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  1. #1
    Senior Member Bahnzo's Avatar
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    Getting started?

    I have to admit that even after searching this and other forums and the net, I'm at a bit of loss as to how to get started.

    I've got the bike (although a tad old). Besides that, I'm at a loss. I've got the the drive and the will, but what equipment do I need to start looking at?

    My goal, is a couple weeks on the road. So I need to know what to look for in a tent, a sleeping bag, and cooking equipment, and even food. I'm pretty poor, so I need some general advice. I can't afford the best, or even the good. I'm just really looking for some general advice on how to get started or what to look for when trying to get on the road for a tour.

    Yeah, cheap and easy. Any advice for someone looking to do it for the first time?

  2. #2
    mev
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    A few suggestions:
    1. There are a variety of ways to tour and even a number of different styles of touring. One way to figure out what works for you is to start with some smaller trips. Make a two day or three day weekend, carry your gear and see what you used and what you didn't. Perhaps first weekend borrow a tent or sleeping bag and then after that decide what you like.
    2. Not always touring, but the PEDAL cycling club in Loveland is a good club to get in some riding (I used live in Fort Collins and led some rides we called our "three day ride"; we'd go out and do variations of such a ride). There are also some riders who have done touring who could also describe what works for them.

  3. #3
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    Bahnzo, Basically perform a complete overhaul of your bike, if you haven't already to insure the best reliability. A quality set of carriers, if you don't already have some, will last a lifetime and often can transfer from bike to bike. My guess is you'll be loading up to forty pounds, less would be better, so good racks/carriers are essential. For the carriers I use the plural because it's best to distribute the load. This will help the rear wheel cope and result in a more neutral handling bike.

    If you don't already have any panniers, Nashbar sells some good quality ones at a very reasonable price (mine are 10+ years old). Nashbar also sells rebranded Panaracer Pasala tires in their Gotham brand, which I also use.

    Brad

  4. #4
    Garlic
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    My first tour was 1000 miles around Lake Michigan from my house in Chicago with a borrowed tent and my old Boy Scout sleeping bag strapped to an old book rack. I stuffed some food and clothes into my old gym duffle bag tied between the brake levers of my Schwinn Continental. This was back in the '70s and the whole trip, about 10 days, cost about $50 including gear. When you're starting out, you don't need to spend money--that can come later if you want to. It should be easy to pick up some used backpacking gear in Loveland.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Cyclebum's Avatar
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    This is a site for touring cyclists who host other touring cyclists. There are 5 or 6 in Loveland. Some or all would be glad to share their experience on gear with you, in person. Sign up and take advantage. This is the premier site for touring cyclists. Check it out for ideas.

    A rule of thumb: Place gear in one heap and money in another. Then halve the gear and double the money!
    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

  6. #6
    Senior Member Cyclebum's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bahnzo View Post
    I've got the the drive and the will,
    Then you'll be on the pedaling road, no matter. Motivation is 90% of the battle. The rest is fluff.

    Specifically, the least expensive, lightest, most durable solo tent out there is the Eureka Spitfire 1. Not perfect, but for the buck......Side entry has the advantage of no crawling into/out of. Use as intended, or increase it's versatility.
    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

  7. #7
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    There is a saying, "buy cheap, buy twice", which is OK by me. I have upgraded my original low budget stuff over the years, as I gain experience and know what I want. Dont think that you have to spend lots top tour, you can startup on a very tight budget.

    You can use a cheap tarp instead of a tent, or make a hammock. I started with a military tarp, then a very cheap solo tent then a high-end solo tent. All of them served me well and were good buys.

    You can cook on a DIY alcohol stove such as the cat stove or small woodburning hobo stoves.
    I never use those expensive Just Add Water camping meals. You can use much cheaper food such as rice, pasta, noodles, couscous, oatmeal, simmer soups, preserved sausage, tins of fish, pesto and real food such as onions, peppers etc.

    Pannier bags can be expensive but you can rig some mil-spec bags to the rack using heavy duty zipties.
    A sleeping bag needs to be warm enough but there are plenty of cheap bags, they may not last for years. A good foam mat is cheaper than an inflatable ones.


    Start with a weekend tour, as you gain confidence, you reduce equipment.

  8. #8
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    Can you borrow stuff from friends? Buy used stuff? There is a ton of stuff on craigslist in Loveland & Boulder. If not, then REI-outlet is a good web site for low priced gear.

    If you find a craigslist ad, post up here, and we can tell you if the product is appropriate.

