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Old 07-23-09, 05:20 PM   #1
BNcycle
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Spend Money / Save Money

Hi guys, I was thinking about the money spent on touring and thought this would make an interesting thread. What items are so important that you're willing to spend extra money to buy a high end product? And on what things are you willing to cut corners?

Example:
SPEND money on: sleeping pad, saddle, shoes.
SAVE money on: helmet, pedals, gloves, fenders.

Just throwing that out there, not necessarily my opinion. I'll be interested to hear what everyone thinks.
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Old 07-23-09, 11:26 PM   #2
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Spend money on good bike components (especially rear wheel), warm sleeping bag.
Save money on food (beans and rice, drink water), bike clothes (only helmet is bike specific).

I spend whatever it takes to be prepared for the tour, both on fixing my bike up, on tools and spares, camping and cooking gear, first aid and pharmacy stuff...
Then on the road I keep it very basic, eat cheap but healthy, no restaurants, sleep wild or in cheap campsites...

YMMV

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Old 07-24-09, 06:25 AM   #3
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I'm with imi. Spend on making the bike reliable. Wheels, tires, gear train. Skimp on clothes, food, helmet, lodging. With discipline, you can cross the continent on oatmeal, peanut butter, bagels, cheese, spinach, apples, and Snickers.

Bike touring is inherently high dollars/mile since most go only about 50 miles/day vs 500 in a car. It cost at least $250 to cover the mileage on a bike that you cover in one day in a car. Generally, bike touring is not a cheap way to see the world.
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Old 07-24-09, 06:47 AM   #4
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eh i would say forget about saving money ,get yourself the best you can that's imho the way to save money.oh if you can test everything before you buy especally your tent .
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Old 07-24-09, 07:08 AM   #5
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I will preface this by saying this is just one person's opinion and your mileage may definitely vary...

I am inclined to say that pretty much all touring items have a minimum level of serviceability that once met the benefit of spending more is not that great. I think that there is a tendency to go way overboard when folks list what they need on many of the items with the bike itself, the racks, and panniers being especially likely to fall into that category.

I would say that from the standpoint of actually affecting the quality of the experience, the equipment you use has very little effect on whether the tour was a positive experience unless it is really inadequate. The area where gear choices have the biggest impact on in the experience itself is comfort, but in all but a few items comfort is best attained by carrying less weight, not by carrying more comfort items.

I don't think that my tours to date would have been substantially different if I were riding a $6000 bike instead of a $600 one. So for me the list is something like:
Items where you only need to meet a minimum standard of suitability:
  1. Pretty much everything about the bike itself. I think the minimum standard is much lower than many seem to think. Deore and Tiagra components are fine.
  2. Racks. They need to be sturdy enough, but relatively inexpensive ones are fine. For example Blackburn EX-1 rear rack and lowrider front rack clones from Nashbar or Performance are a good choice. The worst case IMO is to spend a lot and still get heavy ones.
  3. Panniers. Nashbar or Performance waterproof ones are fine and are among the cheapest (and also lightest).
  4. Sleeping bag in moderate weather. A $70 Slumberjack was fine for me on the TA and many other trips including non-cycling trips.
  5. Clothes except maybe shorts. They are kind of on the line between categories. Even shorts I only get moderately high priced ones (Pearl Izumi Ultra Sensor)
Items where spending a bit more is worth it to me (note that even in this category most of the items I pick are not extremely high end):
  1. Sleeping pad. If it saves weight and adds comfort (My NeoAir did both and assuming it proves to be durable it was one of my best purchases.
  2. Sleeping bag if the weather is more severe.
  3. Tent. If it saves substantial weight.
  4. Food. If it makes the trip more enjoyable. Definitely sample the local foods. This does not need to be a big splurge, but don't be too chintzy either.
  5. Shoes. It is worth buying Sidis to me, but I like the lower end Bullet 2's so it isn't a big splurge.

Last edited by staehpj1; 07-24-09 at 07:17 AM.
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Old 07-24-09, 07:43 AM   #6
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staehpj1 makes a good point. Equipment only needs to be a minimum and spending a lot more does not increase the overall usefulness by that much. I did splurge on some things like a tubus tara rack and I have a trek 520, but on others (pedals, panniers, food, and clothes) I definitley spend way less.
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Old 07-24-09, 07:55 AM   #7
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.

