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  1. #1
    bragi bragi's Avatar
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    What I learned on my first tour

    After several years of urban commuting on an old hybrid, I recently got a new touring bike, and, well, went on a tour, from Seattle to the San Juan Islands via Whidbey Island, down to Port Townsend, and back to Seattle, a distance of about 220 miles in seven days, and it was a blast. Here's what I've learned, though I'm sure I have even more to learn on future tours:

    1. Don't drink five beers the night before you start.
    2. One water bottle is not nearly enough.
    3. It's not mandatory to cover 95 miles in a single day, especially if those 95 miles are full of hills.
    4. It's okay to ride a little more slowly.
    5. A state map isn't nearly detailed enough.
    6. It's totally worth it to take long detours to avoid busy highways.
    7. Eat something before you get dizzy.

    One thing that pleasantly surprised me was that, on those stretches where I had to ride on narrow, high-speed highways with no shoulder, people in cars and trucks actually went to some effort not to kill me. Of course, no one was willing to actually slow down, and in a few instances, when there was a lot of oncoming traffic, the margin of error could have been measured in inches, but even so, it was still a bit of a relief to discover that it was impatience, rather than animosity, that motivated people to come so close.

    Additional comments/advice are welcome.
    If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the precipitate.

  2. #2
    la rapet drewcifer's Avatar
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    impatience is worse than animosity. if they hate you then that at least makes some sense but if theyre willing to risk your life to get to their destination 4 seconds sooner thats just disturbing.

    sounds like a great trip though! ill be in the area for vacation soon and i think we plan on doing some cycling in the san juan islands ourselves. how is it?

    and i hope all those 7 days werent ride days :-P just kidding
    they're just natural feelings like, walking off, to ride my bike

  3. #3
    Cycled on all continents JohnyW's Avatar
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    Hi,

    you have still to learn a bit more :-)

    Especially point 1 is wrong. May be it's right for the first day but later it's definitly wrong. The most rememberable days heve been when I met people and sitting together for a beer or two. Somethimes I drunk the whole night and start the next day without any sleep at all...(okay rule 3 you learnt already).

    Thomas
    My Travelogues: http://thomasontour.de (currently only in German)

  4. #4
    Neil_B
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    Quote Originally Posted by bragi View Post
    After several years of urban commuting on an old hybrid, I recently got a new touring bike, and, well, went on a tour, from Seattle to the San Juan Islands via Whidbey Island, down to Port Townsend, and back to Seattle, a distance of about 220 miles in seven days, and it was a blast. Here's what I've learned, though I'm sure I have even more to learn on future tours:

    1. Don't drink five beers the night before you start.
    2. One water bottle is not nearly enough.
    3. It's not mandatory to cover 95 miles in a single day, especially if those 95 miles are full of hills.
    4. It's okay to ride a little more slowly.
    5. A state map isn't nearly detailed enough.
    6. It's totally worth it to take long detours to avoid busy highways.
    7. Eat something before you get dizzy.

    One thing that pleasantly surprised me was that, on those stretches where I had to ride on narrow, high-speed highways with no shoulder, people in cars and trucks actually went to some effort not to kill me. Of course, no one was willing to actually slow down, and in a few instances, when there was a lot of oncoming traffic, the margin of error could have been measured in inches, but even so, it was still a bit of a relief to discover that it was impatience, rather than animosity, that motivated people to come so close.

    Additional comments/advice are welcome.
    8. Don't get hung up on mileage. I've seen a tourer get drawn into white line fever, and it's not pretty.

  5. #5
    bragi bragi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by drewcifer View Post

    sounds like a great trip though! ill be in the area for vacation soon and i think we plan on doing some cycling in the san juan islands ourselves. how is it?

    and i hope all those 7 days werent ride days :-P just kidding
    No, not all days were ride days, I'm not that hard-core. The San Juan Islands are a wonderful place for a bike tour. It's beautiful, with lots of low-traffic highways, friendly locals, and many nice places to stop, look around, see wildlife, and eat well. If you like big hills, try Orcas Island; most of the other Islands are mostly (not always) pretty flat.
    If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the precipitate.

