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  1. #1
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    Experience and advice sought!

    Okay, so I'm planning to cycle about 220km in a single ride in about 6 weeks. The most I've ridden so far in one ride is about 90km, just last week, as part of my preparation. The ride was fine, from an energy/ability point of view, and my plan was to do a 140ish km ride in about 2 weeks, and then the big one. My problem is comfort... after about an hour in the saddle my hands start going numb, depite taking breaks and changing grip as much as I can, and after about 2 hours my back starts aching - and this is going to be WAY worse on the big ride, because I'm going to be lugging many litres of water in a backpack. On the 90km ride I stopped several times, I guess between the 50th and 70th kms to lie down and rest my back and let some feeling return to my hands. It's now some days after the ride, and while my legs felt fine the next day, I'm still feeling it in my back.
    My questions are:
    am I attempting too much with 220km given my longest ride is only 90 to date?
    will doing 140km in one ride be better then say a 70km ride one day, and a 70km ride the next day? or 50km a day for three days in a row? I want to do this long ride, but jesus my back... 140km will probably take me 8-9 hours, and I gotta be honest, after the first two it just isn't fun; if I can I'd rather do multiple shorter rides.

    FWIW, this long ride is basically to transport my (mountain) bike from where I live now to where I will be living, I'd rather ride it there then stick it on a bus.

    Any and all thoughts welcome.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Swoop View Post
    Okay, so I'm planning to cycle about 220km in a single ride in about 6 weeks. The most I've ridden so far in one ride is about 90km, just last week, as part of my preparation. The ride was fine, from an energy/ability point of view, and my plan was to do a 140ish km ride in about 2 weeks, and then the big one. My problem is comfort... after about an hour in the saddle my hands start going numb, depite taking breaks and changing grip as much as I can, and after about 2 hours my back starts aching - and this is going to be WAY worse on the big ride, because I'm going to be lugging many litres of water in a backpack. On the 90km ride I stopped several times, I guess between the 50th and 70th kms to lie down and rest my back and let some feeling return to my hands. It's now some days after the ride, and while my legs felt fine the next day, I'm still feeling it in my back.
    first off -- if your back is hurting you, drop the hydration pack. There are other options for carrying water, not all of them involve gradual spinal trauma.

    I used to ride with a hydration pack myself, and agree that it has its uses, but the weight does add up over distance. If you absolutely need to have a hydration system, then consider downgrading to a smaller capacity one. When I started randonneuring last year, I did ok with a 1.5L capacity Nalgene hydration pack but now I prefer not to have one at all, and just use water bottles.

    also, if you've got the cash, you might want to look at getting a new saddle. If your bike's got one of those soft gel saddles then it isn't going to be able to support your weight properly over long distance. If you swap to a firmer saddle then you're going to get better support and take more stress off your spine.

    am I attempting too much with 220km given my longest ride is only 90 to date?
    in six weeks? I think that's time to train up. A lot of folks say that you should only be increasing your weekly mileage by 10% from week to week, but if you're young, you should be able to go from 90km this week to 110 next week, 130 week after that and 150 on week 3. Do 170 on week 4 and 190 on week 5 and 220 is within your reach.

    will doing 140km in one ride be better then say a 70km ride one day, and a 70km ride the next day? or 50km a day for three days in a row?
    50km a day and resting for 8 hours between each day will be much easier on your body than doing 140 in one straight shot. The main question with that kind of tour is where you'd plan on sleeping and whether you'd want to take along camping gear (which will make you slower) or if paying for a motel would be more expensive than putting your bike on a bus.

  3. #3
    You need a new bike supcom's Avatar
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    A couple thoughts:

    Any possibility of doing the trip in two days? If a motel is out of your budget, maybe a campground for the night about halfway? You are looking at a large increase in mileage, though it is certainly a doable thing for many cyclists.

    If you don't already have slick tires for your MTB, consider getting a pair for the trip. They will make a big difference over knobbies.

    The usual cure for painful hands is to raise the bars up to about even with the saddle. If need be, you can buy a stem extender (made by Delta) for threadless stems.

