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ultralight camping on bicycle tours
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Bernd Dr. Fischel
(ofischel) - F

Locale: Heidelberg
ultralight camping on bicycle tours on 10/21/2005 12:07:20 MDT Print View

Hi, we are from Germany and our hobby is 'ultralite (ultralight) camping on bicycle tours':
or (homepage).

I / we (Barbie and I) admit that Ray's way (Ray Jardine) inspired us to use his way of camping on bicycle camping trips. Anybody else out there, who does this too? Or have any ideas about how to do 'ultralite bicycle camping tours'? My email-address: or just post your reply here. Thanks! ;-)

Edited by ofischel on 10/21/2005 12:11:46 MDT.

Vick Hines
(vickrhines) - F

Locale: Central Texas
Re: ultralight camping on bicycle tours on 10/21/2005 20:07:18 MDT Print View

Why spend a couple of thousand for the lightest road bike, then load it with heavy gear? You can get all you need into a handlebar bag and a single large stuff sack that stays in your slip-stream -- without the wind drag of panniers. Since you can resupply and get fed on the road, you don't need a cook kit - or at most only a minimal one. Lots of folks have been going ultralight on bikes in the US since the 1970s.

larry savage
(pyeyo) - F

Locale: pacific northwest
Re: ultralight camping on bicycle tours on 10/21/2005 20:55:17 MDT Print View

Of course the ultimate ultra light bike camping requires a small rectangle of plastic with a bank's imprint on it but I never can quite convince the spousal unit to let me try it...I rarely carry a water filter and I eat more fresh food. Then you would need to add tools and repair parts, this list would be completely dependent on the size of towns I might be passing through, but always a multi-bike tool, patch kit,a spare tube,and tire boot[from an auto parts store]. I once broke a pedal in very rural Montana that was the biggest problem I've ever had, something I'd never plan for. Shelter in my world is always determined by bugs/wetness. Many times I've had locals offer me their homes or barns. I do not ride in a group so sharing equipment is not an option. I also camp with my mountain bike but that is almost always just an overnighter. I'm not a fanatic about my stove and USA bike camping means a 50 degree F. bag will suffice. I'm a nut about clean shorts though, a pair of bibs,another pair of shorts,and a pair of liner underwear that can be paired up with my nylon camp shorts+an anti-biotic cream. You could go UL but on a bike the biggest weight is you, a 17# bike w/ 10# of gear+the days food still doesn't compare if you weigh 14 stone. Thank for the links...

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Re: Re: ultralight camping on bicycle tours on 10/22/2005 00:03:44 MDT Print View

Cool! I love seeing ultralight ethic in other applications. In 03 I had the chance to speak to a group of motorcycle campers en route to Sturgis. It was very enlightening and being Harley gear heads already, they were pretty jazzed about ultralight camping kits.

Anyway, I'm not so experienced camping with a road bike, so can't comment on that too much. It is something I'd like to do but I need to wait to afford the road bike I really want:

But I do enjoy mountain bike camping in the wilderness.

To that end, I focus not only on reducing weight, but especially on reducing volume. As an earlier post mentioned, the ability to blitz panniers really improves balance, something even more important on a mountain bike. But for long distances, food takes up a bit of space, and could even send you into the realm of a Bob trailer if you're out for more than a week or two.

Anyway, the key components of an ultralight wilderness mtn bike trip for me include: alcohol stove/cooking mug, a tarp supported by the bike on one end and an 18" carbon fiber pole on the other, and clothing that makes sense, which means: very few layers. I wear a wool shirt and a wind shirt, and pack a waterproof jersey (rainshield cycling jacket). I usually forgo insulating clothing in the summer. It's bulky and I'd rather have the bulk in my sleeping bag. Biking for 14 hours a day is a lot tougher than hiking 14 hours a day, so I usually sleep in, and bike two long legs separated by a nice afternoon nap in the warm sun, then bike til dark, cooking dinner from my bag. As such, forgoing bulky insulating clothing is pretty easy.

Larry hit the kit on the money with what you carry for your bike: multi-too, patch kit, tube, tire boot, and not much more.

Antibiotic and anti-chafing cream is something I always take on bike trips but almost never take hiking.

Bernd Dr. Fischel
(ofischel) - F

Locale: Heidelberg
Ultralight Bicycle Camping on 10/22/2005 02:44:58 MDT Print View

Hi Folks,
first I am amazed in getting so many answers in just one night (day).

Between Bicycle touring in USA (large distances, different road conditions, etc.) and in Europe there is a large difference. Here in Europe the distances are relatively short, a bakery on virtually every corner in some areas, local bike paths, a differnt bicycle history and culture. Also a hugh trend sport in the mean time. Barbie (from Virginia, Florida) and I (from Germany/USA- Alabama, N.J and CA.)have spent the last 4 years traveling around Europe on our bicycles (and just on pocket money). The principles of UC (ultralight camping) have inspired us not to use panniers, a rear bike basket with an ultralite nylon bag is sufficiant, small and extrem light weight gear, i.e. sleeping bag weighs only 560 grams, tent 1,8 kilograms etc.. But even in Europe we are the exception, most bicyclists take the kitchen sink, turn their bicycles into trucks. We don't and we don't do credit-card-camping either ;-), but stealth or wild camping.
Bernd & Barbie (Happy bike trails..!)

