Author Topic: Credit Card or Self-contained touring and my budget  (Read 8791 times)

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Offline Nyimbo

Credit Card or Self-contained touring and my budget
« on: July 08, 2015, 08:06:06 pm »

I am really interested if anyone has already done the math or who just has a good understanding of what the cost comparison might be between credit card and self contained.  But keep in mind my complication is needing new equipment to do the self contained style tour.

I am interested in doing the TransAmerica Route in 2016.  Like many I suppose, I'm on a tight budget.  So I was planning to do the self-contained travel to reduce expenses.

But after spending the past month following the discussion groups and reading several journals/blogs I have learned that my current bicycle will not work for this option.  I will need to purchase  the basic touring bike (I looked at the REI Randonee bike for example) -- plus I need the front and back panniers and racks and tent, sleeping bad and sleeping pad, and some cooking equip.  I do not have any of these items.

I thought the other option of credit card touring would be much more expensive -- except that I have everything I need to leave tomorrow if I go credit card style.  I have a Trek FX 7.5 with 48/36/26 and 11/26 gearing - I think that should get me by ok. I have a Selle Anatomica leather seat and new Vittoria Randonneur Tires.  I have a rear rack and small panniers large enough for 20 lbs.

I'm not sure how to figure out the budget but seems like the cost of the new setup will pay for the motels and diners to do the trip.  But then what if I enjoy it so much I want to continue then I will definitely wish I had a nice steel touring bike....

BTW, my touring experience is limited. I have done 2 short trips credit card style, one 3 days and the other 5 days.

Thanks for any thoughts or questions that will help me think this through with more clarity. 

Offline RonK

Credit Card or Self-contained touring and my budget
« Reply #1 on: July 08, 2015, 11:29:53 pm »
The first question that comes to mind is what your further touring ambitions might be.
But there is probably not much point buying a new bike and gear if it's unlikely be used again.
Can't really comment on your budget since the cost of food, accommodation and personal preferences/tolerances vary widely.
« Last Edit: July 08, 2015, 11:32:02 pm by RonK »
Cycle touring blog and tour journals: whispering wheels...

Offline Nyimbo

Re: Credit Card or Self-contained touring and my budget
« Reply #2 on: July 09, 2015, 01:44:34 am »
when re-reading my question while posting I thought of some of what you said.  First do I want to continue touring for years or is this just my bucket list trip and I will stick with local riding  after this.  I wasn't able to answer the question.  I loved my short tours and I love riding, which I do regularly, but until I do a longer tour I just don't know.  I wish I could just afford to buy the touring bicycle and gear and not worry about it but truly I need to be careful with funds.

Regarding my tastes and how fast I'll travel, I'm probably an average rider I think 50-60 miles a day is my style, not more.  For food and housing, I always try to get the least expensive food and housing when I'm not traveling with my wife, and she isn't planning on the bike tour. 

This may not be a question someone can help me answer as its a personal choice thing, but at least writing it out has helped me to clarify my thoughts a bit.

Offline John Nelson

Re: Credit Card or Self-contained touring and my budget
« Reply #3 on: July 09, 2015, 04:11:15 am »
By "self-contained", I assume you mean "camping".

I spent 70 days to do the TransAm. I spent an average of $2 a day for a place to sleep (most nights were free). Suppose you average $52 a night for a hotel. The difference is $50 a day or $3500 for the trip. You can buy a lot of equipment for $3500!

If you were going on a 3-day trip, the math might favor credit-card touring. But on a 70-day trip, it's not a contest.

Offline staehpj1

Re: Credit Card or Self-contained touring and my budget
« Reply #4 on: July 09, 2015, 07:39:23 am »
There is no reason you can't do a self supported TA with your current bike and a small amount of inexpensive gear.  I have gone with a variety of gear and a variety of packing styles.  If you don't go crazy buying high end gear you can go much cheaper self supported rather than credit carding it.  I have met folks touring with only very inexpensive gear and they were having as much fun as anyone.

John's estimate of motel costs is conservative and as he said you can buy a lot of gear for $3500.  It is definitely possible to buy everything including the bike, pay airfare to and from the trip, and cover food and camping fees and stay under that amount.  If you are really frugal you could do it for way under that amount.

