These companies have graciously supported our journey(s) by equipping over the past couple of years.
We try to get a lot of our equipment used from friends and from thrift stores and the occasional sidewalk. Check out craigslist.org and freecycle.org the next time you think you need some stuff. And try not to get too caught up—the most important thing is to set out riding! We’ve seen people touring on a Huffy with a big backpack…
Xtracycle. Makes the “bikes” that make the journey doable and enjoyable. There are many ways to carry a load on a bike—trailers, tricycles, panniers, and backpacks are the most popular—but none could carry the loads we have on the roads we’re riding, not to mention with comfort, style, and extreme modularity. The “longtail” long wheel-based load carrying bicycle is the transportation of choice for the bicycle revolution, making bikes more fun and 10x more capable while making the city car virtually obsolete. Xtracycle makes a kit called the FreeRadical that attaches to the bike you already own to convert it into a long wheelbase load hauler. They also make accessories for use with Surly’s Big Dummy LongTail. Besides the basic LongTail kit, we also use the DryLoader for keeping everything not just dry but handy, and the KickBack for superior loading ease and human power shenaniganationisms.
Rock the Bike. Constantly raising the bar in the creation of a hip and expanding bicycle culture, this outfit makes really sweet neon cloud lights by day, and the company’s frontman raps succinct yet extravagant paeans to the two-wheeled thing by night. Paul Freedman, AKA Fossil Fool, builds sicko music bikes for himself and other bike music innovators and helped us in the creation of ours. We dropped by his shop on our way through Berkeley on tour number one to make some special connectors that allow us to use our Lithium Phosphate batteries to power the Down Low Glow and our JBL speakers. Since then, we’ve upgraded our human power system to enable us to power the DLGs without batteries, while cruising. For the latest tour, we got some more lights, all “envy” color, and cruise in one big pack of carpeted green street. If you find yourself in the Bay Area, do not miss the opportunity to cruise with the Fool.
Clif Bar. One of the most progressive companies out there, trying to do good in the world. We tried to come to consensus on favorite flavor, but we all like different ones. Hemp brownie, fruity shot blocks, and mojo are all favorites. One person even loves the Builder Bar, but everyone else thinks it’s gross. Clif was also the only company we accepted financial support from. Their family foundation gave a generous grant to support publicity for the tour and cargo bicycling.
Mono Cases. Challenge: carry a fragile wooden instrument on your bike up the side of a volcano in Mexico off road in a thunderstorm and then bust it out as soon as the sun shines through. For months and months and months. It needs to be mega-protected, yet the protection can’t weigh too much and can’t make it take so long to get to your axe that you refrain from taking it out of the case when an old man on the corner asks for a song. Hard cases are too heavy and they aren’t waterproof. Soft cases lack protection and they aren’t waterproof either, so both need to be put into drybags if it’s wet. But drybags are heavy and just one or three more steps between you and your music. On the first Pleasant Revolution, Kipchoge’s bike fell over in a windstorm and landed on top of his guitar–in its soft case. After the tour, searching for waterproof instrument cases, the group came across perhaps the holy grail, the ultra-rugged waterproof soft case by Mono.
SRAM. We need dependable brakes and drivetrains that work and last while driving big loads around the planet. Their Avid BB7 mechanical disc brakes revolutionized disc brakes with ease of adjustment, and are the ideal stoppers for our needs, and for anyone who likes to stop quick and doesn’t like to futz with brakes every couple of days.
Ergon. They invented a new kind of grip that supports the flat of your hand and makes riding more comfortable. We love, love, love them. Besides the Xtracycle, it’s probably the part on our bikes that the most people want to know where to get.
Surly. We’re using two of their newest bike frame, the badass Big Dummy. Surly is known for making bomber frames, which makes them perfect for our rather huge loads. The Big Dummy is the first production LongTail bike frame that’s compatible with all the Xtracycle accessories. Surly people are planetary cool and their bikes rock. Here’s a really weird video about the Big Dummy that Kipchoge uses:
Klean Kanteen. Plastic water bottles pretty much suck. They either taste like plastic or contaminate your insides with poisonous plasticizers, or both. Klean Kanteen makes stainless steel bottles that solve the problem. And now they have cool powder coated flair to match your ride.
