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Old 02-16-12, 03:42 PM   #1
Jaymcb
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Fund-less Credit Card Touring

I'm a university student and I've got a four month summer break from May 1st to August 31st. I'm thinking about touring through Europe in credit card fashion, but without the implied cashflow. I'd like to carry nothing more than a Sili-tarp, a change of synthetic clothing and rainwear, minimal toiletries, and a toolkit. Hopefully I can get by without panniers *I'm thinking a seat post bag and a handlebar bag. I'm planning on making camp with the tarp for the most part, using the odd hostel where tarp-ing would be unfeasible, and accepting hospitality that people I meet along the way may offer. Ideally I'd like to use a carbon-frame road bike, like a Trek Madone 4 or a similarly priced alternative.

I'm looking for feedback, warnings, or any tips or tricks that you guys or girls can give me about this idea I'm musing on.

Thanks
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Old 02-16-12, 04:51 PM   #2
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I'm a university student and I've got a four month summer break from May 1st to August 31st. I'm thinking about touring through Europe in credit card fashion, but without the implied cashflow. I'd like to carry nothing more than a Sili-tarp, a change of synthetic clothing and rainwear, minimal toiletries, and a toolkit. Hopefully I can get by without panniers —*I'm thinking a seat post bag and a handlebar bag. I'm planning on making camp with the tarp for the most part, using the odd hostel where tarp-ing would be unfeasible, and accepting hospitality that people I meet along the way may offer. Ideally I'd like to use a carbon-frame road bike, like a Trek Madone 4 or a similarly priced alternative.

I'm looking for feedback, warnings, or any tips or tricks that you guys or girls can give me about this idea I'm musing on.

Thanks

Perhaps I'm missing something here, but why would you even consider a $3000 road bike that's totally unsuitable for touring, when you could buy a $1000 or less bike that's much more suitable, and have the $2000 left over for expenses?
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Old 02-16-12, 04:56 PM   #3
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In my experiance if you have a "regular" type bike you get more invites to hospitality. Last summer I went to Quebec and rode an old bike that was about the quality of a Huffy. People were stopping me to talk about the bike! Also if you had a cheaper bike it would leave more money for your tour. It would be nice to have extra money for things like dining. One of the glories of a trip to Europe is the fantastic food!

My suggestion is a steel bike. They are cheap and more comfortable to ride on things like cobblestones.
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Old 02-16-12, 05:42 PM   #4
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Yeah, sell the Modone; pick up a more appropriate bike in Europe; sell that one when you're done with your tour. No transportation issues; cheaper.
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Old 02-16-12, 05:45 PM   #5
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Wait, would you actually be funding the tour with a credit card? No savings or money to go on, simply a CC in your hand?
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Old 02-16-12, 05:59 PM   #6
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Agree with the comments that you could easily save some money by getting a less expensive bike and use those savings for other trip expenses. I'd also suggest you try some overnight camping outings closer to home using just the gear you plan to have on your trip. Personally I can't see being comfortable overnight without some type of sleeping bag/blanket/etc. and a pad underneath (or possibly a hammock if you're comfortable in one - I'm not). Using a simple tarp by itself can save a pound or two relative to a small tent but doesn't offer protection from insects (or privacy if staying in public campgrounds). Adding netting and some supports loses most of the weight savings but still does generally offer more space than a small tent.

