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  1. #1
    Certified Bike Brat Burton's Avatar
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    Touring with a 'disposable' bike

    Have read countless touring threads that deal with setting up a touring bike using exotic high end parts to reduce the 'what if' possibilities of a breakdown; others that promote ulta-light touring - which would put few demands on the equipment; and several outlining the difficulties of getting parts to service 700 series wheels outside North America.*
    Having travelled a bit myself - I'm very aware that even in some rural areas of the Maritime Provinces (Nova Scotia and PEI in particular - you'd have a hard time finding a shop with double butted spokes in ANY size - for either 26"*OR 700 series wheels.*

    Which is not to say they don't have bicycles there. And I found bicycles are also pretty common in Peru and Colombia - just not the same brands and components on the shelf here.

    So I'm a little curious. I tend to 'go native' when traveling, skip the touristy stuff and mix with the natives. Has anyone taken that approach to bicycle touring? Maybe bought a mediocre bicycle at the destination and used minimal equipment to go touring? Yeah - it might take more mechanical skills but in the event of a parts issue - at least replacement parts wouldn't be an issue.

    I'm thinking about this because when the bicycle trail was first opened across Canada - more than one person completed that on simple three speed Sturmey Archer. I've also seen groups of school kids completing the Cabot Trail on whatever they had available. Pretty much demonstrating that determination and motivation are far more important than equipment.

    And after spending time in a bike shop, I'm pretty aware that lower end components are usually heavier, but can be very functional as well as more available. And much less of an issue if over-loaded isn't part of the plan. And most cycle tourist do tend to take too much on at least the first few tours. At least I did.

    So - has anyone actually done any ultra-light or minimalist touring on anything like a Huffy? Or deliberately run straight gage spokes instead of double butted? Somethings like a good seat and reasonable pedals I'm not willing to compromise on - but aside from that - IMO the trip is far more important than the bike.

    Friction and barend shifters are commonly selected for reliability and some riders would consider them 'downgrades'. So what other equipment 'downgrades' made your life easier?
    Last edited by Burton; 12-24-12 at 08:35 AM.

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    I downgraded to a friction shifter for the rear derailer and eliminated the front derailer plus shifter completely, and used this setup for 2 whole years. I still miss the simplicity and indestructibility of the friction shifter, and if I toured mostly on pavement I would have kept it, but I eventually went back to a trigger shifter because the friction one would keep shifting on its own whenever the surface became irregular. I also added back a front derailer because on some routes I had to do a lot more shifting on the front than I anticipated at home, and the whole routine of getting off the bike and pushing/pulling the chain between chainrings became a nightmare, but I didn't miss it on mellow hilly routes or the flat routes around my city.

    Other than that, for cost and simplicity reasons I have and will always use straight-gauge spokes. I'd rather lighten the load than start using specialized spokes.

  3. #3
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    there are homeless people on bikes using what they can get.. though I dont expect they spend time on this site.

    It is certainly possible to tour on Wally World bikes, just get another one when the current one fails..


    Personally as ive been using friction shift levers on my bikes with derailleurs, for 30+ years,
    I never stopped. I just never went to the de skilled shifting ..
    though I did stop at 7 speeds , triple crank.. got me anywhere i needed to go.


    Only index shifter is for my IGH.. one of those 3 speeds
    Last edited by fietsbob; 12-24-12 at 10:00 AM.

  4. #4
    Certified Bike Brat Burton's Avatar
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    Thanks for the responses. Picked up a hybrid myself with a Deore drive train and am seriously considering 'downgrading' it to 7speed by swapping out the cassette, FD and going to 7sd Rapidfire shifters. The other thing I'm considering is putting together a second set of wheels in a 26" size. The bike has disc brakes so I just need to confirm tire clearance. Barends are going to double as crashbars so I'm not too concerned about the controls otherwise. I expect to be taking this to Colombia about this time next year.

