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  1. #1
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    Might cross country this summer - couple questions!

    Hey everyone. I'm a 21 year old college student getting ready for law school next year and want to do a cross country bike trip over the summer while I still have the time. I'd follow the ACA's Virginia-Oregon route.

    I'm pretty new to cycling. I used to bike a lot in my younger years but haven't had much time with school. I'm far from in ideal shape for this trip, but I want to try anyway (and I don't have much time right now to be able to bike 60 miles a day into shape).

    I'm not much of a mechanic so take it easy on me as there is a lot I'm unfamiliar with. I also understand some of these questions were touched upon in the "Newbie" thread.

    So, right to the questions:

    1. Since I'm not in shape, I'm considering cheating a bit. I was considering taking whatever bike I purchase and attaching http://www.bicycle-engines.com/4stro...-kits-c-2.html to it. Now, before you jump all over me with "why not just take a car? or a motorcycle," I want to say that I won't be using the engine the whole time. I will pedal as far as I can and then use the engine to make up the difference between how far I pedaled and how far I want to average per day.

    This is an effort to minimize the discomfort of riding into shape on the road. While I know some may see that as part of the experience, I'd like to avoid it as much as possible.

    As far as the laws go, from the research I've done this is fine to be used on bike paths and in bike lanes as it is pedal assisted. And if a state has a problem with it, I'll simply turn the engine off and suck it up. Also, if there are other cyclists around me, I'd turn the engine off and pedal. In other words, I'm not a jerk.

    Will this engine fit onto any of the respected touring bikes? If not this engine, does anyone have any other suggestions for engines?


    2. Speaking of touring bikes, another "which bike to buy on a budget" question. I'd prefer something reliable from $500-$800 (I've been scouring ebay and have my eyes on a used Trek 520). However, if there is something I can get new for a similar price (or I could even jump up to $1,000 if need be), I'd love to hear it. Something with as little modification required as possible, as I am NOT mechanically inclined at all.

    I know I will get 'you're not ready to do it' or 'do more research' (I've gotten it before) but I am well aware of the former and will continue to do the latter. Not being ready doesn't mean I don't want to try. If I try and fail, so be it.


    Thanks for reading guys and happy belated Thanksgiving

  2. #2
    Bike touring webrarian
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    As a place to start reading about touring bikes, I'd suggest the links shown on this page at www.biketouringtips.com. Several point to other discussions held on this forum.

    It seems like a real bad idea to me to tour with an engine on your bike. First of all, it will add a lot of weight. If you think riding a loaded bike is hard, try pedaling a loaded bike with an engine. What's more, the noise and the smell would be hard to bear.

    Next summer is 6 months away. It doesn't take that long to get into decent riding shape. I suggest that you write up a simple training program that involves riding at least 2 days a week and increasing the mileage until you can do 40-50 miles in one day. Frankly, that shouldn't be all that hard to do in the next 6 months. What's more, if you can't get motivated to train, what makes you think that you can get motivated to get back on a bike after several hard days in the saddle in the middle of your tour?

    While riding cross-country is a romantic notion, it is also hard work that you requires both physical and mental strength to complete. Don't get sucked in by the dream, only to be disappointed with the reality.

    Ray
    Visit the on-line Bike Touring Archive at www.biketouringtips.com

  3. #3
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    For 1000 you could get teh surly LHT, see about a billion threads here. For your original budget you can get the REI, more threads here. I would spring for the surly since it's more in the line of what you want. Be aware that how a bike feels unloaded is different than how it feels loaded.

    At your age, you should adapt to cycling in a few days on the road. Just budget to do half distances the first few days. I'm 48 with one leg, most people would call me fat, and it's pretty hard to drop below a 10 mph average. You're out there in the middle of nowhere, with 14-16 hours of riding time, getting the mileage in is not a problem. Try not to start too close to the worst climbs on your trip, and you can probably get by without any training, though if you are traveling with others, you have to be able to keep up. There isn't any practical limit to how hard that can be.

    What you do need to analyse, rather than motors, is seats, shoes, gloves, rainwear, etc... that contribute to comfort. As long as you are comfortable and moving you will enventually get there.

  4. #4
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    It's less to do with lacking motivation to train than it is to do with not having much time. I have 16 hours worth of classes and work. I'm also taking winter classes, have another 16 hours of classes over spring, and then spring intersession classes. By the time I have a free time it's end of May/early June.

