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Thread: My Scenario

  1. #1
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    My Scenario

    Well after a lot of help and suggestions from people on here, and just reading heaps of bike specs, I am getting a 58cm Surly LHT built for me which will be ready some time this week. And I'm bloody excited! I didn't go for all those fancy (and expensive) XT components, and have settled for mostly deore and some lx stuff. That helped keep the cost of the bike down and still provides me with a level of components with which I'm happy.

    Now I've got two fairly important questions relating to my trip (which involves western express/transam west to east starting in may flying from australia)

    -It appears that riding through the sierras and rockies in may will mean inevitable problems with snow, either falling or leftovers from the winter. how should i go about planning for this? Is cycling in May pushing my luck or am i likely to have a relatively hassle-free experience? If I had a really negative response to cycling this early, I might consider rescheduling my flight. Are roads plowed/cleared on a regular basis? And even then, can they be treacherous? I pretty much don't mind some detours and delays if that is what it takes to cycle as planned, but I don't want my trip ruined by snow and forced to get some other form of transport through the snow.

    -Trailer vs panniers. I've read heaps of prior posts about these. For me, maintaining the normal handling of a bike is important, so i'm leaning towards the bob. especially after I saw how someone was able to stuff it in a bag and check it as regular (ie not oversized) luggage. However, there are of course the issues of having what is essentially a secondary piece of equipment. Also, having purchased an LHT with some very well built wheels, it seems a shame to not put its abilities to good use. How do LHTs in particular handle when towing a bob? And from a sentimental point of view, towing a bob with that flag sticking out of it adds that quaint little touch to my tour!

  2. #2
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    Road conditions are a matter of chance. The earlier you go the chance of a problem is greater. It really depends where in the Rockies you are going. May could be way early - or not. Feeling lucky? The worse that can happen is that you'll have to hitch a ride over the rough spots.

    Since the LHT can handle racks and you plan to have good wheels, you don't HAVE to use a BOB. I use both and frankly there is no meaningful difference between the two. Both systems weigh approximately the same, cost approximately the same, and cause your bike to handle differently - not worse, just differently. The BOB will probably allow you to carry more gear, an aspect that some think is a negative.

    I know that you want a definite opinion, but these two questions have no one answer. Sorry.

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    I've used both the bob and panniers. I like panniers better for a couple of reasons. 1) the bob really messed up the handling for me (sentimental memories of waking up in the hospital - not really that fun). not everyone has this problem, but I'm not the only one I've heard of. For me, the panniers just make my bike feel exactly like a normal bike, only heavier, wheras bob was the tail wagging the dog. 2) bob is not as easy to manage on other forms of transportation. You can put all your panniers in a lightweight duffle bag to make your luggage peice count 2 - 1 bike + 1 duffel. And then you can carry the duffle and drag the bike box - not easy, but do-able for a couple of blocks. With the bob, you have 2 completely un-carry-able items, plus I never managed to get all my other stuf inside the bob & bike boxes, which really meant I had 3 peices of luggage. 3) bob was hard to park - the bike is too long. With the panniers it's easy to lean it against a wall. with bob, it doesn't lean nicely, you have to jackknife the bike, it takes up more space, and you can't back up.

    Your time frame is probably fine, although I agree w/Cyclesafe, if you go a little later you'll have a better chance of not getting a storm. You don't say what date you are startiing - early may and late may are quite different. If you have a flexible enough time schedule and budget so that you can wait a few days hear and there, you should be able to just wait it out if you get really bad weather. By then you probably won't be seeing long-lasting storms one after another, but there's still the possiblity of something blowing through. The roads on the Western Express in the sierra should be open - Carson Pass is plowed all winter, don't know about emmigrant gap road - but the descents out of the sierra will be cold, and it will be cold at night. If you do get a storm, you will probably want to wait it out. By the time you get to the rockies, it should be ok, but you can get a storm there in June, still.

    I would do that route starting in May - just be prepared for cold nights and some cold/rainy riding. The high desert in Nevada should be absolutely gorgeous that time of year, the sierras and the rockies should have cold crisp mornings, mild afternoons, stacks of wildflowers, lots of water. The mosquitos shouldn't be out yet in the sierras.

    I hope you like the States as much as I liked OZ!

    Cheers,
    Anna
    ...

