Low light photography with 2001 Nikon Coolpix 995 3mp camera.
Some but not all of modern bridge cameras can handle low light scenes without a lot of "noise" or pixelating.
"You can learn it the hard way or the easy way". This is something my father taught me growing up and whenever I hear him say that even today I am reminded of my first bike with plastic wheels that slid over pavement like trying to ride on an ice skating rink. After a few years of hard struggle trying to ride those darned old tires I began to question my ability to balance like the other kids leisurely strolling around on their bikes. When I got my first bike with rubber tires my skills having been developed under "harder"(pun intended) circumstances had been honed. It was a confident boosting, self affirming moment then and is perhaps one of those archetypal experiences we all get from childhood that help us to move forward in life. What does this have to do with purchasing a new camera? With all the misinformation that simply buying the newest latest greatest technological gadget suggests there is a lot more to getting the right camera for you then advertisers may promise. Learning can be fun and the following information is meant to provide some insight regarding a few of the leading bridge cameras currently available. . Convenient features for packed touring bike photography
Bike touring and bike photography go hand in hand with a lot of touring enthusiasts. Makes sense that as we pedal around for fun, exercising to stay fit or seeking adventure that the pace of life slows down with the pleasantries of country side roaming beckoning a photo be had.
I was recently sharing with Lisa how I used to bulk load my slide film canisters and travelled with a cooler to keep my used and unused film cool as was the practice of most so called serious photographers. Days of lugging around a heavy SLR like the old Nikon FM2n stuffed into a Domke bag with assorted lenses and rather heavy Bogen tripod are some of my fondest memories.
That was twenty years ago and these days as I sit typing out this blog article with photos regarding my undying love of photography there is a profound sense of satisfaction in being able to share information with this medium. Having some experience with photographing weddings, writing articles and getting photos for a local business magazine, national publication, photo galleries and a bit of stock photography I managed to eek out a meager livelihood for awhile.
There was a recent surge in microstock photo opportunities for folks eager to sell their images online. From what I could tell the days of easy stock photo sales are not what they were a couple years ago. I learned this information while recently researching cameras worthy of using for stock photo sales. Admittedly, I haven't kept up with current camera technologies being content with our older model DSLR Canon EOS Rebel which quit working last year. I would like to mention that in order for me to get somewhat up to speed I researched several hours of reviews
, forums and manufacturer site information. Knowing most sales folks are likely more savvy with the current consumer market trends it's always good to do your homework especially considering how fast camera companies are pumping out new models, making improvements to current models which aren't even a year old and adding so many useful and equally useless features it was quite a chore to sort through some of the over hyped advertising strategies. This was more true of the so called "bridge camera" models than any other style of camera.
No need to get in to too much technical jargon as there's plenty of that available at links provided for reviews. I prefer dpreviews
for their unbiased and practical assessment of cameras as a long standing camera and product information guide several years running. What is a so called bridge camera? It's basically a camera with DSLR features yet more compact with a fixed lens capable of providing very wide angle to far reaching telephoto options. While the point and shoot camera market struggles with cell phone camera competition bridge cameras have a very solid niche with optical zoom lenses and more creative control.
As a tried and true Nikon owner I have been looking for a camera to last me many years without fail like my fourteen year old Nikon 995. In concept the old Coolpix 995 is one of the very first bridge cameras considering many of its' features from 2001 including view finder, ability to shoot in TIF format, built in optical zoom with manual creative control settings. It's compact design, weight and versatility make it such an excellent travel camera I'm reluctant to replace it. So it makes perfectly good sense to go with a newer model by the same manufacturer which proved to be correct.
A favorite among many reviewers for quality image, price, small and lightweight for bike touring or travel and features such as wifi for easy uploading with a phone is the Nikon P900
.and just as I checked the link it is temporarily out of stock. This is an excellent bridge camera for an avid bike tourer with plenty of lens and features to meet any photo need. Here's what I like about it:
- 83x Optical Zoom, 166x Dynamic Fine Zoom super telephoto lens with Dual Detect Optical VR
- 16 MP CMOS image sensor
- Full manual exposure control
- Swiveling Vari-angle display and high-resolution eye-level viewfinder
- Built in Wi-Fi and Near Field Communication (NFC) for instant sharing
Nikon Coolpix 530 bridge camera
Four of the best bridge cameras for bike touring based on censor size for low light photography and are capable of producing quality images good enough for competitive microstock photography. One camera stands out with unmatched quality by any other bridge camera on the market at the time of this posting, Panasonic's Lumix DMC FZ1000
. Arguably so of course as it doesn't have the weather sealed protection of the Fujifilm FinePix S1
, something that some folks feel is a necessity for adventure travel and priced at half that of the Lumix. That being said if you're looking for professional image quality another good option can be considered in the Olympus Stylus 1s.