  6. #6
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    I am curious. What was your itinerary like? It sounds like maybe you rode three or four days and took three or four days off, but your posts don't really say what you did.

    Personally I like to ride every day on tour. Rest days are short days for me, not days off. I have never stayed in the same place twice without moving on. I like it that way, but I am curious to hear what others do.

  7. #7
    Cycled on all continents JohnyW's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
    I have never stayed in the same place twice without moving on.
    Oh I stay sometimes several times at the same place. My day offs are:
    - Climbing on a mountain
    - Visiting a city
    - Day-tour with less luggage (most half day hiking half day cycling)
    - take part of an organized (boat) day-tour

    I have no day-offs where I do nothing (I had on in Chile - at 5 PM I shaved me - that something useful was done that day)

    I always like to proceed.
    My Travelogues: http://thomasontour.de (currently only in German)

  8. #8
    bragi bragi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
    I am curious. What was your itinerary like? It sounds like maybe you rode three or four days and took three or four days off, but your posts don't really say what you did.

    Personally I like to ride every day on tour. Rest days are short days for me, not days off. I have never stayed in the same place twice without moving on. I like it that way, but I am curious to hear what others do.
    In seven days, I took two days off. The first and last day were hard, high mileage days over hills; every other day, I never did more than 30 miles. On future tours, I think I'd balance it out a bit more. I think 40 miles per day, maybe 50, is a reasonable goal. Any more than that, it starts to feel like work, especially on a hot day. I do plan to continue taking days off, though; if you're in a nice spot, why be in a hurry to leave?
    If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the precipitate.

  9. #9
    Cycled on all continents JohnyW's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bragi View Post
    if you're in a nice spot, why be in a hurry to leave?
    The next nice spot is waiting
    My Travelogues: http://thomasontour.de (currently only in German)

  10. #10
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnyW View Post
    Oh I stay sometimes several times at the same place. My day offs are:
    - Climbing on a mountain
    - Visiting a city
    - Day-tour with less luggage (most half day hiking half day cycling)
    - take part of an organized (boat) day-tour
    I can relate to that, but when I have taken the day off to do something interesting I rode a few miles down the road and stayed in a different place. That said I can see why people might want to stay more than one day.

    What I really don't get is people who knock themselves out to do long mileage on their riding days and then veg out in a motel room for frequent rest days. For me it makes more sense to do daily mileage that is sustainable without rest days. The mileage can be challenging or not as desired.

    I tend to have a goal of getting to some particular place. As a result my off bike time is somewhat limited. This does not mean that I don't take time to go hiking, sightseeing, rafting, and so on. It just means that I squeeze them into a busy schedule and usually ride at least 30 mile a day even on rest (half) days.

    Of course everyone is different and I don't presume that my way is a one size fits all.

  11. #11
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bragi View Post
    In seven days, I took two days off. The first and last day were hard, high mileage days over hills; every other day, I never did more than 30 miles. On future tours, I think I'd balance it out a bit more. I think 40 miles per day, maybe 50, is a reasonable goal. Any more than that, it starts to feel like work, especially on a hot day. I do plan to continue taking days off, though; if you're in a nice spot, why be in a hurry to leave?
    Thanks. It sounds like a reasonable approach. The San Juan Islands sound like the ideal place for that sort of trip and pace. Maybe I will try a trip like that sometime.

    So far, I tend to want the pace to be work on my trips though. Strangely on the TA last Summer we tended to do longer mileage on the hottest days, not sure why it just worked out that way. It seemed like it was record heat almost everywhere we were on that trip so we got pretty acclimated to the heat.

  12. #12
    Look Ma, NO hands!
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    Congratulations on compleating your first tour!

    I have just returned from my first tour. It was 6 days long and covered almost 400 miles. Some things I learned?
    1. The preperation and trip where well worth it, I had a blast!

