My bike originally was an e-bike (Elektrobiker, Vienna), a strong and fast one with good quality components, so it was designed to be stable, and it was.
On the way, I changed (better: I let change the chain every 3-4000km and after the most mountainous parts in Georgia, Armenia and Iran, I also bought a new cogset.
I was a bit nervous about my Tektro disc brakes, because in case of a problem I thought it is more complicated to repair or service (=bleed) it by myself, but I only needed new pads after those mountains, and then could go on for many 1000km without any problem.
I had bought a Luxos U light with USB charger. The light was good and whenever it didn’t work it was because the cable had become lose. But until the end I never could rely on the charger. Sometimes it worked, sometimes not and I could not tell if it was the problem of the charger, the USB-cable or those devices that I wanted to charge, because all this electronic stuff is not reliable enough….
On the bike, I had many bags: 😊
Two small bags, under my saddle for first aid stuff and one (called basil) on the top tube of the frame for my phone (photo above). Both needed mending after a while so as not to fall apart.
And then I had six Ortlieb bags, the four in the “classic” position left+right (front + back), one at the handlebar for camera, sunglasses, money, passport etc and a big top bag in the rear for tent stuff.
These are reliable bags as many people know anyway.
My clothes were nearly exclusively from Löffler, an Austrian company and one of the few companies for (sports)wear that still produces in Europe, mostly even in Austria. I had too much to wear, because for example, I took with me 3 bike shirts but used only one all the time, just washing it at night and in the end only the colours were bleached by the sun.
The most obvious example for the quality of those products were my gloves. I was always wearing gloves, partly as a shock prevention for my hands but mostly, because in any accidents, small or severe, the hands are affected and even a small cut by a small stone can make unnecessary troubles that could have been prevented by gloves. Unfortunately, I lost one of them in Iran and bought new ones there. Unfortunately, I lost them in China and bought new ones in China. Unfortunately, one of them hurt me with a seam, but luckily it was the left one and I still had my original one. So you can see how the Kaiwei gloves originally looked and how the used one looked at the end of the trip. And you can compare with the Löffler glove.
For rain, I had a poncho, but I am still not sure what is the best option. It protected me from very heavy rain, at least from above, but of course the shoes and legs get wet indirectly from the water on the street. There are advantages and disadvantages of every rain protection. I might do the same again, but I am not convinced enough to say this is the best option. I only had one shirt with long sleeves, but I had extra arms and leggings.
One kind was designed as sun protection instead of sunscreen and I used it mainly in Iran, but I didn’t feel very comfortable, because you have less wind chill. The other set was to warm up and I was glad to have it in Vietnam in January with wind and rain, but most of the wearing time was in cold nights as a kind of pajama.
All that “functional wear” has the big advantage of being light weight and of drying fast and the disadvantage of being better under hot conditions and not that good when it is cold. Sometimes I was wearing literally everything I had and still felt cold although it was beyond 0°.
I could say something about my tent equipment:
My tent was an MSR, I took the version for two persons, because the difference in weight is not that big and you have enough space. It did a good job and I liked that you also can start with the flysheet when it is raining, but I didn’t like the zippers that tended to eat the surrounding cloth. I bought an more expensive inflating mat from exped, but after only 30-40 nights during this year (I only did camping form Hungary to Iran and again in Australia and Europe), it first became leaky to the outside (you can fix this in a way) and then leaky between the different sections of the mat (then it is destroyed). The sleeping bag, again from exped, was too hot or too cold many times, maybe the comfort zone was between 10-20°C. I additionally had a silk sleeping bag and I needed it often, sometime to replace and sometimes to supplement the normal sleeping bag.
I had 3
pairs of shoes:
bike shoes: good for biking but uncomfortable until the last day. I think I had 3 accidents by falling in very slow tempo, because I could not get out of the clips fast enough.
normal shoes: I took very light ones, so biking with them was not perfect, running hurt after a few 100m and walking after 10km. In Taiwan the shoe sole had come off from both shoes at the same time, so I guess the temperatures and humidity was too much for them after 8 months of travelling. But I let them repair and then they endured until Vienna.
My helmet (Abus) had a windshield and when I started, I used it quite often. It should protect me from insects or other things coming into my eyes and sometimes this was very useful. But it was not so comfortable (less ventilation) and I got the impression that dogs even hate me more with it, so, after a while, I only used it when the wind was strong or when I was going more than 30km/h. As I where glasses it was good to have the windshield, because when the rain stopped, I opened the windshield and had dry glasses.
The helmet also has a back light but I didn’t need it too much, because I was going mainly at day time. But in some countries I used it in tunnels to boost my visibility (besides other lights and reflecting materials) because the daylight was very strong and the tunnels where poorly or even not lightened and when there was not much space, I preferred to do a bit more for my safety.
Ok, back to
I had additional lights that I fixed on my back bags and I used them in the flashing mode to show how wide me and my bike are. I also had another strong front light that I mainly used as a torch in my tent, but 2-3 times I was glad to have it when I was on a difficult gravel road in a dark morning. I even had more lights to fix on my helmet for example and for flashing in the front in addition to the normal light and as a backup, but the main function of all these lights was to add up to the weight of my luggage.