    The engine weighs 15 lbs. I'm planning to do this ride with a friend so we can split up some of the gear we'll be sharing between the bikes.

    As for noise - I'm sure if motorcyclists can handle the sounds of Harley's I can handle the sounds of a puny little bike engine

    Peter: I'm still in the planning phase. Getting opinions from various discussion boards, people who have done it, etc. I may squeeze in a few days of long distance biking over my winter break (if I luck out with any warm days) to see how I hold up.

    Thanks for the responses guys

  5. #5
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    Do it while you can and don't have a family or other responsibilities. Getting a motor is a really bad idea, I think you're overestimating how important it is to be in shape. Bicycle touring will whip you into shape and in the beginning you can just do like 30miles a day and you should take it easy to start since the Oregon coast is pretty tough anyways. Good luck and don't be afraid to ask questions.

  6. #6
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    I was almost in the same situation as you. I was a 20 year old student, working a job for 12 hours a week, working in a research lab 15 hours a week and taking 18 credit hours in a tough major. I didnt know much about mechanics or have any experience touring. but, i did it. i didn't ride that much in spring maybe ~400 miles unloaded.

    I did it, my friend and i completed the northern tier last summer and i pedaled it all. the first few days were very, very tough. however, it does get easier. if i were you, i wouldnt plan on doing that many miles for the first week. there are times it sucked, but I wouldnt trade it for anything. You're young, you probably won't get injured and that sense of accomplishment will feel so much better knowing you pedaled every inch.

  7. #7
    Walmart bike rider gpsblake's Avatar
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    There are a lot of local laws to consider with a motorized bicycle.

    Being comfortable on your bicycle and the mental aspects of touring are the two most important things.... I would suggest a weekend tour before you take the big tour just to get a shakedown on your equipment.

  8. #8
    Too old & too big
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    One more opinion ... the motor is a bad idea. You don't need to be in great shape to do this. The first few days might wear you out, but if you take it easy you'll be fine. An extra 15 lbs will be more of a pain ... and mechanical issues on a bike can happen, but a motor would complicate things even more.

    Believe me on this point ... your butt will be a bigger problem for you in the first week than your legs ... and a motor won't fix that.

  9. #9
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    Anything you can do to prevent ass pain?

  10. #10
    Too old & too big
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    Mostly it just takes time on the saddle. Chamois butter / butt salves can help some, but it really just takes time ... likely the first week or so.

  11. #11
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    Another vote for skipping the motor here. If you can ride a little regularly before the tour, in order to get comfortable on your bike (position, saddle) then you CAN get in shape on the way. You can do 20-40 mile days two or three days in a row, then a rest day, until you build up to be able to go longer. An extra 15 pounds is HUGE. Also, if your friend isn't using a motor, you using one will bug him/her, I bet (noise, smell, different speed, really different mind-set).

    Get the 520, put a mountain bike crank on it (for lowest possible gears), and get out there and enjoy the pedalling!

    Splitting the gear is a great idea if you are good friends and know you will both finish together, but if there is the slightest doubt in your mind, be prepared to separate. In a way, soloing can be easier, because you can go your own pace. It's also easier metally, because there is no one to blame but yourself. Makes keeping your spirits up oddly easier (at least for me).

    My first tour was with someone way stronger, and even though he carried most of the group gear, it was harder than solo tours i did later carrying everything, because he was still so much faster than me. If you do share gear with your friend, be prepared to divvy it up according to strength (even changing the loads on different days if someone is feeling weaker than usual), not by even halves.

    Good luck and GO FOR IT!
    ...

  12. #12
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    The reason I was considering doing it with a friend was more for safety reasons.

    Thoughts on that?

  13. #13
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    Cars and dogs are the worst safety hazards, and having a friend doesn't help much with either. Other than that, if you encounter bad people, you probably can tell it's about to happen - take action by removing yourself from the situation and be proactive (i.e.,don't camp in the town park if you get panhandled in that town).

