It’s been ages since I updated The Gear page properly so on a rainy autumn weekend with yet another typhoon approaching I thought now would be a good time. I’m going to divide it into 5 sections: The bike, Clothing, Sleeping, Tech Gear, and Other. This is not a website devoted to equipment. You can find those websites all over the web. Just use what suits you best or what you already have. Just maybe, however, you are interested in the gear I use when cycling on a multi day trip in Japan. If you are then read on. On a side note, none of the links are affiliate links. I get no money if you click on them.
The Bike – Curve GXR titanium frameset/SRAM components/Hunt Wheels
In May 2018 I decided to ditch the Fairdale Weekender Drop and switch to a Curve GXR. The Fairdale had to go after I realized I was carrying around way too much unnecessary weight for riding in the mountains of Japan. I’d had the Fairdale for three years and decided that the style of riding I could do on it was exactly the kind fo riding I wanted to continue doing. So it was time for an upgrade. I wanted a bike that would last forever. Seriously. I don’t want to buy another frame ever (maybe with the exception an e-bike when I hit my mid-seventies but I don’t have to worry about that for a few more decades).
So I bought a Curve GXR titanium frame and put the components and wheels from the Fairdale on it.
The Curve GXR is superb. Honestly, I can’t think of one thing I don’t like about it. I’d been eyeing one for a couple of years after I immediately bought into Curve’s philosophy on cycling when I saw the first Race to the Rock event in 2016 but held off because I couldn’t justify a new bike after recently buying a new MTB (my older MTB was 17 years old). I bought the frame in May and immediately built it up and took it back to the U.K. where I rode it on sketchy English country lanes, along the Birmingham – Worcestershire canal and up the Lickey Hills in south Birmingham. I also rode it to Snowdonia in central Wales on gravel and pavement and it was great. I’ve taken it to the rainforests and dirt farm tracks of northern New South Wales and southern Queensland in Australia, I’ve commuted on it regularly, and of course I’ve taken it bike packing here in Japan. It hasn’t missed a beat. It’s handled everything that I’ve thrown at it with ease.
Hunt 4 Season Gravel Disc Wheels – I have mixed feelings about these. The rims, the weight, the value for money are all good. The free hub isn’t. I’m on my second one and it’s already making a weird noise (again). I know two other people in Japan that have had Hunt wheels and they’ve also had problems. I won’t be changing them though unless there’s a major problem as it’s still cheaper to replace the ratchet every now and then that it would be to buy a new wheelset.
SRAM Force/Rival mixed Hydraulic groupset with Wolf Tooth chainring – Great. I run a 42 – 11/46. Never had any problems except for my recent purchase of some cheap brake pads from Amazon.jp. The cheap pads are great for scaring away bears and wild boar, not so good for braking. Lesson learnt.
Tyres – Vittoria Terreno Dry. I switched from Schwable G-One 38mm to these and I prefer them.
Jerseys – A mixture of Rapha and Road Holland jerseys. I have a pretty large collection as the differences in climate between the seasons in Japan can be quite extreme. I was riding in -6C in January and 40C+ in late July/August. Unfortunately Road Holland are no longer in business.
Jackets – I have a Rapha brevet gilet (yellow) which I like as it’s extremely visible but doesn’t seem to be available for purchase now, a Cumulus Windy Wendy windbreaker that Jesse Carlson from Curve swears by and I also thing is a no-brainer as it’s so small and light, a Mont Bell gore-tex rain jacket that I wear when it’s raining heavily and the temperature is below 20C or so as any hotter and I sweat like crazy, and a Rapha rain jacket that I use to take out the rubbish in the morning as that’s the only thing it’s good for. The Mont Bell jacket is hiking specific but if I’m riding in the rain I’d rather wear something substantial that keeps me dry and is fairly breathable compared to a cycling rain jacket. The Rapha jacket looks good but it is neither waterproof, weatherproof, or breathable. A complete waste of money. To be honest, I’ve been riding since my teens and I have never found a cycling specific rain jacket that is any good.
