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  1. #1
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    reconsidering - the joys of solo touring

    hello bike friends,

    I thank you for opening this thread. I posted curious if anyone had initiated a bike tour with another forum member two days ago. Having followed links you all posted and reading a good bit of information I have reconsidered solo touring. I am a 24 year old female and considering touring the natchez trace parkway (unfinished business from last summer have quit early in tupello MS) and then heading east to visit mammoth cave and the red river gorge in Kentucky. if im feeling really gutsy and adventurous i could take the road back west and hop on the transamerica trail and then the lewis and clark trail to oregon.

    I could do this on my own? Would any of you fatherly types out there instinctively worry for my or perhaps your daughters safety? or would you approve and encourage this with the proper skills and things.

    and if someone experienced and willing could guide me in roughly gauging distance and time. if i travel no less than 75 miles a day and start in natchez how long do you think it might take me atleast and atmost to get to oregon?

    if you've gotten this far, thanks for being patient with a new member and a fresh new face to touring. we new comers really appreciate and gain a lot from the experienced, so thank you kindly for your wisdom and time.

  2. #2
    Grillparzer Grillparzer's Avatar
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    I could do this on my own? Would any of you fatherly types out there instinctively worry for my or perhaps your daughters safety? or would you approve and encourage this with the proper skills and things.
    A couple of months ago in a different forum I had a discussion with a young British girl whose intent was to cross northern Africa alone, if she can follow through with her ambitious plans so can you. I think 75 miles per day may be slightly unrealistic, but there are others on this forum who can provide better advice on that topic then I can. I'd plan for sixty a day with at least a one day rest out of every seven.
    People are broad-minded. They'll accept the fact that a person can be an alcoholic, a dope fiend, a wife beater and even a newspaperman, but if a man doesn't drive, there's something wrong with him.

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    Hey there. Well, I did suggest soloing on your other thread, so I guess it's no surprise I think you can do it alone. You come across as someone who has her head on straight, which I think is the most important factor.

    The biggest hazard of bike touring is traffic. This is the same if you are alone or in a pair, and gender doesn't matter. I guess there's a chance that you could be injured and alone with no one to help you, but most places have at least a few cars an hour, and this also doesn't really relate to gender much - many of us, male and female, take this risk.

    The hazard you are worried about - people, specifically, creepy men. Well there are a few. But, not that many, esepcially in more rural areas. I can't speak for the southeast USA, since I avoid it, and I would sort of guess there is a bit more people-danger there than in other rural areas, but in the west and plains, I had almost 100% good people experiences, and the few bad ones, you just have to keep your radar on, and be smart. If someone seems creepy, assume he is and take measures to not get in trouble - like don't say where you are camping, or take hotel room if you can't find a safe feeling place to camp. Meet camp hosts and tell them you are solo, they will look out for you. That kind of thing.

    Also, I find projecting an air of confidence and being totally non-sexy / non-flirty seems to help. At least, it helps me psychologically, from not feeling vulnerable.
    The other thing you can do to feel safer solo is learn a little more about your bike so you can feel confident to do road side repairs.

    As to pace, I am an *avid* cyclist, but am a small person. I average 55 or 60 miles/day for riding days when touring, not including the day off I take every 7-10 days. I find that the weight of my loaded bike affects my speed much more than it does for bigger people. Last summer I had an opportunity to ride loaded with a couple of guys who I normally do day rides with. I was consistently much faster than them on my road bike and consistently much slower than them on my loaded tour bike. I attribute this to the raw power it takes to move the extra mass - I have power to weight, but not much raw power.

    So, if you are a smaller person, take that into account - when you hear guys (staeph1, I can here you coming) say they average xx miles / day and don't take rest days, you really need to discover for yourself what your daily milage will be. Most people say 60/day, some people definitely do a lot more, others a lot less. If you have to ballpark your pace, I would use 60 not 75 unless you are a very strong rider, even racer level.

