Yesterday I posted some tips for cycling the North Coast 500 and today I will talk about the gear. You don’t need a lot, apart from a good bikepacking setup, especially if you don’t plan to camp.
Tailfin T1 Carbon Rack and Super Light Pannier Bags
For this ride, I used my Diamondback road bike fitted with the carbon fiber Tailfin rack and panniers. Way back in 2016, I supported the Tailfin Kickstarter campaign and it was finally shipped at the end of last summer. Apart from a few commuter rides around the Bay Area, this was my first full tour with the setup and I couldn’t have been happier.
I originally only bought one of their Super Light Pannier Bags but ended up buying a second as I found the Tailfin panniers really work best with the rack — that is how they were designed, after all. Tailfin does provide a booster that enables you to attach pretty much any other pannier and it worked just fine with an Ortlieb bag but not quite as seamless.
The Tailfin T1 rack is super easy to attach and remove from your bike in a matter of seconds. Tailfin provides a quick release that replaces the one on your rear wheel and contains mounting extensions for each side of wishbone-shaped rack — they simply latch on to these extensions. Tailfin also offers security screws you can add so the latch can’t be undone if you are worried about it being stolen. For a third point of attachment, an arm off the top of the rack hooks around your seat post for added stability.
Each pannier offers up to 22 liters of waterproof storage for all your gear — the rack can hold up to 40 pounds. The panniers simply clamp onto each side of the rack, with a lever that hooks around the inside of the rack to help keep the bags stable. I had zero problems with the rack or panniers rattling, even when riding over some pretty rough roads and getting up and out of the saddle.
The rack weighs 12 ounces or just under a pound and each pannier weighs 23 ounces or around 1.4 pounds — a pretty lightweight system altogether. I just purchased a thru axle adapter so that I can use the Tailfin on my gravel bike for some off-road bikepacking adventures this summer.
Terry used the Ortlieb bikepacking bags — all but the frame bag. While he was much more aerodynamic than I was, he spent quite a lot of time getting his bags packed properly and secured on the bike every morning, whereas I was loaded and ready to go in a matter of minutes.
Ortlieb Ultimate6 S Plus
On the front of my bike, I added the Ortlieb Ultimate6 S Plus handlebar bag for easy access to snacks, my camera, phone, wallet, etc. You simply push a lockable button to attach and detach the bag. A transparent sleeve on the cover is touchscreen compatible so you can use your phone to see directions, etc. I will be bringing this handlebar bag to Central Asia later this summer.
Tubeless and Wider Tires
I run tubeless on all my bikes now which just seems to cut down on the risk of flats. There are plenty of tips out there for flying with tubeless tires — namely don’t deflate them all the way. We were lucky to find a bike shop in Inverness with a compressor so we didn’t have to worry about seating them properly upon arrival.
And you might want to consider running wider tires. Our bodies were tired at the end of the day from the constant vibration of the rough-surfaced roads in Scotland — there is very little smooth asphalt to be found. Tubeless will also enable you to drop the pressure a little for a more comfortable ride.
You may see hail one minute and sunshine the next. Scotland’s weather is temperamental to say the least so the key is layers. My layer setup included a base layer, jersey, arm warmers, gloves, neck gaiter, wind jacket, and rain jacket on top, with bibs, leg warmers, and shoe covers on the bottom. At the last minute, I bought a cheap pair of rain pants in Inverness and very glad I did. I don’t mind riding in the rain, but the cold wind in Scotland can make it a bit dangerous to ride for hours on end when soaking wet.
We realized there is absolutely no need to bring more than one change of jersey and bibs (we had three to four). You can wash out the days kit in the shower with you at night and leave it to dry on the heated towel rack overnight. A couple of our B&Bs even had a washing machine.
Proviz Reflect360 Cycling Vest: I wore this vest every day as it is not only wind- and waterproof, but it added an extra level of visibility on the narrow roads.
Rubber Gloves: Wet hands are cold hands so throw in a pair of dishwashing gloves to keep your hands happy in the rain. I have these with me on all my cycling trips now as they really are the best solution for keeping your hands warm when riding in the rain.
Apart from cycling clothes, we had one outfit, a lightweight pair of shoes (Terry loved his Five Ten Sleuth slip ons), and a pair of pajamas to change into each night. That’s all you really need.
Any questions, feel free to ask in the comments below.