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Why is ultralight touring so unpopular?

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Why is ultralight touring so unpopular?

Old 11-05-15, 07:22 PM
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Buffalo Buff
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Why is ultralight touring so unpopular?

I've ridden a typical fully loaded touring rig. It didn't really feel like a bike to me.

Each tour I try to bring a more weight efficient setup than the last. Rough estimates for gear weight minus food/water from my first 4 tours are...

#1 - 40lbs
#2 - 28lbs
#3 - 20lbs
#4 - 10-14.5lbs

The last tour was easily the most enjoyable, largely due to how light my setup was. It makes it feel more like a bike to me. the handling through corners, the acceleration, etc.

It also makes bike selection easier. for #2-4 , I used my Ridley Fenix. It's a road bike with 24 spoke rims, 25mm wheels, compact double chain ring and no braze ons. And it works great for tours! I've never broken a spoke, never had any issues climbing mountain roads, never at a loss for how to carry my gear, etc. It's just a regular road bike, nothing special about it, nothing on it designed with touring in mind.

The thing is, it is incredibly rare for me to see other people who approach touring the same way, and I'm just kind of curious as to why? Ive seen maybe 3 or 4 people out of hundreds online post an UL rig, and I've NEVER seen another tourist on the road setup with anything less than quad panniers + more.
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Old 11-05-15, 07:37 PM
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Some people are into ultra light credit card touring. I see that all the time.

But if you are asking why not unsupported ultra light touring the answer is probably that most people don't care enough to go through the effort. The fact is to start getting ultra light you have to go through your gear and become very specific as to what you do and don't bring and often need to repurchase items. For most, the payoff isn't there. They can do what they want with what they have. If I can do my tour with my bike and my panniers, why should I reconfigure everything just to go lighter.

It only starts to look attractive when you can't do what you want with what you have or if you really get into ultralight for its own sake. I wouldn't say that's unpopular as much as it is less mainstream.

Last edited by Happy Feet; 11-05-15 at 07:41 PM.
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Old 11-05-15, 07:45 PM
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First ... it seems quite popular here in this forum. Do some searches, there are several threads on it.

Second ... there is a balance between bicycle handling, speed, etc. and comfort. Each person needs to find the balance that works for them. Do you bring the extra pillow and socks to increase your comfort ... or do you leave them home in the interests of cycling faster?
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Old 11-05-15, 07:50 PM
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I haven't used 4 bags. But I also haven't gone on a cross country trek.

As foreign more people don't do it, I would guess it's due tonight and fear of the 'what if'.
- Ultra light equipment costs considerably more than basic gear and a lot more than lightweight gear.
- the boyscout motto of 'always be prepared' hits home for many(most) when they are packing for an adventure such as an unsupported cross-country ride.
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Old 11-05-15, 08:10 PM
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I don't know the answer, but I'm sure there is a reason for it

Some of us started out in the 1970's with 20 lb road bike and 20 lb of gear; but were thrilled when we could afford a bike with a triple that could carry 30-35 lbs. comfortably.

light and UL touring is not a new concept.

Last edited by Doug64; 11-05-15 at 08:19 PM.
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Old 11-05-15, 09:30 PM
  #6  
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When I switched from 38 to 28 mm tires, felt like I was ultralite.

The only time weight is much of a negative is when climbing. Actually an advantage when bombing downhill, and pretty much a wash on flats.

The responsiveness of a 15 lb load is fun. And since every pedal stroke is an acceleration, every ounce does count. Lighter the load, the faster and farther you're likely to go/day.
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Old 11-05-15, 09:43 PM
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I'm a light weight camping guy myself, too, and have a bikepacking type set up on my cross bike that I've used for overnight type trips. Tent, bag, and pad weigh under 5 lbs and fit in a bag between my drop bars. Frame bag contains bits and pieces, and large seat bag contains clothes and cooking stuff if I bother. This means I'm not really packing much food, other than clif bars and water and maybe one backpacking type meal (or Indian "add water" type thing). I buy fruits and such along the way to the destination and eat whenever.

Clearly this his wouldn't work for remote areas where food isn't restock able at least once a day. But for my last trip my bike weighed 38 lbs. as I hit the road and that was probably about 22 lbs. of bike and 16 lbs. of bags and their contents.

My carbon road bike is a good five pounds lighter than my steel cross bike and yet I'm sure I could tour on it in just the same way with the same bags.
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Old 11-05-15, 09:51 PM
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Originally Posted by Machka View Post
First ... it seems quite popular here in this forum. Do some searches, there are several threads on it.

