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The story of how I saved money, quit my job, sold my possessions, and set off to endlessly travel by bike around the world. My Plan

My 3 Books
I write, self publish and sell books about touring

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Continue My Travels

Places I have been
How can I afford this?)

India and Neighbors
May 2010 to present

Alaska / Canada / USA
May 2008 to April 2010

New Zealand
Sept 2007 to May 2008

Sept 2006 to Sept 2007

SE Asia / China
Nov 2004 to Sept 2006

South America
June 2003 to June 2004

AZ, Mexico, and Central America
March 2002 to April 2003

How I started
The 5 years before I left

*Help Support this Web Site and Continue My Travels.

Equipment Pages Index

How Much to Bring and Weight
Some Advice About Advice
A Note to Perspective Sponsors and Gear Suppliers
(See more about Sponsorship)

START HERE for Touring Bikes and Commuting Bicycles
Custom Touring Bicycles and Bike Upgrade Buyers Guide
Bicycle Touring Frames 
The Steel Repair Myth.
Steel and Aluminum Derailleur Hanger Repair.
Bicycle Touring Wheels
Phil Wood: The Best Bicycle Hubs

Panniers / Bike Bags
Cargo Trailers Vs Panniers
Tires for Bike Tours..
Bicycle Touring Saddles.
Women's Specific Bike Touring Saddles
Brooks Leather Touring Bicycle Saddle Care and Conditioning
Bike Computer
Touring Handlebars, Bar Ends, Adjustable Stems, and Padded Grips.
Sealed Cartridge Headsets

How to prevent flat tires
Bike Route Trails and Maps

Buying Camping Equipment
Tent and Ground Cloth
Sleeping Bag
Sleeping Pad
Camp Stove
Pots and Pans
Water Filter
First Aide Kits
Solar Power for Camp

Bike Touring Shorts

Short-wave Radio
Bicycle touring lights

Packing list
Pictures of Equipment Failures

See My Videos Here

(see all 3 book)

Buying the Best Strong Bicycle Touring Wheelsets, Spokes, and Rims
 How to not Spend Your Entire Bike Tour Repairing Broken Spokes

Broken down in the middle of nowhere in the Argentinean wilderness.

When buying a touring bike there is one key component where cheap or poor design will cause major problems and breakdowns. Wheels are an important choice because they have the most common major mechanical problem touring cyclists experience: broken spokes.  Many touring cyclists underestimate the importance of their touring bicycle wheels before they leave home.  What seems like a good set of wheels at home may cause endless problems on tour.  I have read many books and websites of bike tour travel accounts that frequently mention broken rear spokes.

In recent years top-end mountain bike wheels and road bike racing wheel sets have become extremely sophisticated.  High tech materials like titanium and carbon fiber have dramatically reduced the weight and rolling wind resistance.  At the same time, these cutting edge materials have made bike wheel costs skyrocket.

Mail Order pre-built Bicycle wheels for loaded bicycle touring and long bike tours.

If you need a wheel fast here are my favorite mail order wheels that can be used for loaded bicycle touring

Touring bicycles have different needs than lightweight high performance racing bikes.  On a bicycle tour, it is important that the wheels can withstand months of bad roads, heavy loads, and foul weather.  Lance Armstrong's wheels would not last a week under my heavily loaded bike.  If my wheels were put on his speed machine, he'd be half as fast. 

The main goal in selecting touring bike hubs, rims, and spokes is durability and repair-ability.  All three components work together.  The failure of one will affect the others and ruin a beautiful day of cycling.  Touring bike wheels need to withstand a real beating and still work flawlessly.

Even the best wheel set will eventually wear out.  Metal fatigues and becomes weaker over time.  I have never had a set of my touring bikes wheels last more than two years.  The first sign of my wheel getting old is breaking spokes or cracks forming in the rim.  When this happens I buy a new rim and spokes and rebuild my wheel.  Since I'm usually building my wheels in less developed countries, I choose parts that are widely available around the world.  This greatly limits my choices.

