The travel, the adventure, the fitness. Bike touring, currently enjoying a renaissance, is the same body-and-mind journey of discovery it's been since the Jack Kerouac era, with one exception: The gear's a lot better. The top-of-the-line cargo carriers here -- heavy-duty, waterproof, huge -- let you lug along all the creature comforts you can't live without . . . for decades. They even do the job if you're not into touring any farther than the end of your neighborhood. In a time of soaring gas prices, they're handy for commuting or ferrying a couple bags home from the supermarket.
BOB Ibex Plus: 3 1/2 -foot-long, single-wheel trailer with a built-in suspension.
Likes: Stable, maneuverable and efficient for carrying a tent, camp stove, gallon jugs of water, a small TV set -- you name it. Even when packed to its limit of 70 pounds, you barely notice the Ibex on flat or downhill roads or dirt trails (climbing is another story). On the TransGabriel Challenge, a three-day mountain bike camping trip across the Angeles National Forest, we even took BOBs on single-track trails. Very easy set-up; the trailer clips on to the rear dropouts of the bike in a couple of seconds. Fender, flag and Dry Sak included.
Dislikes: Negotiating tight spots in crowded urban areas can be a challenge. And it adds more baggage expense to air travel.
Price: $399. (800) 893-2447; www.bobgear.com.
Ortlieb Back-Roller Classic: A pair of heavy-duty, waterproof, 40-liter panniers of shiny polyurethane-coated polyester with roll-top closure.
Likes: Built like a tank. I first saw the Back-Roller in Hong Kong on the bike of a German who had pedaled from Dusseldorf to China. This famous decade-old design features welded, overlapping seams with no adhesives to come unglued or thread to unravel or leak. The rain-proof material and roll-up, buckle closure keeps everything dry (unlike most fabric panniers). A large internal pocket and zippered mesh compartment offers quick access to essentials. Shoulder strap included for off-the-bike lugging. Adjustable clips fit on racks of any length, thickness or configuration. Huge and strong, they can accommodate objects 18 inches tall and a large haul of groceries.
Dislikes: Does not have any exterior pockets, which some like for stowing laundry or instant-access repair tools.
Price: $160. (800) 649-1763; www.ortliebusa.
Old Man Mountain Cold Springs rack: Go-anywhere, do-anything rear rack that fits on any kind of bike, including dual-suspension mountain bikes.
Likes: Tough and versatile enough for hard-core mountain bike adventures as well as standard road touring. Using a unique design that attaches at the rear-wheel axel and the seat stay, this is the only 50-pound capacity rack that fits on a full-suspension frame (which, unlike others, is constantly moving). Burly 1.3-pound design, featuring inch-wide lateral support beams and 1/4 -inch thick struts (a traditional break point) makes other racks look like aluminum foil. Includes enough extra brackets and hardware to fit on any style frame, plus an extra-long quick-release skewer.
Price: $ 144.99. (888) 439-6445; www.oldmanmountain.com.
Handles it all
Arkel OverDesigns handlebar bag: Huge rectangular handlebar-mounted cargo bay.
Likes: Big. At 8 inches deep and 10 inches wide, it stows all the stuff you instantly need -- a giant SLR camera, a 6-inch Subway sandwich and a rain jersey -- with room to spare. Pockets galore, including two side mesh, a large front zip and a clever internal zip compartment on the underside of the flip-open lid, for wallet, keys and electronics. Removable 10 1/2 -by-9-inch map case stashed under a clear cover. Quick-release aluminum brackets install quickly and include shims to fit on any size handlebar. Carry-strap turns it into a purse. YKK zippers and overlock stitching for durability.
Dislikes: Tough water-resistant Cordura and a see-through plastic window keep 95% of the rain away, but it's not fully waterproof.
Price: (888) 592-7535; www.arkel-od.com.
-- Roy M. Wallack
Irvine-based Roy M. Wallack was one of the first Americans to bike-tour the Soviet Union and is the author of "The Traveling Cyclist." Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.