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Your bicycle choice

Which bicycle are you choosing for your bicycle journey?


Short journey, traveling light, here on the boat to Langkawi MalaysiaWhat type of bicycle is good for a long journey? Your bicycle choice can make or break your journey. Different journeys may need a different bicycle. So what are the criteria for your bicycle choice?

  • Which part of the world
  • The expected road surface
  • Length of the journey and how much luggage

Although all above mentioned are related, it is worth to have a closer look at the arguments for your choice.

Which part of the world

My first few journeys where in Western Europe. I cycled Holland, Belgium, France, and a bit later Hungary and further away.

My first bicycle was a Rih race bike. The choice for this bike was easy. I wanted a lightweight bike where I could carry a minimal amount of luggage.

As my planned trips at the time were based on short holidays, with a maximum of 2 weeks, I didn't need a heavy bicycle that could carry "my whole life".

My bicycle choice, great for long distance journeys
What bicycle you choose depends on many thing including the lugage you want to carry

My only surviving photo of my old Rih bicycle
My only surviving photo of my old Rih bicycle

Another argument I had, at the time, was that in case of calamities, I would be able to find a bicycle shop for repairs. That at least was the idea. Unfortunately, in Hungary I got an accident and ... lost my front wheel. I had to travel back to Budapest to get a new wheel.

So, what do you choose? Before you make a choice, you need to look at the following questions:

Look at the planning, which part of the world will you travel? Will you find a good bicycle shop in case of problems?

The expected road surface

The choice of a bicycle always depends heavily on the kind of roads you are expecting to travel. Will it be mostly asphalt or are you planning to do a lot of off-road cycling?

It may seem obvious that for one or the other the choice may be logic. However, look at the whole journey.

When I left my first 1 year journey, I choose for a mountain bike type with the best rims and strongest (or at least that was my info at the time) luggage carriers.

the front wheel of my Rih bicycle
Bad luck in Hungary with my light weight Rih bicycle

My view was that my journey would take a long time, I would travel to countries with minimal expected supplies and I wasn't sure about the road surface. Thus I needed a rock solid and very standard type bicycle.

It became the Koga Miyata World Traveler. At the time it seemed the best and most logic choice. More about what happened in my first long journey, you can read here).

If you expect to cycle on good roads, you may be better off with a road bicycle. However, if you decide to carry quite some luggage, make sure you get one of the stronger models. Remember, you are a traveler, not a racer, so the weight of the bicycle is not of much importance because you carry luggage.

Length of the journey, weather conditions and how much luggage

The length of the journey, weather conditions and how much luggage are very close related. If you are going on the road for a longer time and you expect to travel in cold weather, you will carry much more luggage then a short journey in warm weather countries.

Herve on his bicycle
My friend Herve, using a mountain bike type but in Asia he travels light

Does it matter for the choice of the bicycle? Yes. More luggage means you need a stronger bicycle. A long journey requires anyway more luggage. Are you bringing a tent?

If so, most likely you will also bring a sleeping bag, mattress and cooking stuff. It will require a fuel bottle too. Traveling in colder weather will require you to bring more clothes, even if you choose for good cold weather cycling clothes.

I am living at the moment in Malaysia, many of my journeys are shorter and always in tropical climate. Thus I carry less luggage and no tent or cooking gear (as I am most of the time able to a place to stay). For this condition, I do not really need the strongest bicycle although it IS convenient.

Does the weather itself have an effect on your bike? Well, yes, at least to some extend. Rain and cold weather have an effect on your mechanics, especially the moving part and chain.

In general, better quality material has less problems. That said, see my own experience with my own bicycle and know that it can always go wrong.

Conclusion

The conclusion for the best bike is not easy to make. If I have known before I started my journeys what I know now, I may have bought a different kind of bicycle. Or I would have modified the bike at certain points, especially the rims and luggage carriers.

I cycled a while with Robert Johnson in Iran, he was using a modified race bike with a trailer
I cycled in Iran with Robert Johnson, he was using a modified race bike with a trailer

However, at the time, I relied heavy on the info I had about bicycles and trusted the information as it came through people I believed to have the knowledge.

So, what will be your choice?

  • Short journeys in Western countries?
  • Short Journeys with a lot of off road paths?
  • Longer journeys in warm weather?
  • Longer journeys in cold weather?
  • A bit of everything?

Personally I feel a mountain bike type of bicycle is more suitable for longer journeys. If you like a race bike handlebar, you may want to choose that type of handlebar. Shorter journeys in Western Europe, well, you can go around with a race bike, as I did for many years.

I met cyclists using (modified) race bikes, even with a trailer, so it's not impossible.

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