username23 said46 y/o cycling novice planning on riding a bike from the bay area to southern Chile/Argentina, traveling very light and mostly stealth camping along the way. Expected departure late 2011. Completely open-ended time frame and a very flexible itinerary. Wondering if anyone here has done any long distance cycle touring, especially in Central and/or South America?
I've done bike & motorcycle touring for over 40 years, though nothing like what you propose. Ideally you'll do best with a bicycle designed for touring. Not too many of them left, but still my own favorite kind of bike. Here's my present one:
It's a 2008 Cannondale t1, discontinued for 2011 but 2010s still available if a dealer calls the factory, until supplies run out (I just phoned them & checked). At $2095 USD MSRP it's a great deal. The 2008 is shown in a manufacturer's pic, perhaps the finest pure touring bike in the world. Beneath it is the bike as I configure it for daily around-town use & errands, and finally the bike in Key West, with a handlebar bag attached.
Features of a touring bike include the heavy-duty rear rack you see, to mount rear panniers (saddlebags) plus forks lugs to add hangers for additional bags up front. You need a lot of luggage when you travel and camp on the road for long distances.
Which means you need a strong frame, tires and rims to carry the weight. These rims have a greater spoke count than normal, and the tires are a relatively wide 35C, armored with an aramid belt against punctures, one of your biggest problems when out on the road solo. Make sure you carry tire-changing tools and a pump, spare tubes & tires (they fold) and practice how to use them.
It also has 30 speeds, in a relatively low range, likewise needed to haul that weight up hills. (Or haul my fat ass over high bridges when I pedal down to Key West). Another feature is 3 sets of water bottle cage lugs. I do sometimes carry 3 bottles in the Florida heat, but another option is to mount your tire pump on 1 set. It will also accept a fender set, which I use around town with our frequent showers, mine lightweight plastic that matches the paint scheme perfectly, from a German maker I've always used.
Bikes of this caliber are sold without pedals, which the rider chooses according to individual preference. I have Shimano clipless for longer rides, then switch to older-style toe clip pedals for daily use. I recommend toe clips for your trip, since they allow you to wear any kind of shoe or boot for comfort when walking.
Have you ever done primitive camping outdoors? That skill will be as important as the biking itself, and could fill a book (and indeed does, many of them). You're attempting a great deal, an epic undertaking.