With the Nikon P900, Lumix FZ1000
and Olympus Stylus all starting at approximately six hundred dollars only the Fuji offers a good quality bridge camera for less than four hundred dollars. For this reason I did a bit of quality, price and features comparison for a two hundred dollar camera. There's a reason I tout "affordable quality" on this blog and the Nikon P530
is a good example of my ability to find hidden deals that for my budget are of no consequence, offers improved performance over my current set of cameras and provides optional accessories such as WIFI if I decide later I want it. I have found this camera priced on sale for less than two hundred dollars while the MSRP was four hundred. This is an exceptionally smaller, lightweight camera when compared to the Lumix FZ70, another contender not listed at dpreviews but has gotten a lot of praise for its' massive 20 to 1200mm lens. This is an ideal beginner camera for folks who want to learn how to learn the creative controls for photography
Speaking of creative control one of the recommended methods of controlling camera shake and preventing blurry images with zoom lenses racked out at full telephoto length is the use of a good travel tripod like this compact model from Manfrotto.
Designed for use with bridge style compact cameras this tripod provides plenty of stability even when used with a DSLR or SLR it is enough to get the job done.
Though it is one of the most affordable tripods from Manfrotto it is by no means cheap.
For sixty bucks at time of this post it is a worthwhile investment to ensure you can create crisp sharp images with your bridge camera's zoom lens.
Hurricane Ridge, Olympic Peninsula, WA 1991, with a 1982 Nikon FM2n and Fuji 50 slide film
Professional Photographer Harry Boyd
With all this information and research behind me, for now I will keep using my funky little Nikon 995 and the ultra durable Kodak Playsport ZX5
. As luck would have it while writing this post I was able to get the old Canon Rebel
working again. As my photography needs change I will definitely consider the quality and performance offered by modern bridge cameras.
Links related to this post Lightweight and Durable Bike Touring Camera Kit
My long time friend and photography teacher Harry Boyd has spent decades devoted to the craft and business of photography. His book"A Creative Approach to Controlling Photography"
can be purchased at the link provided or by clicking on his photo at left.
If you're looking to expand your knowledge of photography for business and/or pleasure Harry shares expert knowledge and wisdom earned from forty years of commercial, political, travel, fine art and editorial photography. A now retired teacher and owner operator of his gallery in Port Aransas, Texas.
Photo taken during tour from inside Antelope Canyon, Arizona with a 2001 Nikon 995 3MP camera. Ya, even the tour guide liked it.
Variety of bike touring cookware
Packed cook stove kit
Stanley Cook Pot and two cups with Alocs mini
Bike touring cooking supplies Solo Stove is an excellent camp stove
are as wide and varied as folks' food palates. There exists a vast array of assorted gadgets and contraptions for backpackers and campers to make a fire and cook with. Disposable fuel containers are a big no with us and the "all or nothing" method of some cook stoves are strictly for boiling water.
We like to cook good food and enjoy eating good food at home or when camping. We like our coffee in the morning and the times we get to spend together enjoying the countryside, beach or mountains while camping is made much simpler and easier with a good cook stove. Foodies is a new term I have picked up in the past few years by working with and around folks who are foodies and who may have food allergies and other dietary restrictions. Regardless of what your diet needs or tastes are I have found one statement that rings true for me from the wise and quirky writer Lin Yu Tang
and that is "there are no taboos with food". Knowing this is true for myself (no food allergies) the only thing that can really muck up a potentially delicious meal while camping is having a stove that doesn't work well, requires regular maintenance, costs money for replacement parts or is just as finicky to get working as a cranky teenager who's hungry but too picky to eat anything so complains instead. So, when we go camping yes indeed we demand to have a cook stove that works and works well.
I like my old Coleman dual fuel stove (covered in a previous post
) and my little Pocket Esbit Stove
and found while solo camping in Oregon that it was sure nice having two stoves to cook with particularly when it was cold and raining. I was able to make hot coffee or tea while preparing a pot of rice or some potatoes I had picked up and after I was done boiling the water for hot tea I was able to saute some garlic and onions in butter while sipping my tea and waiting for my food to cook. With the Dual Fuel Stove I didn't have to carry around a container of fuel and found that I could get enough unleaded fuel for free at the pump just by draining what was left in the nozzle after someone pumped gas.
At some of my favorite bicycle touring blogs I have noticed a lot of folks are no longer packing along the ever popular Whisper Lite stove and have been choosing Trangia stoves for ultralight bike packing, backpacking and trekking.
Now that I find myself more often than not camping with a small group I wanted something efficient, versatile fuel source and economical as well as having the capacity to cook food for friends or family while camping. It was suggested from a long time veteran bike touring self proclaimed stove expert to consider the Solo Stove
and I must say after reading all the rave reviews and the stove's award winning status it's a consideration alongside the Little Bug Stove
. What these two stoves have in common is their ability to not only cook with wood but may be used with alcohol burners, fuel cubes or charcoal and during a cold day at the beach are nice stoves to get cozy around. I like the Solo Stove's Pot and burner kit as shown in photo for packing in a pannier.
