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  1. #1
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    First Tour - Sanity Check

    Hello All,

    I'm in the process of planning my first tour, and I just wanted to get some feedback as to whether I'm on the right track, or should make some adjustments. Also, I've thrown in some newbie questions for entertainment.

    I'm planning a week on the Blue Ridge Parkway, primarily camping at public campgrounds, but not cooking. I'm a fairly strong 150lb rider, although I generally don't go over 60 miles and seldom ride multiple days in a row. I'm trying to stay as light as possible, probably 25lbs or less, for a couple of reasons: First, my lowest gear will probably be a 26x25, and given what I've read that's still pretty high. Second, my wheels are 28 spoke Aerohead OC's with probably 28mm Gatorskins, and while well built it's still a low spoke count. Are either of these things going to kill me, or should I get by with a light load?

    In terms of packing, I really don't have a concept of what my panniers can hold, so I'm not convinced even if I pack light that I can carry everything, or that I can get it under 25lbs. I have figured that the 40l panniers (ortlieb), compact handlebar bag, lightweight tent, sleeping bag, short Thermarest, and rack will weight 9lbs. So,

    - Is it realistic to think the rest of the gear will be less then 16lbs? The only other heavy item will be a U-Lock at about 2lbs.
    - What camping gear needs to go in my panniers? I'm assuming my down bag should, but how about the thermarest?
    - Is it necessary to keep my tent dry? Will the stuff sack keep it dry enough or do I have take further measures?
    - I've figured camping isn't costing me much weight with the light gear. The only additional items I think I'll need for camping (that I wouldn't need for credit-carding it) are a pillow, and maybe a larger towel. Given my vast camping experience (2x in the backyard with my son), I fear I'm missing something.

    I can opt out of camping and go credit-card touring to really optimize the weight, but I really want to give camping a try.

    Any feedback you could provide would be great. Thanks in advance.

    Mark

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by Megamax
    Hello All,

    I'm in the process of planning my first tour, and I just wanted to get some feedback as to whether I'm on the right track, or should make some adjustments. Also, I've thrown in some newbie questions for entertainment.

    I'm planning a week on the Blue Ridge Parkway, primarily camping at public campgrounds, but not cooking. I'm a fairly strong 150lb rider, although I generally don't go over 60 miles and seldom ride multiple days in a row. I'm trying to stay as light as possible, probably 25lbs or less, for a couple of reasons: First, my lowest gear will probably be a 26x25, and given what I've read that's still pretty high. Second, my wheels are 28 spoke Aerohead OC's with probably 28mm Gatorskins, and while well built it's still a low spoke count. Are either of these things going to kill me, or should I get by with a light load?

    In terms of packing, I really don't have a concept of what my panniers can hold, so I'm not convinced even if I pack light that I can carry everything, or that I can get it under 25lbs. I have figured that the 40l panniers (ortlieb), compact handlebar bag, lightweight tent, sleeping bag, short Thermarest, and rack will weight 9lbs. So,

    - Is it realistic to think the rest of the gear will be less then 16lbs? The only other heavy item will be a U-Lock at about 2lbs.
    - What camping gear needs to go in my panniers? I'm assuming my down bag should, but how about the thermarest?
    - Is it necessary to keep my tent dry? Will the stuff sack keep it dry enough or do I have take further measures?
    - I've figured camping isn't costing me much weight with the light gear. The only additional items I think I'll need for camping (that I wouldn't need for credit-carding it) are a pillow, and maybe a larger towel. Given my vast camping experience (2x in the backyard with my son), I fear I'm missing something.

    I can opt out of camping and go credit-card touring to really optimize the weight, but I really want to give camping a try.

    Any feedback you could provide would be great. Thanks in advance.

    Mark
    You're pretty light so I would think your wheels will be fine. As I recall, the BRP has a lot of steep hills, so you may want lower gearing so you can spin up them. Maybe a 24 in front or a cassette with a 30-32 or so in the back. Do you really need a 2 lb U-lock? Are you planning to leave the bike and hike? If it's just for at night, tie it to a tree with cord and hang a bell on it, or use one of the real thin combo lock cables.

    "40l panniers (ortlieb), compact handlebar bag, lightweight tent, sleeping bag, short Thermarest, and rack will weight 9lbs." This doesn't sound right - the pans alone are close to 5 lbs so all this probably weighs at least 12, maybe more unless you have ultra-light gear, Bivy sack, etc.

    Your tent and thermarest will be fine on the rack, won't hurt if the tent sack gets wet. What you want to stay dry is your sleeping bag and spare clothes. Wrap the bag in a plastic garbage sack and if it is compact enough stick it in one of the panniers. Your clothes should be in a w-proof stuff sack also.

