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  1. #1
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    First Tour: San Diego to Boston. Suggestions please

    So I've finally, after about a year of nagging, convinced my job to give me the two months off that I need to do this. I've always wanted to do a tour across the US, and I plan to go from San Diego to Boston. I've never done any kind of touring before, my longest bike ride ever was doing a 67 mile road race for the Tour De Tucson.

    I picked San Diego to start from simply because I've never been there, and it seems like as good a starting location as any.

    Ending up in Boston is more important, that's where all my family is. I currently live in Tucson, AZ and have been here for about 3.5 years. I haven't been home in about a year so I plan to surprise my family by basically showing up at their house on my bike

    I plan to do this in August, which gives me another 8 months to train and get ready. I've already been training a bit by ditching my car and biking to work every day (10 miles each way, so about 100 miles a week)

    So far my plan is hazy but consists of this:

    I'd leave August 20th, and plan to ride about 70-80 miles a day. This should be a pretty leisurely pace but will get me there before it starts to turn cold in New England.

    I plan to camp every night. No motels or hotels for me. I'll couch surf once or twice maybe.

    Rather than mess with panniers, I think my best bet might be to use a trailer. I'm a big guy and would prefer to not have the bike handle all squirrely.

    I currently own a 2008 Trek 7000 that I've been commuting to work on. There's nothing WRONG with it certainly, but it doesn't seem like the best choice for doing a cross country road trip. Right now the bike I'm looking at to replace it is a Trek 7.5 FX. My price ceiling for a new bike is 800 bucks, MAYBE 900 if there's some extremely compelling reason to spend the extra hundred. I'm also keeping an eye out for a Trek 520 on Craigslist or a local E-Bay auction, used I might be able to snag one for that price. I know Treks, which is why I'm looking at those, but if there's another brand in that price range that's more of a touring bike, I'm certainly open to ideas.

    A few specific questions:

    #1. Is there any kind of pre-done route for this? I would've thought San Diego to Boston would be pretty popular, but I haven't found another example of doing it yet. I don't think throwing the route in Google Maps and choosing the "Avoid Highways" option is my best bet here.

    #2. What kind of budget should I have for this? I'm willing to sacrifice a LOT of comfort to save a few bucks, as I'm young and not exactly independently wealthy. So far my rough estimate is 800 for the bike, 300 for the flight to San Diego and back from Boston, 100 for a trailer, 150 to put fenders and other mods on the bike to get it touring-worthy, 700 for food along the way, 150 for a GPS unit, and 150 for a used Bike case to bring it on flights. So about 2500 bucks for the whole trip. That's just of course what I'd PLAN to spend, I'll have plenty for an emergency plane ticket home if I break my leg or whatever .

    So yeah, please chime in with any thoughts, especially about that route. I do intend to read the "Touring 101" thread front to back as soon as possible, for ideas of course. The one thing I'll preemptively say is that I'm keenly aware making my first 100+ mile trip be a self-contained tour of the US is absolutely not the smartest thing to do, and I'm going to do it anyways. I might be miserable for parts of it, but I'll make it.

  2. #2
    Senior Member cyclezealot's Avatar
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    Either go with a tour group or else your own group.. There are basically three routes.. The Southern route, northern route thru Montana, etc. Or a route thru Colorado..For particulars see Adventure Cycling. They sell cycling maps which recommend routes planned by and for their recommended tours.. .. Should you elect to go with one of their trans continental cycling tours, their non sag tours are one of the more reasonable. Their routes have been selected for safety issues...
    You can buy the maps without going on one of their tours ...
    About the routing.. The southern tour is the easier tour in terms of climbing... But go in early April before the heat hits... Expect hundreds of miles without facilities when going thru Arizona, New Mexico. A good bike friend took the southern route.. Mostly solo.. He had mechanical problems in West Texas... But, the locals are friendly and he was picked up by someone who drove him to a town with a bike shop.
    Last edited by cyclezealot; 01-06-09 at 02:12 AM.
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  3. #3
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    if you do no training, then 70-80 miles at the start might be asking a bit too much, I'd give your body at least a week of sub 50 mile days to get used to it, and build up from there.

    As the previous post mentioned, there are 3 well documented cross country routes:

    Northern Tier: Anacortes, WA, to Bar Harbor, ME
    TransAmerica Trail: Florence, OR (or Astoria, OR) to Yorktown, VA
    Southern Tier: San Diego, CA to St Augustine, FL

    So southern tier starts from where you want to start, but it follows the southern states so you would need to then ride up the east coast to Boston.

    Transamerica can be ridden in combination with the Western Express route, which begins in San Francisco (but can be gotten to from San Diego also), it meets up with the TransAmerica trail in Pueblo, Colorado.

    If you want to experience all kinds of scenery (sometimes in the same day) then you can't go past the classic TransAmerica trail. I rode it last year and had a blast, it will take you through all kinds of terrain and conditions.

