Death Valley Preparation 1: Packing for Bicycle/Motorcycle Adventuring

Reviewing PJAMM’s “Top 10o U.S. Climbs” I quickly noticed there’s a bunch that are unlikely to be possible to ride at the height of summer, especially anything in Death Valley.  I’ve been through Death Valley on my motorcycle in 2011, as well as riding through once in late Fall and the heat on the valley floor is something difficult to describe.  So I mentally crossed these off the plan for June.

However, while I was experimenting with my whole moto-bicycle scheme, some buddies were planning a parallel dual sport motorcycle trip for early March to the same area.  And after my successful Diablo ride I needed a longer, multi-day, with camping, multi-point moto-bicycle trip to practice with.. so.. why not leap straight to “difficulty level 10” in logistics and piggy-back onto their trip?  That way I have some people in the local area if things go off the rails.

Unfortunately for me, I’ve had a bit of a nagging hip issue for the past month.  I’m pretty sure I didn’t injure it while bicycling, since it is barely noticeable while on the bike but it was improving slowly enough it was difficult to say.  So, in short, I didn’t decide to go on this trip until a week before launch, and even then I was probably 50/50 until 2 or 3 days before.

You can see where this is going.  One of the biggest challenges of motorcycle-bicycle-camping-extended-trip is packing logistics.  Volume is king on the motorcycle, and the bicycle steals both space for bags and adds a lot of volume with shoes, helmet, water bottles, food, etc.  Also a small issue was that the bike I plan to take on the trip is not the bike I put on for the Diablo trip..

Less than ideal packing strategy

For longer trips, I love my Wolfman Expedition Medium Duffle (Amazon)

Wolfman Duffle – Amazon

– it holds everything I need to set up camp – tent, cot, jetboil, camp chair, mini-hatchet, etc.  Unfortunately this bag is both too big to comfortably fit behind the bicycle fork, and since it is a top roll, “transformation time” would be extended.  Given the kit I had available due my last minute decision, I rolled with my Kriega US20.  This held my spare motorcycle tube, pump, and first aid kit, in addition to the items I would use while bicycling:  Pacsafe squid, stuff sack for my motorcycle gear, bicycle shoes, hydration pack, bicycle tail pack with tube/spares/etc, bicycle handlebar bag with food, emergency beacon, glow stick, water filter, e-blanket, etc.

With so much loss of volume, my “luxury camping” gear went out the window – no tent, no stove, no camp chair.  I figure combining bicycling and motorcycling doesn’t leave much time for camp setup/tear down anyways, so going for speed here is probably more realistic.

The one item I’ll never camp without is the LuxuryLite UltraLight Cot (Amazon)

Therm-a-rest LuxuryLite Cot – Amazon

– if you’re a side sleeper, this is THE camp bed to have.  I wake up stiff and crippled on anything else (and I’ve tried plenty!)

So what I was left with:

Kriega across the top plate:  Motorcycle tube/pump & first aid kit, bike shoes, Pacsafe, gear stuff sack, hydration pack, bicycle tail & handlebar pack.

Left case, camping & non-daily used stuff:  Cot, Marmot Never Summer (Amazon) sleeping bag, OR Helium Bivy Sack (Amazon), travel bicycle pump, beach towel, bag with misc straps, couple of stakes, etc.

Right case, day-to-day stuff: clothes bag, bicycle kit bag, bike helmet filled with ride stuff (bike computer, HR strap, gloves, skull cap, etc.), bicycle tools/spares/batteries/etc, bath & hygiene stuff.  I also put my water bottles for the bicycle in here since there was room to keep them upright and not leaking all over.

Tank bag (Giant Loop Diablo – Amazon) – Usual ride-all-day stuff:  hat, sunscreen, bug repellant, ibuprofen, chapstick, camping headlamp, etc.  This also holds my CamelBak hydration bladder, which during bicycling with no water available will transfer into my hydration pack.

So, the bicycle transformation plan with this kit:

  • Remove & assemble bicycle
  • Kriega
    • Remove Pacsafe & stuff sack for motorcycle gear
    • Pull out hydration pack
    • Attach tail pack & or front pack to bicycle
    • Pull out bike shoes
  • Side case
    • Remove helmet & gloves/windbreaker/etc
    • Pull hydration bladder from the tank bag and put into hydration pack
    • Put tank bag where the helmet was in the side case
    • Attach water bottles to bicycle
  • Clothing dance
    • Jacket into stuff sack.  Stuff sack + pants + boots into Pacsafe, secure to motorcycle with cable & lock
    • Lock helmet to frame
    • Put on all the bike stuff
  • Go ride!

