Dan Hoyt

Web developer/designer

No Takebacks: Buildouts

I have so far avoided the passion that many bicyclists have for precise and immaculate care and maintenance. I am not a gear expert, nor a fine mechanic; I am pragmatic about the machine itself. Yet, I obsess over the ecosystem that forms around it. This page is an expanding list of those things, both the historical and the ideal.

Gear and buildout

On early tours, I carried substantial art supplies, redundant essentials, and camping gear fit for a post-apocalyptic scenario. Later tours evolved into efficient, organized, non-redundant buildouts. Sacrifices are unavoidable; indeed, they're the whole point.


Bicycle Drawing of bicycle

Tour bikes are generally built for durability, stability with heavy cargo, field repair flexibility, light offroad capability, and low impact shock absorption. This translates to a steel frame with a long wheelbase, high spoke count (36 is standard for touring, compared to 32 on a typical road bike), accommodation for different kinds of tires, abundant rack mount points, lower speed gearing, and specialty components.

1996: Mountain bike with shocks. Not appropriate, but it worked.
1997: Trek 750(?) hybrid. Excellent.
1998: Same as 1997.
2002: Trek 1000. My bad.
2002: Novara (REI) Randonee. Decent, inexpensive.
2007: Trek 520. Disappointing.
Current: Surly Long Haul Trucker. Truly fine.

Bikes designed for touring are strongly recommended over general purpose road and mountain bikes. If you're on a budget, consider the added cost of a broken frame, a tacoed wheel, or other likely scenarios with a bike not built to the purpose.

Headlight Drawing of headlight

1996: No headlight
1997: No headlight.
1998-current: I used low powered lights for meeting legal requirements, relying on helmet-mounted lights for best situational vision (like noticing the dog chasing you on your flank).
current: I try not to ride in the dark anymore.

Battery life, corrosion resistance, and low theft appeal are more important than beam power. Lumens are overrated.


1996: No taillight.
1997: No taillight. Somehow, I'm still alive.
1998-2007: Inexpensive, low-power headlights and taillights.
2007: Multiple taillights on backpack and bicycle. They're so cheap, why not go big?

There's nothing stopping you from using multiple taillights. The battery life is great, so why not? Also, there ain't no shame in dressing it up like a Christmas tree with other lighting solutions, like reflector bands and wheel decor for kids. Just make sure you aren't shining beams at the motorists behind you.

For the love of all things wheeled, use a taillight. Also… read up on the Moth Effect and take that as you will.

Front rack

My first front rack had separate panels for left and right; only some lovely southern engineering in the field kept one of them from falling off. I used connected racks in tours that followed.

Front panniers

I used a pair of Blackburn panniers on my 97 tour, but the zipper corroded terribly. Other bags have been functional enough but unremarkable. I remember despising the net pockets on the exterior, as they constantly caught on things and there wasn't enough space for anything useful.

When packing panniers, keep moisture sensitive stuff (especially wick-and-bloat fabrics) in sealed bags if you can. Avoid bags with multiple interior pockets and dividers; a single large cavity gives you the most flexibility.

Rear rack

Half of my bikes had racks pre-mounted, and they were always better suited than the a la carte items at bike shops.

Besides the obvious requirements of stability and max load, abundant secure mount points for straps is vital. I don't think I've ever been satisfied with a rack design on this score.

Rear panniers

In 1996, I built my own from army surplus mussatt bags, spraying them with a hiker's water repellent (useless), and also used them for my 1997 tour. Because they were hand-tied, it actually delayed a thief in Pittsburg from opening them. For the rest of my tours I carried a few different brands of commercial panniers that still failed at keeping out water.

Rear panniers should be capacious, which means they're good for bulky items like cool weather clothing. Likewise, don't store small items piecemeal in large bags. You'll waste time digging around finding things.

Cargo straps

I've churned through many cargo straps in touring and commuting.

Long flat stretchy bands are best. Avoid the bungee-style cables you find in big box/hardware stores, as they deteriorate rapidly with drenchings and sun exposure, losing tension or snapping from brittleness. Touring gear may block access to the rack, requiring time-consuming arrangements or awkward mount points.