    The great things about these 3 routes is that adventure cycling (www.adventurecycling.org) produce maps for these routes, which are brilliant. They contain places to stay, camp, gas stations, grocery shops, post offices etc, it has detailed directions, mileages, elevation etc, so you can really plan out your day quite well.

    You can always ride one of these 3 routes part of the way and then deviate when you need to to reach boston, however if you've chosen San Diego and Boston for arbitrary reasons, I'd consider one of these other 3 routes perhaps.

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    for your route, i think it is a good idea to look at the aca maps. they aren't everyone's cup of tea, but they are fairly safe, straightforward, and scenic. maybe check out some journals at sites like crazyguy and make your own route or deviate from the aca routes a bit. if you're not totally attached to riding from ocean to ocean, maybe ride to boston from tucson and then fly to wherever and ride home.

    continue to commute and train, and when you get time, take an overnight/weekend trip to someplace nearby. only you can know what gear you want and how fit you are. some people like to tour on special touring bikes and others prefer mountain bikes or hybrids. some prefer trailers, some prefer panniers. some prefer camping and cooking, some prefer motels and restaurants. you may find you don't need or want a gps or fenders or a different bike or a special case for the airplane (i suggest a cardboard bike box from your local shop.)

  5. #5
    Senior Member wheel's Avatar
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    For starters start in Tucson you gonna need all the extra millage you can get.
    Ditch the trailer idea you don't have a lot of time it will slow you down.

    August you are going to be hot start in Flagstaff. Grey hound is cheap saves about a week.

    I went from Phoenix to Flagstaff with a trailer in May and I was broiling with all the climbing. Then it snowed on me ha.

    ACA route all the way.
    I would look at the western express, Lewis and clark, Trans am, altantic coast . The neat thing here is they give you places to sleep which is a big factor in squeezing out mileage.

    100 miles a week vs 420 on tour yea train train train.

    I would start half way myself say in Chicago go up over into Canada come down and use the Erie canal. Something to that effect.

  6. #6
    Cycled on all continents JohnyW's Avatar
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    I would avoid fenders and GPS when you have 300 bucks more. 60 days means 11 bucks for food per day. In the US I need more food... Instead of the bike case I would buy a bike box from the airline (20 USD) or if you dismantle your bike buy used or cheap suitcase.

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  7. #7
    Senior Member late's Avatar
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    I think touring is great, and the best way to see the country. Having said that,
    I agree with the other posters.

    This is your first tour, it should be a learning experience, and I'd rather what you learned was not that you hate touring.

    You have a couple months. Most of us would kill have the ability to do that.

    If you want to stick with the cross country idea, seeing as it's August, I wonder if perhaps you should consider the Northern Route.

    But you have a lot of options. I'm in Maine, and one tour I have considered is riding to Niagra Falls from here. You could ride up to Burlington, take the ferry to NY, ride across northern New York, Chicago, take a couple days off and poke around Chicago. Lots of good music and eats. And then west from there.

    Whatever you do, good luck.
    We are as gods, we might as well get good at it.
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  8. #8
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Agentbolt View Post
    I'd leave August 20th, and plan to ride about 70-80 miles a day. This should be a pretty leisurely pace but will get me there before it starts to turn cold in New England.
    That may be do-able, but isn't leisurely. Most riders find they need either full or half days off with some regularity. I personally prefer no days of but like to take some 30-40 mile days. We found a 60 mile per day average reasonable for us. That works out to about 10 weeks for the TransAmerica (a great, but not very direct route).

    I plan to camp every night. No motels or hotels for me. I'll couch surf once or twice maybe.
    Good plan. My experience was that we could stay somewhere for free a bit more than half the time. I think we averaged about $6 per day for campsites and one stay in a motel, one in a cabin, and one in a teepee. We were splitting campsites 3 ways when they charged per site rather than per person. I would advise budgeting $10 per day for camp-sites, but shooting for less.

    Rather than mess with panniers, I think my best bet might be to use a trailer. I'm a big guy and would prefer to not have the bike handle all squirrely.
    I advise traveling as light as possible, which probably means panniers for most people. Since you are on a budget I recommend the Blackburn EX-1 Rack (rear), The Nashbar clone of the Blackburn low rider (front) and Nashbar Waterproof Panniers. Buy them when on sale and use a coupon code for an additional 10-20% off (see the coupon forum).

    #1. Is there any kind of pre-done route for this? I would've thought San Diego to Boston would be pretty popular, but I haven't found another example of doing it yet. I don't think throwing the route in Google Maps and choosing the "Avoid Highways" option is my best bet here.
    Maybe the Adventure cycling Northern Tier or Trans America (use the Western Express if you really want to go to California, but Oregon was one of the nicest states we rode in and the Western Express will likely be way too hot)

    #2. What kind of budget should I have for this? I'm willing to sacrifice a LOT of comfort to save a few bucks, as I'm young and not exactly independently wealthy. So far my rough estimate is 800 for the bike, 300 for the flight to San Diego and back from Boston, 100 for a trailer, 150 to put fenders and other mods on the bike to get it touring-worthy, 700 for food along the way, 150 for a GPS unit, and 150 for a used Bike case to bring it on flights. So about 2500 bucks for the whole trip. That's just of course what I'd PLAN to spend, I'll have plenty for an emergency plane ticket home if I break my leg or whatever .
    $2500 is do-able, but allow an extra $1000 or so cushion if you can.

