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Old 20 Mar 2012
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Bike or backpack?

I am planning to quit my job and start a long trip this coming June. I have to be back in California in August for w friends wedding, so I will be spending the first two months riding my bike up to Alaska and then to the east coast. After August, I was going to spend a month or two in Nepal and then drop down into India for something like 6 months to a year. This is where the planning kind of stops. I like to keep this open and I figure I will have a better idea where I want to go in a years time; high on the list of options is China, SEA, and Africa. Overall the trip will be a couple of years, but nothing is set.

I have done a lot of backpacking in many of these places and was initially thinking of backpacking on this trip; maybe rent a bike here and there while I am stationary in some town. Then I started to think about doing the stans up to Mongolia and then down China. That sounded like a great options and would probably require my own transport like a bike. I wasn't sure how realistic it would be to buy a quality bike mid trip, so I started contemplating doing the whole thing on a bike.

So here is the question. Do I backpack of bike? I have backpacked and contrary to what a lot of people on this forum say, I had no problem getting off the beaten path. I also found it very easy to meet people. I am 33 years old and I enjoy meeting other travelers and having the occasional good time or party. I have never traveled to places like this on a bike. My fear is that on a bike I will be spend a lot of time finding places to keep the bike safe and I will be less likely to meet up with other travelers. Does anyone have experience with both that they can share the trade-offs? Are my concerns unfounded? Thanks in advance for any feedback.

The first two months will be spent riding
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Old 20 Mar 2012
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I think there are obvious advantages & disadvantages to both. If you want to be on the road for a long time, backpacking will be cheaper (assuming you are travelling like a local on the equivalent of chicken buses, etc.) Of course, it will take you a long time to travel from point A to point B, and you'll be spending your time cooped up inside smelly, crowded buses and trains.

I tend to be somewhat claustrophobic, so I much prefer to be in my own vehicle on the open road. Of course, a bike has its own disadvantages: expenses for fuels and service, having to worry about secure parking, extra hassles with paperwork, etc.

I dunno. I think I would prefer the moto method in most parts of the world, but can see I might prefer backpacking in areas with terrible traffic or road conditions.
Bruce Clarke --- 2011 Kawasaki Ninja 250R (black)
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Old 20 Mar 2012
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I have done a lot of backpacking in the past but after taking my beat up old citroen to Morocco many years ago I haven't looked back. I think the freedom of your own transport makes a trip exponentially better.

If you are worried about worrying about your bike buy an old, small capacity Honda or something that a) won't attract the attention of thieves and b) wouldn't be a total disaster if you lost it. It's just a thing after all.



*Disclaimer* - I am not saying my bike is better than your bike. I am not saying my way is better than your way. I am not mocking your religion/politics/other belief system. When reading my post imagine me sitting behind a frothing pint of ale, smiling and offering you a bag of peanuts. This is the sentiment in which my post is made. Please accept it as such!
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Old 20 Mar 2012
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Originally Posted by Matt Cartney View Post
I have done a lot of backpacking in the past but after taking my beat up old citroen to Morocco many years ago I haven't looked back. I think the freedom of your own transport makes a trip exponentially better.

If you are worried about worrying about your bike buy an old, small capacity Honda or something that a) won't attract the attention of thieves and b) wouldn't be a total disaster if you lost it. It's just a thing after all.

Thanks for all the feedback so far. I was thinking of taking a DR650 or WR250R. Neither is a very fancy bike that would brake the bank if stolen, but they will both attract attention. Just from reading the forum for a bit, it seems like many people try to bring their bikes into their hotel or room. That kind of precautions makes me think that stolen bikes are pretty common. I know from my own travels, even locals take a lot of precautions. I am not sure if this is just people being paranoid or if such measures are warranted. If so, I can imagine it really limits the places you can stay.
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Old 20 Mar 2012
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This thread might give you more insight, from both sides of the coin..

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Old 24 Mar 2012
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Originally Posted by *Touring Ted* View Post
This thread might give you more insight, from both sides of the coin..

That's a good thread. It always kind of amazes me how the backpacker crowd think they are getting off the beaten track going from one lonelyplanet recomended hostel to the next, being herded around in hot smelly crowded public busses. Waiting in stinking bus stations while being sized up by the local thieves.

