Here’s some of the equipment we’re using on this trip and why we’re using it.
2008 Trice Q trike
Excellent handling, performance, design, craftsmanship, and factory support are all reasons why I ride the Trice. If you’re looking for a recumbent trike, the Trice line should be on your very short list. And if you’re looking for a good dealer in the US, contact Chip at the Recumbent Trike Store. My Q will have over 10,000 miles on it to start the trip. I’ve recently adjusted, repaired, or replaced pretty much every component on the trike and it’s riding pretty sweet right now.
At its heart the Trets is a two-wheeled recumbent tagalong. But it’s more than that: the stable, solid design, 140 lb. weight limit, and solid coupling to the axle turn the Trice into a detachable tandem. I’ve tried a traditional tagalong (Burley Piccolo) with tadpole trikes and it’s a bad bet— makes the trike very unstable (prone to flipping). Because the Trets has two wheels and attaches to the axle of the trike there is no noticeable decrease in stability with it attached. I’ve added a bike computer and Avid BB7 disk parking/drag brake to give Zoe a little more control of the downhill situation. I may live to regret this but she’s showing signs of increasing comfort with fast downhills. A parking brake is essential for a rig that doesn’t fall over. I also added a “fender” to the front of the Trets to block the spray from the rear tire of my trike. This turned out to be better for a couple of reasons than the wraparound fender I originally used on the Trice. Other additions include a water bladder under the seat and some side panniers to hold things like camera, MP3 player, maps, lunch, etc. If you strive to be different, there’s nothing more unique on the road than a tadpole trike with a Trets attached. Add a kid in the seat and a guitar on the back and yeah, you’re strange. Warning: The Trets is crazy expensive and was hard for me to get in Idaho.
I use the back roller style. Simple, solid, absolutely waterproof panniers. On top of the rack I use an Ortlieb X-Plorer bag to hold the tent, food, extra water, and anything else that doesn’t fit elsewhere. It has shoulder straps allowing us to use it as a backpack for extended day hikes. I use Eagle Creek zippered bags to organize stuff inside the panniers.
I tried several brands of tires for my trikes before settling on Scwhalbe. Schwalbe has by far the best quality and selection of tires, especially for recumbents. I tend to use the Marathon Race at home because they’re relatively inexpensive and I put in a lot of miles commuting. But for this trip I slapped on five Marathon Plus tires because I don’t want to deal with flats. We’ll see how it goes. Recently Terracycle, makers of the idler I’m using, has a been a good, relatively inexpensive online source for the essential Schwalbe tires for recumbent touring.
Rock-solid cloud backup solution. Combined with Windows Live Mesh, automatically backs up pictures taken on the trip with my phone and cameras. Un-intrusive and simple to use. I used it to recover an entire trip’s worth of pictures awhile back when my wife accidentally (and permanently) deleted them all. I tried Mozy first and found it horribly complicated to specify and/or figure out what it was backing up. And when Mozy changed its pricing structure, Carbonite became a much less expensive solution for me (they were about equal at $5/month).
A few years ago I tried virtually every mirror on the market. They all sucked for one reason or another. Not sure why I tried these last, but when I discovered them I stopped looking. These mirrors rock. Decent size view, very adjustable, they stay where you put them, and they last forever. Well, almost—I had to replace one recently.
Zune MP3 player
Such a sad story. The Zune was an excellent MP3 player that compared favorably to the iPod in most every way but sales. While the Zune service lives on, the hardware platform is dead. Windows Phone 7 is the new Zune hardware platform but this move really sucks for kids. Zoe’s Zune will be supplying her music and video for the trip.
Windows Phone 7
If you appreciate elegant and practical design, you should check out this phone. Yes, even you iPhone zealots. Using it on the trip for mapping (better than the Garmin in most cases), pictures, guitar tuner, music and podcasts, blogging/facebook, texting and phone calls.
Baby Taylor guitar
When my daughter outgrew her 1/4 scale guitar we searched a while for a replacement. When we picked up the Taylor it was obvious our search was over. This thing is sweet. It’s fun to play and makes a great travel guitar even for adults. We’re dragging it across the country in a modified SKB soft shell case which is made specifically for the Baby Taylor. Oh, and this is the BabyTaylor Swift edition. She had a choice between this guitar and an unbranded version for the same price. In her punk rock phase she may live to regret this but there was no way I was going to get her out of the store without the Taylor Swift version.
Sierra Designs Hyperlight AST tent
A super light, roomy 2-person tent that has served my family’s backpacking needs for years. This tent is out of production but I like Sierra Designs tents in general. Mine is beginning to show signs of age and wear and I debated whether to replace it for this trip but decided it’s got at least one more big adventure in it. When I do replace it I’ll probably opt for the MSR Hubba Hubba.
Mountain Hardwear Phantom sleeping bags
Super light, warm, and compact down sleeping bags. I’ve learned over the years that down is the only acceptable fill material for me—synthetics don’t cut it.
