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The story of how I saved money, quit my job, sold my possessions, and set off to endlessly travel by bike around the world. My Plan

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I write, self publish and sell books about touring

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Places I have been
How can I afford this?)

India and Neighbors
May 2010 to present

Alaska / Canada / USA
May 2008 to April 2010

New Zealand
Sept 2007 to May 2008

Sept 2006 to Sept 2007

SE Asia / China
Nov 2004 to Sept 2006

South America
June 2003 to June 2004

AZ, Mexico, and Central America
March 2002 to April 2003

How I started
The 5 years before I left

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 Written on the road as I travel around the world on my bicycle

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Equipment Pages Index

How Much to Bring and Weight
Some Advice About Advice
A Note to Perspective Sponsors and Gear Suppliers
(See more about Sponsorship)

START HERE for Touring Bikes and Commuting Bicycles
Custom Touring Bicycles and Bike Upgrade Buyers Guide
Bicycle Touring Frames 
The Steel Repair Myth.
Steel and Aluminum Derailleur Hanger Repair.
Bicycle Touring Wheels
Phil Wood: The Best Bicycle Hubs

Panniers / Bike Bags
Cargo Trailers Vs Panniers
Tires for Bike Tours..
Bicycle Touring Saddles.
Women's Specific Bike Touring Saddles
Brooks Leather Touring Bicycle Saddle Care and Conditioning
Bike Computer
Touring Handlebars, Bar Ends, Adjustable Stems, and Padded Grips.
Sealed Cartridge Headsets

How to prevent flat tires
Bike Route Trails and Maps

Buying Camping Equipment
Tent and Ground Cloth
Sleeping Bag
Sleeping Pad
Camp Stove
Pots and Pans
Water Filter
First Aide Kits
Solar Power for Camp

Bike Touring Shorts

Short-wave Radio
Bicycle touring lights

Packing list
Pictures of Equipment Failures

See My Videos Here

(see all 3 book)

Bicycle Touring Panniers and Waterproof Bike Tour Bags.  The Place to Buy the Best New and Used Handlebar Bags with Map Case, Front and Rear Panniers and Saddle Bags with Watertight Roller Closure.

Shop and Compare Ortlieb at REI

Ortlieb at CycloCamping

Bicycle touring panniers are some of the most important pieces of gear bike tourists use.  These saddle bags need to remain securely on the bike while keeping your expensive gear safe and dry on the roughest of roads and in the most extreme weather conditions.  If a pannier fails, it endangers all of the contents in the bag and can even cause a dangerous crash.  In addition to the camping gear, personal items, and clothes, I also have my electronic equipment required to keep my mobile business going.  Most cycle tourists carry a camera these days, if not a notebook computer, making the panniers' job of protecting gear even more crucial.

see also  Front and Rear Bike Touring Racks and Ortlieb Waterproof Bicycle Touring Panniers


During my first two years of this trip I used three different brands of bicycle panniers including Ortlieb.  They were all top-of-the-line bike panniers and well recognized in international bicycle touring circles.  At first all three brands of bicycle touring bags looked to be of equal quality and clever design but time, sun, dust, rain, accidental drops, and tragic crashes exposed the differences in the bags and produced a clear superior product line.  Please remember that the pannier failures described below are personal experiences. I understand that readers may have different experiences.  Failures that I experienced with my bicycle panniers came in several areas which are described below:

Bicycle Pannier Failures I Experienced

Mounting System:

When I originally started shopping for bike panniers I concentrated on the bag design and overlooked the attachment system.  Now, with a bit more experience with three manufacturers, I have found that while the bag design is important, the mounting system is critical.

My set of Vaude bags had a poor mounting system.  From reading industry news publications I believe that Vaude tried to copy Ortlieb's excellent mounting system but were prevented because of international patent laws and were forced to come up with their own design.  I tried this brand of bags and mounting system and they slowly but consistently developed several major problems on the road. 

The first problem I had with the Vaude panniers came before I even left.  One of the bag's mounting system cracked and broke in cold weather.  Vaude did warrantee this defective part but I was forced to carry bulky spare mounting hardware for when/if this problem reoccurred.  It is very frustrating to haul spare parts in the bottom of bags for equipment that should not require this precaution.  The other brands of bags that I carried did not require so many spare parts.

