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Try it before you buy it

Old 04-17-13, 02:58 PM
  #1  
tom cotter
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Try it before you buy it

As I read post after post of newbies asking their "What Bike, tent, sleeping bag, trailer, panniers questions it occured to me that there must be a lot of gear sitting around in garages, basements, and attics collecting dust.

While touring by bike, relatively speaking, doesn't require a high dollar gear up, it's still money out of pocket. If the newbie has gone all in , bike, panniers etc, they are out at least $2,000 to $3,000. This before a single touring mile is pedaled. Again, not all the money in the world, but an expensive mistake if the first mile is the last mile ever travelled.

A year or two ago there was a contributor to Crazy Guy who spent months blogging of her equipment gear up. Thousands spent for the anticipated 1500 mile tour. Of course only the first of many tours to come. Actual tour length - less than one week and then quit. Never heard from again. She has lots of company.

Too many times this happens. Sometimes it's for reasons beyond the rider's control. But, oft times it's because the dream didn't match up with the reality. And, the end result is- now what? What do I do with all this stuff I bought? Craig's list?

So, for all you newbies, if there is any way to try it before you buy it, do that. I realize it isn't always possible, but even if you start slowly instead of diving into the deep end, do that. Short tours using what you already have. Borrow equipment. Use your current ride. Fake it til you make it. Find a way.

So, anyone interested in buying Hoyt Alpha Elite Compound Bow with Surelock sight?

Last edited by tom cotter; 04-17-13 at 03:08 PM.
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Old 04-17-13, 03:29 PM
  #2  
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Tom,

You make an excellent point and something I have really had to deal when buying everything. It can be a tough call because, for example, if you do not have the right stuff you could ruin any experience that might be a positive one that comes with touring. I use the example of people who buy a bike and ride it and think it hurts. They do not know that the bike must fit and many manipulations can be made to make it fit yet it sits in the garage collecting dust.

I always ask myself what would happen if I hated to tour. It crosses my mind. I am basing the hope I love it on the fact that I love riding my bike, love riding alone, love wondering and enjoying the peace of it. The big questions I have is do I have what it takes? Will I enjoy camping? Will I be able to ride with all the gear for touring? I have no flippin' clue but we will soon find out!

Thats why its important, to me at least, to be able to ask questions, learn from your experiences, and gain as my knowledge as I can before getting something. Yes, some things are a "jump in with both feet" sorta thing like my touring bike is but I did consider an off the shelf bike. The tent took a long time to figure out and so did the a few other things. Will it change someday? It might. Will I hate my tent? Perhaps. But you gotta start somewhere.
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Old 04-17-13, 03:53 PM
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I am a noob to potential touring, but not to biking. I have loved it my whole life,it just seems like touring can't ever fit into my schedule and life. When I was younger and had the time and body, I didn't have the vacation days/job to support it or money to buy the stuff. Now that I am older, I have the money to buy stuff and my kids are just starting to get older and be able to live without me(so a weekend, they show zero interest in biking with me, nor does my hubby) and my job does not support vacation days(I work from home as a childcare provider, my job is availability!!)
So while I have always dabbled in biking and had several nice bikes, I haven't had the ability to try touring. But that is changing I bought my first road/tourer bike(Salsa Casseroll) and a few bags for supplies. I still need a 1 person tent(I think Menards has some for like $30?!) and figure I should be able to carry stuff I need and buy at gas stations what I don't/can't.
I don't hold any illusions of a thousand mile Alaskan adventure on my Pugsley(a great bike, but see above reasons) and I'll be fine just dabbling in weekend excursions for a few years at 100-200 miles or so. Luckily, we have quite a few lake rec areas around here with decent camping and gravel roads or paved to get there.
I do think sometimes people get in over their heads with a grand adventure, which sounds all romantic and wonderful until you get to the reality of doing the mileage and time. If you didn't like camping before when you drove, why would you find camping after a full day of bike riding any different? And I think accepting that maybe the touring is for you but you like hotels and pools and little bottles of shampoo are for you at the end of the day, then just bike the bike and CC tour yourself to the next Holiday Inn. Ain't no shame in it.
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Old 04-17-13, 04:47 PM
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For me touring is a mindset, and a lifestyle I can't live all the time for practical reasons. The bike and gear are secondary to the adventure. For that reason, even if I didn't like biking all that much, I would find some other way: hiking, kayaking, skiing, skateboarding for that matter! (don't believe me? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P307uzCmNgo& . . . Peru and Bolivia on longboards)

Even still most of the gear you buy will be fine for any of these things, even if not ideal.

