Traveling With A Crateworks Bike Box

Here, have a pile of weirdly specific instructional videos on how to ship an ordinary touring bike with a modified Crateworks box!

Preparing your Crateworks box to pack a bicycle into it.

Disassembling a bicycle to fit into a Crateworks box.

Packing the disassembled bike into the Crateworks box.

Getting your bike out of the Crateworks box and reassembling it.

Re-folding the Crateworks box and preparing it for shipping without the bike.

Iceland Round 2 Gear And Bike Setup

For my own reference, here is the overwhelming amount of gear I packed for my second Iceland tour, and how I arranged it.

This is what everything looks like packed on the bike. It’s basically the same as my 2019 trip:

Here are the bags without the bicycle:

In the back: Two Ortlieb sport packer plus bags, each with an add-on net pocket and an add-on large roll-top pocket.

In the middle: Two ortlieb recumbent bags. The one on the left has three net bags attached to its underside in a row. The one on the right has a net bag, and then two small roll-top bags attached below, since it hangs over the drivetrain of the bike.

In the foreground: A Kelty Redwing backpack. On the loaded bike, this is placed sideways on top of the recumbent bags, where it fits nicely behind the seat, and is held down with two bungee cords.

All the gear I'm taking with me. Can you believe this all fits on a bike?

This is everything that’s packed onto the bike, including the bags shown above. As with the 2019 trip, the majority of the weight and space is claimed by the sleeping bag and the tent, shown on the far left.

In The Large Bags

These items went into the recumbent-style bags on the rear rack, or into the attached pockets:

In The Small Bags

These items went directly into the sport packer bags below the seat, or into the attached pockets:

The following mesh bags and their contents went into the sport packer bags as well:

The white bag: Assorted USB cables and adapters.

The green bag: Media cards and drives, and the cables for reading them.

The biggest change here is, I left out any kind of multi-port USBC hub doodad. I have wasted money on so many of them, and they all have problems. Some get very hot. Some of them have misshapen connectors. Most of them can’t read from an SD card and a Micro SD card at the same time. And almost all of them have annoying power problems and fail to reliably charge or stay connected to more than one USB device at once.

A pox on the lot of them!

The pink bag: Lens and laptop cleaning supplies.

  • Generic lens-cleaning wipes (For cleaning laptop and camera.)
  • Microfiber cloth (For cleaning/drying lenses.)
  • Extra microfiber cloth (In case the big one is soiled.)

A lightweight power brick with 3 USB-A and 1 45-watt USB-C.

This charger has one fewer USB ports than the one I took in 2019, but it’s a good amount lighter. Like the old one it allows me to charge the laptop and my other doodads at the same time, from one outlet — which in turn means I need only one international plug adapter when I’m traveling.

My Frankensteined portable speakers, and an iPod Nano to drive them.

I use the iPod Nano to play bedtime music. An iPod shuffle is not suitable for this purpose since it has no ability to stop playing! It will always repeat the current playlist forever or until it runs out of power! How silly.

Not that it matters, since all iPods have been discontinued and will soon die out, and we will all be locked into digital subscription services and completely abandon the whole idea of controlling what we listen to without it being mediated from one minute to the next by a jealous corporate overlord in the sky. (I’m not bitter.)

A good wind-resistant microphone for conference calls.

The above items attach to my headphones. The resulting setup works with the laptop and the iPhone lightning adapter, there’s no flaky Bluetooth involved, and it sounds far better than anything else I’ve tried. The strangest place I’ve used this so far is by the side of the road next to a geothermal power plant in the middle of Iceland.

The sport packer bags also hold two SenReal Mesh Makeup Organizer Pouches that contain camera-related gadgets:

In The Backpack

These items went into the Kelty Redwing backpack:

The toiletries bag. Basic stuff for a mixture of hotels and camping.

In Other Bags Or Directly Attached

The following items were attached directly to the bike:

These items went into the Allnice 1L PVC Bicycle Pouch just behind the seat:

These items went into the FastBack NorBack Frame Pack between the seat and the front wheel:

Also in the NorBack pack, my toolkit:

Replaced or Removed

These are items I brought in 2019 but have replaced with newer items for this trip:

These are items I brought in 2019 but decided to leave out entirely for this trip, with no replacements for them. They were just not useful enough.

