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  1. #1
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    enough time to train for transam?

    hey,

    so i have the opportunity to go on the transam trail this august-october. however, i've never toured before, and i know that date is fast-approaching. i was wondering whether considering my current fitness level and the time remaining, i have enough time to be able to be able to physically handle an average of the 60 miles per day my friend is aiming to cover.

    i'm generally fit, but don't bike too much. the last two days i was able to complete 30 and 35 miles (respectively) unloaded on a moderately hilly route. it was a challenge, but doable. i didn't need breaks. however, i know the transam is mountainous in places, and i'm sure traveling with a loaded bike makes a huge difference.

    if i have enough time, how should i prepare for this? i was thinking of riding shorter distances (about 20 miles) 3/4 times during the week, at faster speeds, and soon adding weight, while keeping saturday and sunday for more time consuming, longer rides. hopefully up to 50 miles by july 1st? what's a reasonable amount of weight to travel with? my bike is about 35 pounds. and i'm not sure how tent, sleeping bag, bike repair kit, etc. generally weighs. i know there's fluctuation. ballpark would be great. and i'll try not to pack too much

    i understand i'm getting into this with no experience. and i'm probably asking some ridiculously novice-like questions. but i'd genuinely appreciate any sincere advice. this just sounds like too good an opportunity to pass up!
    Last edited by lisette; 06-07-09 at 10:37 PM.

  2. #2
    ah.... sure. kayakdiver's Avatar
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    Start slow and build up your miles. Say shoot for 75 the first week. 100 the second and so on. This is but an example and start with fewer miles if need be. The key to having fun is being in shape before you leave. Build up the miles until your trip.

    Take a few short weekend tours before you go. This will help you with packing and also with what works and does not work.

    This should get you started. Some people around here tour and get in shape at the same time.

    Practice is key. You will have a blast I'm sure. I did a cross country last summer and it was amazing. It will be worth the work to get ready.
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  3. #3
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    You'll be fine, just ride a lot in the next couple months.

  4. #4
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    There is no real need to seriously train much for a TA. When three of us did the TA in 2007, one was in riding shape and had lots of miles in, one was a casual cyclist in the past but was pretty sedentary recently, and one was a runner who had never been a cyclist. The two who were not in riding shape got a couple rides in a week for a few weeks before we left. Their longest ride was 32 miles. They both did fine and we finished the 4244 miles in 73 days.

    The TA is a long enough ride that you can start off taking it easy and build miles as you go. After 10 days to 2 weeks, you will be ready to pick up the pace. The rider who had been sedentary was the strongest of the group not all that far into the tour.

    You do want to have enough miles in to condition you butt to the saddle if possible though. It would be a big help if you were doing at least the number of miles you want to ride daily as a weekly average.

    As far as riding with weight to train... My preference is to not bother. The real key is just time in the saddle. Riding with a load is a necessity when on tour, but it is not a requirement for getting into shape to tour. Riding unladen when not on tour will keep the riding fun and still serve the purpose of getting you ready. I never have ridden with a load as training and don't plan to in the future.

    If starting in the East you probably need to be in a bit better shape to start since the climbs Appalachians while shorter are much steeper. Still you can train as you go, but you might wind up walking a bit on some climbs especially if you are way out of shape and start in the East.

    So bottom line... Spend a lot of time on the bike if you can, don't sweat it too much if you can't, and take it easy the first two weeks.

    You may want to read my journal from the TA since it details a TA done by 3 first timers.

    BTW: Travelling light is a huge help. I recommend making 40 of baggage teh absolute limit, but shoot for 30 if you can. A week into the trip reevaluate and send stuff home, then repeat that once in a while through out the trip. Also have stuff sent from home if you only need it later in the trip. General Delivery is your friend
    Last edited by staehpj1; 06-08-09 at 04:26 PM.