    On your planned route, perhaps there are enough gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, etc. that you don't need to take a large amount of water. Since you apparently need to get off the bike often to stretch and rest your hands, you might be able to ride with two or three water bottles between rest stops and refill often.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Swoop View Post
    Okay, so I'm planning to cycle about 220km in a single ride in about 6 weeks. The most I've ridden so far in one ride is about 90km, just last week, as part of my preparation. The ride was fine, from an energy/ability point of view, and my plan was to do a 140ish km ride in about 2 weeks, and then the big one. My problem is comfort... after about an hour in the saddle my hands start going numb, depite taking breaks and changing grip as much as I can, and after about 2 hours my back starts aching - and this is going to be WAY worse on the big ride, because I'm going to be lugging many litres of water in a backpack. On the 90km ride I stopped several times, I guess between the 50th and 70th kms to lie down and rest my back and let some feeling return to my hands. It's now some days after the ride, and while my legs felt fine the next day, I'm still feeling it in my back.
    My questions are:
    am I attempting too much with 220km given my longest ride is only 90 to date?
    will doing 140km in one ride be better then say a 70km ride one day, and a 70km ride the next day? or 50km a day for three days in a row? I want to do this long ride, but jesus my back... 140km will probably take me 8-9 hours, and I gotta be honest, after the first two it just isn't fun; if I can I'd rather do multiple shorter rides.

    FWIW, this long ride is basically to transport my (mountain) bike from where I live now to where I will be living, I'd rather ride it there then stick it on a bus.

    Any and all thoughts welcome.
    140km in one day is about 5 times harder than 70km on back to back days. You will be sore for perhaps 30 minutes at the beginning of the second day, and then you will likely be surprised how good you feel.

    I wouldn't try to ride 220km if you've only ridden 90km. The nutrition and hydration requirements are a lot more strict, and the mental part is far harder.
    Eric

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    So what's up with all the folks putting in long road rides on mountain bikes? Wrong tool for the job...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Six jours View Post
    So what's up with all the folks putting in long road rides on mountain bikes? Wrong tool for the job...
    Like I said, it's the bicycle I own and it needs to be transported, it's either ride it or bus it.

    Unfortunately there is not much in the way of fill-up points along the way, as I'll mostly be crossing desert (yes, night-ride ). While typing this I just realized I should be training with a lot of extra weight on the bike, because there will BE a lot of extra (water) weight on the bike when I ride. What's the best way to attach weight to a bicycle?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Swoop View Post
    Like I said, it's the bicycle I own and it needs to be transported, it's either ride it or bus it.
    one does the ride with the bicycle they have, not the bicycle that they wish they had.

    Quote Originally Posted by Swoop View Post
    Unfortunately there is not much in the way of fill-up points along the way, as I'll mostly be crossing desert (yes, night-ride ).
    dude? seriously? you have to call this stuff out when you first post your query. It's one of those parameters that significantly affects the difficulty of your ride. You also might want to repost this query in the touring forum as some of those folks might have done a desert crossing under similar circumstances to yours, but not all of them browse this forum.

    Quote Originally Posted by Swoop View Post
    While typing this I just realized I should be training with a lot of extra weight on the bike, because there will BE a lot of extra (water) weight on the bike when I ride. What's the best way to attach weight to a bicycle?
    Best way? Rack and panniers or trailer. And, definitely put the water on the bike. Either bungee a gallon of water to your rack, balance a 2-liter bottle in each pannier or put it all in the trailer. Seriously, don't put it on your back. You're just asking for problems on rides of that distance.

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    You need a new bike supcom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Swoop View Post
    Unfortunately there is not much in the way of fill-up points along the way, as I'll mostly be crossing desert (yes, night-ride ). While typing this I just realized I should be training with a lot of extra weight on the bike, because there will BE a lot of extra (water) weight on the bike when I ride. What's the best way to attach weight to a bicycle?
    This is starting to sound like a Bad Idea.

  9. #9
    Portland Fred banerjek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Swoop View Post
    Like I said, it's the bicycle I own and it needs to be transported, it's either ride it or bus it.

    Unfortunately there is not much in the way of fill-up points along the way, as I'll mostly be crossing desert (yes, night-ride ). While typing this I just realized I should be training with a lot of extra weight on the bike, because there will BE a lot of extra (water) weight on the bike when I ride. What's the best way to attach weight to a bicycle?
    I'm usually quick to encourage people to challenge themselves, but you really need to think about this before hopping on the bike.

    Going from 90 to 220km is very doable. However, doing it on a mountain bike in the desert while carrying a heavy backpack sounds dangerous.

