I’m rolling on a Surly Ogre for this tour, fortunately not a vintage Schwinn like the monkey George! So far my Surly Ogre has performed wonderfully and I’ve learned a few things about my set-up after 15 days of touring. For the most part I’m happy with the way that I have my gear organized and my bike set up, but there are some aspects that could be better.
This is a picture of me riding down a street in Berea, Kentucky. It rained the previous day which is why my ground pad is wrapped up in the tarp like that. Other than that, this is the standard way that I have my bike set-up. Except I always wear a helmet that has my mirror on it. I wear shoes that clip in to the pedals everyday, and alternate between three pairs of bike shorts and two riding shirts. For a list of clothes and specific gear you can see my previous post: Bike Touring Gear (Starting out).
Before I left for this trip I had my bike fitted due to some mild back pain and discomfort on longer rides. The problem was that I was too stretched out, reaching farther than my inflexible hips were able to. For touring, I think that it is important to be in a relatively upright position. In the picture above you can see that I am barely bent over. I’ve found that I’m able to distribute the weight pretty evenly between my legs, core, hands, and butt most of the time in this position. The Jones H-bars also allow me to get more aero or change hand positions. I haven’t gotten numb in the hands from pressing on the handlebars, and only get a sore tushy after a long day – which unfortunately is just part of the game. A properly sized bike, being upright, and having two hand positions has been pretty key to staying comfortable while riding.
If you have a bike that is sized to you, a simple exchange of the stem (piece that attaches the handlebars) can raise or lower the handlebars, and shorten or lengthen the reach to your handlebars…most of the time. One easy check to see if you’re unhealthily reaching while riding – have your hands on the handlebars while pedaling and then slowly relieve the pressure off your hands while holding your upper body in the same position, if you can go hands-off or have no pressure on your hands without moving your upper body you’re good to go. If you slip forward in your seat or collapse forwards you may need a seat angle or stem adjustment.
A seat that fits is also extremely important. Some people say that they don’t like bikes because it hurts their butt too bad. Which is fair…but they probably have never used a bike seat that fits them. This fit depends on your “sit-bones” and how wide apart they are. It’s pretty weird, but at most bike shops they can measure this. I’ll just let your imagination run wild here ;). A firm seat is surprisingly better than a thick cushy one for long rides, they make less friction, friction is bad.
If you’re in Blacksburg, East Coasters is a pretty rad shop to get all the bike information you need. They also will fit you and do just about anything you could need if you buy a bike from them. They helped make this trip possible for me!
Positives: Things that I need to have when I get off my bike are all within reach in the frame bag, the panniers keep organized with stuff sacks inside them, bungee cords allow strapping things to them – it’s really nice to be able to dry out shorts or have them ready to slip on when I go into stores, lots of water storage if I ever need it, the top tube bag lets me eat snacks easily while riding or I can whip out my camera and take pictures on the move, the map holder lets me read Adventurecycling maps while riding.
Negatives: The large nalgenes limit the movement of the handlebars so I have a bigger turning radius. The frame bag and water bottle are smashed together, I unhooked the bottom part of the frame bag so that they can overlap but it’s difficult to pull out the water bottle. My left pannier is heavier than my right one on most days.
Basically I need a smaller/ different frame bag, and maybe replace my 1.5L nalgenes with 1 Liters to make things work a little smoother. If you have any pointers of what I could be doing differently, or any compliments on my set-up, or anything you want to say, call me.
Just kidding, leave a comment, comments make me happy.