10.000 kilometer Gear Update becomes the 15.000 kilometer Big Gear Update
Why? Haven’t I already enough to do? Why an update? Is that necessary? No, it isn’t at all. Actually, a whole blog is not necessary. Thing is, I made photo’s all through the whole Africa trip, with the intention to make a nice little update about my gear, some items really expensive, some really not that handy or good.
I had it all finished when I got stuck in Cameroon. Then my laptop went for check up to the computer shop. Forgot to transfer the text. Lost it all. But I am that kind of person once I start something I want to finish it, so here it comes:
This stands for not happy with and this for great!
I praise myself each and every day. The Schwalbe Marathon Dureme tire got punctured badly in the first 500 kilometer. I changed the tire eventually for a Marathon Mondial. The bearing came loose after 14.500 kilometer to such an extend I could not cycle at all. Four spokes just snapped, while cycling on the tarmac. But these are all minor problems since nothing is made to be without disfunctions. The bicycle could be more comfi with saddle suspension. I felt my body aching after days and days on tracks in Fouta Djalon… however, the bicycle is made to my size and never do I feel any discomfort, not even if I sit on it for 150 kilometer after weeks of rest. It’s my best friend!
North Face Tent Meso II
For me it does the job well, for others, I have noticed, is it easily too hot. Especially in hot weather there’s not enough air flowing through. The zippers are strong but I have to be carefull with them. The poles are strong too but need grease now and then to make them slide in and out easier. For one person it is spacy enough, for two it is way too small, unless you are a loving couple. I find the colour better than most other tents, this one blends in way better.
One advise, don’t wash it as I did. It will loose it waterproof ability. This is also printed on the floor sheet, I found out after I washed it.
Just great. I often wonder how simple and strong this system is. I haven’t had to tighten the screws once, although roads were bumpy and rough. Completely watertight. Unfortunately they’re not rip proof, so get yourself a repair kit in order to fix holes and keep the panniers waterproof.
Mirror BM Cyclestar
I would not want to do without it. It keeps me from swaying on the road, something I see happening by my friends without a mirror. I find it essential to see what’s behind me and react accordingly. Not that you will be in more danger without a mirror though, it’s just a very handy item. However, the iron stick where the mirror sits on broke down. Every day the mirror is out of its right angle so the mirror get’s a lot of bending, turning and shoving around.
I had to leave this beautiful Bangladesh bell behind. It was a wonderful present of my friend, bought by his father in his country. The handlebar collected too many items and since I never used the bell: no one bothered by the sound of it or I scare the shit out of them, I decided to let myself be heard by screaming. The way to go in Africa, since only then people react…
Thermos Flask Laken
I had two flasks, first a Primus, then a Stanley and not one kept things warm. I left the first at home, the latter behind, but soon found out that I needed one for my daily masala tea intake. This one is given to me by Oliver and the only one which keeps things really hot. He bought it in Spain and the brand is Laken.
Terry Synthetic versus Brooks Leather
Get yourself a hard saddle. The harder the better. Strange enough I do not have to wear a synthetic foamy cycleshort anymore. I think a softer saddle with a padded short gives too much chance for irritations. The option cotton underwear and leather saddle might be the solution for me. A leather saddle is good for every one, that I am sure of. Watch out when turning the bicycle upside down, the saddle easily gets scratches and cuts from things on the ground. And be sure to cover it when it is raining. A leather saddle takes a bit more maintenance
Julbo sunglasses are very light weight, you hardly feel them on. I once wore glasses way more heavy, and thy gave me headache soon, but that probably was due to the wrong prescription. These Julbo glasses are with inner glasses, all very light weight but, the only downside are the outer glasses are very prone to scratches and gathering all kind of scrapes. The glasses themselves are easily taken out, by cleaning they pop out too easily. So with such a light weight sunglasses you must be very careful. Not possible with an ‘over landers’ lifestyle.
VCD Cycle Computer
An expensive odometer, which lasted 15.000 kilometers and decides to give up. Smartly there’s no warranty on the wiring and that’s where the problems start to exist soon. It’s a very thin wire and me being careful with it, it’s just not made for rough traveling. I would advise not to get yourself an expensive VDO, it’s not worth it. I would opt for a GPS or a wireless odometer, or better yet: nothing at all. But if you are, like me, keen on numbers, get something strong, with as less wires as possible (and take spare batteries).
