Tour de (à?) New York 2017: a pre-trip primer

I’m beginning a solo bike tour to New York on Thursday. Thus Chicago Bike Report goes on hiatus for a few weeks, as I trek through the wilds of Wisconsin, Michigan, Ontario, and New York.

But you don’t want to hear about that, right? This is a cycling news and analysis blog. Wait–what’s that? You do have questions about my bike tour? Oh, I’m flattered. Let’s talk about my bike tour!

What bike are you riding? Is it cool?


Yes, it is cool. It’s the Prairie Chicken, my just-built, repainted, custom decaled 1987 Cannondale SR-400. An old racing frame that isn’t really suited to touring. Short chainstays, bad rack mounts, and barely enough clearance for 28c tires and a rear fender. But, like her namesake, she’s a scrappy grouse, and I think she’ll do just fine. The aluminum frame seems quite robust.

I built it up with mostly used parts, scrounged from various old bikes. (Thanks, Dad.)

Some highlights:

  • Surly Cross Check fork, with plentiful rack mounts
  • Heavy-duty Sun CR-18 36-spoke rims with some type of Shimano hub
  • Shimano RSX crankset, LX rear derailleur, Tiagra front derailleur (new), 9-speed cassette
  • Shimano Light Action barend shifters, 8 speed (set to friction mode because the drivetrain is 9 speed)
  • Handlebars angled too high (shush, I fixed it)

The racks: an old, heavy-duty aluminum Jandd in the front and an Axiom DLX Streamliner Disc in the rear. The latter mounts to the brake bridge, owing to the lack of braze-ons. Let’s hope it’s sturdy enough!

What’s your route?

Something like this, but not exactly:

Screen Shot 2017-09-05 at 11.01.19 PM.png

First, up to Manitowoc, Wisconsin. There I catch the ferry to Ludington, Michigan, and continue east through Ontario. From there I follow the Erie Canal across New York, then down south to the suburbs of New York, to my parents’ house. I’ll be following the Adventure Cycling Association maps part of the way.


What are you bringing? Can you describe it in more detail than I care to hear?



I’m using some old Lone Peak Panniers, seen lined up along the top of the white Tyvek ground sheet above. Panniers contain the items arranged vertically below them. From left to right, these are:

Left rear: sleep supplies, a couple Ziploc bags, 50 feet of paracord to hang food away from raccoons

Right rear: clothes, including 2 cycling outfits (plus the outfit I’ll wear), a base layer, long pants, long-sleeve jerseys, jacket, a couple garbage bags for miscellaneous rain protection

Left front: rain gear, toiletries, electronics, and bike repair. This includes a bottle of Dr. Bronner’s soap, a solar charger, a Topeak Road Morph G pump, chain lube, zip ties, chain tool, tubes, patches, tire levers, Kryptonite cable lock (not U-Lock! must save weight), and a couple plastic bags as makeshift shoe-covers

Right front: The kitchen. A cool Trangia camping stove, a 500ml Nalgene of denatured alcohol fuel, a plastic flask of rye whiskey, some water bags, a titanium spork, and food for the first couple days: oatmeal, couscous, tuna, 5 Clif bars, 2 gels (gross).

Handlebar bag (since converted to saddle bag): multitool, maps, sunglasses, notebook and pen, camera, nylon shorts for modesty around non-cyclists

And mounted on the front rack will be my tent, a Kelty Grand Mesa 2-person.

All in all, the gear weighs 38 pounds.

As far as weight distribution goes: the smaller front panniers hold denser items, so they’re about as heavy as the rear ones. Putting the tent on the front rack gives me slightly more weight in the front than the rear.

That’s how I want it, because I’m wary of putting too much on the Axiom rear rack. This in spite of its stated capacity of 110 lbs. It seems like it’ll hold 25lbs just fine. But 110 pounds is nutty, and it’s only a matter of time before someone sues Axiom for making false claims.


I had a few weeks with no obligations. Why not?

I don’t anticipate being able to update the blog on the road, but expect a couple comprehensive posts at the end. Check back in a few weeks, and enjoy your rides in the meantime!