Bike touring is inherently high dollars/mile since most go only about 50 miles/day vs 500 in a car. It cost at least $250 to cover the mileage on a bike that you cover in one day in a car. Generally, bike touring is not a cheap way to see the world.
I guess I have a complete oppostie view on this - touring is a very cheap way to see the world especially if you camp and cook. Just renting a car for a week covers a significant chunk of a touring setup. Once you have the gear it should not cost that much at all. Touring gear should last awhile - several years at least if not much longer.
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Old 07-24-09, 08:41 AM   #8
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Bike touring is inherently high dollars/mile since most go only about 50 miles/day vs 500 in a car. It cost at least $250 to cover the mileage on a bike that you cover in one day in a car. Generally, bike touring is not a cheap way to see the world.
I don't think cost per mile is a good measure. This is a vacation after all so cost per day makes more sense. Given that I think that bike touring fares much better in the comparison.

In addition to not having to buy gas, there are other things that are cheaper when traveling by bike. When cycle touring I generally camp for free most days and have invites from hosts some days. Even if I pay to stay in a campground or motel i can generally negotiate a biker discount, especially if on a long tour like a coast to coast trip. I think we averaged less than $5 per day for lodging on the TA. If I were driving I would probably be paying for campsite every day and paying full price.

Since I am likely to want to tour somewhere that is not a round trip and also not directly from home. I am likely to need to rent a car if I drive. That shifts the balance even farther.

Then there is the fact that when riding the travel is the recreation. When driving the travel is just a way to get to the recreation. Not so much a cost issue, but an 80 mile day on the bike is fun and a 500 mile day in the car is a drag, so all my time on the bike trip is recreation and much on the time on a car trip is not.
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Old 07-24-09, 08:43 AM   #9
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Well, this thread turned out to be interesting.

I agree that most of the utility of a element of gear is achieved by buying the basics. Fitness for use product liability laws make sure of that. And if cheap also means light and the item doesn't leave you stranded, you have avoided carrying weight now that will be utilized only on future trips. And I also agree that if you don't abuse equipment even cheap stuff will probably last longer than the buyer (except tires IMHO).

But unless you choose to be wilfully ignorant (a legal term not intended as an insult) what you don't get with low end choices is peace of mind, fit, and optimization. With cheap stuff you must tailor your needs to your equipment, not the other way around. And for many people that is frustrating. If we are talking about bike fit it's downright painful.

As a hobby, bicycle touring is not expensive compared to others. When not touring, the equipment has other uses and can be loaned to family and friends. Touring takes up lots of time, but the variable costs of shelter (if camping) and eating (if buying ingredients from grocery stores) are very low (free if stealth camping or dumpster diving -ugh!). Buying even the most expensive bicycle touring equipment is cheaper than buying a boat or RV, for example.

But I wonder if the cheaper-is-best aficionados know what it is like to ride a custom fit touring bike with the best components or camp with a high end tent and down bag or cook on a stove that uses unleaded gas. The Thermarest NeoAir is currently the highest price sleeping pad on the planet (also the lightest), so even those who advocate cheap really don't mean cheap. We're only discussing where the expense / comfort line is drawn. To me, if my gear keeps me out of a motel for one night, that's (including eating dinner in a restaurant) $50-70 dollars saved. Ten nights saved is (almost) a Hilleberg Allak.

Just like I don't want to climb hills for no reason, I don't want to carry weight for no reason either. But if I am going to be sufficiently more comfortable, especially when conditions are sketchy, I don't mind carrying more weight. There is some correlation between (less) weight and tour quality, but for me there is more of a correlation between comfort and tour quality. And weight and comfort are generally inversely proportional.
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Old 07-24-09, 09:04 AM   #10
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Well, this thread turned out to be interesting.

I agree that most of the utility of a element of gear is achieved by buying the basics. Fitness for use product liability laws make sure of that. And if cheap also means light and the item doesn't leave you stranded, you have avoided carrying weight now that will be utilized only on future trips. And I also agree that if you don't abuse equipment even cheap stuff will probably last longer than the buyer (except tires IMHO).

