Cycling Across Europe, Gear
Kit list
The thinking behind the equipment I used for the trip was simple: keep it simple, reliable and lightweight. I deliberated for ages over whether to take camping equipment or not. In the end I did, and I used it quite a lot. However, if I hadn't taken it, I would always have been able to find somewhere to stay, and would probably have halved the weight of my luggage. I think that camping would be more useful in the summer with good weather: then freelance camping (with permission from the landowner, obviously) would have added something to the trip.
The bike

Firstly, and probably most importantly, the bike itself. This one's a real mongrel, but it's been through a lot of hard use and come out smiling every time. It's not necessarily what I'd recommend someone else to use, but it's what I happened to have.

The suspension forks, although unconventional for a touring bike, really did help to take the lumps and bumps out of the road surface, and I think contributed to my lack of hand and wrist pain despite the long hours in the saddle.

The brakes were well up to the job of stopping the heavily-loaded machine (and me) on even the steepest descents, and the tyres worked well. The only reason I'd got a mismatched pair is that I destroyed the rear Pasela on a previous trip. The replacement Schwalbe, although heavier, looks like it'll last forever. I wouldn't hesitate to choose the Schwalbe tyres again.

The only mechanical problems were the rear wheelrim, which developed cracks around the spoke nipples (although I only discovered them on my return), and the luggage rack which broke when I hit a pothole and a pannier jammed itself into the rear wheel. Neither problem is particularly surprising: a lightweight cross-country racing rim isn't really designed for the high-cycle fatigue induced by long-distance heavily-laden touring, and the rack was already well past its sell-by date.

The luggage

My luggage was divided into four bags: one pannier for clothes, one pannier for camping equipment, a rack-top bag for cooking equipment and food, and a handlebar bag for valuables. This arrangement worked really well: I never found myself losing things or having to open too many bags. The only drawback was carrying all the luggage at once off the bike!

The bags, apart from the food one, were all lined with waterproof bags of one sort or another: thick plastic rucksack liners for the panniers, and a plastic bag from a French hypermarket in the handlebar bag.

The clothes pannier contained:

Most items of clothing were intended to be dual-purpose: usable on the bike and off it, and generally this worked well. I thought the down jacket would be a bit of a luxury, but it was extremely useful when camping. The Teva sandals were also handy when my cycling boots were wet. I could have economised here and just used plastic bags inside the cycling boots.

The book was lent to me by Philip and Clare, and was a good read as well as giving a certain amount of inspiration. It's the story of Dervla Murphy's journey by bicycle from Dunkirk to Delhi, and makes my trip pale into insignificance: in fact the portion of her journey across Europe is dispensed with in the opening pages of the first chapter!

The Michelin maps of France had excellent road detail, even allowing some navigation in towns and cities. Sadly I can't say the same of the one of Germany, which contained far less detail than its scale would suggest. Very poor. The Euro-map of Austria was much better but still missed out a lot of smaller villages, especially along main roads. All the maps had one major failing in common: lack of contour lines. In time I became quite good at estimating what the profile of the land would be like given the shapes of the roads and the occasional spot heights in towns, but never quite good enough. These things really matter when you're cycling, and would have made route planning much easier.

The toiletries are pretty run-of-the-mill stuff, apart from the anti-bacterial wipes (normally sold to treat acne) and the Daktarin (normally used for athlete's foot). They were my recipe for preventing saddle sores, and they worked a treat, in combination with alternating two pairs of cycling shorts between wearing and washing/drying.

The camping pannier contained:

All this kit worked well. The tent, Therm-a-rest and sleeping bag kept me plenty warm enough even on the frostiest nights. I did have a bit of a condensation problem with the tent, but I attribute this to very cold, very still nights which didn't allow any airflow through the tent. It certainly hasn't been a problem on nights with a bit more breeze since the trip.

The pannier containing this kit was a venerable Carradice "Super C", borrowed from Joe, which had convenient carrying handles on the top. They were especially useful for wedging clothes and towel in to allow the sun (when it shone) and the wind to dry them as I rode.

The rack-top bag was a Karrimor one, borrowed from Joe again, which could also be turned into a rucksack, although I didn't use it that way. It contained:

I hardly used the stove, and in fact could have done without it altogether: the one night I did cook for myself, there was a cafe on the campsite. The Platypus was used as a water reservoir for topping up my drinking bottle during the rides. As well as developing a leak (I bought a new one in Munich) it failed embarrassingly when the bite valve, which I clipped outside the bag to stop it dribbling on everything, got caught in the back wheel and fell off, dispensing 2 litres of water on to the road.

The storage space for riding/lunch/breakfast food was very useful, and would have been reason enough to take the extra bag even without the stove. I didn't use many of the tea bags, mainly because I never had any milk. I should really have taken powdered milk.

The handlebar bag was probably the piece of equipment I was most glad I'd invested in before setting off. It's an Altura "Arran", and had all sorts of handy pockets for stashing things in, as well as a spacious weatherproof map holder on the top. It uses a Klick-Fix handlebar mount so it's very easy to remove and refit when leaving the bike, and very stable. I've not had any trouble with it slipping or falling off, even riding on some fairly serious off-road terrain in the Lake District. It contained:

There was also room for stashing my Pertex jacket in it on showery days, and mesh pockets on the outside which were just the right size for Ritter-Sport chocolate bars.

The lights were useful when I wanted to cycle into a town in the evening from a hostel or campsite. I didn't have to use my "wilderness" charging facility for the phone or Palm because I had access to mains electricity every two or three days. The radio was a nice luxury to have, until the batteries went flat and I never got round to buying any more, so it can't have been that important.

The Palm and mobile phone were my connection to the on-line diary. I'd set up a program running at home before I left which picked up e-mail from a special address every hour, processed it and added it to a web page. I could send entries to that e-mail address either as text messages from the phone (via clunky.net) or as proper e-mails using an e-mail client on the Palm, and connecting to the phone using infra-red. It all worked remarkably well: connecting up and sending an e-mail from the Palm took less than a minute, and the updating program worked apart from on a couple of occasions when it ate the web copy of all previous diary entries.

The disposable cameras provide remarkably good results, as you can see from the photos on the diary pages. They're also very light and rugged - important features when they're stuffed into a handlebar bag. Sadly I didn't always have a camera to hand at all the times I'd have liked to, most especially when climbing the Schneeberg, but such is life.

There were a few bits and bobs attached to the bike:

The computer was either a great morale-booster or morale-sapper, depending on which way you look at it. It was certainly useful for navigation and estimating time of arrival. It would have been handy to have an average speed function, but any modern computer has one of those.

Last but not least, there was me. I normally wore:

As you can see, kit designed for autumn conditions rather than summer. The Cannondale boots are one of my favourite bits of bike wear: although heavy by many people's standards, they're tough, comfortable, easy to walk around in, and don't scream "cyclist!" when you wear them off the bike.

The Casio watch was useful because it has a compass, altimeter and thermometer on it. The compass was useful for navigating, especially in towns and cities where my maps didn't have enough detail, and the altimeter helped explain why the going was so tough or so easy!