BREAKING THE RULES OF ADULTHOOD – LOSING THE CLUTTER AND LOADING UP THE BIKES.
WORDS & PHOTOS BY BETH PULITI
Two years ago, soon after the pain meds wore off, I started planning my escape.
Open-heart surgery has a way of making you evaluate your life and immediately take action on your current situation if you see room for improvement. At the time, I wanted a different type of daily grind. One that involved hours of turning the pedals instead of hours in front of a computer screen. Looking for a bit of perspective, I also craved a change of scenery. However, there are rules in this (sort-of) adult life of mine, and none of them are ‘flee your country and ride your bicycle through foreign lands as long as you want to’.
So, I broke the rules.
It turns out rule breaking as an adult is a million times more difficult than skipping school or skipping town to visit your boyfriend in college. (Sorry, Mom.) To transition our life at home to a life on the road, my husband Justin and I researched countless bike touring blogs and pored over maps to develop a loose game plan of what to pack and where to go. We already worked remotely, but made arrangements with our employers and clients to reduce our hours. We put all of our belongings into storage and listed our house for rent. We cleaned out the contents of our black hole Honda CRV, and sold it. We narrowed down a year’s worth of living supplies (the ultimate lesson in what you can and cannot live without) and then cut that in half in order to fit it in a few small bags that would adorn our bikes. We canceled our landline and condensed our cell phones, redirected our mail, set up an international bank account, switched credit cards, got vaccinated, stocked up on prescription drugs, bid our friends and family adieu, and then—at long last—purchased a one-way ticket out of the United States.
Eight months after I left the hospital, I was turning the first pedal strokes of an international bike tour that has lasted far longer than the six months originally planned.
Over the past year and a half, Justin and I have pedaled through more than 20 countries in Europe and Asia—in some of the world’s most chaotic cities (Ho Chi Minh, Kathmandu) and in some of its most remote places (Albania’s Alps, Tajikistan’s Wakhan Valley). We stopped counting kilometers nearly a year ago at the 10,000 mark when our computers simultaneously stopped working.
At the beginning of 2015, we changed our bike touring setup to a bikepacking setup. This switch meant fatter tires, frame bags instead of panniers and paring down gear and accessories even more to just the essentials—all so that we could ride more singletrack and dirt roads. The transition made riding much more enjoyable for us, mountain bikers at heart.
Our lightweight setup is made possible by a few choice bags and cages attached to our bikes. Here’s what we’re riding and carrying 18 months into our bike tour.
Bike: Salsa Fargo X9
Frame: Size extra small Kung Fu CroMoly Tubeset. I’ve got a small Salsa frame bag (made by Revelate Designs) in this area that’s stuffed with an extra tube, a big bottle of contact solution, snacks and the occasional side-of-the-road souvenir.
Fork: Full-carbon Firestarter. Three mounts on each fork leg make for easy Anything Cage attachment, which houses our first aid kit and medicine ‘closet’. Though I haven’t used them, there are also rack and fender mounts.
Wheels: 29″ Stan’s NoTubes Rapid 25. These were nothing short of awesome on the Annapurna Circuit’s technical terrain.
Saddle: Brooks B17. This glorious piece of leather has been with me from day one. When it came time to make the switch to the Fargo, I knew I’d have to switch out its stock WTB saddle. I’ve never looked back.
Bars: Salsa Woodchipper. I’d never ridden anything quite like this mountain bike drop bar before, and it took me a few rides to get used to its unique shape. Though I was unsure at first, I ultimately fell in love with the variety of hand positions the Woodchipper offers and its ability to keep things in control over the most technical trails.
Bags: Revelate Designs Viscacha seat bag and Salsa frame bag (made by Revelate). Made in Alaska, I’m not surprised these bags have withstood everything that’s been thrown at them—from sandstorms in Tajikistan to monsoons in Malaysia. I’m also sporting an Ortlieb Ultimate 6 M Pro E up front which stores my big, fancy camera and has the ability to charge our solar panel battery.
Bike: Salsa Fargo X9
Frame: Size medium Kung Fu 4130 CroMoly Tubeset. A Salsa frame bag stuffed with heavy spare parts and tools lives here.
Fork: Full-carbon Firestarter. Justin has an Anything Cage mounted to each fork leg, which contain our sleeping pads and myriad cords for our electronics.
Wheels: 29″ Stan’s NoTubes Rapid 25. Ever since we started rolling on the Rapids, we’ve been flat-free. Enough said.
Saddle: Brooks B17. Justin switched to the B17 after giving mine a test run one afternoon several months into our bike tour.
Bars: Salsa Woodchipper. At home, Justin’s everyday mountain bike is outfitted with sweeping On-One Mary handlebars. Needless to say, he was all about the Woodchipper right out of the gate.
Bags: Revelate Designs Sweetroll handlebar bag, Viscacha seat bag and Salsa frame bag. These bags have seen months of abuse, and show no signs of neglect thus far. We look forward to them serving us well through the years.
As you can see, there isn’t room for much on our setup, and so each piece of gear and clothing we carry was chosen with a great amount of thought. It truly amazes me how few possessions we need to live, and richly at that, on the bike.
Beth Puliti is a freelance writer and photographer. Justin Kline heads up international business development at Princeton Tec. Follow their travels at bethpuliti.com, or on instagram: