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The Bicycle Touring FAQ

Here is a try to answer questions people ask me more about bike trips. I might have forgotten a lot so don't be shy and tell me what to add...

Questions :

  • Why do you tour ?
  • What type of bicycle do you use ?
  • Do you travel alone ?
  • What do you eat ?
  • Where do you go to the toilets ?
  • Where do you sleep ?
  • What do you carry ?
  • How do you carry your stuff ?
  • How do you prevent the bike from being stolen ?
  • How many speed do you have ?
  • What is your daily budget ?
  • How do you decide the path you're taking ?

  • Bicycle Touring
  • Why do you tour ?

    This is a long discussion, it's been treated in a special article .

    What type of bicycle do you use ?

    Depending on the surface you'll bike on. If you only bike on concrete, take a touring bike (the one with a large race steering bar), with full braze-on (the holes to attach the racks). I choose my frames in steel because it's easier to repair, especially if you're in a third world country where no aluminium repairer can be found. If you're going on dirt grounds, you might consider buying a stronger frame with a mountain bike type handle bar. That way you won't have to lean forward too much to reach your brakes, especially if you're going down some steep trails.
    Just always make sure about the braze-on and water bottles fixations.

    Do you travel alone ?

    Whenever I can, I convince someone to come with me. But for trips longer that 3 months, it's quite difficult so most of the time I end up going alone. Having a partner you trust is good, your gear gets lighter (most of my gear is suitable for two people). I've never done long trips with more than 2 people at the beginning (you often meet some bikers who ride with you a couple of days...) so I don't know, please someone tell us !

    What do you eat ?

    Energy. We try to very efficient in our food selection. I try to choose my food according to two specs : if I like it or not and its energy/weight ratio.
    Here again, there's an article about food during bike trips .

    Where do you go to the toilets ?

    Here too, it depends where you are. Most of the time I go to gas station, fast-foods, restaurants, campings. If none of these is available, I go in the bush. If I'm in someone's backyard I try to hold it and not ask unless extreme necessity or offered...
    I've noticed that after two weeks of biking, I always need to go poopoo at a certain time (usually around 11 in the morning). It makes it very easy to handle this kind of situation then...

    Where do you sleep ?

    If I'm in a country that allows it and if I have enough water, I try to camp in the wilderness. If I can't, my second choice is to ask people if I can camp in their backyard. Usually they're so surprised that they accept ! I always tell them that I don't need anything except some water and that I will be leaving early the next morning. I ask for the adress so I can send them a postcard as well. It's rare that you get rejected and very rare that you don't end up with some coffee or even more... If none of these is possible, I try to find a campground or a youth hostel.
    If you're an on assisted bike trip, the organisation will book hotels on the path for you...

    What do you carry ?

    Depends on the duration of the trip and where I'll be going. I've written an article about the ultimate gear list ...

    How do you carry your stuff ?

    I use bags. Two in the front and two in the back. The brand I use is called Ortlieb, it's a german brand very expensive but the bags are 100% waterproof and very strong. I guess the brand is just a matter a taste. Many people use a trailer attached to their bike. I don't for many reasons (transportation when using plane, bad for the frame, harder to park in town or hotels...). If you're on an assisted bike trip, the organisation might be taking care of your stuff.

    How do you prevent your bike from being stolen ?

    I use to travel with a friend. One of us keep the bikes when we're grocery shopping. When in towns, I go to a bike shop and ask them if they can keep my bike for the day. If I stay in a hotel, I ask for a locked room or take my bike in my room if there's none. Usually, when they see you trying to go to your room with your bike, they find a solution !

    How many speed do you have ?

    I have 21, some have more, some have less. It just has to do with your biking habits. I use bar end shifters because that way I shift not has often has when I have indexed shifters. Also, it's lighter to carry a spare one and easier to repair.

    What is your daily budget ?

    Depending on the type of country you're in. In Northern America, Western and Northern Europe, $5 to $6 should be enough for the food (if you cook yourself), and another $6 or $7 for the camp ground if you have to pay for it. In 'thirld world' countries, food should be around $2 to $5, no camping ground most of the time but hotel are cheap ($4 to $7).
    Whenever you can, use traveller cheques, hide somewhere $100 or E100 just in case (not one note but many...) and take your credit card (check with your bank how much you'll be charged for using it abroad).

    How do you decide the path you're taking ?

    Most of the time I do the following : I list all the places, sights, towns, roads, villages, etc... I want to see in a particular area. I point them on a map, then I spot all the places I don't want to go. Finally I link everything. I don't decide which roads I'll be using in advance because this is useless (unless your trip relies on following one particular road (route 66 for example)), this is done one or two days before, during the trip.


 
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