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  1. #1
    A biker with an ardor
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    Help with a 2k+ mile trip

    In approximately a year or so, I should be taking off on a 2k+ mile trip to Southern California from Northeastern Alabama. The date is still in the works. The trip is somewhere around 2,050 miles. Almost all of it will be on Interstate 10 and part on 59. I'm new to biking. I used to ride my bike to school in middle school almost 8 yrs ago, but I somehow don't think that counts. I'll be getting a bike within the next month or so and will most likely compete in a triathlon sometime in July. I need help on what bike I should choose and whether or not I should get a trailer. Also, how I should prepare. I'm a fairly athletic guy. I can run a mile in 5:34 and I'm a college cheerleader. I'll be riding this bike around the college campus to classes and most likely to work. That will help to prepare me and save on gas. Any help is truly appreciated.

  2. #2
    Senior Member thePig's Avatar
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    Hi Wrestlefox. Sounds like quite an adventure you have planned.
    You have lots of questions in there so will try an answer a couple of them:

    The Bike:
    It kinda depends if you have the luxury of having a specific bike for touring. For example I also do some mountain biking - so I just convert my mountain bike into a tourer by fitting skinny tires. If you are also going to be doing some triathlons you may want to consider a specialist touring bike OR perhaps a hybrid. Obviously a specific triathlon or road bike is not particularly suitable to touring.

    The Trailer:
    I would recommend using panniers rather than a trailer. Main reason is that the trailer rig, bags etc will be heavier than the equivalent pannier setup. Trailers can carry more stuff, but I suggest you right a list of all the things you want to take and then reduce it by %50. There is nothing worse than getting back from a tour and realise you carried all these things that you didn't really need.

    The Training:
    The big thing you will notice is that you to do long and consecutive days. Generally the training goal is to do lots of miles but I find it quite useful on the weekend to do 1 long ride on the saturday and then a very short easy ride on the sunday. This gets your legs & head used to riding when you are tired. Obviously don't overdo it.

    Hope this helps. Good luck with the preparation.
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  3. #3
    Left OZ now in Malaysia jibi's Avatar
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    get a trailer
    they are so much better than the outmoded pannier system

    even though trailers can carry more stuff, that does not mean you have to.

    No more side winds blowing you off the road.

    for training, do not forget recovery days.

    2000 miles is not that far on a bike, I know, I do that every couple of months. many peple here will tell you other things, but I am the one out there doing it, not just dreaming about it.

    enjoy and remember, the first few days of any tour are just the training for the rest of it.

    I wish I was there with you
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    Photos of present tour of South East Asia
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  4. #4
    Senior Member BigBlueToe's Avatar
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    The previous posts illustrate that there are differing preferences in the panniers vs. trailer debate. I had always toured with panniers, but last summer I took a tour with a Bob trailer. My conclusion was that I preferred panniers. However, I'm going to take a tour with panniers this summer. Maybe I'll end up wishing I'd brought the trailer. It goes to show that there isn't a clear winner; both methods work.

    My personal feeling is that panniers are better when you have a bike that's set up for them - brazeons, heel clearance, etc. - and a trailer is better if you have a bike that's not set up for panniers, or if you're touring off pavement.

    If you have some money I'd recommend getting a "real" touring bike. It would have distinct advantages for touring (and your proposed tour sounds pretty significant) and would work fine for commuting, riding to school, riding around town, and recreational rides.

    If you are on a budget you may have to "settle" for something less than ideal, but that doesn't mean unsuitable. I think an old rigid mountain bike makes a good tourer. An entry-level road bike can also work to pull a trailer. I'd stay away from carbon fiber. I'd also be picky about the wheels - especially the rear. Don't go for ultra-lightweight. Instead go for strength.

    I had an adequate road bike for touring a few years back, but with suspect wheels. I took it in to my LBS and told the mechanic I wanted to tour and not break spokes. He said the front wheel would work but I needed a better rear. He built me one with strong, quality parts - not top-of-the-line, but still plenty good. I think the total cost was something like $250. It was a lot less than the price of a new bike, and the wheel made it through the tour without breaking a single spoke, which was great, since on a previous tour I had a major spoke breaking problem.

  5. #5
    A biker with an ardor
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    Thanks for the help guys. I didn't know spokes breaking was a big issue in touring. So the strength wheels are going to be thicker and the ultra- light weight will be thinner, correct? One thing I was thinking of is that if I ride on the interstate it would be smarter to have panniers because I could pull off on an exit and reload at the nearest gas station or store. Would I be correct in thinking this? Is it even a good idea?

  6. #6
    Senior Member thePig's Avatar
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    I think it is more than just the thickness that impacts the wheel strength (not by any stretch an expect on the subject). Will be impacted by the quality and materials in the rim, the type of spokes (they may be double butted for example) and the spoke layout.

    As BigBlueToe mentions a ridid mountain bike can make a good tourer if budget is an issue. I use a mountain bike with front suspension for my touring and it works ok. I figure that a reasonable moutain bike is designed for hitting stuff hard, doing drop offs etc so should be able to handle the load of a tourer.

