It’s Christmas eve, and the night before I head off on a big bike packing adventure. I’ve let off a kit grenade in the living room and am methodically rearrange kit into piles for each of the bags on the bike, one for the front, one for the frame bag, and another for the saddle bag.
Each pile grows far bigger than the volume of the bag it’s intended to go on, and one by one I pick up each item and ask myself “Can I do without this?”. It’s now the second time I’ve gone through the piles of kit, each pass being more ruthless than the last until I’m happy I can get everything in the bike bags. I carry 3 crates of stuff down to the bike and humming the Tetris theme in my head, have a 3d game of tetris with the stuff I’m taking. Trying to work out a balance between making everything fit, and having stuff accessible in the order I’ll need it. As I close the final zip, sealing in the food, clothing and shelter for 5 days of winter bike packing, something said on a podcast enters my brain and I can’t shed it. “When packing for a trip. You end up carrying your fears”. I can’t remember now which podcast it’s from, either the Paul Kirtley podcast or the Tough Girl podcast, but as it sit there looking at my bike I say it out loud. “You end up carrying your fears”.
In this light I go over my packing list in my mind once again. What fears am I carrying? Getting lost isn’t one of them, other than my phone and the bike gps I don’t have any mapping. Not fearing dirty, smelly clothes. I’ve got just one set beyond the one I’m wearing. So what is taking up the bulk of my bags?
Food, water, sleeping bag. The later fills a 13l dry bag on the front handlebars in its own right. 990g of down filled goodness, light, but bulky. There’s also a 5l dry bag on the fork dedicated to my Paramo Torres insulated jacket. I’ve had hypothermia in the past, it’s not fun, and both consciously and unconsciously I’ve definitely packed to prevent it.
On my Brompton trip in Luxembourg a few years back I had really bad dehydration and heat exhaustion that resulted in aborting the trip at the halfway point. I’ve got 2.6L of bottles and a further 900ml in a water bladder. It’s bulky, it’s heavy. Maybe I can get away with less, but do I want to risk it?
So food? My adventure starts on Boxing day (26th December) and the plan for the first day involves cycling across the Ardennes, day 2 I enter Luxembourg, in theory it’s a normal business day, but experience tells me that shops in the Grand Duchy are few and far between. So I carry more gorp, a Christmas cake, extra mars bars. Even now doing the maths I know I don’t have enough calories for the amount of effort I’m expecting to need. 100km a day adds 2500+ to the recommended 2000 calories baseline for an adult woman. 4500 calories is about 18 mars bars. I have six, one per day, and one as emergency anti bonk rations. I’m gonna have to rely on my ample internal resources to have enough energy to make this work. But still my frame bag is just food. There’s a 3l bag on the handlebars with food, cookset and eating implements. The food is second to the water in terms of weight. My fears are heavy. My fears are hungry.
So I sit here, looking at my bike, loaded with everything I think I’ll need, everything I fear I’ll need. And hope it will be enough. You carry your fears. Fear is heavy.