I love cycle touring — just love being out there in the world having an adventure.
The questions I usually hear from others is:
Isn’t it scary / unsafe or are you worried cycling as a woman alone? What gear do you take?
I just returned from a 700 km loop, a week in New Zealand’s South Island, a gorgeous ride with over 11,000 meters elevation of climbing, and upon received the above questions. The answer to the first is no. I often find that being a single woman means that people go out of their way to help or to connect with me. Not only does cycling solo provide greater opportunity to connect with the locals, it is also a freeing opportunity to make independent choices.
From Dunedin I stopped not to far from the airport at a small campsite near lake Waihola. It had been pouring rain and the flight landed late so it was already getting dark when I rolled in completely drenched. The kind owner offered me a can a beans from his own cupboard as nothing near would be open for supplies. In the morning I found the owner with two truck drivers in the kitchen (one of whom had never seen a laptop before — asking me if that’s what a computer was!) and we got to chatting about my route. They said I should forget about cycling to the South Island’s most southern end and should instead venture inland towards Queenstown. I took their advice and changed my route and started for Queesntown through Lawson and Cromwell. So glad that I did too — the weather turned sunny (they said it was dependably sunny inland) although all around me was stormy and rain.
Having those kind of exchanges and opportunities to change plans happens more often solo.
As to the second question, I planned this tour in less then two days, and although I packed the night before departure (noting the forecast for rain all week), I was surprised to discover that I had packed just right. I used everything and never felt I needed anything more and my entire bicycle with loaded gear and food was under 18 kg! I have provided a list with review:
I took a road frame so I could cover more distance easily.
A spare tube, multi-tool, pump, and lights. I also packed an Adventure Medical Kit that works for 1–4 people for up to 4 days and has essential first aid (luckily did not use this).
Revelate Designs can fit any bike, are water proof, easy to use and very durable. After years of use — the frame bags are still mint perfect. They are handmade in Alaska too. Essential.
MEC 1.5man seedhouse. Bought it in 2007 when I cycled across the Rocky Mountains in Canada for a wilderness pledge. Tent is light, easy to use, water proof, and still in great condition.
MEC also (Mountain Equipment Company) the 2007 Merlin goes to –10 Celsius and is light and cozy — very happy with it.
Exped SynMat – Not recommended. There are 4 patches and still a tiny hole somewhere. These matts are too thin for practical use. I’d blow it up before sleeping and be near to the ground each morning.
I just took a bowl, spork, knife, and mug. With a week — I could eat one hot meal out or use camping facility kitchens so did not bring our camping stove and pots. I took a bowl so I could do salads, pasta, or cereal — easy. And a World By Cycle mug for tea, hot cocoa and coffee 🙂 The pots and spork are titanium and the the stove can use gasoline so good for on the road.
Packed nuts and fruits, teas, and a few yummy raw bars. There was heaps of fresh roadside fruits — so picked up cherries, peaches, apricots along the way. In town I’d get some pasta or oats and then carry the rest for another meal — but did not carry heaps of food.
I took a 2 litre hydration pack — the Nathan HPL 020 Vest — which fits comfortably and I could keep a could snacks and such in and a MUST HAVE item — the Steri Pen. I did not need the Steri Pen in NZ — but this handy item means one never need buy bottled water again. I used it straight for 5 months — many times a day taking water from streams and taps from around the world and never got sick and never even needed to change the batteries.
I love Patagonia gear. I packed one of their skirts — that can also be a dress and can be casual or slightly dressy. Comfy for the plane and at camp. Also, one cotton Patagonia tee, and a layer system for the cold — Patagonia long johns, fleece R1 zip, nano down jacket, and rain jacket. I took two cycle outfits and washed and dried them by hand in the evening. I had three pair of socks and swimsuit and two sets of undergarments. One pair of gloves, a neckwarmer/hat, and visibility vest. To get at the clothing easily and for extra rain protection — I stored clothing in ziplock bags — this also makes packing tighter too. For Shoes — I just brought MTB shoes and a pair of G Banger Thongs.
Work and Leisure
I still had work at the beginning of the week so brought my MacAir and chargers. I did not bother with our solar power system because I knew I would be within riding distance to cafes or camps. However, for off the track, have used Brunton Solaris in the past. On my touring bike I have a Hub-powered lighting and a USB plug for my phone made by SuperNova in Germany — this is a great system but did not need it for this trip.
Once the work was done I picked up a couple second hand novels. I also had an iPhone which I used for communications, a camera, and entertainment — I enjoy listening to BBC Documentaries and TED Talks while cycling at times. And a waterproof case to navigate (when lost) in the rain! 🙂
That’s it. Total weight with bike and gear was under 18 Kg (means free on flights!). I had everything covered for warm, cold, and rainy weather and the only thing I would change is the sleeping matt.
The road from Queenstown to Wanaka was by far my most favourite — I was so inspired by the majestic mountainous scenery. Then from Wanaka back to Cromwell and from there towards the coast there was little traffic — but many cows and sheep along the way to keep me company. 🙂 From Cromwell I went through Ranfurly and once I arrived at Palmerston, I cycled 22km the wrong way — making the cycle into Dunedin my longest day at 160km — and every moment enjoyed!
Gorgeous week. Highly recommend the trip and feel free to ask any questions about the route, gear, or anything!