    There are lots of gear lists posted here so I won't go into detail but you have most of your essential camp gear figured out, add maybe a led headlamp, pocket knife, nylon cord, fleece pullover and windpants, something to wear in camp, spare riding gear - shorts, socks, jersey (wash each night and alternate), some sandals or hiking shoes for off bike, a hat, shaving kit, any meds, sunscreen, etc.

    You will be pushing your weight limit. Try not to load much weight in the h-bar bag - it messes up handling. But bring a small dig cam to record your adventure!
    Specialized Roubaix SL4 Disc, Cannondale T2000 (touring), Stumpjumper M5 (Mtn - hardtail), Cannondale Rize4 (Mtn - full susp)

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Megamax
    I'm planning a week on the Blue Ridge Parkway, primarily camping at public campgrounds, but not cooking. I'm a fairly strong 150lb rider, although I generally don't go over 60 miles and seldom ride multiple days in a row. I'm trying to stay as light as possible, probably 25lbs or less, for a couple of reasons: First, my lowest gear will probably be a 26x25, and given what I've read that's still pretty high. Second, my wheels are 28 spoke Aerohead OC's with probably 28mm Gatorskins, and while well built it's still a low spoke count. Are either of these things going to kill me, or should I get by with a light load?

    In terms of packing, I really don't have a concept of what my panniers can hold, so I'm not convinced even if I pack light that I can carry everything, or that I can get it under 25lbs. I have figured that the 40l panniers (ortlieb), compact handlebar bag, lightweight tent, sleeping bag, short Thermarest, and rack will weight 9lbs. So,

    - Is it realistic to think the rest of the gear will be less then 16lbs? The only other heavy item will be a U-Lock at about 2lbs.
    - What camping gear needs to go in my panniers? I'm assuming my down bag should, but how about the thermarest?
    - Is it necessary to keep my tent dry? Will the stuff sack keep it dry enough or do I have take further measures?
    - I've figured camping isn't costing me much weight with the light gear. The only additional items I think I'll need for camping (that I wouldn't need for credit-carding it) are a pillow, and maybe a larger towel. Given my vast camping experience (2x in the backyard with my son), I fear I'm missing something.

    I can opt out of camping and go credit-card touring to really optimize the weight, but I really want to give camping a try.

    Any feedback you could provide would be great. Thanks in advance.

    Mark
    I can't say anything about the durability of a 28-spoke wheel versus something like the 30 or 36-spoke rear wheel that I have. (Can't remember...been sooooo long!)

    For a week long trip, I think that the 16lb limit is do-able but you should have a look at the Crazy Guy on a Bike's website to see what other people are packing along and use them as a basis for your gear list.

    As for what camping gear goes in your panniers; I have my tent, sleeping bag, and Thermarest all stacked in a pyramid on my rear pannier and strapped down. This system has only failed me twice on over half a dozen tours but don't let that fool you - the first time it failed was on a massive tour.

    Yes, you do have to keep your tent dry and I am going to assume you mean whether or not its stuff sack will keep it dry from the rain. No, the stuff sack will not do it. I simply bring along a couple of garbage bags to put the tent, sleeping bag and Thermarest in if it rains.

    I'd skip the pillow if I were you. It's probably very light but not very compressible. Roll up a shirt or a pair of pants and use that.

    Have fun! The Blue Ridge Parkway looks great to do!

  4. #4
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    I did a 2 week trip last spring with everything IN my bags (just 2 rear bags). I have pretty light and small gear, though it's doable.
    Since you're not cooking, you won't have cooking stuff to deal with so you'll gain some space and loose some weight.
    You really don't need to bring that much.
    I think I have my gear list somewhere, I'll see if I can find it.
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  5. #5
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    Count on feeling like you've been steamrolled for the first couple of days. You should feel like you're never going to make it.

    A 26-25 is a LOW gear and you could lift my fat butt up there sitting on a rack on the back of your bike.

    Since it's the Blue Ridge Parkway however, I'd suggest that you get a lower gear - more like a 27. Or perhaps you can use one of Sheldon's custom units such as:

    http://harriscyclery.net/itemdetails.cfm?id=702

    If you're riding with just yourself or with someone that intends to stay with you this is a good gear for the super steep hills around the Parkway. It might not work well if there's a group and you are trying to keep up with someone with a close ratio cassette since you might not have a gear comfortable at the speed they choose.

  6. #6
    Senior Member kesroberts's Avatar
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    COOL - BRP was my first longish loaded tour. You'll have a blast.

