An obligatory page for gear geeks


1924 ad for a London bicycle shop

1924 ad for a London bicycle shop

“The truth is that each man in selecting his outfit generally follows the lines of least resistance. With one, the pleasure he derives from his morning bath outweighs the fact that for the rest of the day he must carry a rubber bathtub.”
— Richard Harding Davis, Notes of a War Correspondent, 1897

I’ve posted a new page called “Gear.” It’s an obligatory page for gear geeks who like to know what sort of rig a cyclist might use for a transcontinental journey. Others might find it a monumental bore. So if you’re not very interested in panniers and V-brakes, headsets and derailleurs, just skip that page.
Also, I’ve learned that personal preference plays a large role in the selection of a bike and its accouterments.
Touring cyclist cartoonSome riders, for example, prefer clipless pedals, which attach to the shoe with a cleat in the sole. Others, like me, never learned to use them and fear toppling over at a dead stop because they can’t extract shoes from pedals. I’ve seen that happen, and it can be very embarrassing.
I’ve also seen the cleats for clipless pedals get so clogged with mud from walking around in a wet campgroud that the rider can’t clip in without a thorough cleaning of the cleat.
So I use “toe clips,” the plastic or metal cage-like devices that attach to a pedal for the foot to slide into.
Both systems are designed to provide more leverage with each turn of the crank. And both work just fine, depending, of course, on the rider’s preference.
Some self-contained riders choose to carry their gear in panniers, which are like saddle bags that attach to racks at the front and rear of the bike. Others prefer trailers that attach to the bike’s rear axle. I’ve never used a trailer, so I offer no comparison.
As I was preparing the “Gear” page, I was reminded of a book called Notes of a War Correspondent, by Richard Harding Davis, an American who covered wars around the world in the late 1900s and early 20th century for U.S. and British newspapers.
He wrote in the book’s last chapter, “A War Correspondent’s Kit,” that each person’s kit, or personal equipment for a trip, is a highly subjective matter.

Davis, kitted out for the Spanish-American War

Davis, kitted out for the Spanish-American War

“I have seldom met the man who would allow anyone else to select his kit, or who would admit that any other kit was better than the one he himself had packed,” Davis wrote. “The same article that one declares is the most essential to his comfort, is the very first thing that another will throw into the trail.
“A man’s outfit is a matter which seems to touch his private honor. I have heard veterans sitting around a campfire proclaim the superiority of their kits with a jealousy, loyalty, and enthusiasm they would not exhibit for the flesh of their flesh and the bone of their bone.
“On a campaign, you may attack a man’s courage, the flag he serves, the newspaper for which he works, his intelligence or his camp manners and he will ignore you; but if you criticize his patent water bottle he will fall upon you with both fists. So, in recommending any article for an outfit, one needs to be careful.”
On the subject of gear, The New York Times ran today a story on 10 gadgets for the frugal traveler, some of which would probably be of use to a cross-country cyclist.

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Filed under Americana, Cycling across America, Literary musings

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