Cable hooks can come undone and get caught up in your drivetrain or spokes. Always make sure you anchor to secure locations with crossbeams or dedicated holes. Also, cargo can shake loose if you don't have the right muledriver mojo (or even if you do).

Bottle cages

Nothing controversial, just don't get plastic ones.


I keep it within immediate reach, either dangling around handlebar furniture or stuffed into a pannier. I don't mount them on beams of the bike because I often need to carry the rig. Bicycle mounts also tend to be noisy and jangly.

For touring and commuting, get a large u-lock. The longer and wider the shackle, the more objects you can anchor to. This is more than a matter of convenience; it's a critical safety property.

Clipless pedals

The chief advantage of this technology is the added power from the upstroke. The efficiency gain is notable and worth the money, and it somehow feels right, but it takes some breaking in.

1996: Regular pedals.
1997-2007: clipless pedals are standard fare, although I ride with regular pedals as a commuter. It's worth the inconvenience of the cleats making you sound like a drunk tap dancer when you're off the saddle.
current: Regular pedals.

You don't need 'em, but they are nice. Spend some time learning how to adjust them properly so you don't have an embarrassing dismount.

If you encounter some strain as a result of the limited range of movement, find a professional who can help you adjust them. I had knee strain issues the first time I used them, although I can't absolutely say that was the cause.

Maintenance kit

Hex/Allen wrenches

The most important tool for us casuals.

Multitool, general purpose

I carried swiss army knives and a varity of multitools.

Required: knife, saw, pliars, scissors, and screwdriver heads. Victorinox toothpicks give you so much utility, too.

Chain kit

I usually carried a lightweight chain tool and replacement pins/links, but I never carried a spare chain. Fortunately, I've never had to do chain work on a tour. I've replaced chains a couple of times, but not en route.

Flat kit

Staples, nails, mesquite thorns, gnarly twisted chunks of anonymous metal have all done their damage. But not glass, not even running over and shattering bottles now and then—a testament to kevlar, maybe? I've had tubes patched up like clown pants that work fine, but too much action with a hand pump and you can break the seal around the valve stem.

At a minimum, carry tire levers and patches. I still prefer separate glue and friction plates, but most patch kits now come pre-glued. I advise against any liquid like Slime when touring, as this adds substantial weight, and it's messy.

Spare tubes

All of my bikes have used presta valves. You couldn't find presta tubes in regular stores back then, so for trips in remote areas I'd stock up with at least two. On my first tour in a remote part of Pennsylvania, I had to drill out the stem hole in one wheel to accommodate a schrader.

These days it's somewhat easier to find prestas at non-urban stores, but it's also easier to overnight any part from internet retailers.

Lube & cleaner

People have strong feelings on this, but I just use the baseline lube. Sometimes wax-based like White Lightning.

NO spare tire

On my first tour, I replaced two tires, one at the 1500 mile mark followed by a rotation, and again somewhere in the second half. I never carried an extra tire.

I see some touring cyclists doing this but it's supremely awkward and unnecessary if you're in a developed region. However, road quality can get pretty bad when you go off the main venues, especially if you're doing adventure touring.

First aid kit

Itty bar of soap

I usually do soap instead of antiseptic wipes, more from frugal economy than anything else.

Carry in small plastic bag.

Adhesive bandages

I'm pretty sure I've always packed some band-aids, but more as a precautionary measure once I realized that small wounds heal faster without them. Also, when you're dripping sweat, a bandage isn't going to stick. And as you find that out, blood is getting everywhere.

Of course, do carry these for ordinary boo-boos and don't model your behavior after the medical genius in the preceding paragraph.

Gauze and medical tape

A more reliable solution than adhesive bandages. Gauze is better suited to the large surface area of high speed skin contact injuries as well as stupid accidents like slicing your hand while trying to saw open a coconut.

Antibiotic ointment

I've always carried it but rarely used it.


1996: what pain?
1997: I think I wrapped up some aspirin in foil and added it to my homemade medical kit.
1998-current: aspirin and ibuprofen become permanent features of my medkit, but they don't get much use as painkillers. However, I'll treat strain and swelling with ibuprofen in a heartbeat, and the aspirin is for taking down blood pressure.