On two different steep dangerous descents in Ecuador and Peru, the rear Vaude panniers fell completely off.  This caused all of the gear strapped to the rear rack to detach and skid across the road, causing a very dangerous situation.  In one episode, the rear bags suddenly flew off when I was swerving around a steep corner. The sudden weight shift made me lose control of the bike and nearly crash. I had to hunt around the ditch and bushes looking for my lost gear, then dig through my panniers for the spares to fix the mounting bracket, all on the side of a busy highway. After a lot of swearing, I remounted and tried to salvage the rest of the day's ride. It could have been much worse but I wasn't able to replace my faulty panniers until I got to a more developed country. I tried everything to prevent those panniers from falling off but in the end, I think it was simply a bad design.

A close up of the attachment system that opened too much which caused the bag to fall of on fast descents.  This required a lengthy stop to remove everything on her the rack and an agonizing effort to push it back into place.


My rear cloth Cordura bags were not waterproof. In their defense, they never claimed to be.  I initially thought that this was not important but several days of wet weather in Honduras, Ecuador, and later in Chile caused several key pieces of gear, including my shortwave radio to get wet.  Fortunately my notebook computer is always kept in a rubber dry bag but I think that this caused the radio to quit working.  I will never tour with anything but water proof cycling bags again!

Material Durability:

Time and continuous use cause the workmanship and material selection flaws to surface.  I was surprised at how durable some bags seemed when I bought them and how quickly things went wrong.  When someone tells you that their panniers are "bulletproof," ask how long they've been using those bags. In my experience, no equipment stays bulletproof forever.

All of my Vaude bags did the strangest thing.  They bowed around the mounting system which grew worse as the months rolled by.  As they were under warrantee, I was able to get replacements but the same thing happened to the new bags.  This may have cause them to detach during descents.

My rear Vaude bags developed rips in the seams of the external pockets.  This required constant gluing and re-gluing when they fell apart again. The replacements had the same flaw.  I was forced to carry tubes of messy glue for the continuous repairs.  This battle with the pockets continued for months in South America until I ran out of glue and left the pockets in a trash can.  What a sad development for an expensive and important piece of equipment.

My cloth Cordura Panniers developed several rips and loose stitching.  This required  frequent re-sewing.  If I would have continued using these bags I believe they would have completely fallen apart.

My cloth Cordura rear pannier developed faulty stitching that required constant field repairs.

Sewing the many broken and separated stitches on my rear cloth Cordura panniers.

My rear cloth Cordura bags hung too close to the ground and made frequent contact with the pavement which cause rips and holes to develop.

The Vaude pannier in the bottom of this picture (left hand side of bike) is bowing out and had to be replaced during a visit to the USA.

Convenience of use, service, and access to Customer Service:

Most companies in the business of selling high end sports equipment are very competitive and have similar customer service.  I replaced my Vaude bags on warrantee with no problem and Cordura was always pleasant to deal with.  I never experienced any problems with my Ortlieb bags so I never needed to request service.  To me, building a quality product that does not require service is the best service of all.

One irritating occurrence in customer service was with my DeTour (formally Vaude) handle bar bag map case.  During my first two years, from Arizona to Argentina, my map case developed several rips.  I called and tried to buy a new map case.  They told me that I would have to buy an entire new US$100 handlebar bag to receive a new map case.  It does not seem right that a handlebar bag only lasts as long as the fragile map case.

Bike Bags that had Superior Performance

Cleaning up to look my best for Chinese immigration officials.  With waterproof Ortlieb Panniers there is no need to remove them during a bike wash. - Vietnam/China border

Only one brand of bags met my needs and performed beyond my expectations.  I am really hard on equipment.  I'm a big guy and I'm not very careful.  Usually my equipment fails sooner or later.  My Ortlieb panniers were the only set of bags that did not fail at some point.  I am still using them years later and believe that they may last many more years to come.

It's not surprising that these bags are made in Germany.  The Germans are at the forefront of international travel and the bicycle touring equipment industry.  It must be a very popular sport among its citizens.  More than half of all the international traveling cyclists I meet are from Germany.  Below are the bags that I own, use, and depend on for the remainder of my tour which includes some of the more rugged places on earth.