That brings me to another chapter of electronics, power banks. I had a solar power bank, it worked sometimes (sometimes when the sun was shining). I had a big one with two sets of batteries, but there always were problems charging them and I had a small power bank with a crank that I could also use as a charger for batteries by USB. You can guess – it didn’t always work. For charging, I had very short cables and 2m long ones and a charger with 5 USB sockets, I think this was a good choice. The main idea of the long cables was to connect the solar power bank lying on the back top-bag with my phone or my GPS tracker (also there) with the dynamo USB charger on my front wheel. Whenever one of these options worked, I was grateful. Most of the time I was disappointed, because it didn’t. But there were only few situations when I ran out of battery. The GPS tracker (SPOT) in the end mainly made the beautiful track on the world map, but the other function would be to find me in case of emergency.
I stopped using it permanently to profit from that service, because this tracker has the big disadvantage that you cannot charge it. If the batteries are empty you must replace them or if they are rechargeable, you must take them out and use an extra charger! I adapted the charger with the crank (fit for AA batteries) with springs to AAA batteries but as said before charging was hard work. So, I used the tracker only 3x/Day (morning, noon evening) and then the batteries lasted ~ 2 weeks.
I had a sony action cam until Australia where it got stolen and then one from Panasonic. They were meant for photo and video and I would have preferred to continue with the Sony camera, because it was smaller, and less photos and videos were blurred. I cannot tell 100% if you can avoid the blurry videos of the Panasonic if you find any better settings, but alone that you film something and it changed from focussed to blurry to and fro without any other parameters changing, was frustrating. I liked the 30x Zoom but maybe I used it too often?
My other camera was a gopro and I had made a construction on my handlebar for road movies and to make filming possible easily without stopping. In the end I can say that it helped me to remember many parts of the roads I was traveling. Quite often, I forgot to press the stop bottom and then I had some long roads moving in bike tempo and it was hard to select a few seconds out of 30-50min, but it also happened that something interesting or funny happened to be on the videos. I also had a small tripod and the equipment to fix the camera on a stick or on my helmet but most of the time I was too lazy to change and/or decided that it is not worth to change.
I don’t want to write much here about my Garmin GPS device, my whole blog is full with that. I cannot call it a love-hate relationship, because there was not enough love from my side, but in the end I know I would again try to cope and cooperate with Mr.G on a bike trip….
For me, it
was essential to have a computer, because I nearly can do nothing on my
phone. Most of the time I tried to avoid even writing messages on my phone,
because I am much faster on the keyboard of my computer. For route planning, research, booking, for writing
my diary, for cutting photos and especially editing videos, I was grateful to
have this. It was a surface pro with 16GB RAM and 512GB space and compared to
my PC I had used at home for videos, editing was much faster. And it was quite
reliable, only showing a black screen from time to time and then needing a
re-start but not too much data loss. For data loss prevention, I was quite
strict with saving my stuff on an external drive, doing that nearly every
evening. For a while, I even saved my data on two different drives, but if you
get used to it, you don’t feel save anymore if you store them only on the PC or
on PC+ one drive and in fact during a bike trip the second drive is not much
more security than the first one, because in best case it is just in another
bag, but on the same bike. Partly, I saved things by uploading them to my blog
and to youtube, I even bought 1TB space on dropbox, but I don’t like the energy
aspect of cloud saving, because it is not really a cloud, it is a lot of hard
discs in big places using a lot of current for running the systems and a lot of
extra energy to cool them.
Now it is time to talk about my telephone(s). Yes, I had two of them. The brand is “fairphone” and I like the idea of a phone that is produced under fair conditions, starting with fair wages for the miners of all those materials that normally are linked to slave- and child labour. I also like the idea of a mobile phone where you can change spare parts on your own. What I don’t like, is the fact that I had to do that before and although it is not difficult to change parts, that doesn’t mean that everything is better after that. I thought about parts that could be damaged on the trip and ended up with a complete 2nd phone as a backup. On this trip, I bought SIM-cards in 10 different countries, in China even 3 cards, until one worked in one fairphone. That means that sometimes I had to change my Austrian SIM-card to the other phone and as fairphones have 2 slots you can try up to 12 combinations where to put which SIM card until at least the local one works. There is no logic behind and sometimes one phone (or SIM card?) decided not to cooperate with that particular SIM card (or phone?). One fairphone sometimes showed a colourful but useless screen in some countries and continuously in others, depending on the SIM card inside. And so on.
Did I say it was essential for me to have my PC? Now you know more why. Did I say, I like the idea of fairphone? Now you know why I emphasized “idea”…
For most countries, I had an old school paper map and I also had a paper with listed names of cities and villages on my way, including kilometer indication. On the road, I seldom needed them for orientation but it was meant as a backup and got another unexpected purpose, because I could explain people where I came from and where I wanted to go by pointing on that list or sometimes opening the map and we didn’t need to speak the same language. I always had the actual map and that list in my bag on the handlebar. To complete the enumeration for this bag, I must mention my glasses. One pair normally was on my nose, during cycling, these normally were round, small ones, to fit under the wind shield of my helmet and optically adapted to cycling (better for distance, not that good for reading etc. The opposite applies to the other glasses, they were mainly for working and for daily life. And I had optical sunglasses, I could have worn them more often, but even for those few days (mainly in Iran and Australia) I was glad that I had them.