    If you are going to buy a bike, I would get a dedicated touring bike. REI Novarra Randonee, Surly LHT, Fuji Touring, Trek 520, or Windsor Touring are good choices.

    My advice is to skip the gps and use the adventure cycling maps. They have a ton of useful info on them, including free places to stay.

    I also advise skipping the case. It will be a pain to deal with when you get to your start you will have to ship it home or to your end point. Either have a bike shop or REI pack the bike and ship it to another bike shop or pack it in a cardboard box and fly with it. We used the airline supplied box ($25) and were hit with a charge for flying with the bike ($70?).

    So yeah, please chime in with any thoughts, especially about that route. I do intend to read the "Touring 101" thread front to back as soon as possible, for ideas of course. The one thing I'll pre-emptively say is that I'm keenly aware making my first 100+ mile trip be a self-contained tour of the US is absolutely not the smartest thing to do, and I'm going to do it anyways. I might be miserable for parts of it, but I'll make it.
    Three of us had done no touring when we did the TransAmerica. Two had never ridden farther than 32 miles in one case and 42 in the other. We did fine. Training as you go works fine if you don't cut the time short. I advise starting off with easy days and building daily mileage over the first 10 days. That may be tough if you only have 8 weeks, 10 weeks is more comfortable of a pace if you are doing 4200 + miles of the TA or NT and I do highly recommend the Adventure cycling routes.

    I also recommend that you read some journals on crazyguyonabike.com. Our's may be a good one to start with since we were three first time tourists. Check it out at:
    http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/staehling2007
    Also use the search function there to find lots of other journals. They will often have gear lists and lots of other useful information.
    Last edited by staehpj1; 01-06-09 at 05:44 AM.

  9. #9
    Hooked on Touring
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    Let me do a little math.
    Let's say you do 75 miles per day for 8 weeks.
    450 miles per week for about 3600 miles, total.
    Allowing 1 day or two half days off per week -
    Weather, repairs, plumbing problems, etc.
    (500 miles per week yields 4000 miles)
    That leaves a couple of days for travel to/from -
    And a couple of days with your family.

    So San Diego to Boston is pretty much outside your time range -
    If you mostly follow Adventure Cycling routes.
    (The 3100 miles on the Rand McNally atlas is via interstate.)
    Add to that the rapidly shortening days in late summer/autumn.
    And the temperatures - although you already live in Arizona.
    (Just wondering - do you bike in the middle of the day in August?)
    Ideally, a San Diego to Boston trip would be in spring.
    A Boston to San Diego trip would work better in the fall temp wise.

    Then there's the mountain climbing.
    Most trips starting on the Pacific have you climbing pretty soon.
    The Southern Tier has you climbing 4000 feet the first day.
    The Western Express has you to 8500 feet by day three.
    And then there's the heat.

    Thus, I really would suggest the TransAm, to start, for a number of reasons.
    First, although warm, it will not be brutally hot.
    The climb to McKenzie Pass is gradual with plenty of shade.
    Second, there are plenty of bike services in case anything breaks.
    Third, you are more likely to encounter other touring cyclists.
    Riding with someone for a few days can be a big plus - esp. if you are inexperienced.

    You will need to plan out major segments on your own since you have to have a direct route.

    PS - I get so tired of Google Maps - regardless of option.
    I can't tell you how many people have posted "routes"
    that included imaginary/dirt/private roads - esp. in the West.
    You don't want to find yourself on an imaginary road in central Nevada.

    PPS - Budget - $10/day for food? I'm guessing that you are not going to be eating out at all - even McBurgers. It's the rare cyclist who doesn't stop for a restaurant meal now and then - to get out of bad weather - after an especially tough day. Lodging? Even if you plan to camp you should include some money for motels - esp since you will be riding into the mid-fall. Ummm - and there are camping fees in most state and national parks. Or, do you plan to stealth camp?
    Airlines - they charge mucho moolah for bikes now. Amtrak is much cheaper - but much slower. I did my first cross-country trip in the fall of 1987 with a $20/day budget and ran slightly over. $25 per day would be mighty little now - for a total of $1500. Forget the GPS, fenders, and bike case.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Jim from Boston's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Agentbolt View Post
    ... I've always wanted to do a tour across the US, and I plan to go from San Diego to Boston....Ending up in Boston is more important, that's where all my family is. I currently live in Tucson, AZ and have been here for about 3.5 years. I haven't been home in about a year so I plan to surprise my family by basically showing up at their house on my bike

    I plan to do this in August, which gives me another 8 months to train and get ready. I've already been training a bit by ditching my car and biking to work every day (10 miles each way, so about 100 miles a week)

    So far my plan is hazy but consists of this:

    I'd leave August 20th, and plan to ride about 70-80 miles a day. This should be a pretty leisurely pace but will get me there before it starts to turn cold in New England.