And it wasn't clear what you were planning for meals. As already mentioned, it's nice to have some extra budget available to try the local restaurants. But you can save quite a bit by preparing many of your meals yourself. Some people are fine with food that doesn't need heating, while others really like the flexibility of having a stove and a few other items to be able to do some cooking and prepare coffee/tea/etc.
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Old 02-16-12, 06:08 PM   #7
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If you're banking on hospitality for all your meals and shelter, count on going hungry and sleeping under bridges pretty often. You can theoretically couchsurf your way the whole trip, but how many people do you think will also be willing to feed you on their own dime, and how many people do you think will appreciate you showing up reeking because you've been sweating into the same clothes for days?
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Old 02-16-12, 06:16 PM   #8
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I'm a university student and I've got a four month summer break from May 1st to August 31st. I'm thinking about touring through Europe in credit card fashion, but without the implied cashflow. I'd like to carry nothing more than a Sili-tarp, a change of synthetic clothing and rainwear, minimal toiletries, and a toolkit. Hopefully I can get by without panniers —*I'm thinking a seat post bag and a handlebar bag. I'm planning on making camp with the tarp for the most part, using the odd hostel where tarp-ing would be unfeasible, and accepting hospitality that people I meet along the way may offer. Ideally I'd like to use a carbon-frame road bike, like a Trek Madone 4 or a similarly priced alternative.

I'm looking for feedback, warnings, or any tips or tricks that you guys or girls can give me about this idea I'm musing on.

Thanks
"Accepting hospitality" is all well and good as long as it's offered. You really need to assume nobody will want you anywhere near their home and work on the basis that anything better than your baseline is a bonus. Otherwise, as someone already said, you're going to be sleeping under bridges and in woodlands a lot of times.

You don't say where you live at the moment. If you're somewhere in southern England then getting to Europe is easy. If you're already in Europe it's easier still. If you're in north America, Australia etc you've got to figure air fares and shipping your bike both ways.

I don't doubt you can do an extended trip based on sleeping wherever seems warm and dry at the time, as long as you consider basic concepts like personal hygiene. Where are you going to wash, for instance? Where will you do laundry, and how often will you need to do laundry if you've only got a handlebar bag? You don't want to spend your whole trip doing laundry but you have to wash your clothes every once in a while or you'll soon be very unpleasant to be near. Of course if you look and smell like you haven't washed or shaved in a month but you're riding an expensive bike, you might draw attention from police who may assume you stole the bike.

At least give some consideration to how much space you're going to devote to carrying food. If you're doing this on the super-cheap you probably can't afford to eat out very many times so you'll need to get by on cold food you can buy and take with you, or the odd hot snack you pick up along the way. I'm sure some folks are hardier than I am, but I can think of few things less cheerful than spending a day riding in the cold and the rain with nothing to look forward to except sleeping under a tarp where you'll still be cold, and not even having a hot meal to look forward to. Take it too basic and you won't even have a hot cup of tea to look forward to.

Your call, but something done so cheaply makes no sense to me, especially if you're wanting to do it on an expensive bike, which will bring its own risks of theft etc.
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Old 02-16-12, 06:40 PM   #9
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London has a CL does it not? buy something cheap when you get there.

I liked using the Hostelling system in my travels, but I brought a tent and sleeping bag
so I did not have to get anywhere specific at the end of the day.

lots of back pack touring is done, a , EuRail pass, no bike .
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Old 02-16-12, 09:59 PM   #10
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I will second the comments of if you are relying on hospitality of others you are in for a rough trip. Bring what you need to be self sufficient and you will have a much happier tour. I have read countless touring journals where people with full on touring rigs had many many offers to come stay with them and were offered meals, if you look like just another cyclist out for a training ride it is less likely the question of "where are you headed" will not come up as often.

Also why such an expensive bike if your budget is that tight? You can get a very nice bike for $1000 or less and then put the rest of that money towards gear/food to take care of yourself.
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Old 02-16-12, 10:27 PM   #11
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I'm sorry, I guess I hadn't really made my situation very clear. The bike is/will be a gift, and the low budget would be the goal of this trip (but yes, on second thought the bike is a bit much). I am a student, but I have worked over past summers and I have managed to save some cash, which I really want to allocate to cheap eats along the way and emergencies. I'm comfortable and have experience outdoors; I live in a pretty rugged region of Canada and have had the opportunity of growing up with nature outside my door. I'm really thinking it should be more of an experience. I don't know how much I'd personally derive from toting around full saddle bags. For me, it would limit the spontaneity that I'm looking for. I'm comfortable sleeping under a tarp in the woods in Canada, so I guess my revised question is how does this translate into a European tour given climate and geography. If I gave the impression that I'd be expecting hospitality being offered throughout this trip, I'm really not, I was just trying to convey that I'm not so pretentious as to turn down a warm meal. Hope I've clarified some things.
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Old 02-16-12, 10:44 PM   #12
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Don't listen to the nay sayers. Load up lightly with a saddlebag and handlebar bag and have a good time. The Trek Madone 4 is a "plush bike" and will work if you are careful with your gear; you sound as if you are planning that pretty well. Definitely get a Hosteling International card. I stayed at a load of Hostels during my last trip to Iceland and they were very comfortable. You might also look at sites like warmshowers.com and other home stay resources.