Take only what you need and the rack and panniers you have are probably adequate.  You can put a bar roll on the front and strap the tent on the top of the rack to stretch capacity a bit.  It is pretty easy to get packed weight down to 30 pounds and 20 pounds isn't crazy light.

I'd suggest you buy a fairly inexpensive tent like maybe a Eureka Spitfire 1 ($140), use a pop can stove, and pick a sleeping bag and pad that suits your budget.  You can get by with a $12 foam pad and a $70 sleeping bag or you can splurge on nicer stuff.  I used a cheap bag and an old thermarest on the TA (my first tour), but later splurged on a real nice bag and a NeoAir pad.  I like the nice $$$ pad and bag, but was OK with the cheaper stuff.

The bottom line is that you can tour with $200-300 of gear or you can spend a lot more.  The thing is that the folks I met going really cheap seemed to be having as much fun as the folks that dropped a bundle of gear.

Camping on the TA can easily average <$5 per day without too much effort to go cheap and some have managed $0 per day.

Eating can be cheap or expensive depending on your choices.  I like to cook dinner in camp, but often eat breakfast or lunch in a diner or restaurant.

I wrote a couple articles that might help.  Check them out at:
http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/frugal
http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/Ultralight
« Last Edit: July 22, 2015, 07:13:44 am by staehpj1 »

indyfabz

  • Guest
Re: Credit Card or Self-contained touring and my budget
« Reply #5 on: July 09, 2015, 09:28:21 am »
At the risk of sounding like a Sally Struthers plea for donations, if you save $5 a day--the price of a cup of coffee at some locations--from now until June of next year you should be able to purchase the bike and gear suitable for self-contained trips.

And having done tours where I have gotten hotel rooms and eaten out on occasion I can tell you those costs can add up quickly, even in small towns. For example, back in '11 the GF and I got a room at the cheaper of the two places in Wisdom, MT, a small town on the TA route. With tax it was around $50/night. We could have camped for free. Also on the TA route: Jackson Hot Springs, 18 miles down the road, will cost you over $130/night for a cabin. Mountain Spirit Inn in Darby, MT will cost you about $80/night. Stayed at a cheap place in Hamilton, MT last year and paid about $63/night including tax. Dillon, MT looks to be even pricier. I recently got back from the Black Hills of SD. The one motel in the nowhere town of Edgemont wants $60/night plus tax. Camping at the municipal campground, with showers, was $10/night. I could have camped at the fairgrounds for free. If you spend even $20 more/night because you are staying in motels vs. camping, you are talking an additional $1,600 for an 80 day trip. (Unless you do a lot Warm Showers and Couch Surfing, I think that $20 figure is very conservative.)  Again, shopping smartly, you could probably outfit yourself for the trip for that amount, if not less.

Then there is the issue of reservations.  Many places are small and can fill up, especially during high season.

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Credit Card or Self-contained touring and my budget
« Reply #6 on: July 09, 2015, 09:49:42 am »
My experience with motels is that the prices have been higher than I expected.  I ended up staying more in motels than I'd planned on the TransAm, and it was unusual to get a room for less than $100 with taxes.  I'd suggest a budget of $100-120 per day for a low ball credit card estimate, including food.

As indyfab notes, reservations are recommended for weekends from the Rockies west.  That means you need to plan ahead, and reduces your flexibility a bit.  The good news is that between the Pacific and Canon City, there's often only one viable stopping point within a day's ride.  It also puts you at the mercy of the weather -- if you have to hit a certain town next Thursday because of reservations there and further on for the next week, you have to ride through the horrible headwind or the dangerous thunderstorm today to make that.  Yellowstone and the Tetons are probably the worst -- if you're motelling, you need to make your reservations by February to beat the big tour operators, and then you have to adjust the rest of the trip to fit.

Offline staehpj1

Re: Credit Card or Self-contained touring and my budget
« Reply #7 on: July 09, 2015, 11:01:19 am »
A follow up on the motel costs.  If you pick and choose when/where you get a room vs camping you can sometimes find very inexpensive ones here and there.  If you need to stay in one every night there will probably be times when the only room available is $100 or more.