    I plan to camp every night. No motels or hotels for me. I'll couch surf once or twice maybe.

    Rather than mess with panniers, I think my best bet might be to use a trailer. I'm a big guy and would prefer to not have the bike handle all squirrely.

    A few specific questions:

    #1. Is there any kind of pre-done route for this? I would've thought San Diego to Boston would be pretty popular, but I haven't found another example of doing it yet. I don't think throwing the route in Google Maps and choosing the "Avoid Highways" option is my best bet here.

    ...So yeah, please chime in with any thoughts, especially about that route. I do intend to read the "Touring 101" thread front to back as soon as possible, for ideas of course. The one thing I'll preemptively say is that I'm keenly aware making my first 100+ mile trip be a self-contained tour of the US is absolutely not the smartest thing to do, and I'm going to do it anyways. I might be miserable for parts of it, but I'll make it.
    My wife and went cross-country in 1977 starting in Laguna Beach, CA and intending to go to Boston. We were time limited (May 4 to July 1) and in Colorado we realized we were not making fast enough time so we set our sights on Washington DC, and arrived there on June 26, and then took the train to Boston, so consider that option.

    We had a fairly good budget, and mainly sought a place with a shower every fifty miles or so, and most of our camping was out west. We used pannier bags to carry gear. We had a USA highway map to plot our overall route and picked up a state highway map in each state to find our daily routes.

    I think the postings above in particular by staehpj1 and jamawani are reliable and with a lot of good advice. For us, that trip was a lifetime watershed, and I enjoy reminiscing when such posts come up. Best wishes. BTW, I live in Kenmore Square and year round commute to Norwood.

  11. #11
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    Other things you should think about:

    - Nutrition on the bike/through the day. You need to do some longer rides to work out how much you need to eat and drink to stay happy.

    - Building up the hours in the saddle. Make sure you do some long rides back-to-back (or preferably overnight tours or long weekends) before the big one. You're on a schedule, so you don't want to be sorting out issues with chafing or sore bum or knee pain or hand numbness or elbow soreness on the trip.

    - PACK LIGHT. You're big, you're crossing mountains, you have a very ambitious goal (NOT leisurely) of 70-80 miles per day (don't forget you'll need a day off every now and then - say once a week - so your daily milage goes up about 15% right there).
    Look up Nun's thread on gear under 20lb.
    Do a google search on ultralight hiking for some ideas.
    Go panniers and racks (front and rear) rather than a trailer - lighter, less space for over-packing, MUCH easier if you are flying with the bike.
    Start slow with your gear purchases, you're on a budget. Consider weight, cost, comfort, durability, multiple uses. Don't buy anything on impulse. Use REI's exchange policies and discounts. Try stuff out on overnight camping trips.

    - Get a decent sleeping pad. If you're a big guy, you'll put more pressure on your hips as you sleep, and something like a prolite 3 might not be enough. (Although, they're comfy if you fold them in half and just have them under your torso).

    - Good bike fit is the priority in choosing a bike. If your current bike fits, but you want to upgrade, at least you have a good idea of what works for you. There's nothing wrong with a flat-bar bike, as long as you use bar ends or aero bars or whatever to give yourself more hand positions and a bit of variation in reach. Drop bars give you this, along with a more aero position (that will be uncomfortable if you have a big gut). V brakes are simpler to set up with flat bars, with drops you will end up with cantilevers, for which you need excellent brake pads and excellent adjustment or they don't work as well as they should.

  12. #12
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    Wow lots of great replies! I'll try to respond to the best points raised.

    You can always ride one of these 3 routes part of the way and then deviate when you need to to reach boston, however if you've chosen San Diego and Boston for arbitrary reasons, I'd consider one of these other 3 routes perhaps.
    I'm not choosing either place arbitrarily. I chose San Diego because a friend who goes up there often offered to give me a ride. This takes a lot of the complexity out of my situation. Bike goes in the car to San Diego, ride to Boston, ship the bike home from Boston.

    The ACA maps sound great, and I could link up with the Transamerica route for part of this, but I really need it to be a San Diego to Boston route.

    I would avoid fenders and GPS when you have 300 bucks more. 60 days means 11 bucks for food per day. In the US I need more food... Instead of the bike case I would buy a bike box from the airline (20 USD) or if you dismantle your bike buy used or cheap suitcase.
    You're right, I didn't budget nearly enough for food. I was going off spending 200 bucks a day on food normally, so I figured 300 or so would be good for while biking. I obviously need to think more in the 20 bucks a day range, so maybe 800 bucks for food.