I’ve missed enough meals waiting on friends’ Whisperlite stoves that when the sad day came that I had to give up on my Svea (the gasket failed and nearly ignited the surrounding forest) I was happy to give the Jetboil a try. I was reluctant to switch to canister fuel and outside the US this may well be a bad bet, but once I switched I never looked back.
Radical Design panniers
Radical makes panniers specifically for various recumbent models as well as other cycling products like a really nice looking cargo trailer (I have no experience with it).
Back when the Camelback was stealing the show, the Dromedary quietly offered a more robust bladder storage solution. It still does, though there are certainly other choices out there now. Bladders work great underneath recumbent seats– the weight is low, the bladder is shaded, and the space is otherwise unused. And lying there sucking on a tube just oozes relaxation. When I’m older maybe I’ll replace the tube with an IV drip.
Sun CR-18 rims are super strong, reasonably light, and oddly hard to find. I’ve now built up about 10 wheels from this rim and only one has required even re-truing*. That one was run over by a car in a parking lot– re-truing was the least of its worries. As much as I like my Trice I wasn’t too impressed with the rims or wheel build it came with and eventually replaced all the wheels with these rims.
* We’ll see if I can still make that claim after this trip.
Garmin Oregon 450
I’ve purchased and used nearly every outdoor Garmin GPS device since the Garmin 45, primarily for hang gliding, driving, and cycling. For most of this time I’ve loved Garmin but that’s beginning to change. I’ve had a number of hardware and software issues with the Oregon, including the way they manage licensing and access to their map data. So why am I using the Oregon? Primarily because I own it and can’t justify dropping another $500 on a new unit, particularly when my phone suffices for most of my GPS needs nowadays. It does fulfill particular needs that I still value: Turn-by-turn routing, speed, altitude, and heart rate in a waterproof unit that is always on my trike where I can easily see it. And the track logs I use for this blog.
Awesome maps, magazine, and organization. Zoe is learning map reading on this trip with their paper maps—she’s in charge of navigation. They now offer free download of complete GPS coordinates for all their routes—this is great for route planning. I planned this trip by loading most of the AC routes into Garmin BaseCamp mapping software and stitching together my own route.
Sure beats carrying a bunch of books. The display on these things is amazing for text, I prefer it to books. Battery life is on the order of weeks. Ideal for this kind of trip except that they are a little fragile. We’re on our third now, the first two cheerfully replaced. But then again I am the clearinghouse for defective electronic merchandise (see below).
Samsung Series 7 Slate
The power of a Windows laptop with the form factor of an iPad. Plus a Wacom digitizing pen. Invaluable for keeping up with Zoe’s homework which is provided from her school online. I’ve gotta say that I own several Samsung products and have found their support to be horrible. I wouldn’t buy another one except that their designs tend to be pretty good– the Samsung pretty much wipes up the current (meager) crop of Slate PCs. This device uses a rare 3.0mm outer / 1.1mm inner tip for the power supply. It took me a while to find an adapter tip that would work with the external battery pack I’m using. The Adaptaplug G (Radio Shack) should work but doesn’t– it wiggles around enough to make the connection intermittent. Turns out the Tekkeon PA-L30 works great and happens to be designed for the Tekkeon battery pack I’m using.
Tekkeon universal lithium ion battery pack
I use two of these to provide backup power for our various electronic devices. I use the industrial version because it has precise control over the output voltage (dip switch selectable) vs. an auto-sense design. It also, oddly, has slightly more capacity (60 watt-hours) than the consumer version. It is a lithium polymer battery coupled with switching supplies for both input and output so is about the smallest and most efficient battery backup solution out there. We chose this over the similar Energizer XP18000 device because of the precise output voltage control, a slightly better form factor (longer and thinner mounts under my trike boom better), and more detailed specifications about how the thing is designed and works. While riding I have one of these mounted on the boom to provide GPS power. I expect to get about a week of use between charges and have lithium (non-rechargeable) batteries in the GPS as a backup I hope never to use. At camp I have another to power the slate and recharge other devices. When power is available overnight I can plug the wall brick into two of these units, connect the slate and up to three other devices, and completely charge them all. When using the slate with power available I use a single battery plugged into the wall so that I can charge both the battery and slate. When using the slate without external power I plug it into the battery pack set to 9 volts output which powers the slate without charging its internal battery (more efficient). Check here for more technical information and a slightly cheaper price.
Canon PowerShot SD780 IS camera
Super compact, light, and excellent outdoor still images and movies. Not so hot indoors, at night, or with fast action but well suited cycle touring.
An extremely well made, toothed idler pulley with a configuration to suit virtually every recumbent out there. Years ago I upgraded the front idler on my wife’s TerraTrike Cruiser and it dramatically reduced the drive train noise. My Trice Q doesn’t have much drive train noise but when I recently had to replace my idler (long story) I decided to upgrade. Running the power-side chain on a flat pulley never made much sense to me. And it actually did reduce my already reasonably low drive train noise.
