The Kindle: Perfect For Bike Touring?

April 19, 2011

Being a bookworm is not the most convenient of bike touring habits.

As wonderful as books are, I have a love-hate relationship with them on a bike tour. I wouldn't be without a book in the tent at night, but at the same time books fill my panniers and literally weigh me down.

They're also expensive to buy when I'm trying to stick to a budget, and sometimes -- depending on where in the world I happen to be -- English-language books are impossible to find.

Amazon's Kindle eBook reader has long seemed like a perfect solution to my book dilemma, and I finally got a Kindle 3 to play with.


Here are my first impressions.


Very light and compact. At just 240g, it weighs less than most paperbacks.

Great battery life; up to 1 month with the wi-fi turned off.

Can hold up to 3,500 books (great for bike tours where you may not have easy or cheap access to physical books).

Many classic books are in the public domain, and therefore freely available through sites like Project Gutenberg.

Also displays PDFs. This seems like the ideal way to carry and access repair manuals for things like stoves and water filters.

Possible to access the internet (although the browser is not the easiest to use).


The screen seems a bit fragile. You'll probably want to buy a cover for it (and the covers that Amazon sells seem expensive to us). You could also protect it by wrapping the Kindle in lots of soft clothes and packing it carefully in your panniers.

Some books aren't available on the Kindle.

Overall, my first impressions of the Kindle are very positive. It will definitely be going in the panniers this summer, and I'll report back after putting it to the bike touring test.

Photo by Friedel Grant


FRIEDEL GRANT launched into bike touring with a tour around the world with her husband. They pedaled 48,000km through 30 countries before settling down to ride bikes in The Netherlands. Friedel writes about bike touring on her website, Travelling Two, and you can follow her on Twitter (@travellingtwo). She also contributes to Transitions Abroad and has written a chapter for the Adventure Cycle-Touring Handbook.


sag April 28, 2011, 11:22 PM

Hi Friedel,

Thanks for the good report. I tried using a Kindle as an electronic cue sheet display a few months ago and was favorably impressed. I think we will all be using these devices for various purposes in the relatively near future.

my brief thoughts: (

Will Hawkins April 26, 2011, 7:36 PM

I travel a lot for my job and commute on a motorbike. Having a Kindle with me is ideal. I cycled down Africa with my brother in 1991 and we devoured books but, as you say, they take up a lot of room. Kindle books are not quite as easy to swap with other people when you are travelling which is one of their main disadvantages. But, when you can carry up to 3,500 books with you, it's not really going to be a problem.

Freddie and Guy April 22, 2011, 10:41 AM

We've had our Kindle for a couple of months now and really like it, it's so much smaller and lighter than carrying lots of books. We also load Lonely Planet guidebooks onto it (you can buy the guide books or individual chapters on the Lonely Planet website in PDF format)

livingjetlag April 20, 2011, 7:31 PM

There's a way to download maps onto the Kindle as well, for days in cities or away from the ACA routes. Either use kindlemap dot net with a 3G machine, or just convert maps to PDF files and download them.

Friedel April 20, 2011, 7:21 PM

Tom, Amazon have just announced today that they're going to allow library lending :)

Nancy @family on bikes April 20, 2011, 3:15 AM

We bought two Kindles for our sons while touring - getting English kids books was impossible in South America!

You are right that they are fairly fragile, but not as much as one might think. We managed to carry ours on the bikes for over a year before one broke; the other is still going strong.

For a case, I bought some fleece fabric and sewed up some pouches for the devices - there are, in total, 6 layers of fleece protecting the Kindles (3 on each side). Those cases seemed to work very well and were cheap, cheap, cheap!


Paolo Gardinali April 20, 2011, 12:00 AM

The Kindle is absolutely the best for traveling by bike, and the Kindle 3 browser is robust enough for the occasional directions in case one is lost, or to locate the nearby campground or whatever one needs.

I have my camera manuals on it, and enough books to resist a few months stranded on the classic desert island.

I would strongly recommend this cover: it's practical, robust and the zippered compartment easily holds headphones (yes, the Kindle will do music as well as audiobooks for the so inclined)

Devorah April 19, 2011, 10:14 PM

My family and I traveled by bike last summer with 3 E Z Readers and a Be Book. Fabulous! I had several library books on mine and the rest of the family read project gutenberg titles. They do not have wireless access but for 10 days it didn't matter.

Tom Moore April 19, 2011, 6:46 PM

If you go the Nook/Sony e-reader route, many public libraries have ebooks that you can download on them for free. Not possible on the Kindle.

becky April 19, 2011, 6:41 PM

I picked up a case for the older kindle which was slightly larger than the new one for only $10 on amazon. The case is perfect for the kindle plus a small notebook.

I love my kindle for reading non-academic books.

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