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    When I visited my daughter I bought a $75 used three speed for the 5 days I was there instead of a rental car, we took a fun day ride with ferries riding from Sausalito back to SF. I left it behind at her home as a house bike.
    Spoke type is kind of irrelevant compared to whether the wheels are in good condition. when I built wheels 35yrs ago most of my wheels were cadmium plated and stainless was an extravagance let alone butted spokes.
    I'd want my gear carrying set-up to be as versatile as possible. At first a small set of panniers, two med. 13litrr dry bags and some kind of minimalist day pack (narrow bladder type) seemed like the best setup. It could all be bundled together and carried on back and one hand when not with a bike. One bag under the handlebars, panniers and other bags on the back.

    But what if your bike and town of the moment didn't have rear racks, just "a bike" from a pawn shop that was the best fit and condition for riding? That would leave panniers out.

    I'd be inclined to travel with a couple of frame bags like the Jandd frame bag and bull moose handlebar bag as they could be attached to any frame or handlebar setup.

    The travel kit should have plenty of zip ties, bungies and straps.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Burton View Post
    I'm very aware that even in some rural areas of the Maritime Provinces (Nova Scotia and PEI in particular - you'd have a hard time finding a shop with double butted spokes in ANY size - for either 26"*OR 700 series wheels.*
    If something breaks you replace it with what you find available. Having double-butted spokes doesn't prevent you from substituting a straight-gauge spoke for a broken one. And if an integrated shift lever fails you can substitute an old clamp-on friction lever if that's what's available. But unless you're trying to avoid having to transport a bike to the starting point I don't see a reason not to start the trip on a bike equipped the way you want it.

    The main issue I see with getting a bike locally is the time involved in finding one, getting it adjusted right, and adding packs, racks, etc. that may be needed for your tour. Usually vacation time is limited and people would rather spend it on the tour instead of getting a bike ready.

  7. #7
    we be rollin' hybridbkrdr's Avatar
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    If you're travelling in Canada, I know the $109 bicycles at Canadian Tire are at least useable. Though I'd prefer the Supercycle to the heavy CCM bicycles.
    Feeling Good by David Burns

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    Lover of Old Chrome Moly Myosmith's Avatar
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    I don't find "high end" parts more reliable, after a certain point in the heirarchy of most components the emphasis shifts from reliability and performance to weight savings. Ultra light parts are no more reliable and often less durable than mid-level components. For my touring bike I found the crossover point to be at the Shimano Deore and Deore LX level. They are tough, durable, reliable, and perform very well at what I consider to be an acceptable weight penalty. The bonus is that they are also half the price of high end components but far enough up the heirarchy to avoid the weaknesses of entry level parts.

    My touring bike is a flatbar with bar ends which allows me to use MTB shifters and brake levers. I have also found these to be very reliable and durable in Deore or LX. I also ride an older road bike with 105 downtube shifters which are about as bulletproof as a shifter can be. While not ideal on fast group rides, downtube shifters work fine for recreational riding and I would think touring as well.

    +1 on making sure you can get parts for your chosen bike along your intended route. Top end electronic shifting and fluid disk brakes don't mean much if you get stuck in the middle of nowhere for the lack of a tire. Simple, reliable and common would be my priorities if getting out into the boonies where the closest thing to a bike shop is a shelf at the local hardware store.
    Lead, follow or get out of the way

  9. #9
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Burton, FWIW Shimano's K cassette is a 13 .. 29, 34, and so I think all you need..

    and better than the Mega range, common now, as the last 2 are 24,34t.

    I have a 50,40 24t triple 50:13 is high enough ..

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    Quote Originally Posted by Burton View Post
    Have read countless touring threads that deal with setting up a touring bike using exotic high end parts to reduce the 'what if' possibilities of a breakdown; others that promote ulta-light touring - which would put few demands on the equipment; and several outlining the difficulties of getting parts to service 700 series wheels outside North America.*
    Having travelled a bit myself - I'm very aware that even in some rural areas of the Maritime Provinces (Nova Scotia and PEI in particular - you'd have a hard time finding a shop with double butted spokes in ANY size - for either 26"*OR 700 series wheels.*

    Which is not to say they don't have bicycles there. And I found bicycles are also pretty common in Peru and Colombia - just not the same brands and components on the shelf here.

