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  1. #1
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    Advice for 1st time tour with a companion

    I'd wish to consult the collective wisdom here. Please bear with me its my 1st post.

    I've always toured alone. Its just been a matter of convenience really. (YOU all know the routine...consult the weather channel, look at the bike, succumb to the growling in the pit of your stomach and the shortness of breath, call the boss for an extra day off, then dash out the door on Friday afternoon with a big @%$# grin.) My touring consists of frequent extended weekends and the occasional five or so days of life under the big sky on a bike. My concern is this, I'm planning to go for a week long tour this summer with my sister. She's an avid cyclist and is someone who joins one or two of those supported bike tours each summer. So while she's used to travelling the miles on a bike, she's not used to hauling her own weight, nor is she used to the ruggosities of bike camping. I really want to foster her introduction into this "style" of biking. Other than hauling all the gear on my bike, any tips or experiences that seemed to work in your travels?? Thanks!

    Be well - travel great.



    If you can't "gear it" you can't keep it. A rule to live by in the brave new millenium.

  2. #2
    Senior Member xilios's Avatar
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    I would recomend you do a weekend tour so she gets used to the weight but a week long tour is not really that long. If she can do the kms allready there shouldn't be a problem. As you know self supported touring touring is not for everyone, you have to love it. Let her try it, and hope she likes it.
    The only think I could suggest is split the weight of the equipment according to your body weight.

  3. #3
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    I suggest that you let her carry her fair share and adjust the pace and distance to what she is comfortable with assuming she actually turns out to be the weaker of the two of you (she may surprise you).

    Fair share doesn't necessarily mean half. For example... Suppose you weigh a lean 180 and she weighs a lean 110, it would be reasonable for her to carry proportionally less of the community gear.

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    Great question, welcome to the forum mrpincher.

    On my first tour, I was the slower rider between myself and my b/f. He took most of the shared camping gear, but still was faster than me. He usually went ahead and waited for me, which was fine with me, but we were often out of sight of each other for hours at a time. The thing that I found the most difficult about this was 1) worrying that we would not find each other again (never happened) and 2) feeling like I had to keep riding until I saw him, even if I needed to stop. This was the biggest problem. Late in the tour I finally figured out that if I needed to stop, I should just do it - like to go to the bathroom, take off a jacket, eat a snack (not a meal) - he was going to have to wait for me to do that no matter what anyway, so I may as well take care of myself now, and ride the rest of the way comfortable. I rode a lot of miles while bonked or overdressed because of this stupid thing in my head. (I'm not putting that on him by the way, it was my own doing, I didn't want to make him wait, but I sacrificed my comfort/enjoyment for that.)

    So make sure she knows it's OK with you to wait, and she should take care of whatever she needs when she needs it.

    For (1), not finding each other, what we did was he always either stood or leaned his bike somewhere that would be impossible to miss while riding by. We regrouped at every town, and he waited for me to eat/do chores. If we were in a town where there were side streets and lots of options for where to be, he waited for me at the first business (usually gas station) in town or on the outskirts. It worked fine. A "last resort" plan is also nice, as in "if we can't find each other, as a last resort I'll be at XXXXX". For a one week tour, if you have your overnights planned, you can just meet at the end of the day, eliminating that worry.

    You should definitely have a conversation about expectations about whether you will ride together or wait for her, and maybe try it both ways to see which works better. We often stayed together when it was windy, so he could help me with a draft. But when we tried to ride together, often I would kill myself trying to keep up (even in his draft) so by the end of the day I was wasted, and he was still fine. That made for some challenging camping.

    Oh, and make sure you both have the tools/parts for side-of-the-road repairs. If you're a mile ahead and she flats... not good.

    Have a great trip! where are you going?
    ...

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    Oh, good, she's not your gf. As a sister, she'll be more resilient against whatever abuse you might heap on her. Besides, no matter what happens on the tour, you two can't break up with each other. You're stuck as brother and sister, and that's a good thing.

    My first tour with my ex-gf was pretty rough. She was bullheaded and insisted on hauling all her stuff even though she wasn't strong enough. We had more than a few tense moments.

    Just be very, very kind and thoughtful and have loads and loads of patience handy. Oh, that and a tow rope, just in case. Cycling on a supported tour is completely different from hauling all your own stuff.

    And it's amazing how cranky a novice can get when at the end of a long ride, she/he is not immediately provided with cold beers, hot bbq, shower, and tent, but rather have to set about doing every thing.

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    And carry cell phones and walkie-talkies.

  7. #7
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    I am inclined to stay together when I am the stronger rider. I slow to a pace they can manage and let them draft me. If the pace is slow and there is no headwind to the extent that drafting isn't a noticeable advantage I follow them so they can set the pace.

    The dynamics can change as a tour goes on. People get in better shape or get tired, and have good or bad days, so you need to adjust the leading and following arrangements as the tour progresses.