    Fenders and a GPS seemed like no-brainer decisions to me. I hate getting soaked when riding through puddles, and the GPS would be a good way to get my bearings if I ever get lost (Don't have the best sense of directions.

    I apparently should go with Panniers instead of a trailer so I guess I'll have to figure out if panniers and fenders are going to work together.

    hat may be do-able, but isn't leisurely. Most riders find they need either full or half days off with some regularity. I personally prefer no days of but like to take some 30-40 mile days. We found a 60 mile per day average reasonable for us. That works out to about 10 weeks for the TransAmerica (a great, but not very direct route)
    Yeah I guess that might not be exactly an easy pace. I'm basing it on the fact that I already do 20 miles a day, and this is without any real training. And I do it at a much faster pace than I plan on doing on this ride (closer to 15 mph). So I figured if I bike about 10 hours a day, at 8 mph, that seemed pretty leisurely to me. Obviously there'll be mountain days where I don't come close to that, and some downhill/tailwind days where I do a lot more.

    I also forgot to include any camping costs in my budget. Doh. Say I camp every other night and it's 10 bucks a night. 300 dollars for camping then.

    I know a lot of the pre-planned ACA routes are roughly 4200 miles, but the trip I was looking at was more like 3200 miles. Just a quick Google Map check indicates with "avoid highways" turned on that it's about 3200 miles, and it's less than 3000 using the "walking" option. Obviously those need to be taken with a huge grain of salt, but let's say I average even 60 miles a day. Which seems more than reasonable. Even if the trip is 3500 miles, that's still less than 2 months (58 days). If I come back a few days late my job's not going to fire me.

    Also I definitely, definitely am keeping mind that no matter what I do I'm climing the Rockies, which when compared to puttering around the streets of Tucson is going to be a nightmare. I don't really have a good answer for this other than the fact that I'm going to be training a LOT here, and will go up Mt. Lemmon regularly, which while relatively small, is a pretty steep climb.

    The heat won't bother me too much. I bike around here in the summer, and other than getting a lot sweatier and more disgusting (and needing about 20x as much water) it's not too bad.

    I'm going to look more in to the Transamerica route and see about maybe just changing the end to end up in Boston, and I really am taking these suggestions to heart. I guess that's a "no" to using a 7.5FX for this, I'll look at real touring bikes (No REIs in Tucson, unfortunately). And "no" to a trailer as well. And my budget's going to have to go way up.

  13. #13
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    Alot of this has to do with how tough you are, how young you are, what condition your bike is in (should you give the current one a good once over or buy a new one), your credit card limit, etc. I recently did San Francisco to San Diego over a week. My friend was on a rusty Univega that she spraypainted pink, while I was on my top of the line bike and she crushed me every day, her being 10 years younger. You can do this. Don't let anybody tell you any different. In two months you could damn near run across the country if you were in good enough shape ( you could do 50 miles a day on foot if you were in really good shape and not carrying much weight). Its all a balance between how much time you want to spend sight seeing, relaxing, etc versus riding. Also how much comfort you are willing to give up. Grandma Gatewood thru hiked the appalachian trail with a quilt for a blanket and an old shower curtain for a tent and did it fine, and she was in her 70s.
    What you can do, versus what you should plan to do, is all in your mind, and all in what you want to get out of the trip. With that many months to prepare, you could pretty much do it any way you wanted if you dedicated the next 8 months or so to prepping for the chosen method.

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    Keep in mind that there won't be all that much daylight by the time September rolls around. You will have less than 12 hours of sunlight by the end of your trip. So if you are cycling non stop for 10 hours, that leaves 2 hours to do everything else that needs to be done in daylight, assuming you wake up at sunrise.

    Please take this as advice, not a criticism. I agree with Benajah, that these forums need to be taken with a grain of salt, especially when cheap equipment is put down as being a game breaker when it's really just an inconvenience. A lot of new tourers get their plan bashed pretty hard by some of the members. Remember that touring isn't super serious business, and you're never really that far from civilization or help when you are on a road in the US.
    Last edited by Dan The Man; 01-06-09 at 11:28 PM.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dan The Man View Post
    Keep in mind that there won't be all that much daylight by the time September rolls around. You will have less than 12 hours of sunlight by the end of your trip. So if you are cycling non stop for 10 hours, that leaves 2 hours to do everything else that needs to be done in daylight, assuming you wake up at sunrise.
    Good call there. I'm going on the assumption that by then I'll be in much better shape, so getting the same mileage done in, say, 8 hours, shouldn't be a problem.