You can always sell the bike for a little loss. In my experience, I knew I liked to go on adventures to places I haven't seen or experienced. Biking is a means to that end that I love.

If none of those things are up your alley, and you want to travel comfortably, I'd say train, or road trips. . . It just costs a lot more per day unfortunately.
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Old 04-17-13, 04:48 PM
  #5  
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One aspect I suspect comes into play is the effect of the internet on all this. When I began touring (I guess late eighties), I had camped all my life growing up, canoe trips and such, so "bike" camping wasnt that much different, just a diff set of bags and using a map. In other words, I kinda just winged it at first. I then used the resources of a biking organization here in Montreal that had a small library of books on bike touring, so I kinda winged it but had the books as references a bit (like when I went to France for the first time for example).

that was about it though. Nowadays, one can find an amazing amount of info on the net about, well, everything. One also can go hog wild and obsess about every detail cuz "the forum" say you need this, you need that, well, you get my drift.
Throw in the aspect of "social media"--izing a trip, writing about your preparation, your route, what your toenail looked like when you dropped your loaded pannier on it on tuesday morning....sort of stuff, and the experience can be very different than pre-internet.

dont get me wrong, I still find the web to be an amazing resource, its so neat to be able to get info on this that and the other thing, and planning a trip is so much easier, or should I say, one can find out more stuff that does make life easier. I do think however that (going back to your point and example of the person spending months recounting the prep) perhaps some people get too much into the "social media" aspect of it (perhaps not a good way to put it, but all I can think of) and also get too much into "having to buy this that or whatever".

re: stuff collecting dust, I would counter that with the fact that with the exception of a few things I own, most of my bike touring stuff gets used for car camping anyway, and even with kids, has gotten used for ages for outdoor stuff in general. Other than my Whisperlight, which for car camping got replaced by easier propane stoves, campmats, tents, clothes, all got used anyway. Panniers were always used for commuting, and any other bike stuff (except maybe front rack) was used when biking here and there.

I guess in this respect, I look at it in a positive way, that (hopefully) folks who try bike touring will do more outdoor stuff anyway, so the stuff they get will get used. I figure if someone gets all the crap and either never did outdoor stuff before, and doesnt afterwards, well....dems da breaks, and too bad for them. I would hope that most people like it and do do more outdoor activities.

but I do stick to my view that the web probably increase the number of people who get all gangbusters about bike touring, and then might find its not their thing, but perhaps got too much into "oh I have to have this, or that..."
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Old 04-18-13, 07:22 AM
  #6  
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I'm about to go on my first adventure today. I will leave in about three hours for about a 150 miler. Maybe longer if I really want.

I am using my existing mtb with some minor road upgrades and some special stuff that I had to buy, panniers and stuff. I'm using some of my normal camping gear, with the exception I had to buy a smaller tent and stuff like that.

Total price of the "other" stuff...about $200.

And if I enjoy myself there may be some future upgrades.
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Old 04-18-13, 08:17 AM
  #7  
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1. Places like MEC have Gear Swaps ... "Buy, sell, or swap your used outdoor gear – free of charge"
https://www.mec.ca/AST/ContentPrimary...y/GearSwap.jsp

Sometimes they have markets as well, where people can bring the stuff they don't want and try to sell it. I sold a headlight that way.


2. Many of us ease into the world of travel, camping, and cycling. I've been travelling since I was a baby, cycling since I was 6, and I don't remember when my first camping trip was ... I was maybe 6 or 7 years old. I've grown up with it all.

