Bina’s Tour d’Afrique – Chapter 1, What to pack?

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By Bina Bilenky

By the time you read this my husband and I will be heading to Africa for the 2014 Tour d’Afrique. We will be staff members for the four-month, 7,500-mile cycling expedition that starts in Khartoum, Sudan, and wraps up in Cape Town, South Africa. There is a lot to do in preparation for the trip including ironing out the details for the fifth annual Philly Bike Expo at the end of 2014!

If you’re not familiar, the Tour d’Afrique is a test of mind, body and bike that winds its way through 10 countries along the Nile River, past ancient temples, across the Equator, past Mount Kilimanjaro, Lake Malawi, Victoria Falls and finally to Cape Town.

I’ve been asked on several occasions how I’m preparing for the tour. My winter training has become mostly mental since the temperature dropped. And by mental I mean stressing about the difficult terrain in my future and doing everything possible to avoid the dreaded trainer. I don’t think my training program will get me very far but I’m hoping I will ride myself into shape! On the positive side, I have been taking bootcamp fitness classes and my bear crawl has significantly improved.

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The packing list is extensive and I have organized items by categories that make sense to me. My packing situation is various levels of chaos depending on how much the cat sleeps on a particular pile. I have had to start over several times already. All of our gear needs to fit into a locker on the support vehicle. The locker size seemed plenty big until I converted it from centimeters to inches. Not so big after all. Add that to the list of lessons in numerical conversions. I’m still working on Celsius to Fahrenheit and kilometers to miles. My dad would be so proud.

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Speaking of, my dad (Stephen Bilenky) and the rest of the Bilenky Cycle Works crew have been patiently dealing with me during the design and build of my Tour d’Afrique bicycle. I may be the worst customer they’ve had this season. The bike is a bit randonneuring, a bit gravel grind and a bit mountain and totally gorgeous!

One of the biggest challenges in preparing is deciding on which cycling components and apparel to bring. I’m typically not that fussy but the thought that I’m stuck with whatever I choose for the duration of the tour has me spending much more time exploring options.

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A few things required no thought. I knew I wanted White Industries hubs. I love shiny (and light and durable) things so their new gold anodized hubs were a no-brainer. Some of my other favorites of the build include the DT Swiss rims, gold KMC chain (coated in titanium nitride which actually makes it stronger in addition to being super flashy) and the antiqued Bilenky head badge. I’m also pretty excited for the JL Velo shorts I just received. They have the Bilenky keystone on the back panel and a custom inseam for my petite self.

Consider this the preview for more to come of ridiculous adventures with Bina and Justin in Africa. I look forward to sharing my stories with the cycling community and hopefully you will join me sometime on a Tour d’Afrique expedition!

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