Good Advice from Jenny — who’s “been there, done that”

What follows is an email reply I got from my good friend Jenny when I asked for her thoughts on what I should bring…and NOT bring on the XC tour. Jenny, who has compromised lung function due to genetic emphyzema,  rode the American Lung Association’s “Big Ride” a few years ago (I joined her for a short stretch in Idaho and Western Montana and I think that was actually when I acknowledged my own desire to do a cross country trek).

I will probably pull out some “nuggets” and list them on the Tribal Knowledge page as well, but I thought everything Jenny had to say was insightful and worth sharing.

For riding:

  • 6 pairs of shorts, to make sure there was no chance of running out of clean shorts between laundry days. Also remember you may be wearing 2 pairs of shorts on some days (give your crotch a break if needed).
  • One pr tights, one pr shoe covers, ear-warmer (I use a headband), lobster claw gloves. I didn’t need any of that stuff after we got past Wyoming. Even though the days are hot, some of the mornings are cold, especially around the passes in Montana.
  • One rain jacket that also worked as a cold-weather-in-the-morning jacket.
    One pr arm warmers.
    Some people brought knee-warmers, I never needed them.
  • One vest – add it to the rain jacket on the extra cold days. On the warmer days, you’ll wear the vest in the morning along with a jersey and arm-warmers, then strip it by noon.
  • 6 pairs sox including one pair warm sox.
  • 1 pr Road shoes, plus riding sandals.
  • Jerseys: only about 3 or 4, since it’s easy enough rinse them out in the afternoon if you run out of clean ones.
    One camisole for under the jerseys on some days (when it was cold in the morning). You can decide if you need jogbras!
  • 2 pairs of regular warm-weather riding gloves. You need 2 pair because they will REALLY start getting smelly. On some days I washed mine out with bleach, and they need a second full day to dry; so have a spare pair.
  • Sunglasses as well as yellow-tinted rain-weather glasses.


  • 2 or 3 pairs of shorts that you can wear without underwear. This means: no zippers! I got one pair of men’s flannel boxers – heavy/thick ones – that were great for around-camp shorts and even for sleeping in. I had 2 other pair of long “jammers” type cotton shorts with drawstring waist. You are NOT going to want to wear underwear, and anything with a zipper but without underwear is going to hurt you!
  • 1 pair of more regular type shorts… zippers, pockets etc. Those are your “dressy clothes” for wearing around town on rest days.
  • A couple pairs of underwear for wearing with the regular shorts.
  • I brought one pair of long khaki pants and NEVER wore them; ended up mailing them back from Ohio. Other than the tights, I didn’t have any other long-leg coverings at all. But many people did – lots of people brought pairs of jeans (I never would have bothered with a pair of jeans – way too heavy as well as not needed in summer.)
  • One sweatshirt – wearing it along with shorts and shoes/socks was enough to be plenty warm even on cold evenings.
    Plan to wear your bicycle rain jacket along with the sweatshirt if it’s extra-cold, that is probably all you’ll need as far as cold.
  • A couple long-sleeve lightweight T-shirts and a couple tank-tops. One shirt that’s slightly nicer (to wear with the pair of shorts when going around town on the days off).
  • I didn’t bring another pair of walking shoes – I had a pair of shower sandals that I wore with socks on days off. But in retrospect I would have liked to have another pair of walking-around-town shoes. Remember when you and I walked around Missoula and I was wearing those rubber sandals and got a huge blister? So try and find something lightweight for just walking around. It’s a pain to have ALL THOSE SHOES in your luggage… 2 prs cycling shoes, a pair of shower-sandals, and a pair of walking shoes… but I did regret not having some sort of walking shoes.
  • I had a baseball cap that I wore around camp – if you want that sort of thing. Nice to have on the sunny days as well so you’re not squinting after you’re off the bike. 


I hardly used ANY of the toiletries that I brought, but a few things I couldn’t live without!
Toothbrush & toothpaste — 2 of those little dentist-office sample sized tubes of toothpaste lasted me the whole trip.