Shorts – Sportful bib shorts underneath Rapha touring shorts, because I don’t want to look like an idiot on the train, and the extra pockets are always handy.
Waterproof Trousers – Mont Bell gore-tex trousers that are fine so long as it’s not too hot.
Shoes – A pair of Shimano MTB shoes for winter, and some lightweight and more breathable Pearl Izumi ones for summer.
Bivy – Pneuma Bivy Tyvek from Locus Gear. Made out of Tyvek it’s light, strong, and breathable.
I use a cheap one man tent occasionally during colder weather.
Sleeping bags – Two Isuka sleeping bags. One light for summer, and a winter version that is good down to 0C or thereabouts. They are bright green and make me look like a giant lettuce leaf which I suppose is camouflage.
Mattress – Puromonte inflatable mattress. Again it’s fairly light, reasonably priced and comfortable enough.
Cycling computer – Wahoo Elemnt. This is my second one after the battery died on the first. It was still under warranty so Wahoo replaced it for free. I prefer it to the Garmin 510 I was using previously. Everyone knows about buggy Garmin units so no need to go on about them here.
Phone – iPhone SE. When bike packing I use my phone for messaging, uploading rides to Wahoo, and checking where I am if I get lost with the Ride With GPS app. Occasionally I’ll use it for Instagram stories or photos. That’s about it. I don’t need a bigger, faster phone. The SE is light and small and does everything I want it to do. Sure, I wish it was waterproof but I put it in a dry bag to keep it safe. I might upgrade next year but I’m not sure. I don’t usually use the camera as I have my Lumix with me when I go bike packing.
Camera – Lumix GX8 with a Leica DG Vario 12-60mm f/2.8, a LUMIX 45-200 f/4-5.6, and a Lumix Leica 15mm f/1.7. I usually leave the15mm lens at home. Micro four-thirds is dead… If you say so. I rarely shoot in low light, couldn’t care less about bokeh and shooting wide open so the GX8 is perfect for how I shoot. Why haul around big and heavy full-frame gear when micro four-thirds does the job? The body and 3 lenses combined weigh just over 1 kilogram. When the price drops I might upgrade to a Lumix G9 but that’ll be a purchase based on pure camera lust, not practicality. The GX8, for my purposes, is perfect.
Update 2018/11/09 – I now have a Lumix G9 as well.
Camera bag – If the weather is clear I won’t use a camera bag, I’ll just have the camera over my shoulder. If it might rain I will usually take a Think Tank Photo Turnstyle 5 shoulder bag or a Mind Shift Photo Cross bag. I prefer carrying the camera and lenses over my shoulder as I hate to think what all the road vibrations would do to the internals of the lenses otherwise.
Power – An Allimity 10,000mAh capacity battery pack. It was reasonably priced and had decent reviews on Amazon.jp.
Wolftooth B-Rad Medium Strap and Accessory Mount – This fits next to one of your bottle cages and is very useful. I usually strap my Mont Bell rain jacket in it.
Woho frame bag – Awful. I don’t use it unless I really have to. The internal divider started developing holes after only a couple of weeks and that was while I was commuting.
Woho top tube bag – It’s light, cheap, and does the job. No complaints.
Blackburn Outpost seat bag – Again, this is fairly cheap, is easy to attach and does the job. No complaints.
Salsa Anything Cage – I keep my inflatable mattress in this and it works fine. It’s handy that the carbon forks on the Curve are specifically designed to attach the Salsa cage.
Fairmean Speed Rando handlebar bag – A ridiculously light and simple handlebar bag for packing essentials. I use it mostly for clothes that I keep inside some Sea-to-Summit dry bags.
Mont Bell bike bag for Japanese trains – This does the job and is easy to use. It also doubles as a ground sheet for sleeping.
Other bags – 1L/2L Sea-to-Summit dry bags for clothes and electrical gear.
That’s about it.