Ready for Mexico

As you may recall, I had tire trouble during my six week tour of the Western US in August/September. Two tires split apart at the bead after very little mileage. One of the first things I did when I got back to Denver was to weigh everything, and it was astonishing. I weighed 220 lbs, my bike (empty) weighed 36 lbs and all my gear weighed a whopping 100 lbs, for a total weight on my tires of 356 lbs! No wonder they split open. I called the company and confirmed they are not designed to carry that much weight. So that mystery is solved.

But I could not get confirmation from other manufacturers what their maximum design weight should be for a given tire. So I found several tires that were supposedly super strong and bought four, one each from Surly, Maxxis, Schwalbe and WTB. I am going to try each in turn and see which one lasts the longest.

I also looked for ways to reduce my load. I examined every piece of kit I carry and decided I can eliminate some things or replace them with lighter things, so I hope that will reduce the weight by several lbs.

But some things cannot be discarded. I’ve realized that biking on remote gravel roads requires me to carry extra water. On paved roads you are usually no more than 30-40 miles from a gas station or convenience store, so you only need to carry water for several hours. But where I’ve been going I often need to carry water for two whole days and a night. That’s about 2 1/2 gallons. Then, because of the heat, I usually buy a bag of ice that I keep in a small cooler. A gallon of water weighs about 8 1/2 lbs, and ice comes in 5 to 8 lb bags, so when I load up in the morning for a two day ride I’m carrying up to 25 lbs of just water and ice.

Now, a lot of that gets used up throughout the ride, so that at the end of the 2nd day I may end up with only 1/2 gallon of water and no ice. But in the beginning all that weight places a strain on the tires, and on me.

By the way, that 100 lbs of gear I mentioned earlier includes food and all that water. If I eliminate that, my gear weighs only about 60 lbs. Still a lot by some standards. But I’ve had a lot of weird failures over the years and now carry spares or tools to mitigate those problems. For example, I now carry a spare pump, because my pump failed one time and I had to walk my bike several miles to get a tire inflated.

I also carry a chain link remover tool in case I need to shorten or adjust my chain. I carry this because I once had a chain link break and I had to repair it. I also had my rear derailleur break twice, which required me to remove several links from the chain and ride the bike as a one speed. Here’s the chain link tool which weighs several ounces.

Here is a photo of all my gear. Basically, food goes in the front left pannier, Cooking gear, stool and misc. stuff in front right, clothes, tools, spares in rear left, and cold weather gear, emergency supplies, water filter, spare tubes, and tent in rear right. Sleeping bag goes on top of rear rack. Sleeping pad and ice goes on front rack. Camera, wallet, gloves and headbands in handlebar bag.

Anyhow, I also bought a new tent, a new inflatable sleeping pad, and several other new items, so I am about as ready to go as possible. I will leave for Mexico from Phoenix on October 28. Here is my intended route.

I was planning on cycling more in the interior this time but as I will be there in the middle of winter the weather at higher elevations will be too cold for me, so I will stick to the coast again. I’ll be gone from November to January, 2022, about three months. I’ll take the bus in a few places for a couple reasons: one, I’ve already cycled a lot of this route and don’t care to retrace my steps. Two, I need to be in Merida by January and I would not be able to get there in time if I cycled the whole way. Finally, parts of Mexico are still dangerous due to the narco traffickers and its safer to bus through those areas.

Stay tuned for updates from Mexico!