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  1. #1
    ............ deerhoof's Avatar
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    need off road touring infromation

    I like to find out any information about off road touring. If you have any links to peoples ride reports, gear setups and route info, i'd like to see it. I was also wondering what the best way is to read topo maps, and find ideal routes in the US. The multitude of unpaved roads is overwhelming. Are there any good books or articles covering that subject?

    thanks for your input.

  2. #2
    Hooked on Touring
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    DH -

    I have regularly toured dirt roads for nearly 20 years. Curious - how much touring have you done on pavement? Might be best to start there and gradually work in dirt roads. Dirt road touring is more strenuous. I usually do about 80 miles on pavement - more like 60 on dirt - but 40 miles of dirt is probably closer to 80 paved. It all depends. Sometimes dirt roads are hard-packed and smooth as pavement. Sometimes they are solid washboard interspersed with sand. Plus if can vary from year to year and season to season.

    Check out Crazyguyonabike.com. Look at the categories and then offroad. From the questions you ask about topos - it doesn't sound like you have much experience, so I would definitely caution you. Forest service trunk roads are probably the easiest and come closest to what's on the map. Other dirt roads - BLM, county - often have significant variations from what is on the map and you need to have pretty good map and orienting skills.

    Finally - one secret - if there are two possible routes between "A" and "B" - and one is paved, but the other has only a 5-mile dirt stretch in 30 miles - the latter route will be almost totally car-free. Plus the route will have enough use to be clear. Start with these and work your way into more remote roads.

    Best - J
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  3. #3
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by deerhoof
    I like to find out any information about off road touring. If you have any links to peoples ride reports, gear setups and route info, i'd like to see it. I was also wondering what the best way is to read topo maps, and find ideal routes in the US. The multitude of unpaved roads is overwhelming. Are there any good books or articles covering that subject?

    thanks for your input.
    Off-road touring can fall in to a bunch of different categories. There's just riding dirt roads or smooth trails like the Katy Trail. These can be done with a regular loaded touring bike using panniers and racks without too much trouble. The eastern third of the Lewis and Clark Trail includes a lot of dirt roads and rail trail. I did it on a Cannondale T800 and had no problems at all.

    The next category (which overlaps the above a little) is rough dirt roads, mountain roads, jeep trails and unimproved rail beds. I've done that too and I'd rather use a mountain bike with full knobby tires over a road touring bike. I have done this kind of touring with panniers and with a trailer and I'd probably use a trailer, especially if I'm using a mountain bike with suspension. It's just easier to do than trying to put racks on the bike. I did a solo tour a number of years ago that started from the east portal of the Moffat Tunnel, deep in the Colorado mountains. I rode over an old rail bed called Rollins Pass then on to Dillion over an old road called the 4-bar-4 road and, by linking several rail beds and Forest Service roads as well as some state highways, I was able to do a 400 mile loop back home. On an unsuspended bike, it was a very tough and rough ride but it was also a lot of fun.

    And then there is the full blown, off-road, single track experience. Mountain bikes need only apply. Mountain bikes with trailer are best by far. You can get into some serious trouble doing these kinds of tours so be prepared for just about anything. I'd stay away from a full suspension bike because you don't want something failing miles from nowhere.

    For both of the latter categories, I'd use full knobbies on my bike. The volume helps with taking some of the pounding out of riding. The knobbies provide traction where you need it and, if you need to, you can always pump them up to around 60 lbs and ride on pavement. I'd also get bar ends and use them often because without them you can end up with numb hands, something that I did and it took around 6 weeks to get the feeling back.

    For routes: Get a DeLorme for the area you want to ride and look at how to link stuff together. There are far too many dirt roads to choose from to suggest anything specific. Just in Colorado, I could probably name 15 300 mile loops from mild to "Oh My God!" to "You want me to carry my bike up what?"
    Stuart Black
    Solo Without Pie. The search for pie in the Midwest.
    Picking the Scablands. Washington and Oregon, 2005. Pie and spiders on the Columbia River!
    Days of Wineless Roads. Bed and Breakfasting along the KATY
    Twisting Down the Alley. Misadventures in tornado alley.
    An Good Ol' Fashion Appalachian Butt Whoopin'.

