Now that our big tour is completed, I want to offer up some observations and opinions about the various bits of kit that made this extended cycling epic work. Overall, our gear choices were solid, but we had some problems, and perhaps others can benefit from our experiences.
The Heroes:Catrikes: These held up beautifully and made all those long, hard miles as comfortable and safe as they could be. As noted elsewhere, Jodi rides a now discontinued version of the "Road," and I crank on the "Expedition," both purchased and expertly outfitted by Bent Up Cycles in North Hollywood. Dana, the owner, is THE man for recumbent gear. My expedition had a slight advantage when pushing over rough terrain to get to wild camps because of higher ground clearance, so anyone seeking to do this kind of tour, you'll be well served to get this model. Also, the bigger rear wheel makes sustaining higher speeds easier. Because of our big loads (doggie!), we both are outfitted with 203 mm discs on the brakes. I was never at a loss for powerful, controlled braking on those wild mountain drops. My trike developed a super annoying squeak after about the first 1,000 miles, which I was never able to eliminate. I'm pretty sure it has to do with the rack, which I'll remove to see if that solves the problem.
Schlumpf mountain drives: In many ways, this tour was made possible because of our spectacular gearing.
Exped air mattresses: I reviewed these in an earlier post before the tour. Amazing. They held up under lots of abuse with Django scrambling over them at every camp. The ability to pump up the pads without getting light-headed at the end of big day was a true blessing. The only drawback is that they are VERY noisy when the sleeper turns over. Using the seat-conversion kit dampens this somewhat. I wonder if some material can be used that would reduce the squeaking?
B.O.B. and CycleTote trailers: Fantastic, solid performers. Jodi LOVES the B.O.B., and the dry sack duffel is a neat feature. I wouldn't haul Django in anything but a CycleTote. The low center of gravity, inwardly canted wheels, and center-pull design make this the most stable unit out there. They ain't cheap, but our security on the road is worth it.
Coleman Apex II backpacking stove: This, alas, is discontinued, but for us, it's been a very reliable stove, which, unlike most liquid fuel stoves, burns unleaded gas reliably and simmers as good or better than any stove out there. The only drawback is the sooty flareup when getting started. The cooking area needs to be well ventilated. If/when this stove dies, it looks like the Brunton Vapor line fills the niche for unleaded burning stoves. Other models claim to run on unleaded, but I've heard they clog easily (MSR Whisperlite, for example). The Coleman NEVER clogs.
Big Agnes tents: Not just the product but the company. We've loved our Copper Spur three person. It truly became home. When the zipper started to fail, the company provided a new body free of charge in the middle of the expedition. As promised, it was waiting in Hot Sulphur Springs, Colorado, when we rolled into town. Thanks, Big A.
MSR Alpine kitchen knife:
Zeros:Okay, while not everything listed here was/is a total "zero," we did have some problems, so it's good to know what to watch out for.
Sea to Summit mugs:
34 gram knife: Okay, so it was too good to be true. The knife was soooo cool looking, but it's performance was mediocre at best. The thin blade flexed far too much and made food preparation a pain in the butt. Too expensive.
MSR MiniWorks EX water filter:
I think that covers some of the key players. Jodi was very pleased with her sleeping bag system comprised of two ultralite Mont Bell down sleeping bags. This was handy for dialing in sleeping temps, although Django was known to take a little too much of the cover bag on some nights, the sneaky hound. I use an REI "Sub Kilo" 20 deg. F. down bag, which I've had for five years. It seems to be losing some of its loft, but I was generally comfortable most of the time. Our tires were strong performers too: Schlwalbe Marathon Racers, Performance Series. I think most of the Racers are of this new style. We had only six flats for the whole tour, and all of these but one came after we'd put more than 2,000 miles on the skins.