Introduction

Here's an ultralight cycling setup that could get you right across the world:
Indian Himalaya
The picture was taken in august 2006 at 4200 m altitude in Indian Himalaya. Fancy it? If yes, please read on. However, if this doesn't seem "self-sufficient" enough for you, you can stop reading and go directly to fullyloaded.

Practically all touring cyclists seem to be weight conscious, both those who cannot survive without 40 kg of luggage, as others, who don't carry much more then a credit card.
In my case, the philosophy behind the light weight style was inspired by frequent breakages of spokes on rear wheel. This happened on second hand bikes of questionable quality, but the idea of weight reduction survived up to today when broken spokes became a very distant, unpleasant memory. I am religiously convinced - which means without evidence - that little weight reduces the number of mechanical problems, decreases energy requirements and fatigue and increases average speed, distance and enjoyment of cycling. It probably decreases off-bike comfort, but it is not me who will point out the disadvantages.

Earlier I wrote some thoughts about weight saving on one cycling forum. Then I made a web page which grew bigger and bigger and eventually got worldwide attention. It's now time to put it in proper format here. The content you will find here is written in sincere and true intention, but although people usually think I am cracked and extremist, I don't take this whole lightweight buisesness too seriously. I'd never let it interfere with the joy of pure cycling. Fortunately, I don't have to: light-weight and cycling stick perfectly together.

Last update: 9.4.2014. See the list of updates in the Updates page.

28 comments:

  1. I'm all in favour of ultralight, although we all have our limits. Mine stops at my Thermarest.

    What do you do in your tent at night? I imagine you lying there, caressing the bubblewrap and trying to resist the temptation to pop it.

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    1. That's the time and place where I enjoy reading my fancy new glow screen e-reader. That has improved my ultralight cycling immensely. Is there any other invention that has helped ultralight cyclists and backpackers that much in recent years? E-ink display was a real 'game changer' (if you like Americanisms) for me!

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  2. No, Jonty, I just sleep. Boring, I know ...

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  3. Crazy and impressive! I managed to cut my luggage weight down to 13kg on a recent trip, and I thought that was light. How do you mange with so few changes of clothes (I didn't see a spare pair of cycling shorts on the list)?

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  4. Hi jt

    I have one pair of shorts and wash them more or less regulary. See what I wrote on the subject of clothes below. Right now I'm in Windhoek on a tour, comming right from the shower, with unwashed pair of shorts (in 6 days) and I'm feelin fantastic.

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  5. wow - I couldn't last for a long bike journey (ie more than 1 year) without a Therm-a-rest!

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  6. Well, who knows, maybe I couldn't last that long either - I've never tried. But bubble wrap has a wonderfull potential: after 1 year on it, your body will go numb and you won't feel anything.

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  7. Really?? You did go to Indian Himalaya? How I wish I could see that beautiful place...lucky you!!!
    Even im still struggling in my weight I would like to have a bike marathon there so that Ill be skinny enough and look to those beautiful mountain view!!

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  8. Terrific post author...I enjoyed it and also hats off to you for your braveness to ride The Himalaya on your bicycle...

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  9. I definitely could not resist popping the bubble wrap!

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  10. It's nice to meet people whilst touring and I don't want to sound disrespectful saying this but with so few clothes you must surely come across as very 'fragrant' to other people if not downright dirty. Do you meet many people on your trips or do you prefer your own company most of the time?

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  11. It's true, I prefer my own company, although, as a cycling tourist you get to meet a lot of people. So far I haven't sensed that I'd been socially handicapped because of the way I dress or smell.

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  12. Thanks for sharing your experience!

    With a set-up like this, what is the general range of distances that you make per day?

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  13. I average from 90 km up to 160 km per day on a tour, counting only cycling days. It depends on lot of things, e.g. daylight, road quality, terrain (hills), motivation, ...

