In this edge-of-the-seat post I’ll just go over what’s in the right bag.
Pretty much the only stuff in this pannier are (off the bike) clothes and toiletries. We’re only doing a week, and staying mainly in B&Bs, so I’m bringing the following:
- 2 x t-shirts
- 1 x pair shorts
- 1 x hoodie
- 3 x pairs boxers
- 3 x cycling jersey (2 should be enough, but can always use 1 if it’s
- 2 x pairs cycling shorts
- 3 x pairs socks
- 2 x schwalbe inner tubes
- Park I-Beam multi tool (light but feels solid)
- Park tyre levers & patches
- Spare cash (just enough for a phone call or emergency
- And an inhaler (breathing is one of those things that are useful when cycling)
- Few small cable ties.
- And the saddle bag itself is crivit (bought in Lidl). I had tried a smaller bag before but couldn’t put half of what I needed in. This is cheap and does the trick.
Now for a very exciting post: how I’m packing panniers for the Mizen to Malin cycle next week!
Gripping stuff for the non-cyclists, I know, but since we’ll be on the bike for a week it makes sense to put a bit of effort into getting it right. Now, I haven’t done a multi-day tour before, but even from one-day tours I know it makes a big difference in knowing exactly where everything is (it’s just started pouring rain, and you can’t remember where you’re rain jacket is: having to pull out all of you once dry clothes into the rain because you stuck your jacket at the bottom of the bag doesn’t make sense, now does it?)
Because we’ll be doing a light tour (A.K.A. credit card touring, because you can buy anything you need), in that we are staying in hotels and B&Bs, rather than camping, 2 x 20L panniers should be enough. So in this post I’ll go into what goes into the left pannier, and a follow post will cover the right.
Why the fuss about left vs right pannier?
Right, let’s get down to brass tacks: why is there any difference between left and right bags? Well, like I said having a system is important. So the way I’m packing the panniers is that in my right bag I’m putting clothes and toiletries (i.e. things I’m only going to need access to when I’m off the bike, at night-time), and in the left pannier I’m putting things that I’ll be using during the day, such as rain gear, phone, food etc.
Why am I putting the most used stuff in the left bag? Well, because I mount and dismount on the left (sounds pedantic, but if you use clipless pedals (Ie pedals with clips!), you have a routine to clip in and out, so it’s second nature. If you try to do it the other way you’ll fall over and buckle yourself!). And because I dismount on the left, I nearly always end up leaning the right side of the bike against something. So the left is always facing me.
In the pannier I’m carrying:
- Bad Weather Gear. Unfortunately the weather for next week is going to be pretty changeable, a lot of showers, wind etc, but not over cold. So I’ll be bringing the following:
- Light, hi-vis jacket
- Arm warmers
- Leg warmers
- Waterproof Overshoes
- Food. Since we’re cycling around Ireland and not in a desert somewhere there’s not really a need to bring a lot, we should be able to just get by with stopping in shops, cafes etc along the route.
- I’m bringing some bikefood satchets, one per day. These are about as good as you can get in energy drinks, but the main reason I’m bringing them is that I don’t tend to eat that much before/during rides, so normally after about 50 miles I can run out of steam. With a bottle full of this I can at least get some carbs on board earlier in the cycle. The one draw back is that if the powder gets on the outside of the bottle it gets really sticky. So I tend to mix this at home by putting the powder into an empty bidon, then hal filling and mixing. Once mixed I top it up and rinse the outside of the bottle.
- To help with hydration I’ll use some nuun tabs. Basically these should help restore elctrolytes, and other things I haven’t a clue about. But they’re cheap, easy to use and taste alright, so not exactly a burden.
- And to help with emergency bonkage/running out of steam going up Cat 3 climbs etc, I have a powerbar and energy gel in reserve. But these are really a last resort!
- 2 water bottles, 1 x 750ml, 1 x500ml (these will be on the bottle cages). The reason for the different sizes is just that it’s awkward taking a 750ml bottle out of the rear cage. So I tend to just put plain water in the larger bottle, and then either of the powders,/tabs etc in the smaller.
- First Aid. To be honest, it’s not much of a first aid kit, but just a few things to help with non-emergencies. One of the other guys has a bigger kit.
- Immodium (in case of energy gel “side-effects”!)
- Small sewing kit
- Safety pins
- Small Bag. This is just a light, free bag I got, that can double as a backpack.
- Asthma inhalers,
- Sunblock (you never know!)
- Wet wipes (serve a multitude of purposes)
- small wallet. It’s actually called a pokitt, not the cheapest, but a good alternative to my wallet (see picture). I keep a spare debit card in it and some cash, so I use it on nights out, training spins etc. Basically when I don’t need much, and if it gets lost it’s not the end of the world.
