“What are your food and eating strategies for traveling by bicycle? Do you cook your own food? If so, how?”
Cooking your own food is normally the cheapest way to eat in any situation… travelling or not. When cycling, cooking your own food brings the additional advantage of being able to control the quality and energy level of your meals. Often cheap street food will leave you bonking out on a big hill climb, so preparing your own meals is preferred. The other advantage of carrying food and cooking equipment is that you can whip up a feast in the middle of the Atacama Desert or where ever you find yourself hungry with no stores or restaurants around.
My cycle touring cook set consists of a Multi Fuel stove and the usual pots, pans and dishes. I used to use a Trangia Alcohol stove but the difficulty in finding Metho/Alcohol compared to Petrol makes the MultiFuel stoves a much better choice. A cyclists larder that gets carted around with them will often consist of basic non-perishables such as Rice/Pasta, Tinned meats and fish, to which you can supplement daily with fresh produce finds along the road. Planning to camp just past a small town often opens the option to purchase a small piece of meat/veg just before heading out to set up camp, and sometimes you will come across an offer of a warm bed and a hot meal along the way.
Luke has so far traveled over 12,000 km on the back of a bike through over 19 countries in Eastern Europe, the British Isles, Australia, and Southeast Asia. His next big trip is a proposed 5 year journey that will take him around the world.
Luke is available to answer whatever questions that you may have about traveling by bicycle. Go to Ask a Bicycle Travel Question to submit your questions.
I agree with Luke completely here: having your own means of preparing food while traveling is a way to claim a higher degree of self sufficiency, to take more control of what you ingest, and to earn your keep, so to speak. Being able to cook for yourself means that you do not need to conjecture over whether your food is fresh or was handled and prepared properly. In point, if you take on a dose of food poisoning after following a self cooking regimin when on the road, there is scant other place to lay the blame than on yourself. This is the type of cause and effect that many travelers crave: self-sufficiency is one of the great romances of the traveling life.
As far as equipment, I rarely ever will carry a cooking stove like Luke — as I usually am not traveling by bicycle, like to stay in places for one to three months at a time, and can often find a place to stay that has either cooking facilities or will just use an electric hot plate. So my cooking gear usually consists of a stainless steel pan, a pot, and a few spoons, forks, knives, and plates. I purchase and discard cheap (around $10 in most countries) electric hot plates regularly, using them only when needed.
Though for bicycle travel, or for other types of fast travel where a base of operations with cooking facilities or electricity are rare luxuries, a portable fuel cooking stove like Luke describes above is truly key. In point, traveling by bicycle means regularly finding yourself in the bush far from markets, restaurants, kitchens, and external food sources. When traveling under your own power the ability to cook food for yourself is essential.