    So I'm a little curious. I tend to 'go native' when traveling, skip the touristy stuff and mix with the natives. Has anyone taken that approach to bicycle touring? Maybe bought a mediocre bicycle at the destination and used minimal equipment to go touring? Yeah - it might take more mechanical skills but in the event of a parts issue - at least replacement parts wouldn't be an issue.

    I'm thinking about this because when the bicycle trail was first opened across Canada - more than one person completed that on simple three speed Sturmey Archer. I've also seen groups of school kids completing the Cabot Trail on whatever they had available. Pretty much demonstrating that determination and motivation are far more important than equipment.

    And after spending time in a bike shop, I'm pretty aware that lower end components are usually heavier, but can be very functional as well as more available. And much less of an issue if over-loaded isn't part of the plan. And most cycle tourist do tend to take too much on at least the first few tours. At least I did.

    So - has anyone actually done any ultra-light or minimalist touring on anything like a Huffy? Or deliberately run straight gage spokes instead of double butted? Somethings like a good seat and reasonable pedals I'm not willing to compromise on - but aside from that - IMO the trip is far more important than the bike.

    Friction and barend shifters are commonly selected for reliability and some riders would consider them 'downgrades'. So what other equipment 'downgrades' made your life easier?
    I have met a few people in my tours that had done bike touring with cheap bikes from second hand less than $200 bike to a Canadian Tire mountain bike (CCM heavy beast) that a woman that I toured with rode to Haida Gwaii and then all the way to Mexico where she met and married a Mexican.

    If you are ok walking up any hill, then I suppose any bike will do just fine. For some people who are dead set riding up any steep hill, then I suppose customizing a good bike is the way to go. Keep in mind that you must have teflon skin touring with a cheap bike because undoubtly along the way, you will meet fellow tourists and in gear talk, they will always seem to put people down because of poor gear and bike. I met a number of them along the way when I was touring with this lady on the CCM. Thanksfully, she was extremely secure with herself and always joked about her bike. Incidentally, the Vancouver Randoneeur people who were criticizing her of the CCM bike told her so would not make the tour. Its interesting that when she finished the tours they claimed she could never do on that heavy bike, those same people tried avoiding her when she tried to find them to correct their false assumptions.

    Again, touring can be done with any bike. You are only a slave to others if you follow what they recommend. Your wallet will only get thinner as a result!
    Trek 5000 carbon road bike
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  11. #11
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    My wife used to tour like that in 80s. She flew to Halifax, went to the salvation army, and bought a junker bike that she toured on for the summer. Of course it works, but she never had a nice bike prior to that, so she was happy as a clam. If you like nice bikes, tours are opportunities to ride your nice bike for a long way. But the nice bike is not necessary for touring.

    http://www.rayjardine.com/adventures...Bike/index.htm

    This is the story of a hike where the conditions deteriorated, and the hikers bought walmart bikes and hit the road.

  12. #12
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Here's a story for you Burton ... written by a British friend of mine. He did two 1200Ks (and I rode the first with him, as he mentions) on his fixed gear, and flipped the hub to cycle across North America ...
    http://www.rusa.org/newsletter/05-04-04.html

    There's an epilogue to that story. He got to the airport to fly back to the UK, and didn't have a bicycle box. Nor could he find one. So, he figured he was going to have to leave his bicycle behind, and he was prepared to do that ... until someone finally told him he would be allowed to put the bicycle on board if it were in a plastic bag. So that's what he did. But his bicycle was almost disposible.

  13. #13
    Senior Member Doug64's Avatar
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    I believe there are as many reasons for why people choose a bike to tour on as there are people. There are no right or wrong reasons, just differences.

    At one of the spectrum are those who tour, and having a bike along is incidental to the travel. For some of use closer to the other end of the spectrum it "is about the bike". The sole objective is to tour on a bike, and the places are incidental.

    I think the disposable bike might have merit in some situations, I think the disadvantages would outweigh the benefits, if the the ride was longer than a week or two. Also the cost of obtaining a disposable bike and outfitting it would cost just about as much as shipping my bike anywhere in the world. When I spend 2-3 months on my bike, I really want it to work for me. In my experience the cost of shipping our bikes has been a relatively small proportion of the cost of our trips in the 2-3 month range.

