Bicycle touring is for almost anybody. I would suggest getting in shape before you go. You might also want to buy maps from Adventure Cycling. They have routes that are researched for safety, stores, camping facilities, etc. That said, you have to look out for your own safety and comfort. You might actually prefer going somewhere unchartered...at least in terms of bicycle touring. Mike and I have gone on three trips (about 1500 miles) with nothing more than an everyday road map. We loved it.
The biggest innovation in bicycle touring in the last few years has been the use of one-wheel trailers to carry all your stuff. B.O.B. trailers are the most popular. They are easy to use and more importantly easy on your bike. That means you probably don't have to buy a whole new bike to use for touring. My own bike is a relatively cheap model from Giant. It originally cost about $400. It is a hybrid, but people tour on all sorts of bikes. In fact, I have other bikes but use this for touring because it is so damn comfortable.
I did make a few modifications and additions to make it a little better for touring. I thought you might be interested.
- A Mirror. Ones that sit up on a little post are easier to see when your hands are on the handlebars. Real good in traffic.
- Cycling computer (speedometer). I like one with BIG numbers. Some even light up.
- Handlebar bag. This is the big one from Arkel. It's good for stuff that you want to get without stopping the bike, like snacks or a camera.
- Two bottle cages. I carry one bottle of water and one of Gator-Ade...even a Coke once in a while...or coffee. I also use a hydration pack.
- Fenders. These are by Planet Bike. They are tough and weigh nothing. Good if you are leaving the desert southwest.
- Dual-purpose pedals. Flat on one side, SPD pedals on the other. I used to have clips. Clipless is better.
- Extra spokes taped to the chainstay. There are a million different sizes. Go to your own bike guy and get the ones for your bike. Most bikes take a different size on the front and rear wheels.
- Spindle that fits your trailer. This comes with the trailer.
- Wide-range cassette. Pulling a trailer in the mountain west, you're going to want a real low gear. Mountain bikes may not need this, but hybrids and road bikes probably will.
- Touring tires. I used to use Armadillo type tires. They are virtually thorn-proof. The problem is that they take 110 pounds of pressure. I now use Continental Top Touring tires...38 mm. They take 70 pounds and are SO much more comfortable. They are also easier to inflate fully in roadside emergency situations.
- Trunk sack. Mine does not look waterproof. I am thinking of getting an Arkel. This is where I keep my jacket, sun screen, and chamois butter.
- Good seat. I am a big guy...about 200 pounds. I need a fairly hard seat or I will crush the padding in less than 1000 miles. I am currently using a Terry Liberator.