  4. #4
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Often I need to be wet and naked to get my brain to working While in the shower this morning, I thought of a few routes that are off-road that have been mapped out and have books covering the subject.

    First - duh! - is the Great Divide route from Adventure Cycling. Look
    here for a route description.

    The other two routes that I can think of are Kokopelli's Trail which is a serious off-road tour. The other trail is
    Tabegauche which connects to the Kokopelli's trail. There is even a hut-to-hut system on the Tabegauche trail that you can find here.

    That's just a sample of the routes in Colorado. There are plenty of others all over the nation.
    Stuart Black
    Solo Without Pie. The search for pie in the Midwest.
    Picking the Scablands. Washington and Oregon, 2005. Pie and spiders on the Columbia River!
    Days of Wineless Roads. Bed and Breakfasting along the KATY
    Twisting Down the Alley. Misadventures in tornado alley.
    An Good Ol' Fashion Appalachian Butt Whoopin'.

  5. #5
    Banned. Bekologist's Avatar
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    A couple of tips:

    bring bailing wire;

    and, forest service roads with two digit designations are generally main FS roads; 4 digit FS roads are minor roads and give you a better chance of getting lost.

    Well scaled maps for "off road" touring are the USFS, not USGS, maps available at many ranger stations.

  6. #6
    ............ deerhoof's Avatar
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    Last summer was my first time touring. I did a cushy ride down the oregon coast, staying in campgrounds and eating in restaurants. I've been mountainbiking since I was around 12, and feel pretty comforatable with it. I suppose I the idea of getting as far away from cars as i can appeals to me. i thought that was the idea of onroad touring, but it seemed like I just got better aquainted with them.

    I was thinking this summer I would try a trip from the oregon coast out to the east oregon desert. I am fairly familiar with the geography, so this might be a good place to start. Either that, or riding down the oregon coast range. I think either way I could find some decent roads.

    Do you personally use GPS, maps or both?


    Quote Originally Posted by jamawani
    DH -

    I have regularly toured dirt roads for nearly 20 years. Curious - how much touring have you done on pavement? Might be best to start there and gradually work in dirt roads. Dirt road touring is more strenuous. I usually do about 80 miles on pavement - more like 60 on dirt - but 40 miles of dirt is probably closer to 80 paved. It all depends. Sometimes dirt roads are hard-packed and smooth as pavement. Sometimes they are solid washboard interspersed with sand. Plus if can vary from year to year and season to season.

    Check out Crazyguyonabike.com. Look at the categories and then offroad. From the questions you ask about topos - it doesn't sound like you have much experience, so I would definitely caution you. Forest service trunk roads are probably the easiest and come closest to what's on the map. Other dirt roads - BLM, county - often have significant variations from what is on the map and you need to have pretty good map and orienting skills.

    Finally - one secret - if there are two possible routes between "A" and "B" - and one is paved, but the other has only a 5-mile dirt stretch in 30 miles - the latter route will be almost totally car-free. Plus the route will have enough use to be clear. Start with these and work your way into more remote roads.

    Best - J

  7. #7
    ............ deerhoof's Avatar
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    Thanks for the reply. I would probably use my cannondale f600 with racks. I think having a lockable shock would be nice. Do you prefer a ridgid fork or suspension?


    Quote Originally Posted by cyccommute
    Off-road touring can fall in to a bunch of different categories. There's just riding dirt roads or smooth trails like the Katy Trail. These can be done with a regular loaded touring bike using panniers and racks without too much trouble. The eastern third of the Lewis and Clark Trail includes a lot of dirt roads and rail trail. I did it on a Cannondale T800 and had no problems at all.

    The next category (which overlaps the above a little) is rough dirt roads, mountain roads, jeep trails and unimproved rail beds. I've done that too and I'd rather use a mountain bike with full knobby tires over a road touring bike. I have done this kind of touring with panniers and with a trailer and I'd probably use a trailer, especially if I'm using a mountain bike with suspension. It's just easier to do than trying to put racks on the bike. I did a solo tour a number of years ago that started from the east portal of the Moffat Tunnel, deep in the Colorado mountains. I rode over an old rail bed called Rollins Pass then on to Dillion over an old road called the 4-bar-4 road and, by linking several rail beds and Forest Service roads as well as some state highways, I was able to do a 400 mile loop back home. On an unsuspended bike, it was a very tough and rough ride but it was also a lot of fun.

