Going Bike Touring? Don’t Forget To Back Up Your Data!

Bike tourist Grace Johnson gives us all a valuable reminder about something that few cyclists think about on tour: backing up photos and other important documents.  


Have you lost computer data? Who hasn’t!

Backing up photosAt some point all of us have felt a bit lazy and put off backing up our data. The next thing you know… ‘DISASTER’ as your computer emits smoke, dies and you realize that your last backup was a half year ago. Because of a computer crash a friend of ours lost 9 months of work on her university thesis paper. Still, she was able to go back and re-write the paper. With trip photos – they can’t be re-taken.

You would be shocked if you knew how many people have lost their pictures. I regularly contact cyclists about publishing their photos in Bicycle Traveler magazine and unfortunately many of them reply saying: “I only have low resolution photos since my hard drive was stolen.”

You can also substitute ‘stolen’ for: hard drive fell in water, computer malfunction due to sand, pannier containing electronics fell into a canyon and so on…

There’s a simple solution to this problem: keep your images safe by backing them up. Making backups is like saving for your pension; it’s boring and you know you should be doing it but it’s so easy to put off. Still, think back to events that happened 10 years earlier. How much of the event can you remember without looking at pictures from it? The same holds true with memories of your bike tour.

Backing up data

Backing up data should begin before your trip starts. First, consider how you will back up your data. I won’t go into the specifics of different backup photo storage units, since there are so many and each month new devices come on the market. Plus, every cyclist has different backup requirements, depending on how many pictures they take per day and how long their trip will last. I do, however, have some general points that will help you get started.

First of all, you should know that a backup isn’t having all of your pictures on just one external hard drive. You need to store multiple copies of your photos in at least two different places such as a laptop, external hard drive, tablet, image tank, memory stick, etc. That way if one of your electronic devices is stolen or breaks down, you still have another copy of your pictures in another place.

My partner Paul Jeurissen carries two external hard drives – each with a copy of trip photos. He also uploads his favorite pictures to an online site.

That’s another precaution you should consider taking: uploading your best pictures to an online storage site. That way if all of your gear is stolen you will still have a copy of these images. There are many free cloud services available such as Dropbox and Amazon, or you can upload high resolution jpgs to photo sites such as Flickr, Picasa and Photobucket. Note: we’re talking about ‘favorite’ photos and not all of the images you take, unless you have regular access to a strong internet connection.

Every time we edit a new load of photos on our computer, we pick out a group of favorites that we want to save online. When we come across a hotel with wifi, we immediately start batch uploading them and let the computer run the whole night through.

Note: If you are worried about photo copyright theft on photo sites such as Flickr, set all of your high-res photo view permissions to ‘private’ so that others can’t see and download them. Unless your picture is embedded in Flash or a video, it’s still easy for other people to download it via other means than a right mouse click.

Some more information on backing up photos and online picture storage:


  1. WorldCycle Videos
    30th August 2012 at 9:25 am #

    Great article! Backing up all your video footage is even more important. Would be a big gap in your film if you loose some footage 😉

  2. Pawel Sobczak
    30th August 2012 at 12:57 pm #

    A long time ago I’ve lost 6 months worth of research data because my harddrive packed up. Back then our IT admin said “Unless your data exists in 3 separate copies, it doesn’t exist at all” – have been following it like a mantra ever since… 🙂

  3. Seth
    3rd September 2012 at 11:03 pm #

    If you need photos to remember a cycle trip the emphasis was on photo taking from the get go. Not on the trip itself or experiencing it. Just saying.

  4. Andrew Priest
    22nd September 2012 at 8:51 am #

    On my recent tour I backed up my photos to my iPad and I considered backing them up to my Dropbox account as well but gave up on that aspect as the upload speeds I was getting where pretty poor.

  5. woollypigs
    26th September 2012 at 9:05 pm #

    Me paranoid naaa, but after a complete data loss in 2001 I now rather backup than cry.

    So on our current tour I store the photos on a mini laptop and external hard drive, which I carry. Peli then carry a few memory sticks which we send home to HQ when they are full. And then when we have internet access I FTP all the photos to our servers and upload to Picasa.

  6. Len
    27th September 2012 at 8:17 am #

    Last year, my son and I did the Tour d Afrique from Cairo to Capetown. I was sitting in an internet cafe in Capetown late at night after we had finished the tour and was uploading pics to my online journal. I stepped away for no more than 2 min to use the bathroom, came back and someone had stolen my USB memory stick with ALL the photos of the whole 4 month trip, that was in the USB port on the computer I was using. I did not have them backed up and the only photos which I had left of the trip were those I had uploaded to the journal.

    Never make that mistake again.

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