But unless you choose to be wilfully ignorant (a legal term not intended as an insult) what you don't get with low end choices is peace of mind, fit, and optimization. With cheap stuff you must tailor your needs to your equipment, not the other way around. And for many people that is frustrating. If we are talking about bike fit it's downright painful.

As a hobby, bicycle touring is not expensive compared to others. When not touring, the equipment has other uses and can be loaned to family and friends. Touring takes up lots of time, but the variable costs of shelter (if camping) and eating (if buying ingredients from grocery stores) are very low (free if stealth camping or dumpster diving -ugh!). Buying even the most expensive bicycle touring equipment is cheaper than buying a boat or RV, for example.

But I wonder if the cheaper-is-best aficionados know what it is like to ride a custom fit touring bike with the best components or camp with a high end tent and down bag or cook on a stove that uses unleaded gas. The Thermarest NeoAir is currently the highest price sleeping pad on the planet (also the lightest), so even those who advocate cheap really don't mean cheap. We're only discussing where the expense / comfort line is drawn. To me, if my gear keeps me out of a motel for one night, that's (including eating dinner in a restaurant) $50-70 dollars saved. Ten nights saved is (almost) a Hilleberg Allak.

Just like I don't want to climb hills for no reason, I don't want to carry weight for no reason either. But if I am going to be sufficiently more comfortable, especially when conditions are sketchy, I don't mind carrying more weight. There is some correlation between (less) weight and tour quality, but for me there is more of a correlation between comfort and tour quality. And weight and comfort are generally inversely proportional.
I can pretty much agree with all of that, except the last sentence. I would say that carrying too much weight is the surest way to assure being uncomfortable for me. There are a few items that I splurge on weight-wise in the interest of comfort, but they are the exception rather than the rule.

BTW: While I generally tend to be frugal, I don't count myself as being among the "cheaper-is-best aficionados". I do find that there are some items among the cheapest that I prefer over some of the most expensive. I also find that there are some items among the premium high end gear that if given to me they would be on eBay tomorrow.
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Old 07-24-09, 09:34 AM   #11
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And weight and comfort are generally inversely proportional.
I should have thought through this sentence more carefully. What I mean is that with weight the dependent variable, weight and comfort are generally inversely related.

Also, one must bear in mind that just because a pannier or a rack or anything else is heavy, it doesn't mean that the additional (for you) unwanted features don't make it perfect for somebody else. I'd rather see people reject gear for being over-designed for them and thus not worth the extra weight rather than just heavy. For example, The Arkel GT series panniers and Surly Nice Racks are over-designed and not worth the extra weight. Not just heavy.
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Old 07-24-09, 09:53 AM   #12
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I guess that I spend money on the bike, racks and panniers. My clothes and personal equipment is functional, not high cost. I am something of a weight watcher, I may carry something that won't get used but it will be light weight. Then I spend money on tour for eating and lodging. My touring methods are not low cost.
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Old 07-24-09, 11:39 AM   #13
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....What items are so important that you're willing to spend extra money to buy a high end product? And on what things are you willing to cut corners?

Example:
SPEND money on: sleeping pad, saddle, shoes.
SAVE money on: helmet, pedals, gloves, fenders.
I have always thought that a good comfy sleeping bag is worth the extra time, effort, and money it takes to find one. If ya don't sleep well...expecially if you are too cold in the high mountains and thin air at night...i think the rest of your tour is gonna be compromised.

I am used to sleeping on firm surfaces so I just use an old fashioned $5.00 walmart ensolite foam pad. Soft ground is pretty easy to find where I tour, anyway.

A good pair of gloves, and some nice foam rubber padding for your handlebars, is worth the money. Nerve damage in your hands is not pretty.

On the other hand I use traditional rat-trap pedals (not even toe clips, but i am just being lazy there) so I don't waste money on funny clip-on shoes.


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Old 07-24-09, 11:47 AM   #14
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...Bike touring is inherently high dollars/mile since most go only about 50 miles/day vs 500 in a car. It cost at least $250 to cover the mileage on a bike that you cover in one day in a car. Generally, bike touring is not a cheap way to see the world.

HUH? Are you out of your mind? The costs of bike touring are almost zero, especially if you wild camp like I do. My only 'expenses' are food, lodging, and repairs.

