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Old 03-20-17, 04:24 AM   #1
Mri G.
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So...How Important is a Test Trip Before a 6000mile(ish) Tour?

As some of you know, my partner and I bought our first tandem bike a few months ago on a whim with the desire to cycle across the Rockies. The first few months we did a few rides...like 100 miles total...but due to a ridiculous amount of unforeseen circumstances we haven't gone riding for probably a bit more than a month... We've also never overnighted it or even ridden it fully loaded and we're not really sure we'll get the chance before we fly out on Friday (minus maybe a 1 hour ride).

So just out of curiosity, how stupid is setting off on this trip and i there anything we should DEFINITELY try to do beforehand?
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Old 03-20-17, 04:57 AM   #2
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So just out of curiosity, how stupid is setting off on this trip and i there anything we should DEFINITELY try to do beforehand?
I'd at least load up the bike as intended to sort any packing issues. Without any rehearsals you and your companion will need to practice some extra patience.

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Old 03-20-17, 04:59 AM   #3
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Well ... it's a bit late now to take an overnight trip with all your gear isn't it? That would have been a good idea.

At the very, very, very least you really should load the bicycle up and go for that 1 hour ride. Bicycles handle differently with a load.

I hope you don't have a long first day planned once you arrive. Where are you planning to ride again?
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Old 03-20-17, 05:38 AM   #4
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I didn't do any practice tours before I did the Trans America and I was fine. That said, I had been riding a lot locally and was experienced at other forms of self contained travel (backpacking, canoe camping, and so on).

If you are not experienced in packing for light self supported travel you will probably take way too much and maybe still not have all the things you actually need. My suggestion is to pack a lot lighter than you think you are inclined to and to adjust as you go by mailing things home and if necessary buying things you find you need or having them mailed to you from home via general delivery.

Given your lack of time on the bike, I'd suggest that you take it easy at the start and build on the daily mileage gradually starting with easy days in the beginning. Ten days to two weeks in you will be knocking out the miles and may even be ahead of where you would be if you pushed too hard at the start. My personal approach is to take it easy enough that I can ride every day and not need rest days.
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Old 03-20-17, 06:04 AM   #5
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Keep us updated.
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Old 03-20-17, 06:10 AM   #6
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You'll do fine because failure is the alternative... Is prep time ideal, of course but sometimes "winging it" is more fun anyway and at this point it's time to embrace the upcoming adventure rather than fretting over could'a should'a would'a.
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Old 03-20-17, 06:13 AM   #7
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The biggest concern I would have is how sore your backside will be the first bit. The muscles and stuff with work into it, but if you get unlucky with a sore to the nether regions it could certainly change plans.
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Old 03-20-17, 06:15 AM   #8
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As long as you don't have rigid plans for accomodation on your trip you will be okay. Take your time, build mileage and experiment with the location of your load. People have toured on just about every type of bike, in every condition. No worries....enjoy your trip.
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Old 03-20-17, 06:26 AM   #9
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Guessing your tour will end after your First Accident.
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Old 03-20-17, 06:32 AM   #10
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You'll be fine. I did my first tour by buying a bike, riding it around the shop, and then heading out on the road for 2 months.

Agree with the others that the key is to be flexible at the beginning and take it slow so you can get accustomed to the bike. Also be careful about overpacking but you can always shed gear on a tour.
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Old 03-20-17, 06:40 AM   #11
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1. (Absolutely). Pack everything and load your bike. Go for a short ride. You may want to adjust your packing list based on this experiment.
2. Try to ride, for real or as a "thought experiment" an average day. i.e. if your trip is 6000 miles over 60 days, that means 100 miles/day. If the average day sounds very/too ambitious, explore alternatives while you have good connectivity (completing a segment on bus/train), so your trip will not feel like a time trial. If there's slack, then, envoy your voyage
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Old 03-20-17, 07:13 AM   #12
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Hope you and your partner get along really well, because there's no way to go your separate ways. I wouldn't do it this way, but everyone is different.
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Old 03-20-17, 07:19 AM   #13
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I'd at least recommend packing up everything you plan on taking, into the manner that you are planning on carrying it, strapping it on the bike and going out for a bit. I can't say I had a lot of seat time before my first tour, but I had taken everything on a few shakedown runs the days prior to leaving.