    I'm female, 5'2" tall, and not very big and strong looking (duh). I kept my radar on, trusted when i felt it was warranted, and mistrusted other times, and took actions on my feelings. Mostly people in rural America are friendly, helpful and curious. In the bigger cities, you just want to pay attention to your surroundings-- be smart. And that's no different from when you have a car with you. It does help to project an attitude of confidence and competence, at the same time asking for help if you need it. One thing i definitely did, was be vague when people asked me questions that I didn't feel comfortable with - if someone asks you where you are camping, and they are even the teeniest bit creepy, don't tell them. If you think they are going to offer you a place to stay, tune your answer to either elicit that invitation or not (" I don't know yet" vs. " i'm staying at a hotel tonight"

    There are good things about having a partner - someone to share experiences with, someone to help out when your judgment might be impaired by being tired/hungry/cold/grumpy, someone to help with repairs... someone to say "hey did you see that _____ back there?" to. It's a totally different experinece solo. Solo, you meet everyone, every conversation is a first conversation, you get tired of telling your own story, you can meet people from walks of life you would never encounter otherwise. With a partner, you learn a lot about your partner, you can know each other deeply, come to respect or loathe one another. But you get a LOT less interaction with the locals. Both ways, you'll learn a lot about yourself.

    Hope that helps at all....
    ...

  14. #14
    Hooked on Touring
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    Less is more.
    No motor.
    It's kinda like going to Hawaii and wearing long-johns and a fur coat the whole time.

    I agree with those people who say that 6 months is plenty of time to get ready.
    Don't know where you are at school - but if I could bike in Jackson and Laramie, Wyoming
    Then you can bike in most places in the lower 48.

    Other route possibilities include rail and canal trails.
    There's a 300-mile, nearly level route across the Allegheny Mountains -
    From Washington, DC to Pittsburgh, PA
    A combination of the C&O Canal Trail and the Allegheny Passage
    http://www.atatrail.org/
    You could leave froom the shores of the Potomac at Mount Vernon.

    Another trail is the famous Katy Trail across Missouri.
    From just outside St. Louis to Clinton, south of Kansas City.
    http://www.mostateparks.com/katytrail/index.html

    The advantages of trails are that you have no cars, nearly level riding,
    and bike-oriented services - especially free/cheap camping.

    Then there's the possibility of doing less rather than more.
    Most of us have found that it's the quality, not the quantity.

    There are lots of ways to do this trip -
    But the motor will truly defeat the purpose.
    Think about it.

  15. #15
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    I really want to do cross country. Something about traveling to these places I've never been by bike is just so appealing. I've been all over the eastern half of our country, but never west. I'd really like to go XC.

    However, I will research some of those other routes. Who knows!

    I guess the engine is a bad idea. Thanks for the opinions on that.

    Any other thoughts, tips, etc are welcome!

  16. #16
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    " I think you're overestimating how important it is to be in shape."

    +10

    Training if for people who like to train. The world was built by people who largely didn't have the time. Until the early 70s it was rare for people to actually train for even the highest level outdoor sports. I remember this galvanizing article in Mountain magazine about 1973, that anounced that the guys who were freeing all the Yosemite aid routes at the time, were actually doing a little circuit training. Yowzer! I was rowing at that point, and our school sports doctor, was also the consultant for the Maple Leaf NHL hockey team. All those guys smoked and did horrible on Oxygen uptake test, way worse than us kids. As I said, you can get up to speed in a few days. I do agree with valygrl that working on your position, fit and comfort issues is key. Stay comfortable and you will finish the ride. Of course that applies to training also, it can make you more comfortable, but if it isn't possible to fit it in, so be it.

    Actually one of the famous HImilayan climbers of the 70s, was Don Willans, a notoriously boozer and rotund individual who once got sent down on Anapurna for getting drunk at altitude. Not a good thing, but he had an iron will, and his body did respond to the training of just hanging around, eventually.

    I don't so much agree with the idea that you can't hide in a crowd from dog attacks and car mishaps. Seems like more targets would be a good thing in either case.

    The bad thing about trans continental rides is you spend ages in places too boring to cycle if you weren't stuck there. On the other hand you get a great sense of purpose with a very easily understood goal in hand.

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    Getting stuck in places too boring to cycle...heh, I'm not sure how it could be boring doing something like this. I don't know I've always been the "escape" type. I love making the twice a year 20 hour drive from New Jersey to Louisiana for school by myself. Everytime I see a passing cargo train I kind of wish I didn't have any responsibilities so I could just hop on the train and get off randomly a few hours later not knowing where I am.

    The biking tour is sort of a combo of those things.

    I have a question about bikes. Newbie question, but here goes:

    I'm looking at the Surly LHT and they have size specifications (42 cm-62 cm).

    What exactly is this measuring? Does the size I want depend on my size and the amount I plan to carry or does it depend on the distance I plan to travel?

