A bit of background: I'm 22 and next May I'm gonna go on a solo bike tour to Alaska from New York. I'm 6'4" and skinny if that makes a difference. I've been reading a lot about touring recently and I've been lurking here for a few weeks. I've also been to a few bike stores but they knew very little about touring.
So now I turn to you kind folks.
1. What's a good bike for loaded expedition touring?
I was looking at the Surly LHT and Jamis Aurora but I saw the touring bikes on bikesdirect.com were being sold $300-$600 less than those, like the Windsor tourist looks fine.
2. When should I buy the bike?
Should I wait until next spring to get it so it's new and possibly cheaper or soon so I can figure out how I like to ride it and switch out any parts I don't like?
3. What wheels? 700c vs 26" and various widths
Honestly, I'd probably go with 700c wheels, but no idea what's a good width for touring. I know 26" wheels are more abundant and stronger.
4. Is it worth it to just build the bike myself? Is it cheaper?
Now, I'm no expert bike mechanic, but I like tinkering with things and the idea of building my own seems like a ton of fun. Also, would it end up costing more if I do it myself?
5. Panniers or trailer?
I can't figure out which one is cheaper, but it looks like panniers are. If I skimp and get the ortlieb PVC bags.
6. Helmet or no?
I don't know which is safer, since cars are more likely to get close to bikers if they wear helmets. And helmets protect me from the ground.
7. Disc vs rim brakes
It seems the disc brakes are generally better, are they worth swapping out rim brakes for?
8. If I'm camping and it's raining do I have to cover my bike?
I don't know how rust proof I should expect them to be.
I have more questions, I just can't remember them at the moment. Thanks guys.