Use the gear you have

Last week I had the chance to co-teach not only a workshop about bike touring for women, but also a mini workshop about randonneuring. Both were awesome, and both reminded me of how much I fricken love teaching–especially to people who are super psyched about whatever the subject matter is. (I guess there’s a reason I went into teaching originally after all:)

I didn’t necessarily think that there’d be much overlap between the two workshops, but there was definitely a theme that came across loud and clear in both of them: use the gear you have. I said this over and over in both workshops, and I think it bears repeating again here.

You do not have to have exactly the “right” equipment to enjoy something that you haven’t done before. 95% of the time, whatever you already have will be more than adequate.

So many people, it seems, are foiled by thinking that they don’t have the right gear. Perhaps someone wants to take a bike tour but doesn’t think they have the right camping equipment. Or someone wants to go on a 300k ride with the Oregon Randonneurs but doesn’t have a randonneuring bike. Or someone is afraid of riding too far because she doesn’t have clipless pedals.

I hate to see something like that stop people.

harrison park trek(This is not a touring bike. Or a randonneuring bike. It doesn’t take real fenders. I didn’t have clipless pedals on it for the first two years or so. And yet it’s served me well for touring, randonneuring, and basically everything else I’ve wanted to do thus far.)

While sometimes it’s certainly nicer to have something that you don’t–a super light campstove, for example, instead of your clunker–there’s no reason that you can’t camp with your clunker. There’s no reason you need a specific randonneuring bike to take long rides. There’s no reason you need to have the equipment that you believe everyone else has (which, chances are, not everyone has anyway).

And while it’s certainly helpful to see what other people do or how they pack for whatever it is you want to do too, it doesn’t mean that you have to do exactly what they do. That’s what I tried to emphasize over and over in both workshops. Don’t let the gear (or lack thereof) stop you. As long as you already have the baseline necessities, you can start with what you have and change it up as you go if you find it’s not working for you.

It’s true that I am approaching this from my stasia-frugal perspective–I do really hate buying stuff and would much rather adapt something I already have than pay for something new and thus also contribute to the massive pile of stuff that already exists in the world. But this isn’t just a frugal thing, it’s a pragmatic one. You could wait forever until you have just the right gear for what you want to do. Or you could just make do with the baseline stuff you already have, slowly supplement if if you need, and in the meantime be enjoying yourself on all the awesome adventures you’re having with imperfect but adequate gear.

I say, get out there and make it happen. By all means, talk to other people about what they do or what they bring–I certainly get great new ideas all the time from doing that kind of thing. But the best way to figure out what you personally need is to try something and see if it works for you. Don’t let the gear stop you.


  1. Hey-
    Thanks for the rando workshop.

    I like your ‘run what you brung’ attitude. That’s what finally got me off my butt and on the TransAmerica trail on my first big tour.

    Have you seen this article by Jan:

    • hey Norm!

      How was the ride?? I was psyched you came out for it:)

      I hadn’t seen that article, but I think it’s a good one. Little gear steps as you need them–that totally seems like the way to go. Thanks for adding the link!

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