  5. #5
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    Absolutely do not go overboard trying to train nor trying to hit that average 60 per day right away, thought it's a reasonable amount for the trip as a whole. You will probably be fine in any case. There are plenty of people in poorer shape than you who have done the transam without problems. I agree that East to West is more challenging as weather and winds are generally west to soutwest till fall and some of the steepest rides I had were in the east. It's a small point but going west to east I enjoyed having the sun greet me in the morning and at my back in the evening.

    Weight is important for hills, but DO NOT obsess about the weight of your bike unless you have the money to buy significant weight savings without sacrificing utility and reliability.

    The one exception to both training and weight is if you need to and can trim your own weight before the trip it is a great help to do so, as you will be in better health as well as trimmer and possibly having more muscle in the engine.
    Last edited by cny-bikeman; 06-08-09 at 08:27 AM.

  6. #6
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cny-bikeman View Post
    I agree that East to West is more challenging as weather and winds are generally west to soutwest till fall and some of the steepest rides I had were in the east.
    I don't believe that about the prevailing surface winds. Where the TransAmerica crosses the much of the country it goes southeast. In those same areas the Summer surface winds are typically out of the southeast. That said I wouldn't plan my direction of travel on the TA based on prevailing winds, it is too much of a crap shoot and there are other factors that are probably more important.



    In the East and the Pacific NW winds are not such a big factor due to the terrain.

    BTW: If starting in August I think I would prefer to ride W-E based on weather. Since that is also the best direction for training as you go it seems like W-E would be the way to go unless you have some very strong preference to go the other way.

    If you were leaving now (or earlier) the weather would probably be better for E-W, except for the prevailing winds.

  7. #7
    Senior Member BigBlueToe's Avatar
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    The more training you can get in the better, but if you haven't trained much you can still go. I started my biggest tour to date - a west coast ride from Seattle to Santa Cruz - a month and a half after surgery to repair a hernia. I didn't ride up until the last couple of weeks prior to leaving, and I certainly wasn't in very good shape. I rode myself into shape on the tour. After 3 or 4 days of the daily grind, I wasn't suffering much.

    Every tour since has been similar. I've never been in as good shape as I would have wished. I always suffered a little the first couple of days. I always got into the groove after 3 days or so.

    Knowing this, I now schedule three easy days to start a tour - even as short as 25 miles. I don't feel guilty about it either. (Some people would.) I enjoy the long afternoons of resting, relaxing, and reading. By the 4th day I'm ready and eager to start making more progress each day.

  8. #8
    Senior Member damselfli's Avatar
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    look at www.adventurecycling.com and read the various posts and advice columns

    they are full of good information about training/conditioning; packing; gear; food; etc.

    have a great time.
    __~o
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  9. #9
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    I'm on my TA tour right now, and my buddy jumped in on the trip 3 weeks before we left. He's not a cyclist, just rides everywhere in town and is in good physical shape. He didn't have any problems doing 60 miles in hills the first day. After the first 2 weeks, we were both in such better physical shape than when we started, I'm not sure how much it would have mattered if we had been in excellent shape to begin with.

    Plan for short days to begin with, and if you do more than that, great! 60 miles per day is different than a 60 mile ride at home. You have all day to do it on tour. My question is: do you really want to go? If the answer is yes, don't let anything stop you.
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  10. #10
    Senior Member Cyclebum's Avatar
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    I agree. No need to overdo the training. Gets boring and could lead to burnout. 20 intense miles on hilly terrain 2-3 times a week, with a few longer runs thrown in as the tour date nears. The long runs are mainly to check out how your rear and your saddle are getting along, a major "sore" point with many. Plan at least one 60 mile out and back overnighter to check everything out.

    Your pack weight should not exceed 40 pounds for a self supported tour, plus water. Otherwise you're hauling too much stuff. No need to train with the load, the intense 20 milers will compensate for that.

    Remember, you'll be training as you tour. Plus, I guarantee riding with a partner will have your competitive juices flowing. It'll be a lot easier than the training rides. And a lot more fun.

