Author Topic: Best way technologically to be connected on an x-country supported ride ?  (Read 5605 times)

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Offline Some Guy Ridin

I'm planning to cross the country this year, supported, and am wondering what is the best/most efficient in size/cost/benefit technology to take in order to stay connected to current news, emails, blogs, books etc.? Is it possible to have satelite connections thus not worrying about towers? Suggestions and advice wanted.

Offline driftlessregion

Re: Best way technologically to be connected on an x-country supported ride ?
« Reply #1 on: December 18, 2012, 10:33:00 pm »
Buy newspapers each day and send postcards.

Offline RussSeaton

Re: Best way technologically to be connected on an x-country supported ride ?
« Reply #2 on: December 18, 2012, 11:09:47 pm »
Buy newspapers each day and send postcards.

He did say "technologically".  I'm guessing newspapers and postcards have been around for 500 plus years.  Since its a supported tour you are asking about, why not just take along a laptop computer.  Have the support vehicle driver figure out how to find an electrical outlet to charge the thing everyday.  Then every night just drive to a restaurant or coffee shop that has WiFi access and surf the web.  Being supported kind of puts you into a whole different world for convenience.

Offline Some Guy Ridin

Re: Best way technologically to be connected on an x-country supported ride ?
« Reply #3 on: December 19, 2012, 04:09:10 am »
Thanks for the response.

My first consideration is the laptop but with the miriad of equipment choices (laptop, smartphone, iPod, iPad, local libraries etc.) and connection choices (cell towers, satelite, telephone etc.) I'm not sure what works best, safest and is easiest to accomplish and carry.

Truth is, I'm not even sure what my choices are. I don't own anything that's not connected by wire except a wi-fi ipod and a non-smartphone that is limited to texting and voice. I'm pretty naive about being connected, particularly in the remote areas of the countryside.

I'm hoping people can respond with their experiences in this regard. What worked? What didn't work to well?
« Last Edit: December 19, 2012, 05:15:46 am by Some Guy Ridin »

Offline staehpj1

Re: Best way technologically to be connected on an x-country supported ride ?
« Reply #4 on: December 19, 2012, 07:30:21 am »
Since it is a supported tour.  Taking a laptop is a decent option, but consider how connected you really want to be.  It just might be nice to not be connected beyond keeping in touch with folks at home.  That can be accomplished with phone calls and text messages.  You can also use computers here and there along the way at public libraries or at motels if you stay in any.  Many motels do have a computer in the lobby or elsewhere for guests.

Usually for me a smart phone is the best option, because I can do voice and text, do brief journal entries, check maps, use the gps, use email, use the reasonably good camera,  listen to audio books,  read and edit documents including pre trip notes, and find services in towns down the road.  I may choose to not use it for many of those functions, but it is nice to have the option.  I figure that it is more than adequate and sometimes overkill, but at 6 ounces or so carrying it isn't a burden.  Of course for a supported tour you don't need to worry about that as much.  BTW, in my experience with cellular carriers, Verizon has by far the best for coverage in remote parts of the US.

Is your trip with a company that is providing supported tours or are you just having some one you know drive a sag wagon?  How what part of the country is it in and how remote is it?

Offline Old Guy New Hobby

Re: Best way technologically to be connected on an x-country supported ride ?
« Reply #5 on: December 19, 2012, 08:18:37 am »
You can't make phone calls with a laptop, so you need a phone, which can double as your camera. The very latest smart phones are quite capable on the internet, but typing on a smart phone is a chore. On my last unsupported tour I took a small laptop and a smart phone. You could easily replace the laptop with a tablet to save some space and weight. I used the computer for email, to pay bills, & to blog my tour on crazyguyonabike.com. I just took a short break during the day, wrote a few words, and uploaded a pic or 2. Months later, I was running into people who commented on my blog.

If you take a computer, save yourself some $$$ and use Wi-Fi. Data plans are expensive, especially when they include teathering to a computer. Free Wi-Fi is available in almost every town (in the East, anyway). The only problem I had was public libraries in Pennsylvania. PA might be the cradle of our freedom, but their library Wi-Fi is locked down tight. Crazyguyonabike was locked out at all 4 of the PA libraries I tried. Every Starbucks I tried worked. McDonalds was OK, but a couple of them had busted Wi-Fi. Small coffee shops were a good bet.

