Friday, October 14, 2011

Economical packing for the bike ride

Even though I finished posting about our biking trip to the Namaqualand last last month, I couldn't resist sharing a couple more photos.

A brooding sky over the Karoo

Photo stop to capture the flowers and heavy clouds over the Karoo in September

We're often asked how we travel with so little space for luggage. Well, I've learnt to pack lightly. So many of the clothes that we pack when we do have the space, like when travelling in a car, are often returned without being worn. We also seem to be visiting friends or overnighting at a guest house with a friendly landlady, by the time we need to run a few things through the washing machine and tumbledrier.

I've never taken a hairdryer on biking trips; when I do appear in photos, you'll notice that my hair is stuck to my skull! (That's what happens when you wear a helmet, and the name for that "do" is helmet hair!) However, last month Grant bought me a traveller's hairdryer; it's light and half the size of a normal hairdryer.

For the actual ride, in the winter, I wear thermal foundation, (Doll, you ain't seen glam until you seen these long johns!). Seriously, we have good quality thermal wear called First Ascent  which is a blessing in cold weather. I wear cycling shorts and a tee shirt over these. Then I add a light-weight turtle-neck pullover (I have a blue one and a beige one. If you saw my post yesterday, you'd see my comment about having that [blue] pullover for six years. Well, I bought the beige one at the same time) During winter I add a thicker V-neck pullover.

My "leathers" -  a term for biking gear padded with armour plating - consist of leather pants (hips, rear and knees are protected) and a leather jacket. Here the elbows, rib area and back/shoulder blades are protected. I wear a black leather waist-coat over my leather jacket. It has red roses embroidered on the front and back and is probably my only item of "almost aesthetic" clothing while biking.  

A snod protects my neck from the cold. This looks like a wide, open-ended sock. I pull it down over my neck, tuck the bottom end into my jacket collar and then pull the top bit up to under my nose. If it rains, sleets, snows or hails, Grant normally helps me into my Driza-bone . My hands are protected (against the cold in winter) with thin nylon gloves, called inners, and I wear leather gloves over these. The knuckle section of the leather gloves are protected. My leather lady biker boots, made by Vixen ,  fit snugly over my pant legs. They protect my feet, ankles and shins 100%. A full-face helmet on my head and I'm ready for the ride. 

In the biking world, we have a saying: "Are you dressed for the jol* or are you dressed for the fall?"  Note: *Jol, pronounced "Jawl" ,  is colloquial South African for a party. So if you're riding a bike dressed in jeans, a tank top and sneakers, you'll look super at the jol, but you have absolutely no chance of protection should you fall off the bike. In full protective gear, however, you're ready for any mishap, and even, heaven forbid,  an accident.  

Back to the luggage: the back box (which I lean against while travelling) is for my purse/wallet, my lipstick and perfume. It also houses our binoculars and my Canon camera. Now that Grant has my previous Canon, this will also fit in the top box. Grant and I share a Bible while we're on a trip. Ours is a little light-weight leatherbound copy of God's Word. We only use one cell phone / mobile while in South Africa, and this is turned off while we're riding and stored in the back box. My little Sony point-and-shoot is always in the right-hand pocket of my leather waistcoat, ready for me to whip out in the ride and take photos.

One of the sideboxes is for my luggage. A square "tog"/sports bag fits into the metal case, so when we stop for the night, we lift our bags out and carry them into our accommodation. I pack a small tube of toothpaste, small pots of face cream and minimal make-up. I have a pair of jeans, a pair of pedal pushers, two pairs of khaki shorts,  four tee-shirts, flat sandals, socks and of course, my lingerie. I always pack my pashmina which is light and comes in handy when we go out in the evening. Grant has a smaller box on the left as it's been designed to fit over the exhaust. He sees to his own clothes although I carry the toiletries in my bag. Our respective Driza-bones are stored in each box. Grant rolls these knee-length coats up tightly and they fit into small bags which makes for easy storage.

We also have a tank bag which, as the name suggests, fits over the fuel tank. (see photo above) Grant packs tools for the bike, a puncture repair kit (never needed, thank goodness), and comfortable walking shoes. A little moonbag (the silver bag just visible at the bottom of the tank bag) clips onto the front and contains driver's lisence, passports, ID books, bike registration papers, and Grant's wallet.

So, what more do we need? We fuel up, turn on and ride off into the great blue yonder!

Have a happy and healthy weekend, everyone.


For more beautiful skies around the world, click here


  1. I'm one who is curious about how you pack, Jo. It sounds like you and Grant actually pack quite alot and at least everything you need for such a long journey such as the one you just completed. I used to have a Drizabone coat. I loved it but alas have it no more. Have a wonderful weekend Jo and enjoy your company. Blessings. <3

  2. As much as I pack for trips, I don't think I could ever learn to pack that lightly.... I guess I could ---but it wouldn't be easy.. ha ha

    BUT--on our latest trip to West VA (in our car), we didn't put heavy coats in the car --and about froze on the train ride to Bald Knob... AND---we had plenty of room for them in the car. Duh!!!!!

    Thanks for sharing... I love reading all about your bike trips.

  3. You are obviously practiced and have this bike packing down to a science. When car camping I always take way too much stuff, but not when backpacking. ;)

  4. You are very well prepared and practical! It reminds me of when I used to lead bicycle tours through Canada and central Europe. I had saddlebags that hung over the rear of the bike and I packed polyester and nylon clothing, rolled up and in plastic bags.

  5. Sounds like you both are pros at this. Hope all is well and you are enjoying your life!

  6. Your post about packing light made me smile. Brought back memories of my packing for my 3 to 7 week trips to visit my churches in places like DRC, Angola, Botswana, Uganda, and even some road trips within Kenya...sleeping in the back of the Peugeot 504 and making breakfast on the tailgate. One of your best blogs yet! Loved learning about the biker's wearing apparel and gear.

  7. I have been so frustrated as we have been without a reliable internet connection for several days. So glad to be able to pop by now and leave a comment! Such an informative and enjoyable post, Jo! You certainly are a PRO at pretty much everything you tackle, or so it seems to me :)

    I do hope you are well and truly over your ill health and able to fully enjoy each moment of your wonderful life.

    Big hug xoxo

  8. You and Grant have really found each other ! I would rather walk or take a train or whatever than climb on a bike !!
    I also always travel light. I take two Jeans along, some little tops and 2 cardigans and that's it. The hotels now always have hairdryers and anyway my hair dries so quickly !


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