On the TA we paid for a motel room once and were treated to one once.  If sharing a room I am more likely to spring for it, especially if they have a decent hot breakfast. We did have some luck asking if they gave a discount to coast to coast cyclists, but these days I usually only ask for an AARP discount.  Most will have that and a AAA discount.

Two or more people splitting a room with a fresh waffle breakfast included makes the cost easier to manage.  On the ST we were comped a room once because my companion was riding for a charity.

If you say "I am riding coast to coast on my bicycle, do you have a cyclists discount?", they will typically knock off a few bucks.  Still it will be MUCH cheaper to camp on the TA than to get rooms.

I find that I save less on food by doing my own cooking so I do a mix of cooking and eating at diners and such.  Diner food and subway foot long subs are hard to beat by much cost wise.  They will load on all the veggies that you ask for on the foot long.  If you mostly drink water you will save a lot.  I do find that a gatoraid, powerade, or chocolate milk hits the spot at breaks in hot weather though, but it is best to just skip the soft drinks IMO.  Also regular alcohol consumption will add to the cost greatly.

Offline RussSeaton

Re: Credit Card or Self-contained touring and my budget
« Reply #8 on: July 09, 2015, 01:53:49 pm »
I am interested in doing the TransAmerica Route in 2016.  I have a Trek FX 7.5 with 48/36/26 and 11/26 gearing - I think that should get me by ok.  I have a rear rack and small panniers large enough for 20 lbs.

It sounds like you already have most of the gear necessary for a loaded tour.  The bike should work fine.  Change the inner chainring to a smaller one and maybe put a larger cassette on the rear wheel.  Easy to do.  That will get you low enough gearing for any mountain or hill, loaded or unloaded.  I don't recommend it, but you can use just a rear rack and rear panniers.  You already have them.  You could also figure out a way to attach a front rack to your bike if you want front panniers too.  Easy.  Cheap Nashbar panniers work just fine.  You do not have to spend much money on racks or panniers, or anything else.  Other than some camping stuff, you already own everything you need for a loaded tour.

Regarding motel costs.  They are unbelievably expensive in the USA.  Everywhere they are expensive.  I seriously doubt you could find any room for less than $50 anywhere in the USA.  Once a year I ride in rural Iowa and stay at motels for a couple nights.  $60-70 is what they cost.  One might assume, incorrectly, that a rural town in farmland in the middle of the week would be somewhat cheap.  HaHaHa.  All motels everywhere in the USA are expensive at all times.

Offline Nyimbo

Re: Credit Card or Self-contained touring and my budget
« Reply #9 on: July 09, 2015, 02:36:16 pm »
Saving "$5 a day" for the past year has gotten me to the place where I think I can do this trip, I have really made a spending lifestyle change, I'm trying to wear my clothes and shoes until they are worn out.  Cancelled the Sat TV.  Began cooking at home -- eating out occasionally instead of daily, and on and on, and I agree it does add up in savings.

This is what I've learned so far this morning reading the comments above.  The motel cost are more expensive that I expected, and the camping can be much less expensive than I thought. 

I also read staehpj1's article about frugal touring, that is a helpful article and will help to think through each step.  I think the sleeping pad and pillow may be items I also don't want to scrimp on.

Regarding using my current bike, I will need to visit my LBS to ask them to explain to me about changing the gearing.  But thanks for the suggestion it is worth a look as I had not thought about that as an option.  Since I live in the mountains, I'm used to riding hills, I can't leave the house without them - but still lower gearing would be appreciated.

I wondered if there is much savings by doing my own cooking when you have to shop in small markets and buy small amounts of everything and so on?
 


Offline Rick.in.AZ

Re: Credit Card or Self-contained touring and my budget
« Reply #10 on: July 19, 2015, 12:55:53 pm »
On the west 1/2 of the Trans Am last summer, I ended up in Motel's far more than expected due to weather - I could have roughed it but chose not to.

I found that camp site costs varied, but averaged at $10 - $15.  Motels probably averaged at $80.  Food probably runs $10-15 a day if you rarely eat in cafes; $40 if you favor letting others cook for you.

so

Totally self contained, assuming 80 days = 80 * 25 = $2000.
Totally credit car, probably 70 days (faster) * 130 = $8400.  But free places can bring that down.