  18. #18
    I'm made of earth! becnal's Avatar
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    Doing the tour will put you in shape. Don't waste your time or money with an electric assist.

    It's a tour, not a race. When you get tired, just stop.
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]

  19. #19
    I'm made of earth! becnal's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cutwolf View Post
    Anything you can do to prevent ass pain?
    Brooks saddle and proper bike shorts.
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]

  20. #20
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    Can you answer my bike question in my last post, becnal? Thanks

  21. #21
    Senior Member ken cummings's Avatar
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    The frame numbers are just for your size. If someone in a bike shop will not check your fit and tell you the right frame size then find a bike that fits and measure it. The surly and many, many other touring frames are built to carry panniers. Unlike racing bikes. Unless you are brutal with equipment and are using rough roads and off-trail the Surly will do.
    This space open

  22. #22
    I'm made of earth! becnal's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cutwolf View Post
    I'm looking at the Surly LHT and they have size specifications (42 cm-62 cm). What exactly is this measuring? Does the size I want depend on my size and the amount I plan to carry or does it depend on the distance I plan to travel?
    The former.

    Don't you already have a bike?
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]

  23. #23
    I'm made of earth! becnal's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cutwolf View Post
    I know I will get 'you're not ready to do it' or 'do more research' (I've gotten it before) but I am well aware of the former and will continue to do the latter.
    Nope, from us you'll get encouragement and tips!
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]

  24. #24
    Senior Member bhchdh's Avatar
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    Cutwolf,

    For more info on touring check out:
    http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/

  25. #25
    Senior Member BigBlueToe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cutwolf View Post
    Getting stuck in places too boring to cycle...heh, I'm not sure how it could be boring doing something like this. I don't know I've always been the "escape" type. I love making the twice a year 20 hour drive from New Jersey to Louisiana for school by myself. Everytime I see a passing cargo train I kind of wish I didn't have any responsibilities so I could just hop on the train and get off randomly a few hours later not knowing where I am.

    The biking tour is sort of a combo of those things.

    I have a question about bikes. Newbie question, but here goes:

    I'm looking at the Surly LHT and they have size specifications (42 cm-62 cm).

    What exactly is this measuring? Does the size I want depend on my size and the amount I plan to carry or does it depend on the distance I plan to travel?

    The size is based on your size. You want a bike that fits perfectly. It will make all-day riding much more comfortable, which is what you want on tour. The model of bike you choose will be where you address the amount of stuff you can carry. A good touring bike is made to carry plenty of weight without handling problems, and without breaking anything, and is meant to do that day after day - all the way across the U. S. if necessary. It will also have geometry that makes all-day riding more comfortable, and longer chainstays so that if you are using panniers you won't hit them with your heels with each pedal stroke. Lastly, a touring bike will have brazeons for racks front and rear, mudguards, three water bottle cages, and even a place for a couple of spare spokes on some models - good because breaking spokes is a hazard of fully-loaded touring.

    Bike sizing is tricky these days. The number usually refers to the distance between the center of the bottom bracket (the "hub" of the cranks) and the center or top of the top tube. Some frames list center-to-center, and some center-to-top. This distance is used because people with longer legs need a longer seat tube so that the bike will fit without having the seatpost sticking 2 feet out of the frame! Likewise, people with short legs need to be able to straddle their bike at a stop without the top tube squashing their privates.

    You'd think that bikes with different length seat tubes would have the other tubes proportional - a bike with a long seat tube would have a long top tube, etc. Evidently, this wasn't always the case. Sheldon Brown has a good article on sizing that goes into this.

    Furthermore, this number meant more when all road bikes had a top tube that was parallel to the ground. Nowadays they don't. Top tubes commonly slope down toward the seat tube. This affords more standover room, and lightens the frame, without sacrificing strength. However, that means that the distance from the bottom bracket to the top of the top tube is also changed, which means that if you go by that number to choose your frame size, you may be fooled. So manufacturers often list "effective" length, as if the top tube was still parallel to the ground.

    I suggest you read Sheldon's article. There's also one at Rivendell's site. Then go to a bike shop and ride some bikes and find ones that feel right. Hopefully, before you buy a bike, you'll be able to try it. If you buy mail-order like I did, buy the size that is your best guess, knowing that there are plenty of ways to adjust the fit after you get the bike - raising or lowering the seatpost, sliding the saddle forwards or backwards, and trying different stems until you get one with the right height and reach.

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