Equipment and Budget for Cross Canada Bike Tour
Here I will discuss my equipment used for the trip including costs (all in Canadian dollars). I hope to provide a reference point for those curious about acquiring their own stuff and I think the accompanying stories of the various repairs and considerations will be helpful. I rounded some of the figures, but they are here:
|Racks and Panniers||670|
|Sleeping stuff and tent||560|
My bike is on the cheaper side of things - CCM Endurance from Canadian Tire(retail price of around 550 and purchased for 350 on sale 1.5 years before bike trip). Most of the bikes I have encountered on my bike trip were much more expensive (in the 1500-2000 dollar range). I already had my bike and did not want to buy a new one. During my trip I got lots of comments from fellow travellers who were surprised by my bike. In Manitoba, I had a bike mechanic tune up my spokes and he gave me this cold stare and told me I should have gotten a better bike for my trip such as a TREK 520. In Montreal, a bike mechanic was blown away I had made it all the way from Vancouver and he even took a picture of my bike to show his friends. In Waterloo, bike mechanics asked "Really?" and stared at the bike with open mouths.
I was careful with my bike during the trip and was gentle with it. I rarely stood on my pedals and cleaned the chain on the regular with a rag and old tooth brush. In Calgary I even purchased one of those chain cleaning tools (ParkTool) and carried it with me to Waterloo. I regularly oiled up my chain. My chain never broke and was great. Towards the end switching gears was not smooth, but that is expected after forcing your bike to cover that much distance - this will happen for any bike.
A year prior to the trip my crank was making noise. There was an issue with the bottom bracket and I had it replaced at Ziggy's bike store for 79.67 dollars. Finally, a few months before the trip, the bearings in the back wheel were worn out. I took it to the local MEC and they gave me the advice of always taking a new Canadian Tire bike to tuning (as Canadian Tire folks can't build bikes) and repaired it and gave me a new back wheel all for 71.19 (tax included). The wheel ended up having nuts to secure it. The mechanic said it would make it harder to steal but I thought it was dumb as I keep my bike in my room and would have rather had quick release. The back rim required a shorter valve unlike the front rim which forced me to carry more different inner tubes than necessary. I was carrying four spare inner tubes during my trip - two for each wheel.
The tires for the trip were 700 x 25 as that was the biggest size that would fit my frame. Thin tires have a disadvantage as over my trip across Canada I got over 10 flats. I assume thin tires allow more speed but I'm not sure if that is even true and is not the reason why I went with the tires - the bike frame dictated my tire. Flat tires suck but aren't the worst. It takes under 10 minutes to deal with them and you can always repatch the inner tubes in order to reuse. I used Continental gatorskins and Bontrager AW3 for my tires. A brand new tire can last the entire cross Canada trip on the front wheel, but the back wheel has a lot more weight and deteriorates more quickly (I always forgot to switch the back tire and front to average out the wear and tear). An AW3 Bontrager will last 2600km - from Regina SK to Waterloo ON. Tires are expensive and can be up to 75 dollars (MEC will sell them for 58).
A week before starting the bike trip I spent 190.92 at King Street Cycles, Waterloo for a final tune up. The tune up was worth way more than the resell price of my bike at the current moment, but I was so paranoid about my bike not making it that I had to do it ( I was scared by all the blogs showing off their Nimbus 2000 bikes ). 100 of the price was labour that including tuning, fixing and installing new things while 60 was items that included a new freewheel, chain sram pc850, cables and break pads. The remaining money was taxes. I was worried to overlook something and did not want my bike to fail me during my trip - I had already rode around about 2000km over the past two years and it was getting worn out. They did a very good and noticeable job but forgot to adjust the H/L rear limit screws that caused my chain to get stuck between my spokes and freewheel on my second day biking (I fixed it myself once I realized what was up). I was good with basic bike repairs but was a bit of a novice in a lot of aspects - I started my bike trip riding with 80psi in the inner tubes as I thought I was carrying too much weight - eventually I realized I could safely crank it to 110psi.