    For a tent - any 3-season 1 or 2 person backpacking tent weighing less than 6 pounds. Not a walmart/kmart/coleman tent.
    http://boulder.craigslist.org/spo/3423877383.html
    http://boulder.craigslist.org/spo/3461320976.html
    http://boulder.craigslist.org/spo/3382971793.html
    http://fortcollins.craigslist.org/spo/3464226079.html
    http://fortcollins.craigslist.org/spo/3384196352.html

    For a sleeping bag - how warm it needs to be depends on where/when you are going, I like down b/c it's lighter but synthetic bags are OK too. Make sure it's long enough for you. Mummy style sleep warmer than rectangular. Personally I use a bag rated colder than what I expect, but i sleep cold and need a warm bag. If you are a lots-of-blankets person, get a warmer than needed bag.
    http://boulder.craigslist.org/sgd/3444171367.html (this is at Seasoned Outdoor Exchange - huge secondhand outdoor store in boulder - worth a visit!)
    http://boulder.craigslist.org/spo/3444219411.html

    Sleeping pad - thermarest or anything, really. If you are a good sleeper, you can use a foam pad.
    http://fortcollins.craigslist.org/spo/3420764566.html

    Cooking stuff - any small backpacking stove - liquid multi-fuel if you are out of the USA, or propane or liquid fuel in the USA.
    http://boulder.craigslist.org/spo/3419816515.html
    http://fortcollins.craigslist.org/spo/3461096732.html

    If you buy used, test the gear before buying it - have the seller set up the tent, and light the stove.

    Grab a fork/knife/spoon from your silverware drawer, a plastic cup from a gas station, and use one pot (from REI, or whatever), eat out of that, no need for a separate plate or bowl.

    Crazyguyonabike has lots of packing lists.

    The other advice I have is get everything together for your trip in advance, pack it up, and go for a ride locally, to make sure it carries OK - you'll probably need to mess around with packing/loading strategies, and possibly rack/bags, and it's nice to get that out of the way.

    And, really try hard to carry as little as possible. Don't bring stuff for "just in case" unless the Just In Case event is a show stopper (like, spare tubes are needed, for example, but probably not a spare tire for a 2 week trip). Minimize or eliminate electronics, you don't actually need a laptop. 2 sets of bike clothes, 2 sets of off-bike clothes, and don't bring heavy stuff like jeans and sweatshirts, do bring clothes that will keep you warm enough in the worst-expected weather.

    You'll figure it out, and have a great time!
    ...

  9. #9
    Senior Member Doug64's Avatar
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    Invest in the book :http://www.amazon.com/Bike-Touring-S.../dp/1578051428

    It is a is a pretty good guide to getting started into bike touring. There is a lot of knowledge and useful information on this forum, but it is can sometimes be contradictory, and not in an easy format to get a person from A............................Z.

    You don't have to have it all figured out; or have all the "required" equipment before going on that first tour. As valygrl said, "you'll figure it out".
    Last edited by Doug64; 12-24-12 at 11:30 AM.

  10. #10
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doug64 View Post
    You don't have to have it all figured out; or have all the "required" equipment before going on that first tour.
    +1

    Even experienced cycletourists still make adjustments to their equipment and setups for various reasons ... the type of tour changes, new equipment comes on the market, something just isn't quite right so the search for a solution continues ...


    Bahnzo, you've got the bicycle, the drive, and the will ... now put a trunk bag on the back of the bicycle, put a change of clothes, some tools, a rain jacket, and a bit of food into the trunk bag ... and ride to the next town. Stay in a motel there, and cycle back the next morning.

    When you've done that, congratulations, you've done your first tour. You've started.

  11. #11
    Senior Member BigBlueToe's Avatar
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    My advice would just be to get out there. If you love touring you'll start a wish list, based on experience rather than speculation.

    There are tons of ingenious things one can do to go touring without spending a lot of money. For my first tours I sewed my own panniers. I found a bolt of blue pack cloth in an REI budget basement. If I was starting out today and was as poor as I was back then, I'd consider hooking a couple of plastic kitty litter boxes on the back. They'd be better than my old hand-sewn panniers, and more waterproof.

    I didn't bring a tent or raingear on my first tours, because they were only for long weekends, and I wouldn't go unless the weather forecast called for a zero percent chance of precipitation. However, for a two-week tour you probably won't be able to assume it won't rain. Some people just bring a raincoat and let their shorts get wet. I like to stay dry, including in camp, so I have a raincoat with a hood, rain pants, a helmet cover, and waterproof shoe covers. If you don't go for something like Gore-tex, rain gear isn't that expensive. I'm unconvinced that Gore-tex is effective anyway, because I generate so much sweat when I ride that I still feel a bit wet and clammy in my rain gear.

    Make sure your tent is waterproof in a downpour. Coleman dome tents are nice for kids' sleepovers and a light shower, but the rain flies don't go all the way to the ground, and the rain dripping off the fly onto the "waterproof" tent sides will leak. I know from experience. Get a good tent with a fly that goes to the ground, and learn how to dig trenches around the sides. Get the smallest, lightest tent you can, but also consider comfort. You'll spend a lot of time in the tent and if it's too confining you may be unsatisfied.