    Even for us who tour on a regular basis, a trip ruined by an ill fitting bike or mechanical failures would be a disappointment. However, for those folks doing their "once in a lifetime" trip, it would be a disaster. I believe that the more important the trip, the more important the bike becomes.

    The non-touristy spots, small remote villages, and remote places can all be experienced on a well fitting reliable bike.

  14. #14
    KingoftheMountain wannabe Savagewolf's Avatar
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    I think I would rather just take one of my bikes with me and pay the shipping. They are set up how I like them, and I know all of their quirks. I've also rode enough cheap bikes to not want to ride any of them very often.

    That being said, I've seen a lot of interesting experiments out there. It would be neat to begin your tour somewhere with a cheap bike, visit various places along the way to upgrade the bike (thrift stores, craigslist, etc) by trading/haggling/word of mouth, and see what you could end up with.

    Kind of like the paperclip experiment that somebody did. The guy started with a paperclip and posted ads to trade it for something slightly better. I think he ended up trading up into a house from a single paperclip. It would be fun to see if someone could trade your average beat up box store bike and end up with some nice bike like a Trek 520.

  15. #15
    Certified Bike Brat Burton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
    Burton, FWIW Shimano's K cassette is a 13 .. 29, 34, and so I think all you need..

    and better than the Mega range, common now, as the last 2 are 24,34t.

    I have a 50,40 24t triple 50:13 is high enough ..
    Thanks for the heads-up! Most of the cassettes commonly available here are 11-28 and I agree - this one would be more interesting. I'll see about ordering a few in!

  16. #16
    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    I am outside the size range for 90% of the bikes on the market. The odds of me finding a used/disposable bike for touring are pretty low. I ride relatively low priced bikes to begin with and typically double and in some cases triple the value with my upgrades. I see nothing wrong with touring on whatever you chose as long as YOU are happy with it. I have seen guys touring on single speed BSO cruisers that were making 20 miles a day and had been at it for months, I have also seen people on very expensive custom touring bikes that were forcing themselves to cover a certain distance and not happy at all and couldn't wait until they got done.

    Aaron
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  17. #17
    Certified Bike Brat Burton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka View Post
    Here's a story for you Burton ... written by a British friend of mine. He did two 1200Ks (and I rode the first with him, as he mentions) on his fixed gear, and flipped the hub to cycle across North America ...
    http://www.rusa.org/newsletter/05-04-04.html

    There's an epilogue to that story. He got to the airport to fly back to the UK, and didn't have a bicycle box. Nor could he find one. So, he figured he was going to have to leave his bicycle behind, and he was prepared to do that ... until someone finally told him he would be allowed to put the bicycle on board if it were in a plastic bag. So that's what he did. But his bicycle was almost disposible.
    Thanks very much for the link! That was a really great read and some passages had me in stitches! Although I'm very familiar with all the places mentioned in that story - I don't usually beat myself up by trying to cover that much distance in that little time - wow! You guys really clocked in the miles!

    I'm afraid you might find me slightly boring in comparison - I don't mind a long day but tend to take a more leisurely pace, might want to stop over at a beach for a week or stop at a good fishing spot for a couple days. Yeah - on a few trips where I knew the area, a cast iron skillet and fishing rod was part of the equipment!

  18. #18
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    My dad & a friend went bike touring in the Rockies back in late 40's: one had a British 3-speed & the other had a ss gas-pipe job w/high-rise handlebar. When I got a car ride up to the '74 Montreal Worlds I took my sister's (Austrian-built) Sears 3-speed which I used for getting around town. Felt kinda lame at the youth hostel, everyone else had their primo racing bikes along. But I had a crash when the IGH skipped (faulty adjustment). Got mad at the bike & didn't bother to bring it back since my sister didn't ride it anyway.

    IMHO dicey to plan on picking up a bike. Nice to have familiar trusted equipment. IE I met a guy who tours in China etc (as well as local riding) on an old Eddy Merckx/Falcon 10-speed. Nothing fancy really but at least it's a known quantity. "Going native" might have it's charms but I would suppose loaded tourists are fairly obvious in most countries & plus in conversation the locals will see one is a foreigner, so why leave the nice touring bike at home?

