There are certain people in the world who I think of as connoisseurs, people who do or know something particularly well. My friend Sagar is a connoisseur of literature: he can quote entire paragraphs of books and is known to wax poetic about Melville’s etymology of a whale in Moby Dick. My old roommate Allison is a connoisseur of meal preparation, making her dinners slowly and particularly, sitting down with a beautiful plate of perfect flavors and enjoying each bite. And my cousin Lisa, well, Lisa is a trip connoisseur: she knows how to plan trips, pack for trips, and execute trips—however complex—like none other.
A member of Seattle’s Spokeswomen Racing bike team and a passionate bike tourist, Lisa knows a thing or two about being in the saddle. She’s done many short tours in Washington, biked down the Oregon Coast, ridden from Bellingham to Yellowstone and Glacier National Park, and spent three months bike touring around Western Europe. Lisa knows what items to take along—and leave behind—to ensure maximum comfort and convenience. Of course she brings the requisite tire repair kit, comfortable padded shorts, and bike lock, but also deems lesser known items equally as essential. Lisa recently shared her secrets with me. Take a look for some ideas—maybe you too might become a trip connoisseur!
1) Quick comfort off the bike
Spend one day on a bike tour with Lisa, and she’ll have you convinced to bring a changing skirt and crocs on your next trip. Extremely lightweight crocs can easily be attached to panniers with a carabiner, accessible for easy transitions when you don’t want to run an errand in bike shoes. The changing skirt allows both Lisa and her husband Jon to change quickly in and out of their padded bike shorts without having to seek out private spaces. Both items will add mere ounces to your load and yet provide far more than their weight in comfort and convenience, whether you’re stopping for 15 minutes or the whole evening.
2) Sun protection for long days on the road
Cycle just a few hours in the hot sun, and that sunscreen that you carefully applied in the morning will be long gone. Try wearing a visor cycling cap, a light-colored bandana on your neck, light-colored gloves, and sun sleeves instead—these items provide better coverage than sunscreen and help keep heat exhaustion away. Light-colored clothing can easily substitute for sun sleeves.
3) Insulated cooler bag
Lisa and Jon will champion the benefits of good fats to no end, especially when it comes to replenishing calories on a bike trip. Do-it-yourself-ers to the core, they self-cater all their trips; to help with this, they carry a packable insulated cooler bag in their panniers, periodically refilling their ice from gas station soda machines. Eating well on long-distance bike trips is extremely important, and you’ll be more likely to buy good cheese, butter, and veggies if you have a portable way to keep them fresh!
4) Sleeping gear for comfort on long-term trips
On long-distance bike trips, it’s important to sleep well, while not compromising space and weight. Lisa and Jon made their own two-person blanket that they carry in a compression sack—check out Therm-a-Rest’s line of tech blankets if you’d rather not sew your own. Additionally, they both bring a cotton pillowcase to stuff clothes into for a pillow. The duo sleeps in a minimalist pyramid-style tent with a bug-net interior: super lightweight, this style of tent is tall and large enough to hold two people and their gear.
5) Easy access to navigation
On a bike trip, maps are an invaluable source of information—going the wrong way makes for a lot of extra pedaling! Adventure Cycling Maps are an invaluable source of information for touring in the US, giving elevation profiles and delineating where bike trails or bike friendly roads are available, highlighting camping areas and sources of food and water. For European maps, buy when you arrive overseas, or use the handy maps.me app for free offline navigation on your phone/tablet. Maps are the kind of resource that you want to have accessible for use at any point. You can purchase a waterproof handlebar mount for these—or any other—maps, or if you’re resourceful like Lisa and Jon, you can just put your map in a ziploc bag and attach it between your front panniers.
All photos by Jon & Lisa Toner