Offline staehpj1

Re: Best way technologically to be connected on an x-country supported ride ?
« Reply #6 on: December 19, 2012, 09:11:28 am »
You can't make phone calls with a laptop
Not completely true, you can use skype to make calls with a WiFi enabled device whether it is a laptop, tablet, or whatever.  I know that it worked out well for my daughter when I loaned her a little phone sized wifi tablet (Nokia N800) for a European vacation.  So going without a cell phone isn't completely out of the question.

I am not especially advocating that since I always carry a cell phone (sometimes as my only electronic device), but it is an option to use Skype instead of a phone if you are willing to limit your calls to where you have wifi coverage.

Offline DaveB

Re: Best way technologically to be connected on an x-country supported ride ?
« Reply #7 on: December 19, 2012, 09:29:30 am »
How connected do you insist on being.  Is it a matter of life-or-death to be in touch 24/7 or are occasional updates adequate?  If you are on a supported tour I assume you will be with other riders so getting emergency help shouldn't require having total communication ability all times and all places.  Also, having your nose buried in your phone or laptop all the time won't leave any time for socializing. 

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Best way technologically to be connected on an x-country supported ride ?
« Reply #8 on: December 19, 2012, 09:35:51 am »
As Old Guy says, wi-fi is getting to be ubiquitous.  If your supported tour stays in motels, it's usually safe to bet there'll be wi-fi.  If not, well, you'll pass through a town every day, so you can find wi-fi at libraries, many restaurants, coffee shops, etc.

If you want to surf from a tent or picnic table, you'll need to get a wireless plan and pay the cell company (through the nose!).  Most of the time you'll be able to get a cell signal east of the Rockies, except in a few rural parts of the Appalachians and Ozarks.  It's usually cheaper to get a wi-fi device to plug into your laptop (do tablets support these?  I don't know.)  Verizon, at least, will let you use a smartphone as a wi-fi base, but you'll pay a hefty premium for that "privilege."  Verizon seems to have the best rural coverage, followed by AT&T, with T-Mobile (one kid called his "T-Maybe") bringing up the rear.

Some people call me cheap, but I'd stick with your voice and text cell phone for calls, and take  large netbook for web access.  You might want to save a pound and take a tablet, but a large netbook's keyboard fits my hands best.

Offline driftlessregion

Re: Best way technologically to be connected on an x-country supported ride ?
« Reply #9 on: December 20, 2012, 10:21:05 pm »
"Buy newspapers each day and send postcards" was an editorial on what I think of taking electronics on a tour.

Offline Some Guy Ridin

Re: Best way technologically to be connected on an x-country supported ride ?
« Reply #10 on: December 21, 2012, 07:36:30 am »
Regarding that editorial, I'm guessing there is some explanation and reasoning in it that goes a little deeper than the title. Do you recall where you read the editorial?

I know a guy that took the Trans Am and asked his fellow riders to keep all news and current events to themselves. He said he was a news junkie but wanted to try to completely avoid it during the ride. His riding mates respected his request and his only contact with the rest of the world for the entire ride was his wife and an occasional comment here or there. Later he commented that after he'd returned and caught up with what was going on, that the world hadn't changed much. He recommended I try that.

I don't think I want to go to his extreme nor to try to do as you've suggested but I appreciate both suggestions.

With everyone's (forum) help, I've been able to define my needs down to telephone, camera, gps, weather updates, music, books on tape, books in print, email and access to the occasional library along the way. 

So I guess, technologically speaking, a smartphone & a Kindle-like pad should fit the bill nicely.

This kind of narrows me down to 1. type of smartphone 2. service plans and 3. type of e-reader.

I've read that, in the past, Verizon phone service is the best for cross country. I'm wondering if this is still true. I'm going to start a new blog question now: "What is the best telephone & telephone service for cross country touring.."

Thanks to everyone that responded/helped and I hope to see you at my next forum question (mentioned above).