I've been touring on a steel sport tourer with a saddlebag and handlebar bag for years and many people do it with even less. I'm going to be trying it on a Cervelo RS soon so I don't see anything wrong with the Madone 4 if you approach things sensibly.
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Old 02-16-12, 10:48 PM   #13
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This man has travelled for 10 years by road bike, carrying just a backpack (I do believe he rode Madone's for most of it coincidentally). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Okhwan_Yoon
He was documented in the YouTube film "Life in a Day", starting at 28:33 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JaFVr...-button&wide=1

I don't claim to be as experienced or motivated as this man, but I do think it's a pretty inspiring feat. It's a pretty cool example of how little you need to actually pack to get by.
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Old 02-17-12, 12:27 AM   #14
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I don't know how much I'd personally derive from toting around full saddle bags. For me, it would limit the spontaneity that I'm looking for.
I really don't understand how it would limit your spontaneity to have a couple of panniers.

And I agree with a few other people here--in my experience, people are way more likely to offer you hospitality when it's obvious you're a cyclist on tour, and nothing screams "I'm touring!" like panniers.
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Old 02-17-12, 07:13 AM   #15
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Self-sufficiency (which requires at least enough carrying capacity for a day's worth of food, lots of water, cooking gear unless you like not having a hot meal at the end of a hard day, a shelter that will reliably keep you warm, dry and comfortable, and enough clothes that you can stand to go for a week or more without washing them) is what makes spontaneity possible. If you always have to rely on there being somebody who will take you in, that means you always have to plan your days around ending up in a town, not to mention budgeting several hours for hanging around pathetically, hoping someone will invite you into their house. With the camping gear, you can just set up a wild camp in a field or forest somewhere, cook up a hot meal, and get up the next day to go whatever direction you feel like without being concerned about where you end up.

Trust me. Having more stuff is what allows you to be spontaneous, not what prevents it.

As others have said, instead of asking for the high-end road bike, get a $1000 bike, which will still be of great quality especially if you know what you're looking for, and put the rest of the money toward ultralight, high-quality camping gear. Your load will still be pretty light, but you won't have to structure your trip around where you think you can find people that feel bad enough for you that they let you sleep in their house. You always have the option to couch-surf, but giving yourself the option to camp just makes sense if you're not going to pay for hotels.
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Old 02-17-12, 07:34 AM   #16
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Self-sufficiency .. is what makes spontaneity possible.
I've toured using hotels, hostels, non-cooking lightweight camping and full cooking style camping over several months.
My non-cooking tours have been over 2 weeks and the cost of eating adds up, esp if you are in N Europe. You still need to carry food, eg picnic style bread, cheese, sausage and fruit and this can take up space.
It is hard to camp wild in many parts of Europe. Land is either urban or agricultural. Beach areas are patrolled at night , camping and open fires are forbidden.
Denmark has a network of free or very low cost primitive campsites that are really good. Scandinavia has wild-camping by right but the cost of food is very high.

Commercial campsites can be quite crowded in summer and a tarp offers little privacy. If you do go by tarp, try and get one where you can close the ends off.

Weather conditions vary from hot and dry in the S to temperate and occasionally rainy to unseasonaly cold with snow on the mountaintops.