Front Panniers: Ortlieb Front Roller

Waterproof panniers with a unique roll-top closure. Symmetrical shape allows more leg room. Not only ideal for use on long cycle tours; they are also suitable for everyday use as a shopping bag or shoulder bag. Can be used with the carrying system as a daypack.

Ortlieb Front Roller Panniers

Absolutely waterproof, special 3D welding constructed bicycle panniers--for front rack mounting, small bag rear rack mounting or children's bikes

  • 3D welding is a special overlapping technique that uses no thread or adhesives

  • Roll-over style closures keep water out and are able to expand with your load

  • Attaches with the Ortlieb QLR-System: a strong, fast, quick-releasing system that locks tightly into place; easy unlocked by lifting up on the handle

  • QLR-hooks are replaceable and adjustable; will fit racks with tube diameter of up to 10 mm; 14 mm hooks available separately; will fit low-rider racks

  • Made of heavy-duty, double polyurethane coated polyester

Made of heavy-duty, double polyurethane coated polyester.. Imported.

Click to Purchase Ortlieb Front Roller Panniers

Rear Panniers:  Ortlieb Bike Packer Plus

High specification design rear pannier made of Cordura fabric with spacious lid closure and QL2 mounting system. Even fully loaded; the pannier can be closed and is therefore particularly suited for extended tours. Outer mesh pocket with zipper (not waterproof) increases packing volume.

Ortlieb Bike Packer Plus Pannier

These spacious bags are some of the largest around for extended trips.

  • Polyurethane-coated Cordura® nylon makes panniers durable and waterproof

  • Zippered outside mesh pockets hold wet gear or allow easy-access to essential gear

  • Large reflectors make you visible to motorists in poor light

  • Contents are held secure with two buckle closures and compression straps

  • Convenient handle on top for easy carrying

  • QL2 mounting system makes mounting and un-mounting panniers a snap

Click to Purchase Ortlieb Bike Packer Plus Pannier

Front or Rear Panniers:  Ortlieb Backroller

Waterproof panniers with a unique roll-top closure and constructed of an exclusive Cordura material that is completely watertight and welded. Utilizes Ortlieb's QL 2 Mounting System. Its symmetrical shape allows more leg room. Not only ideal for use on long cycle tours; they are also suitable for everyday use as a shopping bag or shoulder bag. Can be used with the carrying system as a daypack.

Ortlieb Backroller Panniers

Made of durable Cordura(R) nylon with polyester; coated with PVC for water resistance

With 3D welded seams, these panniers will keep your gear dry on rainy rides. Constructed with welded seams for strength. Designed with an easy access, roll-top closure. Replaceable, adjustable, quick-release security catches mount panniers quickly and easily on racks--also removed easily. Lifting on pannier carrying strap automatically releases the QL1 system security catches, while releasing the strap causes latches to lock in place. Please note: This item is sold as a pair.

  • Constructed with welded seams for strength

  • Designed with an easy access, roll-top closure

  • Replaceable, adjustable, quick-release security catches mount panniers quickly and easily on racks--also removed easily

  • Lifting on pannier carrying strap automatically releases the QLR-system security catches, while releasing the strap causes latches to lock in place

Click to Purchase Ortlieb Backroller Panniers

Waterproof Seat Bag: Ortlieb Saddle-Bag Micro Saddle Bag

After a couple years of bike travel I realized that waterproof panniers were great but the stuff in my regular seat bags got wet, stayed wet, tools rusted, and mold grew.  The mounting system is very high quality and detaches from the seat easily and quickly.

Ortlieb Seat-Bag Micro

The Saddle-Bag Micro from Ortleib is an ultra lightweight, waterproof seat bag with a roll-up closure. This size is an excellent fit for road or mountain racing applications.

* Roll-up closure with elastic bands lets you cinch down the bag, and offers a tight hold * Polyurethane-coated nylon waterproof fabric * Simple click mount attaches with 2 screws to seat rails; mount remains on bike and allows 1-handed removal of saddle bag * Reflective highlight improves nighttime profile * Protects against dust penetration and water splash from all directions

Click to Purchase Ortlieb Seat-Bag Micro

Handlebar bag: Ortlieb Ultimate 4 Compact

I like this bag because it is small enough when mounted to see my front tire, making it easier to steer and draft.  It's also easy to remove and use as a daybag.