    If you keep the weight of your load down you should be able to take a two-week without any broken spokes. If you have some money to spare, invest in a strong rear wheel. If you don't know how to build one, find a good wheel builder. I'd be able to fix a flat - bring a spare tube, a patch kit, and a frame pump. I'd also suggest a good multi-tool. Bolts have a way of loosening on tour. A couple of spare bolts are also nice, especially for racks.

    I didn't have a stove when I started touring. On my first tours I'd eat stuff like tuna fish out of the can, beef jerky, and lots of fruits, nuts, and vegetables. Sometimes I'd build a fire and cook stuff in the can, like beef stew and chili. It wasn't great but I survived. If you get a stove you'll also need pots and pans.

    Those are just some ideas off the top of my head. Have fun!

  12. #12
    Senior Member Bahnzo's Avatar
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    Thanks all, there's some great advice that I'll take the time to pour over! I think I should probably do a short 3-4 day weekend tour to get some experience before I attempt something longer. Getting my head around camping and cooking is daunting to me. Staying in a hotel is not an option...the budget can't take it and it doesn't seem in the spirit of touring to me. That, and I do have some friends and support on the way on the tour I'd like to do.

  13. #13
    Senior Member Bahnzo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by valygrl View Post
    Can you borrow stuff from friends? Buy used stuff? There is a ton of stuff on craigslist in Loveland & Boulder. If not, then REI-outlet is a good web site for low priced gear.
    Thank you! Some good ideas on what I need to look for. I'm definitely looking used, so CL, and local thrift stores are being looked at. Some good bargins to be had if I'm patient.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bahnzo View Post
    Thanks all, there's some great advice that I'll take the time to pour over! I think I should probably do a short 3-4 day weekend tour to get some experience before I attempt something longer. Getting my head around camping and cooking is daunting to me...
    I'm a newbie to touring too, but not camping. Before you even start on your first short tour, do it at home. Set up your tent in the backyard and "camp" there. Try out your tent, bag, pad, etc in a place where if it sucks really bad, you can bail out to a comfortable bed. Better there than 50 miles from home.

    As far as camp cooking, the sky is the limit. Decide what you want to eat, how you want to cook it, and practice in your kitchen first, then during your backyard overnighter.

    The easiest, and probably cheapest, way to do it is the DIY alcohol stove mentioned earlier. You can make one for pennies, and they work pretty well. Add in a small aluminum or SS pot from a thrift store for a couple of bucks, and off you go. Mountain house meals are moderately inexpensive, tasty, and prepared by boiling a couple of cups of water. Easy peasy. Trying at home in your kitchen makes any flubs an easy correction.

    A step up would be a canister stove and a cheap pot. You should be able to find second hand Pocket Rockets or JetBoils for pretty cheap.

    There are plenty of backpacking oriented websites that deal with cooking lightly. Google should turn up more info than you probably want.

    I took a slightly different tack a while ago, and bought a cheap food dehydrator and a vacuum sealing machine. I dehydrate everything. Frozen veggies from the store work well, and you can tailor your meals to how you want them. I do lot of dehydrated veggies, rice, and the foil packets of tuna when I camp. I also do spaghetti, chili, soups and stews, couscous and veggies. There is a website devoted specifically to dehydrating backpacking food. I lost the book mark when my laptop died, but Google should turn it up as well.

    I've even been known to do bacon and eggs while out camping. Yummy.

    Doing a dry run at home a couple of weeks before the trip can help save you a lot of heartache once you are gone. It won't alleviate all of them, but being able to ditch some stuff that you know is awful will make the first real "shakedown" trips that much more helpful. You start out ahead of the game, and you'll be that much more comfortable, which increases the fun factor exponentially.

    Good luck and have fun!
    Chris

    "I want to see the wild country again before I die, and the Mountains..."

  15. #15
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bahnzo View Post
    Staying in a hotel is not an option...the budget can't take it and it doesn't seem in the spirit of touring to me.
    Staying in hotels is entirely within the spirit of touring. When you tour, you are free to stay where you want ... camping, in hostels, in hotels, in B&Bs, with friends, using Warmshowers, or whatever ...

    That's the beauty of touring ... there is no one "right" way to do it. So many options.

    If a hotel is not within your budget, hop on your bicycle and ride to a family member's house, stay overnight and ride home. Voila ... your first tour!

  16. #16
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    Pick a weekend with nice weather for an 2 day, one night tour. The nice weather is important so that you will enjoy it and not end up hating the entire concept of camping and touring. Rain, strong winds, very cold night temperatures, very hot daytime temperatures and the like may all come with the territory of long bike tours, but you can work your way up to that.

    Of course, some personalities might get a rush from the adversity, but not knowing what you like, I'd recommend the mild-weather weekend trip as a good way to practice.
    www.julianbender.net - Travels and Photos

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