I am not a doctor. For the love of your health, please get professional medical advice when planning your first aid kit.

Antiseptic wipes

I always carry at least a couple but never use them because I'm needlessly frugal about it.

Personal information, laminated card

Relative contact info, your doctors contact info, medical conditions you have or relevant past conditions, allergies, medicine and dosages, and vaccinations.

I never did this. No reason not to.

This makes sense to live in your medkit and on your person or in your wallet or sexy fannypack.

Honorable mention: multitool

Pliars, tweezers, scissors, knife, saw…Sounds like a portable nurse to me!

Please take the above comment with a grain of salt.

Hygiene kit, male


Hikers have been swearing by Bronner's liquid soap since I started touring, but I have always packed a plastic soap container and some bar soap in a plastic bag. Not a technical topic to drop your nerd anchor on, but someone always does.

You can scrape bar soap to use as detergent.

Disposable razors

Milled or castilian bar soap makes a fine shave cream, but not glycerin or whatever you call mass market soap. I'm not picky but there it is.

Nail clippers

Doubles as wire cutters.

Toothpaste and toothbrush

I never used those toothbrush covers in ordinary travel, but they are helpful in tour packing where everything can get squished together in panniers.

Toilet paper

You've never known desperation until you've wiped your ass with a rock. Don't forget the dang TP. Carry rolled in plastic bag.

Honorable mention: multitool

My grooming go-to on a tour.

Camping kit

Sleeping bag


1996: $20 sleeping bag
1997: budget mummy bag
2002: good quality mummy bag
2007: great quality mummy bag

Obvious stuff: Heat retention, moisture control, durability. Little things that count: Zipper quality and features, zippers that don't get stuck



1996: $20 pup tent
1997: Slightly better pup tent
2002: $200 ultralite tent with very little space
2007: ultralite tent large enough for bicycle to fit inside

Depending on the time of year, you are going to spend some or a great deal of time in your tent. It's worth spending some money on.
Do you want to be able to fit your bike inside? Suggestion: yes, do this.
For warm months, make sure you have multiple windows for cross-ventilation and make sure there are flaps for privacy.
Absolutely buy a groundsheet and rainsheet for your tent, if you can.
Winter weather? Get a four season tent or you may find yourself puzzling over how to extricate it from solid freaking ice, as I once did.

Lantern, LED

Unless you're out hunting or trying to find your keys, lumens are overrated. It doesn't take much light to see everything that you need to see. And then there's the topic of light pollution at night in camping areas, which is a sensitive topic for some of us.

1997-2002: I used an inexpensive candle lantern (tealight powered) with a fuzzy storage pouch. A tealight gives you about 3 hours of light, and I could stack eight or so candles in the pouch. I vaguely remember squeezing in more tealights into random unused corners of panniers and such, which contributed to a yard sale effect every time I re-packed.
2002: I bought a cheap LED lantern (see below) as a primary, but held on to the candle lantern as a backup.
2007: Just a cheap LED lantern with a mirrored plastic backing. Two AA batteries. Enough light to read by. I don't recall the exact duration, but I got several nights of light on a single set of batteries. I was awful proud of that cheap plastic lantern. You can buy an even cheaper variant of them for a buck now in big box stores.

You should never keep an open flame in a tent. My baby hurricane candle lantern with a lid was pretty safe, but it's one of those little risks I would not take if I did it all over again. If I were to tour again, I'd probably have some sort of solar charging station/power bank and a small lantern that could charge from it.

Bedroll pad

I can sleep on just about any surface, but rough gravel and rocky ground are unavoidable on westerly trips in the U.S. The main advantage of the Thermarest is that it prevents body heat from getting suctioned into the ground. It never self-inflated very well, so I had to blow life into it every night, but it kept its pressure well enough across three tours.

1996: none. ouch.
1997: (don't remember)
1998: (don't remember)
2002: Thermarest ultralite

Mosquito repellent

For a very long time, REI's Jungle Juice was my go-to repellent, at 100% DEET. (I think Sawyer retails it now, or maybe they always have). These days Repel makes a lemon eucalyptus DEET-free solution that is safer for contact with synthetic fabrics; I've been using it recently and it's fantastic.