My personal experience is that a 26 inch or 700c mountain bike size rim can be found in every country of the world.  Mountain bikes and parts may not be found in every city of an undeveloped country but bigger settlements, especially capital cities have them.  I have bought new rims in Guatemala and Argentina.  The rims I found were not my favorite but they worked for a few months until I could be more selective.  If I had chosen 700c wheels I would not have found any rims for my bike.  In cities where racing is popular, you might find expensive ultra light rims that local road racers use.  These rims would not last long on a loaded touring bike.

New bikes often come with bad wheels.

To cut down on overall costs, new bikes almost always come with (rear) wheels that will not last long on a self-contained bike tour.  I suspect the biggest difference is that new bikes come with machine-built wheels as opposed to hand-built wheels.  I am not sure why the building method would make a big difference but it's been my experience that it does. This is even true of bikes costing a couple thousand US dollars or more.  It is much cheaper to build wheels with a machine than by hand.  It's widely accepted in the bicycle community that hand-built wheels are much stronger than machine built wheels.  I personally never trust or buy any wheel built by a machine.

My advice is if you buy a new touring bike with machine-built wheels, use the stock wheel while at home and have the rear wheel handbuilt with a better rim and spokes before your big tour.  A good bike shop will have at least one qualified mechanic who can advise you on parts and build a wheel. Replacing both wheels would be best but the rear wheel of any bicycle carries more weight and experiences the most problems.  Rear wheels are also more difficult to work on.

Broken Rear Spoke:  The Number 1 Major Mechanical problem for bike tourists

Replacing a broken spoke for a cyclist from Spain.  The Salar de Uyuni Bolivia is a long way from a bike shop or anything manmade.

Many cyclists on an extended bike tour have experienced the following scenario.  It'ss a lovely sunny day.  The temperature is perfect and a noticeable tailwind is helping them along.  Then they hear a high pitched "PING" they look down and notice their rear wheel is wobbling so dramatically that it's hitting the brake pads.  If they are having an exceptionally bad day, two or more spokes are broken and the wheel will seize up when it gets wedged into the chain stays (bike frame).  Unless they have the tools to remove the cassette, spare replacement spokes, and the mechanical knowledge to put it all together and true the wheel, that cyclist is stuck.  Even if they know how to fix all this, the problem will reoccur because whatever caused the weakness in the wheel is probably still there.  Once a spoke breaks, they will continue breaking until the wheel is replaced.

Bicycle Touring Wheels and Rotational Weight

Although touring and commuter bikers are less concerned about weight, it's worth discussing rotating weight.  I've heard (but never verified) that one gram on the wheel is worth four grams on the frame.  Because the weight on the wheels is spinning, it is felt more.  It is good to have extra sturdy wheels but it is best not to make your wheels heavier than necessary.

In conclusion, the most common major mechanical problem bicycle tourists experience is broken spokes.  This is especially true on the rear wheel because it carries more weight.  I regularly repair other cyclists broken spokes on the road or in campgrounds during my travels.  Pulling the cassette, threading the new spoke through, and truing the wheel back takes a lot of practice and mechanical experience.  This common mechanical breakdown is best avoided by choosing high quality rims, spokes, and building techniques specific for loaded bicycle touring.  A huge contributing factor for breaking spokes is that almost all new bikes come with low quality or poorly built wheel sets.  This is even true of new bikes in the upper price ranges.

Mail Order pre-built Bicycle wheels for loaded bicycle touring and long bike tours.

If you need a wheel fast here are my favorite mail order wheels that can be used for loaded bicycle touring




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Bicycle Touring
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Water Filter
Pots and Pans
First Aide Kits
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Bike Maps
Preventing Flat Tires

Bike Computer
Cargo Trailers
Kick Stands
Commuting Bikes

Camp Shower/Toiletry Bag


Bike Shoes
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Stealth/Free Camp

What I Have Learned On The Road

Dreaming of Endless Travel

Injustice of Poverty

Much MORE Gear Here!

Sponsors (how?)

Cycle Touring Racks

Tents and ground cloths
Sleeping Bags
Camping Mattress Pads

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