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  1. #1
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    Touring Gear Acquisition Advice - Ass Backwards?

    Many threads from newbies open with something like, "I want to start touring, which bike should I get and should I buy panniers or a trailer". We then oblige with another LHT thread or panniers vs trailer thread.

    Isn't that way of thinking ass backwards? Shouldn't the bike be decided after the gear carrying system has been determined? Shouldn't the gear carrying system be decided after the gear to be carried has been selected?

    Imagine if one were a newbie with a full wallet. Shouldn't one consider first what sort of touring one would do, then plan gear accordingly? Nobody wants to carry weight and volume for no reason, so all gear purchased should be mindful of first, one's comfort requirements, second, one's budget, and third one's selected gear's weight and volume. Only when most of the gear has been settled on can one really be sure of which permutation of gear carrying options would work best.

    For example, a weekend stealth camper may decide tarp, bug bivy, closed cell foam pad, quilt, no cook gear or bike tools, and only wear the clothes on his back. He'd qualify for a saddlebag, a handlebar bag, and if he wishes, use his carbon road bike. Or a multi-month off-road expedition tourist may decide on a 2-person tent, a 3" pad, a sleeping bag, a multi-fuel stove nested in a cookware set, two changes of clothes, and a full complement of tools and spare parts. Maybe he'd have to go with four large panniers and buy a long chain stay mountain bike. In both examples, the gear, its carrying system, and the bike have been optimized for that person's requirements.

    Of course, that's not how I did it. I bought my gear ass backwards and ended up getting rid of almost everything I bought for my first tour.

    Does this approach make sense? Should we push newbies to determine what they need before spending their money willy nilly?

  2. #2
    ah.... sure. kayakdiver's Avatar
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    I came from a mountaineering and backpacking background so my experiences have always been to only take what I needed through those experiences. My first tour bike was a Schwinn Sierra 700 hybrid. It did the job of getting me around until I got a "real" touring bike.

    I also loved camping so fully loaded touring was just an extension of something I liked already.

    I'm still using many of those things from lightweight backpacking and mountaineering to this day.

    So I suppose I see your point but some don't have any background and will start from scratch. Buy all the stuff and either find out they love it or end up selling it on eBay down the road. Same goes for road bikes.... motorcycles, scuba and any other hobby people just jump into.

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  3. #3
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    As a former bike shop owner I applaud the efforts to buy willy nilly.
    Seriously though how does a person know what they need until they first head out and do it? My bias is for small people to not end up buying bikes built for 200lb people carrying 40lb loads. And conversely 250lb riders on bikes and wheels suited for 175lb riders.
    Last edited by LeeG; 03-10-10 at 09:10 AM.

  4. #4
    Galveston County Texas 10 Wheels's Avatar
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    Your over thinking the touring stuff.

    Load up a bike and ride.

    2100 miles:
    [SIZE=1][B]What I like about Texas[/B]
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PGukLuXzH1E

    Set F1re To The Ra1n ( NY Night Rain Ride)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W7jfcWEkSrI

  5. #5
    Senior Member foamy's Avatar
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    ^^^ You don't miss what you never had.

    The OP's suggestion has some merit. I went about it somewhat like kyakdiver. Lots of backpacking experience gave me a good foundation of where to start and bikepacking taught me some things as well. After I had decided that I was going to tour and where and for how long, well, I plotted and planned accordingly.



    Typical camp.
    None.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Jtgyk's Avatar
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    I'm too easily distracted by the gear when my first emphasis should be, "Where do I want to go, and what do I want to see?".
    I spend far too much time on BF and acquiring & playing with "stuff".

    I should spend the rest of this year just riding.
    Hey, I'm just this GUY...you know?
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  7. #7
    sniffin' glue zoltani's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jtgyk View Post
    I'm too easily distracted by the gear when my first emphasis should be, "Where do I want to go, and what do I want to see?".
    I spend far too much time on BF and acquiring & playing with "stuff".

    I should spend the rest of this year just riding.
    I know exactly what you mean, comes from having a desk job....although I often dreamt about where to go at said job.

    My background was also in backpacking, so a lot of the gear came from there. Since I don't have a car I stopped BPing as much, and instead decided to carry it over to bike touring, that way I don't have to rent a car just to let it sit at a trailhead for days.