Update: there’s a separate wire and mouth to be bought. So, if the wires get loose or broken, and the computer itself is still working, there’s not too much to worry. Just get a new wire and mouth : )
If you can afford it, get yourself one. The sound is soothing, the maintenance nihil. The shifting almost always without problems. If there’s a shifting problem, it’s done too quickly, like when I push the pedal while changing gear. While changing gear you have to stop pressing a fraction of a second. I find the shifting from, for example, 6 to 13 in one go, a very lovely thing to do. It makes you faster, and things easier. Especially in the hills, on tracks, the Rohloff makes it really more easy-going if it comes to changing quickly from high-speed into very low gear. You have to change the oil every 7000 kilometer, but this is an easy task.
Special Cycle Clothes
Not necessary. I find special cycle or trekking clothing a waste of money. This trouser I have made myself and would still last if I did not trow it because of its strong faded colours. I buy what I need on the road, and because it’s cheap I don’t mind throwing it when it’s finished.
Sea to Summit Dry Bag
Essential to keep your gear in one place. Completely waterproof. I have my tent and spare parts in it. Did not get pierced nor ripped yet.
Towel & Icebreaker Hood
The Icebreaker hood came in handy in Europe and cold desert nights. It’s beautiful, fashionable, expensive yes, and best of all: warm! It follows the shape of your body, nice, because when traveling you don’t need to look like a bag of potatoes all the time.
The towel is great too. Although synthetic it does the job well. Get a light color so you see when it needs a wash. Uhm, you will smell rather soon when it need a wash though…
Pump Toppeak Road Morph
The pump has got some issues in hot weather. Every time I need it, I have to unscrew the bottom to grease the inside in order to slide the pump easily up and down. I think it react to weather circumstances, and when it start to rub inside, it will each and every time… so it’s an ongoing annoyance but it keeps doing it’s job.
Exped Synmat UL M
I had the first Exped mat replaced by this one. Eventually they seem all to rip (also the Therma-A-Rest ones) and I don’t want an airmatress anymore since it is only a matter of time before it starts to rip from the inside. But I think they are more comfortable than the self inflating one, which I got replaced after Africa. Now it’s a matter of sturdiness over comfort, let’s see which one last longer…
MSR Titanium Cup
I was always eying this cup of Steve, because my masala chai would fit in so nicely. Big enough, light to carry, sturdy. It does keep things hot, so be careful. I burned my leg quite badly when I held the cup between my legs and poured boiling tea in it… Not smart.
I never used it but once. In the Sahara. I keep it as a wrapping around technical stuff, for when I might need it.
Padded Cycle Shorts Odlo & Gore
A pain in the ass and especially a bit in front of that area. For the mild summers in the Netherlands they are fine but for hot, steamy and humid conditions this is just plain uncomfortable. With a leather saddle I don’t need them anymore. Though, both fittings are very good, especially Gore knows what women want. The wasteband is much more comfortable from Gore. Excellent fitting.
Icebreaker Siren Tank 150
Fashionable. Bright color stays bright. Got one little hole in it by now, that might be because of the hand washing with a rougher brush. Good body shape.
Any hat will do, but I noticed brands are expensive more than useful. I lost my Fjall Raven hat because there was no cord to hold on tight to my chin. I find a hat a necessary item against the sun, together with sunglasses. I got a pair from Julbo.
Utterly uncharming but very well to cycle in. If it get’s chilly you can wear socks in it, and it still looks utterly uncharming. But who cares? Oh… you need to wash them now and then, they dó stink.
Headtorch Petzl Tikkina
A must have! This one is okay enough. Depending on which batteries I’ll put in, it is either good or not working. It can handle droppings and banging. Especially usefull for gloomy Nigerian brothels. You are well off on dark roads where potholes lurk your coming.
This little stove is just magnificent! I am completely content with it, attract a lot of attention from the locals who immediately recognize it as my cooking gear and I could not do without it. Some people had said, before I left, that you don’t need a stove nor kitchen if traveling in Africa. I don’t know where they have been but I definitely need it (and not only for tea).