    I am not sure what you mean about pulling of at the gast station and reloading....can you explain.
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  7. #7
    la rapet drewcifer's Avatar
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    you really want to ride 2,000 miles on an interstate? isnt that really dangerous? also probably not very enjoyable with semi's flying past you at 80mph all day
    they're just natural feelings like, walking off, to ride my bike

  8. #8
    A biker with an ardor
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    What I mean by pulling off and reloading is that I would not have to carry as much stuff if I ride on the interstate because if need be, I could just pull off on the next exit and pull into a gas station and restock on items that I need. That would be the brilliance in traveling on the interstate, if anything were to happen then it would only be a small walk to a gas station. The main problem I'm having right now is finding out where to sleep. I can't sleep in the emergency lane. It's illegal. Don't want to sleep in a hotel, too expensive. Any ideas?

    Yes, it would be dangerous. Yet, how awesome is it to be riding along and always have a breeze to cool you down, eh? I was even thinking about putting a cardboard sign on the back of the bike or trailer saying "Honk 4 God"


    Wow, that was my original plan. I was just informed that it is illegal to ride on interstates. So, to file 13 with that idea. Valygrl said something about adventure cycling. I'm going to check that out. Still looking for a place to sleep though. Do you think it would be ok if I just stopped at random people's houses and asked to sleep in their yard? lol. But seriously?

  9. #9
    Senior Member thePig's Avatar
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    For me the best part of touring is being on the quietest roads possible away from all the traffic, and other signs of civilisation.

    I haven't ever toured in America but in Europe there are plenty of campsites available (at least in the good cycling areas). And it is acutally not uncommon to ask permission from a landowner if you can put you tend up in their field.
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  10. #10
    Senior Member BigBlueToe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wrestlefox View Post
    Thanks for the help guys. I didn't know spokes breaking was a big issue in touring. So the strength wheels are going to be thicker and the ultra- light weight will be thinner, correct? One thing I was thinking of is that if I ride on the interstate it would be smarter to have panniers because I could pull off on an exit and reload at the nearest gas station or store. Would I be correct in thinking this? Is it even a good idea?
    Wow, so many issues. Breaking spokes was a big issue for me on my first big tour, partly because I'm a big guy (215 lbs. on that tour) and partly because I was carrying a big load. I didn't realize then how every little thing adds up, and I had a lot of things that were a little heavier than they might have been, plus a lot of little things I didn't really need. If you're a smaller person you might shave 60 lbs. off of my load without even thinking about what you're carrying. Spoke breakage likely isn't such an issue for a small person.

    In my research since that tour, I've discovered that spoke breakage can be avoided through careful consideration of several factors: strong hubs, strong rims, strong spokes (double or triple butted are recommended by the late Sheldon Brown), number of spokes, and proper tensioning. After my first unpleasant experience, I now put prime importance on getting the best rear wheel setup possible.

    There are places with websites where you can order a wheel that's guaranteed not to fail - Peter White and Harris Cyclery are two that come to mind. You'll pay, but it would be worth it to me to have confidence that I could carry a load and not have to worry so much.

    I have a local mechanic who I trust. I went to him and told him my story and told him to build me as strong a wheel as he could and I would pay whatever it cost. He did and I made it through my next tour with no spokes breaking.

    On my new bike I built my own rear wheel following the directions on Sheldon's website. I used good components, bought the proper tools - truing stand, tension meter, dish gauge - and it seemed to work. However, before I go on tour this summer I'm taking it to my mechanic and having him check it over. If I have to I'll put it aside and buy a professionally built wheel. It's that important to me.

    As far as your idea of riding on the interstate - as you said, it's illegal most places. Your idea of pulling off to reload is what I alway do, but you don't need to be on an interstate. When you do your route planning, check to see where you can buy supplies. I try and buy my food at the last possible place before my camping spot. That way I don't carry food at all, except for the last few miles. When there are no services I carry enough food to make it to the next store, which can add quite a bit of weight - especially since I'm a diabetic and my food choices are more limited. Talk to locals. Sometimes there are stores listed on maps and in guide books that have closed since the guides were published. Sometimes there are very convenient stores that aren't in the guides.

    I don't understand why panniers would be preferable for "reloading". I've toured both ways - panniers and trailer - and reloading was fine either way. One benefit of a trailer is that it can hold a ton of stuff, so you can carry more food (and it's easier to pack - you just stuff things in), but one disadvantage is the extra weight and rolling resistance, and that's going to be worse if you load it up with a ton of stuff.

  11. #11
    Senior Member BigBlueToe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wrestlefox View Post
    What I mean by pulling off and reloading is that I would not have to carry as much stuff if I ride on the interstate because if need be, I could just pull off on the next exit and pull into a gas station and restock on items that I need. That would be the brilliance in traveling on the interstate, if anything were to happen then it would only be a small walk to a gas station. The main problem I'm having right now is finding out where to sleep. I can't sleep in the emergency lane. It's illegal. Don't want to sleep in a hotel, too expensive. Any ideas?

