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  1. #1
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    Plans for my first tour

    I'm currently in the planning stages for my first bicycle tour (probably Labor Day weekend, but no guaranty), and I'm looking for some answers/opinions/advice. Until that time, I'll be doing training, including spinning classes this Winter; limited-load loop trips of around 50 miles; and a shorter (about 20 miles one way), overnight, loaded, practice trip.

    Day 1 of my planned trip involves biking from my apartment in Greenfield, MA, to Bernardston, M A, where I'll pick up US 5 North to Putney, VT. From Putney, there's a more-or-less straight (by Vermont standards ) set of roads through Saxtons River, Brockways Mills, and on to Springfield, VT. (This set of roads appears on Level 3 of National Geographic's TOPO! software as a thin, North-South line.) From Springfield, it's VT 143 East to US 5 North, on to Wilgus State Park (open until Columbus Day), a little South of Ascutney, VT, where I'll stay overnight. Total distance (according to TOPO!) is 66.30 miles; total climb is 4085 feet.

    Day 2 invloves US 5 North to Windsor, VT, and over the Connecticut River to the town of Cornish, NH, via the Windsor-Cornish Covered Bridge (longest covered bridge in the US). From there, it's NH 12A North to West Lebanon, NH, then NH 10 North to Haverhill, with a couple of River Road's (Cornish-Plainfield and Hanover-Lyme-Orford). From Haverhill, it's off to my parent's camp via more familiar roads (familiar, at least, by car). Total distance: 61.96 miles; total climb: 2511 feet.

    After a few days with the family, the trip back home is more-or-less the same route in reverse. Same distances, slightly lower total climbs.

    How are the total distances/climbs for a first-timer? Are they too much? Or, will I be bored out of my mind, with nothing to do for several hours? Or, is it just right, as long as I take short breaks periodically? How short or long should these breaks be?

    For those familiar with the roads I described, how are they for bicycling? My biggest concerns are the large towns/small city (Brattleboro, VT, Springfield, VT, West Lebanon, NH, and Hanover, NH). Any alternative routes to avoid potential problems? Are there any attractions along the way, that won't take too much time or cost too much money (preferably free)? Any good, locally owned restaurants in Springfield or Windsor (where local people go to eat)?

    Anything else I should know (besides the usual)?

    I'm sure I'll have more questions as time progresses, and as your answers come in. I'll be sure to ask them as they come along.

    Thanks in advance.
    Timothy Clough

  2. #2
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tmclough
    Day 1 Total distance (according to TOPO!) is 66.30 miles; total climb is 4085 feet.

    Day 2 Total distance: 61.96 miles; total climb: 2511 feet.

    After a few days with the family, the trip back home is more-or-less the same route in reverse. Same distances, slightly lower total climbs.

    How are the total distances/climbs for a first-timer? Are they too much? Or, will I be bored out of my mind, with nothing to do for several hours? Or, is it just right, as long as I take short breaks periodically? How short or long should these breaks be?
    The distances look fine. If you are planning this for the Labour Day weekend in September you've got LOTS of time to build up to that. In fact, during your training rides, you could probably quite easily do that and more a few times during July and August.

    Why would you be bored? And I'm not sure what you mean about the "nothing to do for several hours". If you are cycling, you are doing something ... something interesting!

    As for your breaks ... as you build up your distances to the 50 miles you mentioned, and perhaps longer, you'll figure out how many breaks you need, and how long you need or want them to be. The best answer I can give you on that is: "It depends". It depends on how you feel. It depends on whether you are tired, or have a lot of energy. It depends on the weather. If a storm blows through, you might want to sit it out. If it is a gorgeous day, you might want to keep riding. It depends on what sort of tourist attractions there are along the way, and whether or not you want to stop and see something. It depends on if you want to dash into a convenience store for a quick snack, or if you want to stop at a restaurant for a nice sit-down meal. That's all up to you. There are no hard and fast rules for things like that when you tour ..... just go with what you feel comfortable with.

  3. #3
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    You'll be fine. Sounds doable for anybody in reasonable shape, with a well-geared bike and a moderate load. (4000+ feet of climbing on your first day requires that caveat... You're expecting it and preparing, so you'll be OK.)

    I guarantee you you'll sleep well that first night. By the way, I've never had the problem of being bored out of my mind on tour. As long as there are towns along the route -- so many bakeries, so little time.

    If you find you can do 65 miles in a short day, you have the luxury of taking side trips and backroads (explore old mills, waterfalls, viewpoints), or sitting 'round the campfire to swap stories in the afternoon. On future trips, you'll know your capabilities and plan accordingly.

    Ever tourer I know takes it easy, maybe 8-12mph on the flats, and makes regular stops every 30minutes to an hour. It's not a race, I've been known to stop at every viewpoint along a 2-mile stretch of road. Water, snacks, wildlife, passing another cyclist -- you could easily cycle only 20 minutes of every hour. This is healthy!!!

    Labor Day weekend is almost the equinox, so you'll still have 12 hours of daylight. In dead summer, you can plan longer days, but 12 hours is still a full day. The only thing is that mornings could be a bit chilly, which always slows me down an hour or so.

    -- Mark

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka
    Why would you be bored? And I'm not sure what you mean about the "nothing to do for several hours". If you are cycling, you are doing something ... something interesting!
    In other words, will I reach my destination several hours earlier than my bedtime? But as EmmCeeBee points out, I could just spend any extra time exploring the area's backroads, and see what they offer.

    Thanks to both of you, and I'd still like to hear from others, especially about these routes in particular, from those who know.

    Timothy Clough

  5. #5
    Older I get, Better I was velonomad's Avatar
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    US 5 is a good ride usually. Last time I rode through that area was two years ago. Rt 5 is usually in good condition, it gets busy through Brattleboro. 12A is hilly but was in very good condition two years ago. Your mileages are reasonable. But you need to do a couple of 60 mile rides to get yourself conditioned. As for breaks or rest stops everyone is different. somedays I ride 60 miles without a break other days I stop every 12-15 miles. A break for me may be 2 mins or an hour. You just go with what works for you.

    As for the sights, lots of Old New England towns and covered bridges, RT 5 has plenty of roadside kitsch to keep you entertained On 12a you might see moose. Google for Vermont and NH tourism and email them for maps and tourist info which will have the points of interest. One of the things that keeps me entertained on tours is rural mailboxes where creativity and tackiness often meets

  6. #6
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tmclough
    In other words, will I reach my destination several hours earlier than my bedtime? But as EmmCeeBee points out, I could just spend any extra time exploring the area's backroads, and see what they offer.
    Well, as you get cycling more over the summer you'll be able to judge what kind of time that sort of distance will take you. Keep in mind that the packing up time in the morning tends to take much, much longer than you'll ever assume ... for example, at home, from the time I open my eyes in the morning until I'm out the door heading to my classes, it takes a little under 30 minutes. When I'm touring though, for some unknown reason that I can't put my finger on, it seems to take 2 hours. Setting up camp and putting together supper at the end of the day can also take an hour or two.

    If you do figure you'll end up arriving at your destination early though, bring a novel, a magazine, a book of crossword puzzles, or something along those lines.

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