Comparing Garmin GPS Trackers

I don’t know why it’s so hard to get all this information in one chart, including the relative physical sizes of the trackers, but here it is:

  Garmin 1030 PlusGarmin  1030Garmin ExploreGarmin 830Garmin 530Garmin 130 PlusGarmin  130
Price 599 499 249 399 299 199 169
Dimensions (mm)114x58x19114x58x19105x55x22  82x50x20 82x50x20 63x41x16 63x41x16
Weight (grams) 124 123  116  79.1  75.8 33 33 
Touchscreen YYYYNNN
Screen Size (Diagonal, in.)3.53.532.
Resolution282×470282×470240 x 400246 x 322246 x 322303×230303×230
Color Display YYYYYNN
Battery Life (Hours) ~24~20~12~20~20 ~12~15
Can Import Maps YYYYYNN
Has Base Maps YYYYYNN
Storage 32 GB16 GB + microSD16 GB + microSD16 GB16 GBn/an/a
Waypoints/favorites/locations 200200200200200?100
Routes 100 100 100 100 100 30 15
Activity History (Hours) 200 200 200 200 200 100 100 
Barometric Altimeter Y Y N Y Y Y Y
Accelerometer Y Y Y Y Y N N
Wireless Connectability ANT+, Bluetooth, Wi-fiANT+, Bluetooth, Wi-fiANT+, BluetoothANT+, Bluetooth, BLE, Wi-fiANT+, Bluetooth, Wi-fiANT+, BluetoothANT+, Bluetooth 
VIRB® Control Y Y N Y Y N  N
Calories Burned Calculation Y Y N Y Y Y  N
Interval Training Y Y N Y Y N N
Advanced Training Sessions Y Y N Y Y Y N
Estimation Of O2 Consumption Y Y N Y Y Y Y
Aerobic Training Y Y N Y Y N N
Virtual Partner Y Y N Y Y Y Y (On a path)
Virtual Racer™ Y Y N Y Y Y N
Time/Distance Alerts Y Y Y Y Y ? Y
Garmin Cycle Map (turn-by-turn, directions) Y Y N YYNN
Works With Power MetersYYNYYYY
Smart Trainer Control YYn/aYYYn/a

My own choice among these remains the same as it was several years ago. I went from the Edge 500 over to the Edge 130 and have stayed there.

  • It’s just as accurate of a time/location/distance recorder as all the others.
  • It weighs less than half of the 530.
  • It can be seen in all weather conditions, including pitch black.
  • It can be operated even while wearing thick gloves.
  • The battery lasts 15 hours.
  • The power consumption is so tiny I can fully charge it from the generator in my hub by riding for less than half an hour.

The only downside for me is that I can’t upload offline maps to it (though I can upload my own pre-made routes).

Reason To Go On A Bike Tour: The AIs Are Coming

Remember those spam emails everyone used to get, with 20 different versions of the same message, slightly different because some of the words have been swapped around?  “IMPROVE the SPAN of your TOTEM!  Only SOME dollars, what a NICE value!”  You may not see many of those emails nowadays, but the technology making them didn’t go away, it just got much better.

It used to be basic substitution:  The human would provide the computer with a sentence, and the computer would swap out words for synonyms.  The resulting sentence wasn’t meant to fool humans, it was meant to fool other computers to make it through spam filters.  It was a war between computers and we got to see the ridiculous consequences of it.  And now the technology is so good that it can be used to fool humans directly.

The idea is the same:  The computer doesn’t come up with an original opinion, is takes a piece of writing and reconstructs it with fresh words, so it looks like someone else is saying the same thing, and there’s a consensus.  You don’t even need a very powerful computer by today’s standards to do this.

Technically, you don’t even need a computer, because this is just a new spin on a very old thing:  Propaganda.  The Russian government still does propaganda the old fashioned way for example, by hiring its own underemployed citizens to write fake opinions on the internet.  Why pay programmers thousands of dollars to write custom software when you can just hire poor people at the equivalent of two bucks an hour to write what you tell them?

Either way – whether the opinions are generated by hired hands or by computer code – advertisers do not need to spend their money trying to change the opinions of real people any more.  They can just change the contents of networks and announce victory, relying on people to believe that the network and public opinion are the same.  Peer pressure bridges the gap.