    Consider your gear ratios. If they are standard road bike, they're too high for comfortable loaded touring thru mountainous terrain. I run with 48/36/26 chain ring and a 34 granny in the back. A similar combo might be very useful in Appalachia. Big difference climbing loaded and unloaded.

    Have fun.

  11. #11
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    thanks so much for all the help. it looks like i'll be able to do this and i'm really looking forward to it. i start the "career" in october, and i'm not sure when in the near future i'd have a chance to do something this awesome and time consuming. so i'm definitely psyched.

    i'm going to betray a crazy amount of ignorance here though. i have no idea what a gear ratio is. i went to a few bike shops and found one where i really liked the vibe. the sales people seemed to love bikes and know their stuff. and after explaining a lot, the guy recommended the surley long haul trucker, which is what i purchased. it's a small frame. he originally ordered the 52, but wouldn't let me leave with it because i didn't have enough clearance. (short legs- agh! ) so now i'm on the 48 which has been fitted, had some minor adjustments, and so far feels great- though i can go back if i need any tweaking and for a tune up before i leave.

    is gear ratio something that's pre-determined or hard-to-adjust? currently i'm still riding in pretty low gears. it's fine for the flat and makes me work for the hills, but hopefully i quickly get comfortable on the harder ones.

    also, there's a bike maintenance class i was going to take. but it's a little expensive- $300. i'm sure it's worth it- it meets for several weeks, and you get to talk with a mechanic about special concerns with your own bike too. i'd like to be prepared out there. but if i could be prepared and keep $300 that'd be the best.

    all i've ever done on a bike before is inflate/patch a tire, put a fallen chain back on, and replace missing spokes. is there a ton of other stuff i should know before going on the trail? or should i just cross my fingers and hope a bike shop is nearby should anything else go wrong?

    thanks again for everything so far. i don't mean to pepper with the questions. but it seems like there are a million things to do/think of in the next couple months

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by lisette View Post
    ... is gear ratio something that's pre-determined or hard-to-adjust? currently i'm still riding in pretty low gears. it's fine for the flat and makes me work for the hills, but hopefully i quickly get comfortable on the harder ones.

    also, there's a bike maintenance class i was going to take. but it's a little expensive- $300. i'm sure it's worth it- it meets for several weeks, and you get to talk with a mechanic about special concerns with your own bike too. i'd like to be prepared out there. but if i could be prepared and keep $300 that'd be the best. ...
    Sheldon's website will give you 90% of what you need (the other 10% is actual wrench time )

    Come to think of it, throw in the Park Tool website, and you're up to 98%.

    Sheldon has a page on gear ratios: here. The front gears (chainrings) work with the back gears (cogs, or cassette) to give you high or low leverage -- the "gear ratio". All of these can be changed.

    I hear ya on the $300. If you don't have much time till you head off on tour, it's probably worth it to take the class. But if you have a couple months before you go, settle down with a good internet connection, an old bike and a bunch of wrenches, and learn by yourself. I'd say that 90% of the probable mechanical issues you'll experience on tour can be handled by someone with basic knowledge, basic skills, and the confidence of past experience.

    This includes replacing cables, brake pads; adjusting shifters, derailleurs; identifying noises and clicks; fixing tires, tubes; replacing spokes, tuning wheels; adjusting/tightening stem, bottom bracket, seatpost, saddle. And most of all, knowing when to get help. There's always the chance of major repairs (broken crank, waffled rim), but the probability is low and even a shop mechanic wouldn't service these on the road.

    You don't need much in specialized tools. Offhand, I'd say a spoke wrench, chain wrench, bottom bracket tool, and a cassette removal tool -- all good quality. Plus standard allen wrenches, box ends, and screwdrivers.

    The bicycle is a very simple machine, really. If you have any mechanical aptitude at all, you'll get great satisfaction in doing your own maintenance. The area that causes the most difficulty, IMO, is keeping up with new-fangled components and different sizes. That's one reason I stick with the same basic (and mostly old-school) components/sizes for all my bikes.