Ortleib. Known primarily as a pannier maker, they also make many different sizes of drybags. We all use two of the dry duffels, one in each FreeLoader. This size leaves a little room at the end of the FreeLoader for stuffing an extra waterball or shed clothing. Though it hasn’t hardly rained, drybags are the perfect way to keep stuff clean, too. The duffel style is especially appropriate for Xtracycling because you can get stuff in and out of your bag without even undoing your FreeLoader. It is not necessary to close the duffel unless it’s actually wet outside. We also chose these particular duffels because they aren’t made out of PVC, the most common drybag fabric and the most evil of chemicals.
Giant. The world’s most sophisticated bicycle manufacturer. Their vertical integration enables them to imagine, design, and make pretty much any shape of bike they want to, at a good price.
Nutcase. Styley helmets. No one seems to get how important that might be. These guys do, and they have a whole bunch of sweet designs to prove it.
Worldbike. The non-profit organization that is sponsoring our trip, Worldbike works to bring load-bearing bikes to the people in the world whose livelihoods can be most stoked by them. We’re trying to help spread the gospel of load-bearing bicycles to Mexico, where they seem to be more on their way out than in.
Hoss. Great people, cool shorts and knickers with and without padding.
Ahnu. A shoe company trying to make shoes with as little environmental impact as possible. And they’re waterproof, distinctive looking, ass kicking bike shoes. We needed one pair of shoes that could work for riding, running, climbing, and dancing; these are the ones.
Chaco. Most of us ride in flip flops. This Colorado company—known for their sport sandals—makes the toughest ones we’ve found. They’re also trying to minimize the impact of their shoe making.
Marmot. It hasn’t rained yet, but when it does, we look forward to donning their superlight waterproof pants. As with fenders, having raingear seems to keep it from raining.
MSR and Cascade Designs. Thanks to our friend Timmy O’Neil for sharing his MSR sponsorship with us. Gracias to his generousity, we ended up with the Hubba Hubba, perhaps the most satisfying tent to put up of all time. It only has one pole! And what a cool pole it is, somehow miraculously having 6 ends! And the tent seems to weigh about half of what many 2 person tents do.
Adidas Eyewear. Polarized lenses to cut down on glare; cool frames to make you feel cool.
Planet Bike. Certainly in the running for the best company in the bike business, these guys give a quarter of their profits directly back to bicycle advocacy. Consider that most companies give only 1–2% of their profits to charity and even the really good ones like Patagonia give only 10%. Planet Bike makes lots of good stuff for everyday riders, including blinky lights and great fenders. We’re all equipped with said fenders.
Park. Make the tried and true tools that shops use to fix your bike. They also make multi tools that we’re using to cure most of our ills, and an awesome semi-complete set of tools that comes in a backpack. We ultimately decided not to bring the backpack because of the weight, and we ended up regretting not having a couple things, especially a chain whip and cassette tool for replacing drive-side spokes.
QBP. You probably won’t be buying anything from them soon, but your bike shop probably will. They’re the biggest, friendliest, likely greenest, certainly smartest, and hands down most together distributor in the industry. Thanks, Steve!
Schwalbe. Germans who make what appear to be the sturdiest touring tires around. We’re using the Marathon XR, which have tread on the sides for dirt and gravel but also have an almost totally continuous center strip for lowered rolling resistance. They also have beefy sidewalls, which makes them perfect for the generators we’re rubbing against them.
Big Agnes. Small Colorado company that makes an innovative sleeping bag. They figure you don’t need the down on the bottom, you need it on the top—as long as you stay on your insulative pad. So, they put a pocket for the pad underneath you; you don’t roll off the pad, and the insulation goes on top where it’s needed.
Artisana. It doesn’t make too much sense to bike tour with glass jars, but the raw, organic, kindy kind nut butters these geniuses concoct are too tasty to leave behind. We eat the coconut butter by the sporkful.