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    Quote Originally Posted by benajah View Post
    Alot of this has to do with how tough you are, how young you are, what condition your bike is in (should you give the current one a good once over or buy a new one), your credit card limit, etc. I recently did San Francisco to San Diego over a week. My friend was on a rusty Univega that she spraypainted pink, while I was on my top of the line bike and she crushed me every day, her being 10 years younger. You can do this. Don't let anybody tell you any different. In two months you could damn near run across the country if you were in good enough shape ( you could do 50 miles a day on foot if you were in really good shape and not carrying much weight). Its all a balance between how much time you want to spend sight seeing, relaxing, etc versus riding. Also how much comfort you are willing to give up. Grandma Gatewood thru hiked the appalachian trail with a quilt for a blanket and an old shower curtain for a tent and did it fine, and she was in her 70s.
    What you can do, versus what you should plan to do, is all in your mind, and all in what you want to get out of the trip. With that many months to prepare, you could pretty much do it any way you wanted if you dedicated the next 8 months or so to prepping for the chosen method.
    Well, see, you're on my wavelength here. I'm 27, not in great shape but not a fat blob either, and I have 8 months to specifically train and plan for this. And, at the risk of sounding immodest, I'm pretty tough. I've lived in Tucson or New Hampshire my whole life and feel pretty comfortable with bearing extreme heat and cold. I made it to Life boy scout so I've roughed it a LOT worse than pitching a tent in the middle of a park somewhere to do some stealth camping. I ran track in high school and am used to pushing my body really hard when working out.

    I'm putting a LOT of faith in my ability to just grin and bear it, suck it up, power through the rough times, whatever you want to call it. It'll make the trip somewhat not "idyllic", but I'm not doing this so much for the relaxing, enchanting stroll through the countryside. It's more something I want to do just so I can say I did it.
    Last edited by Agentbolt; 01-06-09 at 11:35 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jamawani View Post
    Let me do a little math.
    Let's say you do 75 miles per day for 8 weeks.
    450 miles per week for about 3600 miles, total.
    Allowing 1 day or two half days off per week -
    Weather, repairs, plumbing problems, etc.
    (500 miles per week yields 4000 miles)
    That leaves a couple of days for travel to/from -
    And a couple of days with your family.

    So San Diego to Boston is pretty much outside your time range -
    If you mostly follow Adventure Cycling routes.
    (The 3100 miles on the Rand McNally atlas is via interstate.)
    Add to that the rapidly shortening days in late summer/autumn.
    And the temperatures - although you already live in Arizona.
    (Just wondering - do you bike in the middle of the day in August?)
    Ideally, a San Diego to Boston trip would be in spring.
    A Boston to San Diego trip would work better in the fall temp wise.

    Then there's the mountain climbing.
    Most trips starting on the Pacific have you climbing pretty soon.
    The Southern Tier has you climbing 4000 feet the first day.
    The Western Express has you to 8500 feet by day three.
    And then there's the heat.

    Thus, I really would suggest the TransAm, to start, for a number of reasons.
    First, although warm, it will not be brutally hot.
    The climb to McKenzie Pass is gradual with plenty of shade.
    Second, there are plenty of bike services in case anything breaks.
    Third, you are more likely to encounter other touring cyclists.
    Riding with someone for a few days can be a big plus - esp. if you are inexperienced.

    You will need to plan out major segments on your own since you have to have a direct route.

    PS - I get so tired of Google Maps - regardless of option.
    I can't tell you how many people have posted "routes"
    that included imaginary/dirt/private roads - esp. in the West.
    You don't want to find yourself on an imaginary road in central Nevada.

    PPS - Budget - $10/day for food? I'm guessing that you are not going to be eating out at all - even McBurgers. It's the rare cyclist who doesn't stop for a restaurant meal now and then - to get out of bad weather - after an especially tough day. Lodging? Even if you plan to camp you should include some money for motels - esp since you will be riding into the mid-fall. Ummm - and there are camping fees in most state and national parks. Or, do you plan to stealth camp?
    Airlines - they charge mucho moolah for bikes now. Amtrak is much cheaper - but much slower. I did my first cross-country trip in the fall of 1987 with a $20/day budget and ran slightly over. $25 per day would be mighty little now - for a total of $1500. Forget the GPS, fenders, and bike case.

    To the OP: read the above quote very carefully it carries some excellent advice. As do several others. Especially good advice about your budget of food, time and money. it's you, the bike and food. Food, food, food. There are going to be days you're going to want to chow down and not have to cook. Going cross country is a fabulous, challenging experience and it will have it's share of tough days be careful that you don't add to much to the stresses by not having enough time or money for the basic necessities.

    BTW, I agree with those who say a GPS is not a necessity but if you're bringing a cell phone many of them have a map program and GPS for an extra $10/ month that is quite good and will save you some weight and money over a GPS.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Agentbolt View Post
    I'm putting a LOT of faith in my ability to just grin and bear it, suck it up, power through the rough times, whatever you want to call it. It'll make the trip somewhat idyllic, but I'm not doing this so much for the relaxing, enchanting stroll through the countryside. It's more something I want to do just so I can say I did it.
    With that attitude, I am sure you will have no problem (as long as your bike doesn't fall part). Long distance touring is much more psychological than physical anyways.

