Last weekend I went on my first self-supported over night bicycle trip with a couple of friends. I didn't have a proper touring bike, but have been a long time commuter and decided to use my 2005 Kona Dew Deluxe for the trip. We brought all our own food and supplies and camped out in the bush. I did run into town to pick up extra water, beer and snacks, but we could've managed with what we carried.
The bike I took isn't really special, but I do have a nice set of custom Velocity deep Vs riding on 32mm schwalbe marathons. That may seem a weird setup, but I've been commuting on those for a few years and they are tough. I'm a big guy (6'3 210lbs) and have rode over all sorts of terrible pavement during my time commuting around Seattle. The front wheel is laced to a shimano dynamo hub. It's a heavy rig, but rides smooth and takes serious punishment.
We only went 30 miles each day, but there was a fair amount of climbing (almost 5000ft for the trip). The scenery and weather were great and it was very enjoyable.
Here's some things I learned.
1) it's not that difficult to carry 50lbs of camping gear if you ride at a reasonable pace
2) I really prefer drop bars for longer rides
3) my daily commuter saddle is lousy after 3 hours
4) after a few miles of dirt road riding, I can appreciate why some tourists prefer 26" wheels
5) I wouldn't mind friction shifters for this sort of riding
I'm now thinking about some possible upgrades to make my Kona more appropriate for touring. Here's a short list:
1) saddle - not totally sold on a Brooks B17, but I need something better
2) handle bars - maybe trekking bars, or even On One midge drop bars with bar ends and road brake hoods
3) crankset - thinking a nice Sugino XD-600 would be an appropriate range and shed a bit of weight at the same time.
4) front rack - some folks say front racks affect their handling, but this bike is very sturdy with a heavy duty Project2 fork for the disc calipers.
Am I wasting my time with the dirt drop bar idea for this bike? I was thinking of getting some old 8spd Ultegra bar ends and linear pull road brakes to work with my disc calipers. I really just want more hand positions.