    A few quick thoughts:

    Yep, get lower gears - there are some long, long grades. My wife did it with a 26x27, but she wanted to go lower.
    You can probably fit everything you need in those panniers.
    Stores and restaurants are pretty far apart and way down the mountain often, so unless you're planning on living on peanut butter, consider bringing some cooking gear, or at least on hauling a few days worth of food.
    Leave the U-lock at home - you won't be anywhere where you need that kind of security. A light cable will do the trick.

    Have fun - it's a great ride.

  7. #7
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    Thanks for all the great information. Typical first tour stuff, my biggest fear is getting my bike stolen and running out of food. I'll consider bagging the U-Lock in favor of a lighter cable lock.

    Funny you should mention peanut butter. I was thinking I'd bring a loaf of bread and stuff for PB&J just in case. I could probably go a day or two on that alone!

    It does seem that most campgrounds do have a camp store. In general, are these real basic, or can you actually muster a meal at them?

    Mark

  8. #8
    Senior Member kesroberts's Avatar
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    I don't remember seeing a real camp store at any of the basic NPS campgrounds. Maybe I just missed them, though . . . The fancy places with lodges have lots of amenities, though. Also, there is one restaurant marked on the map, up north not far from the end, that doesn't exist anymore. I think it's called Whetstone.

  9. #9
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    My concept is: I take the same stuff as if I were backpacking along the same route.
    But I'm a minimalist.
    The first couple of days, you'll look down at your bike and say, "Look at all the stuff I'm taking with me!"
    The next couple of days you'll look down at your bike and ask yourself, "What is all this stuff I'm taking with me?"
    On day number six, take all the stuff you haven't used yet and throw it in the garbage can.
    Enjoy the rest of the tour.

  10. #10
    You need a new bike supcom's Avatar
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    I think I can help you out with your weight goal. 25 lbs, including panniers, is pretty ambitious, but it can be done.

    First off, ditch the lock. The chances of someone stealing your bike are small. The lock is just dead weight.

    Second, look at the heaviest items. Typically these are your tent, sleeping bag, and possibly sleeping pad. The tent is, by far, going to be you heaviest item. If you do not yet have a tent, then look for an ultralight model. You should be looking for something in the 3 lb range. I suggest you look at a tarp tent with bug netting. You can easily get under 3lbs with one of those. Try www.tarptent.com or www.golite.com. If you have access to a sewing machine, you can buy a tarp kit and net tent from Ray Jardine at www.rayjardine.com.

    Your sleeping bag is next. Once again, since you are planning a trip during warm weather, you don't need a 15 or 20 deg bag. Look at a 45 deg down-filled bags sold by REI. These weigh very little and pack extremely small.

    You're on the right track with the short Thermarest. The ProLite 3 series are hard to beat for comfort versus weight. A cheap closed cell blue foam pad from walmart is lighter though and can be cut smaller, if desired. Personally, I'm willing to accept a bit more weight for the comfort.

    You can get by on your trip with two sets of bike clothes. Each day when you get to camp, you wash the clothes you wore that day and put on the other set. Take a small amount of Woolite (you shouldn't need a whole bottle for a week tour) and wash your clothes in a restroom sink. Some people wash their clothes in the shower, but I prefer the Woolite route. Use a plastic bag as a sink stopper to let your clothes soak and take a length of thin rope for a clothesline.

    Use MTB shoes instead of road shoes and you only need one pair of shoes for the trip. Leave your street clothes at home. If it bothers you to walk around town in your cycling clothes, then take plain solid bike jerseys and a single pair of lightweight nylon shell shorts to cover your lycra shorts in town.

    Take travel sized toiletries (toothpaste, shampoo, soap, deodorant, etc.) to save on weight that you will not use. You can shave with regular soap instead of taking shaving cream.

    Another tip is to get a list together early of everything you think you need to take. Weigh every item and total it up. Then, be ruthless to cut out anything you don't really need to take. Anything left behind weighs nothing in your panniers. For the rest of the items, look for smaller/lighter versions that save weight.

    Consider also leaving the front bag behind. Stuff taken quickly expands to fill all available volume. If you don't have the volume,, you are more likely not to take unecessary items. I've done week long tours on 20 lbs of stuff, so it can be done.

  11. #11
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    I think you should be fine with regards to gearing. I live about a mile from the parkway, and I can tell you that it's not as steep as you may think. It was so well engineered and graded that you'll find many climbs so gradual that (as long as you keep the right cadence) you won't even realize you're climbing. This is a much more comfortable ride than most in Appalachia. Very few PUDs.

    Unfortunately, the services are sparse. Campstores along the road tend to have the same selection as a quicky-mart, and the food service places should be fine, so long as you like cheez.

    Good luck.

