If you’ve ever found yourself sitting in a baseball dugout in the rain, sipping a cheap can of beer and cracking rude jokes with friends, while days worth of damp, smelly cycling clothes hang from the chain link fence around you, then you’ve most likely been on the Bike Ride Across Georgia (BRAG) or a similar large, organized bike tour.
It may seem odd to some people (even some seasoned cyclists) that there would be enjoyment in covering large distances by bike everyday with hundreds (in some cases thousands) of other riders, only to have to break camp every night in the stubbly, ant infested grass of a rural high school or city park. But for those of the proper bent – it’s a freaking blast!
Pack Light and Protect Your Gear
One of the keys to having fun on BRAG is packing light with just the right amount of luxuries. You want all the gear you bring to be useful, dependable and never a burden – especially because you’ll have to lug it back and forth from the baggage truck everyday. Believe me, after riding 65 miles in the Georgia summer heat, no matter how light your pack is, you will eye it with contempt when you go to pick it up at the end of each day’s ride.
And there are other issues. Making sure your gear is protected from the rain is critical. The packs are unloaded by the first riders to return and can lay out in the weather for hours while you are finishing the ride. A waterproof pack is a must and a roll top raft bag with backpack straps is the best solution. SealLine Black Canyon Boundary Packs are far and away the best choice here. Not only are they waterproof, but extremely durable. The functional backpack straps are removable, but everyone in our group left theirs on and no one experienced any problems or failures. They are great for rafting trips, too!
If you don’t have a waterproof bag, you can always line your bag with a trash compactor bag which work better than regular garbage bags since they are much sturdier and can survive a week of abuse.
Speaking of abuse, keep in mind that your pack may be thrown off the back of a semi trailer daily for a week, so put some thought into how delicate items like sunglasses, cameras, and electronics are packed. It’s also a great idea to mark your bag in some clear way so that it is easy to pick out from the piles of luggage. A brightly-colored handkerchief or even a purple monkey can really make your bag standout.
Take a Seat
For our group, I think we were all in agreement that our favorite comfort item (besides an Icemule Cooler full of cold beverages) was an ultralight camp chair. In the BRAG rules it says no lawn chairs, which is completely understandable. The metal frame could become a danger if they fall on someone unloading bags. These tiny camp chairs, however, are perfectly fine. They fold and roll up into a small bundle which fits easily inside your waterproof pack. Having a chair at your disposal anytime you want it is incredibly important after a long day on the bike. Even simple things like putting on your shoes in the morning was made so much easier with a chair. Along with my shoes, it was always the very last thing to go back into my pack.
On every BRAG I’ve been on over the last few years I’ve used my Helinox Chair One that is well over 6 years old and it still has a lot of life left in it. A few others in our group had the odd-looking, Alite Designs Monarch Chair which is a 2-legged rocking chair that relies on you to supply the other 2 legs. No one had any problem with these chairs or using them and I was a bit envious of how much smaller they packed up.
Made in the Shade
Another item that we really appreciated having was a tarp. There can be a lot of off-the-bike time on BRAG and having some shade from the sun and protection from the rain (it will rain) was so freaking great. Four people can easily fit under a Kelty Noah’s Tarp 9, so you get a lot of comfort for a little extra weight. Make sure you purchase 2 Kelty Staff Poles and experiment with setting it up before BRAG to make sure you have everything you need and know how to do it. Check out the banner at the top of the page to see how we set ours up. It only takes a few minutes once you get the hang of it.
Tribal Secret: Always pack the tarp at the top of your pack. If you finish the ride during a downpour, set up the Tarp first. Then set up your tent underneath the tarp and pull it out into the rain once the rain fly is on.
Keep Your Cool
Lastly, an indispensable and very cheap thing that makes sleeping on BRAG much more enjoyable is a battery powered fan. That little bit of air movement makes a huge difference. I bought my fan many years ago and it is still humming along. I found that one set of batteries got me through a week of BRAG, but the fan was noticeably weaker the last night. It runs on 2 heavy D cells so I would risk not bringing spares. This 5″ Portable Battery Powered Fan is the updated version of mine, so I would expect it would offer you the same if not better performance.
Like any multi-day outdoor sport, refining your gear list is an ongoing process and changes not only with new knowledge and experiences, but also with new products and technologies. So with this in mind, here is the current Tribal Feast recommended packing list for the Bike Ride Across Georgia and other similar supported bike tours. This gear list is a culmination of advice from seasoned BRAG riders and personal experience. It covers the bare minimum of necessities, yet leaves space for some important luxury items.
Packing List for BRAG
For the Bike:
- 2 Pairs of Bike Shorts
- 2 Cycling Jerseys
- 3 Pairs of Cycling Socks
- Cycling Shoes
- Cycling Rain Jacket
- Cycling Sunglasses
- Cycling Hat
- Spare Tire Bag
- Tire Levers
- Spare Tube
- Patch Kit
- Multi Tool
- Small Bike Cable Lock (to carry with you while riding in case you decide to go to a restaurant)
- Cell Phone
- Cell Phone Charger and Cable
- Battery Charging Device (Don’t forget the cable and charger for it!)
