June 5, 2010
Kicking off this Friday will be the Tour Divide, a 2,745-mile self-supported mountain bike race from Banff, Canada, to Antelope Well, New Mexico, on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. While this event isn't what most people would consider touring, the requirement that all riders must transport their own supplies from Canada to the U.S.-Mexico border brings out some nice gear that can used by us mere mortals. The most visible of which is the frame bags that are used by many of the riders.
Frame bags are narrow triangular bags that fit cleanly in the main triangle of your bike (the space between the top tube, down tube, and seat tube), and are secured by Velcro straps. Because there are so many different frame sizes, and geometries, these products have to be custom ordered to your frame, as well as personal needs. For example, a frame bag can be made to accommodate rear suspension pivots, provide space for your water bottles, or even be divided into compartments for more organized storage.
The amount of space you have available depends on your frame size, and configuration, but no matter how you choose to have it setup, this is made for lightweight touring, and will require a well thought out pack list. Many ultralight riders will choose to couple this with a seat post rack or handlebar bag to carry a small tent and/or sleeping bag.
Two companies currently custom manufacturing these products are Carousel Design Works and Epic Designs; and if lightweight touring isn't for you, they also make custom handlebar bags, as well as seat bags that are more practical for the majority of bicycle tourists. The June 2010 issue of Adventure Cyclist magazine features an article on an off-road tour in Alaska where the riders are outfitted with this design. So keep an eye out, the June issue will arrive in your mailbox soon.
TOURING GEAR AND TIPS is written by Joshua Tack of Adventure Cycling's member services department. It appears weekly, highlighting technical aspects of bicycle touring and advice to help better prepare you for the journey ahead.