    Don't make her feel like she is holding you up, just make it clear that the pace needs to be acceptable to both of you and she needs to communicate if the pace is OK.

  8. #8
    Senior Member xilios's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
    I am inclined to stay together when I am the stronger rider. I slow to a pace they can manage and let them draft me. If the pace is slow and there is no headwind to the extent that drafting isn't a noticeable advantage I follow them so they can set the pace.

    The dynamics can change as a tour goes on. People get in better shape or get tired, and have good or bad days, so you need to adjust the leading and following arrangements as the tour progresses.

    Don't make her feel like she is holding you up, just make it clear that the pace needs to be acceptable to both of you and she needs to communicate if the pace is OK.
    X2
    If you go on tour together, stay together. I wouldn't like it to be hours on end out of site with the one I'm cycling with. If that was the case I'd go alone.

  9. #9
    Which bike should I ride? bullwinkle's Avatar
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    Might want to think about getting some lower gearing for her bike if she's never had to haul a load before.

  10. #10
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    Hello. Those are great ideas about sharing the load propotional to our weight - good reference point to start the tour with. I hadn't thought of that. I don't want her to feel like she's a burden I must bear by carrying all her gear. This way she can see that she is strong enough to carry all life's needs on bike ride! Cool. Plus, we can adjust the weight as we progress with no ego's involved.

    As well- valygrl said, maybe she will be the stronger rider. Me thinks thats an amusing thought, I the older brother....hmmm no sibbling rivalry allowed. That said, I have no doubts she'll be in top shape for the ride.

    I will be hauling two small tents and I thought I'd throw on an extra sleeping pad for her. I really don't want the gear to get out of hand, right?. This could be a revelation to see what each of us considers necessary to sustain life. ha

    Gearing is a very real issue - I have a full blown touring rig - she rides a road bike. Lower gears will need to be addressed somehow. The proposed route runs up the west side of the front range of the Colorado Rockies. We will be ending in Estes Park, hopefully on bikes and together.

    Thanks for the ideas everyone.

  11. #11
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Best of luck and have a great time.

    Don't laugh too much about the possibility that she might kick your butt. My daughter started our TA the weakest of our group and two weeks into the tour became a complete powerhouse. There were days, especially tough days with headwinds or big climbs, where she really beat us up.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by mrpincher View Post
    The proposed route runs up the west side of the front range of the Colorado Rockies. We will be ending in Estes Park, hopefully on bikes and together.
    Killer! - Ping me if you need local info, I live in Boulder and have toured the front range a bit. It does not suck here. West side... does that mean Berthoud Pass or the Peak to Peak?

    And yeah, she'll want some low gears for Trail Ridge Road.
    ...

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by valygrl View Post
    Killer! - Ping me if you need local info, I live in Boulder and have toured the front range a bit. It does not suck here. West side... does that mean Berthoud Pass or the Peak to Peak?

    And yeah, she'll want some low gears for Trail Ridge Road.
    Seriously. It wouldn't be fair to attempt some of those climbs w/o proper gearing. Make everyone miserable.

  14. #14
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    1. Bike fit. Ensure her fit is not just good, but excellent. I know you say she has done the miles, but bike fit issues can start to manifest themselves on a loaded bike. Things like drop bars lower than her seat can become tedious when riding up many hills with a load.

    2. Communication. valygrl makes a good point about ensuring both people know what to expect before you set out. There is another current thread with some discussion about touring together or solo... there are some useful tips in there. Above all, find out why each of you is doing the trip. You could be enlightened.

    3. Sort out your personal timetabling, such as when each of you prefers to get under way in the morning and prefers to eat lunch, and prefers to eat an evening meal, and prefers to retire to bed.

    4. Sort out who's going to do what in camp. There is nothing better for creating tension than someone lazing back while the other attends to all the chores (and no, I'm not referring to Machka). If she doesn't cook and you do, negotiate that she does the cleaning up. You help each other set up tents.

    5. Patience. Both of you have to display this for the trip to be enjoyable. If either of you has a competitive streak (and it sounds like she does, and more so if you think she might whip your butt), get the reason for the ride sorted out quickly... like now.

    6. valygrl alluded to it... but does your sister know how to fix a flat tyre? That's probably the most important thing mechanically on-the-road that will avoid irritation and worry for waiting longer than expected.

    7. Keep yourselves nourished. Lack of energy translates into arguments and whining.

    8. Rest. Rest on the fourth day. Do something completely different. Ride only to the shop and back, or something like that. There is another current thread on here that talks about that. Not only does it revitalise the minds, but it also allows damaged muscles to repair and increase strength (more so while you are sleeping or napping).

    9. Have a bail-out plan if something happens like a serious mechanical, an injury or just plain disenchantment... and ensure you are both aware of the flexibility of the plans as you go along.