    2. The Armidillo has replaced the Opossum as the road kill of choice in Middle Tennessee!

    3. Don't get hung up on speed! It is amazing how many miles you can pile up at 11-12 mph.

    4. Very few of the back country roads have the same name as is on the map! Don't be afraid to ask
    for directions.

    5. You can't tell anything about the road conditions from a map!

    6. Take the time to talk to anyone who shows intrest.

    7. It's a strange feeling, coming home when you are hours away, and in a car it would be mins.

    I had a wonderfull time, and am already planning my next trip. I averaged 70+ miles a day, it just happened that way, not planed. I visited several of Tennessee's state parks on my tour and several family members that are scattered along the way. I spent a day and two nights with my Daughter's family and enjoyed time spent with them. I experenced things on my bike that I could have never experenced in a car. One of the neatest things I saw was a cave of bats next to a highway that I'm sure most motorist don't even know are there. The freedom of chosing a new route on a whim was exciting and fostered a feeling of adventure in me.

    Things I would do different. Take more pictures. Stop more often. Jot a few notes at the end of a day.

    I would encourage any one considering taking a tour to DO IT!

  13. #13
    Senior Member BigBlueToe's Avatar
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    This sounds like a great tour. I'm originally from up there and have toured the San Juans and Whidbey several times. The road from Port Townsend down is on my list for someday.

    I learn something from every tour. I try to write it down so I'll remember for next time.

    I've never been as strong at the beginning of a tour as I was 5 or 6 days later. The first 3 days are always hard. For that reason I start with easy days - maybe 30 miles - and work my way up. After awhile 50 miles a day seems like a good average for me, though I can do 70 or 80 if the route calls for it.

    Sometimes you simply have to ride on busy roads with no shoulder. The best tool for this is a good rearview mirror. If you see something big approaching from behind and a good chance that it will reach you at the same time as someone coming at you in the oncoming lane, you'd better have a bailout plan. Lots of people simply won't wait to pass; they'll do it with inches to spare. That's not enough for me. I don't have a problem pulling off onto the shoulder and letting them go by.

    Adventure Cycling maps take you off of the main highway whenever they can. The roads they choose are almost always preferable to the main road. If there will be gravel, they tell you. For your next tour, check to see if Adventure Cycling has a map of the roads, and consider purchasing.

    I have diabetes so eating the right food at the right time is vital. It's actually quite a hassle, but not so much that I can't tour. In fact, touring is probably the best medicine. For non-diabetics, eating at the right time is also very important to prevent bonking. Getting dizzy is not a good thing.

    Where are you going on your next tour? (I have some suggestions for where I'd go if I still lived up there.)

  14. #14
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    Armadillos in Tennesse, huh uciflyflow?! I don't think I've ever seen one of those creatures before..

    Great to see so many first-tourers provide insights on touring! I'll hopefully be making my first tour from Humboldt, CA to SF, CA sometime this year. Thanks again for posting-- every little detail should be another small advantage on the road!

  15. #15
    'Mizer Cats are INSANE Mentor58's Avatar
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    The thing that I've learned about touring is that I can
    1. Start Late in the Day
    2. Ride slow
    3. Dawdle and sightsee all day

    The only thing is, I'm limited to just 2 of the 3 on any given day (usually). I tend to start early, don't have huge speed, but just keep going. Like someone posted, you can cover a lot of miles at 12 MPH if you just keep the legs turning.

    I eat before I'm hungry, drink before I'm thirsty, talk to people all day long as I see them, sing out loud on long lonely stretches of road (the ONLY time my singing is permitted, I think there is a law or something that was passed). I think about how neat it is that I'm moving across the world under my own power, going faster and further on less energy than seems reasonable. Oh yea, and PIE is always an appropriate choice for something to eat.

    Oh yea, and don't forget to help the turtles across the road.

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  16. #16
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    When I ride by myself, I usually don't have much to do, so I just bike all day and will cover 80 miles on average up to 130 miles when pushing it. When I ride with other people, we always stop and have a long lunch and take it easy, usually going 40 or 50 miles. Both ways are fun.

  17. #17
    bragi bragi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BigBlueToe View Post
    This sounds like a great tour. I'm originally from up there and have toured the San Juans and Whidbey several times. The road from Port Townsend down is on my list for someday.

    I learn something from every tour. I try to write it down so I'll remember for next time.