I only spent 40 dollars on bike repairs during my entire trip (repairs as in labour costs - excluding things like new inner tubes,tires or break pads - I installed these myself). In Dauphin my spokes became loose in some places. The mechanic also cleaned up the bearings in the back as part of the price. Near Montreal I heard infrequent clicking noises coming from my crank. I visited a bike shop to see if it was anything, but they couldn't spot the noise without taking things apart. The mechanic suggested it was nothing major. The noise came and went and did not affect my biking. Pouring a little water made the noise go away. I maybe would have gotten a back mud guard if I had to do it all again as sometimes all the rain and dirt flying back would make my back breaks dirty and 'weak' - cleaning them and pouring oil on them would work. I had to adjust my breaks during the trip as they would get worn out or sometimes I would bump into the break mechanism and cause the pad to hug the rim. During the trip I had to purchase new break pads once or twice - I really burn through the back pads as I always go slow on the down hills.For my Brooks B67 I paid 169.06 tax included. It is a wonderful seat and I have zero complaints. No pain, no chafing, no nothing. I believe if you're spending months sitting then you better be sitting on something good. I've met bicyclists on the road who said that as soon as they crossed from Vancouver to Calgary the first thing they did was purchase a better seat. I've met people who endured significant physical pain from crappy seating arrangements. Even good expensive bikes often come with default crappy seats. The previous expenses of buying the bike, repairs and new seat all add up to about a 1000 dollars. What other bike costs are there...a good bike pump (40), two bike shorts (40x2), two bike shirts (got lucky and found new shirts in a Value Village both for 20), bike tires X 3 ( 70 each), inner tubes (5 dollars X 7), bike gloves, tools for tool kit, oil...that's all another 500 according to my records. About 1500 total for my bike related expenses - still cheaper than a Trek 520! How did my bike fare for the price? My bike made it and was a real trooper - it did its work. Towards the end, the wheels would wobble a little when I would spin them up in the air, freewheel was worn out and I'm sure the chain was stretched. Let's look at some pictures I took towards the end to get an idea.
Racks and Panniers
I had Bontrager Back Rack Deluxe Large with a capacity of 55lbs. I purchased it a year prior to my trip. I can't find the exact purchase price but currently it is listed for just under 70 with taxes included. This rack was great and I have no complaints.
With my front rack I did not have much choice. The reason is that my bike fork (where the front wheel goes) only had a place to attach near the quick release - there was no attachment for screws mid fork (as required for something like the Tubus Tara lowrider rack). I purchased Axiom Journey DLX Low Rider Front Rack which on Canadian Amazon with shipping cost me 95.28. On the front rack I only carried my tent on one side and sleeping bag and mattress on the other (plus a few license plates here and there). The max weight I carried on each of the front racks was 1.5kg (for the tent).
The bottom screw on the front rack near the quick release does not hold. Hence I needed to add all the zip ties and all that gorilla tape. However, all of that was not enough. The hose clamp (costs a couple of dollars) solves the problem.
PanniersThese things cost money. Lots.
Front panniersGot these Ortlieb panniers at MEC for 225.99. They are nice and waterproof as promised. I am not fan of the plastic material as it looks like an unravelled grocery bag you just took out of your pocket but it does its job. I had an issue as you can see in the following image - the bottom hook fell out on one of the right bag. Perhaps over the course of adjusting the hook back and forth over the front rack it got lose and fell off. Despite the missing piece, the bag is still usable. I only put my sleeping bags, mattress, tents and discovered license plates into the front panniers.
Arkel bags (Orca 35 I think) are great and waterproof as promised. Got them for 218.64 - Ziggy's shop clerk heard that I was planning a cross Canada trip and just threw on a 10 percent discount! I would have purchased Arkel for the front as well, but it is just that MEC only sold Ortliebs. The hook mechanism used to attach is great but got a little stiff towards the end of the ride on one of the bags.
In the back pannier I put clothes, food, repair stuff, toiletries and other stuff.
