Heavy Bike, Light Spirit – Chapter 2 of The Stagecoach-ish 400

Words and Photos by Rie Sawada / Translated by Vanessa Bowman

Arranging your items on the floor can help you decide what to take (and what to leave) for a 7 day trip.

Heavier and more fun

Here’s the reality, no matter how much you choose to ditch, a week’s worth of gear is probably not going to be light. If it’s going to be heavy anyway, why not make sure you have everything you need to really enjoy the ride? I’m very intentional with the items I choose; if it will improve my experience, it’s worth carrying. Aside from the essentials, you’ll have to decide what matters to you most. If you’re a photographer, you’ll want to bring your camera. If you’re an artist, you would never leave your pens and paper behind. When I’m spending long days in the saddle, sleeping under the stars and savoring a respite from the bustle of everyday life, having something to share with friends means the world to me. This is what makes my spirit lighter.

When traveling by bike, there are few things better than brewing a delicious cup of coffee for my companions. My kettle and grinder might be heavy, but they’re the right tools for the job. My favorite beans come from Elevator Coffee in Portland, roasted by my dear friend Jay. A classic pour over, with a paper filter, is the best way to enjoy this high quality craft coffee. I’ve been teased for carrying such “unnecessary” items, but no one is complaining when a tasty cup is uplifting their tired mind and body.

Sharing beautiful meals with friends is another small joy that I won’t compromise on. My Oregon-shaped wooden cutting board might be heavier than a thin, plastic one, yet it’s a prized part of my bike packing kit. Adorned with charcuterie, everyone wants to gather around to take pictures and enjoy the spread.

Tire repair kit + tube
Air pump + CO2
Chainlube & a piece of dirty cloth
Bike lights (front & rear)
Bike lock
Water bottles
Voile straps
Utility cord

HydraPak bag 2L
Water filter and tablet
Backpacking stove + fuel + lighter
.6L pot
Cutting board
Spoon, fork, chopstick
Camp mug
Seasoning kit
Coffee beans, grinder, dipper, filter
1/4 sponge
Kettle (*optional but nice to have)

Waterproof dry bag
Cotton tote bag
Favorite flannel
Wool underwear, socks, t-shirt
Camp hat
Puffy jacket
Puffy vest
Wool base layers (leggings, leg warmer
neck warmer, shirt)
Rain jacket
Waterproof full-fingered groves
Summer mesh gloves
Lightweight sandals

Solar lantern
Mini pump cleaner for camera lens
Portable charger
Mini note + pen
Food + snacks + gummy bears + beers
+ wine + tea
Emergency bar
Emergency bivy

Smartphone with GPS
Garmin or Wahoo bike computer
Toothbrush + toothpaste
Contact rens + a pair of grasses
Sun screen
Lip balm
Wet towel
First aid kit
Toilet paper
#2 mini shovel

Sleeping bag
Sleeping pad
Air pillow
Emergency sheet

Extra battery
USB charger
SD card
Portable power
Rie’s stock Doopo ATB unloaded
Doppo ATB fully loaded

Venture in Style

The pavement comes to an end quickly on the Stagecoach-ish 400. About 75% of the ride is dirt roads, sandy trails and mixed terrain, including a grueling slough through a murky willow grove. I used the Super Yummy tires for the 7 day Oregon Outback, and the 3 day Road to NAHBS 2019, so I knew I could rely on them to tackle this difficult desert trek. In fact, out of the eight riders in our group, a total of three chose the Super Yummy tires. What an endorsement!

A trip like this is the perfect opportunity to give SimWorks products a rigorous field test. In addition to the Super Yummy tires, I tried to use as many SimWorks products as possible. Due to my short stature, I needed a custom XXS Doppo ATB. I used the  SimWorks On the Road Rear Rack to keep my favorite Makeshifter Outback Saddlebag stable and clear of my rear wheel. The Outer Shell Rack Bag fit perfectly on my Obento Rack, and their Half Framebag rounded out my gear storage. Though it may be small, it was perfect for snacks, a bike maintenance kit and other emergency items.

Blake was using HydraPak too.

For a ride in the desert, ensuring you have enough water is crucial. We had to plan ahead for the longer distances between water stops. Blake and I both used the HydraPak, which can hang from your saddle rails or handlebars, and can carry up to 2L. My HydraPak ended up being a somewhat comedic accessory, after I dropped the cap somewhere on day 1 of our trip. Luckily, the newest version has been updated to prevent this from happening!

Captain Jason’s set up.

Jason’s bike set up was super light weight even he carried a cast iron skillet to cook some breakfast bacon for everyone …

Jason has led the Stagecoach-ish 400 for four years in a row, and used to ride a SyCip bike that he owned over 20 years. This beloved bicycle was stolen shortly before the trip, and he replaced it with a used titanium frame that he built up with carefully selected components. He was adamant about using 26” Super Yummy tires, and was absolutely enamoured with them after the ride. Jason also opted for an Outer Shell Half Framebag.

Blake’s set up

With eight members on our crew, there were many different packing styles represented. Blake’s rigid Velo Orange frame, equipped with 27.5” Super Yummy tires, was stylish and meticulously organized. He had a front basket on his Obento Rack, and used the Outer Shell Pico Panniers and Half Framebag.

Kyle’s Falconer MTB with suspension fork.

I was interested in Kyle’s set up. Kyle, the owner of Outer Shell, had perhaps the lightest setup out of our whole group. His Falconer hard tail mountain bike was minimally loaded, and well organized with his Drawcord Handlebar Bag, Pico Panniers, Mini Saddlebag and Stem Caddy. After consulting the weather forecast, Kyle made the bold decision to leave behind his tent, and sleep on a lightweight Tyvek tarp. In the end, nature always makes her own plans, and we endured two nights of rain. Luckily for Kyle, we were sheltered under the covered outdoor seating of a bar with rats when a storm rolled in, and we made it to Bailey’s Cabin when it rained for the second time. Since the cabin already had other visitors, Kyle monopolized the remaining space inside while the rest of us tested the waterproof-ness of our tents.

When a trip like this has ended, sometimes the harshest conditions make for the best memories. The difficulty of a journey sharpens the beauty of the recollection.

Perhaps I do carry too much; my bike was the smallest and somehow the heaviest, but I always found joy in our morning chorus of “Pack It Right!