    For me the bike was the most important gear decision, and I started with a hybrid that had front and rear mounts for racks, the jamis coda sport. I used it for everything, commuting, road rides, touring. From there I realized I really like bike touring and since have bought another bike, and also more gear.
    Those who are easily shocked should be shocked more often.

  8. #8
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jtgyk View Post
    I'm too easily distracted by the gear when my first emphasis should be, "Where do I want to go, and what do I want to see?".
    I spend far too much time on BF and acquiring & playing with "stuff".

    I should spend the rest of this year just riding.
    There is a lot of merit to this. "Where do I want to go, and what do I want to see?" is definitely the first concern.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Cyclebum's Avatar
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    I suspect a lot of ppl spend a lot of upfront money before they head out on tour only to find out touring is really not their thing. The price of an education, and keeps
    the bike and gear makers in business.

    I advise starting small and cheap. Borrow gear if you can. Do an overnighter or two. Then if touring looks like something you'll really enjoy, go for the best.
    The bicycle is one of the great inventions of mankind. Delights children, challenges young men to feats of daring, and turns old men into boys again.--Me

  10. #10
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    Cyclesafe,

    I get what you are saying, it's a good point and you should feel totally free to bring that up when someone asks such a question.

    But it seems like you're trying to get everyone on the forum on the same page about how to go about answering questions newbies asked and how to properly instruct a new tourist. Multiple opinions are good for everyone. And every one of these newbie threads is a little different.

    Why not respond to the specific question they are asking, as well as adding as much food for thought for them as you can.

    P.S., what is this full wallet of which you speak.... ;D
    ...

  11. #11
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    For me it went:
    1. I decided I wanted to do the Trans America after considering some other options.
    2. I picked a date.
    3. I looked at the stuff I had and figured out what of my existing gear I could use for the tour.
    4. I decided what I needed/wanted to either replace or add to what I already had.
    5. I bought the stuff I needed to add in my case that was a bike, racks, fenders, and panniers.
    6. Most of the rest was stuff I already had from backpacking, kayaking, canoeing, etc.


    I think I was lucky to not get obsessed with all the must have this fancy saddle, must have that brand of pannier, what should my "touring build" include. A lot of our online obsessing over gear is likely to cause a newbie to waste a ton of time and money and some will get so sidetracked that after spending a bundle may never actually go on a tour because they don't have the ultimate touring bike and all the bells and whistles. Then again I think some of us are more interested in the "stuff" than the tour.

  12. #12
    two wheeled accomplice
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    Quote Originally Posted by 10 Wheels View Post
    Your over thinking the touring stuff.

    Load up a bike and ride.

    2100 miles:
    This.
    Bicycle Touring Around the World & Off-Grid Homesteading
    http://goingslowly.com/

  13. #13
    Senior Member Jtgyk's Avatar
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    I, too, come from a backpacking past life. So I still have some of my gear and am use to packing the essentials + one or two small luxury items.

    I use my touring bike for almost all my riding.
    My decision for getting a touring bike was, to a great extent, my weight (back over 350#...thanks winter). I feel much more confident on a bike built to carry more weight than the "normal" road bike. The decision was not made until I'd proved to myself i was serious about riding by commuting on my mountain bike for a full year.
    So I'm looking forward to burning calories on the road and enjoying the trip as well.
    Since I'm already "fully loaded" without the equipment, it'll be credit card touring for awhile.
    But the trip is the thing.
    Hey, I'm just this GUY...you know?
    >>>Team Critical Mess<<< (You mean it's not SUPPOSE to hurt?)

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  14. #14
    Papa Wheelie Sigurdd50's Avatar
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    I agree with 10 Wheels.
    Just do it and adapt.
    I find it curious that the whole gear thing has gotten way out of hand.
    when I started as a 15-year-old (in 1971) on a Varsity with canvas saddle bags, canteens for water, bandanas for helmets, and boyscout rucksacks (yeah, we
    wore backpacks), we had a blast and were not obsessed with is this right or wrong. We succeeded and had the BEST time. Having better gear did not
    come into play. These days I do supported touring, but I don't think high tech gear has made it better. Fact is these days I prefer my upright 650B bike
    and biking in civvies with my trousers tucked into my socks.
    but I digress.

