After researching and obsessing over the idea of bicycle touring as well as reading blogs for the past couple of years, I am finally ready to set off on my first tour. The plan is to leave from Seattle and head south and ride down the Oregon Coast.
I will be riding a late 80s Schwinn High Sierra. I bought the bike on Craigslist in LA for about $150. It was in good shape when I bought it. In preparation for the trip, I greased the hubs, bottom bracket, and headset, and installed a new chain. I also adjusted the brakes and derailleurs.
I picked this bike because it has a steel frame and strong 36 spoke 26 inch wheels. Parts for old bikes like this are cheap and easy to come by. Also, the bike is bomb proof. Really sturdy construction.
One thing I don’t like about the bike is that it came equipped with roller cam brakes. These are an older style of brakes that were used only in the mid to late 80s as I understand. Roller cam brakes are reliable and sturdy but they are a hassle to adjust. I spent a couple of hours messing with them and they still aren’t perfect. I believe this is why they fell out of favor.
Roller cams use the same brake pads and levers as cantilever brakes so replacement parts are easy to find. They can also be replaced with U brakes. That may be a future upgrade.
The Schwinn High Sierra is a mountain bike so I had to make a couple of upgrades to make the ride a bit more comfortable and suitable for touring. The tires that came with the bike were on their last legs so I installed a set of 26X1.5’’ road tires.
I also bit the bullet and bought a Brooks B17 saddle n. It was painful to spend so much on a saddle but it is quite comfortable even though it isn’t completely broken in yet. After I get a good amount of miles on it, I’ll do a full review. Edit: Full review of the saddle here.
The final addition I made to the bike was a bar end mirror. Most of this tour will be on the road so a mirror is a nice safety feature to be able to see when and how close people are passing. I bought this cheap mirror on Amazon. It’s good quality for the price and easy to install.
For more information on how I prepared the bike, check out my article: How to Convert an Old Mountain Bike Into a Touring Bike.
Bike Tools and Spares
We will not be traveling anywhere too remote on this tour so we will bring a minimal amount of tools and spares. Here is what I am bringing:
- Multi tool
- Chain breaker
- spare shifter cable
- spare brake cable
- 1 spare tube
- Tube patch kit
- 1 set of brake pads
- mini pump
For more info, check out my Ideal Bikepacking and Bicycle Touring Tool Kit.
Bike Bags and Hauling Gear
Generally, I pack pretty light when I travel but this trip will require that I pack a bit more as I will be cooking and camping every day. I decided to pack bikepacker style without panniers. I found that I can rig up the bags cheaper and it cuts down on weight.
On the handlebars I used a handlebar harness from Revelate Designs. The harness seems sturdy and is rated to hold up to 15 pounds which is a lot of gear. I have to say that when I ordered this harness, the first one I got was defective and I had to send it back to exchange it for another. Customer service was good but I was disappointed by quality control. I will attach a 20 liter dry bag and my tent to the harness. In the dry bag I will store all of my clothes and possibly my sleeping bag.
I bought this Moosetreks Full Frame Bag to haul heavier gear such as tools and spare parts. I am impressed by this bag. The quality is excellent for the price. I bought the medium which fits my frame perfectly and holds 12 liters. I’ll write a review of the bag once I return.
Attached to the back on the rear rack will be a small backpack and 5 liter dry bag. The backpack is just a classic Jansport backpack that I used to use for school. I will store my raincoat, shoes, food, and miscellaneous stuff in the backpack. In the dry bag, I will store my camp stove and pot as well as extra water and food. I will wrap the backpack in a tarp for waterproofing. The tarp will also be used as a footprint for my tent.
We will be camping every night to save money. I also plan to cook most of my own food along the way
Tent: Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL 1- Read my full review of the tent here.
Sleeping Bag: Kelty Cosmic 20 Degree Down Sleeping Bag- Read my full review here.
Sleep Mat: Klymit Static V Sleeping Pad. I’ve only used this a few times. So far it is very comfortable for its size and I haven’t had any punctures. I’ll write a review of the pad once I return.
Camp Stove: I just made a simple alcohol stove from a tuna can. I just used a church key style bottle opener to make holes in the can. I will carry a small bottle of denatured alcohol for fuel.
Cooking Pot: I am bringing a 1-liter stainless steel camping pot with lid for cooking.
Flying with the Bike
I will be doing this tour with my friend who lives in Seattle. I am flying from LA to Seattle on Alaska Airlines who allow bikes to be checked in as sporting equipment for only $25. The weight limit for the bike box is 50 pounds. I’ve never flown with a bike so hopefully, it will go smoothly.
Update: Flying my bike on Alaska Airlines was great. To read my full report, including a detailed guide of how I packed the bike, check out my article: How to Box a Bike and Fly on Alaska Airlines.
Packing the Bike and Gear
I went to my local bike shop and got a bike box for free. To pack the bike, I unscrewed the rear derailleur but left it on the chain and I wrapped it in bubble wrap. Then I removed the handlebars, front wheel, pedals, and rear rack. Next, I lowered the bike into the box and put the front wheel to the left of the bike and the handlebars to the right. I used my tent, sleeping bag, and some clothes as padding to protect the bike during transit. I secured most all of my gear in the bike box around the bike and I will carry a small backpack as a carry-on.
This will likely change as we travel but our general plan is to leave from Seattle and take the ferry to Bremerton. From there we will head southwest to Astoria, Oregon. Once on the coast, we will follow highway 1 as far south as we can get. My friend has 9 days for the tour so he will take the bus back to Seattle from Coos Bay and I may continue down the coast to California if I am enjoying the ride.
We are planning to camp every night. Along the Oregon Coast in most state parks are campsites for hikers and cyclists. They cost $4-6 per night and include access to bathrooms and sometimes showers. In the Washington section, campsites are a bit more sparse along our route. We may wild camp or look for a host on Warmshowers or Couch Surfing for the first couple of nights of the tour.
I expect to see a lot of rain on this trip. It looks like daytime highs will be in the 60s on average and nighttime lows will be in the 40s for this time of year. I am bringing a waterproof jacket as well as a light rain poncho if rains get too heavy.
To cut costs, my plan is to cook most meals for myself. I will look for foods that are easy to carry on the bike that are high in calories. Some of the foods I will be eating include peanut butter, rice, beans, potatoes, bananas, cookies, tuna, pasta, chocolate, bread, eggs, etc.
Most of the cost of this trip comes from gear I had to buy before the trip starts. I spent probably $200 on the bike and maintenance that needed to be done before leaving. I spent a couple hundred more on bags and the expensive Brooks saddle. Much of the camping gear I already had. All in, I probably spent $500 preparing for the trip including the bike.
Daily costs during the tour should be quite low. Average camping cost should be around $5 in hiker/biker campsites along the coast. I will try to keep daily food costs below $5-10. I will also budget for a couple of beer after long days pedaling. Excluding airfare, I am hoping to spend no more than $15 per day on average.
After the Tour Edit
To read about how the tour went, you can check out my article: Review of My First Bicycle Tour.
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Zachary Friedman is an accomplished travel writer and professional blogger. Since 2011, he has traveled to 66 countries and 6 continents. He founded ‘Where The Road Forks’ in 2017 to provide readers with information and insights based on his travel and outdoor recreation experience and expertise. Zachary is also an avid cyclist and hiker. Living as a digital nomad, Zachary balances his professional life with his passions for hiking, camping, cycling, and worldwide exploration. For a deeper dive into his journey and background, visit the About page. For inquiries and collaborations, please reach out through the Contact page. You can also follow him on Facebook.