DEET is your friend, unless it isn't. You have a few options if you don't trust the science on this (which has not yet made any connection with DEET and cancer), or if you are cautious about reports of DEET's impact on synthetic fabrics. However, DEET is still the most effective for the longest period of time.


1997—current: I typically carry an assortment of low power flashlights, starting with a tiny maglite and thumb-press LED keylight, working my way up to a handheld LED flashlight and an LED lantern. I've packed numerous variants, such as area camp lights.

As mentioned elsewhere, I don't like high power lights because it adversely affects battery life and gives you very little in return. You don't need to see what's off on the horizon. Most of the time you just need to find something immediately in front of you. If you really want to be efficient, get a headlight that doubles as a flashlight; there are numerous products along this line. And take heart: even the smallest flashlight puts out enough light to bounce off the retinas of bears and mountain lions two hundred feet away. You know, the ones coming for your peanut butter.

Fire tools

On every tour I've carried a redundant assortment of fire-starting tools, starting with a box of matches and a butane cigarette lighter modified for big flames. On the 97 tour, lighters got liberally distributed across kits where they might be needed in a pinch. And just for the novelty of it, I also carried a magnesium starter.

Culture kit

Writing supplies

Pens, pencils, blank postcards, stamps

Ever-present, always a part of my life.

Keep in a plastic bag. Extreme weather conditions can seriously screw up ink pens.


There was a strange phenomenon taking place in the nineties. Plain empty books became hard to find, and were instead replaced by diaries marketed towards someone's dated notion of a teenage girl. They began stamping "My Journal" and flowery bullshit all over the place like European wallpaper, and they manufactured bindings to the lowest possible price point. Painfully, it was difficult to find anything else in bookstores. Would James Joyce have aborted his work in the face of this travesty? Would Hemingway have hastened loading the shotgun? Even before the rise of the internet, the art of journaling was losing its foundation.
Fortunately, Moleskinnes with their lovely smyth-sewn binding began to appear on the market again, and with them a host of similar products. Journaling was saved, at least for a time.
I suspect the gifting value, if not the actual market demand, was to thank. In any case, I stocked up.

I always carried some sort of journal.

Art supplies

1997: I was taking oil painting coursework at the University of Texas, and had spent a small fortune on good quality Dutch oil paints and linen canvas, along with jars of linseed, stand oil, alkyd, turp, some panels and a Juliann paint box for field painting. It was a great idea but Texas in summer is not France in the spring. My 1997 journal entries cover this in detail. All told, art supplies made up about half the cargo by weight.
1998: I carried a streamlined drawing kit this time, but it was still way more than I needed. I was facing an even worse problem than before: one of our hottest summers on record with a fume in the air that made living worthy of hate. Sweat poured out at all hours, ruining the paper and making all the colors run.
2002–present: I refined the color drawing kit to some basics: watercolor crayons and pencils, a small pan of colors, three travel brushes, and a selection of pencils and charcoal, with a fidgety bit of kneaded rubber. I also packed in a watercolor drawing tablet and an ordinary stock tablet.


I've always had one or two. Sometimes, I would sell them and buy others along the way. The winter tours were great for reading, as darkness lasted much longer and most of my campsites were in remote locations. I would probably never have otherwise picked up "Four Famous Greek Plays" and other titles that whim compelled me to buy.

With most phones capable of storing multiple Libraries of Alexandria, I'm not sure anyone needs physical books, but the comfort factor makes it worth the weight.

Clothing kit

Warm weather base kit

The clothing kit starts with basics. Fabric is generally synthetic.

  • Underwear
  • Shirts (athletic jerseys after 1997)
  • Cycling gloves, fingerless gel-padded
  • Short socks
  • Cycling shoes with cleats for clipless pedals
  • Cycling shorts with chamois

Loungewear (Toolin'aroundwear?):

  • Nice shirt
  • Pants
  • Belt (cloth belt after 1998)
  • optional: Sandals
  • optional: Gym or cargo shorts

Washing by hand was unpleasant but sometimes necessary. Drying by hand could be problematic, but it starts with pressing and ends with a "dry cycle" on the rear rack.

I'd by lying if I said I was fastidious about cleanliness while touring, especially towards the end.