As for your bike - 15 years ago, getting to a 1:1 ratio (your 26 x 26) was the holy grail - heck, many of the original Bikecentenial riders did it on Schwinn Varsitys with 42 X 28 gearing.  And back then, a rear rack stacked high, plus a handlebar bag was it.  We tend to think now days, that a brand new Surly Long Haul Trucker with Tubus racks and a matching set of Ortlieb bags is needed. It's not.

One note on hotels in Yellowstone - most of them sell out months in advance, and that's at $200 per night.  Elsewhere is easier, though 4th of July can be a challenge for both camping and motels.

indyfabz

  • Guest
Re: Credit Card or Self-contained touring and my budget
« Reply #11 on: July 19, 2015, 01:06:45 pm »
I wondered if there is much savings by doing my own cooking when you have to shop in small markets and buy small amounts of everything and so on?

While that can be an issue at times, I think you can save more in the end by cooking yourself. More importantly, you have more flexibility to satisfy your dietary wants/needs. Last month I did my first tour of more than 3 days where I did not take cooking gear. My body runs best on a carb-based diet. I usually cook pasta every night. That need was difficult to meet in South Dakota. Most restaurants had a lot of meat and fried foods. I always carry an emergency supply of pasta with me. Even that, some olive oil, fresh garlic and a can of white beans would have been preferable to another burger.

Offline cdhill

Re: Credit Card or Self-contained touring and my budget
« Reply #12 on: July 20, 2015, 11:12:18 pm »
Consider using Warm Showers to reduce your lodging cost. We are going across the Northern Tier self-contained right now. We are about 2/3 finished and have used a Warm Showers host about every fourth night. Mostly camping other than that with a few cheap hotels thrown in. If you are not familiar with the organization go to www.warmshowers.org and sign up. It will save you a ton of money. The other thing to keep in mind is that sometimes there are no hotel options to be found. We did the TransAm in 2013 and found that to be true then and it is the same now on the Northern Tier. You need to be prepared to camp, sometimes it is the only option unless you can go 80 miles fairly easily.

Offline bobbys beard

Re: Credit Card or Self-contained touring and my budget
« Reply #13 on: July 21, 2015, 05:43:04 am »
Sounds to me that you've got everything you "need". A Trek fx will carry everything you need on just rear panniers. There is plenty of space between the panniers to tie a backpack etc. I always tour with rear loading only, simply because that's how I did my first tour and now I prefer it.

You don't need cooking equipment and you don't need a sleeping pad. I always tour without them and I'm still here to tell the tale.

the more money you have in your pocket, of course means you have more options available, but if you're prepared to lose a few comforts from your routine, you don't need much at all.

Offline Venchka

Credit Card or Self-contained touring and my budget
« Reply #14 on: July 21, 2015, 11:10:26 pm »
Nyimbo,
In addition to the $5/day savings fund, find backpacking forums for a wealth of information about lightweight gear. People today hike for months on the long distance trails with 10 pounds, or much less, gear excluding food & water. A sub-2 pound tent & 1 pound quilt are common in the used gear forums. Educate yourself. Shop wisely. Your current bike and 20 pounds in your panniers could take you from coast to coast.
Instead of a new bike, think about a few inexpensive changes to your current bike might be all you need for the tour. A 34 tooth cog would be #1 on my list of upgrades. In fact I did just that for my first tour in the Rockies. I had a decent bike. I swapped out the crank & freewheel to get a 26-34 low gear. You can spend a small fortune on a new bike and not get that low gear combination.
Good luck.

Wayne

PS: Put the largest tires you can fit on your bike. What size do you have now?
Contrary to the builder's specs (700-35 max) I am currently running 700-40 tires. I weigh 150 pounds in the saddle and ride with 30 psi front & 35 psi rear on gravel roads unloaded. I reckon that I can tour with 40 F - 45 R max. The minimum inflation on the tire sidewall is 55 psi. I've learned to ignore those numbers.

Wayne


Sent from somewhere around here.
« Last Edit: July 21, 2015, 11:22:19 pm by Venchka »
Wayne
Deep in the darkest heart of the East Texas Rain Forest.
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