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Hope you and your partner get along really well, because there's no way to go your separate ways. I wouldn't do it this way, but everyone is different.
I can't imagine, even if on separate bikes, going my separate way from a partner on a 6000 mile ride. If I did, I'd imagine I had better get home first and be moved out when she arrived....
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Old 03-20-17, 07:26 AM   #14
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Quite an adventure!

Is this heading to the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route? (an Adventure Cycling route).

At least, you'll be on paved roads for a while, and can get your fitness and equipment working.

Here's a link to your original post in December.
Completely new to tandem-riding; I just got this idea two days ago. Haha. I popped into the town's bike shop today and got a lot more questions answered (the owner was taught on a tandem and is willing to give lessons so yay!).
Your inexpensive Dawes tandem has a 48/38/28 triple, and a 11-28 7-speed cassette. That 28/28 low gear will make steeper gravel climbs very difficult. I'd stop at a bike store along the way and see if you can get lower gearing.
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Old 03-20-17, 07:31 AM   #15
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Thanks everyone! You've made me way less worried...until like day 4 where we have to cross an actual desert due to refusing to go on the freeway (as if that's the only straight road out of Las Vegas!). Given our ability to only carry about 15 L, we'll have to do two 60 mile days then (all uphill of course). But if I think it's too hard, maybe we'll just spend a few nights at a campsite and ride around it or something until we think we can do something that far.

And we might have one chance to overnight it on Wednesday/Thursday, but I'm not sure. However we will definitely do that one hour fully loaded bike ride everyone is suggesting. Unfortunately, however, we haven't finished making all the frame bags so that'll have to be done by Tuesday! Or near enough done we can finish the rest of it on the trip (just like enforcing sewing).

As for packing light...I have two years of experience living out of a school backpack. Rob on the other hand... He's really weird. Because he's against taking a good can opener, but not against carrying cans or three different jackets or two full sized pillows (which to be fair, I'm not budging on the pillows either XD), but still. I've thrown out/vetoed almost half of the pile he's made and there's still a ridiculous amount! Haha. You'd think he would've learned when he had to sell all of his climbing gear in New Zealand, but meh. His stuff. lols

And we'll definitely keep you guys updated from time to time. Though if you want to follow our blog where we'll be posting more: Lifelong Vagabonds Travel Blog
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Old 03-20-17, 08:21 AM   #16
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you say you're flying?
umm, i assume the airline will accept a tandem bike....

but how ya gonna pack it?
you got the box or boxes ready?
what's the weight/size limit per regular and oversize items?
how much ya gonna carry altogether?
have you weighed your various piles?
will airline permit other gear in bike box?

oh yeah....new bike purchased from a shop.
you have the tools to reassemble the bike
after you land?

that is, if tsa doesn't take them away from you.

Last edited by saddlesores; 03-20-17 at 08:31 AM. Reason: the voices! the voices!
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Old 03-20-17, 10:36 AM   #17
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The biggest concern I would have is how sore your backside will be the first bit. The muscles and stuff with work into it, but if you get unlucky with a sore to the nether regions it could certainly change plans.
This. Even if you're both tough & stubborn enough to make your muscles work hard, your tushie still needs to get along with your saddle. That's something you just can't force, and sometimes you need to try several saddles, before finding the right one.
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Old 03-20-17, 11:02 AM   #18
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Good improvisation skills, mixed with a strong desire will carry you far. Get on that bike and ride!
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Old 03-20-17, 11:14 AM   #19
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IMO it's too late to do anything before leaving.

So, I'd plan the first few days as short rides. Maybe even a day or two operating out of a single base so you can work out any bugs and ae close to logistics in case you need to add or remove anything.

Then start easy, and work up to longer legs over a week or so depending on how you're doing.
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Old 03-20-17, 11:18 AM   #20
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You don't need any stinkin' trial runs, just go for it.