Clothes: 4 boxers, 4 sock pairs, 1 wool sock pair, sweat shirt, turtle neck (from Vancouver to Waterloo), t shirt, jeans, 2 bike shirts (with pockets near the back), 2 bike shorts, beanie hat, rain jacket, wool gloves(only from Vancouver to Waterloo). Toiletries: PackTowl Personal Towel XL (30 dollars), dollarama size shampoo and soap, nail clipper, tooth brush, tooth paste, deodorant, floss, flip flips (for the public showers). Other stuff: bike lock, guide book, license plates... I'm sure I am missing some stuff here but this is a good starting list to cover what one would need to bring with them.
Front basketWorld Tour Handle Bar Bag I purchased at MEC for 66.70 dollars. It's great and handy. Lot's of front space and easy to take off. Keep your passport, camera, wallet and cell phone in there and when you need to go inside a store/restaurant you just lock your bike and take off your bar bag and take it with you inside. Also good for keeping road snacks for the day in there.
Sleeping stuffThis stuff I purchased new and it all ended up costing a bit of money. It sucks purchasing all this equipment for the trip, but you can't go travelling naked.
For the sleeping bag I had the 339 gram 248.54 dollar MEC Draco 0C sleeping. I have no complaints with the bag - I could sleep in it my underwear during single digit Celsius weather (it usually above 10 Celsius at night). It is lightweight and comfortable.
For the mattress I had the 510 gram Prolite Therm-a-rest I got from MEC. I purchased it for 124.30 dollars. The mattress was great - I used the mattress bag as a sleeping pillow. Stuff the bag with a rain coat and wrap it with a sweat shirt and you got yourself a pillow.
The tent that I had was The North Face Stormbreak 1 person tent for 192.09 dollars and a total weight of 1.56 kg. Took up an entire front pannier. Good tent - tested in a lot of rainy nights. It's tall enough to sit on you bum in the middle and has lots of space.
I ate a lot during the trip. There are a few 'I ate two rice grains a day and biked across Siberia' budget type blog posts out there and not a lot of 'I ate an elephant a day as I biked across Egypt' (the latter is me - hats off to the Siberia folk). Maybe it's because my bike wasn't the most efficient, or maybe because I carried a lot of weight, or maybe because I didn't really cook much...or maybe because I weighed over 200 pounds and needed lots of calories during my 160km a day rides....I don't know - all I know is that I was always hungry. Planning for this in advance is difficult as I've never done this. During the trip, over the course of 50 riding days, I ate 2046 dollars worth of food. This averages to 37.2 dollars per day. Let's break this down further.
915 of this was for fast food while 980 was grocery bought food. 915 of fast food is composed of 102 transaction for an average of about 9 dollars a meal with an average of 2 meals a day - 500 of those dollars was spent in Timmies/McD's/Subway. Grocery was 70 transactions and thus an average of 14 dollars per transaction. The rest of the remaining money 200 or so was spent in restaurants, most only on the east coast.
Let's break down the daily costs of the fast food and grocery. So 18 dollars a day for fast food and about 16 for grocery. A can of soup (3 dollars), a jug of yogourt (4 dollars), 4 cans of sardine (1.5 dollars each), granola bar (3*1 dollars). For grocery I would mix it up with fruits, canned beans or other things but the volume of food described (minus the granola) in the previous sentence would describe a typical dinner. The stove was mainly used to heat up tea/soup. The granola was usually breakfast. Fast food covered two meals. The meals could be different - the 5 dollar wedge/chicken combo at a grocery store is always a steal.
Other expense not counted here include a spoon, a cup (14 for a Bugaboo sip cup from MEC), stove (Canadian tire 20 dollar Woods back country stove), pot (Stoway 25 dollar pot from MEC)...
For camping I spent 1316.67 over the trip. That includes 6 nights at a hostel, one 100 dollar motel night, 2 50 dollar nights at a KOA. This averages to about 24 dollars a night. I've had around 10 stealth camp episodes and a couple of times I was invited to stay at a person's place. I had a few provincial campgrounds that charge a LOT of money (almost 40). I prefer campsites as I enjoyed showers, water and lack of ticks. I did not use Warmshowers. If I had biked with someone I could probably cut this even more - I felt more safer stealth camping with another individual. I believe one could drop this figure considerably if biking with someone and a single tent.