- Battery Powered Mini-Fan – This 5″ Portable Battery Powered Fan is a great bargain.
- Headlamp or Flashlight – For the minimalist, the Petzl e+LITE Headlamp is plenty of light and takes up practically no space in your pack.
- Extra Batteries (for anything that needs it)
- Kindle (or book) – if you are a reader and avid outdoors person, the Waterproof Kindle Paperwhite is a cool upgrade.
- GoPro (or similar action camera) – This more inexpensive 4K WiFi Action Camera is a great choice for BRAG.
- Waterproof Backpack – The Sealine Boundry Bag – 65L is the perfect bag for BRAG.
- Small Tent – If it is just you, the Eureka Midori Solo is a great choice. It packs small, is cheap, and is durable.
- Sleeping Pad
- Sleeping Bag (summer weight)
- Pillow Case (use clothes bag for pillow)
- Ultralight Camp Chair – The Helinox Chair One is my personal favorite.
- Tarp – If you are camping with a small group, a Kelty Noah’s Tarp 9 with 2 optional Kelty Staff Poles will offer great shade and rain protection
- Credit Card
- Insurance Card
- Waterproof Pouch
Off the Bike Clothes:
- 1 Pair of Lightweight Pants or a Skirt
- 1 Pair Shorts
- 1 Pair of Lightweight Camp Shorts
- 3 Pair of Underwear
- 2 Lightweight Short Sleeve Shirts
- 1 Long Sleeve Shirt
- Lightweight Rain Jacket
- Sandals (for shower use)
- Tennis Shoes
- Stuff Sack for Clothes
- Dirty Clothes Bag
- Toiletry Bag – The Osprey Ultralight Roll Organizer is light, compact, and easy to clean. Perfect for BRAG!
- Pack Towel – The Youphoria Outdoors Microfiber Towel is a great option. Remember to blot to dry off!
- Washcloth – The Lunatec Travel Washcloth is a good choice.
- Tooth Brush
- Baby Wipes
- Body Powder
- Chamois Cream
- Sunscreen (Should protect against both UVA and UVB rays)
- Laundry Detergent (small bottle)
- Bug Spray
Off the Bike Misc:
- Miscellaneous Bike Tools
- Chain Lube
- Spare Tubes (2)
- 3 Small Trash Bags
- BRAG Info
- Soft Cooler – For cold camp beverages. Our Icemule coolers worked great! There are three different sizes to choose from.
- Coozie – See above.
- Large Cable Lock – This would be a more substantial lock than the one you carry with you while riding. Lock your bike up when going out to eat or at night. This simple cable lock should be fine for BRAG.
If You Take the BRAG Shuttle
The BRAG shuttle bus is a lifesaver when it comes to working out the logistics of getting you and your bike back to your car at the end of the ride (or getting you to the beginning of the ride if you leave your car at the end.) It can, however, be very tough on your bike if you don’t take a few precautions.
The bikes are loaded on a semi tractor trailer, sometimes stacked two rows high, with pieces of cardboard being the only protection. There is a lot of care put into keeping the bikes from harm and making sure they don’t shift in transit causing damage. The people loading the bikes are BRAG riders who understand bikes and how susceptible they can be to damage – especially when they are stacked in a truck. Pedals are removed from all the bikes, and sometimes the bars or stem are loosened and turned, which allows them to be packed more tightly together. It is very impressive to see all those well-loved machines packed in like sardines.
Obviously though, when that many bikes are in contact in a moving vehicle, scratches are inevitable. The best way to make sure your bike is absolutely protected from harm, is to cover it with pipe insulation from you local hardware store. The insulation is sold in different diameters which allows you to create custom fit pieces of padding to cover all parts of your bike. Use gaffer tape and zip ties to keep affix it to your frame and other parts you want to protect. Bring along a few extra pieces of insulation just in case you need it. You can always give this to another rider who didn’t think of covering his or her bike.
While someone will most likely have a pedal wrench you can borrow when you go to load your bike, it can be a pretty hectic scene. Having your own pedal wrench and whatever other tools you need can take a lot of stress out of the situation and is well worth the weight you will need to carry. If you are picking up the shuttle at the beginning of the ride and riding back to your car, just throw the tools and whatever extra padding materials you have in your car.
As mentioned above, the BRAG shuttle is a phenomenal service and they do everything they can to protect your bike. But if you have an expensive or vintage bike, or just want to ensure your bike is scratch free, take responsibility and wrap it well. The bus ride is so much more enjoyable if you are sure your bike is well protected.
BRAG Shuttle Packing Materials:
- 1 Roll of Gaffer Tape
- Pipe Insulation (Cut to to fit bike)
- Zip Ties
- Small scissors or knife to cut the zip ties
- Pedal Wrench
- Tool to loosen your stem. (optional)