Little Bug Stove packs small and is sturdy enough for a Dutch Oven while remaining very light weight
Pack ready Little Bug Stove is excellent for saving pannier space when bike touring
My reasons for making the stove shown at right is that it all packs into one nice convenient steel container with the Stanley Adventure Camp Cookset
and provides three different stove options in one unit. When combined with the Alocs Mini Set Stove
(adjustable alcohol burner) provides four camp cooking options.
Made from a simple but very solid stainless steel canister that was being used to clean stain brushes without rusting I decided to try making a camp stove for our bike touring camp outs. The two grill pieces tuck inside the canister alongside the Stanley cook pot as shown in photo below.
Another reason for preferring a versatile wood burning type stove is for cold weather camping. Having a stove just large enough to be warmed by for cold weather camping is sure nice to have. .
What a fun project to have come together so nicely.
Kenda Small Block Eights on the Colorado Trail
Gravel grinders and gravel road riding are popular
Typical of a gravel grinding bike photo
I have been a bit surprised by all the hubbub regarding gravel road riding, gravel grinding, gravel grinders and whatever other groovy terms are being popularized in the ever clever trend setting circles of cycling. While selecting tires for riding in Colorado my experience with riding dirt and gravel roads of Pagosa Springs came in handy.
In order to access the Colorado Trail Head outside of Durango there is a long rather steep road which eventually turns to gravel. Leaving the gravel road to that portion of the Colorado Trail one is met with loose dirt over hard pack and many of the short burst climbs have loose rocks with gravel like conditions. Many mountain bike tires have been designed to meet the needs of cross country mountain bikers which not only meet the demands of the Colorado Trail conditions described but are also an excellent choice for gravel roads. My tire of choice for just such conditions were and are the Kenda Small Block Eights
. Visit the following link where the folks at Bike Smart
regard the Small Block Eight as a very versatile tire for gravel and is available in a vast range of sizes.
I have been riding a bike on gravel roads for as long as I can remember. To the extent that when my bike commute routes forced me onto gravel roads I praised the quiet riding asphalt and cement and was happy to put the gravel road sections behind me.
While touring I never went out of my way to look for gravel to ride but didn't mind so much as gravel road riding sort of adds to the adventure of a bike tour if I'm in the mood for it. That having been said when I asked "honey, want to go do some gravel grinding?" Lisa is so good at answering a question with a question "is that a thing?"
Good question and now that it's becoming more and more popular over the past few years gravel specific tires, races and tours can be found with several listings for each.
After checking reviews it turns out that we just so happen to have some excellent tire choices available in our bike stable. Two tires that receive excellent reviews for grinding it out are the Kenda Small Block Eights
, we have 'em in the lovely 2.35" diameter and the Vittoria Randonneur Trail II RFX,
700c x 35mm puncture resistant trail tire.
After considering the cushy ride offered by the Kenda SM8's, she chose to ride her Peugeot commuter bike (cute). So rather than hopping on the Vittoria's for fast tracking it I rolled out on my tried and true "Mumbo Jumbo". Not due to the tires that are on the bike but because the term best deflects trendy noises. I suppose we just weren't feeling all that "special" about having some special need met for gravel conditions and opted for our rather nondescript 26" x 2.125 Cheng Shin CST tires
. Yep, it sounds silly but that's what we did and I love the tires on my Mumbo Jumbo, smooth and quiet and performed very well on the loose over hard pack gravel conditions we encountered for most of our ride. This tire is offered in two different types of tread and the smoother tire (photo above) was able to quickly shed the slight mud conditions we encountered. Lisa has the knobbier tread which although it rolls very fast the tread on my bike cleaned off quicker.
We took our time on this ride found some fun photos to get and though we packed a lunch we were having so much fun we decided to stay out for awhile getting some night photos. Heck, we didn't even go to the nubi public house for craft beer and a salad so we had to be doing something right, gravel grinding! Yay!
Until our next gravel road ride
Gravel roads provide fun and interesting photo opportunities
Position of Planet Bike Sport Spot 4 LED light
Cygolite Metro 300 and 31.8 size handlebar clamp
Having tried several different bike lights over the years it is a pleasure to have something as bright, easy to recharge via USB and a few options of light functions.
Though I still use my old Cateye HL-EL520 front light
for the simple fact that it still works just fine. It looks retro and seems clunky compared to the new technology provided from Cygolite and other manufacturers of USB rechargeable bike lights. Checking if my old Cateye light is even available I was surprised to find it listed at the same fifty dollar price range as my much newer Cygolite Metro 300
Over the past ten years or more I have used the Cateye HL-EL520 front light in combination with my Planet Bike Sport Spot 4 LED
and helmet mount. This provides a strobe effect to complement the non strobing function of the Cateye as it only has two settings for bright and dimmer. This combination has worked very well particularly when I consider the long run times both these lights provide and the fact that I could simply switch between using one or the other or both depending on traffic situation. Having a helmet mount option is also very nice to have if you ride with a handlebar bag or basket that would require using a handlebar extender or some other method of relocating the light over or around the bag or basket. Another added benefit of a helmet mounted light is getting driver's attention when bike commuting at night. I use a full strobe setting and by simply looking in the direction of the vehicle almost always get the driver's attention with the helmet light strobing directly at the driver. I have recommended this method to many bike commuting customers for added night riding safety.