Edited by ofischel on 10/22/2005 03:04:52 MDT.

larry savage
(pyeyo) - F

Locale: pacific northwest
Re: Ultralight Bicycle Camping on 10/22/2005 11:53:36 MDT Print View

I've sent you an email but I'm posting this for the forum people. Riding a bike anywhere with a pack really stinks... .
Cyclists have options not always available to backpackers such as access to shelters whether it's a bridge overpass or abanoned farm building,access to bakeries,small stores,or fruitstands. The ability to send things home or send it ahead,I guess. And we have to carry a few tools.First, my equipment is determined by where I'm riding, mountain,beach,desert or some combination... .
My bike is a standard steel road bike I converted to cyclecross racing, 34/50 compact crank,11-28 cassete,canti brakes,crank bros. mtn pedals,bike computer w/altimeter, over/under bottle mounts on the downtube, an additional bottle mount up high on the seat tube. I then use 2 cut-down plastic cages to snap my sleeping pad snug to the seat tube.
I use a moot's titanium seatpost rack[this has a long slender pouch on top and one underneath] I strap my sleeping bag to this. And a handlebar bag.
Pad-trimmed down thermarest ridgerest cut down or 1/4 inch ensolite
Bag-north face chrysalis down semi-fitted[I'm built like a footballer]
Tent-70's bug tent 1.75# a-frame w/fly, mountain equipment fresno
stove-sierra zip[burns wood,twigs] or msr dragonfly w/sigg fuel bottle[multi-fuel]
Pot-1 liter aluminum w/cut down gripper
Spork-steel unknown source,slightly bent to fit in pot
Cup-sierra style
Food Bag-a few packets of oatmeal,a couple of energy bars,salt,pepper,chile flakes in film cannister,small squeeze bottle of olive oil[doubles as chain lube],vitamins,3 0z. can of tuna,repackaged freeze dried espresso[emergencies happen]
First Aid-sunblock,small sample deoderant,antibiotic cream,sting-eze,bug repellant[if aplicable],ind.pack kleenix,a doz. anti-inflammatory tablets,pack towel 10x15.
Clothes-short gloves,campy.long gloves,specialized mtn.bibs,casttelli,padded briefs,andiamo.jersey,1 prana synthetic t,1 old wool cycling.tights,loose nikes.jacket,patagonia,spector.sweater,cashmere w/holes.socks,smartwool 1/4 length 2 pairs.ultra light nylon running shorts.lake mtn bike shoes.
sometimes I lash a pair of sandals on with the bag, sometimes I include another oair of cycling shorts,triflex tights for rain, homemade chaps for the oregon coast,goretex helmet cover,a little black diamond nylon ball cap ...sunglasses,35mm film camera-olympus xa,mini plastic tripod,flashlight,paperback.patagonia puffball vest for mtns.
2-24oz. bottles,1 has internal filter,katdyn exstream.
sometimes I use a bomber cage on the bottom of the downtube,this secures a grocery store style 2l. water bottle in place.
cup,stove,spork,gripper,seasoning,oil go in pot
pot goes in bar bag with camera,first aid,swiss army knife[huntsman?],snacks,some clothes,treated route map in clear lid,cell phone[wife insists!]pactowel.
tools-multi bike tool,patch kit, spare tube, tire boot[from auto parts store],electrical ty-wraps,tire lever- quickstix.
tools and remaining food go in one seat bag/remaining clothes go in the other
instead of bungees I use a product called griptwist,a kinda of stiff coated wire
I also use a flashing taillight and a light that screws onto the valve stem,might take a lock but usually not. Last trip I also used a fanny pack that expands into a day pack, Kelty. The idea was I could pick up evenings food expand the pack and ride into camp,the reality was it was hot on lower back and wound up lashed to my bag.
Bike w/equipment weigh 31#. add water,fresh food

Edited by pyeyo on 10/23/2005 22:14:32 MDT.

larry savage
(pyeyo) - F

Locale: pacific northwest
Re: Re: Re: ultralight camping on bicycle tours on 10/22/2005 11:57:38 MDT Print View

Ryan,put weight weenies into google, the site is star bikes blah blah blah. Take a look at their lightest bike builds,don't ask how much

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Re: Re: Re: Re: ultralight camping on bicycle tours on 10/22/2005 17:34:19 MDT Print View

>> Ryan, put weight weenies into google


That's a gooooood site!