But just for our grins, keep a running blog for us to follow, should make for some interesting reading as in "oops, I guess we should of thought of that"
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Old 03-20-17, 01:23 PM   #21
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@saddlesores We have all the flight stuff like that sorted. We even paid for a stupid extra sport specific luggage despite our checked luggage not having any dimensions... So now we have a 30kg bike box (tandem will fit in it; we grabbed a recycled box from a bike shop as well as frame and bubble padding), as well as 60kg of luggage for the rest of the kit. If I'm lucky, I'll manage to convince Rob we don't need to fill the full 60kg... XD As for tools, Rob's already sorted all that and I'm not even going to pretend like I know what's what, but he can get everything to fit into a regular trouser pocket so it should be fine (obviously it'll go into checked luggage though). Thanks for the concern though, but I've been traveling for five years non-stop now so I've got the plane stuff sorted.
@FBinNY So you think after a week we should be okay to push for me? I know it'll be a personal feeling, but just trying to get a timescale sorted as we have to be out of the US in less than three months. XD Regardless, we definitely won't attempt crossing the middle of nowhere (which is planned on 'day 5') until we're pretty sure we won't die. Haha.
@robow We will definitely keep the blog updated and full of all of our mishaps. Will probably post more to FB than here though so if you're interested here's our FB page: https://www.facebook.com/lifelongvagabonds I'm currently running a Traveling is Possible series which ends on Thursday so if you don't want to see one a day, probably don't follow until Friday XD
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Old 03-20-17, 02:00 PM   #22
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@FBinNY So you think after a week we should be okay to push for me? I know it'll be a personal feeling, but just trying to get a timescale sorted as we have to be out of the US in less than three months. ....
I don't know your plans, nor your coping skills, how well you selected equipment, or any other details which would allow me to tell you whether you need a day or week, or even a month to get properly set up to go.

If the beginning of your trip is within the USA, it'll be easier because you have access to good logistics, and there'll be plenty of places to buy stuff you neglected to plan for. I know of many instances where totally ignorant and ill-equipped people started on a trans USA trip on not much more than a whim and fared well. I probably never heard of countless others who got frustrated and gave up within a day or two.

So, all I can tell you is to do an honest self assessment, and research fall back options (ie. bike shops along the way), and line up a designated "rescuer" who can pack up care packages and send them you along the way. (General delivery USPS is a tourists best friend).
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Old 03-20-17, 02:01 PM   #23
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If I'm lucky, I'll manage to convince Rob we don't need to fill the full 60kg...
If you have a return flight, remind him he needs to leave room for the things you will want to/need to buy on the trip. I always leave a few pounds for local beers to return with me
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Old 03-20-17, 05:12 PM   #24
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I did several tours before I did my Pacific Coast tour. But I used a different bike for the Pacific Coast than my previous tours. Had ridden that bike a lot over several years but not with a full load. It was a well known touring bike that is often recommended for loaded touring.

I got out to the Pacific Coast and within 20 miles I knew I brought the wrong bike. It had a bad shimmy that I could not get rid of. 692 miles of bad shimmy. I got home, stripped the parts off the bike and put the frame in the recycle bin.

I would never consider going anywhere again with different equipment without a test ride. And the test ride should be up and down some hills, some different road surfaces, ideally different weather but in a one day test that is hard to achieve.

If you do not do a serious test ride first, I wish you a lot of luck. But I would make time for a test ride. Even if it is a 5 mile ride, that is better than zero.
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Old 03-20-17, 06:09 PM   #25
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Well ... it's a bit late now to take an overnight trip with all your gear isn't it? That would have been a good idea.

At the very, very, very least you really should load the bicycle up and go for that 1 hour ride. Bicycles handle differently with a load.

I hope you don't have a long first day planned once you arrive. Where are you planning to ride again?

I wouldn't worry. Nothing you can't figure out on Day 1. If you were trying to cross the Sahara I'd have a different answer, but bike touring in the developed United States is pretty safe for learning experiences, and you're already practicing the buddy system

Don't be scared. You're going to have the experience of a lifetime.
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