Recent newscasts about the rising price of gasoline have featured people who are switching to other forms of transportation, such as riding bicycles, to save money. The media normally show a picture of a cyclist cruising the streets in town. However, local commuting is just the tip of the iceberg for gasoline-saving trips that can be done on a bicycle. Many of my friends and I also use our bicycles for vacation travels.

With the proper equipment and fitness level (you must do enough training to prepare your legs and posterior for multiple-day rides), and good route planning, bicycle touring can be a rewarding vacation experience. Whether you do the planning yourself or sign on with a commercial adventure, carrying your personal belongings on a bicycle can be a liberating experience rarely encountered in today's busy world. Worries are left behind when one takes to the road without the burden of too many possessions.

Touring cyclists can use almost any kind of bicycle, carrying personal items and camping gear either in a small trailer behind the bike or in panniers mounted on the bike.

Panniers are a special type of pack made to mount on racks over the front and rear wheels of a bicycle. Good-quality panniers that repel water and provide ample storage space cost between $150 and $350 per pair. You typically need two pair (front and rear) for weeklong trips. Some people add smaller "trunks" that sit on top of the rear rack and small bags that fasten to the front of the handle bars.

The two most popular bicycle trailers are the Burley Nomad and the BOB Yak. The Nomad has two wheels supporting the trailer. It weighs 14.5 pounds, holds 8,000 cubic inches of cargo, can carry 100 pounds of gear, and has a covered, water-repellent compartment. The Yak is a single-wheel trailer. It weighs 13.5 pounds without the waterproof sack for storing gear. It can carry 75 pounds.

For a three- to four-day trip, I can travel comfortably pulling only 35 to 40 pounds, including the trailer weight. A typical trailer load contains a light sleeping bag and sleeping pad, light-weight tent, backpacking stove and fuel, cooking gear, a change of clothes, toiletries and food. Sometimes I carry a water purifier, which gives me more flexibility in selecting campsites and reduces the amount of water I need to carry. I also take extra tubes, patches, a pump, and a bike tool kit.

If you plan your route so it passes through towns, you can replenish your food each day or stay in motels, which allows you to reduce the weight considerably.

I like to plan routes where I ride only about 50 miles a day. Of course, daily distance depends on terrain, destinations for overnight accommodations (such as campsites), and your physical condition. I find that this distance allows for relaxing mornings before hitting the road, time to stop at historic points and scenic overlooks, and time at the end of the ride to enjoy the destination, relax and have energy left for the next day. In the summer, I try to be off the road by mid-afternoon when the temperatures are the hottest.

Oregon has some great back-country roads and destinations for bicycle touring. Many of these back roads are paved by-ways through lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service. Traffic is light and the scenery is fantastic.

Some of my favorite touring locations in Oregon are the Blue and Wallowa mountains in northeastern Oregon, and the back roads passing through John Day, Ukiah and Prineville. And there is always the spectacular Oregon Coast. Shorter trips from the Rogue Valley include routes to Butte Falls, Prospect and Stewart State Park. There are also numerous destinations along the Rogue River and the mountain lakes in the Cascades.

If you aren't ready to venture off by yourself, search the Internet for organizations that offer group tours with all the logistics planned for you. There are many organized tours all over the United States and abroad.

If you want to simplify your life during your vacation, try bicycle touring. It's kind of like backpacking, except you're on your bike and you have the flexibility for a hot shower and a firm bed if you so desire. Best of all, you're building muscle and burning calories instead of expensive gasoline.

Bicycling enthusiast Bob Korfhage of Phoenix is a former president of Siskiyou Velo bicycle club.