But nevertheless, when I started cycling avidly (on April 29, 1990 ... 23 years ago!), I had a department store road bicycle. And that's what I did my first short tours on. Several years later, I got into racing, and eventually got a racing bicycle, and then got into randonneuring, and eventually got a bicycle suited to that, which was also suited to touring. But by then, I was well into cycling and so I knew I'd use the bicycle.

As for camping, my ex-husband and I liked camping. We started with the basics, and gradually built up so that eventually we had quite an extensive setup. When I started doing cycling tours where I camped, I had a reasonable idea what would work, and just had to reduce it down to something I could carry on the bicycle.

Lots of trial and error.


I've said it before, and I'll say it again ......

a) It is highly unlikely that you'll get all the gear right the first time. It is highly unlikely that you'll ever get all the gear just right. Very likely there will always be changes you'll want to make. And what works for one person, might not work for another.

b) If you make a mistake with your gear, that's OK. It's not the end of the world, and will not ruin the trip. Most of us tour in areas with shops ... and it is a very good idea to tour in areas with shops for your first tour. If you decided not to bring a pillow because you were trying to travel light, and you have a couple bad nights ... then go buy a pillow. Not a big deal.

c) Cycletouring is not for everyone. It's not easy ... there are a lot of challenges and difficulties. You've got to be very flexible and adaptable, and willing to put up with some rough conditions ... even if you do opt to stay in hotels (which is a completely acceptable way to tour).

d) Therefore it is a good idea to do some short tours in relatively familiar areas to find out if cycletouring might be for you ... and to experiment with your equipment. And yes, borrow the equipment if you can.
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Old 04-18-13, 09:08 AM
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Originally Posted by Jbone78
I'm about to go on my first adventure today. I will leave in about three hours for about a 150 miler. Maybe longer if I really want.

I am using my existing mtb with some minor road upgrades and some special stuff that I had to buy, panniers and stuff. I'm using some of my normal camping gear, with the exception I had to buy a smaller tent and stuff like that.

Total price of the "other" stuff...about $200.

And if I enjoy myself there may be some future upgrades.
I'll be doing my first tour in early June (approximately 320 miles over 4 days) to "try it out". I want to do more tours. Maybe it's the C&V mindset I have but I couldn't justify spending up to a couple of thousand dollars (including a bike) to get started. My wife wouldn't allow it and I wouldn't do it anyway. I'm using a hybrid I got free and coverted to bar end shifters and drop bars. I've slowly collect racks, panniers, handlebar bags and gear I didn't have for camping (or had or that wasn't appropriate for a bike) over the past three years. It spreads the cost out. I did "splurge" on a new set of wheels for the bike. Maybe some day I'll get a "true touring" bike", something more modern. But, right now, I'll just use what I have and make it work.
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Old 04-18-13, 11:30 AM
  #9  
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Still in Uni? there are outdoor program, Gear rentals as part of the Student Union
was true at U of O, Eugene.
[at least back in the day]..
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Old 04-18-13, 11:52 AM
  #10  
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Originally Posted by scozim
I did "splurge" on a new set of wheels for the bike.
A good place to put some money. I had rear wheel troubles during my first tour, which was nearly 4 months long, until I had it replaced after two months. It was a major PITA.
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Old 04-18-13, 12:13 PM
  #11  
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[QUOTE=djb;15522631]One aspect I suspect comes into play is the effect of the internet on all this....[QUOTE]

Your post resonated with me. I barely had Internet access leading up to my first tour in '99, and my only email account was through work. I lost that when I got "downsized" and was so Internet-ignorant that I was completely unaware of free email accounts through providers like Hotmail until someone on the tour clued me in. Even then I didn't get one until I got back home.

How in the world did I prepare for and then survive nearly 4 months on the road without having been able to ask questions like "Which tent?" and "How do you carry flip flops on a tour?," especially since I had never spent one night in a tent in my life.
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Old 04-18-13, 03:17 PM
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One of the benefits of getting into these hobbies young is that you don't have lots of money to spend, so you end up doing your first tours on a $120 craigslist bike, with an old tent you picked out of someone's closet (weighs 6 pounds), and a bunch of cotton layers to try to stay warm, and so on. Then you don't bother upgrading stuff if you don't like it, and by the time you do spend money, you know what you're looking for.

