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Bicycle Hobos and Their Worlds?

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Bicycle Hobos and Their Worlds?

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Old 04-11-12, 02:01 PM
  #1  
Niles H.
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Bicycle Hobos and Their Worlds?

Has anyone met self-contained touring or camping hobos? Can you share with us what you have seen of them?, or tell us a little more about them?

(What they have to say (about biking, about their lifestyle, their subculture, or about life in general).

What their bikes and setups are like.

What they are like. What their lives are like. If there is anything you might have learned from them (about touring-related skills, for example).

In what ways they are different from more mainstream longer-term
touring cyclists....


Or anything else you might be able to share related to this.)

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Old 04-11-12, 02:24 PM
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What constitutes a "hobo." Does one have to be "financially challenged" to qualify? Does one have to have an "off the grid/screw the mainstream world" mentality, ride a Wal Mart bike with panniers made out of Tupperware and depend on the kindness of strangers for some of their sustinance?

The reason that I ask is that in a campground in Sevilla I met a couple who had been on tour for over a year on a couple fo continents. IIRC, they were from Phoenix, and the husband once owned a bike shop, which he had sold. They had come to Sevilla to "sit down," as they called it, which meant taking a month or so off from riding. They were planning on renting an apartment. That and a couple of other things, including the fact that they had custom Robert Beckman racks and panniers and a custom made tent, suggested that money wasn't a pressing concern.

They didn't seem at all like some "fascinating subspecies" who were part of some "subculture," but rather two successful adults doing what they enjoyed. I saw them as two people who liked to explore the work on bikes are were fortunate enough to be able to do it long term.
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Old 04-11-12, 03:05 PM
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Niles H.
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Wanted to keep the definition somewhat loose, individual or intuitive. Precision isn't always a good thing.

Please don't take the words 'subspecies' and 'subculture' as disparaging -- I'm not using them in that way.

Jack Kerouac and Utah Phillips were hobos during parts of their lives. Utah Phillips had a great radio show, and hosted an annual gathering of hobos, which was broadcast around the country. Some of these guys were very intelligent, humorous, and unconventional.

They seem to find ways of living by their wits.

And there is something like a fraternity. Many of them have their own codes and signs, skills, and ways.
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Old 04-11-12, 03:09 PM
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Let's spit some hairs here. For me, someone on a journey with no defined ending is a nomad. He depends on his wits and the kindness of strangers for sustenance. A hobo is a nomad, just much more dependent on the kindness of strangers. A bike tourist is both and neither.

Tim Travis is a nomad. Fred is a hobo.

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Old 04-11-12, 04:08 PM
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Niles H.
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Missed that Fred thread. Thanks for posting it.

Learned something: bindle (hobo bundle of possessions typically wrapped in cloth and carried over the shoulder, slung over a stick, but sometimes constructed or carried differently) designs open up new possibilities for diy panniers/bags.

Some of these guys, their ideas, their philosophies, and their freedom are interesting.

Breakaway phiosophers.

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Old 04-11-12, 04:40 PM
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A couple guys came thru town , said they went back and forth between texas and florida
a couple times in the winter months then they were out on the coast, in spring.
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Old 04-11-12, 06:04 PM
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Niles H.
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A hobo's take,

''Hoboes are noted for their desire
to travel and, especially their desire for
independence. They work and earn to
support themselves but don't care for
staying in the same place year after
year to do this. They want to see
different places, do different things,
and enjoy life without being tied to
one place, one type of work, or to
having to live a certain way because
everybody else does.''
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Old 04-11-12, 11:17 PM
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I googled both and this is what I get:

Hobo:

Nomad:


They look different to me somehow........I'm working my way towards being a hobo myself.....1 day soon....I already have the look down dialed in.....
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Old 04-12-12, 10:05 AM
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My brother's brother-in-law never quite fit in with normal social, school and work situations. He is most comfortable on the move riding his bike with the seasons along the Pacific coast from Oregon to LA and back. He pulls a BOB trailer with a big load. He has traveled low and slow these last five years starting at age 50. He receives a small monthly income for a disability. He is one of the forgotten riding/walking mentally wounded souls who in the past would have been treated in the hospitals long ago closed. Now many populate bike 'n hike campsites, city streets and hobo jungles.
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Old 06-13-18, 01:05 AM
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Fascinating topic

Sorry for resurrecting an old thread but its a great topic.

