Our Thoughts and Methods of Bicycle Touring

Bicycle touring is a phrase used to describe the practice of traveling on a bike. This can be in your local area or another country. The tour can be with a group where your gear is carried in a van to the night's lodging, or can be where you carry loaded panniers and tour without a support van. Whichever way you go it is a great way to see the countryside and meet people.

Two special things you get to experience on a bike, as opposed to a car, is you can smell and hear the path that you travel. If somebody is baking bread or weaving on a loom, you know it and can use this knowledge to try some fresh baked bread, or get to watch a creation being made by a weaver. Touring by bicycle also acts as an icebreaker to meet new people. Since it is not a common way to travel you become someone special that people are curious about. They will ask what it is like to bike tour, and tell you they always wanted to do something similar to what you are doing.

What does it take to tour by bike? (The Chain Reaction Way)

  1. You must have lots of time if you want to cover any distance. On a highway we use the rule that if it takes a car an hour it will take us a day.
  2. You must have a real knowledge of traveling by bicycle. By this I mean how your bike's components work, and how to do repairs and emergency fixes.
  3. A love for adventure. For traveling by bicycle can be as adventurous as you care to make it.
  4. A willingness to give up the comforts of home. This applies to those who travel with their gear on their bikes. You will probably camp most nights, so the ground becomes your bed and a restaurant sink becomes your shower.

Most people couldn't answer yes to the four items above which is the reason it is a method of travel that is enjoyed by few. We run into cyclists all the time that are on a three week tour across the U.S. They are not touring but are on an exercise marathon which is great for the ego and heart. This can be done but you can't enjoy the privileges that are offered to a touring bicyclist. If all you have is three weeks, choose an area you have always wanted to see and enjoy it from the seat of your bike.

Our thoughts on clothing

Official bicycle clothing is what you see in the bike shops and in the magazines. The shirts and pants can be very expensive and functional in a limited environment. The black Spandex pants can be very hot and uncomfortable in hot weather. The tight shirts with all the writing on them can also be way too steamy on a long uphill climb with a loaded bike. Now a biking jacket does have advantages over an everyday jacket. The bike jackets have tight fitting bodies and extra space in the arm holes for less wind resistance and better forward reach. Most biking shoes have the advantage of a stiff sole which does eliminate fatigue to the foot and ankle. If you are comfortable riding in your everyday shoes these will do just fine. As for gloves, any pair that will keep your hands warm will do. Those special ones with the padded palm will save injury to the palms if you fall, but we find once you get used to holding on to the handlebars, bare hands work just fine. It also feels good to have the wind blow through your fingers.

So what do we wear? Our shorts have baggy legs so the air can pass to where your butt meets the seat. These can have the sewn-in padding or not. After you ride enough the seat feels like home with or without the padded crotch. For shirts we wear whatever is our favorite material, color, and style. When you need a new one you can usually find one along side the road that has blown out of someone's laundry basket. If you are in luck it blew out after it was washed. For footwear we enjoy riding in sports sandals for two reasons. They are cool in hot weather, and dry fast if they get wet. If it gets chilly you can put on a pair of socks. However, if it turns winter on you a pair of real shoes feel really good. We carry both.

Along with our jackets, we carry a wind/water proof pair of pants and a set of plastic booties for our feet. Since the weather will get chilly on this trip we also pack a warm hat, gloves, and fleece jackets. Of course we also carry our favorite underwear, handkerchiefs, and socks. One last outfit we each carry is a kind of dressy outfit. For me this is a long pair of pants and nice shirt, for the times we get invited to something, and we feel better in nice clothes instead of faded bike clothes. Holly carries a basic black number with black lace stockings--yowie, zowie! All this fits in one rear pannier.

The other rear pannier

In this pannier I carry my sleeping pad, toilet kit (rechargeable razor, brush, toothbrush and paste, floss, SW radio, deodorant, headlamp, Band-Aids, and aspirin), the food supply and cook kit. Our cook kit does not include a stove or fuel. We enjoy a small fire in the evenings and mornings which allows us to roast burritos, fish, etc. and heat water, over the coals. In the top pockets of the rear panniers you can find body and laundry soap, clothesline, solar shower, lotion, fishing reel and gear, and a tool kit for the bikes.

The front panniers

In one side are my personal items: Ham radio gear, cameras, reading books, writing material, and guide book. On the other side are supplies such as film, maps, tent repair kit, extra rope and elastic cord, first aid kit, bike lock and lightweight backpack.

On top of the rear rack

My sleeping bag is in a dry bag along with a sleeping sheet and flannel pillow case. The bag, the tent and my Crazy Creek chair are carried on top of the pannier in the rear.

How do our bikes handle and how much do they weigh?

With our computer and accessories (which are on Holly's bike) our bikes weigh in at 125 lbs. We have had the weight down to 110 lbs in the past but notice little difference in handling or effort in pedaling. When you first try to ride a loaded bike it feels like the bike frame is flexing and it is ready to go into a gyration that will throw you off and onto the pavement. This is normal until you ride a few miles and adapt to the new feel of the extra 100 or so pounds hanging on the sides. I didn't mention that we prefer the high style front rack. They are a lot sturdier for off-road travel than the lowriders, which have a weakness in their mounting system. The top of the rack can also act as place to mount your map and camera case for easy accessibility.

NOTE from HOLLY. My panniers are loaded slightly differently since I carry the computer, slide show, photo portfolio, drawing materials, a few extra warm clothes, and food. Though our bikes weigh the same we have a good 50 lbs. weight difference in our bodies. George claims he rides faster because he's stronger, but I'm looking for a way to sneak some of the heavy food into his panniers to balance things out...


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Last modified by tgh on October 18, 1995 19:47:12.