    I think that San Francisco to Boston will be very doable in your time frame. I started my first tour without any experience except for commuting, and a few rides the month before. My longest ride beforehand was about 30 miles, and I averaged about 80 miles a day for 2 weeks.
    Last edited by Dan The Man; 01-06-09 at 11:47 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dan The Man View Post
    With that attitude, I am sure you will have no problem (as long as your bike doesn't fall part). Long distance touring is much more psychological than physical anyways.
    Cool, thanks. The bike falling apart is my main concern, because all the sucking it up in the world won't help when my a vital piece of bike bursts into flames or falls off or something

    I read the post you quoted VERY carefully. I think his timeframe is right on the money. 450 miles a week sounds like what I can reasonably hope for. 450/7 = ~65. So let's say 65 miles a day, assuming I take a day off once a week. I took exactly 55 days off, so that gives me 5 days to hang with the family when I get back, assuming nothing horrific happens. Also, if I'm two or three days late from a 2 month trip, my work isn't going to have a cow or anything

    One last thing: I'm looking at the dedicated touring bikes in this forum and there really don't seem to be any for less than a grand. I'd really, really wanted to keep the price of the bike at under 900 or so. Also, there isn't an REI in the area, and I can't find anywhere that sells the Surly or Fuji, so really the only option if I want to buy a bike from an LBS is the Trek 520, which is more like 1250 bucks.

    Is the Trek 7.5FX really that bad an option? It can have a rack and fenders installed, and it felt good when I tooled around the road on it during an admittedly brief test ride. I know I can do much better cost-wise by going used, but I'd like to get legitimately measured and have the bike tuned up for free over its life so going to a LBS directly seems like my better option for buying the bike.

    No one's really said "No the 7.5FX is a terrible choice" so I'd just like to have someone say that for sure before giving up on it.

  20. #20
    Slowpoach
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    You can decrease costs by buying bike 2nd hand or upgrading your current one; improvising panniers; using a tarp and groundsheet for camping; making your own alcohol stove and using a cheap light pot rather than a special purpose camping cookset; looking for 2nd-hand tools or other gear.

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    I dont know the bike you are considering but look for long chainstays (44-46cm), strong wheels (not sporty wheels), capability to take wider tyres (32-37mm should be fine), low gears (triple with 26 or less at the front, 30-34 at the back). You can find racks to fit even with no eyelets, but the cheaper racks generally need eyelets.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cave View Post
    I dont know the bike you are considering but look for long chainstays (44-46cm), strong wheels (not sporty wheels), capability to take wider tyres (32-37mm should be fine), low gears (triple with 26 or less at the front, 30-34 at the back). You can find racks to fit even with no eyelets, but the cheaper racks generally need eyelets.
    That was mostly greek to me, but I suppose I can ask the Trek folks if I just write it down. Like I said, I'd prefer to avoid going secondhand on the bike because I'd like to get fitted for whatever one I end up on, to ensure it's the right size (My current 7000 Hybrid, I got like a 12 second fitting on, and to this day I feel kind of wobbly and uncomfortable on it sometimes. I'm just not sure it's the right size).

    One thing is the 7.5 has a carbon fork, so maybe that takes it out of the running right there. I'm trying to determine if that's an automatic no-no for touring, I know most of the touring bikes people have suggested are all steel beasts.

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    What bike do I need
    While I'm not convinced that your plan is a good one don't let anyone tell you that you can't use whatever bike you want. Some are more optimal, more comfortable, better geared, etcetras than others. But, I rode a 900 mile tour through France on my 10 kilogram racing bike fitted with a special axel so I could mount panniers. I had a set of "water proof" panniers that leaked like a sieve. I also used a $20 aluminum Target-quality rear "baggage" rack with no front rack. I carried no cooking equipement but had a tent, light weight sleeping bag, sleeping mat, 1 set of street clothes, two sets of riding clothes, a repair kit, etc. In the end, close to 35 lbs of gear.

    Stupid? Yes, but it can be done.

    Training
    I suggest that your training should include adding 40 lbs to your current bike. What you think you can do with no weight may not be the same as you can do with the weight; especially in the mountains. The year before I went touring and the months leading up to my tour, I rode an average of 50 miles a week. The last two months I increased this to 100 milesa week; I put the rack and panniers on the bike and put 30lbs of weights in the panniers.

    Riding alone:
    No matter how much of a loner you are, riding cross country alone is no fun. Or at least it wasn't for me and I do most activities alone. (My wife of 30 years doesn't like the outdoors very much). On the days that you have a strong headwind a riding companion is a god-send. Consider trying to link up with at least one other person, It might even be possible to share different segments with different people.

    You might want to check what the prevailing winds are, if you can. Constantly fighting a headwind can be demoralizing. Much to my detriment, I discovered half way through my tour of the Loire Valley that the route was against the wind all the way; from start to finish. I was following a known route with a route guide book, but the book failed to mention that the route was into the wind. The average windspeed was around 8 mph. That's a lot of headwind to fight.

