State of the Art

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

Apr 1, 2005
Outside Magazine
Bike Touring

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,
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.