    One thing you can do to mitigate the uncertainty of your pace is don't book a ticket home until you're getting within a couple of weeks of where you are finishing, so you don't have a deadline. Also, flexibility of other parts of your plan - route, final destination, etc. - can really relieve a lot of stress along the way. If you have weather you need to wait out, get sick, fall in love and want to hang out for a week, you can.

    Have fun!

    oh yeah, Lewis & Clark is great
    ...

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    I think being on your own would be mostly psychological. Does being on your own for days on end sound exciting or distressful to you?

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    I've met several solo women on the road and none of them seemed to have experienced anything untoward. I met one on the Ice Fields who came solo from Denali! And they were all very friendly with me from the get go. My guess is that if you're the kind of person who is rarely "creeped out", then you likely won't be creeped out on the road either. But Valgrl's advice is sound. In fact, I follow it too!

  6. #6
    Neil_B
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    Ditto Valygrl's advice, although I'd perhaps be more moderate in comments about 'creepy' men and the Southeast of the US.

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    Senior Member oldride's Avatar
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    Scottie, you asked for a fathers opinion, well as a father I would worry about my daughter going solo. Of course its doable and unlikely that you would have a problem. But I would worry. Do you have much general travel experience? I think many of the women who solo tour or backpack have other travel experience which is helpful. Be aware and have fun.

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    Quote Originally Posted by The Historian View Post
    Ditto Valygrl's advice, although I'd perhaps be more moderate in comments about 'creepy' men and the Southeast of the US.
    I just watched "Kalifornia" last night, FWIW.
    ...

  9. #9
    Senior Member Cyclebum's Avatar
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    Old NE La, now Tx, guy here who I hope would not 'creep' you out. Anyway, Google Maps is now a cyclist friendly tool for planning. Give it a try. Will quickly let you rough out routes and estimate traveling times.

    Average speed for loaded touring, day in and out, is probably close to 50 per day on long tours. You'll want to take some days off to rest or for bad weather. There'll be zero mileage days and maybe 100 mile days.
    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

  10. #10
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    I live in San Diego county where we've had a murder of a 17 YO girl and the discovery of the body of a missing 14 YO girl both within the past two weeks. Despite having a (male) suspect in custody for at least the former, the tension around here is palpable. Plus we have 4000 other registered (male) sex offenders in the county. So I guess my point is that "creepy men" are probably everywhere and the precautions outlined by Valygrl above are waranted.

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    Quote Originally Posted by valygrl View Post
    As to pace, I am an *avid* cyclist, but am a small person. I average 55 or 60 miles/day for riding days when touring, not including the day off I take every 7-10 days. I find that the weight of my loaded bike affects my speed much more than it does for bigger people. Last summer I had an opportunity to ride loaded with a couple of guys who I normally do day rides with. I was consistently much faster than them on my road bike and consistently much slower than them on my loaded tour bike. I attribute this to the raw power it takes to move the extra mass - I have power to weight, but not much raw power.
    I agree with what you write and can echo the above. My girlfriend is small: 5' about 105. I am 6'2" and about 205 during peak season. On road rides, she's usually waiting for me at the top of longer climbs and she can hang in flat pace lines. She did her first loaded tour with me this summer. It was nice to be the one who was usually waiting.
    "I've wanted you to succeed, but watching you find excuse after excuse after excuse and then laugh it off as the loveable, quirky, chubby guy is getting old."--Ill.Clyde

  12. #12
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by valygrl View Post
    So, if you are a smaller person, take that into account - when you hear guys (staeph1, I can here you coming) say they average xx miles / day and don't take rest days, you really need to discover for yourself what your daily milage will be. Most people say 60/day, some people definitely do a lot more, others a lot less. If you have to ballpark your pace, I would use 60 not 75 unless you are a very strong rider, even racer level.
    Valygrl, your advice is always good. I had to chuckle about, "hearing me coming" though

    Actually, to be clear I advocate taking it easy enough to not need rest days and when you need a break I recommend trying half days instead.