It’s way, way cheaper than actually trying to convince you directly.  Pay a company like Facebook for metadata to identify your core buyers, or voters, or supporters, or disciples, or whatever, and then crunch it to figure out the best way to get a rise out of them.  Pay Facebook again for your content to “randomly” appear to those people, endorsed by some friend-of-a-friend that they’ll never know well enough to question … And watch the needle move in your favor, or watch your enemies go down in flames.

“Gosh, this must be what’s on everyone’s mind!  I’ve heard about it from two seemingly unrelated sources, what are the chances of that if it’s not huge?  I better investigate…”

Your friends and family wouldn’t deliberately pass you fake information.  (Well, unless they like practical jokes.)  Generally, you can trust that when they swear something is true, they’ve at least verified it to their own minimum standard, right?

Consider the social media feed of any one of those people.  How accurately does it represent what they believe?  Huge chunks of their personality are missing.  Plus there’s additional stuff, that they didn’t technically endorse, mixed into it.  Links to videos and blog posts and other external content, attributed to them, or their friends, or their friends-of-friends.  You barely have to scroll a page before you see something supposedly placed there by a person you barely know — or don’t know at all.

Do you rely on feeds like Facebook or Instagram for your news about the world?  For your entertainment?  Do you read comments beneath videos and blog posts, to get a sense of how a thing is being received?  Do you cultivate a Twitter feed, narrowed down to things that interest you, and track the world from there?  How about on Snapchat?  Reddit?  Tumblr?  Nextdoor?  How about on any website – of any size – claiming to present you with “articles”, curated by “people?”

Everything you see that was not researched and written by someone you know personally, is suspect.  You could be looking at a deliberate distortion of facts, in pursuit of a goal, often a political one.  No paranoid conspiracy theory is required to justify this idea:  It is merely the confluence of money and modern networking hardware.  You honestly do not have any way to verify that the person – or thing – that wrote the words you are reading is who or what they claim to be, unless you meet them in a physical space and ask.  So you act on faith, almost all the time.

We don’t need to be engulfed in dystopian oligarchy, thank goodness.  There are two escape hatches already in place:

The first one is traditional news reporting agencies.  Slowly they are  leaving the dungeon of paper media and finding decent electronic means to support themselves.  Do your best to find an impartial source of news, supplied by real journalists, and subscribe to it.  If you’re worried you won’t be able to tell who’s impartial (and good for you, for having that thought) consider my handy dandy list of three metrics you can apply:

Is this thing:

  1. Hilarious
  2. Inflammatory (making you afraid or angry at an enemy)
  3. Clearly wrong (begging for correction)

If it’s big on any of these three things, you’re probably looking at something that was designed to manipulate you, and perpetuate itself by stoking your desire to share it with others.  (Easily offended is easily manipulated.)  Find a source of information – even if it charges a modest fee – that doesn’t traffic in these three areas, and you’re already ahead of the pack.  The service they deliver will be worth a few bucks a week.

You already pay that much to keep parasites off your dog.  It’s worth at least that much to keep parasites out of your mind, right?

The second part is, people are learning to be skeptical of any online comment or editorial from anyone they haven’t met face-to-face at least once.

(Something written by a stranger and merely “liked” by someone you know is not enough; in fact it’s almost worthless.  The government of Finland recently realized this skepticism was so important they began teaching it in their schools.)

In this new age, a comments board on a website that appears to be full of lively discussion may not necessarily be the product of living beings.  It is possible to manufacture something just like it, in the guts of a computer, in less than a second, all the way down to the typos and the jokes, and even grow it dynamically as real people interact with it, and it’s all about as authentic as a hunter’s duck whistle.  Knowing people personally is your only sure escape from this madness.  So, when you do meet a new person and manage to get a conversation going, ask where they get their news.  It’s a fine opportunity for you to gather a source.  You’ll learn something however they answer.

And now we arrive at the way this ties into bike touring.  (I bet you thought we’d never get there!)

More than any other method of travel, bicycling gives you a way to meet new people – curious and active people – face to face in new places, and gives you the time (and an excuse) to talk to them.  It’s faster than a run, but way more accessible than a car.  Less confined and more independent than a boat or a train or a plane.  Even with just a short trip and a little bit of moxie you can have a hundred conversations, and learn about events near and far, from real people.  And not just people concentrated in large cities either, but people everywhere.

