I am pleased to say that I have finally bought and installed a sturdy bike rack on the back of my new mountain bike. This means that I can now buy appropriate pannier bags to hold all the things I would need for long-distance traveling, both in Taiwan and overseas.
Buying a rack was quite troublesome as when I visited a few of the many bike shops in Kaohsiung, I was constantly told that my bike could not hold a rack (as there were no special holes for it in the frame near the middle of the back wheel). I almost got to the point of ordering a rack from the US which would have cost significantly more than twice as much as what I ended up paying here (US$28 which included the bits necessary to attach it firmly to the bike). In my opinion, while the US version is a good invention designed to deal with the problem faced by many MTB's with rear wheel disk brakes or no holes for screwing on racks, I believe my rack is a lot sturdier and although it says "Max 25 kgs", I bet I could probably sit on it without it breaking, although I won't do so just in case, which would just create unnecessary work.
Tin plate "plastic pipe" clips, bolts, washers and nuts, duck tape and strips of old inner tube rubber were combined together to securely attach the rack to the frame where there were no previously built-in bike rack holes.
After seeing someone else's bike where a rack had been fitted with a little improvisation, I first went to a few stores to find a rack that would fit well, given a few "extras". The "extras" essentially turned out to be two 3/4" "Omega" shaped clips (pictured) made of tin plate or galvanized iron (白鐵) bought in any hardware store that are usually used by plumbers to secure plastic piping to the wall. I ended up using the 3/4" size because I estimated that my rear "forks" on my bike are roughly 3/4" in diameter. I wrapped one of these clips on each side of the bike and put the long rod of the bike rack which had a hole near the bottom in between the two ends of the clip (it so happens that the weight of the rack almost rests directly above the bike frame and is not that much dependent on the clip - there is a small gap that could be stuffed with rubber as a precaution in case a gorilla tries sitting on the rack), and passed an appropriately sized bolt through the three holes which I secured with a washer and nut. To protect my precious bike frame, I wrapped (blue) duck tape around the affected area and placed a strip of rubber cut out of an old inner tube on the inside of the clip to make a snug, rattle-proof and shockproof fit. Being a novice in this area, I spent quite a lot of time adjusting the various places where adjustments could be made to the positioning of the rack to ensure that the rack was perfectly horizontal when the bike was in the upright position (I used a split level to test this), and that, as far as possible, the back wheel was centered in the middle of the rack. I also loosened the bike stand to accommodate the clip on the left side and retightened it, which was not a problem, despite being told before that I would have to remove the stand completely. One area where I was a little lucky was that, I only narrowly missed intefering with the V-brake mechanism due to one of the rods at the front of the bike rack. Some adjustment is possible here, but not a lot.
The bike rack I bought is made of aluminum, just like the bike frame. I forgot to check its weight, but it was somewhat lighter than some of the cheaper models despite its relatively intricate design. It is certainly less than one kilo.
The bike feels a little heavier now, because I have also added a "tool" bag under the back seat which has an inner tube, a multi-function tool, a front light if and when needed, tire levers, patches and glue and a few other loose tools as deemed necessary. The CD reflector is quite a common sight here, and I just bored a small hole into it and used a nut and bolt and washer to hold it in place as there are holes built into the back end of the rack.
The bike shop (one of the many "Giant" retail stores) where I purchased the rack also has several varieties of panniers, including a relatively expensive set that is "plastic coated". Something 100% waterproof will be essential. It may not rain much here, but when it does, it pours, and some parts of the island have little cover.
Before venturing on a trip, in particular one requiring airline travel, I need to learn how to get the bike into a cardboard bike box. While I have fixed bikes a lot in the past, I have yet to take off the handlebars, and need a good pedal-removing tool. I don't know if I will need to take the forks off. The less I take off, the better. I will also have to decide what to do with the bike box at the other end. For instance, if I ride in Japan I will still need a cardboard bike box when I return home. So, as yet, I don't know if I can just pick one up for free that is being discarded by a bike shop (as you can in Taiwan), or whether I have to "hide" it somewhere near the airport to use again later, or whether the airline will take care of providing a box for the return journey for a fee. Anyway, I certainly don't want to carry a hard case, for I want to get on the bike in the airport and start riding there.
Long rides will, however, be on hold for now, as my work is particularly busy at this time of year, and with the economic recession looming and currency depreciation, etc., I want to make hay while the sun shines. Still, I will try to plan trips in the meantime, by studying maps and finding out where the interesting places are.
The CD provides an effective reflector at little or no cost. However, it also is symbolic of the times in which we live. In future, when I go on long trips, I will carry a notebook computer, a flash drive (to use for printing files in 7-ELEVEN stores), a digital camera (to prepare .jpg files of any documents needing to be sent as well as maintain a travel log/blog), and a cell phone (at least in Taiwan). I won't attach a navigator on the handlebars, but I will research the next day's journey, ideally with the use of the Internet, wherever I stay in the evening.