At least, that's my experience.
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Old 04-18-13, 05:28 PM
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Originally Posted by scozim
I'll be doing my first tour in early June (approximately 320 miles over 4 days) to "try it out". I want to do more tours. Maybe it's the C&V mindset I have but I couldn't justify spending up to a couple of thousand dollars (including a bike) to get started. My wife wouldn't allow it and I wouldn't do it anyway. I'm using a hybrid I got free and coverted to bar end shifters and drop bars. I've slowly collect racks, panniers, handlebar bags and gear I didn't have for camping (or had or that wasn't appropriate for a bike) over the past three years. It spreads the cost out. I did "splurge" on a new set of wheels for the bike. Maybe some day I'll get a "true touring" bike", something more modern. But, right now, I'll just use what I have and make it work.

Rock on!
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Old 04-20-13, 12:05 PM
  #14  
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Originally Posted by tom cotter
As I read post after post of newbies asking their "What Bike, tent, sleeping bag, trailer, panniers questions it occured to me that there must be a lot of gear sitting around in garages, basements, and attics collecting dust...
I think you are right, probably more than half the outdoors gear goes into a closet to await its eventual disposal.

Almost every open garage I pass has a bike(s) inside, but I rarely see another bicyclist in the street. It is hard to imagine the percentage of folks following through with actual trips down the road schlepping >30# of gear to be much higher.
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Old 04-21-13, 09:26 AM
  #15  
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And if you canīt try it before you buy (my situation due to location), read the heck out of the reviews! With the exception of my first set of panniers (deliberately bought cheapies because I was still fighting the idea), I tried to buy quality based on usersī reviews and have been totally satisfied.
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Old 04-24-13, 12:37 PM
  #16  
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Originally Posted by chefisaac
Tom,

You make an excellent point and something I have really had to deal when buying everything. It can be a tough call because, for example, if you do not have the right stuff you could ruin any experience that might be a positive one that comes with touring. I use the example of people who buy a bike and ride it and think it hurts. They do not know that the bike must fit and many manipulations can be made to make it fit yet it sits in the garage collecting dust.

I always ask myself what would happen if I hated to tour. It crosses my mind. I am basing the hope I love it on the fact that I love riding my bike, love riding alone, love wondering and enjoying the peace of it. The big questions I have is do I have what it takes? Will I enjoy camping? Will I be able to ride with all the gear for touring? I have no flippin' clue but we will soon find out!

Thats why its important, to me at least, to be able to ask questions, learn from your experiences, and gain as my knowledge as I can before getting something. Yes, some things are a "jump in with both feet" sorta thing like my touring bike is but I did consider an off the shelf bike. The tent took a long time to figure out and so did the a few other things. Will it change someday? It might. Will I hate my tent? Perhaps. But you gotta start somewhere.
Yeah, but the Gourmet Camp Kitchen Ensemble with matching roasting pans, that's gotta go!

Seriously, Great points Chef!!!

Especially the right gear making all the difference.

In your case, with all the riding you do, you'll do fine.

As far as negative experiences - they are going to happen. As one of my daughters says - everyone has a crooked day every once in a while!

Good luck out there!

Last edited by tom cotter; 04-24-13 at 12:49 PM.
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Old 04-24-13, 12:44 PM
  #17  
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Some great posts here. Lots of common sense posted by newbies and wisdom by the vets.

One thought struck me and that is the cost of upgrading. While i'm all for the 30 cents on the dollar plan for first tours, once you've said "This is it I'm all in", go all in! That is buy the best equipment you can afford. It will, in the end, be the least expensive way you can go.

That thought process applies to all walks of life as exibited by one of my favorite sayings "Only a rich man can afford cheap tools."