Doctor Kracker. These are the best crackers in the world.
Boiron. Maybe you’ve figured out that many medicines don’t work as suggested, or worse, have side-effects. For some maladies, nothing seems to beat homeopathy. Boiron makes some remedies that seem to cure miraculously, and because they’re essentially just sugar pills, they have no side effects. (For the sceptics out there, many of these remedies have been proven effective in double-blind placebo controlled studies.) Sportenine is a pill that you can take before a day of expected physical exertion, like when you’re going to ride your 200-pound bike over an 8,000 foot hill in the sun. It makes you not get sore. And if you actually injure yourself, Arnica is positively miraculous at promoting fast healing of sprains, strains, and bruises. There are homeopathic remedies for most any illness, including many that Western medicine has no clue about how to treat—like colds, for instance.
Cane Creek. When you ride bumpy and you don’t have a full suspension bike, try the Thudbuster. It works as advertised.
MIT Cables. Early in the trip, we were riding down the hill towards Sacramento when we came upon three enthusiastic Xtracyclists claiming to represent and comprise the biking population of the suburban “town” of Rocklin. As it happened, they were waiting to ride with us. We were honored and happy to have some supporters. One of the intrepid riders makes high-tech instrument cables with a secret black box of aural excitement. Now we have a quiver.
Reelight. Imagine a bike light with no batteries that’s a cinch to install and works by magic. Thus is the Reelight—affix a couple magnets to your spokes, use your axle nuts to bolt on the light, and you have a blinky LED that’s always on.
Ovation Guitars. Their high-end axes sound great, play great, stay in tune and can take a serious beating. If you want to bring your nice guitar on the road, by bicycle, in a light soft case, this is the one.
Marin Bikes. Makers of really great and reasonably priced bikes of all kinds, but a specialist in a new breed of city bike trageted towards the everyday rider/commuter.
Whitney Drums. As you might imagine, toting a complete set of drums on a touring bike is easier said than done. In fact, we didn’t even think it would be possible for one person to do it. So, we scoured the ‘net for a set that would collapse like those Russian dolls. Little did we know that we’d find such a set that is one of the best playing and sounding kits available. No compromises in this beautiful set. And, it’s light and compact enough for Dave to carry all the drums, and the stands, and his camping/traveling gear. Thanks, JC!
Brunton. Perhaps our most generous supporter, these radsters make a whole bunch of cool equipment. We use their folding solar panels and charge controllers to charge our Lithium Ion Phosphate batteries for Soul Cycling, to charge laptops and cell phones, and AA batteries for almost every other electric need. We use the 26 Watt panels, which are a great size for spreading over your whole Xtracycle load, and we also have a couple of the iPod size panels. Brunton makes really cool headlamps that are powerful enough for us to also use as headlights for biking, and even stage lights. We chose their multi-fuel stoves for cooking and simmerability, stormproof lighters for firing in the wind, binocs for whale watching, and 2-way radios for communication on the road. Last but not least, the titanium spork! Humble, useful, and always accessible with its own integrated clip. It has become one of the most used, loved, and fought over things on the adventure.
Diskmakers. Replicates CDs fast and reliably and has great prices and some environmental packaging options. We tried to get them to use unbleached recycled paper (not just recyclable.) We’ll keep trying and we hope you do, too. That´s usually what makes companies change.
Blue Bear. Merino wool is the best cycling wear. It doesn’t stink and keeps you warm, even when rainy or sweaty. These radsters make cool merino tights that you can use for your only thermals, skiing or biking or just chilling in the fridge.
No Enemy. There is no other shirt maker who cares as much about how his shirts are made and what they’re made of than the artist behind these 100% organic cotton Ts, hoodies, and pants. An eco-clothing maker that others may aspire to emulate. The only clothing more eco is thrift or naked.
New Belgium Brewing Co. Not literally equipment, but a damn good place to drink your beer. Eco and employee conscious brewers of Fat Tire and other tasty treats. Supporters of most every good cause and promoters of the Tour de Fat, a lovely mix of beer, music and bicis.