As you may already know, this September I took a month off to cycle across France, from border to sea. Since then, I’ve been sharing practical information about how I did it, including my budget, how I trained my dog, and where we stayed along the way.
Today, that practicality continues with a discussion of my bicycle, setup, and gear.
First, let’s talk about setup.
My bike was a vintage Swiss military bicycle, restored with 12 gears.
Now, this is actually not a great distance cycling bike. It’s a bit heavy and it’s not built for speed. Still, I fell in love with it when I saw it and while I was slower than anyone else doing the distance path, I did make it the entire distance.
Once I had the bike, which came with front and back racks, I outfitted it for travel. On the front, I attached an old grocery basket with zip ties. In went a towel and this is where Luna rode out the long cycling days. On the back rack, I attached a pair of large second-hand panniers. These are where I stored pretty much all of my things during cycling. On top, I attached Luna’s Sleepypod Air carrier* (folded flat), a small tent, and my backpack (also flattened) with a pair of bungee cords. I carried a small backpack on my back with just the few items I needed most often (things like my camera).
Now, let’s talk about gear.
Clothing-wise, I had:
3 tennis skirts (which I wore while cycling)
6+ tank tops
3 long-sleeved cotton shirts (two zip-up, one regular)
3 pairs of real cycling socks (2+ pairs of regular socks)
1 pair sneakers
1 nice dress
1 nice skirt
1 nice blouse
1 winter coat
1 warm headband
Plenty of underwear
Of course, I also carried the usual toiletries in small amounts—lotion, deodorant, shampoo, soap, etc—and my normal electronics (including computer, tablet, charging cords, etc.).
In addition to the usual above items, I also carried:
A small tent (like this)
A small flashlight (like this)
Baby wipes (good for so many things…cleaning a spill, washing hands for a meal, use as toilet paper when using the wilderness bathroom)
A water bottle
A bike lock
A sleeping bag
A towel (which doubled as Luna’s seat cover and a picnic blanket)
Some small ropes
Trash bags (which I used to cover my gear on the back of the bike when it rained)
Many ziplock and other baggies in a variety of sizes (which I stored all my things in within the panniers in case rain did get into the panniers at some point)
Cycling gloves (like these)
Out of all that, there were a few things I discarded along the way or wished I hadn’t brought. First, the tent, because I realized that for me cycling and sleeping on the ground don’t mix. Then, the ropes (which I never used) and the water bottle (which was crappy quality and I replaced after the first week). I did keep my sleeping bag till the very end, though I only used it a handful of times. And I probably could have also done without the headband.
I also wish I’d had a different set of maps. The ones I bought were seriously out-of-date and caused me quite a few problems along the way (like the day that I walked my bike five kilometers past the bike shop because it was mislabeled).
Other than that, the gear all worked out pretty well. If I had it to do over, the only two things I would have added would be actual cycling shorts (to prevent chafing) and diaper rash cream (the secret remedy to chafing if it occurs).
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* Thank you to Sleepypod for sending Luna a free Air carrier in exchange for a review. We loved our last one, which lasted over three years and we only replaced because she eventually managed to make a couple tears inside the lining, and were so happy to get a new one. As always, opinions and adoration are my own.