One little back draw might be the noise it makes. I tend to cook in my room and in some countries they don’t appreciate this. I find it does not smell inside the Ortlieb bag, neither leak. I leave the Primus bottle with fuel (I use essence sans plomp) connected to the pump and disconnect the hose leading to the stove. I wrap both separate into their own little bag and no problems of smell whatsoever. Only with connecting the hose to the bottle it may fizzle a bit of fuel, but that cleans the hands anyway…
By now, the screw on top of the bottle, to hold the little metal plate in place, has been lost. This is quite essential as not to lose gas while cooking. I taped it.
Primus Eta Power 1.7 liter
Fine size for one or two persons, to boil rice, pasta or a thermos full of tea. The pan does get blackened underneath and either I leave it like that or I wash it off but then the whole wash basin is blackened as well. It’s light weight, keep it’s shape and does not get scratched easily (not at all). This handle broke off quite soon though, but the pan is replaced and still working fine.
MSR Frying pan
Very good for stir frying and the usual omelet. The pan has a lot of scratches and is misshapen by now. But that ads to the charm of my mini kitchen.
MSR Gravity Water filter
Useless. Although it can be fast, it more often takes too long to let the water go through, simply because it’s not always working. It needs to be back flushed after every two times of using it. It’s a hassle! Besides, the water in the whole of West Africa is drinkable. Although I have to warn you that my body is exceptionally adapted to any source of water, whether it be tap, river, well or spring.
The best! The only one to go for. Eventually you’ll lose the cap but that doesn’t matter.
I secure my Ortlieb bag with this iron dread. Every thief with enough time on his hands can slide it from the Ortlieb bag, but if the thief is in a hurry, he might leave it… mostly for my own secure feeling, I guess.
Cumulus Sleepingbag & Vaude Silk Liner
Cumulus sleeping bag is like a cloud on your tired body. I am very content with this down sleeping bag. However, I doubt about the maximum temperature, it is supposing good for weather up to minus 10. When I was coming back from Cameroon to Paris, cycling back home in the summer of Europe, I was damn cold. I had to wear all my clothes, the Icebreaker Hood, socks and close the entire sleeping bag. While it was about 10 degrees abóve zero…. Nevertheless, the sleeping bag keeps it’s down filling mostly inside (feathers do slide out now and then, but doesn’t this ad to the farmer kind of live style, all the more romantic), is light weight and compact.
The silk liner is fine too. I had to cut it open for better movement. I just can’t sleep in such a confined space.
GPS & Leatherman Multitool
I send home the Leatherman tool as I had it mostly as an extra knife. Opinel knives are the only one to have. Leatherman’s heavy and when I decided to send all things home I did not use often, this was one of them. I think they are not necessary. GPS is definitely not necessary in West Africa. I got it as a present of Gora however, so I keep it. But I never had the time to get to understand the device, neither do I have maps on it. He gave me a smart phone too, and this is something to have and hold onto forever: if you have the money, spend it on a decent smartphone. (Thanks again, Gora!)
Later on, the VDO broke down and had to use the GPS as an odometer, although it uses more battery life than anything else, it does the kilometer and altitude count very well.
Most other cyclists don’t use gloves, but I did. I think it keep the hands from numbness, and definitely from dirt collecting on the handlebars. Get them exact the right size, slightly too big is annoying. I find them expensive items which don’t last that long.
Ortlieb 10 Liter Waterbag
Essential in the Sahara. Just for drinking, I don’t bother with showers. My friend Steve used plastic bottles but he also lost them now and then. The downside of a bag such as this one is that you have to take extra care not to pierce it where a bottle is easily replaced.
Ortlieb Map Holder and Handlebarbag
It had to deal with a lot, a lot, a lot of sunshine. And that plastic don’t like much. So after a year of cycling the plastic sheet becomes yellow and start to rip.
The handlebar bag: the press buttons came off quite soon so it’s not to close anymore. A little nuisance when you’re on the bumpy African roads. The bag is neither very handy once off the bicycle, it’s really for on the bicycle. And for that purpose it is designed very well.
Oh… and the sport bra, get yourself a white one, that is, if you are a woman. It’s fun to see how dirty they get in a week time, being on red gravel. The iron hooks of the bra will eventually rust and snap, because of the excess sweating.