    Yes, it would be dangerous. Yet, how awesome is it to be riding along and always have a breeze to cool you down, eh? I was even thinking about putting a cardboard sign on the back of the bike or trailer saying "Honk 4 God"


    Wow, that was my original plan. I was just informed that it is illegal to ride on interstates. So, to file 13 with that idea. Valygrl said something about adventure cycling. I'm going to check that out. Still looking for a place to sleep though. Do you think it would be ok if I just stopped at random people's houses and asked to sleep in their yard? lol. But seriously?
    One reason to buy Adventure Cycling's maps is that they are planned with camping in mind. Their routes always have campsites at reasonable intervals, though some of them are in private campgrounds (set up for RV's and pricey), city parks, fairgrounds, etc.

    Lots of people talk about "stealth camping". To me, the word stealth implies that you are camping where you shouldn't and have to be stealthy to avoid getting caught. I don't like that. I did it a few times when I was young, foolish, and poor enough that it was a big deal to avoid paying camping fees. I always felt uncomfortable and guilty, and I got caught a few times and rousted out. That wasn't fun. I don't do that anymore.

    In national forests you can pretty much always camp wherever you want, so I do that sometimes. You avoid paying fees and avoid loud neighbors with bratty kids or generators. You miss having running water, toilets, and a picnic table.

    California and Oregon have hiker/biker sites where you camp cheaply. In Oregon you don't need a reservation and they won't turn you away. In Washington they have "primitive sites" that are quiet and well-suited to bikes, but you still pay full price (which I think is stupid!)

    I put some money into my tour budget for occasional motels. I usually only stay in one when there are no suitable campgrounds or when it's pouring down rain and I'm tired of it.

    I've read about people stopping at churches and asking if they could camp on the grass out back, usually with good results. I've read about people stopping at fire stations and asking the same question with positive results. I've read about people asking at police stations and getting steered to someplace to camp.

    I've read lots of accounts of bike tourists striking up conversations with locals in restaurants and bars, and ending up with an invitation to dinner and spend the night.

    I wouldn't feel right about knocking on doors and asking for a place to camp, but I've read about bikers seeing people in their front yards, asking for a drink of water (even out of the hose), and ending up with an invitation to stay.

  12. #12
    A biker with an ardor
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    I keep hearing about double butted or triple butted. What does that mean? How would I replace a spoke after it broke? It would be way too heavy if you use front panniers and a trailer, right? That way I could carry more because I have a couple panniers and a trailer, and since the panniers are on the front, it would help stabilize the bike. Would I be correct in thinking this. The main reason I'm doing this whole trip is for a woman. So I'm more concerned about getting there safely than meeting people. Although, there's nothing like meeting a group of nice adults that would like to hear your story and just converse to be considerate. So far I'm thinking that I'll be taking country roads and not the interstate. Also, I will be asking people to sleep in their yards or stealth camp when necessary. What happens when someone asks me if I would like to sleep in the house on a bed? Should I decline since they are strangers and could be serial killers? lol

  13. #13
    Senior Member thePig's Avatar
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    butted basically means that the tube (be it on the frame or for spokes) is not the same thickness. for example they often make the tubes thicker at the ends where the strendth is needed and thinner in the middle to make them lighter.

    It sounds like you want to take a lot of stuff. I suggest laying everything you think you need on the floor, and then put half of it back away. You can really get away with a lot less stuff than you think.
    www.cyclepig.com - discover the world on two wheels

  14. #14
    A biker with an ardor
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    It's deciding what I should take away and what I should keep is what is hard. I don't even have the equipment yet. I've been to a couple of stores and wrote down things that I think would be a good idea to have. Later on I'll go back and edit out what I know I will not need. I understand the thought process of getting back and finding out that you carried too much stuff, but I also don't wanna get halfway into Arizona and realize that I should have brought something that I didn't.

  15. #15
    Senior Member wheel's Avatar
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    I would do shorter trips first gain some experince.

  16. #16
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wheel View Post
    I would do shorter trips first gain some experience.
    Not a bad idea, but three of us went on a transamerica and none of us had toured. We did great and never regretted not doing shakedown tours. So it isn't an absolute must. We all were very experienced campers and outdoors people though.

  17. #17
    A biker with an ardor
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    Look at staehpi1's post date and time. It is 05-03-08 and the time is 5:38. 5, 3, and 8. WOW! How often does that happen!?!? EDIT: "I just realized that this probably only works for people who are in my time zone. crap. "

    I was a boyscout when I was little, but I can't quit remember what they taught me. So, I'm guessing that doesn't really count, does it? lol. I've been watching some "Man vs. Wild" on the discovery channel, so I think I'm pretty caught up on how to camp. lol. j/k

    Would bringing a hatchet be a good idea for when I wanted a fire, or would it be considered riding around with a concealed weapon?

  18. #18
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Hatchet...
    We cooked on a fire some and didn't carry one last summer. I consider it too heavy. If you must take something consider one of the small foldings saws like:
    http://www.rei.com/product/730550

    At 8 ounces I don't carry one of those either, but would be more likely to than a hatchet. I have used one on other non-bike related trips and it works well.

    I doubt you would get into legal difficulty with either, but you can get by without them and every bit of weight counts IMO. If you want to cook on an open fire I have found it possible to gather and cook on wood small enough to break up by hand or foot.

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