Hacks, Creature Comforts and Gadgets

asskeygl Your first Cycle Oregon is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The feeling you get crossing that finish line is one you’ll never forget (I get all choked up and goose-bumpy just thinking about it). Make sure you take a moment when you get there to savor it and reflect on all the great things you accomplished that made the moment possible.

Although you only get to experience that particular feeling once, it’s still pretty cool to do it over and over again. And there are many other benefits to being a repeat offender of Cycle Oregon as well. Because the more you do it, the easier it gets – at least in some respects. “Knowing the drill” is pretty handy and usually results in a much more comfortable experience. Fortunately, many of the top tips for doing Cycle Oregon in style can be shared. Here are some of our favorites.

Sleeping – Getting a great night’s sleep is very important, and very doable. Back-to-back days of exercise tend to make falling asleep in a tent pretty easy no matter what type of bedroll you’ve got, though having a cushy place to manufacture some Z’s makes it all the nicer. One of the most important things to know is that the ground is a great conductor of heat. So an insulated pad is really important if you sleep on the ground.

4250-snooze_smallIf you want to keep it simple, the Paco Pad is the choice of professional raft guides and is a great choice for the Cycle Oregon rider as well. It’s far cushier than a typical Thermarest and can handle all kinds of abuse. If you’re OK with adding weight to your bag (which may mean doing without something else) cots and small airbeds are other good choices. The LuxuryLite is a very small and portable cot that many a Cycle Oregon veteran swears by. I’m a huge fan of a Coleman airbed. It is massively comfy. It is, however, not without its faults. They are sensitive to temperature changes, so as the nights get cold they get pretty squishy. They are also not the best insulators, so if you tend to run cold and don’t have a toasty sleeping bag, it might not be the best choice. And, of course, they need to be inflated via pumps or lung power (unless you know this little trick).

There are a few other bedtime items I really love. These include:

  • A knit hat – ultra-important in keeping you warm when it gets cold.
  • Ear plugs – because some people snore and the very same people who feel the need to get up far earlier than necessary just LOVE to wish everyone a hearty “Good Morning!” to each other at top volume. Seriously. Loud. Dunno why, but with ear plugs, you’ll never know.
  • Benadryl – the active ingredient in Benadryl is what the folks at Tylenol add to Tylenol PM to put you to sleep. It’s amazing and, if you happen to get stuffed up while outside anyhow, it benefits you twice.
  • A bed sheet – sometimes it’s hot and sometimes it’s not. When it’s really hot, I just sleep in a sheet. When it’s pretty hot, I sleep on the sheet and use my sleeping bag as a blanket. And when it’s really cold, the sheet serves as an extra layer or pillow. Plus you can dress as a ghost whenever you want. It’s great.

Gadgets – Gadgets on Cycle Oregon are beloved by the nerd contingent. Many of us enjoy GPS bike computers that let us monitor a ton of data and upload our rides online (and those of you who do are free to stop by the Blogmobile to upload your info). Pretty much everyone has smartphones with them, which means you can download the Maprika app and you’ll be able to look at maps of each day’s route AND the campsites. You can even use it to locate your friends (beer garden, but you knew that already). Beyond that you’ve got cameras, video recorders, music players and who knows what else.

Gadgets are good, but batteries need recharging – and finding an empty outlet can be an issue. The good news is that you can always count on getting a charge for a very small, well, charge (which goes to a good cause) by stopping by the Community Cycling Center tent. If you’re a serious gadget junkie, consider a USB battery pack. This is basically a device with some larger rechargeable batteries inside and USB ports you can use to recharge your other devices.

Chamois Lube – It’s a good thing. Use it. And if you end up getting a bit tender anyhow, some swear by a nice application of Desitin or Bag Balm in the evenings (I’m a Desitin man myself).

brinkmann-headlamp-paintHeadlamps – A flashlight that goes on your head. Brilliant! Just remember your light goes everywhere you look, so when you look someone right in the eye, you blind them.

Huge Ziplocs – If you pack everything in one big duffel bag – and most people do – chaos can ensue very quickly. Use big ziplocs to organize your stuff, particularly your clothes to ensure they stay dry at the same time. Some people like to put a single jersey, pair of socks and bike shorts into a single bag so they can grab it and dress in the dark. Some people even pre-lube their chamois, then put that bag inside their sleeping bag so they can slip into pre-warmed clothes with lube that has already come up to temperature. That’s what I call civilized.

Knee and Arm Warmers – Where we’re going you can count on mornings being a bit on the nippy side for a while. It’s tempting to roll out of camp underdressed because you know it will get hot later in the day, but it’s also very, very hard on your knees. Knee and arm warmers are a great solution. They are small and light enough that you can remove and carry them in your jersey. And, of course, Cycle Oregon has gear drops along the way so you don’t have to.

Tactics – A few other tips and random tricks worth sharing:

  • When you arrive at Cycle Oregon and get your wristband, you also get a nice, new, clean T-shirt. Keep this in mind when packing. You need one fewer shirt than you thought.
  • Keep a fresh towel and change of clothes in your car. No point in carrying all that with you all week. And after a week, that towel you’ve used in camp could be getting a bit gamey.
  • Pack your duffel with clean clothes and your shower stuff on top. This way you can shower immediately after arriving in camp (or right after setting up your tent if you find that to be a sweaty job). Getting out of your sweaty bike shorts ASAP is a very good plan for a multi-day event.
  • Drink a recovery drink (or find another good source of protein) as soon as you get into camp.
  • Stretch as soon as you get to camp and get settled. It makes a HUGE difference the next day. Yoga is another option; there’s yoga in camp.
  • Get a massage. It really helps. Don’t be afraid to get one of those deep ones that doesn’t feel so good until after.
  • If you decide not to ride on the rest day, consider taking a very short spin around town.

Do you have any favorite tips, hacks or gadgets not listed? Please tell us.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. Malcolm Ash says:

    I’ve been on a dozen or so COs and a couple times now to Cycle Greater Yellowstone. This year I will be somewhere out there putting up all the pink arrows that help you find your way.
    A couple items I carry:
    – A “tent light” like the Hozuki mini by Snow Peak
    is my current favorite.
    – A front porch: I use a small piece of tarp cut to about 18″x24″ that I toss in front of my tent to take my shoes on and off and stand on in sox. It’s under the vestibule so it stays dry and it keeps a lot of dirt and grass out of my tent.
    – A pee bottle, looks like a water bottle but keep it on the other side of the tent and mark it with a sharpie before leaving home.
    – individual chamois cream & wet-wipes in my saddle bag
    – Advil, in my pocket, in my saddle bag, in my coffee in the morning. Don’t be a martyr. You are pushing your muscles and body harder than you did all summer training because you are riding long miles every day. Things are going to be sore and swollen. Lots of things. Just take some advil in the morning and at noon and before bed time. All good.

  2. Michael Skeels says:

    Bacpacking towels are the best for CO. They work well, dry quickly, weigh almost nothing, and take very little space. I hang mine on a clothesline in the afternoon and it’s dry by the time I go to bed so I can pack it. Mine is from REI.