Offline Old Guy New Hobby

Re: Best way technologically to be connected on an x-country supported ride ?
« Reply #11 on: December 21, 2012, 03:46:53 pm »
GPS is new to the list. I heartily recommend an outdoor Garmin GPS unit. Pick the one you like, their similarities outweigh their differences. It runs on two AA batteries, which can stay on all day and last for 2 days of hard riding. It's very rugged and will have no problems surviving on your bike handlebar. You should hook a lanyard to the GPS and wrap it around something. The handlebar mount doesn't latch. My GPS came loose twice over the last year. The lanyard was much appreciated.

On the other hand, if you tried to leave your phone on continuously the battery would last a few hours. So it's only good for occasional GPS checks. And there may be times when you just can't keep it charged. Furthermore, it is a fragile device and should be well protected deep inside your waterproof bag.

Offline driftlessregion

Re: Best way technologically to be connected on an x-country supported ride ?
« Reply #12 on: December 21, 2012, 09:21:56 pm »
MY editorial thinking on the subject spoken in many a rant but published only here.

Offline bogiesan

Re: Best way technologically to be connected on an x-country supported ride ?
« Reply #13 on: December 22, 2012, 09:58:17 am »
I'm planning to cross the country this year, supported, and am wondering what is the best/most efficient in size/cost/benefit technology to take in order to stay connected to current news, emails, blogs, books etc.? Is it possible to have satelite connections thus not worrying about towers? Suggestions and advice wanted.

You can get an iPhone for $50-$200 with a two year contract. A full access data plan will run you anyewhere from $50-150 months depending on factors on ly you can judge. An iPhone has everything on it you think you must have. (I've used Apple products all of my electronic career so that's where I go but I imagine there are excellent Android phones, I just don't know anything about them.)
Satellite commnication is not an option; those are dedicated, expensive, bricks. Your tour organizer may have one in their kit. In fact, that's a question you might want to ask them .

The smartphone stays with you on the bike and can run music, GPS, mapping, heart rate…there is no limit to wwhat you can have loaded up. Be sure you have a sturdy case and a lanyard. Buy the unit several months before your trip. Invest in a good book about the phone's operating system so you understand how it works and how to talk to the OS to get it work the way you want it to. INstall and practice with all of your apps many weeks before your trip.

You will also need an auxiliary charging system. Smartphones have stupid small batteries but they are built assuming you are charging every day. I plan to use a solar-powered battery pack that tops off the iPhone rather than trying to rig a generator or directly hooking into a solar panel. That purchase decision for me is a few months off. I have the case (OtterBox defender model) and the mount. 

Try to enjoy this shopping experience. A smartphone will change your life in a subtle way but once you've learned how to use it, you're going to wonder why you didn't get one a few years ago.

I strongly support the editorial position that you do not need any of these things on a bike trip. You really do not. Electronic toys and furniture are hassles when you're on a bike trip. They're expensive and small and hard to keep track of and charged and they're fragile. I'm taking my iPhone on my next several trips simply because I have one, not necessarily to use it for anything in particular. I may end up keeping it packed in a bag instead of mounted on the handlebars of my recumbent.
I play go. I use Macintosh. Of course I ride a recumbent

Offline Some Guy Ridin

Re: Best way technologically to be connected on an x-country supported ride ?
« Reply #14 on: January 16, 2013, 03:10:30 pm »

Thanks for the input, ideas and comments.

Initially I thought that a high powered smart phone might do everything I wanted, covering all my bases - phone-internet-camera-music etc., but considering all things I learned here and through others I'm bringing all the clutter - it's cheaper and works out better for me.

I'm bringing: (all small and light weight)
a) a verizon connected 4G LTE tablet for off the bike internet, information, email - basically - a computer.
b) an ipod touch for on the bike music, books on tape & coffeeshop wifi, skype etc.
c) my Sprint phone for telephone and text. Coverage might be a big problem, but I have the Verizon internet link for skype, email, blogging, facebook etc., if need be.
d) my pocket camera.
e) my kindle for reading.

That's a lot of clutter, including the charging wires etc., but collectively, I think it beats the crap out of a smartphone - which is very expensive to buy and to have monthly service.

Thanks everyone for the replies - I've got it figured out now - I hope.