If I was to go minimal camping on a race bike I would fit a clip-on rack and 2 small panniers or a large carradice saddlebag + barbag. Credit card touring with a credit card and small saddlebag is mostly a marketing myth.
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Old 02-17-12, 07:44 AM   #17
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I really don't understand how it would limit your spontaneity to have a couple of panniers.

And I agree with a few other people here--in my experience, people are way more likely to offer you hospitality when it's obvious you're a cyclist on tour, and nothing screams "I'm touring!" like panniers.

I'm also curious about how much experience the OP has in regards to cycle tours, especially since it sounds like he doesn't even own a bike at the moment. It makes me think of a guy my son and I met while riding the Erie Canal last fall. He was going from Buffalo to Albany, which is around 400 miles. The route is really, really flat, and it's incredibly easy to find camping spots/food/accomodations/etc. He took the train to Buffalo, bought his first bike in years, some equipment, and set off. It took approximately three days before he was ready to give up after realizing that touring is a bit more than hopping on a bike. By the time we met him, on day 5, the only thing he was enjoying was the thought that the agony was almost over. ;-)

As for panniers - heck yes. Sometimes it seemed we couldn't go a mile on our tour without someone stopping to ask about our trip, offer us lunch, or a place to camp out. Part of that was clearly that they had no idea that a small kid would be able to ride that far, but there was also intense curiosity about what I was doing, too. ;-)
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Old 02-17-12, 09:39 AM   #18
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Europe is a big place with a hill or two. Would the Madone 4 be properly geared for you?
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Old 02-17-12, 10:00 AM   #19
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+1 on panniers being great conversation starters. Take them even if you don't really need them! They are a sign that you are part of the touring "tribe," and will attract people who are already part of that tribe or who fantasize about being part of it. Conversations lead to invitations. To successfully engage people in conversation you'll need to have relational skills, of course (which hopefully you already have!), but having that "hook" of being a touring cyclist helps, too.
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Old 02-17-12, 10:57 AM   #20
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As for panniers - heck yes. Sometimes it seemed we couldn't go a mile on our tour without someone stopping to ask about our trip, offer us lunch, or a place to camp out. Part of that was clearly that they had no idea that a small kid would be able to ride that far, but there was also intense curiosity about what I was doing, too. ;-)
Touring is way more popular in Europe. I got way more of what you talk about in the US than I did in France. People just don't care that you are touring in Europe, as it is not such a big deal to them. That's just my experience.
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Old 02-17-12, 11:01 AM   #21
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Touring is way more popular in Europe. I got way more of what you talk about in the US than I did in France. People just don't care that you are touring in Europe, as it is not such a big deal to them. That's just my experience.
Yep, I have a bunch of overseas co-workers, and we've discussed the difference in attitudes towards holidays. In the U.S., it seems like most people now tend to hop a plane to go to a destination, then stay there. My European colleagues are far more likely to make the journey the important part, whether it's by bike, car, or train.
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Old 02-17-12, 11:06 AM   #22
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Europe is a big place with a hill or two. Would the Madone 4 be properly geared for you?
Holland is a reasonably big place where going over the tram tracks is about all the elevation change you'll find from end to end...
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Old 02-17-12, 11:12 AM   #23
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I encountered a hill or two near maastricht, pretty steep on the road from valkenburg to maastricht http://g.co/maps/vpwub
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Old 02-17-12, 12:28 PM   #24
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London has a CL does it not? buy something cheap when you get there.

I liked using the Hostelling system in my travels, but I brought a tent and sleeping bag
so I did not have to get anywhere specific at the end of the day.

lots of back pack touring is done, a , EuRail pass, no bike .
In the UK we use ebay.co.uk and gumtree.co.uk
You will find some real bargains on ebay that you could take back to Canada and sell for much more than you paid.
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Old 02-18-12, 10:39 AM   #25
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Holland is a reasonably big place where going over the tram tracks is about all the elevation change you'll find from end to end...
My point was that he didn't specify where in Europe, hence the question about the gearing.
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