(1) food shouldn't be counted as a cost of touring because you have to eat, anyway. And I eat better, healthier food when I am touring than when I stay at home (though the 'variety' suffers).

(2) Lodging shouldn't count because you have to pay rent (or the mortgage/opportunity cost of housing) , while on the road I wild camp about 80% of the time, even in the eastern US.

(3) there is the cost of bike maintenance and repairs. I'll give ya that.

Many years ago I knew my landlord well and he had zillions of apartments everywhere. So I would move out of my apartment entirely for the summers I was touring (I had month by month lease); and geta new apartment (or often the same one!) when i got back. Turned out it was cheaper to tour during the summer than it was to live at home!


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Old 07-24-09, 12:21 PM   #15
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I have always thought that a good comfy sleeping bag is worth the extra time, effort, and money it takes to find one. If ya don't sleep well...expecially if you are too cold in the high mountains and thin air at night...i think the rest of your tour is gonna be compromised.

I am used to sleeping on firm surfaces so I just use an old fashioned $5.00 walmart ensolite foam pad. Soft ground is pretty easy to find where I tour, anyway.
I agree about the sleeping bag... personally I want a hot bag, but there again I don't sleep in a tent unless it's raining and don't use a foam pad, as I like feeling the ground beneath me (however hard it is), but this means heat loss of course, thus the heavier bag... probably works out the same in weight but is an advantage in bulkiness (any of you chaps in white coats studied this? hihi
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Old 07-24-09, 01:22 PM   #16
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..... probably works out the same in weight but is an advantage in bulkiness (any of you chaps in white coats studied this? hihi

I am not that obsessed with weight, when I go touring. Nor should most people be. The amount of weight you will LOSE by touring, training, and trimming down probably far far exceeds the weight loss from spending $1000 additional dollars on hoity toity equipment like fancy rims and cushy gear.

After your first tour you have trimmed down, but by then you also know what equipment ya want, regardless.

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Old 07-25-09, 08:23 AM   #17
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[...] spending $1000 additional dollars on hoity toity equipment like fancy rims and cushy gear.
roughstuff
I guess you have to put me in the hoity toity equipment category, since my touring wheels cost more than some of the entire lower-end touring bikes often discussed here. In return for that cost, I have wheels that haven't needed to be trued after five years and thousands of miles. I've never broken a spoke and I don't ever expect I will. Most importantly, I don't give them a thought while I'm cruising along over a questionable road surface. They're overkill, but touring frames will come and go for me and I'll keep moving these wheels to my current frame. Put me down for spending excess money on wheels.

Relative to sneakers, my bike shoes are expensive. At about $150 they aren't out of line with good bike shoes, though. Over the years, I've tried all kinds of non bike-specific shoes and different types of bike shoes. These give me the best all-day comfort. I'll always tour with a good pair of bike shoes.

I don't spend extra money on reducing bulk and I don't obsess about weight. Less weight is better than more weight, but I'm not as sensitive to small differences on a bike as I would be if I were backpacking. I'm willing to carry some extra weight on my bike to make the time I spend off my bike more comfortable.
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Old 07-25-09, 09:23 AM   #18
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(1) food shouldn't be counted as a cost of touring because you have to eat, anyway. And I eat better, healthier food when I am touring than when I stay at home (though the 'variety' suffers).

(2) Lodging shouldn't count because you have to pay rent (or the mortgage/opportunity cost of housing) , while on the road I wild camp about 80% of the time, even in the eastern US.

(3) there is the cost of bike maintenance and repairs. I'll give ya that.

Many years ago I knew my landlord well and he had zillions of apartments everywhere. So I would move out of my apartment entirely for the summers I was touring (I had month by month lease); and geta new apartment (or often the same one!) when i got back. Turned out it was cheaper to tour during the summer than it was to live at home!


roughstuff
The food costs I agree with. However most of us don't feel like moving every couple of months to avoid some rent, and my mortgage company sure won't buy the idea of me not paying the mortgage while on tour. Since I don't wild or stealth camp, I'm paying 2 sets accommodation on tour, and therefore it sure does count.
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Old 07-25-09, 09:52 AM   #19
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The only item I splurged on was a good set of wheels. I don't pamper my equipment and I've never been disappointed by the cheap stuff.
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