Last edited by tom cotter; 04-24-13 at 12:59 PM.
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Old 04-24-13, 12:47 PM
  #18  
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Originally Posted by seeker333
I think you are right, probably more than half the outdoors gear goes into a closet to await its eventual disposal.
I just threw away the first tent I ever bought. No big loss, it was a frostline kit that wasn't sewn very well. Recycled the tent poles.

I think the OP has a good point. Try to borrow gear or even go credit card touring to break into the sport.
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Old 04-24-13, 01:09 PM
  #19  
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Right now as we get ready for the first tour of the season we are testing our ancient tent. it's been good to us, but probably should be replaced. The problem is my touring needs may have changed as my kids now want to try touring. I love the idea of them touring with me. BUttttt, here we go again! What size tent or tents do we buy? Until i know if everyone is on board for the long haul, the first tour is going to be to my brother's boat. it sits about 3 or 4 miles from the campground we'd usually ride to. Which is about 50 miles from the house. So it is the same trip. From there I'll do one or two trips with each of the kids individually to gage their enthusiasm for camping. We'll do this with either the old tent or the tent i was going to buy for myself. We will make it work! If they are all in so is dad with his debit card. We'll gear up with quality equipment.
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Old 04-25-13, 04:36 AM
  #20  
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Originally Posted by tom cotter
Right now as we get ready for the first tour of the season we are testing our ancient tent. it's been good to us, but probably should be replaced. The problem is my touring needs may have changed as my kids now want to try touring. I love the idea of them touring with me. BUttttt, here we go again! What size tent or tents do we buy? Until i know if everyone is on board for the long haul, the first tour is going to be to my brother's boat. it sits about 3 or 4 miles from the campground we'd usually ride to. Which is about 50 miles from the house. So it is the same trip. From there I'll do one or two trips with each of the kids individually to gage their enthusiasm for camping. We'll do this with either the old tent or the tent i was going to buy for myself. We will make it work! If they are all in so is dad with his debit card. We'll gear up with quality equipment.
Where is your tour going to be to?
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Old 04-25-13, 04:36 AM
  #21  
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Originally Posted by tom cotter
Yeah, but the Gourmet Camp Kitchen Ensemble with matching roasting pans, that's gotta go!

Seriously, Great points Chef!!!

Especially the right gear making all the difference.

In your case, with all the riding you do, you'll do fine.

As far as negative experiences - they are going to happen. As one of my daughters says - everyone has a crooked day every once in a while!

Good luck out there!
Guess I should put back the cast iron pan set and the mini stainless steel kitchen. Darn it!
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Old 04-25-13, 07:05 AM
  #22  
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Originally Posted by Machka


I've said it before, and I'll say it again ......


c) Cycletouring is not for everyone. It's not easy ... there are a lot of challenges and difficulties. You've got to be very flexible and adaptable, and willing to put up with some rough conditions ... even if you do opt to stay in hotels (which is a completely acceptable way to tour).

d) Therefore it is a good idea to do some short tours in relatively familiar areas to find out if cycletouring might be for you ... and to experiment with your equipment. And yes, borrow the equipment if you can.
As inspirational as it might be don't spend too much time on Crazyguy..some of those folks have mental discipline that borders on the superhuman.

I like 4-5 days, which is the max for me in a tent. What I'll do sometimes is drive to an area of the country that I want to ride in and then map out a loop route back to the car which I park in a long term lot or work something out with a hotel. An exception will be my first crack at RAGBRAI this year..... self-contained
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Old 04-25-13, 09:37 AM
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Originally Posted by unterhausen
I just threw away the first tent I ever bought. No big loss, it was a frostline kit that wasn't sewn very well. Recycled the tent poles.
My Frostline Parsenn (down) ski jacket is in the closet, somewhere, in good shape but now too small.
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Old 04-25-13, 10:56 AM
  #24  
neil
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Originally Posted by seeker333
Almost every open garage I pass has a bike(s) inside, but I rarely see another bicyclist in the street.
Some of this is perception. A recent survey in my city found that 35% of people ride a bike at least once a week during the summer (and 51% at least once per month). But because this heavily weights towards people who use their bikes differently than I do, I rarely see so many on the street.

