Preparing for the next trip: Bike & gear

After re-discovering how much I like adventure riding, the next step was to get my bike and gear set up much better.

R and I had talked about how I could improve my skills and confidence. The initial plan was to put knobby tyres on the BMW and lighten my load. But then he made a very obvious suggestion – instead of setting up my big, heavy bike, I should start riding my small, light bike. After all, I do own a Yamaha WR250R, and I did buy it to improve my off-road skills. It’s a great bike – it’s light, agile and hugely capable. Despite the fact that it’s a 250cc, people ride these bikes long distances, over all kinds of terrain and the bikes just keep going. R was right when he wrote to me “You literally have THE BEST possible learner adventure bike you could have”.

With that decision made, I actually started to feel braver and more excited about next weekend’s ride.

But I still needed to sort out my gear.

Crap reduction

Last trip, I just threw my gear together, using what I had already (after all, I thought I didn’t like dirt riding any more). My camping gear was suited to road riding on a big bike, but was way too heavy for riding off-road. And definitely too heavy for a small bike.

When I unpacked from last week, I weighed everything. I had about 17kg of gear. I’m a bit embarrassed to tell you this, but it’s therapeutic and important. The big weights were my tent (4kg), water (1.8kg), sleeping mat (1.5kg), sleeping bag (1.1kg), paper maps (1.1kg), wet weather gear (1kg), camping lamp (1kg), toolkit (700g), first aid kit (650g), jetboil (650g), kindle (550g) and a other bits and pieces (including clothes).

This week I’ll drop the 4kg of tent just by sleeping under R’s tarp tent. That’s obviously not a long term solution so I’m researching ultra-light tents and tarps, aiming to get under 1kg if possible.

A new sleeping mat saved me 1kg. I bought a Thermarest Prolite Womens, and it weighs 460g. It takes up so much less space than the old one:

Old and new sleeping mats rolled up. The new one is less than 1/4 the size

OMG, it’s enormous!


and isn’t much smaller on the ground:
Old and new sleeping mats unrolled. The new one is only a bit smaller than the old.

Wow!

A new sleeping bag saved me 400g, and added 6 degrees of warmth (i.e I had a 4C bag, and now have a -2C bag). Thank goodness for 20% off sales!

New and old sleeping bags. The new bag is about 3/4 the length of the old

Warm, toasty, smaller and lighter

I didn’t need the paper maps I took, so there’s another 1kg gone.

Nor did I need the lamp – I threw it in by habit. I already had three blackfire LED lights. These are great – they clip on to things and can swivel. They have a good light – more than enough for camping. And they weigh about 35g each.

Old lamp - large and heavy, with new LED lamps

That was a no-brainer

My toolkit is necessary. Some of what was in there was already in my bike toolkit, but there were also some fairly important things missing. Instead of randomly throwing in a toolkit, I checked what I needed on the bike. I changed to a ratchet driver and made sure I had the right bits. I included a lightweight socket set that covered all the small sizes I needed. This went up by 100g, and will increase so when I add tyre levers and other things over time. But that’s all OK. I also put it into an old pencil case instead of a bulky zippered folder.

A first-aid kit is obviously important, but the kit I had was in a padded bag, with lots of little pockets. I removed duplicates, added a couple of things and double-ziplock bagged it. Another 400g down.

First aid kit

Much smaller

Water can be transferred to my body instead of the bike. Last week I didn’t take my backpack (with water bladder) as it was bumping into the big bag of camping gear on my seat. Without that bag, I can wear 2kg of water, plus carry snacks, maps and my wallet. I have a great Kriega backpack – it sits high on my shoulders, leaves plenty of room for arm movement, and is such a good fit that I never feel it.

I upgraded my riding suit (more below) and with that, lost 1kg of wet weather gear.

I also upgraded my luggage (I’ll post about this after I use it), but that added 450g.

Small changes, a reasonable amount of money (except for my riding suit). And I’ve just saved 9kg!!!!! That’s half of my previous gear weight! What girl doesn’t want to lose 9kg 🙂

Bike setup

I really did buy the best WR250R around. It was already set up with a load of extras – it has a carrying rack, riding lights, power outlet, some kind of massively strong handlebar and heated grips.

The first thing I did when I bought the bike last year was to have the suspension re-done. Everything had been set very soft and it kind of wallowed along. I didn’t need to re-spring it, but got the forks re-done and everything set up better for my weight.