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: ultralight camping on bicycle tours on 10/23/2005 19:28:20 MDT Print View

Any recommendations on methods of locking the bike for security? Specifically what products do you use?

larry savage
(pyeyo) - F

Locale: pacific northwest
locks for ultralight bike camping on 10/23/2005 22:11:03 MDT Print View

Now we've hit the pickle, any lock that can be considered "safe" is almost as heavy as the bike. Kryptonite just went through the embarassment of having their best locks opened with a bic pen. I've got a battery saw that will cut through any chain or cable in about a second and a half, but what I use is a standard coated cable lock and a personal alarm. These things are about ten bucks,weigh a couple of ounces, and screech like a banshee when a small pin is pulled out. I just rig it up so if the bike is moved it lets go. I've gotten a lot better about how I set it up when it triggered while I was taking pictures of a waterfall. After sprinting back up the trail I realized my bike had just fallen over.I looked the petrified crowd in the eye and said "thank God it worked again". Just like trailhead break-ins bike theft is all too common.

Bernd Dr. Fischel
(ofischel) - F

Locale: Heidelberg
Ultralight bicycle camping on 10/24/2005 02:10:16 MDT Print View

I can only speak for bicycle touring in Europe, where I know the conditions. I have never done any major bicycle tours in USA, but have several years of experience in European bicycling and taking bicycle tours around Europe. It was (and is) our hobby.

What amazes me is the following:

a) The hiking and backpacking scene and industry has discovered that there is a market for lightweigt and ultra-light (ultralite) camping and hiking gear. However the bicycle touring industry has not, most all bicycle touring gear (touring bicycles, bike repair tools, bike camping equipment like panniers, bike locks etc.) are heavy, no thoughts about wind drag, weight on a bicycle tour and other relevant issues, like compactness. In fact on the contrary it is trendy (at least here in Europe) to make your bicycle look like a big heavy SUV even with a trailor, as if weight meant saftey, endurance or even adventure? All this made me think and then I discovered the ultralite camping and hiking webpages on american websites, among them ( We, Barbie and I then started to apply much of the philosophy and practices of ultralite camping to bicycle adventuring and camping in Europe. I don't know if these ideas would work in the large USA, where distances are far greater and climate conditions differ? In Europe they certainly do, but we are pioneers, only a few, who do "bike ultralite" on bike tours.

b) When we speak about 'ultralite' bicycle touring, most people think we mean using our credit-cards for touring, doing 'credit-card-camping', staying at luxury hotels or hotels the whole way, washing the jersey in hotel facilities in the evening, a restaurant meal etc.. Well we don't do that either. I don't even have a credit-card. Nor do we mean supported bicycle tours by a support vehicle, like a car, in fact that is not bicycle camping or touring at all in my opinion. But I have seen that many US-cyclists think that this means ultralight. Our ultralite is camping self-contained, full camping gear, stealth or wild camping and also ultra-cheap! We make the Euro money go a long way! ;-) Some persons don't even approve of our way of bicycle travel, calling us bicycle-hobos! Fine with me, I can live with that, but we don't leave traces where we camped wild but smiling faces! We like to call ourselves bicycle indians, living free, roaming the country side for good bicycle paths, on the look-out for good meals, occasionally cooking our own meals on hobo-stoves and sharing bicycle tales! Wild-west and indian romantic in short!

c) All our experiences of touring Europe by bicycle on pocket money we want to put into a book about 'Bike-Europe-Utlralite: A cyclist's cheap guide to Europe', which is about 3/4 completed. We are sure that bicycle travel and touring in Europe is a hobby for many in future, seeing the rise of gas prices and the advantage of bicycle touring on back roads, in wildlife preserves and ecological sensitive regions, where no cars can go! Even in heavy car traffic areas there are bicycle paths in Europe. There is a huge future in cycling touring here in Europe.

The best of wishes for your (ultralight weight) bicycle tours and may they be enjoyable!

Bernd & Barbie (happy trails..!) (homepage)

Edited by ofischel on 10/24/2005 02:24:50 MDT.

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: locks for ultralight bike camping on 10/24/2005 08:26:05 MDT Print View

Larry, would you mind mentioning what brand of cable lock and personal alarm? I'll guess kryptonite on the cable lock. Thanks for your comments.

larry savage
(pyeyo) - F

Locale: pacific northwest
Re: Re: locks for ultralight bike camping on 10/24/2005 12:23:26 MDT Print View

My cable lock is Krypto,vinyl covered stainless steel braided cable. I also a generic Giant. Both have about 5-6ft. of coiled cable.The screecher is a Pal 1,which I aquired at a local lock shop for ten bucks.You might look at under personal alarms, I guess it's actually made for joggers and such. I've replaced the lanyard with a loop of steel cable and I hide it under my bottom bracket looped to chain link fence or the like. I've also used it for backpacks at the airport and train station...take the bike or pack and you are running with 130db screecher at your side.
I have an 18volt bandsaw and a 15.6 volt metal cutting saw that I use at work that will cut through anything made in a few seconds,the bad guys have them too,don't leave your stuff unattended but at least if you doze off nobodys going to get it.