    And then there is the full blown, off-road, single track experience. Mountain bikes need only apply. Mountain bikes with trailer are best by far. You can get into some serious trouble doing these kinds of tours so be prepared for just about anything. I'd stay away from a full suspension bike because you don't want something failing miles from nowhere.

    For both of the latter categories, I'd use full knobbies on my bike. The volume helps with taking some of the pounding out of riding. The knobbies provide traction where you need it and, if you need to, you can always pump them up to around 60 lbs and ride on pavement. I'd also get bar ends and use them often because without them you can end up with numb hands, something that I did and it took around 6 weeks to get the feeling back.

    For routes: Get a DeLorme for the area you want to ride and look at how to link stuff together. There are far too many dirt roads to choose from to suggest anything specific. Just in Colorado, I could probably name 15 300 mile loops from mild to "Oh My God!" to "You want me to carry my bike up what?"

  8. #8
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by deerhoof
    Thanks for the reply. I would probably use my cannondale f600 with racks. I think having a lockable shock would be nice. Do you prefer a ridgid fork or suspension?
    I've done both but would go with front suspension for serious off-road. It's not just a comfort issue but also a control issue. Front suspension gives you better control on ruts and bad roads. A lockable shock would be nice if you have to ride pavement to link off-road sections.
    Stuart Black
    Solo Without Pie. The search for pie in the Midwest.
    Picking the Scablands. Washington and Oregon, 2005. Pie and spiders on the Columbia River!
    Days of Wineless Roads. Bed and Breakfasting along the KATY
    Twisting Down the Alley. Misadventures in tornado alley.
    An Good Ol' Fashion Appalachian Butt Whoopin'.

  9. #9
    Hooked on Touring
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    There are some incredible roads - both paved and unpaved in southern Oregon.
    The Sprague River Road from Chiloquin is great - beautiful and no traffic. Many of the trunk roads on the Fremont National Forest are paved - very light traffic. There's a wonderful new rail trail the OC & E than stretches into the Sycan Marsh Natural Area.

    http://www.oregonstateparks.org/park_230.php

    Route 140 east of Beatty has light traffic - east of Lakeview almost none. I would recommend heading into Nevada to Denio rather than venturing on dirt along Steens Mountain (Pretty remote, pretty dry). Then the Frenchglen road is primo. There are nice roads on the Malheur National Forest - esp. the paved road from Paulina to Prineville. GPS??? What's that? Nah - - I find more people lost using GPS than you can shake a stick at. You need to understand maps first, THEN GPS can be a great tool. There is one advantage of a map - it doesn't blink out in remote parts of eastern Oregon. I think you would be fine with National Forest maps and a few BLMs.

    Best - J

  10. #10
    Hooked on Touring
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    PS - With the good moisture that SE Oregon has gotten this winter, the desert should be beautiful in late spring/early summer. Plan your trip so you can get the best of both worlds - not too hot in the basins, but with the snow melted in the uplands.
    http://www.wrcc.dri.edu/summary/climsmor.html

  11. #11
    ............ deerhoof's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jamawani
    There are some incredible roads - both paved and unpaved in southern Oregon.
    The Sprague River Road from Chiloquin is great - beautiful and no traffic. Many of the trunk roads on the Fremont National Forest are paved - very light traffic. There's a wonderful new rail trail the OC & E than stretches into the Sycan Marsh Natural Area.

    http://www.oregonstateparks.org/park_230.php

    Route 140 east of Beatty has light traffic - east of Lakeview almost none. I would recommend heading into Nevada to Denio rather than venturing on dirt along Steens Mountain (Pretty remote, pretty dry). Then the Frenchglen road is primo. There are nice roads on the Malheur National Forest - esp. the paved road from Paulina to Prineville. GPS??? What's that? Nah - - I find more people lost using GPS than you can shake a stick at. You need to understand maps first, THEN GPS can be a great tool. There is one advantage of a map - it doesn't blink out in remote parts of eastern Oregon. I think you would be fine with National Forest maps and a few BLMs.

    Best - J

    That climate chart is great. thanks.

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