    I recommend that anyone who is not sure what pace works for them do the following:
    1. Start out with easy days if on a long tour. On long tours you can make the time up later. This is better than overdoing and needing a day off right away.
    2. Allow more days than you will need if at all possible. A tight schedule can make the whole tour more stressful in ways it shouldn't be.
    3. Build daily mileage gradually as the trip progresses. No need for one step forward two steps back. The mileage will get easier as the trip goes on unless you train a lot more than I do and are in peak condition at the start.
    4. Never ride far or hard enough that you don't want to ride the next day. If that happens you did too much IMO.
    5. If you really need a rest consider riding an easy half day rather than take a day off. I find I recover better this way. I am not saying it is best for everyone, but I still recommend at least giving it a shot.
    6. Save full days off for doing something fun, don't waste them vegging out in front of a TV or something like that. Better to do a hike, go rafting, or whatever.

  13. #13
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    I read a journal written by a girl who rode the Trans Am solo at the age of 17. (I looked on CGOAB but I couldn't find it and perhaps someone here knows where it is) What struck me first was the fact that she is a remarkable writer so the journal is a very good read.

    Ride with your head on and I'm sure you'll do just fine. I like to believe that for every questionable person out in the world there are 1000 great people that wish you the best and will watch your back as much as anyone can.

  14. #14
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    Is your father going to worry about it? Darn right he will, and well he should. That's what dads do. I have two daughters, now 27 and 30, both married. Of course I'd be worried if they tried this alone. I would hope they would make their own decision, though, and not be swayed by the normal reaction any father would have.

    Face it, your age and gender put you at more risk than I would be. All we can argue after that is whether the degree of that risk warrants enough concern to nix the trip. But, I'm a father and so am unable to give you an unbiased opinion.

  15. #15
    Senior Member blaise_f's Avatar
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    Solo touring is a mind game (for lack of better words). A father figure (or anyone who cares for that matter) is going to worry no matter what - solo, duo, group, supported, self-supported - that's just how it is. Touring with someone is always nice, but finding the companion for the trip your planning is never easy (my upcoming trip is living proof of that!). Which you should do is completely up to you and your mental "strength". All that said, if you are worried about 'people back home' worrying too much over your trip, try to lay out all the details (and precautions) beforehand. If they fully understand that you've done your research and devoted x amount of time in just planning, they will feel better about your safety (that doesn't mean they won't worry, though).
    http://bygonebicyclist.com
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  16. #16
    Senior Member capejohn's Avatar
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    We met this nice Dutch girl in Chile who was traveling South America alone for six months. Her she is in Peru. Her parents were worried sick about her she says. We met a couple of weeks before she was to return to Holland and she didn't want her adventure to end. She is 24.

    Before I met her I would have told you don't do it. But since meeting her and two other women, as your father I would say, "bad people are a rare exception in this world. Go for it"

    A bike trip in the US is a chance you may not again have a chance to do. Take advantage and get on your bike and go.

    Last edited by capejohn; 03-15-10 at 09:19 AM.
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  17. #17
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    "I could do this on my own? Would any of you fatherly types out there instinctively worry for my or perhaps your daughters safety? or would you approve and encourage this with the proper skills and things."

    As the father of three daughters, and with a wife who solo tours, I would worry. Possibly slightly above the normal all the time worry that goes with parenting, if you think about it at all.

    "I could do this on my own? Would any of you fatherly types out there instinctively worry for my or perhaps your daughters safety? or would you approve and encourage this with the proper skills and things."

    It is about the skills. If your daughter is half GI Jane, Navy Seal, and professional mountain guide, It is one thing. If she needs three other people to go to the mall, or never leaves her bedroom, it is another.

