Bicycle Travel > Gear Talk

Best way technologically to be connected on an x-country supported ride ?

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Old Guy New Hobby:
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 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.


--- Quote from: Old Guy New Hobby on December 19, 2012, 08:18:37 am ---You can't make phone calls with a laptop

--- End quote ---
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.

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. 

Pat Lamb:
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.

"Buy newspapers each day and send postcards" was an editorial on what I think of taking electronics on a tour.


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