    If you attempt the ride, definitely do not carry the water in a backpack. Even carrying small amounts of weight can hurt after awhile -- I would encourage you not to wear a backpack for that long, and if you do, it should be very light. Otherwise, you are in for a world of hurt.

    Put the water in sturdy panniers. Be very careful about how you mount things. If whatever's holding the water in place fails halfway through the ride, you will be in real trouble. I do not think 4 liters will be nearly enough. Unless it will be cool, I'd guess that you'd need about triple that amount. Hills and wind could make things much worse. If you have knobby tires, that will also noticeably affect things.

    If you put slicks on your bike and if there are a few stores or restaurants along the way where you can get water/food, your plan may work. However, if you're going to spend the entire time on your own, you may want to take the bus.

    EDIT:
    Quote Originally Posted by Swoop View Post
    ... 140km will probably take me 8-9 hours, and I gotta be honest, after the first two it just isn't fun; if I can I'd rather do multiple shorter rides. ....
    Do not attempt this ride unless there are at least a couple opportunities to replenish water. If 140km takes you 8-9 hrs, 220 will probably take roughly double that because as the hours wear on, fatigue and other factors will make this really hard. Jumping from a 90km ride to an endurance ride on a heavily loaded bike is going to be torture.
    Last edited by banerjek; 08-07-07 at 12:09 PM.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by spokenword View Post
    one does the ride with the bicycle they have, not the bicycle that they wish they had.

    dude? seriously? you have to call this stuff out when you first post your query. It's one of those parameters that significantly affects the difficulty of your ride. You also might want to repost this query in the touring forum as some of those folks might have done a desert crossing under similar circumstances to yours, but not all of them browse this forum.
    Yeah okay I'll try that.

    Quote Originally Posted by supcom View Post
    This is starting to sound like a Bad Idea.
    I think I'm starting to see that. It's mostly the water problem, I'm counting on about a litre an hour, so I'm thinking 12l minimum. I think putting that on my back for a few hours while riding actually has a pretty good chance of doing permanent damage, and as much as I wanna do this ride, that's not worth it. Given that I'll be riding at night this might seem a generous supply of water, but getting stuck in the desert without water is not an experience I'm looking for :/ (and if things go badly, getting stuck in the desert during the DAY without water... )

  11. #11
    Portland Fred banerjek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Swoop View Post
    ... I'm counting on about a litre an hour, so I'm thinking 12l minimum. I think putting that on my back for a few hours while riding actually has a pretty good chance of doing permanent damage, and as much as I wanna do this ride, that's not worth it. Given that I'll be riding at night this might seem a generous supply of water, but getting stuck in the desert without water is not an experience I'm looking for :/ (and if things go badly, getting stuck in the desert during the DAY without water... )
    The problem is that 12L of water will weigh 12kg. Plus you have to put it in something which will be be bulky and weigh even more. This is a huge amount of weight to have strapped to you. I think it will take you much longer than 12 hours.

    If you're hell bent on trying this, you might try a couple test runs where you ride out at least 50km carrying lots of weight and dropping water at strategic locations and then returning. This would have the effect of giving you some training, testing your water hauling plan, and getting some water where you need it. The problem with dropping water out in the middle of nowhere is that while it will probably be there for you later, what if it isn't?

    Water is only one of the things that you need to watch out for. Normally, people just get flats. However, I've seen chains break, rims split, and other very serious problems. If you get stranded, you are in serious trouble.

    If you attempt this ride (and as cool as the idea is, I think it's insane -- really), you absolutely have to tell someone who can help you what's going on so they can look for you if you don't show up in time.

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    You need a new bike supcom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by banerjek View Post
    If you get stranded, you are in serious trouble.
    Only if you're riding on a very low traffic road. Otherwise, you can flag down a motorist for help. If you have a phone and there's service, you could also call 911.

    And one should certainly not make a trip like this without letting someone who cares know what you are doing so that if you don't arrive by a certain time, they call 911 for you.

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    Hi all

    Thought I'd provide an update/conclusion to the story - the ride is done!

    After much consideration, I changed the route and the date and went for it this past Thursday night.

    I decided to ride to Be'er Sheva (~40km) and then catch a bus to about mid-way, and ride the rest (~100km). I took a total of 7l of water, and drank more than 4l en route - two plastic bags off each side of the handle-bars (2l bottle in each), one 1.5l bottle attached to the body of the bike, my regular 750ml in cage, and another 750ml in my little backpack.

