Bringing Only the Essentials While Bike Touring

Joey Schusler, Karam Nwilati and Thomas Woodson wanted to avoid all logistical nuisances of bike touring

By Geoffrey Gray

Geoffrey is a NY Times author, documentary producer, and journalist

As they dreamed up the ride, a loose and challenging switchback through the forests and farmland and crashing coastal surf of California, Joey Schusler, Karam Nwilati and Thomas Woodson wanted to avoid all logistical nuisances of bike touring.

No luggage. No pitstops. Just check in the airport with their clip-on shoes and helmets, assemble the bikes in baggage claim, and take off from arrivals. Besides, Nwilati was flying in for the ride from Bali, Indonesia, and they were all anxious to just start pedaling.

And that’s what they did.

“We’ve always had this dream of doing a bike trip where we just get on the plane in your bike clothes,” Schusler said. “We didn’t have a suitcase or anything. We were standing in a snowstorm in Colorado and our bikes were in front of the airport.”

The ride would be demanding, a physical test which meant the Roam athletes could not pack any extra items. The route was a 500CK-miler juggernaut from San Francisco to Los Angeles, an extreme airport to airport run of which required them to pedal at least fifty miles a day, mostly off road, often up mountains, for ten days straight. The extreme nature of the ride required the bikes needed to be light and fast, which meant no touring panniers or backpacks.

“I basically just had the clothes I was wearing,” Nwilati said. When he met them at the Terminal, and in a jet lagged haze after flying nearly half way around the world, he realized pretty much everything he had packed would not fit in the slim pockets of the bike they had prepped and was waiting for him.

“I was like, ‘Okay, everything I had in mind [for the trip], I’m going to have to minus that by a half. Actually, more than that,” Nwilati said.

The three Roam riders only had (3) minor compartments to pack gear: a saddle bag, frame bag, and handle bar roll. Only the essentials would fit, barely. “A pair of shorts, bike shoes, two pairs of socks, short sleeve top, long sleeve top, a raincoat, a helmet, sunglasses, bike gloves, toothbrush. That’s about it.”

“For my saddle bag, I fit my drone in with an extra battery,” Nwilati said, highlighting another Challenge: bike touring with production gear. His lens and phone and chargers went between the frame, everything else went into airport storage. They assembled the bikes in the Terminal, past baggage claim, getting odd looks from passengers rolling their luggage and wondering where the Roamers were going.

Then they strapped on the final item— the TAG Heuer Aquaracer watches. The luminescent hands displayed 11:30 pm — almost midnight in San Francisco. With the watch’s dual time zone feature, they could see that it was only the middle of the afternoon – 3:30 pm – back in Bali. They envied the daylight in Bali but braced themselves for the fun journey ahead. With only 500 miles and about eighty hours of riding left, they pedaled out through the Terminal to devour most of California on two wheels, starting in the dark.