- Notebook and pen, with lists of B&Bs etc
- Misc. Odds and end in this pannier
- A few cable ties
- Roll of electrical
- Sandals (just to balance the weight in the bag)
So, as part of our plans for Mizen to Malin (less than 2 weeks now), we* decided to do a full day spin, on similar roads and with similar mileage as to what we plan for the main trip. And as a final prep we said we’d go with the bags fully loaded.
So the route we chose was around Lough Derg. In theory a nice route, but the initial enthusiasm was dampened firstly by the weather (blustery at times and with the odd very wet shower, but in my case in particular, by stag-night related, um, tiredness! I had planned on taking it easy, but, well…
Anyway, after a slow start (about 11mph for the first hour, and that was when we were moving) we eventually settled into a half decent rythmn. As per usual I was the slowest up the hills, but having the extra weight in the panniers definitely didn’t help (fully loaded the bike is now 20kgs). We eventually plled into Portumna after about 2 & 1/2 hours, where we stopped for a sandwich and coffee. The road out was lovely and flat, and for a while we were able to tip away at 16-17 mph, not bad into a 20mph headwind.
But after another 20 miles the lack of sleep and not enough food on board took a toll, and it was a real effort for me to get into Scarriff. But after more coffee and cake (good timing as there was a torrent of rain while we waited at the garage) we made the last hour handy enough to get back to the cars. And as a brilliant idea, Martin P suggested we go to Goosers for a brilliant feed of bacon and cabbage. Fantastic!
Overall it was a good spin out, well worth while and a good laugh. Physically I’d like to be further along, but we still managed about 14mph, which isn’t bad considering the extra weight on the bikes. The route is lovely, although at places the signposting could be better, and we skipped some of the really scenic bits, just to keep moving. Definitely worth a spin out again in future.
*NB: Some displeasure was expressed that I hadn’t mentioned any names of the rest of the group, so here is a photo of us, after about an hour.
Last night 2 of us did our first spin with the bikes fully loaded (racks and about 7kg in the panniers, basically what we plan on taking with us for Mizen to Malin). Considering the sun had been splitting the stones all day and was quite humid we thought a nice easy 30 mile spin, just to get used to extra was a plan.
Of course the heavens opened just before we started! While baking and accelerating were quite tricky and over average speed was a lot lower than expected (given how flat the course was), overall it’s not too bad with the extra weight. Braking was basically non existent, but I think that was mainly due to the amount of rain. Also having to wear glasses was a real pain, I spent a lot of the spin not having great visibility, prob a bit late to try to get used to contacts again.
In the end we turned back after about 10 miles, just because we were spending so much time standing under trees, out of the rain. The good news is the panniers are waterproof, the bad news is even though it’s the middle of winter we will definitely need nearly all our wet weather gear!
So, it’s about 2 & 1/2 weeks to go and we’re in to the home straight for preparations for our cycle tour from Mizen Head (southerly most point of Ireland) to Malin Head (Most northerly point). There are 4 of us doing it, and for at least 2 of us it will be a fairly big challenge, because of extra weight being carried (although the other lad is melting it off a fast pace!)
I think logistically we’re in good enough shape, although we still haven’t figured out exactly how we’re getting home from north Donegal! Our plan is to cover the (roughly) 450 miles in 7 days on the road. But because we’re aiming to start after lunch on the first day and finish early on the last day (rugby to be watched), our daily goal will be around 75 miles. And to try to make it as scenic as possible we will be going a slightly longer route, but because of a wedding before the first day we will be skipping out some of the route around Westport. But still we should definitely have a decent time with the route we’ve planned
I’m still worried about my fitness, I had hoped to be a couple of stone lighter by this stage, and the weight is definitely going to be a big hindrance in the hills. Also I’m not getting out much mid-week but at this stage there isn’t much that can be done. And of course in the next few weeks there is a flurry of stag parties and weddings, so it’s not just bike stamina that will be tested!
But the sun is shining here at the minute, so 2 of us are going to have a spin this evening.We’ll load the bikes with roughly the gear we will be using on the M2M run (we’ll be staying in B&Bs etc, so hopefully not too much gear will be needed), and hopefully get 30 miles in tonight.
The weekend is designated for training and planning so on Saturday we’ll try another 70 as a final shakedown, and depending on hangovers etc Sunday we’ll aim for 40-50 miles. And we plan to finalize the second half of the route Saturday night (the first half was easy enough be cause we’re all from the area). By the time we’re finished at the weekend hopefully all the gear will be broken in (so far I’m do only one with any mileage with the panniers, and at that it was only 50 miles with a very light load), and we should have a better idea of our fitness with a one day ride behind us.
Here’s hoping for a month long heatwave!