A journey is always a perfect subject for a new conversation, and when you’re standing next to a bike loaded with gear, it’s obvious what you’re doing.  You’re a curious sight, and you’ll invite questions.  Even if you don’t, you have important reasons to practice connecting with new people:  You need ground truth information.  What’s the best place to eat, for a good price?  What’s the best way across town?  Do you know where I can find a clean public bathroom?

You don’t need to “pull over” and roll down a window.  You just put your feet down and you’re there, ready to talk.  You could turn to your smartphone for advice, and most of the time you probably will, but there will come a time sooner than you think when it will drift too far from ground truth.

Seirei no Moribito, translated

When you finish your questions, you pedal the bike for another half-hour, and there you are with a fresh crowd.  More practice.

A world-touring cyclist wrote on his blog that one of the key things he learned on his epic journey was to ask people for whatever he wanted, no matter how outlandish the request felt.  He’d just been wrong so many times about how generous people could be that he stopped trying to be skeptical.  Instead he learned that people would often provide food, shelter, hardware, or advice in exchange for a couple of hours telling stories about his time on the road.

That personal connection, and that first-hand view of the wider world, is a universal human currency.  The more you exchange it the more authentic your life becomes — and the weaker the computer-manipulated phantoms of the internet become in turn.  They automatically become less real and less relevant as you refresh your humanity.  That stress you feel when the online world seems to be in chaos, full of hate and fear — it fades away.  Social media is not the truth of the world.  It’s something happening in a series of tiny little containers.  Good thing you’re not stuck in there, huh?

Ghost In The Shell Arise

Despite what the science fiction of the 90’s promised us, the future of humanity is not spinal cords drifting in tanks full of holograms.  That would be the future of something less than humanity, without breath or heat or texture, without the sense of place or limited life, without the danger.  Humanity is anchored to this “middle world,” where all truly real phenomena reside.

Outside this middle world, perhaps there is another universe, or heaven, or nothing.  Inside the middle world, there is virtual reality, social media, and altered states of mind.  No matter how amazing and intricate those other things become, the middle world will always anchor us.   It’s not a simulation (despite what you may have heard from some wacky industrialist) and it’s not merely a container for simulations.  We all live our one real life within it, until we cease being human completely.

Refresh your humanity, not your browser.

And by the way, it’s not my intention to shame anyone who cannot get out there and ride because of a physical limitation or because they are too buried in work or in caring for others.  But insofar as people have a choice, I hope they choose to spend their free time interacting with the outside world and other people directly, rather than punching smartphone buttons and arguing with digital ghosts.  The online rabbit hole doesn’t lead anywhere, it just keeps going.

The road outside, though — that leads everywhere good.

Iceland retrospective

Bilbo never set foot in Bag End again. Neither did I.

When I got back to the Bay Area I moved my possessions into a sublet — a second-story victorian flat with lots of windows, only a few blocks from my house. The tenants I’d rented my place to carried right on renting it. I really didn’t want to move back in there.

I pictured myself, walking into the bedroom of that old apartment at the end of the first day, laying down – probably on my unrolled sleeping bag – and looking at the ceiling, and being seized with a gut-wrenching mixture of panic and disgust, as all the old memories of being in that place crowded forward from my past and trampled on my wonderful memories of Iceland, crushing the life out of them. I was determined to avoid that.

It was a very good decision. As I write this, the sublet has been running for six months, and one month remains. I’ve been working, writing, re-assessing the long-term view of my life, and also hosting my eldest nephew as he lives away from his parents for the first time. I’ve reconnected with family and most of my friends, and done a lot of dating — carefully at first, then with increasing confidence. And that has led to a good place as well.

I made a presentation of my Iceland journey at work, which was fun. I put together a slide show, and now I bust that out whenever a friend or relative wants to hear the story. They often comment on how green and fresh the countryside looks. They also like the sheep and birds and horses.

Life is good for an Icelandic horse.

Lookin' for snacks

Every time I go through the slideshow I re-live the trip a little. I remember how the people were kind and gracious, the air was clean, and every day led to a new discovery. But … six months later, you know what I miss most about Iceland? The fish.

Some days when I’ve been exercising and I feel a bit hungry, my stomach stomps upstairs into my brain and bellows, “MORE OF THAT ICELANDIC FISH. WHERE IS IT?

