My Current Touring Bicycle
I have a few days before my flight into LAX, so here is a tour of my current touring bicycle.
This bike is 25 years in development, and my fourth dedicated touring rig. There are many small tricks and tips I've learned from several tours around the world and coast to coast. For the first 17 years, I rode a SWB OSS Lightning Stealth recumbent with stop-offs around the world. Let me say at this point, such a lifestyle is not expensive. In fact, living this way is far cheaper than renting or owning a vehicle.
When I need a bike, I buy or acquire used second-hand bikes. The most important principle is whether or not the frame fits you. You can change out all your components, but you can't change the frame. So, find the right frame, and you're on your way with step one. After that, it's all about components. This bike was a nice standard stock second-hand Giant when I found and bought it on Facebook Marketplace. Seventy-five dollars.
I replaced the cables and housings but am pretty close to needing new tires. This original set is not giving me any trouble as yet, so we'll see how much farther they will go. I've already put on well over a thousand miles since purchasing this bike earlier this summer.
First off when setting up my tour bike, I want good front and rear racks, as well as butterfly handlebars. I have a few things to say about racks, but I won't go too deep into it. I prefer the front rack you see, as I don't use front panniers. I use modified flat bungee cords and Velcro strapping for tiedowns. For rear panniers, there is nothing that can match the quality, design, and dependability for the price than Rock Bros. Nowadays you can get the front rack and butterfly handlebars for about 25 USD each, and the rear pannier set at about 100 USD. I like to run on high-end puncture-proof Schwalbes at about 50 USD each, which, for my mileage and weight, last about a year. Eight-speed chain and rear cluster also need regular replacement, so to save money, you need to borrow the tools or stash them somewhere. The toolset I carry is pretty small, mainly just for adjustments and, of course, fixing flats. When I need to change out a bottom bracket or crankset, I have tools stashed.
Small features can be useful and convenient, such as sleeve pockets for eyeglasses (street finds), using Velcro strapping and flat bungees to hold items to the frame, zip ties and elastic hairbands to mount things. If you tour for a living, most every accessory needed can be found along the side of the road as discards.
Concerning the mounts you see on the butterfly handlebars, first, I mount a section of an old fiberglass tent pole to act as a hanger to mount a handlebar bag, which is where I carry my 8" Samsung Android WiFi-only tablet and a few other things I need to grab quickly while pedaling along. Internet connectivity is a story in itself (my movements are stealth, and I am nearly untraceable, another story).
I have little concern for mileage or even time. I don't use an odometer or bicycle computer, but sometimes it's necessary to know the time. Waking up at a certain time, meeting up with others, or when it's cloudy and needing to know how long before sunset. With living on the road, watching the phases of the moon along with the seasonal and latitudinal changes of the sun are often more important than a timepiece.
But this particular timepiece I have mounted has a unique feature where it gives a double-beep tone on the top of every hour. That's nice, both during the day when riding for ten hours or at night while sleeping near the bike. Most of the time you won't notice the beep, but when you do, it can act as sort of a pace-maker. In those instances where I need an alarm, I just use my Android.
Along with a mounted timepiece, I have a compass which is not looked at too often, but when I do need to look at it, I am glad to have it. Of course, I don't care to be pulling out my Android for navigation unless I must. Lastly, I like to have an LED temperature and humidity indicator. The humidity is not so important, but it's nice to watch as the temperature dips or rises suddenly, giving a signal to prep for whatever strange weather lies ahead.
Exploring small hacks can be useful, like the dual kickstands for stability, something new I am trying out. Another is using a Velcro strap to lock the front forks into place while stabilizing the bike.
We can delve into issues like carrying water, making coffee, my stove and cook kit, technical bag (I am an old-school Linux hack), the specific tools I carry, my sheltering and sleeping system, how to stay warm below freezing temperatures ... anything and everything you need to live on the road comfortably and carefree while traveling the world on a very tiny amount of money.
Of course, with some things, it all comes down to personal choice. I tried a few hammock setups, especially while living 13 years in Southeast Asia, but have opted for a one man tent and sleeping pad. It's like making coffee every morning. We all have our own technique. I carry a little French press.