    I think if a biker (newbie) is interested in doing it, they should do it however they want to do it. There is not right or wrong way. The only wrong way is
    if you DON'T do it

  15. #15
    Senior Member foamy's Avatar
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    Then there's these fellas:



    Nice guys who had been on the road for three plus years when I spoke to them. Yes, that's a cat in the basket.

    They figured to be carrying 70+ pounds each.
    None.

  16. #16
    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    My gear needs and wants change every trip.

    First bike "tour" was on a single speed Western Flyer with a can opener a bed roll and a canteen, can't remember if we used Sterno or cooked on a camp fire. Things have progressed a bit since then....sort of. I acquire euipment by having a list of things I think I want, I wait for them to pop up on clearance sale or deep discount, when they show up I decide if I really need or want them. If so it gets purchased, if not, it goes to the end of the list. I probably have enough gear to outfit an expedition around the world.

    Some of the things I have were bought for backpacking ( a good discipline to use for gear) some other were bought specifically for cycle touring. Others who knows.

    To me touring is more a state of mind, the gear is secondary.

    Aaron
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  17. #17
    Neil_B
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    Quote Originally Posted by 10 Wheels View Post
    Your over thinking the touring stuff.

    Load up a bike and ride.

    2100 miles:
    +1.

  18. #18
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    IMO, a person who wants to do cycle touring should purchase a bicycle ... any bicycle. It really doesn't matter what kind of bicycle, so long as the bicycle fits that person.

    Then the person should ride the bicycle. The person should commute to and from work with the bicycle. The person should ride after work with that bicycle. The person should do longer rides on the weekend with that bicycle.

    The person should pick up things like a handlebar bag, rack, trunk bag etc. to carry stuff for commuting, and stuff for the longer weekend rides.

    From there, the person could pick up a few more touring-oriented items like panniers, a sleeping bag, and tent, and might try an overnight or weekend tour somewhere.

    The person may discover that their bicycle choice isn't really suitable for the longer rides on weekends and weekend tours, and may then decide to purchase a bicycle more suited to such riding. The person may also discover that their initial choice of panniers etc. isn't suited to that sort of cycling either and may decide to get something better.

    By doing these steps first, the person will get comfortable with riding a bicycle day after day, and will discover for themselves what works and what does not work. Trial and error. If the person follows these steps the person may end up with a collection of stuff he/she may never use again because he/she has found that something else works better, but the person will have gained experience. He/she will know what works for him/her.

  19. #19
    Senior Member
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    I think the question is different here than in real life. If a personal friend walked up and asked the same question, you would answer from a more personal perspective. Here, I generally think people just want the question answered.

  20. #20
    Senior Member Jtgyk's Avatar
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    Machka, I think you've summed it up nicely.
    I'm probably 3/4 of the way through your process....but need to be on the road more than at the desk lately.
    Hey, I'm just this GUY...you know?
    >>>Team Critical Mess<<< (You mean it's not SUPPOSE to hurt?)

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  21. #21
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    Unlike the other posters on this thread, I've never been on a bike tour and just two weeks ago my Trek 520 was still in the LBS. I am a newbie still in the process of getting all the "stuff."

    Unlike many other newbies, I know how to get by for a week with just 15-20 pounds of stuff. While there will be a few more bike specific things, I already have most of it. Learning what's needed and not takes time, and varies from person to person. It can't just be read in a book or on the internet.

    As for the bike, I know that a bike like the Trek is not really needed for a week long tour. I have a job with limited vacation time, so it won't be going across the country or other muilti-week trips. However, that isn't the main reason I got my bike.

    Touring bikes are excellent general purpose bikes. They are perfect for commuting and running errands on. The Trek will be partly replacing my current bike, a sport touring Centurion from the 70's that I got off Craigslist. While the Centurion is still a good bike, it not in good enough shape for a week long tour.

    Perhaps other touring newbies recognize the many possible uses for a touring bike. They are well designed, and properly maintained, can last decades.

    Getting all the stuff first, then the racks/trailer, and finally a bike may work for some people, but it didn't work for me. People are all different. There isn't one "right" way of doing something, like starting touring, that is going to work for everyone.

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