I’m trying to save money for the next trip, which is coming soon, and I’m struggling with that because there are taxes to pay and lots of house projects to do. Icelandair keeps sending me emails with promotional prices for flights to Iceland, and whenever I see one, my stomach says, “Forget about saving! Just go back there and stuff me full of that fish!!”

It’s very silly. Half of the appeal of that fish was due to the exercise I was getting, and the calorie and protein deficit I ran every day. I know that abstractly. But my stomach is too dumb.

The Gear

Looking back there isn’t a single thing I would change about the gear I brought. It was fantastic, especially the inflatable tent. I set it up and took it down around two dozen times, often in bad lighting conditions, and it was effortless and quick. It stood up in the wind, it didn’t leak, it didn’t get too hot or cold, and it didn’t weigh much more than a tent of similar size.

Tent all spread out, ready to inflate.
Tent inflated, with bicycle stowed under attached tarp. That red mark is the taillight, visible through the fabric.
Tent inflated, with bicycle stowed under, from a different angle.
You can see my hack job here, where I ziptied a tarp to the side of the tent. From a distance it almost looks like it was designed this way...
Set up in less than 5 minutes, and ready for snoozles!
Another fine setup, tucked into a corner.
Set up in the corner of the campground, for maximum wind blockage.
Had to pitch on a bit of an incline to avoid the mud, but the night only cost 6 dollars.
The tent, tucked into a nice corner of the Búðardalur campground.
Striking camp. Takes about five minutes!
I do enjoy being able to keep the bike out of the rain.
Snug as a bug.
Gotta have my morning music!

Starting with the tent in a compression sack, I could get it staked down and inflated, then get my gear inside and the bike covered, in about five minutes. I sometimes daydream about going on another bicycle camping trip just so I can use that tent.

Here’s a short list of problems I had on past trips but didn’t have to worry about this time:

  • Non-waterproof bags soak up rainwater which adds a massive amount of dead weight to your bike until they dry.
  • Generators can charge devices but it’s always slower than you’d like. Their true utility is in removing headlights entirely from the power equation, and making it so your headlights never die. This may save your life, several times over.
  • Braking with V-brakes and hitting a pothole at the same time on a heavily loaded bike can crack your rim. With disc brakes this is not an issue.
  • In a high wind, your bike may pitch over while you’re camping. If your bike is covered this isn’t a problem. You can also tie it upright with a guyline and a few stakes. A velcro strap is also handy for holding down one of your brake handles so the bike doesn’t roll. (Don’t use a tightly wound rope or a rubber band, or the high pressure will rapidly stretch your brake cables.)
  • A partially broken rack or a rack with one bolt missing is repairable if you detect it quickly. If you don’t, you will soon discover a completely broken rack, which is not repairable. Inspect your rack at least every other day. If the bolt ends stick out far enough, consider putting lock nuts on them so they don’t unwind on the road.


I was also pleased with the clothing I packed for this trip. Here’s a short list:

  • One pair of jeans
  • A swimsuit
  • One pair of sweats
  • Four pieces of underwear
  • Three pairs of wool socks
  • Two short-sleeved shirts
  • Two long-sleeved shirts
  • A thick wool sweater
  • Some pajamas (wool top, cotton pants, thin socks)
  • A Hawaiian shirt (for fun)
  • Two thick bandanas
  • A wool cap
  • A cotton bucket hat

For rain I packed:

  • A pair of waterproof socks
  • “Gore Tex” rain pants
  • A “Gore Tex Pro” jacket
  • A waterproof rain hood
  • Thick waster resistant gloves
  • A waterproof balaclava

When I could find a clothes washer (almost impossible on this trip) I washed everything cold in one load, with the exception of the wool sweater and the rain gear. Usually I had to wash clothes in the shower or the sink of a hotel room, then hang them to dry near the radiator. That worked pretty well in the dry Iceland air. No issues with mold.

And of course I can’t forget the bike, Valoria.

Pausing on an uphill

Yeah, I spend a lot of time spinning on hills rather than powering up them like some cycle tourists do. But the comfort! The panoramas! The safety of never going over the handlebars! The dashboard!

All in all it was a massive success and I’m excited for the next adventure. Onward!