    I've never been as strong at the beginning of a tour as I was 5 or 6 days later. The first 3 days are always hard. For that reason I start with easy days - maybe 30 miles - and work my way up. After awhile 50 miles a day seems like a good average for me, though I can do 70 or 80 if the route calls for it.

    Sometimes you simply have to ride on busy roads with no shoulder. The best tool for this is a good rearview mirror. If you see something big approaching from behind and a good chance that it will reach you at the same time as someone coming at you in the oncoming lane, you'd better have a bailout plan. Lots of people simply won't wait to pass; they'll do it with inches to spare. That's not enough for me. I don't have a problem pulling off onto the shoulder and letting them go by.

    Adventure Cycling maps take you off of the main highway whenever they can. The roads they choose are almost always preferable to the main road. If there will be gravel, they tell you. For your next tour, check to see if Adventure Cycling has a map of the roads, and consider purchasing.

    I have diabetes so eating the right food at the right time is vital. It's actually quite a hassle, but not so much that I can't tour. In fact, touring is probably the best medicine. For non-diabetics, eating at the right time is also very important to prevent bonking. Getting dizzy is not a good thing.

    Where are you going on your next tour? (I have some suggestions for where I'd go if I still lived up there.)
    Actually, on some parts, like the Deception Pass bridge, which is a very narrow, somewhat long, high bridge with lots of traffic, including trucks, and no way to escape, I just "took the lane" and made liberal use of my middle finger. (Commuting experience comes in handy sometimes.) I did pull into a turnout as soon as I could, though, to avoid antagonizing people too much, and it seemed to be okay...

    Thank you for the info on Adventure Cycling maps; I'll look into that right away. On my tour, I resorted to getting tourist-oriented maps from roadside grocery stores, and they were better than what I had, which was basically nothing, but since they were not cycling-oriented, they still left a bit to be desired.

    I plan on doing one more short tour this summer, from Seattle, to Victoria, BC, via Port Townsend, to Port Angeles, and then on the ferry to Victoria. The route from Seattle to PT is okay, mostly, and there's a bike path from Sequim to Port Angeles, but the route from PT to Sequim looks rather terrifying. I'm considering taking the bus on that section, or, more likely, taking a long detour to avoid riding for 30 miles on a narrow, very busy, winding, two lane highway with no shoulder and very poor visibility.
    If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the precipitate.

  18. #18
    Cycled on all continents JohnyW's Avatar
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    [QUOTE=staehpj1;7115686]... to do something interesting I rode a few miles down the road and stayed in a different place....usually ride at least 30 mile a day even on rest (half) days.[QUOTE]

    Hi,

    now that's to much for me. If I hike a two-days hike in one day I really happy to fall to sleep and not pack my stuff to cycle another 50 km. I would say it really depends on the side-cycling-event and route.

    I'm often happy for the days that I don't have to unpack and pack my stuff. Especially major cities you can't see without spending at least 2 nights there.

    I come to an average per day of 70-80 km per day. I think that's a relaxing distance to see something and don't get tired. On my first trip I had an average of 210 km per day. It's possible but you don't see anything just riding, riding, riding

    Thomas
    My Travelogues: http://thomasontour.de (currently only in German)

  19. #19
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnyW View Post
    now that's to much for me. If I hike a two-days hike in one day I really happy to fall to sleep and not pack my stuff to cycle another 50 km. I would say it really depends on the side-cycling-event and route.

    I'm often happy for the days that I don't have to unpack and pack my stuff. Especially major cities you can't see without spending at least 2 nights there.

    I come to an average per day of 70-80 km per day. I think that's a relaxing distance to see something and don't get tired. On my first trip I had an average of 210 km per day. It's possible but you don't see anything just riding, riding, riding
    It's all good as long as you are having fun. For me my hikes when on tour are short, no more than a few miles. Somewhere like Yellowstone I might do 3 or 4 very short hikes in a day, but they are a mile or two each. Stops are likely to be an hour at some tourist attraction or most of a day to go whitewater rafting or something. On the TA for our whitewater rafting day I think we only rode 8 miles.