  4. #4
    'Mizer Cats are INSANE Mentor58's Avatar
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    This route can be ridden from mid-May through October, depending on weather. Carson Pass crosses over the Sierra Nevada at an elevation of 8,573 feet. Snow can also fall at any time in the Rocky Mountains, and the highest pass is over 11,000 feet.
    From the Adventure Cycling Site regarding the Western Express Route. I'd want to get as late a start in May as possible, and carry some cold-WX gear. If you don't need it, and once you hit the warmer weather you could always ship it back home, or to someone else to hold for you.

    Just my .02

    Steve W
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    Tipsy -

    Unless you are heading on from the east coast to Europe - have you considered cycling east to west? You talk about starting in May - but there's May and then there's May - early vs late. Virginia and Kentucky would be just beautiful then. The Great Plains are in the middle either way and usually end up in the middle of summer and the middle of a heat wave. Hard to avoid. The western mountains would be better later, the deserts tougher.

    The difficulty with cycling across the Great Basin West any time of year is that it is a region of pronounced climate zones running north-south - so you cross each band on an east-west trip. Depending on where you start in California you have 1) Pacific Coast - cool, damp; 2) Coast Ranges - pleasant, dryer 3) Central Valley - hot, dry; 4) Sierra Nevadas - cool to cold, wet or snowy 5) Great Basin Desert - hot to very hot and dry. Don't even think about Death Valley after April. So a May crossing will be very nice in Nevada and Utah - tricky in the Sierras and Rockies. You'll miss out on some of the mountain beauty - esp. wildflowers. A July crossing will be super in the mountains, but pretty tough in the desert.

    The Western Express uses Highway 88 across the Sierras - this road is kept open year round. If you hit Carson Pass in late May there should be no snow on the road and only very little alongside - but snow seasons vary dramatically in the Sierras. They are predicting an El Nino year - so there should be a lot of snow this winter. Campgrounds may not be open yet - so you should consider camping at mid elevation on both sides. As for the Rockies, all the roads on the Western Express will be open - but, again, forest service campgrounds will not be open yet - private ones in town will. Remember, there is usually a May storm in the Sierras and a June one in the Rockies - rain in the lower elevations, snow in the higher.

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    thanks for all of your very helpful posts. jamawani - at this stage, there aren't any plans on continuing on to europe. however, i've already purchased my airfare, and changing the itinerary will be a bit costly. it's not so costly to make it out of the question of course, but from the responses so far, i think i'm willing to give west to east a go.

    having said that, i'll keep an eye on things and see how they pan out. for me, being someone who doesn't like doing anything but go to the beach in extremely hot weather, the idea of getting through the desert before summer seems very attractive.

    as for the trailer vs pannier, thanks for the insight valygrl. the shop i'm getting the bike from has a rental bob, and the guy there said he'd be happy for me to have a lend of it and see how it goes. i like what you said about feeling that panniers don't change the handling. i'm sure they would let me have a lend of some panniers and see how they go as well. if i decide on them, it looks like more research for me - i'd pretty much decided on a bob so hadn't really paid much attention to panniers. except i've realised that ortlieb come up time and again and they cost a fortune. the bike shop i'm dealing with is very good, so i'd take any advice from there that they are happy to give.

  7. #7
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    Trailers are fine for some, but for me having all my stuff as one unit with my bike means less to worry about. Things such as simply getting up over kerbs to get to cafes or restaurants, manoeuvring through traffic, getting through chicane barriers, lugging stuff up and down stairs (I don't mean in buildings although there is that to factor in, too), over fences or through stiles, wheeling into shopping centres and various other things -- I can do all that with a loaded bike quite well, but with a trailer, there is a whole new set of considerations.

    This is without having to worry about toting spare tubes and tyres and spokes (if you want to cover all bases), plus having to lock two items rather than one when shopping or carousing.

    As to handling, a loaded bike is always going to feel different from an unloaded bike. Much also depends on how its loaded to prevent shimmy at any speed. When starting off a tour, many people remark how "difficult" or ponderous the bike seems to be to handle, but after a day or so, it becomes a non-issue. I have been told that the BoB creates a "different" feel to the bike that also takes some adaptation.
    Dream. Dare. Do.

  8. #8
    Senior Member CyKKlist's Avatar
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    Ortlieb too expensive?

    Hey everyone. I just outfitted a new Trek 520 with Ortlieb rear panniers (Bike Packer Plus, their largest) and a yellow dry sack. The rear panniers were $177 and dry sack was $68 going through Wayne at TheTouringStore.com. I'm guessing the front panniers would cost another $130 or so, for a total of approx. $375. I was on a definite budget, but I had the chance to buy something that was 'best of category' and jumped on it (same for a Brooks saddle for < $100).