When I designed and built our mountain bike for touring and commuting (photo above) I wanted a newer model of front bike light. After reading reviews based on another bike fellas suggestion I decided on the Cygolite 300
. That was almost two years ago and I have just recently discovered the helmet mount option
. Cygolite makes a few different models of helmet mount kits
for their various USB rechargeable lights as indicated in compatibility chart shown below. If you are not familiar with how bright most if not all the front lights from Cygolite are there are many other reviews regarding the products ability to shine the way along even the darkest unlit side roads. Due to the brightness of this light's strobe mode it could be hazardous to a driver if this light were aimed directly at them on purpose. For this reason I will continue to use my old Planet Bike helmet mount when exercising that type of riding safety method when bike commuting at night. Besides, the Planet Bike Sport Spot 4 LED
includes an optional mounting strap to use as a headlamp around camp when bike touring without the light having to be worn on a helmet.
Cygolite Metro 300 with Helmet mount kit
Check the chart for compatibility of helmet mount with your Cygolite model
This helmet mount kit
from Cygolite is a very practical consideration for anyone who owns one of their many top quality front lights. If you own a few different bikes or borrow or rent a bike having a helmet mount option only adds versatility to one's bike packing kit.
With a simple velcro strap mount which is passed around and through the air vents of virtually any helmet the light is surprisingly solid and secure feeling. Though a bit more weighty than the much smaller model from Planet Bike the strap is comfortable enough to be worn without undue irritation to one's head. An adjustable knob is provided at the base of the helmet mount for securely directing the angle of the light, something not included on most other helmet mounted lights. I can't say how the helmet mount kit would feel when used with some of the other models bulkier than my Cygolite Metro 300
, which is one of the smaller USB rechargeable front lights available from Cygoite.
All of the bike lighting products discussed here provide different qualities for varying bike commuting or bicycle touring scenarios. For longevity, I have owned both the Planet Bike Sport Spot Light
and the Cateye HL-EL520
for several years and both are still performing very well despite being exposed to all sorts of weather and getting bumped around and dropped. After almost two years of owning the Cygolite Metro 300 it is nice to have for commuting in heavy rain on dimly lit roads and the convenience of a USB rechargeable front light with long battery time is very convenient. It might seem that there is no added convenience or benefit of having to charge AA or AAA NIMH batteries for the other bike light models mentioned. However, because I had carried some spares with me I was able to simply swap out the batteries for some wet weather commuting in Portland whereas USB rechargeable lights don't provide that option. That having been said, for bike touring and camping there are solar chargers available that could easily recharge any USB rechargeable bike light. It's always good to have plenty of options to suit one's needs.
Links related to this topic:Rechargables for Bike Touring and CommutingFour Bike Commuting Lights for About Forty Bucks
Three very sturdy rack stays
Blackburn MTF-1 front rack provides ground clearance nice for trail riding.
After noticing that the old Delta Megaloader front rack had become bent after almost ten years of solid service I wanted to replace it with a front touring rack that would mount to the mid way fork eyelets. There are several front bike racks available which provide that solution but I have been enjoying the top plate of the Minoura MT 4000SF
front pannier rack so much I thought it would be fun to have that style of rack for my touring bike as well.
I am quite fond of my two front racks from Minoura, both provide low rider rack options and is something I usually prefer in a front rack. Also is the fact that Minoura's front racks are of steel construction offering disc brake compatibility and or suspension fork options. Here are links to reviews of the Minoura MT 4000SF
(for disc brake and/or suspension fork) and the Minoura FRP 3000
for road or mountain use.
Delta used to make a versatile front rack with their Megaloader option and when I noticed it had gotten very bent I decided not to attempt to "cold set" the material (bend straight) which is another reason I appreciate the steel racks mentioned earlier. I am accustomed to having a lightweight front rack on my touring rack and sought to keep it that way by upgrading to the Blackburn MTF-1
. Although it doesn't offer the low rider style as the old Delta I appreciate the top plate for road grime protection and securing my front panniers to each other on the top plate. A couple years back I covered front touring racks from Blackburn and have had a difficult time locating the FL-1 low rider rack which was designed with the option of installing in combination with the MTF-1. Click here
to read that older post. This rack's design is actually a bit of an oddity with its' intended use for mountain bikes and trail riding by providing more ground clearance for front panniers. However the fit seems more intended for a touring road fork with the midway fork mounts. Some clamps are provided for mounting to a fork without those mounts but the overall diameter of the MTF-1 is more suited to a road fork and makes installation simple and easy. Reviewers of this rack the number one complaint is the rack being too narrow for their fork. If your fork measures 4 5/8" or 125mm wide at the midway point it would be a tight fit requiring a bit of a stretch without effecting the integrity of the rack. I was able to accomplish this without having to pry the rack on for the rack to fit to the outside of the fork.