    -- Mark

  13. #13
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lisette View Post
    or should i just cross my fingers and hope a bike shop is nearby should anything else go wrong?
    There are places where the TransAmerica do not have a bike shop for a long way (I don't recall any in eastern Colorado, Kansas, or much of Missouri) unless you go off route to find one. So it would be wise to get some knowledge if you can. On the other hand there will be other riders that you will meet frequently, people in towns along the way who are cyclists, and you could in a pinch bum a ride into a town that does have a bike shop. By going off route you can probably find a bike shop every few hundred miles at worst.

    Generally things just seem to work out somehow in my experience, but prepare yourself as much as you can to stack the odds in your favor.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by lisette View Post
    i'd like to be prepared out there. but if i could be prepared and keep $300 that'd be the best.
    In any kind of city there's almost always a bike co-op or collective. A lot of times they have classes going on for free every few weeks or so. Definitely worth checking out. You can go to those same places and just start talking to the people there, they're all about teaching people about bikes, and they're all about free! (usually)

    Sheldon's website is a great place for info as well, if you're able to learn that way. Once you're getting your hands dirty, it's a great what-the-hell-did-I-just-do, how-do-I-put-that-back-on resource.

    Quote Originally Posted by lisette View Post
    ...it seems like there are a million things to do/think of in the next couple months
    All part of the adventure. Get out there and have fun!
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  15. #15
    Prefers Cicero cooker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Weasel9 View Post
    He's not a cyclist, just rides everywhere in town .
    Okay.

  16. #16
    Senior Member lighthorse's Avatar
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    lisette,
    You have a month to get ready. Make yourself a training plan based on what you think you can do and then stick to it. You have just outlined the training plan in your post. My long tour training plan does include loaded riding but that is just me.
    The second issue that you need to begin working on is your stuff. Reading your post it doesn't appear that you have begun to think seriously about what stuff to take and how much it is going to weigh. Start now, and keep refining your stuff list. We all end up taking way too much stuff, especially on our first long tour.
    Good lluck, you will do fine.
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  17. #17
    Prefers Cicero cooker's Avatar
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  18. #18
    <riding now> BigAura's Avatar
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    There's only one real way to get in shape for riding all day with a loaded bike THAT IS ride all day with a loaded bike.



    Your fitness and training plan sound fine. Keep your pack list and weight as small as possible. Once you start the trip it gets easier each day OR SO. It will take you TWO WEEKS and all soreness will disappear. Along the way, mail home excess stuff to lighten your load.


    Enjoy your tour.

  19. #19
    Senior Member Cyclebum's Avatar
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    I know next to nothing about fixing anything complicated on a bicycle. Have ridden several thousand miles on tour with nothing worse than a broken spoke which I repaired with a temporary fiber spoke. Get one. Had to call my LBS to find out how to retrue the wheel. BTW, make sure their phone number is stored in your cp. Don't be overly concerned about mechanics. The odds of anything serious breaking are very small. If it did, you probably could't fix it in the field anyway. Your bike shop can talk you through the minor stuff.

    Tools I carry:

    Leatherman
    Allen wrenches
    Spoke wrench
    Phillips screwdriver
    Knife
    Cable ties
    Duct tape

    I would recommend a new chain every couple thousand miles or so. A stretched chain increases wear on the gear teeth, reducing their life span. Clean and oil the chain every 3 or 4 hundred miles, or after heavy rain.

    As for gear ratios, the Trucker is stock geared right for most, but your LBS can replace the stock with mountain bike gearing, which is as low as practical. Not too unusual for loaded touring. I just had them installed on my bike and find it just right with 40 pounds of gear aboard. Might find yourself spinning a little high in the flats, but won't have to worry about running out of gear on the climbs.

    Be sure and journal your ride. Bet you can write an interesting one. www.crazyguyonabike.com is a good place for this.
    The bicycle is one of the great inventions of mankind. Delights children, challenges young men to feats of daring, and turns old men into boys again.--Me

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