These are the best performance t-shirts I’ve ever used. Inexpensive, good looking, excellent wicking properties, zillions of color choices, comfortable, aren’t prone to stinking, and last forever. I’ve had about ten of these in rotation for many years. And it looks like they don’t make them anymore. Damn. Does anyone know where to get these shirts?
Outdoor Wilderness Fabrics
When I needed some light, waterproof pack cloth for some of the sewing projects for this trip I looked on the Internet for sources. This company kept coming up as the best source. And after awhile I noticed they’re in Caldwell, ID and have a showroom. Sweet!
Nashbar Ragster II sandals
Years ago cycling sandals got me past a critical plateau in my cycling career that might have led me to abandon cycling, at least for touring. It took me way too long to figure out that my random but excruciating foot pain was happening because my cycling shoes were too narrow for my feet. It turns out virtually every cycling shoe made is too narrow for my wide feet (8 1/2 D+). At the time I switched to Shimano cycling sandals and have never experienced foot pain again, except the one ride I did with a friend’s Keens (more on that later). Since the day I switched I’ve worn cycling sandals exclusively, in summer and winter, commuting and touring, and they’re wonderful. I wear them with a pair of Smartwool socks with thickness to match the weather. Lately, on very cold days I wear the largest size Pearl Izumi booties over my Ragsters, but usually I’m just fine with the Smartwools. Back to the beginning of this tale, I wore out the Shimano’s and switched to the old style Lakes, which worked equally well. When I wore those out I reluctantly decided to try the Nashbar Ragsters. I’ve had mixed results with Nashbar branded products in the past and these looked like the soles would be way too thin for serious pedaling; my expectations were pretty low. Was I wrong! Not only do the Ragsters provide more than enough sole stiffness for hard, all-day, loaded rides, they’re way more comfortable to walk in off the trike than the Shimanos or Lakes ever were. They’re so comfortable that for years I’ve worn them every work day, all day. I use them for my commute to and from work, and just leave them on in the office. For my touring I don’t even bother to bring my Keen sandals anymore– the only other shoe I wear. All this and they last about as long as the Shimanos or Lakes did but cost a fraction of the price. And now to the Keens: I love my Keen Newport sandals, though I don’t wear them as much as I used to because I’m in my Ragsters so much. When Keen came out with their cycling sandal I was psyched– as much as I liked my Ragsters, what could be better than Keen Newports with cleats? Well let me tell you, their cycling sandal fits nothing like a Newport, or for that matter a Ragster. This thing is as narrow as the narrowest Shimano shoe. When I tried my friend’s pair, which was a size or so too big for me, my feet immediately cramped up with that familiar, excruciating pain. I talked to a Keen representative about it and was flippantly told that they’ve done the research and there is no way to make a cycling sandal that accommodates wide feet the way a Newport does. I guess they never bothered to look at any other cycling sandal on the market. To be fair, none of these sandals look like a Newport. But I’d say Nashbar has upstaged Keen in a big way.
Bell Metro helmet
Practical, inexpensive, and isn’t styled after a bad sci-fi movie. And out of production now I think though I still see them advertised. The Citi helmet in their current lineup looks similar.
Topeak Road Morph pump
I’ve used a Crank Bros ultra-compact pump for years and it works well enough in emergencies and takes up very little space. But for a tour of this nature I needed something that I could use regularly to keep five tires at optimal pressure without losing my sanity. The Road Morph was the obvious choice. I love my full size Topeak Joe Blow Pro floor pump, we’ll see how this one pans out. I’ve heard complaints that the built-in pressure gauge isn’t very accurate. That doesn’t surprise me but I’m not too concerned about it– I’ll calibrate it against a good floor pump with an accurate gauge and just note the reading I need to reach.
It’s customary now to hate Microsoft for one reason or another. But occasionally they get it very right. This product is one of those occasions. Windows Phone 7, incidentally, is another one. I’m using OneNote on the trip to manage trip details, packing lists, recipes, and more, synchronized between the cloud and every computing device I own including my phone.
Cygolite Milion headlight
This is another mixed review. I love everything about this light except that it is the third one I’ve owned in less than two years. Cygolite stands by their products and has cheerfully cross-shipped a replacement every time, but still…
Update: I don’t love the mounting bracket on this thing. Impossible to keep it tight enough to prevent the light from moving around side-to-side. Some blue thread locker seems to have helped but the mounting design is pretty flawed in my opinion.
Blackburn Flea lights
Something you should know about me: I am a clearinghouse for defective electronic merchandise. If it is in any way complicated or electronic, there is an extremely high chance that if I order it, it will arrive defective or quickly become so. I won’t bore you with the proof but it’s true– I’m the Bermuda Triangle of electronics. A living, breathing, electronics vortex. So it should come as no surprise that I’m on my third Blackburn Flea tail light. Same story as the Cygolite: I love everything about this light except that it is the third one I’ve owned in less than two years. Blackburn stands by their products and has cheerfully cross-shipped a replacement every time, but still…
For more information see Packing.