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Pack lighter, go faster

After university I spent a year travelling the world. I learned a lot along the way but the most important lesson was that of packing light. As I went, I shed more and more clothes and useless equipment until I was lean and mobile. This is the same philosophy that I bring to packing for a multi-day cycle.

I am not a touring cyclist. I am a road cyclist. I like my bike to resemble a racing machine rather than mountain donkey, burdened with luggage and lumbering on slowly. To get around this, I just use a slightly bigger saddle bag that somehow manages to squeeze in the essentials. It does detract somewhat from the aesthetics of my lovely racing bike but it is behind me and out of sight and out of mind.

So for nine days of cycling in the west of Scotland what did I take with me?

  • One pair of tracksuit trousers – lightweight and the height of ned (think Scottish chav) fashion. To be fair these did not look out of place in most of the pubs we went to and were certainly a vast improvement on lycra.

  • One pair of lightweight sandals (toes covered) – those familiar with the film The Shawshank Redemption will know that no one ever pays attention to the shoes. I adopted this philosophy.

  • One black t-shirt – a black t-shirt can be both casual and formal. Paired with a tracksuit and sandals it tends to fall on the casual side.

  • Hair gel – even if the rest of me looks like a hobo, my head can still look classy.

  • Phone Charger – An essential for sharing the days events with friends who were stuck in the office.

  • Toothbrush and toothpaste – energy gels have a habit of destroying teeth.

  • Any remaining space was taken up with energy gels and cereal bars as well as the usual bike spares.

Apart from the cycling spares, this is literally all I took for this cycle. Obviously every night involved hand washing the cycling kit and every morning was spent furiously drying the kit using a small hairdryer. We didn’t think that as two guys we would be fighting over a hairdryer but so it was. To be fair most mornings we would look outside and be greeted with the sort of rain that falls only in Scotland and decide that drying clothes was overall a bit of a pointless exercise.

After nine days of cycling we ended up in Inverness, capital of the Scottish highlands and a place that was big enough to sell clothes. We updated our wardrobe in the nearest Primark and hit the town for the night. Woke up with a mighty hangover and booked two more nights in Inverness to party. The intention was then to continue to cycle down to Glasgow but decided against it based on the amount of residual alcohol in our systems. We donated our newly bought clothes to the hotel and slunked onto the train back to Glasgow. Although it was not the way we planned to finish the trip, it was appropriately epic enough to reflect the unbelievable cycling that went before it.

I bought a simple rack from Halfords that simply clamps to the seat post and a bag that sits atop this rack. The straps for the bag were a bit flimsy so I beefed it up with some bungee cord which gave me the security that my clothes would make it to the destination. Admittedly it is not the most elegant of solutions but it works and is a decent compromise between speed and practicality.

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