Don't ride in cotton. Doesn't take long to shred it.

Cold weather supplement

Check out my Body Heat segment in Observations for some in depth consideration on clothing for winter touring.

  • Thermal underwear
  • Thermal tights
  • Thick fleece top
  • Light synthetic top
  • Windproof vented cycling jacket
  • Cycling cap
  • Long wool blend socks
  • Windproof thermal gloves
  • Hand and foot warmers
  • Rainproof shoe covers

My winter rides were in 2002 and 2007. By the end of the first tour, the coldest it got was about ten degrees at night on the Mogollon Rim. I was drenched repeatedly in Texas. I got snowed on in Texas in December, in the desert, repeatedly, but avoided precip for the rest of the trip.

I don't claim to be an expert on winter riding; I'm still a hot weather rider by heart.
Riding cranks out so much body heat that you can keep your core layers light even below freezing, but extremeties suffer terribly. Toe and finger warmers are essential. Even if you block out the wind and rain, it's every finger for itself when you're gripping on a climb and constricting bloodflow.

Personal kit


Halt! is a high volume, beam dispensing capsaicin sprayer for dealing with aggressive dogs. It is a fraction of the strength of household pepper spray and is a humane alternative, as well as having a longer range.

I carried this on my more recent trips. The only problem is finding it, as it is less commonly available than household pepper spray.

When pursued by packs of aggressive dogs, aim for the pack leader; after he stops, the others will too. At least, this is the case in my experience and at least one published cyclist.

Shameless Fanny Pack

Is there a more maligned accessory? Even velcro shoes have had moments of glory.

1998 and later: I have carried several variations of the fanny pack, but all had a central large pocket in common. Contents were everything in the "Personal Kit" listed here. The utility value exceeds the shame factor by an order of magnitude.

As its name suggests, it rides on the posterior. A regular backpack is a great alternative, although it requires a bit more fuss.


When I started in the 90s, gas station maps were still a thing, but they were unwieldy in windy areas and susceptible to rain. Rigid vinyl maps were my go-to navigation aid until the rise of Google Maps (first used on Windows Phone, 2007). Even then, spotty service in remote areas was a big problem.

If you can keep all of your maps stored offline on a device, that's great, but at least keep a print map somewhere as a standby.

If you are using a print map, be advised that some may have false information used as a sort of honeypot for copyright. And of course, they might just have mistakes. As I learned when I rode stricken with dehydration into a non-existent Texas town in the middle of nowhere.

Personal effects (wallet, keys, ID, and so on)

Never leave them on your bike when you dismount. This is why a fanny pack or backpack is so vital.

Phone & charger

I can't imagine touring without one now, but it wasn't until 2007 that they were capable of actual utility like maps, motel bidding, and blogging.

Until 2007, I never carried a phone on a ride, opting for phone booths instead (back when they were a reliable feature everywhere). If I toured today, I don't think I'd opt for a mount; I would prefer to keep it safe from vibration and exposure, just as I do when I ride casual.

Just keep it out of the sun and rain, and carry it with you when you dismount for popping into the store.
Always, always, always check your motel room before leaving without the charger.

Rain protection

Anything from a plastic poncho to a vented fully body outfit.

1997: plastic poncho. Somewhere between driving wind and rain, the poncho gets lifted and thrown all around while the rain has its way with you. Even in a light rain with no wind, clothing that hasn't been secured will reach out and wick every drop it can get. And if you lock out the rain, you trap in your own moisture, with similar effect.
1998: rain jacket pants. An improvement over a rain poncho, but rife with its own set of problems. Not the least of which is that you sound like a team of cattle wearing track suits—all plastic swishy sounds, and that unshakable flimsy feeling that goes with it. More importantly, pants not designed for bicycles wear out at contact points very quickly.
2002—current: vented rain jacket, rain pants for bicycling. By 2007 I had a winterproof rain kit but I was riding in the middle of a drought. It didn't come down till I made Texas, and by then it was mild enough outside that I didn't even wear the gear.

Camera (any kind, phone included)

1997–2002: I carried one disposable camera at a time. Most of the pictures were just uninspiring, and I never took pictures of myself.
2007: My Windows Phone had a camera on it. I took a handful of useless photos, and I remember feeling embarrassed when I took a selfie in a state park in Virginia. I've never shaken the vanity of smiling even when no one is behind the camera. GenX problems.