    It is also about the Candy. I'm 6'1", 230 pounds and can take care of myself. But the most important thing is that most people probably don't want to have all that much to do with me on the road in normal touring garb. If you go through the usual stuff money, sex, or messing with people, I don't think there is much to it for anyone where I am concerned. That Dutch girl above is a whole other thing.

    If you have to ask the question that may say something about your preparation at this stage. Also, personally, I think wilderness trips are a lot safer for someone in your situation than road trips. I've been on hiking trips, most of them really, where I didn't see another person at all. So maybe a hiking trip or MTB tour would be an option.

    When it comes to taking any risk, it is worth considering whether you are doing it for the right reason. Is the thing itself worth it to you, or would it seem really pointless in retrospect should it go wrong or just get seriously unpleasant. None the less I don't think there is that much risk to a cycling trip compared to many other fun things people do without a thought.

    Actually I was just thinking, these days it is normally somewhere in my mind that I might blow my heart up on every trip I go on. So I suppose everyone has something on the line...

  18. #18
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    Is it just me or is it meaningless that some woman is going solo in North Africa or another is traveling solo through South America. As mom used to say, "just because (insert childhood friend's name here) does it doesn't mean you should do it". Neither poster speculated as to the wisdom of these adventures.

    But I think little Holly Graf would have no trouble solo touring:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn...030504326.html

  19. #19
    Senior Member Commodus's Avatar
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    I would worry sick. I would also encourage you to go.

    Okay, I would try really hard to be the kind of guy/father who would encourage you to go.

  20. #20
    Senior Member oldride's Avatar
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    Scottie, thinking about this more. If I was your dad I'd be going with you. Have you asked your dad to go along?

  21. #21
    I don't wanna be a Newbie
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    Yes, you can do this on your own.

    You know it's kind of funny that you ask about fatherly types worrying. I tour solo. I love touring solo. I have a fatherly type who worries. I also have adult kids who worry. I still go. I'm cognizant of the fact that I'm traveling solo, and as valleygrl says...I keep my radar tuned. I'm a shortass...less that 5', so in my father's mind, that spells victim. Add the fact that I travel by bicycle, and it even makes it more of a worry.

    I'm going to preface my next comments by...I'm 47 years old, have 2 grown children, and 4 grandchildren, and live at a minumum 6 hours away from all of them. Yet, when I tour, I give my children and my father some semblance of my route. Simply to give them a tiny bit of peace of mind, which gives me peace of mind. Last year I bought a $200 laptop, and journaled the trip that worried them the most. That way, they could travel with me. In my journal, I never said where I was going next...only where I was last. My family knew where next was going next. They also knew that I was safe, knew when I was struggling, and knew about the amazing people that I met along the way, and knew why I loved touring.

    As you go along...listen to your gut. Always. Never ever question your gut. When there's a little twinge that something may not be right...assume that something isn't right, and move on. In all honesty, my gut hasn't spoken very often, and when it has...I listened. Through life, I've learned that my gut usually knows what it's talking about...whether I'm on a bike or not.

    Ride...have a blast. Your father may worry...but he'll get used to it. Kinda. If you wait to do something that you really want to do, because you are trying to find someone who wants to do it as well...you may miss out on a lot of the wonders that life has to offer.

    A few years ago, I decided that I wanted to do a triathlon. My dad came to visit while I was in the midst of training for it. When I told him what I was planning on doing, he said, "Why don't you go on a big bike tour instead?" In my dad's mind, the triathlon was even worse than a tour. We'll never know what worries our parents. As a parent, I truly don't know what my kids will do to worry me.

    Ride...enjoy every second.

