carry it so that I can take it straight away upon the recommendation of a local doctor.
- Anti-malaria – Quinine. South-western Tajikistan has a potential for malaria. I was told that if I come down with a fever in this area, I should assume that it is malaria and take the quinine for seven days. The stuff I was given is straight quinine hydrochloride salts in sachets. Important considering that the Pamir highway in Tajikistan is very remote.
- Green injection needles – If I need to get an injection somewhere on my way to Turkey, then I would ask the doc to use the sterile needles I am carrying.
- Needles certification – In English, to certify why I am carrying injection needles.
Documents and money:
Load your visa card up with money, and use cash advances. You still pay for currency conversion, but since your card is not going into debt, you do not pay interest. Much more convenient than travellers’ checks. Travellers’ checks are really hard to change, even in big cities in central Asia. When I was there in late 2006, I had to go around quite a few banks before finding one that will do the (long) procedure for me.
- Cash (USD)
- Visa Card
- Vaccination card
- Photocopies – Of passport, travellers check numbers, drivers’ license, visa card.
- Scans – Scans of important documents sent to my email address.
- Insurance policy overview – World Nomads insurance.
- Address list – Excel sheet sent to email address, saved to USB disk, and printed out.
- Newspaper article cutout – Article in local Japanese newspaper about the trip. Helps to convince local authorities that you are genuine.
- For daily money, I just put it in a zip up pocket. Even in the big cities I have had no problems with pick pockets. I used something similar to this.
- Maps – Nelles and Freytag&Berndt maps for the route up till Turkey. From Turkey I bought local maps. The Nelles and Freytag maps were perfectly sufficient.
- Waterproof map bag
- Phrasebooks – Mostly in Japanese, as it is easier to pronounce words I haven’t seen before if they are written in Japanese phonetic characters rather than just a jumble of roman letters.
- Picture Talk – By Langenscheidt Publishers. If you are going to many different countries, get this little booklet. It was my single most used accessory.
- Bicycle wire lock – I had a heavy (420g) 2m long bicycle lock, but lost this in Tajikistan. Since then I was using my luggage wire lock just as a deterrant. I never left the bike for long periods unattended any way.
- Luggage wire lock – 3m. Lightweight but will be handy for keeping my belongings together.
- Head torch – Petzl one with halogen and LED options. In the future, I think I will do without the halogen light, and just go for an LED only head light. I also wished I had a dynamo light in the winter for night time riding.
- Spare battery – For Suunto watch
- Spare battery – For bike computer