While the rack includes aluminum hardware mounting bolts which I replaced with steel bolts, the lower mounting points at the fork braze on required the use of rack spacers and is something not included with the mounting hardware. Your local bike shop can assist with all of this particularly if they are carrying this rack in their store, which brings us to the point of cost. The Blackburn MTF-1 price
can be found for as little as just over thirty bucks or somewhere around seventy. I found the one being reviewed here for thirty four. Here are some technical specifications of the Blackburn MTF-1
Rack Weight: 1.31 pounds or 594 grams
Capacity: 25 pounds or 11.4kg
Material: 12mm gauge 6061 aluminum rod, Available in Black or Silver
After getting the rack mounted and test riding it with approximately sixteen pounds of total weight in two panniers I really liked the solid feel and handling I have grown accustomed to with low rider racks. At the time I purchased this rack the black model was thirty dollars more. Not that I cared much and thought the silver might look nice. Then I decided I wanted the front and rear racks to match so I simply painted mine black.
Blackburn MTF-1 Front Mountain Rack with Center Shelf for carrying a top loader bag and/or side panniers.
Blackburn MTF-1 available in black or silver
Kodak Play Sport Zx5 macro focus option of KMC chain
Kodak Zx5 Play sport camera's display screen is small and weighs only 4.4 ounces
So many bike touring experts are using a variety of DSLR systems despite the added bulk, weight and extra care required to protect those very expensive gadgets. Of course the image quality is excellent and in many instances offers more creative control in varying or low light conditions.
Twenty years ago I used to pack around my canvas Domke bag, Nikon FM2n and an assortment of high quality lenses accompanied with a Bogen tripod. Slow speed slide film necessitated the use of a tripod for obtaining the highest image quality for magazine publication. To a lot of folks the rapid pace of technology seems like a burdensome effort to keep up with. However, there are ways to take advantage of the digital era of photography that can lighten the load for bicycle touring.
A couple years back I was looking for a good quality durable camera that would provide the ability to obtain excellent snap shots for many outdoor activities. Shopping for office supplies I found the Kodak Play Sport Zx5
with claims of water proof to 10 ft., dust proof which is excellent for my woodworking shop and shockproof should it get dropped on the ground (which it has) I was very interested. At 4.4 ounces the camera itself is so unobtrusive sometimes I don't even notice I have it in my pocket. Although it doesn't have a flash and some reviews complain about image quality of night pictures the Zx5 has a very nice macro mode focus option that comes in quite handy.
For bicycle touring this is part of a perfect camera kit particularly when combined with the Kodak Zx5 0.45x Wide Angle Lens, wireless remote control and a Joby GP1-A1EN Gorillapod Flexible Tripod
For more creative image making I use an old Nikon Coolpix 995 from 2001. I have a couple lens adapters for this camera that are wide angle and telephoto as well as a polarizing filter for removing glare from objects and color enhancement. Although this model is no longer in production a good used model can be found on ebay for a hundred dollars or less. For its' size and versatility I have found it to be a much smaller, lighter weight alternative to big, heavy DSLR cameras.
Large file TIF images can be created with this camera and the technical specifications meet most minimum guidelines for those interested in pursuing stock photography. For blogging, sharing photos online and even good print quality this little old camera is tough to beat for the price. This is still a very popular camera in use frequently on Flickr and ranked 77th which is quite good.
This camera does not have the option of charging via USB cable something I appreciate about the Kodak Zx5 and the batteries do not last nearly as long as a single charge on the Kodak. I can go weeks without having to recharge the battery on the Kodak as I rarely if ever use it for video. Also, the Nikon 995 requires much more care as it is not at all waterproof or dust proof.
I have been able to use the Nikon on the Joby Gorillapod
but there are other models available that are a bit larger and heavier for larger cameras than the Kodak Zx5
. Weight rating of the Joby Gorillapod discussed here is 11.5 ounces and since the little Zx5 only weighs 4.4 ounces it's no problem.
I really enjoy the ease of use and dependable quality of these products. If you're looking to lighten your bike touring load and love to create photos this is good stuff.
Links related to this topic:Handlebar Bag for Cameras from Ibera with Rain Cover
Versatile Bike Camping KitBicycle Packing List and Loaded Touring Bike Weight
Kodak Playsport Zx5 with remote and Joby Gorillapod provide a lightweight, durable and versatile bike touring camera kit for photos and video.
A simple canvas sack or handlebar bag? Ya, I grew up.
