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  1. #1
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    Touring Newbies Setting off for year in South America

    Hello and thanks for helping out!

    My wife and I are flying out of LAX with our gear and bikes to bicycle tour in Latin America visiting and staying at permaculture farms and other self sustaining communities we've found.

    I wanted to get any/some advice on long distance touring gear. We're starting in Ecuador (Guayaquil) and trekking north to a permaculture farm to work for about a month+ and then repeating this flow through South Ecuador, into Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay... flying to Columbia and finishing in Panama.

    Our steeds:

    Me: 22" Surly / Xtracycle Big Dummy (2009), SnapDeck, new FreeLoader bags, KickBack, custom frame bags from Scott at Porcelain Rocket

    Wife: 52cm Surly Long Haul Trucker (2011), Surly Nice Front/Rear Racks, Ortlieb bags

    Things still in question are:

    tires — wife has Continental City Contacts that came standard, but I'm worried they might not be robust enough for the low grade roads Latin America is known for. Thinking about the Continental Travel Contacts for their robust sidewall protection. I'm swapping out my Hookworms and building up new hoops. Currently I have a pair of unopened Schwalbe Supremes 26" x 2" but there's very little nobbiness to speak of on the edges and researching touring blogs everyone seems to have some sort of edge knobbies (and are usually on busted, rural roads).

    camelback vs h2o bottles — have both, know that having nothing on the back is great, but instant water access also rules.

    dyno front hub — I have a Son dyno front hub that I could lace up with the new rims, but am I just asking for trouble trying to bring a water sensitive component along?

    travel/health insurance — I have Kaiser Permanente, but they only reimburse emergency room visits with all records originally documented in English(!). Should we even get health insurance? I've heard of some plans that do insurance for medevac ($$$). State Farm says our renters insurance will still be applicable, even abroad and on the road.

    Most everything else is figured out (crossing fingers), sure there's more, but any help is greatly appreciated.

    I'm also collecting the nuggets of wisdom I've found and will be posting them on our blog http://descubri.tumblr.com . Cheers!

    Cheers and ride on!

    Rick
    Last edited by rickahontas; 04-29-11 at 08:49 PM. Reason: added requests for info

  2. #2
    family on bikes nancy sv's Avatar
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    Woo Hoo!! It'll be fantastic! We just got back to the USA after cycling from Alaska to Argentina, so have cycled many of the roads you will travel.

    I'll take an attempt at your questions:


    tires — We used Schwalbe Marathon Plus and those were, by far, the most popular tire we saw down there - on bikes anyway. You can't buy them unless a bike tourist happened to have extras and ditched them. We were traveling pretty heavily loaded and the Schwalbes lasted a long time. I would think you could get away with riding one set and have one set as spares.

    camelback vs h2o bottles — Personal preference here. I hate the camelback, but others love it. They both work - I never had a problem getting water from my water bottles.

    dyno front hub — I have no clue what this is... You will most likely end up with quite a bit of rain in Ecuador and Colombia. Once you hit Peru it'll be drier.

    travel/health insurance — I suspect you would be able to get the documentation in English if you asked around a bit. As long as you are aware of the problem and let them know well in advance, I think most hospitals down there would be willing to work with you. Yes - you need insurance in case something big happens.

    Good luck with your preparations! When do you take off?
    WE DID IT! Our little family of four cycled 17,300 miles from Alaska to Argentina! The trip of a lifetime for sure. www.familyonbikes.org

  3. #3
    Senior Member Chris Pringle's Avatar
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    Tires - Schwalbe Marathon Plus is what is highly recommended in this forum for touring. They just seem to last longer with less puncture issues.

    Camelback Vs H20 bottles - H20 bottles seem to be the preference. If you prefer to carry a smaller 2L camelback, I don't see why not, but it's an unnecessary weight on your back. I've met several bicycle tourists in Latin America. They appreciate having spaces on the bike that can hold 2L watter bottles.

    Health Insurance - I wouldn't leave home without it! Normal U.S. plans are way too expensive and will give you tons of headaches with international claims, as you already figured. If you're planning on living at least 6 months outside of the USA, IMG Global is a good choice and the rates are quite good. They have several plans, some of which will include health coverage in the U.S. in case you come down with an odd or severe illness and can't trust medical facilities in Latin America. Getting proper diagnostics for severe, chronic or rare illnesses can sometimes be an issue down here, depending where you are. I've seen people fly back to the U.S. for proper diagnostics and treatment. You definitely want to be covered should that arise. Just keep in mind they will do a thorough background check of your health and WILL exclude any pre-existing conditions and their ramifications.
    Handcrafted panniers and bags for the discerning cyclist


  4. #4
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    Thanks for the advice, going to rock the Marathon Pluses.

    Got some 24oz Polar bottles on order, know of any good 2L brands that fit in standard cages before I click "checkout?"

    Great info re: IMG Global. We're gone for 1 year, starting June 6th!

    Oh, so much to tackle..

    Another question: Maps: I saw Borch makes some decent maps, a guy on Amazon liked them better due to durability (even if the topo lines weren't there). Thoughts?

    Sexy bags, Chris.

  5. #5
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    Doh, my source for Pluses only has them in the MTB super agro version.

    I can get the Marathon Supremes, but they don't seem to have much bite:
    Cut-MarathonSupreme-26.jpg

    Think they'll cut the moustard? Looks like the flat protection technology is a bit skimpier, too.

  6. #6
    family on bikes nancy sv's Avatar
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    I don't know much about the Marathon Supremes - would probably work but it'll depend on how much you plan to do on dirt roads.

    I saw quite a few people using regular old 1.5L plastic water bottles turned upside down in their water cages. They did need to have some kind of strap to attach them as they were a bit top heavy, but it seemed to work great. I picked up a few velcro straps from REI before we left - they would have worked beautifully for the water bottles. (I never tried those bottles as we had our own that worked fine - just saying what I saw others use).

    I ordered maps from Amazon. The only one that was horrible was my Hammond Peru map. The others weren't perfect, but worked OK - I also tried to pick up another map locally with mixed success on that.

    Re: health insurance. We are also using IMG. I've never had to file a claim with them, but have heard from others that they are good. I just send them money every year and leave it at that.

    Agree that Chris' bags are classy - may have to figure out a way to get some of them!
    WE DID IT! Our little family of four cycled 17,300 miles from Alaska to Argentina! The trip of a lifetime for sure. www.familyonbikes.org

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