Second ... there is a balance between bicycle handling, speed, etc. and comfort. Each person needs to find the balance that works for them. Do you bring the extra pillow and socks to increase your comfort ... or do you leave them home in the interests of cycling faster?
I've been here for a year now and I don't recall many active threads on it. I don't like to search for old threads and revive them because a lot of forums don't care for that.

Extra pillow? who brings even one pillow? Rolled up jacket is just as good.

anyways I'm more comfortable with a light setup. Lets me do centuries each day of the tour without feeling rushed or fatigued at all.
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Old 11-05-15, 10:00 PM
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Originally Posted by pacificaslim View Post
I'm a light weight camping guy myself, too, and have a bikepacking type set up on my cross bike that I've used for overnight type trips. Tent, bag, and pad weigh under 5 lbs and fit in a bag between my drop bars. Frame bag contains bits and pieces, and large seat bag contains clothes and cooking stuff if I bother. This means I'm not really packing much food, other than clif bars and water and maybe one backpacking type meal (or Indian "add water" type thing). I buy fruits and such along the way to the destination and eat whenever.

Clearly this his wouldn't work for remote areas where food isn't restock able at least once a day. But for my last trip my bike weighed 38 lbs. as I hit the road and that was probably about 22 lbs. of bike and 16 lbs. of bags and their contents.

My carbon road bike is a good five pounds lighter than my steel cross bike and yet I'm sure I could tour on it in just the same way with the same bags.

I'd love to see some photos of that tent/bag/pad setup on your bars. My last tour I stuffed a tent, sleeping pad, and all my gear into a Revelate viscacha, and had a small pouch up front for snacks, my phone, $$ etc.

I'm working on developing a new setup that distributes the load between smaller bags on my frame, instead of having all 10-14 pounds in the viscacha. Definitely looking for ideas.

Sorry for the ass image quality, but here is a setup I recently used on an ovrnighter. Aero tube held phone/snacks/$$, triangle frame bag held battery pack, 3DS, fire starters and rope, water bottle pod was my repair kit, and viscacha had a hammock, tarp, 4 burgers, rolls and a 12 pack. good night :-D



I don't bother with cooking supplies, I have no interest in it. I'd rather just snack on clif bars etc. like you, and grab a meal from a local restaurant once a day or so. I'd rather try new foods and ****, stuff I can't get made the same way at home, than boil some ramen noodles or something. There were often 10-15 mile stretches where I didn't have any food on me at all, because I knew a town would be coming up soon enough. Also I prefer to eat while I ride during the day. I hate stopping to eat when I could be exploring or making progress.

Traveling through the US at a rate of ~100 miles per day, finding a place to restock is simply not an issue. When I go international I'll have to adjust my setup a bit I'm sure.

My setup for my last tour (2 weeks, 1400 miles, deep south USA sept-oct) was about 20lbs bike, 14.5lbs gear, 220lbs human. At the end it was about 20lb bike, 10lb gear, 204lb human. Mailed a bunch of stuff home I realized I didn't need.

That's the best feeling ever. Thinking you have your **** all sorted out, then you realize you have too much and can actually go lighter!
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Old 11-05-15, 10:05 PM
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It's not unpopular because you don't see many. You don't see many because they're so fast.
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Old 11-05-15, 10:06 PM
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I think people want their comfort so the more they can take the better they feel; and now that the touring crowd is mostly over 60 years old the older folks want certain "luxuries" to take along, so the weight goes up to accommodate those luxuries.
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Old 11-05-15, 10:25 PM
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Originally Posted by LeeG View Post
It's not unpopular because you don't see many. You don't see many because they're so fast.
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Old 11-05-15, 10:36 PM
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A few links ...

http://www.bikeforums.net/touring/99...t-touring.html

http://www.bikeforums.net/touring/10...t-touring.html

http://www.bikeforums.net/touring/91...ping-bike.html

http://www.bikeforums.net/touring/99...ng-thread.html

http://www.bikeforums.net/touring/84...vangelism.html ... this one went on for a lot of pages
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Old 11-05-15, 10:52 PM
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Yeah, the first one of those links I tried, the thread was two years old

Does this forum have any rules against bumping old threads like that? If not I'll post some pictures etc. tomorrow.
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Old 11-05-15, 10:56 PM
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Originally Posted by Buffalo Buff View Post
Yeah, the first one of those links I tried, the thread was two years old

Does this forum have any rules against bumping old threads like that? If not I'll post some pictures etc. tomorrow.
Nope ... no rules.