  • Dental floss
  • Shampoo & conditioner for the first half of the trip (second half, it was so humid I quit using the conditioner)
  • Liquid soap in a tube – and one of those plastic scrubby things (like this:
      (that was a lifesaver because you will be SO sweaty and grimy, you need a good scrubber like that to get cleaned off. And you don’t want a bar of soap – what a mess – bring a bottle or tube of liquid soap to squirt onto the scrubber)
  • Sunscreen – the bottled stuff for your body, the heavy-duty zinc stuff for your face, and sunscreen lip balm. So: THREE sunscreen products. Carry the face and lip screen with you on your bike.
  • fingernail clippers or fingernail scissors,
  • razor if you need,
  • eye drops just to help with the dry/soreness of being outside all day in the hot/dry temperatures,
  • a small sewing kit (I had to do one repair on a pocket ripping off a jersey… also others on the trip will probably be grateful if you have sewing kit to loan out).
  • Earplugs for those nights when your room is next to a train going by, or if you have roommates who snore, or if you’re in a hotel that’s just in a loud part of town or loud people tromping around the hallways.
  • Aspirin or your pain reliever of choice, assume you’ll have headaches PLUS sore muscles.
  • A notepad and a few pens,
  • digital camera
  • wallet (a ziploc baggie usually serves) to hold money, 1 credit card, ATM card, and driver’s license.
  • phone
  • I didn’t bring a towel, instead I had two of those little “Sammy” bath squeegee towels. They dried off a lot faster and the people who had brought regular cotton towels had issues because (1) they were really bulky, (2) they never dried all the way, so they ended up packed in the luggage wet, and (3) they got mildewy and started to stink.
  • Some sort of length of clothesline and a few clothespins for makeshift laundry-hanging.
  • Also bring whatever personal crotch-protection stuff you need, on or off the bike. I brought baby powder, both for powdering off after showering and for stuffing in my pants before and during the rides. In your case I think you like A&D? Lots of people used bag balm too. I ended up getting some saddle sores (sitbones sores, really) and I brought hydrocortisone cream to put on them after showering. They were pretty much just bruises that I got used to, but in some cases the skin started feeling a little thin so the hydrocortisone helped. Note of course that you’ll be stopping at drugstores across the country and can pick up stuff like that.
  • Here’s the antiseptic wipes that I brought on the bike – these were very cooling and helped the crotch pain on hot days: (you can find at Walgreens or Rite Aid, or pretty much any drugstore)
  • Even though you can buy things enroute, I’d bring along about 10 Clif bars or whatever your daily snack-of-choice is. Sometimes it’s hard to find stuff out on the road, especially in the center of the country. South Dakota is a WASTELAND, believe me.

Utility kit FOR bike (you don’t necessarily need these ON your bike every day)

  •  extra spokes,
  • pocket knife for digging rocks and thorns out of tires,
  • about 6 extra tubes,
  • one extra chain,
  • one extra tire,
  • some zip-ties,
  • patch kit,
  • tire irons,
  • tools (spoke wrench, allen wrenches including small enough to adjust your pedals and mirror, chain tool).
  • Spare seat-post clamp,
  • “boots” for temp-fixing gashes in tires.

Ask the ride leader what other tools they suggest you have on the road. Also stop at one of the bike shops in town before you leave and just chat about the types of on-the-road repairs that they may have had to do. Find out from your ride leader what sorts of things the on-the-road mechanic will be prepared to fix for you, vs what you’ll need to have yourself.

  • Water bottles – bring 4, so you can give them a day off to dry out in between days using. The insides of the bottles will get really disgusting, especially if you have sports drinks in them as well as water.
  • If the ride leader isn’t bringing bleach along, bring a small bottle so you can rinse your water bottles with it (one part bleach, 4 parts water) at least once every couple days.
  • Bring MANY ziploc bags and use them to sort everything so things aren’t just swimming around in your suitcase. I had shorts in one, shirts in one, socks in one, toiletries in one. I had a hard-shell tupperware box that I put my electronics in (so it would also be waterproof and have structure so it wouldn’t get smashed in my duffle bag). 
  • If you can get those little laundry tablets, that’s easier to deal with than liquid laundry soap or a bag of powder. Not sure what your laundry arrangements will be – maybe the ride will just provide a big jug of liquid laundry soap for everyone to share?…. there’s probably more, I’ll email again later if I think of something else!I’m getting excited for you, planning for your trip. Wish I was going!

    – Jenny