  19. #19
    Senior Member saddlesores's Avatar
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    sure.....you can tour on just about anything, sayin' it's all about the tour. but how
    many breakdowns does it take before you throw that disposable huffy into the ditch
    and hitchhike home? there's a reason you can buy the whole bike for half the price
    of a decent derailler!

    yes, you can tour on a fixie or a penny farthing or a cast-iron no-speed.....but why?
    it the point to enjoy your vacation, or to enjoy other people noticing you?

    me? just before the nice men in white suits come after me with butterfly nets, you'll
    be seeing me touring on one of these........

    big_wheel.jpg

  20. #20
    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by saddlesores View Post
    sure.....you can tour on just about anything, sayin' it's all about the tour. but how
    many breakdowns does it take before you throw that disposable huffy into the ditch
    and hitchhike home? there's a reason you can buy the whole bike for half the price
    of a decent derailler!

    yes, you can tour on a fixie or a penny farthing or a cast-iron no-speed.....but why?
    it the point to enjoy your vacation, or to enjoy other people noticing you?

    me? just before the nice men in white suits come after me with butterfly nets, you'll
    be seeing me touring on one of these........

    big_wheel.jpg
    I have a $25 Raleigh 3 speed that has never broken down in the 35,0000 miles that I have ridden it. I have had nearly new Deore LX and 105 stuff self destruct with less than 1,000 miles on it. Durability doesn't equal pricey.

    Aaron
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  21. #21
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    On my first bike tour, I met another guy that was 85 years old and he said that he went on a bike tour every summer. In this case he was doing the George S Mickelson route from end to end and back. I think I paid more for my racks than he paid for his whole outfit. He did not have panniers, he used heavy steel folding baskets and put his stuff in the baskets. Some of his stuff was in plastic bags. He was having a great time with his lower quality touring gear.

    On a different topic, I paid $5 for my grocery store bike at a garage sale. It had been stored outside for over 10 years, there was a two inch diameter tree growing up thru the frame. It took three days for me to rebuild it and $100 in parts to make it a good working bike. But, it is nice to have a bike with rusty handlebars and rust spots on the frame to make it more theft proof. I would consider touring on it if it was not for the short chain stays. But I would not want to depend on finding a bike good enough for loaded touring upon arrival in a developing country.
    Attached Images Attached Images

  22. #22
    Certified Bike Brat Burton's Avatar
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    Hmmmmmm ..... OK - lets throw a different slant to the question.

    Personally I have no problem flying someplace and then renting a car. In fact - it usually works out cheaper in gas and saves time. Yup - I wouldn't do that without reserving in advance.

    So when we look at a popular tourist destination like PEI, which has great beaches, lots of cycle friendly roads, organized cycling tours and ....... bicycle rentals; I can't see the big deal or risk involved in reserving and renting a bike for a week or two for the duration. Might still bring my own panniers and gear - might not.

    If it was a extended tour of a month or more - I might make a point of contacting a dealer at the destination, buying in avance and have a bike waiting for me. Again - might bring some of my own equipment - might not. Personally I never travel without planning ahead, and insist on having a pretty good idea of what I'm in for. And in my experience - any city thats big enough to have an aeroport is going to have at least a couple decent bike shops.

    There are some interesting tours offered in Europe that include the purchase of a BMW motorcycle - which can then be shipped back after the trip at a major advantage to buying one new in your home country. Or alternatively sold there.

    I kinda think a bicycle could be handled the same way.

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    The first time I ever long distance cycled, or cycled anywhere further than a few km's away. I went and bought a cheap mountain bike with road wheels (no suspension) and hit the road.
    The bike now has over 5000km (and counting) and the repairs are not that many. Buckled wheel (until I learnt to fix them, most shops fix them for a few pennies anyway) the inner hub between the peddles, a new gear changer and tiers of course. But they have to be changed anyway, at least you do with my 28" wheels.