While riding through South America on the KLR, I met a number of bicyclists. That gave the idea that these are the guys who are really seeing and feeling it all. Having the freedom to move on their own, camp wherever, and be able to just pack it all up and hop an airplane. No paperwork no gasoline, the concept has beaucoup merit.
Mind you for South America the KLR had a lot of merit but parking in cities always a concern and gasoline was my biggest expenditure.

Anyway I'm seriously thinking of giving bicycling a whirl. Probably start in London where the RTW bicyclists often get fitted out and ride the 3000 km loop around the British Isles for starters.
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Old 24 Mar 2012
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I have done backpacking, long distance bicycle touring and motorcycle touring. I prefer motorcycle touring if you are going to be gone for a few months.

Bicycle touring is nice and inexpensive but I got tired of pedaling into the wind after a few weeks. Although I have met others when I was in New Zealand who had flown in and bought a cheap bicycle and toured around. Once you've been cranking and banking through the mountains on a motorcycle it's hard to go back. More freedom than any other travel mode I've found.

Traveling through Nepal and India is cheap on buses and trains, but crowded and slow. I would buy a cheap bike if I went back and brave the crazed drivers.

Your idea of touring the Stans, Mongolia and down through China would be expensive, since hiring a mandatory tour guide through China is big bucks.

I like your idea of mixing it up. Maybe ride for a couple months up to Alaska. Fly to southeast Asia and buy a cheap bike in Thailand or Viet Nam and travel around for a few months. Sell it. Fly to Nepal or India and buy a cheap Bajaj, Herohonda, or Enfield bullet and tour around the Indian sub-continent for a few months. Then see what you feel like. Or mix in some backpacking and bike rental if you want to try other areas.

It's not much different finding a safe place to stash a bike, a bicycle or a backpack for the night while you walk around and check out the sights. Finding a guesthouse to stash your stuff isn't that hard any way you travel.

After a year you may even get tired of traveling and feel like getting back to society and doing something productive. That seems to be my limit anyway. Others can travel for years before hobo-itis
sets in.

Have fun!

Kindest regards,
John Downs
South America and back on a 250 Super Sherpa Minimalist Adventure http://advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=831076
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Old 25 Mar 2012
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Interesding question. I met a guy in Argentina he tramped onely with his guitar and a small backpack using couchsurfing.org . He payed nothing while i allways had to care about my bike, payed tolls and petrol and we traveled with the same speed (i med him a few times). On the boarders he was even faster and just walked through while i had to wait at the customs counter...

When i crossed the westcoast of Africa i did not met any backpackers. You just cant get into regiones like that without a vehicle. There are no busses going.


I would say it allways depends where you want to go. Riding a small bike can even be cheaper then backpacking because you can stop between two citys and camp there for free while with the bus you allways end up in a city where you have to take and pay a hostal if you dont have internet to organize a couch...

cu on the road, Tobi
Gringo travels through Chile and Argentina part 1
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Old 25 Mar 2012
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If I did the backpacking route, I would definitely rent bikes at various parts of the trip. I would probably have to give up the idea of exploring the stans, which I am a bit reluctant to do. I know that the visa and guides can be pricey through China, but I have read of people forming groups to make the cost more reasonable.

As for backpacks getting off the beaten path, you can get yourself enveloped in a culture and far away from any westerner pretty quickly with a backpack. If you find yourself always traveling in the well blazed tourist routes, that is by choice.
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Old 25 Mar 2012
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Originally Posted by ggemelos View Post
If you find yourself always traveling in the well blazed tourist routes, that is by choice.
At the risk of re-stating the obvious (my special proclivity), this is equally true with bicycles, motorbikes, cars, trucks and local transport. Most of the overland riders I've met all visit the same places and do the same stuff. Same with backpackers--slightly different stuff sometimes, but the principle is the same. Bicyclists, too. And in the end, virtually all believe themselves to be rugged, individualistic travelers....and are not shy about letting you know this.

And then there are the ones who get off the beaten track no matter how they choose to travel. I've done a bit of this--,most adventurously with a backpack--but there's no denying that wherever I go, others were there before me. Does that make me a bold adventurer, as most of my friends seem to believe? Not hardly.

I think an attitude of humility (mixed, when appropriate, with compassion) serves all varieties of tourist quite well. Those backpackers who are so easily disparaged are often tougher than they look, and we rugged overland motorcyclists often significantly less so.

Sez I (from Constanza, Dominican Republic--where the paved roads are sublime, and the dirt and mud a bit problematic on my rented Honda)

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