Monday, August 21, 2017

Bowen's Tour: Notes on Equipment

Here's commentary on various bike equipment we brought and used or didn't use, that didn't otherwise get a separate review:
  • Cheap bicycle lights. Turned out we didn't ride through any tunnels, and were always done before it got dark. Good thing, since we lost our lights on the 2nd day of the tour. (Probably left in hotel room)
  • Waterproof Kindle. Very useful for playground stops and for bed time reading. I read several books during the tour.
  • Portable charger. Used this during the rest day. Otherwise, not necessary.
  • Arm warmers/leg warmers: didn't need. Weather too warm.
  • Rain gear: used during the rest day when it rained. Occasionally if Bowen got cold, he'd put on rain pants or rain jacket for additional warmth, so this was a good addition.
  • Cheap Multi-tool.  Worked well enough, but lost the chain tool because it's not properly captured. Will probably upgrade to a better designed tool for another tour, or bring a separate chain tool.
  • S&S coupler wrench. Includes pedal wrench, which was very useful when Bowen's pedal fell off.
  • Playstation Vita. Crucial for keeping Bowen quiet while driving the car, or on the train ride back. Since the trip was driven by a location in a video game, it seemed appropriate to have the Vita with us.
  • Bluetooth Headset. This was surprisingly useful, both as a navigation aid (pair with phone and use Google's voice directions), and for calling AirBnB owners when directions were ambiguous.
  • Oakley M Frames. At home I tend to use transition glasses, and they work well. But transition lenses turn dark even when it's cloudy out, and I expected that in England things would be very cloudy out often. Having both clear and dark lenses to switch between was very helpful. Absolutely required equipment for English touring.
  • Shimano T400 Click'r Pedal. On a single kid's bike, clipping in is optional. On a tandem, however, it's essential. These survived the trip. If they hadn't, I'd have had to pay for Same-Day Shipping to replace them. That's how important they are. Enough said.
  • Answer Speeder Cycling Shoes. These are discontinued, but I was lucky enough to buy them used for the trip. They come with laces and velcro, which is insane. The laces are almost understandable, as you need to lace up the shoes so his feet don't fall out since parents tend to buy shoes for children's feet to grow into. But the velcro on top of that was just over-the top. Sure, you need a shield for the laces so they don't get eaten by the chain, but why not just have the velcro, then? In any case, nobody makes shoes small enough for kids when it comes to cycling.
  • Ordnance Survey Maps. Surprisingly, I had these maps in the panniers the whole time and only used them once: to show the receptionist at the hotel at the start of the trip! The rest of the time, I depended on the smartphone and GPS. This was a mistake. Or you might say that I've gone digital native and should stop carrying paper maps.
One of the biggest issues with bringing a kid on tour is that you have to convince him that reducing weight and bulk is important. To do this, I packed the panniers with all our necessary gear, and showed Bowen that there was no room to bring his security blanket, though there was room for his bunny. Thankfully once he saw the panniers and lifted them to see how heavy they were, he was OK with leaving his security blankets behind. Yes, I'm aware that I have an exceptional kid --- you might not be so lucky with yours!
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