It's fun doodling a bike packing kit list
A sensibly packed touring bike is more fun
When I was a kid in grade school a few of us boys would ride our little 20" wheeled Schwinn dirt bikes to school. It was a fun area and era to be riding during the mid to late 70's. Dan and Gary's DG BMX bikes
was what all the kids were talking about and as we lived just a few miles from the original Paul and James Van Doren original Van's Shoe Shop
we enjoyed having access to highest quality pedaling footwear around.
While I absolutely loved those old original Van's shoes and still like them as trail riding and commuting shoes with flat pedals, I was none to fond of the simple canvas strap backpacks used to carry our school books on our four mile commute. After a while I suppose I simply got used to the painful nuisance of those straps until I got the bright idea to wrap the straps, one on each handlebar grip and had unwittingly created a custom method of bike packing for myself using the backpack as a makeshift handlebar bag as shown in above photo. I was eight or nine years old ya it was awesome though I did have to be careful not to have my homework go flying out of the bag when I hit a bump or curb.
These days when I put together an efficient bike packing camp list I experience the same deep feeling of satisfaction after packing my bike as I did as a kid, it is light, agile and maintains a sense of playfulness. Ya, I grew up.
"When you were a kid bikes were your freedom and I can see that when I ride with you." Oh my lovely Lisa shared this comment while gazing at all the used, abused or unwanted bikes I have accumulated and repaired since moving to this area of South Texas.
Now then, when you search for information regarding suggested loaded touring bike weight guidelines there is a whole lot of missing information which is why I decided to give it a "blog about". Ability to portage with a touring bike is nice
Firstly I wouldn't load a cheap fork with too much weight which can cause much stress to the component and possibly have it fail which is precisely what happened to one of our readers appreciative of how robust a fork was installed on one of our off road touring bikes. That having been said whenever you add a bunch of weight to your bike it is hard on pretty much all of the components. Why is this an important consideration? Well unless you don't mind performing roadside repairs or maybe you're the type who even enjoys that, otherwise mindfully packing your bike for comfort and ease of handling is the objective. Photo above shows loaded panniers on the front racks rather than rear. I was taught to pack more weight on the front wheel as a method of weight distribution and load bearing for the bike. While the rider's body weight is centered more over the rear axle than the front placing more of your gear on the front wheel balances the bike's load bearing capability.
Every front and rear rack I have sold, installed or purchased for myself has some suggested weight limit or cargo capacity. Sure some of those racks will support sixty pounds or more and that's fine for some sort of work or utilitarian purpose of hauling something a few blocks or a few miles but to carry that much weight up and over several miles of hills and through varying winds is an absurd idea of having fun while riding your bike.
One simple suggestion is after your bike is packed try picking it up without stress or strain in case you need to portage your bike for any reason. A person who is an avid weight lifter might be capable of picking up and tossing around a hundred and fifty pound bike like it's nothing to someone but the bike may begin to complain a few miles down the road with a broken spoke, flat tire or worse a broken rack weld because the weight capacity was ignored or the panniers pack weight on each side of the rack was lopsided.
Doodle a preliminary bike packing list for reference
My goal when building a touring specific bike has been to keep the bike's weight at or below thirty five pounds. That's with front and rear racks, fenders, bottle holders, front light and seat bag with spare tube, patches and multi tool. I have a bike trailer that weighs fourteen pounds with a waterproof bag and cargo net but that makes it all too easy as the trailer is rated to carry eighty pounds and doesn't share the concerns associated with a fully loaded touring bike.
This year I set a goal to pack my off road touring bike with disc brake, steel front rack and small light weight rear rack at 70 pounds. I also wanted to be able to carry a comfy two person tent or solo tent, camp stove and other niceties including good food. This easily allows for varying cargo weight as I purchase food, gifts and find other gems or trinkets on my travels. I figured seventy pounds was an easy goal and after I packed the bike it weighed a comfortable 60 pounds. Being far less than half my body weight and easy for me to pick up and carry around provides confidence while riding and very helpful on hills.
Keeping in mind that a touring bike's frame geometry is designed to handle and ride well with loaded racks and panniers, off road touring bikes or mountain bikes for bike packing have different packing considerations. This topic has been covered in another post regarding a Versatile Bike Packing Kit
.and I like the packing list supplied from Experience Plus Bicycle Tours
where they won't allow their tour leaders to lift anything heavier than a forty five pound bag. That suggestion comes from a bicycle tour company that's been in the bike touring business since 1972. Their packing list may provide useful suggestions when creating your own packing list to meet your needs.
Obviously if you're someone planning on touring for several months at a time or bike touring in cold weather or regions some of the gear is going to be heavier than a summer weekend packing list in a warm climate. This is another reason why I was so pleased when my off road touring bike weighed only sixty pounds. Knowing I can easily add another ten or fifteen pounds of gear to accommodate my every need without an issue on the heaviest of my three bikes built for touring.