Although if the thread is quite specific, like someone asking a question that pertains to their specific situation ("What bike should I get?", "Which of these three tents is the best?", "I injured my left foot and wondered if ... ", etc.) ... we generally don't bump those. After 2 years, the person has likely solved the problem and moved on.

However, if the thread is general like, "Talk about ultralight touring" ... those can go on for years.


For your purposes, your best bets might be either the "Ultralight Evangelism" thread or "The Ultralight Touring Thread". I think they are reasonably general.

http://www.bikeforums.net/touring/99...ng-thread.html

http://www.bikeforums.net/touring/84...vangelism.html ... this one went on for a lot of pages
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Old 11-06-15, 12:40 AM
  #16  
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Why is ultralight touring so unpopular?

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Old 11-06-15, 02:28 AM
  #17  
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I feel like I tour lightly with my 50lb max load, one of my old shopmates toured across 'Merica carrying 100lbs of gear.

UL touring is actually quite popular with tons of new adventure bike frames and frame bag/accessory bag makers. It may not be the number one topic here but it certainly is popular if you look at the many gear websites.

Personally though I would rather have a pillow than a "rolled up jacket" or balled up clothes or any of that nonsense. I have done that before and it was never comfortable or enjoyable. Plus I can get a pretty small light packable pillow these days and most comforts can be gotten in light small packages. So I think you can easily bridge a good gap between comfort and bringing stuff with UL stuff. I don't think there is anyone on this forum who wouldn't love to cut down the weight of their gear or touring rig without sacrificing what they are carrying, durability or usability.
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Old 11-06-15, 03:27 AM
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Originally Posted by Buffalo Buff View Post
Why is ultralight touring so unpopular?
it's not that ultralight is unpopular, it's the evangelists that push it often come
off as asshat bible thumpers. they've seen the light, and anyone that doesn't
have a personal relationship with their seatpack is going to burn in hell for
all eternity.
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Old 11-06-15, 03:48 AM
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Originally Posted by saddlesores View Post
it's not that ultralight is unpopular, it's the evangelists that push it often come
off as asshat bible thumpers. they've seen the light, and anyone that doesn't
have a personal relationship with their seatpack is going to burn in hell for
all eternity.
+1, and it gets annoying when you have been doing it since the 70s. And other people were there before on was.
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Old 11-06-15, 03:55 AM
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Good air pillows weigh in the region of 50 grams and take next to no space at all. I see no point in not having one since the added comfort is immense.

Someone pointed out that it's the older tourers like their comforts but I'm 26 and I also like my comforts. I've seen enough crud for one lifetime so I'm going to to tour in relative comfort being able to eat a hot lunch whenever I feel like it and not just munch down clif bars the whole way (ew...) Getting a warm meal every now and then (three times a day is optimal) is a huge morale booster when the going gets cold, as is alcohol. I'd smoke too if it wasn't so dang unhealthy (thank the lawds for electric cigarettes and snus!)

I guess for some ultralight touring is about how little they can survive with. When you take that stuff over the limit you don't really want to try it again. At least I don't.
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Old 11-06-15, 04:10 AM
  #21  
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I think it comes down to comfort, people carry what makes them comfortable. To some that may mean bringing an extra set of clothes, more tools, more cookware, a larger tent, or even a laptop. To others comfort means a lightweight bicycle that feels minimally different than what they ride at home.

What I notice is that most people doing ultralight are out for shorter times: a weekend, maybe a week or two. Very rarely do I see self-supported ultralighters on the road for months, and the ones that are generally mix in a good bit of credit-carding (using hotels/warmshowers, eating at restaurants).

For me, sleeping in a bivouac, eating out of a cup, wearing the same clothes day & night gets old. But I hardly notice any weight on my bicycle after two-weeks on the road.

Last edited by BigAura; 11-06-15 at 07:48 AM. Reason: typo
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Old 11-06-15, 04:18 AM
  #22  
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But seriously I think there are two reasons you don't see what you think you should be seeing out there. One is that, real ultralite tourists can't be separated from people with a daypack strapped to their bikes. How do you know that guy isn't just on his way home? Sure he could be some place that is extremely remote/touristy, but then how does one know he isn't just out for a day or two.