    In the light of the major expense of flying roundtrip from Australia to the US, and undertaking a cross-country tour, the premium of *maybe* $100 between Ortlieb and a lesser brand of panniers is pretty negligible, yes?

    PS - I really developed a major jones for the Arkel stuff, but decided to splurge on the big handlebar bag instead. Found it for $123 plus shipping from PedalthePlanet.com.

    Have a great time with your trip!
    Ken
    Latest bike tour journal now posted -- PALM ride across Michigan!
    http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/palm2009

    Also -- NC Courthouse Tour, using Amtrak to Charlotte
    http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/nccourthousetour

    Trek 520 for commuting, touring, family rides and smiling at life.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by valygrl
    I've used both the bob and panniers. I like panniers better for a couple of reasons. 1) the bob really messed up the handling for me (sentimental memories of waking up in the hospital - not really that fun). not everyone has this problem, but I'm not the only one I've heard of. For me, the panniers just make my bike feel exactly like a normal bike, only heavier, wheras bob was the tail wagging the dog. 2) bob is not as easy to manage on other forms of transportation. You can put all your panniers in a lightweight duffle bag to make your luggage peice count 2 - 1 bike + 1 duffel. And then you can carry the duffle and drag the bike box - not easy, but do-able for a couple of blocks. With the bob, you have 2 completely un-carry-able items, plus I never managed to get all my other stuf inside the bob & bike boxes, which really meant I had 3 peices of luggage. 3) bob was hard to park - the bike is too long. With the panniers it's easy to lean it against a wall. with bob, it doesn't lean nicely, you have to jackknife the bike, it takes up more space, and you can't back up.

    Your time frame is probably fine, although I agree w/Cyclesafe, if you go a little later you'll have a better chance of not getting a storm. You don't say what date you are startiing - early may and late may are quite different. If you have a flexible enough time schedule and budget so that you can wait a few days hear and there, you should be able to just wait it out if you get really bad weather. By then you probably won't be seeing long-lasting storms one after another, but there's still the possiblity of something blowing through. The roads on the Western Express in the sierra should be open - Carson Pass is plowed all winter, don't know about emmigrant gap road - but the descents out of the sierra will be cold, and it will be cold at night. If you do get a storm, you will probably want to wait it out. By the time you get to the rockies, it should be ok, but you can get a storm there in June, still.

    I would do that route starting in May - just be prepared for cold nights and some cold/rainy riding. The high desert in Nevada should be absolutely gorgeous that time of year, the sierras and the rockies should have cold crisp mornings, mild afternoons, stacks of wildflowers, lots of water. The mosquitos shouldn't be out yet in the sierras.

    I hope you like the States as much as I liked OZ!

    Cheers,
    Anna

    +1

    The BOB takes a bit of getting used to. I had a very scary experience in NZ where the bob started wagging the bike and I was getting flung across three lanes of a road Thank God there was no oncoming traffic.( Ijust slammed on the brakes and sat my butt down on the saddle) Scared the K#@p out of me I learnt from that experience not to stand up on the pedals whilst going downhill towing a BOB. The bike I was using on that trip has beefy seat stays (19MM)and chain stays and the BOB still started wagging the bike. Once I learbt how to control the BOB going fast down hills I was regularly hitting 60km/h + down hills in central NZ( Lewis and Arthurs Passes)

    Flying and excess baggage can also be a pain in the A$$ as you still have to pack all your gear and your bike. One option is to get BOB in US rather than fly from OZ to USA.

    FKS

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    I just don't like the idea of rolling resistance from three wheels. I don't know the US route but most of my touring on roads just doesn't require a trailer. I'll use it if I need it, but not if I can get by with paniers. The fact that there are others who feel the reverse speaks for itself.

  11. #11
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    I've travelled internationally with a Bob from Oz (only to NZ) with no problems. packs up easily and simply. I was able to carry it around easily using the dry sack handles; with with all my gear packed in the dry sack and the dry sack firmly bungeed in the bob (the hitch in the bike box). It's easy to do this with buses also.

    I've hit 80km/h plus with a fully loaded bob. in hindsight i don't know why, but i remember being proud at the time. Bobs (and anything attached) are susceptible to the 'wobbles' at speed. This can be prevented by remaining seated and keeping your hands on the handlebars.

    i hope you have a great trip with whatever you decide.

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