I had also switched from a set of trials tyres to Mitas MT21s – I chose these for no reason other than D606s were likely to be a bit taller, and I was already scared of the height of the bike (I can only touch the ground with my toes, wearing my biggest boots). No doubt I will experiment with tyres just like everyone else does.

It had no mirrors, so I added doubletake mirrors – partly because they are cool, and, actually, just because they are cool.

Over Christmas, I replaced the perished grips with new ones, and fixed the heated grips at the same time (me and a soldering iron – the burn is almost healed!).

The only other thing that needs doing is to mount and wire a GPS holder. Hopefully I can figure that out in time for this weekend.

Learning to change a tyre

One of many skills I hadn’t yet learned was to change a tyre. That all changed this week when I went for a short, tarmac ride with a friend and picked up a nail. At first I couldn’t figure out why the bike was so squirmy in a 90km/hr corner. But it continued squirmy until I slowed down and found this:

Photo of a nail in my tyre

No wonder it was squirming around

Ok, this was my chance to learn to change a tyre! I removed the wheel, bought a tube, let down the tyre and popped it off the rim. That was a bit hard, and I probably scratched my rim a bit, but it was OK. I pulled the tube out, partly inflated the new one, and put it in. I put the tyre back on the rim. That was hard! One side went on well, but on the other side I got to the very last part and just couldn’t get the tyre lever under the tyre to do the last part. I ended up managing it with a small spanner! Unfortunately, when I inflated it, the air didn’t hold. So I threw the whole thing in the car, took it to the bike shop and got them to replace the tube I’d pinched. Best $15 I ever spent!

New riding suit

Last week I rode with a women’s full suit of armour, an old textile (partly mesh) jacket, and Klim Savannah women’s pants. It’s an OK combination, but only for warm, dry weather.

Photo of me in my bike gear, with my bike

Cobbled together gear, works well in summer

I needed a new suit this year anyway. The one I’ve been wearing is falling apart, has no wind resistance and little venting. It was cheap, and was fine when I started riding.

So I started researching women’s adventure gear. I’d like to rant, but it would be boring. Long story short – it’s all rubbish. I nearly cried when one of the reviews pointed out that the venting had been moved to the top of the shoulders as women sit higher as pillions. For a suit that was meant to be adventure gear!!!! I found something I liked, but the new version had replaced functional, expandable pockets with hand-warmer pockets. Because you have to keep your hands warm while posing next to your adventure bike. FFS!

So I ground my teeth and tried on a men’s Klim Latitude Suit. I thought it would be awful – I thought I would look boxy and masculine. I’d been avoiding trying it for ages for just that reason. You can imagine my surprise when I pulled the waistband in, let the hip adjusters out and discovered that it looked pretty damn good.

Klim latitude jacket, looking not masculine

It actually looks pretty good

And it just fits my armour, though is tight across the chest (I’ll have to see how this goes):

Body armour, under my jacket

Look what’s on the inside

That made me happy. So happy that I almost got lost trying to follow the GPS driving to the hotel in Sydney.

Ready to go

Last job was to figure out what I needed to pack (this weekend is a 3-day ride, followed by a work week in Melbourne, followed by a 3-day ride), do a test pack with the new luggage, load routes to the GPS, etc etc.

I’d taken the bike out for a quick run around the block after re-fitting the wheel, and the front was all flighty. I wanted to pack my gear, lower the tyre pressures and see how it felt.

Can you imagine how I felt, after all this work, when I tried to start the bike and it didn’t want to start. Then I got it started, pulled out of the driveway and it stopped. IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD!!!. I pushed it home, thought about it for a bit, and dumped my mower fuel in the tank. It started. And stayed started. I’d run out of fuel. Again (the last time was the day I bought it, and luckily I found a nice farmer). I really need to figure out my range on these tanks.

Anyway, I think we’re ready to go. Here she is, with my test run of gear, which weighs about 9kg (and that’s heavy as I have to take my iPad and clothes so I can work and look like a grown-up for a week).

Wr250R, with giant loop luggage

Ready to go

Tomorrow – Omeo. Thereafter – well, you’ll have to wait for the ride report…

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One Response to Preparing for the next trip: Bike & gear

  1. Pingback: The Big North: Day -2 | Blather

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