When I said something about money in that bag, it was only a few 1-dollar bills and local currency up to 50€, the rest of Dollars and Euros was in different places in different bags. And normally, I had not my passport in that bag but only my ID-card. And I had two passports, not only one. The reason was not my mania for symmetry or for backup solutions, it was mainly because of VISA. I tried to have all visas in advance to save time and make boarder crossing easier. But it was impossible to get the China visa earlier, so I applied for a second passport and left it in Vienna. In Bangkok, I got this passport with all visas for Cambodia, Vietnam and China. The only difficult situation was at the Thai-Cambodian border when I had the Thai stamp in on passport and the Cambodian visa in the other. The officers made a growing crowd around my passports but in the end didnt know a good reason to refuse the entrance stamp.
Let’s got down to the bags again! So, the passports normally where in two different bags and so were other documents, copies of them and passport photos. I would have applied for a travel insurance anyway, but it was necessary to have it for the cargo ships. And so was the vaccination certificate. I had two different prepaid credit cards, N26 and revolut, two normal ones and my bank card. Sometimes I needed 3 of them to withdraw money, so I wouldn’t say I should have reduced the weight of my luggage here. One idea was that in case of theft, maybe even a thief would not expect to find more than 2 credit cards (and I even had to additional dummy cards in my purse!), so I would not have to wait for a new one to continue if one is lost.
In one front bag, (most of the time the left one, because I was going to East, so it had a bit less direct sun) I had my food. I had no cooker, because I don’t need coffee and I can survive without warm food, too. (And you get warm food easily & cheap in South East Asia). I had some boxes with a mixture of chocolate, dried fruits and nuts, all chopped very small. It took me more than four months to finish that, first because I had much and second because I regarded it as a reserve and wanted to enjoy mainly local food. But after a while one box after the other changed to contain only nuts and seeds. Besides that, I always had empty containers and plastic bags for buying and storing this local food. It was always interesting to see the reaction of people when I refused a plastic bag or cup or box and showed them mine. And I had a swiss knife and a “spork” (spoon&fork, German “Göffel”=Gabel&Löffel) and kept chopsticks, so I could avoid some one-way cutlery. In that bag, I also had a water filter bottle (Life Straw from WaterNlife), so I could drink tap water. But you can only drink directly, you cannot fill it to other bottles and it was not completely dense and it didn’t fit into my bottle hold, so I still needed to get water, either by cooking (in many Asian countries you have water cookers in hotel rooms) or using bottled water.
Besides the above-mentioned things, I had insect repellent, sunscreen in the right front bag. I only need very little protection against insects, there were very little on my way. And I should have used more sun protection at least on my nose, again a matter of laziness vs discipline… I was quite good for a while, because I had a schedule of cycling until 10:00 and then ate + greased my chain + greased my nose.
In the back bags, under the big top bag, I had things that I hopefully wouldn’t need during the day, like spare parts and tools, including a leatherman, glue, permanent markers and cable ties. This was my left bag, that also kept my electronic equipment, so it was heavier and should orientate the bike to the bike stand.
The right back bag was for clothes that I would not need during the day and for toiletries, medicine (except first aid) and sewing kit.
special part might have been my bike cover. It is made of three big flags,
of EU and of UN and on it were small flags of the countries I visited. It had
some eyelets for locks. One purpose was to cover the bike when I was going away
from the otherwise unprotected bike + luggage. If someone would have like to
get something out of a bag (s)he first would have had to cut the cover, and
this might not be attractive on crowded places. But most of the time I just
locked the bike, sometimes even just leaving it and keeping an eye on it when I
was in a shop for example. The other purpose was a statement of global
citizenship and an introduction for communication when people looked at their
own flag and tried to reconstruct my tour by the other flags.
And when I mentioned locks, I finally should tell about them, too. I had a massive one, including an alarm function. Just for fun I tried the alarm function once, but it was so sensitive that it started to sound when I touched the bike and then I was so nervous that it took me some time to stop it. I had lost the first key on day 1, in my house or in front of it, and the second on e in Tabriz. So, I bought a new lock there and asked Doron to get a new key and send it to Malaysia. And I had to simple locks looking like massive cable ties with keys, to fix the bike cover on the wheels, to prevent access to the bags by just lifting the cover. I think, I used it two times and only the second time I was feeling better, because I left my fully packed bike in front of the port office in Xiamen to get a ticket for the ferry.
I always had some little presents and tried to find something in one country for the friends in the country after next or later, hoping they would not know it. And my present normally were food, so my friends could get rid of it easily and hopefully even enjoy that.
All in all, my luggage was about 30kg (5kg or so just the empty bags) and the easiest way to reduce weight would have been to carry less food). I am not superstitious or even a believer, but by chance things happen more likely when you are not prepared than when you are over-prepared. I maybe was over-prepared, at least nothing serious happened!