Cycle touring through South America is a task that comes with its own set of challenges. The best way to deal with those challenges is to come prepared. The Long Haul Trekkers, Dave, Jen and their dog Sora, learned from their past experience while touring through Europe. They found two things are most important on any journey, the gear and the food.
The gear comes down to research and personal preference. When preparing for a journey, it’s possible to find a blog that has a gear list, like the Long Haul Trekkers list, and buy everything on it. However, if you’re going to be spending a good amount of time with that gear, try and find it in person, and remember to invest your money where it makes the most sense.
“If you’re going to invest anywhere, invest in where you sleep, because that is most important on a long trip,” says Dave. “Get a three-person tent. You get a little extra space, invest in nice sleeping pads and a solid sleeping bag.” Getting enough sleep is fairly self-explanatory, and getting enough sleep outside when you are used to being comfortable in your own bedroom is something that takes time.
“It’s important to know your weather limits,” says Jen. “We are traveling from hot to cold and even the medium temperatures feel cold to me now because we’ve been hot for so long.” Remaining the proper temperature on any adventure, especially one that calls for physical activity, can have a positive impact on your health. High quality rain gear, avoiding cotton at all costs, and durable equipment are on the top of the list for the LHT.
The most important piece of equipment on any cycle tour goes without saying. “Find a bike that feels comfortable. Go test ride a bike for a week if you can, ride a bunch of them,” said Dave. “There’s different setups, there’s different handlebars, there’s no one size fits all. I hear this question all the time, ‘what bike would you recommend’ the answer is, ‘all of them.’ Go try some that somebody recommends, or talk to a shop and start with that.”
“I love my bike, her name is Grete,” says Jen. A custom bike sounds like the perfect idea, but the design needs to match the desired use for the bike. “We had gone on a couple weekend trips, before we were really cycling tourists, so none of us really knew what specific thing should go into a touring frame, so I have suffered quite a bit in South America.” It really does come down to trying out a bike and making sure it works for you, because the bike will inevitably feel different on mile 1 versus 100.
“I think people get caught up in the brands,” adds Dave, “’[people say] if you have that brand your bike is better,’ but bikes haven’t changed. It still has a steel frame and tubes whether or not it has a brand on it. You could pay $100 dollars for a bike or a $1,000, it’s what works for you and what’s comfortable in your price range.”
There is always a piece of equipment that shines above the rest after hundreds of miles on the road. Dave says, “I could easily say the Burley trailer here, and I’m not just saying that. The D’Lite is a fantastic trailer and I will very genuinely say that. Sora has spent a lot of time in that thing and it has gotten the stuff kicked out of it, but it keeps chugging along.”
The food you eat on any adventure will help set you up for success, and when you’re on the road in South America you have to get somewhat creative with your food prep. Jen’s go to tools are the MSR Dragonfly International stove, Kuhn Rikon paring knife, MSR chef’s knife, 2-liter pot, non-stick pan and an assortment of containers from Klean Kanteen. Jen’s food blog, Messkit Maven, has many of the vegan recipes they used while they were on the road.
She is also in charge of purchasing the proper food on the road. “I try to get a lot of hard foods: potatoes, carrots, onions, things that won’t get bruised or easily damaged while cycling.” Dave carries bananas in his pack, but Jen refuses to carry them because they will always get squished. “My favorite place to go is the market, and every single town has one.”
“One of the ways people carry extra weight is just carrying food,” adds Dave. “Always carry one emergency meal. It’s usually a bag of pasta and a sauce packet. We have used it on plenty of occasions where you plan to make it so far but you decide to call it an early day.” The last thing you need on the road is to be caught out without any food. “It’s really easy to get hangry,” says Dave.
A favorite recipe from Jen is her curried couscous salad. “It’s something that my mom made and adapted it from a health food store and I’ve changed it from her. I love how versatile it is, which is the name of the game when you are traveling to many different countries.”
When asked what Sora gets to eat on the road Jen said, “We struggle with this because at home we buy her high-quality dog food at home, and on the road, there aren’t as many options. This whole time I just wanted to cook for her.” So, when they settled down in Salento, Colombia for two weeks, Jen decided to try her hand at cooking for Sora. Dave and Jen are both vegan, so Sora had her first vegetarian meal, but don’t worry, Sora isn’t a vegetarian, it was a trial run.
“The fun part came in when the vegans went to the butcher,” recounts Jen. “We said, ‘so, I need meat for my dog and I’ve been vegetarian for ten years and I don’t know what to do with meat.’ I don’t really like buying the meat, but I feel really good about knowing I went to the local butcher, and that I know what Sora is eating.”
So, no couscous for Sora, but being a dog and having parents that care enough to cook you dinner at night still sounds like a pretty sweet deal.
Written by Ryan Wimer