  12. #12
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    It sounds like a fun tour. I usually just camp with a tarp, which can save some weight, and they only cost about 6$ at a local hardware store. they also have the advantage of being useable to cook under and to put your bike under if you get rained on.

    Also, there's nothing like sleeping out in the open with all the critters

    I'd second(or third) the notion of swapping out for some lower gears. I ended up putting the lowest gears I could on my bike before my last tour and it made a world of difference - and it also reduced a lot of knee pain I was having.

    Most of all - have a really good trip!

  13. #13
    Crawlin' up, flyin' down bikingshearer's Avatar
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    The tips above are tremendous - once again, I am impressed by the breadth and death of info one can get oin this site.

    Two thoughts for you. (1) If you are worried about the gearing, then by all means swap out the 26 chainring for a 24 or the cogset for a wider range. If you hit a tough grade that feels like it is going to wipe you out, it will be mentally tougher to get up it if you're thinking "why didn't I get lower gears when I had the chance." And if you don't need that new lowest gear, think what a morale booster that will be.

    (2) As for washing clothes on tour, whether you do that in the shower or in a sink, consider getting a dunk bag. This is actually just a plain mesh bag (it can be made out of anything that can stand getting wet). Take your newly laundered jersey, shirt, shorts, whatever, put it/them in the bag, and twirl the thing like crazy over your head. The idea is to do your very own human-powered spin cycle. (Don't do this inside, though - it's kind of rude to splatter everything with water and you might hit something.) It works for cooking/eating stuff, too, as long as the stuff isn't breakable or sharp. The bag should about half again as big as you need to hold whatever you put in it to dry to allow you a good grip around the bag closure - don't depend on a draw-cord to have enough strength or grip in your hand for the job. That means you can get away with a smaller bag if you are willing to "spin cycle" each article of clothing separately than if you anticipate doing them together.

    I do have a question for you, though. Does your weight budget have a line item for bike tools? Are you prepared to do repairs on the road? I don't mean servicing a bottom bracket or a repacking a hub (does anyone do that anymore?). But are you carrying tools to permit you to replace a busted spoke, or remove and reinstall your chain? I assume you will have tubes, patch kit and pump, but be sure to think through what other tools you should have as well. Having a breakdown on the road sucks. Having a breakdown on the road that you can't fix on the road sucks a lot worse, especially if it is one that could have been fixed on the road if you had thought to bring the right tool. This is the voice of unpleasant experience talking here - which may be why I'm the guy with two spare tubes, a patch kit, a spoke wrench, a chain breaker and an allen wrench set with me for even the shortest joy ride.

  14. #14
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    - busted spoke- yes but not by means of cassette removal
    -or remove and reinstall your chain? I don't think I brought my chain tool the small cheezy one with a good bit are much lighter if you want to replace the chain. I have 8 speed, and have never broken one I weigh 220
    - I assume you will have tubes, patch kit and pump- Yes, and space tire.

    -but be sure to think through what other tools you should have as well. - I never carry that stuff on a day trip, but on a tour I carry every tool that is required to adjust any nut or bolt on the bike, unless I can't handle the repait or consider it paranoid to worry about.

    The above carried me 1000 miles.


    I doubt you can get down to 25 pounds with the thoughts you expressed. I found I was at 6 pounds a pannier + tarps, half length matress, and light polarguard bag. Plus the racks. Plus food and water. I found there were some things I could have left behind, and a few I wish I had taken. Since this is a shakedown cruise, do you really want to take some of the excellent suggestions that are really an answer to the question "how to do an ultralight trip on the BRP?".

    I think there is a square relationship on spokes, because one has less spokes and a less well supported rim. So it seems to me like standard 36 spole wheels might be as much as 65% stronger. On the other hand I used 36 spokes, and have never even broken MTB 32 spoke wheels with racks and full camping gear, so probably you will be fine, but pushing it a little.

  15. #15
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    All,

    Thanks for the great additional advice. In terms of tools, I will have my Alien, plus extra tubes, patch kit, spokes, and a fiberfix spoke. I'm considering getting the gadget from Sheldon Brown to remove the cassette (Hypercracker type tool), although I'm not sure it's going to work on my dropouts. Even though I'm a little worried about the wheels, I'm not willing to carry a chain whip and cassette tool.

    Just to give an update, I hit Rei's sale this weekend and picked up some supplies. I'm really taking keeping the weight down as a challenge, and basically if I'm willing to wash clothes each night I think I can easily make weight. If anything breaks me it will probably be food and water, but I don't think by much. I have a 1 night shakedown tour planned in a month, so I'll give an update when I get back as if I made it or not (weight that is).

    Thanks

    Mark

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