Ortlieb Handlebar Bags and Accessories

Highly water-resistant, with durable welded seams. Lid has inner stiffener and is easy to open and close with one hand. Lockable mounting fits up to 31.8mm handlebars. Reflective logo. This versatile handlebar bag features a rigid lid, a removable shoulder strap, and a lockable mounting.

Ortlieb Handlebar Bags and Accessories

Ortlieb Ultimate 5 Plus and Classic waterproof Handlebar and Accessories (M or L)

Shop for Ortlieb Handlebar Bags and Accessories

 Ride in the rain all day and keep your camera dry with these Handlebar bags with lid closures, including lockable mounting set, for handle bars with diameters up to 31,8mm, PU-coated Cordura®, 2 outer mesh pockets (Plus) with zip, inner pocket, internal dividers, shoulder strap, reflector.

Ortlieb Ultimate Map Case

Mapcase for all Ortlieb Ultimate (L or M) Handlebar Bags with removable mapcase feature. New version: won't turn yellow over time.

Shop for Ortlieb Handlebar Bags and Accessories

Ortlieb Camera Insert for Ultimate Handlebar Bag

Padded nylon camera insert for Ultimate models (sizes M + L), with movable dividers for individual adjustment. Also suitable for Hip-Pack. Not waterproof! Height 7.5 in. Depth 4.7 in. Width 9.8 in. Weight 6.7 oz

Ortlieb GPS Cover / Case for Handlebar Bag - Horizontal Model

Details Have your GPS or PDA within the field of vision, and still know it is protected from moisture, dirt and dust. The ORTLIEB GPS cover is also a contemporary transport solution on the bike for your mobile phone or communicator.

Shop for Ortlieb Handlebar Bags and Accessories

 Ortlieb Laptop Insert Bag

I learned early in the trip that carrying a laptop on a bike tour is tricky.  I recommend using this case in a rear bag sitting on a jacket or something soft.

Ortlieb at REI

This padded Ortlieb sleeve insert protects laptops with 13 in. and 17 in screens. It provides horizontal storage inside the Ortlieb Sling-it and Office-Bag, and a vertical fit inside backpacks or panniers.

  • 2-way zipper runs along 2 sides for convenient packing and unpacking

  • 2 outer pockets (1 on each side) hold accessories; also includes 2 grab loops for easy removal

  • Please note: The sleeve insert is not waterproof

  • Ortlieb Sling-it and Office-Bag are sold separately

Ortlieb at REI

Ortlieb Sport Packer Plus Panniers

I have used these in the past. At first I wasn't sure about the roll closure but ended up appreciating it. I would have no problem using these again.

Sport Packer Plus Bike Plus Bike

Features 3M Scotchlite™ reflectors to increase your visibility in poor light. Made to mount on low-rider front racks or rear racks, these feature snug-fitting lids that allow for higher load capacity. Outer mesh pockets are spacious and feature zippers to hold contents secure. QL2 suspension system holds bags secure and is easy to load and unload. Surrounding compression straps allow size of panniers to be altered. These panniers are the perfect size for your daily commute, or to strap on to children's bikes.

Click to Purchase Sport Packer Plus Bike Plus Bike

 See Bicycle Touring panniers - See Bicycle Commuting bags - more about my experience with Ortlieb - All Equipment Index - Touring Bicycle and parts Equipment Index - Bicycle touring Sponsorship - Buy on sale Waterproof Ortlieb Panniers and Bags

The bikes below are sold online and shipped to your address.  Online bikes are a very good value but hard to find so I have rounded up my favorites.
Shop All Touring Bicycles Here


This is the type of bike I have done most of my traveling on.  Great for road and off road with an agile geometry and accepts wide or narrow tires.

REI brand Touring and Trekking Bikes

This is the bike I am buying next. I am tall and recently bought a mountain bike with 29er wheels and really like how it rides and would like to try this in my next touring bike.

Salsa Fargo

If comfort is your first priority check out these great bikes.  I have never toured this light but I know a ton of cyclist who like this style of bike.

Salsa Marrakes


The new breed of off road bike packing and snow bicycle. I have never owned a bike like this but I bet someday I do.

Fat Bikes


Seasonal - Surly bikes are not always available on line but they are a great deal. 

Surly LHT touring bicycle



Bicycle Touring
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