Better off not trying to make sense of that gobbledy gook of chicken scratch in this photo. I just added it for fun but the point to be made is to have fun refining your own pack list making process. Translated this is how the list reads with all items packed in Axiom Cartier Panniers of 2013 cu. in. capacity or 33L. and three sizes of water resistant roll top stuff sacks in different colors. Tent goes on top of front rack, sleeping pad on top of rear rack. Two full stainless steel water bottles with neoprene insulation and a Park Frame Pump. Bike packed for fun and ease of handling
LFP (Left Front Pannier)
Green Bag: 40 deg. Eulin filled Guide Gear sleeping bag and REI compressible pillow.
Eastern Mountain Sports Bag:camp towel for dishes, UCO citronella candle lantern, diy pack stove with stanley pot, cup and hobo tool.
RFP (Right Front Pannier)
Orange Bag: wools socks 1 pr., convertible pants, rain jacket and bamboo t shirt.
Blue Bag: small pack towel, mosquito repellent, tooth brush and paste, lotion, camper's toilet paper, liquid soap, sun screen
Handlebar Bag: cell phone, charge stick and cord, camera and cord, wallet and ID, reading glasses and camera accessories. I have lots of spare space in the handlebar bag for stashing gloves, hat or visor.
Seat Bag with spare tube, multi tool, patch kit, rag and rear blinky light.
Depending on what food or how much cooking I intend to do on any particular bike tour there is so much extra storage space in the panniers that I could take along a chromebook, tablet or solar charger.
Photo at left showing the fifty five pound off road touring bike loaded with items listed above including food. Photo below is of this bike loaded for touring with my fifteen year old Coleman two person tent and weighs approximately sixty pounds. Rides smooth and handles easily even while pulling an empty trailer to check out the handling characteristics.
Hope this helps in some way to have a safe enjoyable bike touring summer.
Links related to this topic:Lightweight and Durable Bike Touring Camera KitVersatile Bike Camping KItDownload Paul Jeurissen's Bikje Touring Photo Tips
Versatile touring bike at fifty five pounds for bike camping
Store owner Lisa Piper and Aaron
Warm Showers guest Aaron and his Surly Long Haul Trucker
It has been a very busy year around here after having found a new location for the Natural Living Country Store
. After four years of building our family owned business it had obviously become time to get a more appropriate, commercially zoned space for the business to continue to grow and meet the needs of our customers.
Lots of folks came to help us move the refrigerators, freezers and other large heavy items. With the need to continue operating our already established business we also needed to remodel, build shelves and pretty much just keep from feeling overwhelmed by all the work necessary for a smooth transition to our new location. It was at that time a Warm Showers
member needed a place to stay to ride out the forecasted storm.
Aaron arrived on his fully loaded touring bike and had obviously been bicycle touring for awhile. He explained he only needed a place to stay for two or three nights until the cold front with intense wind and rains passed. After seeing all the projects we were working on he was eager to help and glad to pitch in. His experience working an organic farm in Michigan provided him with knowledge and experience which perfectly suited Lisa's need for help with harvesting at local farms and other customer service activities. Aaron's help allowed me to concentrate my efforts on getting the new store ready to move into and rather than staying two or three nights as he'd intended he was enjoying the work and meeting the folks here so much he stayed for almost two months. His timing was perfect and his help will always be remembered and greatly appreciated. Visit Aaron Kabodian's Blog.
Aaron helping with local farm work.
Shout Out to our Readers for helping support our efforts
Contributions helped fund much our wood working projects.
Speaking of bike folks showing up to help I want to take this opportunity to thank the readers and return visitors to our Bike Tourings' Site and Blog. By making purchases through our affiliate links we had some extra funds for such items as sand paper, wood glue, replacement sander and other assorted items as needed over the past few months. Here are some photos of the custom up cycled wood working. All of the wood working projects for the new store consists of pallet wood and bamboo harvested from the property of the store's new location. As we incurred many unforeseen expenses we were pleasantly surprised to find that the Bike Tourings' Blog is doing so well in helping to offset some of our expenses. So for all you bike folks out there here are several photos showing what your purchases helped to support. Thank You so Much!
Harvesting Pallet wood
Wood pallet shelving for tea nook
Outdoor bench and table for the new store
Pallet and bamboo bike parking rack
Customer's enjoying use of bike parking rack
Work area for pallet projects
There was a lot more custom pallet wood shelving and many photos of our new store.
Be sure to visit Natural Living Country Store
for more information.
Panniers can be snapped together at three points
Trek Panniers offer excellent features for bike commuters
Versatile Panniers that can be mounted to a variety of bike racks designed for front or rear use.
Straps for securing pannier load
When considering bike panniers for commuting there are certain qualities that can be overlooked as opposed to considering panniers for bicycle touring. For example having smaller more compact panniers for navigating through urban, city or high traffic areas where a large set of waterproof panniers are usually too bulky and rigid.