    The ride to Be'er Sheva started off a little ominously, and the trip was almost scratched early - not 20 minutes in and I started feeling the pain in my back again. I was wearing a small backpack, which had maybe 1.5kg of stuff in it, and to be feeling pain at that point was obviously a pretty bad sign, so I had two options; abort, or try carrying the bag on the bike... which was what I did, I managed to kind of hang/balance it in the middle of the handlebars, and that worked out fine, did not feel even a hint of back-pain the rest of the way. And on that topic, I had very little discomfort from hand numbness, that was kinda weird (in a good way).
    I was at the bus station in good time (took it easy on the ride in) and able to load the bike on the bus early, and ended up paying the price for this later because some chumps threw their bags on top of the bike and knocked my front derailer off hilter - had to spend about 15 minutes trying to get it usable again, and the first cog (bearing in mind it's a MTB) was usable only as a very effective rear brake.

    The second half of the ride was fine, although I was really tired for the first 2 hours or so - not tired from riding, but just wanting to sleep.
    At one point I stopped and lay down at a bus stop bench for a break, and almost fell asleep... until a buzzing mosquito inspired me to get on with it.

    Including numerous rest-stops, the second part of the ride took me about 5 and a half hours (started a little before midnight, finished at 5:30 exactly).

    Only one minor mishap along the way when 3 factors converged to remind me just how lucky I've been in my experience as a cyclist; I had a lapse of concentration at an unfortunate moment- I was riding along the emergency lane obviously, only at the section I was at the lane didn't extend all the way with one surface, the final half metre towards the edge was old surface and about an inch lower then the rest of the road (and not in great condition), and this was where I was riding. While I was zoned out, this abruptly became unpaved desert gravel, so I hit the brakes pretty hard and swung back towards the raised road. That's factor 1. Factor 2, is that alongside most main roads in Israel you'll find these white plastic stake-like things, about 1m high, spaced every 10 metres or so, with a bit of reflective coating at the top, so drivers can see where the road-side ends at night. They're not a solid plastic though, so if a car runs off the road and hits them they'll just flatten and the car won't be damaged.
    As luck would (not) have it, there was one right next to where I'd swung back onto the raised road (i.e. if I'd kept going straight I would've hit it straight-on, far worse wipe), and my handlebar clipped it. Normally I think I could've recovered, as by then I was not going very fast at all, but enter Factor 3... weighted plastic bags swinging on each side of the handlebars, and you have a recipe for wipeage. By the time I finally lost it, I couldn't have been going more than 10km/h, so I just kinda flopped over and rolled. A video would've been priceless, I had a good laugh when I got up, especially when I saw how ridiculously pitiful the scratches on my elbow and knee were - if you were to just run a few steps and dive onto asphalt you'd likely end up with more severe scratches than I wound up with.

    Conclusions: I simply cannot cycle with a backpack, unless I want to destroy my back; and I really gotta buy gloves, I read another thread here just recently where someone said gloves can make the difference between a wrecked ride and climbing back on and finishing, and my little wipe reminded me of that.

    Final conclusion: many thanks to all who advised me, particularly kipibenkipod. In the end the ride was a great one, and I'd like to think it worked out as well as it did thanks to the advice I received here.
    Cheers!

  14. #14
    Portland Fred banerjek's Avatar
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    Your altered plan strikes a nice balance between having a little adventure and making things too easy to be interesting -- great story. Congratulations on a job well done!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Six jours View Post
    So what's up with all the folks putting in long road rides on mountain bikes? Wrong tool for the job...
    I disagree completely. It may be heavier and more to haul, but it is also a better training tool. I've been using my Giant Rainier for commuting 150 miles a week for three years. The weight of the bike alone has put me in better shape than if I rode my flat-bar road bike, which is faster and lighter. I'm more comfortable on the Rainier.

    I replaced the shocks with Surly rigids, replaced the cranks with a 48-38-28 ringset, added some Scott integrated bar-end bars, run on Forte Versa-Trac tires, made for on and off road, and the bike held up just fine for my trip from Colorado Springs, Colo. to Dallas, Tex. And I daresay, more durable for the terrain than a fragile road bike or even a touring bike.

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