    The longest day on a tour was 286 km in Australia. This year on PBP I made my 24 hours record with light luggage: 533 km, but of course I rode in a group half of the time.
    There's also a minimum: it's 34 km. I was a bit fed up with cycling that day.

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  14. Hi...I have just discovered your blog and find it a very interesting read...I have joined you as a follower.and would like to invite you to do the same over at my own blog: purpletraveller.blogspot.co.uk
    I look forward to reading more of your posts in the future...
    Regards
    Trevor

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  15. The O lock is a relative newcomer to the rank of bike locks and works by locking certain parts of the bike so that it cannot be ridden. The concept is modeled on wheel boots used to clamp illegally parked cars. Because they are compact they are resistant to cutters and hacksaws.

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  16. I wonder whether your tours are more about the challenge than the actual scenery/people/culture. As you tend to do such a large mileage do you find yourself seperated from your surroundings?
    I think you will find the weight savings are easier from somebody with your build. I guess you weigh about 150lbs.
    I weigh about 190lbs and carry very little fat. I therefore need a larger, heavier bike and stronger rear wheel. I'm also still wary about Carbon forks after reading about recent deaths attributed to their collapse so use a heavier steel fork.
    Looking forward to reading about your next tour. Have you any plans?

    Jim.

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  17. Hi Jim,

    Yes, I like to have some "structure" on my tours, some kind of challenge, cycling all the way from A to B or something like that. I think that a challenge saves the tour from falling apart in sequences of cycling and bus trips. I don't think I would enjoy that. But I do enjoy scenary/people/culture, althou I do not engage in it too deeply, I take it "on the fly".
    On a tour I weigh about 70 kg (right now I'm 75 kg).
    I have a plan for this year, althout this year I might have some problems carrying it out. It's Yunnan and Sichuan in China, maybe with northern Vietnam.

    Cheers, Igor.

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  18. After hauling 44 pounds for over 3,000 miles across India last year I vouched to myself never again. It's not just the weight but also the pieces of luggage one needs to take off, whether checking into a hotel or putting up a tent, every day and then carry it back to the bike / strap it back on. Definitely it's time to simplify!! Brilliant Jim!!!

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  19. I've just become interested in touring especially ultralight touring and I was wondering what do you do with your bike while you sleep? How do you prevent it from being stolen while you sleep?

    Thanks

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  20. Thanks for the great blog, very interesting advice. I have one question related to ultralite touring and that is how do you transport your bike when you fly? Also curious about the answer to the question above on bike locks. Just back from short week in france, a friend had one of these for his stuff sac mount, expensive but a nice and quite light design (195g) http://wildcatgear.co.uk/products/seat-packs/

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  21. Hi dominijk,

    Your questions have been aswered in some comments on this blog.
    Flying: see http://iikmisc.blogspot.com/2010/11/packing-bicycle-for-flight.html

    Locks: See post "Other material tips".

    Sleeping: when I'm in hotel I take it to the room or store it in hotel's garrage. When I'm camping I lock it and I put it in front of the tent so I can see it, and so that It touches the tent or I put a guyline throught the wheel.

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  22. Hello! When I was in Scouts years ago, two guys in our troop had jungle hammocks. I'm thinking of looking into that to save weight. They have a roof and mosquito netting. Supposedly they weigh between 4-5 lbs. Just a thought... Mike

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  23. Thanks so much for the great tips. I was inspired to go ultralight on a 400 mile ride around the Olympic Peninsula in Washington. 14 lb of gear on the bike. Shelter was a small cheap tarp over my bivy sack and summer sleeping bag. I wanted to enjoy the cycling, not the camping.

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  24. I don't think iik enjoys the camping that much either. I notice that whenever there is a cheap enough room available he takes it.
    Quite right too IMO.

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  25. :) You're right, I won't miss a good cheap accommodation. But I do like good camping spots too. You'd be surprised how difficult it is to find a good and secluded camping spot - especially in the 3rd world. Much easier in Australia or even Europe.

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