  22. #22
    Fraser Valley Dave
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    "scottiethomas", I'm not sure how long this tour your're considering is, or how much riding you've done to prepare yourself for a tour. Although I have done many tours of one to four weeks, I'm not a daily rider, nor do I ride most of the year. Before a tour, I condition my knees and achillies tendons on a stair climber and ride daily for about three weeks to toughen my butt and legs to the grind. I have quite strong legs, so have little trouble making 75-85 miles a day average, but I push myself a bit. I start quite early, ride for about 1 1/2 hrs., take a 15-20 minute break, another 1 1/2 hrs, etc. all day long. I don't take full days off, but advise taking half days off now and then if you are riding over a week. I think having a goal of sixty, sixty-five miles/day is doable for most healthy people. I completely agree with "stachpj1", start out a bit easy, only add more miles daily, or push harder if it feels right. On my earlier post, I mentioned a rider companion having leg problems even though he was a runner; it was because he pushed too hard at the start of our ride down the Pacific coast, he didn't want to hold me back. If you have the funds, using motels when possible provides you with a safe place to sleep, thoroughly wash in safety, and is a secure place to store your bike and gear at the end of the day so that you can enjoy the sights instead of staying in camp close to your possessions. As most others have encouraged, I think you should go, just be alert, as "Crys" counsels, trust your gut, and have fun!

  23. #23
    Senior Member BigBlueToe's Avatar
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    If you were my daughter (who's 22 and beautiful, I think) I'd be worried the whole time. However, if she wanted to go I wouldn't forbid it. Though there would be risk, it would likely be the trip of a lifetime. After all, there's risk when I tour alone, and I continue to do so.

    A couple of times on the west coast route I've run into female riders unaccompanied by men, and in both cases, after awhile they fell into impromptu groups, which I'm sure would have made their fathers happier. The first time there were the two "Princeton Girls", who had graduated from Princeton that spring and a bike tour from Portland to San Francisco was their graduation present to themselves. They had never done anything like it before and were pretty unskilled. (In fact, they started out as 3 Princeton Girls, but one had crashed between Portland and Astoria and had broken her collarbone. She panicked on a fast downhill when passed closely by a semi-truck. She wasn't used to riding a loaded bike, lost control, and fell. The other two were completing the tour in her honor.) Anyway, they met up with four men in their 50's who were riding from Portland to Brookings. They all had daughters about the same age, and they felt compelled to take the Princeton Girls under their wings and escort them as far as they were going. I fell in with them and agreed to accompany them the rest of the way to San Francisco.

    Maybe I'm in danger of being sexist in acting as if we males were the big protectors of the vulnerable females, but the two girls were very glad to have us with them. In fact, they offered to pay for my motel room for a night in Brookings if I would lay over a day with them instead of riding off.

    What does this have to do with you? Well, CrazyGuy journals abound with stories of tourers meeting up with other tourers and riding together for any number of days. If you ride on a well-established route, you'll probably meet some other tourers, and perhaps could ride with someone for awhile. Maybe even a long while. I know in my case, even though I didn't have any sexual designs on the girls I rode with, it was nice, for me anyway, to have some feminine company, as opposed to being solo.

    Just some things to consider.

    Your dad might like it if you carried some pepper spray.

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    If you were my daughter, I would have raised you to be an independent thinking woman and it would be hypocritical for me to dissuade you from seeing the world. I suspect that being a solo female traveler has some advantages, less suspicion of you, people are curious about your adventure, and so on.

    For whatever reason, americans are afraid of their own shadow these days. Use your head and don't let other people's fear dissuade you from your goals.

  25. #25
    Cycle Year Round CB HI's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by scottiethomas View Post
    hand if someone experienced and willing could guide me in roughly gauging distance and time. if i travel no less than 75 miles a day and start in natchez how long do you think it might take me atleast and atmost to get to oregon?
    What kind of daily mileage are you doing now? Have you tried riding >75 miles fully loaded for a couple of days or for a week?
    I would think that for a first tour, planning 50 per day would be better, and then each day you make it over that, is a bonus.
    I would plan for one day off (or 2 half days off) per week.

    Have your cell phone where you can immediately use it. Bullies and creeps run pretty fast as soon as you pull the cell phone out.

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