Anatomy of a Fully Loaded Touring Bicycle

A fully loaded touring bicycle is a thing of wonder.  If you are like most people, you wonder just what we carry.  Allow me to give you a tour of our bikes.

Maybe you’ve seen cyclists on the road – the touring kind of cyclist.  You’ve noticed the heavily loaded bicycles and wondered just what we carry and how we live?  Please allow me to give you a tour of our bikes.  My husband and I, along with our 12-year-old twin boys, are currently cycling from Alaska to Argentina – so have our bikes set up to handle just about every conceivable condition Mother Nature can throw at us.

On our bicycles, we have steel racks over the front and rear wheels onto which we attach panniers.  Panniers are saddlebags for bikes that have hooks on top and clips on the bottom that attach to the racks.  In our panniers we carry mostly small items, which are all wrapped in plastic bags so they don’t get wet in case of rain.

On our rear racks we carry large drybags.  Drybags of made of some kind of thick, waterproof material and close securely so no water can get in.  In those we carry our sleeping pads, sleeping bags, and winter jackets – items we simply cannot afford to get wet.  They are strapped to the racks with nylon webbing.

My husband and I both pull BOB trailers.  Our gear is stored in large drybags within the frame of the trailer.  We try to put most of the weight we carry in the trailers in order to keep the weight off our bikes to prolong the life of both the tires and the wheels themselves.  Hubby carries all our technical gear in his trailer – the laptop and a whole mess of peripherals.  He also carries enough tools to completely rebuild the bikes should that become a necessity.  I carry clothes, our stove, and a sleeping bag or two in mine.

Our tent travels on my husband’s rear rack so that it’s readily accessible in case we have to set up camp in a hurry.  With the four of us working together, we can have the tent set up in a grand total of about three or four minutes – quite handy if it’s pouring rain.

For food, we mostly stop at supermarkets and stock up with enough food to get us to the next city where we’ll be able to find another supermarket.  I have an entire pannier dedicated to food storage, so we can comfortably carry food for a few days.  We cook most of our meals next to rivers or streams we pass by.

Come morning, we stuff our sleeping bags, roll up our sleeping pads, and take down the tent.  It takes us approximately an hour to break camp and get on the road.

The beauty of bicycle touring is that life becomes reduced to its simplest form.  Our needs are basic – food, water, and a place to sleep.  That’s the allure of touring on a bike – to drop the trappings of modern day society and live a life that rich and pure – in its simplest form!

Nancy Sathre-Vogel is currently cycling from Alaska to Argentina with her husband and twin sons.  She is documenting their journey for Guinness World Records at www.familyonbikes.org and also writes for Examiner.com about international travel and bike touring throughout the world.


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Nancy Sathre-Vogel

Nancy Sathre-Vogel is a modern-day nomad and vagabond who travels the world in search of beads and other treasures.

Her preferred mode of transportation is a bicycle, although she’s been known to travel in car, bus, plane, boat, donkey cart, elephant, and camel. She is now pedaling the length of the Americas because her eleven-year-old sons have decided they want to get the Guinness World Record as the youngest people to cycle the Pan-American Highway.

Although there are times when she questions her sanity, she somehow keeps going, knowing that treasures await in countries far and wide. You can read about her and her travels at www.familyonbikes.org. Emails are always welcome.

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