    GPS
    I know that others are saying that a GPS isn't needed but I wouldn't think of going out of the house without my Garmin. I really like being able to look back at my GPS logs of my tour. I can tell where I was at any day and even what time it was. I can review the milage information on a per day basis and look at my heart rate. I can graph heart rate against grade and I can view my cadence. It's not necessary but the logs make a great souvenir of the trip.

    Charlie
    Last edited by clupica; 01-07-09 at 04:55 AM.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by clupica View Post
    Riding alone:
    No matter how much of a loner you are, riding cross country alone is no fun.
    That one is going to be personal preference.

    There are some tradeoffs including items you mention. On other hand, you can also sync up the trip in the way you like to make it work. You also may be a little more approachable by others as a single rider than a group.

    For me, I've ridden alone twice across US, once across Canada and once around outside of Australia. When I chose to spend five months crossing Russia I did find another person since the combination of five months and not being in my native language meant it was nice to speak a little more in depth with someone speaking a native language. I'd be at least as happy riding most longer tours by myself but that is going to be a personal preference thing.

    When it comes to routes, I would also do something similar to what OP is thinking of in hooking up part way with trans-America route and then perhaps modifying the end near Boston. You might want to look a little at start of the Southern Tier route between San Diego and Phoenix as well. The reason for checking ST route is even at the end of August, that initial ride through some of the southwest deserts has some risk of some pretty hot temperatures. Given there are a few slightly larger gaps between towns/water and also this is start of the trip where you might be slowly working up some mileage, it is useful to get info you can about potential services and water stops. Other than that, I've found most routes in the western US away from populated areas pretty straightforward riding on major highways I pick up from state maps.

    On the other end, getting closer to Boston, I've found some more variability on eastern roads with occasionally lots of traffic without much shoulder and occasionally pretty nice road. The other thing I've noticed is crossing the Appalachians the wrong way more likely to have lots of short and steep hills rather than the bigger more gentle climbs in west and Rockies, and I generally found the west easier because of that. However, by end of your trip, you should also have the most experience in looking at state maps and picking and adjusting your routes, asking locals etc to adjust as necessary.

    The other "training" suggestion I'll have is to see if you can get in some shorter 3-5 day type mini-tour trips before departing on the long ride. That will give you a chance to try out some equipment including your bike and also give you more of a sense of where your own preferences lie when it comes to touring and what works for you.

  25. #25
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    Bike Choice
    The 7.5FX could work, but if buying a bike for the trip I would buy one designed for the task at hand. The 7.5FX has flat bars and I would recommend drop bars. It also doesn't really have low enough gearing, but that is true of some of the dedicated touring bikes. Most of them have an adequate cluster on the rear, but some have too high gearing on the front.

    You can order a bike on line if you decide on one that isn't available locally. The Randonee, LHT and Windsor Touring can all be ordered. Several of the bikes mentioned are in the $599 to ~$1000 range. I used the Windsor Touring ($599 including shipping), but changed the crank (Sugino XD600, $80) to get better gearing.

    All that said bike choice is really not a major factor on the the success of the trip as long as it:
    1. Has low enough gearing.
    2. Fits well and is comfortable.
    3. Is durable enough.
    4. Can carry your gear without problems.


    Training
    Nothing wrong with training and at a minimum you need to be used to spending all day in the saddle. Personally I don't train with a loaded bike and don't find it necessary. You can train as you go, but it is important that your butt is used to saddle time.

    Daily Mileage
    Lots of people find that they need more time than they think. I was in pretty good riding shape when we started and while the first week while my partners were getting in shape was slow for me, I did not find the daily mileage to be a cakewalk by any means.

    We did cross the Continental Divide 9 times and went over many passes, but the climbs up the passes were not always the parts I remember as being hard. Days with 100+ heat and days with a strong headwind come to mind. We actually did better mileage on mountain days sometimes than days we expected to be easy.

    Also remember that sometimes the towns will be 40-80 miles apart which means stopping where there is a town and limiting your choice of how many miles you do that day. Often you need to choose between 20 miles less than you want to do and 20 miles more.

    Starting Point
    Don't rule out hopping on a train and starting farther up the coast.

    Riding Alone
    That is a personal preference. Everyone is different and we met quite a few people who were very happy riding the TA alone. On the TA you will meet lots of other riders and can ride with someone if you choose.

    GPS
    I am a big GPS user. I use it sailing, hiking, kayaking, canoeing, and running. I started my TA with one and sent it home the first week. You really don't need it on an AC route and we didn't miss it when we were off route. Heart rate, cadence, etc. are not what a coast to coast tour is about to me. In fact the bike and gear aren't either. The important things are the things you see and the people you meet. Better to just keep a journal and jot down the important stuff daily. That is my biggest regret, that I didn't write a journal until after the trip.
    Last edited by staehpj1; 01-07-09 at 06:52 AM.

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