Remember, this isn't a race: This is the shit that changes your life. Strength is more important than lightweight fluff. The folks from Mavic produce the pothole-guzzling A719 rim. It gives you the option for a 32-, 36- or even a 40-spoke count. Lace them to Shimano XT hubs, as they're reliable and can take a beating. Oh, and use DT Swiss spokes; you can trust them on mile 1,240.
The Schwalbe Marathons are built like a tank to repel the thorns and glass you're sure to encounter on the side of the road in Bumfuck, Idaho. They're constructed with a Kevlar belt that adds a protective, flexible layer. And they boast "SnakeSkin sidewalls" for protection against abrasions, and venom.
Channel your inner Grant Petersen and choose bar-end shifters. Shimano Ultegra 8-speed bar-ends are beautifully finished and have this ultra-cool feature: The rear shifter can be switched between index and friction modes. Plus, they're relatively easy to repair on the road.
When thinking about handlebars, think about gripping a girl with curves. Every moment of it is pure pleasure. The Japanese company Nitto makes a 46-centimeter drop handlebar that cushions your upper body. The wide grip soothes your shoulders and is almost as addictive as a set of plush hips.
Shimano XT. Sure, there are other choices out there, but the XT matches up to them all. They shift—reliably—and that's pretty much all they do. But it's the most important thing you can have in your derailleur: confidence.
Hills are part of touring. Enjoy them. They make the trip epic. The key to conquering them is a good crankset like the Sugino XD2. With a 26/36/46 chain-ring combo, the XD2 gives you a pretty awesome granny gear to spin yourself up to the top.
Get some cantilevers. Embrace the power. Cantilevers can handle the big loads. The Paul Touring Cantilever looks freakin' awesome, but is spendy. The Avid Shorty 6 is a good substitute. On second thought, the Paul has a beauty only Scarlett Johansson could surpass. Splurge.
The Surly Long Haul Trucker is it. The LHT is a throwback to the 1970s. It rides awesome, is very stable and provides a comfy platform for all-day rides. You just kind of sit back and pedal and let the motherfucker carry you across the country.
Inertia Designs makes the non-flashy Cam Dry Load Panniers. They're smaller than most, but sized purposely to prevent over-packing. The cam suspension system secures them to racks. Side pouches allow for quick access to food, maps and rain gear.
The Brooks B17 is a classic. Just make sure to break it in, or feel the wrath of pressure-induced hemorrhoids. Brooks also makes a pre-softened model called the "B-17 Aged." This might be a better choice if you don't have a spare year to prepare for your trip. Or know any secret potions that penetrate leather.
Special thanks to touring cyclist Alex Park for his help in the construction of this list.
Thanks to River City Bicycles, Coventry, City Bikes Annex, Cycle Path and Veloce for their assistance with product photos.