State of the Art

Clif Bar founder Gary Erickson perfects the fast-and-light concept for bike touring

    Photo: John Clark

THROW OUT YOUR TIRED IMAGE OF THE CYCLING TOUR, the one featuring some poor schlemiel weighed down with 50 pounds of gear strapped to a 30-pound touring bike. Gary Erickson, the guy behind Clif Bar, has found a new, improved way to pedal thousands of miles: It involves one Tour de France–ready, ultralight racing bike, a large seat pack, and—get this—only eight pounds of cargo.

Erickson's method, honed over 23 years of touring around the Alps and California's Sierra Nevada, comes from his cycling heritage: Before baking his first energy bar, he was an amateur Category 2 road racer (the Triple A level of cycling) in Northern California. In other words, he likes to go fast, especially over arduous mountain passes like the ones he'll face this September on a 16-day, 1,600-mile trek from Pamplona, Spain, to Cortina, Italy.

But speed isn't the only reason Erickson practices such minimalism. "My way lets me cover 50 percent more miles in a day," he says, "which gives me the freedom to explore dead ends or new routes. And without a support van to shuttle me to a hotel, or a tent and sleeping bag to make camp, I'm forced to engage with the locals. I've got to go ask someone in the street or a farmer in a field for help finding a decent meal and a cheap place to sleep. I usually end up in some great place no guidebook has listed."

Ready to hit the road? Take a peek at our version of Erickson's packing list.

THE PACK: The DETOURS HIGH TAIL EXPANDABLE seatpost bag ($85), available at REI. 800-426-4840, www.rei.com
INSIDE: maps; bike tools (chain tool, cassette remover); inner tube; patch kit; foldable spare tire; pair of socks; lightweight nylon or polyester convertible travel pants and shirt (for après-biking activities); boxer shorts; ID, cash, credit card; small notebook and pen; sunscreen; toothbrush and paste; camera; long-sleeved cycling jersey; waterproof-breathable rain jacket and pants; wool beanie; and cycling tights.

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