Panniers supplied with horizontal compression straps on the outside of the bag can be used to tighten the bags around the load in each pannier. This provides ability to make the bags smaller and provides more secure handling as the weight of the load in the panniers is much less likely to shift around in the pannier. A particularly important consideration for use on a front rack.
I have been using my Delta Compact Panniers
for their ease of use for taking off and putting on the bike and have come to appreciate the simple design. Although I have found these to be my go to panniers for quick grocery and business errands I didn't like the way they handled on a front rack when fully loaded on my touring bike. This was due to the lack of features previously described. So while browsing several different makes and models of panniers looking for these quality options I stumbled upon some excellent panniers from Trek on sale at one our local shops.
I wasn't at all familiar with any Trek Bike Company panniers and didn't recognize the logo on the bags having guessed they were a product of Transit, makers of bike racks and other bicycle accessories. Once I began looking over the quality of the steel rack mounting hooks, metal snaps located on lower fore and aft positions of the panniers as well as on the top handles and overall quality of construction further inquiry revealed they were the Trek Pannier II Pack.
A model of excellently designed and constructed bike commuting panniers including built in rain covers! Very modestly priced as these panniers cost the same as my Delta Panniers which have less capacity, no rain covers or ability to snap the panniers together. For the price these panniers are a no brainer and I love how they feel snug and secure after tightening the cinch straps on the outside of the bags, very nice. They only thing missing is a shoulder strap but with the snaps and carrying handles I don't mind a bit. Here's the basic product information:
Product Description: Extra large rack mounted bicycle pannier. A basic attachment system with Tightrope safety cord easily secures the pack to the rack. Fits most front, rear, and low rider type racks. 2,520 cu. in. capacity per set. With a built in rain cover. Comes as a single pannier. Click Here
for more information or to Purchase.
Velcro strap and loop at top of rain cover
Wet weather protection for bike commuting or touring hydration packs
CamelBak Rain Cover fits bike pannier
Spring is here with plenty of wet weather and being in need of a versatile rain cover for my hydration packs and panniers I combed through the options scrupulously.
I have a genuinely fond appreciation for my older CamelBak Capo Hydration Pack
. Although it's one the company's discontinued models I have no reason to replace it. It is durable, comfortable and is perfect for camping, day hikes, bike packing and bicycle commuting all it needed was a rain cover. However, I was also looking for rain covers for my Axiom Cartier Panniers
and Delta Compact Panniers
One of the features I was looking for in a multi purpose rain cover was a way to secure the rain cover for very windy conditions. Most of the rain covers I had looked at were designed like over sized shower caps with only an elastic edge to hold the cover in place. Being a frugal fella I also wanted the rain cover to securely fit either of my two hydration packs as well as the aforementioned panniers. If you get to shopping for pannier rain covers you will find that some if not most of the good quality rain covers available designed specifically for bike panniers are a bit pricey and usually sold individually and not in pairs. I mean gee whiz, for a bit more fifty dollars I could get another set of panniers not just rain covers. Thus began my search for a bargain of versatility and my prize catch with the CamelBak Rain Cover, after all the answer had been staring me in the face with the need described for my CamelBak Capo.
This "blog about" is mostly to help resolve the mystery of how to attach CamelBak's Rain Cover. I read so many reviews where folks were frustrated and bewildered and ridiculing the company for not providing instructions at to how to attach this rain cover, see above photo. A velcro strap and loop is attached to the top of the rain cover which is designed to be passed under the top of the pack's straps, passed through the hole and looped back over to attach the bit of velcro on to the strap. Then pull the cover around the pack and cinch the bottom pull tab attached to a chord which is sewn in around the perimeter of the cover.
This is a good design for use on bike panniers being adjustable, lightweight, easy to use and durable. With the bright yellow day light visibility color made of coated nylon and reflective lettering make it an excellent choice for bicycle commuting. Photo at left shows the excellent fit for my Delta Compact Panniers of 16L capacity which I use only for bike commuting as their ease of use and simple design fit my needs.
I also put this rain cover on my fully loaded Axiom Cartier Panniers for bike touring and camping with a capacity of 2013 cu. in. or 33L each and the Small Medium rain cover fits perfectly. Due to the adjustable design this rain cover also fits my High Sierra Splash 70 Hydration Pack
which I prefer to use during the summer and for longer rides due to its' mere 368 cu. in. capacity though it has a 2 litre reservoir.
Because of the multiple panniers and packs I can use the CamelBak Rain Cover on I felt a wee bit obliged to share this information.CamelBak Rain Cover
is available in two sizes of Small to Medium designed to fit capacity of 1000 and 1500 cu in or 16L to 25L or Mediium to Large for 500 and 2300 cu in or 25L to 38L. CamelBak Hydration Packs
designed for different types of bicycling typically use the Small to Medium size even on packs designed to carry additional gear on the outside of the pack.
Use any of the bold underlined links provided for more information or to purchase. Happy trails, keep pedalin' and enjoy!