I spent about $1k between my wife and I on our first tour. We already owned the bikes. That was three years ago, and I haven't done another tour since (we will be heading to France with the bikes in 2 weeks, though). Turns out that some of it's useful for local cycling, too, and the stuff that isn't sits unused for years and can be quickly picked up and used again when the time comes. Not everyone who enjoys riding their bikes on tour wants/needs to do epic months-long tours or frequent ones. So I don't consider this a waste...just because something is used infrequently doesn't mean it's not worth owning. It just lasts longer.
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Old 04-25-13, 01:32 PM
  #25  
Rob_E
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Originally Posted by djb
One aspect I suspect comes into play is the effect of the internet on all this. When I began touring (I guess late eighties), I had camped all my life growing up, canoe trips and such, so "bike" camping wasnt that much different, just a diff set of bags and using a map. In other words, I kinda just winged it at first.

...

that was about it though. Nowadays, one can find an amazing amount of info on the net about, well, everything. One also can go hog wild and obsess about every detail cuz "the forum" say you need this, you need that, well, you get my drift.
Throw in the aspect of "social media"--izing a trip, writing about your preparation, your route, what your toenail looked like when you dropped your loaded pannier on it on tuesday morning....sort of stuff, and the experience can be very different than pre-internet.

...

but I do stick to my view that the web probably increase the number of people who get all gangbusters about bike touring, and then might find its not their thing, but perhaps got too much into "oh I have to have this, or that..."
This is very true. The internet definitely creates some pluses and minuses. I would say the pluses outweigh the minuses, but it definitely creates the idea that you need a lot of specialized gear, which might lead to people investing a lot before they figure out that they really don't like touring or really don't need that piece of gear.

On the other hand, it has really opened my eyes in terms of what is possible. I also did my first "tour" 20+ years ago. I decided to bike from my home town to college. Nothing was touring-specific. I didn't even know there was gear and/or bikes that might be geared towards touring or lightweight travel. I had enough fun that I tried it a couple more times, but without the benefit of anyone who could give me pointers, I came to conclusion that while traveling by bike was fun, getting a consistently comfortable and warm night's sleep just wasn't going to happen with the camp gear I could fit on a bike.

It wasn't until I started lurking on the touring section of the bike forums that I saw what I had been missing. The main piece of gear for me being the hammock tent, but many other items have been added to my supplies as well, and now bike touring is a real option again.

But I'm not a good candidate for what Tom's talking about. I tend to agonize over high dollar purchases, and try to get by on the cheap if I can. So the gear I end up abandoning is usually stuff that ended up not being that suitable to begin with, and I suspect that may be the case for a lot of us. Recycling the gear of someone who went whole hog on the gear-buying phase, but never got into touring would be trickier, because they're probably no longer into touring, and so might not be aware of people who wanted to try their stuff. Better candidates for sharing gear are probably those of us who simply don't get out there as much as we'd like. I'm pretty happy with my gear, but there's almost 50 weeks a year when it's collecting dust anyway.

I like the "try before you buy" concept, but generally the reason the internet works for sharing this kind of information is because you can compile data and share experiences with people from all over. Just locally, I don't know many people who tour. When I bought my Trucker, I got it sight unseen because there wasn't a shop that carried them. I did find one person who rode one, but sitting on his two-sizes-too-tall bike with clipless pedals (and me in my street shoes) really didn't give me a great feel for the bike. But still, I had decided on what my current bike was lacking, and my internet research kept pointing me back to the same bike. And it worked out. I guess that I had more time than money, and the people who end up with a lot of surplus, useful gear have the opposite problem. Any gear I've abandoned was usually done with good reason. But if anyone wants to dip a toe into the touring waters and see if it's for them, they can hit me up to borrow some cheap panniers that like to come off the rack, a sleeping bag that isn't quite warm enough and doesn't pack that small, and a tarp that, while it sheds water and provides great coverage, also needs almost a whole pannier of its own.
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