We wrap all the electronics (laptop, Palm, cameras) in clothes and store them in the bags under the seats. The suspensions absorb the shocks of the road. We always lock the camera lens.
We got a wired computer (Cateye) because we heard it was stronger than a wireless one. Maybe wireless are just as strong, we never tried.
Sylvie’s computer let us down on the Carretera Austral after 18.000 km. Not much choice in Coyhaique and unfortunately we went for a bike computer with a black screen, very hard to read when there is a lot / not much light.
Travelling by bike is very different from backpacking. Being less often in cities, we have less time in internet cafés to write on the blog. So in Austria, we bought a Palm (PDA), an HP iPaq 114 … all in German unfortunately!
We found the Palm not very good for typing long texts so we ended up buying a small laptop Acer Aspire One in Bangkok: 120 Go of memory, 1.4 kg. We can sort our photos, watch movies, listen to music and talk to our family and friends with Skype. Wifi is more and more common in guesthouses in South-East Asia and South America (not to mention Europe and North America!).
A laptop is not absolutely necessary of course. It depends how much/how often you want to update your blog/website, work on your photos etc.
Attention! We loaded our laptop nearly at the maximum of its capacity and it broke down. The repairman advised us not to load it above 50-60% of its capacity (this could be because the components are not of very good quality).
During our first trip, we only had a small compact and not having a zoom and more capabilities was very frustrating. The Pentax K10 is tropicalised (water and dust resistant). We got a Tamron 18-250 mm lens, heavy but we don’t regret it. A smaller SLR might have been enough but we had a lot of problem with dust and our compact Sony. In Japan we bought the new Canon Powershot G11, easy to handle and good pictures.
An adaptor USB/SD cards avoids carrying the camera cables (useful to transfer pictures on a computer and burn a CD or upload on your website).
Take several memory cards, you don’t want to have to erase pictures to make more space. Once the cards are full, we burn 2 DVD, send one home and keep the other one in case the first one gets lost. We heard that DVD might not keep documents for a very long time so Sylvie’s parents download the DVD on a hard drive at home.
Energy / Solar panel
It all depends on your style of travelling. In average, we stop once a week in a hostel or a guesthouse which is when we recharge all the batteries (no pun intended!). We met a few cyclists with a solar panel and most of them sent it home at some point. Another solution is to fit a dynamo on your bike.
We have a second battery for the Pentax and rarely use it.It lasts between 3 and 4 weeks even though we shoot in average 20 photos a day.
Maps and guidebooks
We are very happy with the Rough Guides and Reise Know-how maps. They are strong, plasticised and give the altitudes lines (about every 1.000m). We found a good range in Bangkok but you are better off buying them in Europe before leaving on your trip. Tourist offices often have more detailed maps but you might have to pay.
We left with several kilos of guidebooks. It is reassuring and convenient to plan a trip, an arrival into a town… Avoid guidebooks that cover several countries (for ex: ‘Middle-East’ guidebook). They are not detailed enough and in the end you carry a big book and only open it three times, for the big cities (which you are trying to avoid!). That said, the Central Asia guidebook was good enough. You can also choose to travel without a guidebook (we cycled 3 months in Argentina without one). Rough Guides, Footprint and Moon Travel, to name a few, give a lot of information on their website. Think also of checking other travellers’ websites to get more detailed information or learn of less travelled roads.
With a GPS you can upload maps, plan your route, know your exact position, download and plot your actual route on Google… We think it is an expensive piece of kit and that it is not essential for cycling except in regions that don’t have roads (ex: a desert). We do fine with a good map and a cycling computer. We sometimes use a compass. We ask locals the distance to the next village or if there are a lot of ascents … information to take with a pinch of salt!
We bought two Dog-tasers on eBay but they were totally ineffective (except with cats!). We bought two Dazzer II in Istanbul, planning for the big Turkish mastiffs. They were working but we ended up sending them home because they were in our bags most of the time. If a dog starts chasing us, we either accelerates and the dog gives up very quickly or we get off the bike and talk to the dog. Dogs are scared/surprised by the wheels. When the bicycle stops, the dog usually calms down and stays calm even when we get back on our bikes.