Cost of Bicycling the Americas for Two Years, Part 2
In the previous post, I detailed our average costs by country for food and camping/lodging. Here is the rest of the story.
Total Trip Costs by Category
|Category||Total cost (for two people over two years)|
|Total cost of trip (for two people over two years)||29,064|
Total Costs of Gear and Bicycle Repair, Electronics, Communications, etc.
We spent $261 (of which $198 was in the USA) over two years on phone and internet. While in the USA we continued to use Sarah’s pay-as-you-go phone that we would top up with minutes as necessary. Outside the USA we did not carry a mobile and relied on email and Skype.
We were able to find free wifi most of the time including in hostels and hotels where we occasionally stayed. Wifi speed ranged from fantastically fast to dreadfully dialup. At times the networks were so overloaded that using wifi was impossible. In Bolivia and further south, connectivity became problem, so much so, that at times we could not even check email. We eventually gave up attempting to keep this site updated and waited until we returned to the USA.
Electronics & Photography
We spent $1,824 on electronics/photo equipment (cameras, computers, etc.).
We were plagued by camera and laptop problems. Shipping, repair and replacement costs for our pocket camera and SLR (lens) cost $876. Replacement filters for the zoom lens on the SLR cost $100.
One laptop was replaced with a small refurbished tablet computer, $279. Other laptop repairs/replacements included hard drive cabling, power adapters and miscellaneous.
We purchased an external microphone for the SLR for better movie sound quality ($229) that we only ended up using a handful of times. A majority of the time it was additional dead weight, but was brilliant when we needed it.
Replacement cables, memory cards, and a backup drive, etc. accounted for the balance of costs.
Gear (cooking, camping, etc. excluding bicycle related)
We spent $899 on gear.
This included a replacement tent after ants ate our first tent, a headlamp, a watch, and other items. Some of our gear failures were replaced under warranty by the manufacturer (both sleeping mats, for example). I also categorized wearable items (but not helmets) such as shoes, clothes, glasses as “gear”. We used a lot of merino wool items which were costly to replace.
Mid-way through the trip we also acquired a SteriPEN. For the most part, we drank the water the locals drank, but in some places, Baja California for instance, locals buy water. We figured out that the $75 cost of the SteriPEN was cheaper than buying water on a regular basis.
We spent $2,626 on bike repairs and related items after we started the trip. Ouch! This number surprised me when I sat down to account for our spending.
We replaced a broken pump as well as our helmets. The helmets were several years old when we started.
Some repairs never should have been necessary and irritate me just thinking about them. Both Shimano bar end shifters on my bike and one on Sarah’s failed and replacing them cost $219. Tellingly, Surly now includes shifters from another manufacturer on their new Long Haul Truckers.
My Phil Wood rear hub also ended up being a fiasco before it finally died requiring backtracking via bus to the nearest city. I replaced it (including the cost of a wheel rebuild) with a cheap Shimano LX hub. I learned that Phil Wood’s “Limited Lifetime Warranty” really means the solid hunk of shiny metal called the cassette body will be replaced if it ever fails. This type of warranty is a great marketing gimmick also used by Ye Olde Anvil Shoppe, which has offered anvils to blacksmiths and Wile E. Coyote since 1242 AD.
We spent $511 on tires, a mix of Continental Travel Contacts and Schwalbe Marathon Plus Tour tires (we went through 5 sets of tires including the stock, original Continental City Contact tires). We averaged about 6,400km (4,000 miles) on a set of tires.
- $ 70 inner tubes
- $ 23 tube patches
- $ 47 break pads
- $201 chains
- $ 42 chain lube
- $175 cassettes
- $ 77 cables and housings
Pedals were another issue, we spent $167 on pedals and related rebuilds. We both started out on new, MKS Sylvan Touring Pedals. My pedals were rebuilt after 3,500 miles (5,600 km) in Missoula for $30 (Kudos to Hellgate Cyclery, the rebuild lasted 9,050 miles (14,600 km), the longest a rebuilt pair of pedals has ever lasted me!). Sarah needed her MKS pedals rebuilt by the time we arrived in California (6,150 miles / 9,000 km) but the handful of shops we contacted stated it wasn’t worth their time, however, they’d sell us bearings or new pedals. Without the proper tools to rebuild the pedals we decided on a pair of Performance Forté ATB Comp Pedals ($32) – ultimately a bad buy. The Performance pedals were replaced with Velo Orange touring pedals ($58) and I liked hers so much I replaced my MKS pedals when they needed the next rebuild. They have roller bearings which appear to be holding up better than ball bearings.
$32 went towards replacing Sarah’s brake levers with smaller women-specific levers which became a safety issue in the Andes. She could only get one or two fingers around the stock break levers. After the replacement she was able to get a full grip on the levers.
All this stuff makes our bikes’ butts look big
When we hit the Andes we finally decided we were carrying too much weight and were geared too high. Version 2.0 of our bikes was a staged process. We replaced our heavy Pletscher kickstands with Click-stands ($86 for two). Smaller chainrings necessitated swapping out the cranksets on both bikes ($92). We dropped two front panniers (and the associated stuff) and replaced the front low-rider racks. The combination of lower gearing and less weight made riding a much more pleasant affair.
If you are planning your two-wheeled adventure the most important piece of advice we can give is pack your bike, then take two of the four panniers (and included stuff) and leave them at home. After my England to Singapore trip I should have known better than to leave Houston on what was essentially, our “Biggest Loser” special edition bikes. A cyclist traveling in the opposite direction on our first day provided an even bigger clue when she said “From a distance, I thought you guys were on horses.”