    I have met people who have spent a fortune on their bikes and people like myself, who cycle on what we can afford - or what there is. I guess if you take at least the basic care in your vehicle - as long as you enjoy the ride, it was all worth it.
    Even though, I am aware that cheap bike pieces are not going to last as much as well known brands, who have shown that their product is worth the money. But hey, if it's not broken - it doesn't need to be fixed. And when it does, just get it fixed.

    It really all depends to the person, what there doing and if there happy with what they have in my opinion.

    K.m
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  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Burton View Post
    Having travelled a bit myself - I'm very aware that even in some rural areas of the Maritime Provinces (Nova Scotia and PEI in particular - you'd have a hard time finding a shop with double butted spokes in ANY size - for either 26"*OR 700 series wheels.*

    So I'm a little curious. I tend to 'go native' when traveling, skip the touristy stuff and mix with the natives. Has anyone taken that approach to bicycle touring? Maybe bought a mediocre bicycle at the destination and used minimal equipment to go touring? Yeah - it might take more mechanical skills but in the event of a parts issue - at least replacement parts wouldn't be an issue.
    I've been to the bicycle shop in Corner Brook, NF. Essentially an extension of someones garage. I haven't done what you describe, but the bigger issue for me is durability, not weight. As a result, sometimes the highest end parts are more focused on being just slightly lighter - so that doesn't really help. My approach is to instead start with most durable items I can, and then replace if necessary. The reason I stopped at that shop in Corner Brook was because I had just cracked my third rim on a ride across Canada. So I wasn't looking for spoke replacement (anyways spokes are light and I can carry a few spare), but a rear wheel. The shop had a 700c wheel that fit. It had a metal rim, but that was still sufficient to get me the remainder of the way to St Johns.

    After that trip, I switched to using a 48-spoke rear rim. Again, a bit more durable. However, when the hub for that wheel went while riding across New Zealand, my replacement choice was a 36-spoke wheel that the local shop in Napier was able to build up with parts trucked in from Wellington. That 36-spoke rim lasted me rest of my trip through New Zealand and then six weeks through India.

    One different occasion when I was in India, the company had put me up at a (too fancy for me) hotel. I was able however to rent a bicycle for a weekend. Unfortunately, the sizing was still just a bit small (I'm 6' 4") and not as comfortable. After that on my last trip to India, I brought over a mountain bike and then left it behind with friends so it is available for later trips.

    In summary, often some of the parts will mix and match - so you'll make do. The notion of picking a bike at destination can be challenging if one is larger than average size (e.g. In the USA it was possible to get a Trek 4500 in 25" frame, but I was told the largest size frame for Trek 4500 in India was 23", something else I explored prior to extended work assignment). I will instead optimize for durability (not necessarily weight/cost) to keep things from breaking down up front, but then adjust with whatever I can if it does break down.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Burton View Post
    Hmmmmmm ..... OK - lets throw a different slant to the question.

    Personally I have no problem flying someplace and then renting a car. In fact - it usually works out cheaper in gas and saves time. Yup - I wouldn't do that without reserving in advance.

    So when we look at a popular tourist destination like PEI, which has great beaches, lots of cycle friendly roads, organized cycling tours and ....... bicycle rentals; I can't see the big deal or risk involved in reserving and renting a bike for a week or two for the duration. Might still bring my own panniers and gear - might not.

    If it was a extended tour of a month or more - I might make a point of contacting a dealer at the destination, buying in avance and have a bike waiting for me. Again - might bring some of my own equipment - might not. Personally I never travel without planning ahead, and insist on having a pretty good idea of what I'm in for. And in my experience - any city thats big enough to have an aeroport is going to have at least a couple decent bike shops.

    There are some interesting tours offered in Europe that include the purchase of a BMW motorcycle - which can then be shipped back after the trip at a major advantage to buying one new in your home country. Or alternatively sold there.

    I kinda think a bicycle could be handled the same way.
    The next trip we do to North America will probably be along the same lines as your last couple of paragraphs -- fly into LA, hire a drive to Eugene, Oregon, pick up a couple of Bike Friday NWTs, do our touring, and fly back to Australia with them BFs. We would be coming over anyway, and we would save on the freight and dealer loading if we purchased the bikes in Australia.
    Dream. Dare. Do.

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