    10. Do something about her gearing, and if she has narrow tyres, see if the frame will accept at least the next size up and run a lower pressure on the front than she might be used to.

    Oh, and the usual bicycle touring discussion caveat, even though she's your sister: Remember that she will always be right.
    Dream. Dare. Do.

  15. #15
    Senior Member lighthorse's Avatar
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    pincher,
    From reading your post I can not tell whether your sister has camped while on one of the supported tours, or if she does supported tours that camp in motels. If she has not camped before, your biggest challenge is not going to be who is carrying the weight or what pace you ride, it will be convincing her that camping is necessary. Bicycle touring does not have to mean camping out and riding. There are other ways to enjoy the ride. Maybe you could split the time camping and finding other lodging.
    Good luck.
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  16. #16
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    For getting along well on tour: A doctor who had spent many years in the field of counseling and psychology reduced successful relationships to an interesting and simple principle or practice (it sounds simplistic; but this guy had a ton of experience, and he meant it -- and it goes a very long way toward making things go better):

    Just be nice to one another. Make an extra push toward this.

    (Many people blow this approach off, because it seems 'too simple'; but it is a great practice. The guy was onto something.)

    Patience is part of it. Being extra considerate and thoughtful....

    *******
    Something else that might help:

    Do what you can to make it a pleasant and enjoyable experience for her.

    Take some time to do things she enjoys. Maybe include some hikes or swims. Get off the bikes now and then.

    *******
    Also, watch out for saddle problems. Saddle sores (and similar problems) are very common, especially with new touring cyclists.

    A saddle that is comfortable for an hour or two can be torture after four or five or eight hours. And it can get worse by the day. It doesn't help with moods either.

    This is more common than you might think. And it can ruin a tour.

    [Different people have different solutions here. Brooks saddles are popular solutions.

    Gel saddle covers (with a cutout or indent in the center) combined with gel padding in shorts is another approach. It is not as common, but it seems to work -- it genuinely solves the problem for many who have tried it.]

  17. #17
    Walmart bike rider gpsblake's Avatar
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    If I would tour with a companion, I would make an agreement with them to always stop when either one of us wants to regardless of reason. Food, tired, boredom, medical, bathroom, whatever...... Or at least agree to meet at a common point later the day if both riders decide they need a break from each other. You also have to plan and communicate with your partner on where and how you are going to stay for the night. And the weaker rider sets the pace.

  18. #18
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    +2 or +3 for riding together,
    a big part of touring is OUR.
    riding together enhances the our experience.
    if one sees something really interesting,
    it is easy to say "look at that", etc.
    if one has a problem, the other is near by to
    help immediately, or just keep an eye on traffic.
    if one is tired or bogged down, has an off day etc
    can draft the stronger rider.
    sister, G/F, spouse, whom ever ride together-
    putting on a flame suit-
    if you (collective) cannot communicate about the operations,
    issues and events of a tour, you should probably
    stay home.

  19. #19
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    Good advice from you folks. I'm really impressed with the concern and detail in the answers. Do you guys give financial advice?

    You're right, the seriousness of the route, the mountains, should not be underestimated. The correct equipment is a must. She's more practical and measured in her approach to life than I - she's probably already answered that one for herself. I've heard her say how much she dislikes hills. I know the mountains concern her. I honestly enjoy the challenge, the view, and most of all sailing down the backside. I guess that would be evidence of a major difference in riding styles.

    I also share the perception the camping part is going to be the big unknown. Sometimes my cooking is a challenge, even for me to appreciate. I compensate with tabasco. Thats a coping skill I developed later in life. I know she has a camper and enjoys the outdoors - obviously.

    Most of the route I'm planning to use is the Trans-America route(name?). I will be joining her at some point still undetermined. I'm picking up that route somewhere in far Eastern Colorado and following it to Breckenridge - then east and north to Estes(if I can get out of the Texas panhandle alive). It appeared, the route follows enough towns to make the tour less " down-n-dirty". Facilities and amenities should be close at hand. IF a motel is required to smooth over some form of road trauma, I'm easy to persuade.
    Thanks again - I'll try to keep you posted.

  20. #20
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mrpincher View Post
    I've heard her say how much she dislikes hills. I know the mountains concern her.
    On the surface that sounds like a recipe for disaster, but...

    I had a similar concern when three of us including my daughter set off to do the TA. My daughter hated uphills (she wasn't good at them at all), downhills (she was afraid to go fast), and hot weather (we had record heat most of the trip). When she wanted to do the TA I might have said no to joining her except I knew how motivated and strong-willed she could be. As it turned out 10 days to 2 weeks into the trip she found her inner mountain goat. She climbed White Bird Hill like an angel on a 100+ degree day. She started descending absolutely fearlessly. The rest of the trip she was a she-beast and practically dragged us across the country. When we left the Rockies and it was flat after Pueblo, she was sad that they were behind us.

    I hope your sister winds up loving the Rockies.

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