Despite how much time I spend optimizing gear selection and packing my bike, I’d like not to make absolute recommendations for bike or outdoor equipment considering the varying needs that others have. Brooks saddles for example, have been good to me, although I am always hesitant to recommend them because the experience of spending time upon a saddle is so personal, much like boxers v. briefs, or leather shoes v. modern synthetic shoes, or synthetic v. down sleeping bags; in these cases, users have strong allegiances to both camps, and in many cases, have had success with either or both in various conditions. The point– we live in the future, and shit works, all of it. Go use it, go ride it; “an unridden bike has no soul”. For a more clever and verbose expression, consider what the folks at Surly have to say in a recent, memorable blog post:
Yes, you can tour on your bike – whatever it is.
Yes, you can race on your bike – whatever it is.
Yes, you can commute on your bike – whatever it is.
And a personal favorite:
Which is better, riding long miles, or hanging out under a bridge doing tricks? Yes.
Despite the anti-consumerism sentiments, a few pieces of gear march on after many days and nights outdoors and receive hearty approval. My Big Agnes Seedhouse SL2 tent, purchased three years ago, has been a solid performer doing what a tent does in two inches of rain (just behind King’s Peak, Lost Coast, CA); 50+ mph winds staked down to a sandy beach (Gulf Islands National Seashore, Pensacola, FL); in addition to many freezing nights (everywhere). I estimate over 300 nights in this tent, in addition to being packed and unpacked for many months of travel. In this time, the main tent body and tent poles blew away while drying outdoors along the banks of the Nenana River near Denali NP, and were efficiently replaced by Big Agnes at discounted pricing. While planning solo bike trips, and even some solo thru-hiking, in respect to the cost of a new tent and the minimal weight savings, the Seedhouse SL2 prevailed. I could have saved a few ounces on the 1 person model, but then you can only sleep one with less room for gear, in addition to the expense of a new tent (if you intend only ever to be one, the SL1 is an excellent choice, but for a little more material a lot of gear space and comfort can be had). You can invest in the Big Agnes Fly Creek models to save some weight, but the construction is, well, more lightweight, not the absolute goal in long-term bicycle touring equipment. The Seedhouse/Seedhouse SL models, with their freestanding netting are perfect for buggy summer nights, or damp fall nights with just the rainfly in use for maximum ventilation when bugs aren’t an issue. I can even lay down on the footprint and go to sleep under the stars, to raise the rainfly without exiting my sleeping bag if drops begin to fall. Complete, the tent does what a three-season tent should do, all in a tidy little package. My favorite feature– it’s a simple, outdoor green. This thing is ultimately versatile; simple, lightweight, and appropriately minimal considering all the features a tent provides. And in spite of it’s light weight, the construction of the tent has held through repeated staking, winds and general use and abuse. To benefit from a significantly lighter system, you wouldn’t be sleeping under a tent any longer. Despite trying to spend money on several occasions, assuming there were better, lighter, simpler tents out there, I failed. Once again, with a torn rainfly from a mid-night mishap, I can find nothing better than a duct tape fix (high dpm ratio) and many more nights.
Then again, if you have a tent that does what tents do, that’s pretty rad too.