The other reason is I run 4 bags, mostly because I can, but my gear is ultralite, + water, food, spares for the bike, and only a very few bulky if not that heavy items in case there is cold snap, or because my bag isn't down, and so forth. So I don't really look like I am ultralite. Often I don't have any electronics, cooking gear, my toilet or tools kit fit in the palm of one's hand, but cycling isn't backpacking where the only thing outside the pack is a pair of shoes. I carry many light but bulky items, like extra pair cycling shorts with padded crotch, I'm 6'2" so extra clothing like rain suit is almost enough to fill a bag (my panniers are small). I carry crocs, because when cycling I end up in more campsites that I would like, and I think they help with stuff like athlete's foot, and general comfort. So some people have a ton of gear in those packs, and others have basically ultralite gear, with some lightweight bulk.
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Old 11-06-15, 04:22 AM
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A thing I find annoying about the lightweight crowd, is there is so much bad advice:

- Born on third base, think they hit a triple. You get some nonsense road bike recommendation from someone who is riding tires thinner than they ride in today's peloton, and not enough spokes for a game of pick up sticks. No not a lightweight genius, just a little person, or maybe someone about to have a wheel collapse.

- All the Bikepacking nonsense. Yes if you fill your bike with an unlimited number of bags, you won't pack too much stuff because it got crowded out by the bags, or there is no point since you will never find it.

- Or the tarpmasters who's ringleader recently got lime disease for lack of a few ounces of netting, and now sleeps under a "tarp" that looks a lot like a tent.

- Or the hammock crowd who get a dozen hammocks, then confess they never actually slept through a night in one.

- Or the guys with the alcohol stoves that heat up cups of boiling water all the time, as though it were a satisfying tub of chicken.

It's un-American. Who wants to run into an emaciated squirrel chattering on about the last few ounces he saved, who disappears from sight every time he turns sideways. I want to camp next to cheerleaders in ultralight outfits, with big hair, and a 2 stroke Margarita mixer.
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Old 11-06-15, 04:30 AM
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Originally Posted by BigAura View Post
But I hardly notice any weight on my bicycle after two-weeks on the road.
+1

I go ultralite because of heart disease. But to hear them talk about their centuries, you would think they were top athletes, in which case, why the panic attack over carrying a few extra pounds. They seem to be half the weight, half the age, but half the mule.

Once something gets it's own category, forums, and name, it's sorta a cult. I don't believe in Ultralight, or Loaded, or whatever. I just carry what I need, with full knowledge of how going light can have a huge impact on my experience. But so can not having the necessary spares. It's an analysis, not a slogan.
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Old 11-06-15, 06:16 AM
  #25  
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Originally Posted by LeeG View Post
It's not unpopular because you don't see many. You don't see many because they're so fast.
Actually I think that sometimes you don't see them is because they aren't recognizable as self supported tourists. They look a lot like credit card tourists or just someone out for a day ride, so there may be more than we realize, but I agree that there probably aren't many.

Originally Posted by Buffalo Buff View Post
The thing is, it is incredibly rare for me to see other people who approach touring the same way, and I'm just kind of curious as to why? Ive seen maybe 3 or 4 people out of hundreds online post an UL rig, and I've NEVER seen another tourist on the road setup with anything less than quad panniers + more.
I have seen quite a few with less than 4 panniers, but seeing folks going fully supported with 20 pounds is pretty rare. I don't recall ever seeing another person touring with under 20 pounds. Interesting to me is that it has been pretty much the same for backpacking. Most of the people I have met backpacking were carrying 30 or more pounds of gear plus food and water. For example on a JMT hike I met a lot of hikers and most were carrying very large packs that looked very full. Most acted like they had never seen anyone a few days into the back country with a smaller pack. I did meet a couple guys who were carrying 25 pounds of gear, but they were the only ones I met out of a lot of folks on that hike.

Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post
- Ultra light equipment costs considerably more than basic gear and a lot more than lightweight gear.
There is some truth to that but it isn't that hard to get down to 20 pounds with inexpensive gear. Also if you have way fewer items you can afford to spend a bit more on each one.

Originally Posted by mstateglfr View Post
- the boyscout motto of 'always be prepared' hits home for many(most) when they are packing for an adventure such as an unsupported cross-country ride.
Sadly the "be prepared" motto gets interpreted as have a lot of stuff along rather than have the right skills and a well thought out selection of the necessary stuff.
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