Wasn't there someone on this board with the term "hobo" in their handle that was effectively without a home?
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Old 06-13-18, 07:38 AM
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Well, seeing as how my email address is travelinhobo and I live on my bike, I guess I'm who you're talking about. However, it must be clarified that what we think nowadays of as a hobo is actually myth. Some years ago I read a very good book on hobos from when they existed back in the 1800s. Nothing like what we envision or think. In addition, the bundle on a stick over the shoulder never existed - that's smthg that we've created over time. So, as others have asked, what are you considering as a hobo?
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Old 06-13-18, 08:39 AM
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A hobo works at the carnival or circus. A bike tourist teaches English.
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Old 06-13-18, 08:58 AM
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Originally Posted by travelinhobo View Post
Well, seeing as how my email address is travelinhobo and I live on my bike, I guess I'm who you're talking about. However, it must be clarified that what we think nowadays of as a hobo is actually myth. Some years ago I read a very good book on hobos from when they existed back in the 1800s. Nothing like what we envision or think. In addition, the bundle on a stick over the shoulder never existed - that's smthg that we've created over time. So, as others have asked, what are you considering as a hobo?
I agree there seems to be a certain degree of romanticism in the OP's notion of what a hobo might have been. Some people may want to chuck it all and travel for extended periods, perhaps with the hopes of living close to (or away from) the land or local peoples; I would consider those nomads. There really isn't a negative connotation in that term (in my mind) .

However, the hobo of yesterday is probably what we would call the homeless of today. Not really a fun thing IMO. Some may be so out of choice but many suffer mental illness or drug addiction and are both prone to or subject to, crime and violence. It certainly isn't a world I want to spend time in nor romanticize.
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Old 06-13-18, 09:23 AM
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But they did get to hop the trains.
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Old 06-13-18, 12:50 PM
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Some still do. During my shop years there was one customer my age (thirty-ish at the time) who was a bike rider and folk singer and who liked to ride the rails and he regaled us with stories of his adventures. That fact that he still lived with his mom when not on the road somewhat diminished his grandeur.
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Old 06-13-18, 03:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Niles H. View Post
Jack Kerouac and Utah Phillips were hobos during parts of their lives. Some of these guys were very intelligent, humorous, and unconventional.

They seem to find ways of living by their wits.
I recently re-read On The Road and Kerouac, with all his romanticism, came of as a bit of a ****** - he 'freeloaded' quite a bit and yes, he did some tough jobs, but whenever he reached a dead end he'd either wire his aunt in NY and ask for money and/or go back to NY to live with her. IMO, real hobos have no fallback and must rely on their own achievements.

Probably more difficult to find random, short-term work these days; though might be easier on the internet if you have those skills. There's that whole #vanlife movement, so I suppose that's a bit 'hobo' or nomadic. I have heard of a guy who went on a long bike tour and loved it so much he was still touring the world 3 years later.
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Old 06-13-18, 04:35 PM
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I was once on my way into a (now defunct) KMart store in Syosset, Long Island at around 8:45pm when I spotted a very pimped-out Worksman adult tricycle and trailer loaded down with cargo parked outside. It was summer and the sun was just about gone, so I felt some concern for whoever that bike belonged to, as he or she would probably end up riding home in the dark.

When I exited the store about ten minutes later, an older-looking man with long hair and a bushy beard was kneeling down next to the bike, and as I got closer, I noticed he was preparing to change a tire. Curious, I walked over to him and struck up a conversation, offering to give him a hand - or a ride home.

I soon learned that he was a "bike nomad" and was on his way to Queens to stay for the night when he caught a nail in his tire. Fortunately, he was close to KMart, which was closing at 9pm, because he didn't have a spare tube. The story, at first, seemed a little suspicious, but as he continued to speak while we worked together to elevate the bike and change the flat, I became mesmerized by the guy's story. He told me he had a web site called "bikenomad.com," which I later checked out and found to include pics of this guy riding that same trike, with bells and whistles hanging off every inch of frame, all over the country. The site is gone now, but I ended up following it for a couple of years before it suddenly turned into something else.