    For big cities... So far I have done two half days with one night in the city, but I don't really try to go to cities and mostly stick to smaller towns.

    For me packing and unpacking isn't a big deal. I never really unpack the panniers I just live out of them and seldom take them off the bike. Making or breaking camp is a 10-15 minute thing unless I feel like dawdling. Of course, when with a group it will always take longer.

    On the TA we averaged 100 km (including our rest half days) with our long day being 185 km. If alone I would probably averaged a bit more. We had really long days, but took lots of breaks. On a different sort of trip I might average more or less.

  20. #20
    Cycled on all continents JohnyW's Avatar
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    Hi
    Quote Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
    Making or breaking camp is a 10-15 minute thing unless I feel like dawdling. Of course, when with a group it will always take longer.
    The making time is the same but my breaking usually take 60 min to 120 min. (Okay had I record without tent in Australia of 2 Min. It was just panik middle in bush - middle in the night and the whole bush was covered with smoke. After I packed I realized that the fire is not close to me and I was really close (2min cycling) to next village.

    On the proceeding I think we're quite similar - but vary in visiting tourist attractions.

    Thomas
    My Travelogues: http://thomasontour.de (currently only in German)

  21. #21
    Senior Member Nigeyy's Avatar
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    Nice one uciflylow! Sounds like you had a great time and certainly sounds like you have the spirit for it -I have to say I share many or your observations. Congratulations!

    Quote Originally Posted by uciflylow View Post
    I have just returned from my first tour. It was 6 days long and covered almost 400 miles.

  22. #22
    Senior Member BigBlueToe's Avatar
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    I was in Glacier N. P. last week at the end of my tour. I met a guy from Buffalo, New York, who was cycling across the country. He said he often rides back-to-back 100 mile days. He says there have been lots of times when he rides 50 miles, gets to a campground, then says "What am I going to do for the rest of the day, sit around?" So he'll get back on the bike and ride for another 40 or 50 miles.

    When I get to a campsite after 50 miles, I'm very happy to just sit around. I love just sitting around! (Reading, drinking coffee, and snacking perhaps.) After riding 50 miles, I feel like I've earned it. To each his/her own. Tour for enjoyment.

  23. #23
    weirdo
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    Quote Originally Posted by BigBlueToe View Post
    He said he often rides back-to-back 100 mile days. He says there have been lots of times when he rides 50 miles, gets to a campground, then says "What am I going to do for the rest of the day, sit around?" So he'll get back on the bike and ride for another 40 or 50 miles.
    That happened to me, more or less. I took my first and my second mini tours this year- the first with my wife, the second alone. When I was by myself, I arrived at the point where I had planned to send the first night at about 1 PM. Since I still felt good and didn`t know what else to do, I just ate another lunch and kept on riding. When I reached a town, I looked for a place to buy a paperback but couldn`t find any (very small town). The next day was very similar. I rode 65 miles the first day and 93 the second pulling a BOB Yak- way more than I have ever ridden even unloaded before. Next time I`ll definitely pack a book.

    The trip I rode with my wife was the opposite. It was on a rail trail and I figured to ride the whole trail (24 miles, I think) the first day and return to our car the second day. We only made it half way up the trail the first day and that turned a bit scarry because we had planned to refill our water bottles at the town where the trail ended but my wife was just plain out of gas and there was no way she could go that much farther. We lucked out and found some car campers willing to give us all the water we wanted. Any rate, we spent several hours at that camp site after we finished riding and it was very enjoyable being there together. Alone, I need to be doing something- pedalling, cooking, sleeping, packing... reading. I can`t handle doing NOTHING. Maybe that`s why I never really enjoy going to the beach.

    In addition to bringing a book, the other thing see I need to work on is packing smaller (weight wasn`t a big problem, but I had too much bulk). I see that snacks go a long way- I had read to snack frequently and I over did it in that respect. Water continues to be a problem. I carried a lot and will keep doing that that because towns can be spread out around here and most natural water sources aren`t dependable. My biggie for this fall will be about 120 miles (mostly on dirt) in two or three days and entirely without towns, stores, or any guaranteed source of water.

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