2×2 Cycles Motorcycle Bicycle Rack Install and Mount Diablo Shakedown

So ordered up the 2×2 rack and received it promptly.  I pondered removing my Moto Overland Top Plate and bolting it straight to the bike. I wasn’t real confident in getting my elaborate stack of bolts, washers, spacers, Hepco Becker side case racks, etc., back together. In the end decided to just bolt it to the existing plate with a bunch of bolts and washers.  Time will tell if this is a bad idea.

Rack sandwich

I went ahead and test fit my road bicycle (Parlee Z5SLi) and was very happy with the security and fit.  With the exception of being concerned of the exhaust outlet in relation to the front wheel storage:

Aftermarket exhaust outlet behind front tire

Now this is probably ok, there’s a good 8 to 10 inches between the exhaust outlet and the tire.. but given what I was planning, I emailed Garret @ 2×2 and he leapt into action, welding up a custom bracket that will move the tire up or back 3-6 inches, I rode Diablo without it, but here’s what it looks like:

Bracket is reversible, for up or back orientation, with a clever tab welded on so it can’t rotate.

Okay, great, we got a bike on a rack, now we need to take it some where.  Embarrassingly, despite living in the bay area for 20+ years, I have never bicycled up Mt Diablo.  So I chose this as my destination.  I picked a convenient Starbucks ~50 miles away near the foot of the climb, loaded up, and headed out.

First observation:  My motorcycle+bicycle is a SPECTACLE. People were swerving around on the freeway, zooming up next to me to take a picture, etc.  This was a little unnerving, I couldn’t tell if I was losing parts or something else was happening.  Please don’t take my picture while driving your car!

For this ride, I wore my bicycle kit under my motorcycle gear (Aerostich Darien Jacket and Pants) and my side cases were entirely empty.

Here’s me parked and getting ready to transform:

Yeah, people stared. Children were confused.

I quickly realized I would need to find some other solution to stashing my gear while out bicycling – it literally filled both cases completely, along with a helmet lock to bolt my helmet below my side case.  That won’t leave much (any) room for a month’s worth of travel and camping gear.  Later I did some research and found the Pacsafe Backpack and Bag Protector (Amazon) – it sorta looks like a squid mated with a bicycle cable lock.  It certainly won’t stop anyone determined to mess with your stuff, but will hopefully deter a lazy snatcher.

Pacsafe (Amazon)

Alright, so after 15 or 20 minutes of changing and packing and bolting the bike back together, time to roll!

Click image for full Strava activity

Road conditions were pretty sketchy – lots of dirt, gravel, some water.  I started on the south side went to the summit, then blasted down the north side and back up again.

West side!
East side!

Alright, back at Starbucks.. time to transform!  Since every cyclist and motorcyclist knows the danger of saddle sores, gotta get those bike shorts off and clean up.. how?  Well, for the Rock Cobbler “extreme gravel grinder” there was a sample of On The Go Towel Wipes (Amazon)

Wipes – Amazon

– these are much much better than baby wipes.  Far more substantial and you don’t smell like babies.  Along with a beach towel and a fresh pair of shorts, I performed the Reference Standard Beach Change and was back in motorcycle gear.

Conclusion:  This is doable.  Needs multi-day and long distance test!

Why motorcycle with a bicycle?

Well, this goes back a bit.  I’ve been motorcycling for a while.  I’ve been bicycling for a while.  ~5 years ago, I spent 4 weeks riding my motorcycle around Canada and Alaska.


As my next 5 year sabbatical approached, I began planning what I thought would be a motorcycle trip down the Continental Divide (from the Canadian border down to Mexico.)

I also started recovering from my latest injury and began bicycling more, culminating in participating in a local hill climb series (shout out to Low Key Hill Climbs!) as well as dropping the latest 30 pounds I gain every time I get injured.

I figured I should use my current cycling form for something, and decided I should at least ride all the top climbs in California this summer.  Which lead to John Summerson’s “Complete Guide to Climbing by Bike” book.


Which lead me to PJAMM cycling’s “Top bike climbs in the United States” web page.  Which lead to pondering how many of the Top 100 climbs I could visit in 4 to 6 weeks of traveling.

Unfortunately for me, I loathe long car road trips.. but I can ride my motorcycle day after day forever, no problem.

A quick Google for “bike racks for motorcycles” turned up the most excellently engineered 2×2 Cycles Rack and a vague sketch of a plan formed in my mind:  I would travel around the western US with my motorcycle AND bicycle.  Motorcycle to the foot of a remote climb, switch to bicycle, ride it, then switch back!  CRAZY!

Crazy enough people said I should blog about my experiences, including my lovely wife.  I don’t do Facebook, my Instagramming is inconsistent, and Strava only covers a small aspect of it.  Plus, I’m capturing my own learnings and actions as I go along.

So, here it is… count-down to (probably) June.  Please leave a comment if you’re interested in any particular aspect of this craziness!

This is, so far, my deeply thought out plan (each balloon or diamond represents a notable climb.)

Route planning via MS Paint!