Music player (pre-phone era), headphones

1997: Walkmans were the only option for music on the go, as mobile CD players skipped terribly. I had a cassette player and a few tapes, and switched up random music en route from gas station selections. I went through batteries frequently and sometimes got dangerously caught up in the headphone cabling.
1998-2002: CD player quality began to improve with skip buffering. A small CD wallet kept a streamlined collection compiled from friends (since I'd sold all my music in 1997). Battery usage remained a problem.
2007: Although I had a Windows Phone that could store and play digital music, I don't think I listened to music once on the whole trip.

Mess kit


1996: Don't remember.
1997: Some kind of mini stove, I just remember it never cooked well because the wind in the Midwest would just cut through everything, knocking over the windproof shielding. It was like you had to build little castles to cook.
2002: Pocket Rocket, a mini-stove. Wind was less of an issue on this tour.
2007: Jetboil. Hallelujah.

The one thing you need most is the ability to boil water. Whether your solution is a specialized stove (like Jetboil) or a general stove, just make sure you can get water cooked to boiling in a reasonable time. Other aspects, like fuel type, priming and cleaning, and so on, are matters of taste best left to Gentle Reader.

Pot, pan & lid

1996: pots for what?
1997: budget aluminum mess kit.
1998: High end titanium Japanese nonstick mess kit. Scratched to hell. Would you like some crunchy teflon bits with your eggs, mister?
2002: Just a plain steel pot with wrapping handle lid. Perfect by itself.
2007: Jetboil. Also perfect if you're not going to spend time doing real cooking.

Just depends on how much cooking you plan on doing. I am fond of the Jetboil, however.


Before I did my first tour, I was in good shape. You wouldn't call me athletic, but I biked and jogged regularly, and ate moderately. That was about to change.

Touring repaved my brain's pathways for hunger and food, and when I was off the bike, it was not good. In fact, it took years before I really broke those old habits.

I'm a much better cook now than I was then. I wonder if some recipes are in order.

1997: I couldn't do much real cooking, but instant mixes were pretty easy. Also, dehydrated black beans, canned food, and so on. I ate tons of cheap gas station snack crackers, because sometimes you're just dead to the world.
Before this tour, I rarely ate fast food, had lots of fruit, and occasional vices like chips. During the tour, I became a beast that eats anything in sight. After the tour, I had accumulated so many bad habits that I started putting on weight between tours.
1998–2002. I did a little bit of cooking, but not really enough to justify the mess. I ate gas station rotisserie fare and fast food regularly.
2007. When I cooked, I ate rehydrated mixes in the jetboil almost exclusively, or else I ate at restaurants and diners to get my greens and such.

Plan ahead for a realistic diet with a dietician or medical professional.
Don't rely on fast food or restaraunts too much.
Although you may not have access to a kitchen, fruit is easy to come by at most gas stations.
Focus on vegetables that you can mix into soups or single-pot casseroles and hashes. Broccoli is super flexible, and you can often buy it by the stalk. Squash sautees easy and quick. If you're moving through sodium in warm weather, it's okay to hit canned beans and such, or you can hit reduced sodium options.
Of course there are easier options that come at a much higher cost, like Mountain House, civilian MREs, and other packaged fare, but you'll need to have access to urban centers for these. Gas stations, however, are everywhere.


H20 is the king of bicycling requirements.

You might go through a gallon a day with an active body in dry climate during warm weather. You can go through much more than that as a bicyclist.

I don't have much recollection of the kind and quantity of water bottles I've had over the years, but it became very clear, very quickly, that the number one limitation you'll face in bicycle touring in a Texas summer is the length of time you can go without lukewarm to cool water. Hot water will kill you when you're already redlining your internal coolant system.

In hot weather, shield your water containers from the sun. Bottle cages and exposed pockets are convenient but will cook your water. After half an hour, an uninsulated bottle kept in a backpack will be cooler than an insulated bottle in a bottle cage.
In freezing weather, the same advice applies. If you're camping, sleep with your bottles in your sleeping bag.