Guest blogger and musician Ben Sollee is contributing a series of articles from the road about his Ditch the Van tour. He's traveling by bike, unsupported, throughout New England.
GearThe ﬁrst ride day of our Ditch the Van tours by bicycle are often challenging. In the 3,200 miles of touring over the last three years, we’ve discovered success centers around working with the right gear. The number one question I’m asked about the music tours by bike is, “How do you haul the cello?” Well, the key is having the right gear.
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Day 1: Newport, RI to Fall River, MA (28 Miles)
I ride a Surly Big Dummy utility bike. It’s a 40+ pound bike with mountain bike gearing and massive hauling potential. Using Xtracycle’s longtail modular loading system, the Big Dummy can easily carry around 200 pounds. It’s a comfortable touring machine considering it’s designed to be a human-powered urban assault vehicle. But, you’ve got to take care to balance your pack and watch your tire pressure to maintain stability.
Now, I used to use the more casual toe clips but more recently I’ve clipped in. As someone who was a skeptic, I am now adamant that they are essential for efﬁciently trucking a lot of weight. And more than anyone else on this tour the drummer, Jordon Ellis, has recognized their value -- since he is hauling a whole drum kit.
The drums are packed on to a Burley Nomad trailer that Jordon has modiﬁed with high-pressure tires. These help reduce the rolling friction and pick up less debris that can cause time-sucking ﬂats. He also connects the trailer to his steel frame Univega with a homemade frame hitch assembly as opposed to the rather sloppy stock mount that integrates with the skewer. With over 100 pounds of gear on that trailer, it and Jordon get a work out.
Since we choose not to have a support vehicle, our tour manager, Katie Benson, also hauls all the merch. She is using a B.O.B. trailer. I wish we could say it was super solid, but the truth is that it’s a little wobbly and any time she stops it’s a project to secure the bike so the trailer doesn’t pull it over. We actually spent a good portion of the morning trying to fashion some type of kickstand out of scrap wood. We got something to work, but it’s still a little precarious.
When you're hauling lots of equipment it’s really important to invest in robust, high-quality gear.
Follow the whole series here.