Anyway, on that humid summer night back in the 1990's, this guy refused a lift from me to Queens (about a 20-minute drive to where he was going at that hour) and ultimately rode off onto crazy busy Jericho Turnpike in pure darkness, pulling that trailer up a huge hill just past the KMart and eventually having to make his way up several more pretty large hills to get to where he was going. I was completely stunned as he pulled away. I had already done a few overnight bike tours on my mountain bike, carrying just a pannier or backpack, and that was often challenging enough during the daytime. This guy was dragging a tricycle AND A TRAILER packed with what appeared to be everything he owned along one of Long Island's busiest thoroughfares in total darkness with only a small battery-powered light.

He probably wasn't a "hobo," because he could afford the monthly fee for a website and he had a laptop computer to keep his site up to date. I will never know the full story behind how this guy ended up at my neighborhood KMart (I forgot what state he called home), but I will never forget the experience of hanging out with him for that half-hour or so.
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Old 06-13-18, 06:30 PM
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I do not freeload. In fact, when people try to give me money, I tell them no.
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Old 06-13-18, 07:40 PM
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Originally Posted by raria View Post
Sorry for resurrecting an old thread but its a great topic.

Wasn't there someone on this board with the term "hobo" in their handle that was effectively without a home?
There was one that eventually was banned from the forum. I think it was biketouringhobo or something like that.

I met a gal at a hiker biker campsite, she was in year seven of a very long tour that started in S Africa, up through Europe, then Asia and Australia, I met her on Pacific Coast of USA. But I would not consider her a hobo, she was pretty much like the rest of us bike touring folks except that her destination was a far off place and when she got there she would pick another far off place. I suspect most hobos do not have a passport like she did. Her bike frame and one of her pairs of Ortiebs were with her from the start seven years earlier.
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Old 06-13-18, 08:06 PM
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I finally met a guy in my area that I've seen riding around for months. Has a flatbar with all kind of stuff strapped on, like multiple pumps, bags, lights. Not much frame space that didn't have something attached. I've seen him cruising random rural county roads at 3 in the morning, and basically like every part of my county at one point or another at any hour of day and night. Anyway when we finally crossed paths when I was stopping at a gas station to fill up my water bottle. We talked bikes for about a minute and he somehow segued into his dislike of Cheney and Haliburton and their control and manipulation of our lives.. This was in 2017. He definitely has some frustration with some very specific things. Friendly nice guy though. Not sure if he is a "bicycle hobo" though. He has a home. I think his bike is his only transportation.

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Old 06-13-18, 09:16 PM
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You guys are neglecting Vagabonds.

Is anyone familiar with the Leatherman here in New York / Connecticut?

Someone stole his bike. He spent the rest of his life walking the same 365 mile loop year after year with metronome consistency.

Returning to each town exactly 35 days after he left, people could set their watch by it. Peculiar gentleman. Always dressed head to toe completely in leather. His identity was unknown.

They recently disinterred him for relocation...and found nothing there.

Some are now questioning if he ever even existed anywhere at all, other than in our imaginations.


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Old 06-13-18, 09:41 PM
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How about a bike tourist traveling without a final destination in mind, and/or without a permanent address to go back to?
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Old 06-13-18, 09:46 PM
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Favorite hobo movie and soundtrack:

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Old 06-13-18, 10:51 PM
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Originally Posted by MaxKatt View Post
Is anyone familiar with the Leatherman here in New York / Connecticut?

Someone stole his bike.... ... Always dressed head to toe completely in leather. His identity was unknown.

They recently disinterred him for relocation...and found nothing there.
cheeze whiz! now you're getting positively silence of the lambsy!

.....and the leather was made from the skin of his victims....

it's said if you stare into a mirror in a darkened room, and say his name three times....

leatherman, leatherman, beetlejuice!
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Old 06-14-18, 12:08 AM
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He died at such a young age. Younger than Norma Jeane.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leatherman_(vagabon
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