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  1. #1
    Senior Member deadprez012's Avatar
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    Let's be serious...

    I'm completely unprepared for a tour I have planned in two weeks. It's not terribly long (about 300 mi round) and it's in territory with which I'm familiar and there is lots of "fluff" time for the epic fails to come. But someone tell me please which REAL potential catastrophes should I focus on preventing so I can stop trying to think of the thousands of recommendations on this (outstanding) forum?

    In the way of a first tour, what are maybe the THREE most critical things I should plan for/take with/leave out/expect? I'm pretty impressively fit, so the distance is not a concern.



    Note: I have read bicycletouring101.com in and out, and have absorbed all I can. I'm looking for the BIG WINS here, not all the "useful stuff to know".
    Running season is in full bloom but I have the itch to ride cross.

    Latest post: 2011/10/14 - Red Raider Road Race 10km Race Report

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    Senior Member Newspaperguy's Avatar
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    Take more water than you think you'll need, especially if you're in a place where the towns and settlements are far apart and the roads are quiet. This becomes even more important if your terrain is hilly or difficult or if you have to contend with strong, steady headwinds, which can also sap your strength. If you're doing this tour in or around Texas in August, you're going to be facing some serious heat. Stay hydrated.

    Along with that, if you've got a good hill or mountain to climb, try to time it so you're doing that as early in the day as possible. It might even mean getting on the road at 5 or 6 a.m. so you'll be up the hill before it gets too hot. If you're going to face a headwind, again, start riding as early as possible. In windy places where I've lived, the wind tends to pick up in the mid to late morning and in the afternoon, it's gusting. Morning is a little less breezy.
    Life is good.

  3. #3
    Canadian Chick Aquakitty's Avatar
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    Just read the beginner mistakes thread

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    Travelling hopefully chasm54's Avatar
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    If you eat and drink properly, pretty much the only thing that can ruin it short of a crash is mechanical failure. So, what if you bust the chain? What are you going to do if your rear wheel pops some spokes? if you have satisfactory answers to those questions I'd say you were good to go. That's two. My third would be dependent on the climate where you're going, but if there is even the remote possibility of rain, make sure you have some means of keeping your gear dry.

    It's not rocket science.
    There have been many days when I haven't felt like riding, but there has never been a day when I was sorry I rode.

  5. #5
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by deadprez012 View Post
    I'm completely unprepared for a tour I have planned in two weeks. It's not terribly long (about 300 mi round) and it's in territory with which I'm familiar and there is lots of "fluff" time for the epic fails to come. But someone tell me please which REAL potential catastrophes should I focus on preventing so I can stop trying to think of the thousands of recommendations on this (outstanding) forum?
    A 300 mile tour in a familiar area is also known as ... a 'long weekend' or 'several day' 'test tour' or 'shake-down tour'. I recommend ALL potential cycletourists do tours like this.

    Take what you think you might need on a tour and go. On this type of tour you'll likely discover things like ...

    -- you brought too much stuff ... next time you'll leave several items at home.
    -- you should have brought a _____, it would have really come in handy several times. Next time you'll bring it.
    -- many towns have hardware stores which contain some basic bicycle stuff, some basic camping stuff, and a whole bunch of other handy stuff which can potentially get you out of a bit of difficulty.
    -- eating mostly energy bars gets old in the first day.
    -- eating oatmeal, rice, and pasta gets old by the second day.
    -- most towns have sources of a variety food, and if you take a moment to look around you might even find some local goodies that are worth trying. Unless you're touring in a very remote area, you can pick up a whole variety of food every day along the way.


    When you return from this trip, you'll be much better prepared for your next tour. Other touring newbies, especially those planning to do much longer tours, should do similar short tours to sort out any issues/difficulties they may encounter on the long tour.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Cyclebum's Avatar
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    Discounting accidents and health, mechanical failure is about all that's left in the trip stopping department. Being prepared to deal with that is dependent on how good a bike mechanic you are and what tools you carry.

    The obvious:

    1. In addition to extra tubes, carry a spare tire.
    2. Spokes and tool. Or a Fiberfix temporary spoke, if you can find one. They seem suddenly scarce.
    3. Cable ties.

    As long as you start with a mechanically sound bike, with components suitable for your load, the odds of a trip stopping failure are near zero.

    Should the freewheel/bottom bracket fail, the tool for getting that fixed is your thumb or your feet.
    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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    why do you say you're completely unprepared? The only way I could imagine that being the case for someone who is "impressively fit" is deciding to pack the bike for the first time on the day of the trip or have never ridden a days worth of miles that you'll be riding on this trip and trying to turn every day into a high aerobic jam fest.

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    Quote Originally Posted by deadprez012 View Post
    I'm completely unprepared for a tour I have planned in two weeks. It's not terribly long (about 300 mi round) and it's in territory with which I'm familiar and there is lots of "fluff" time for the epic fails to come. But someone tell me please which REAL potential catastrophes should I focus on preventing so I can stop trying to think of the thousands of recommendations on this (outstanding) forum?

    In the way of a first tour, what are maybe the THREE most critical things I should plan for/take with/leave out/expect? I'm pretty impressively fit, so the distance is not a concern.

    Note: I have read bicycletouring101.com in and out, and have absorbed all I can. I'm looking for the BIG WINS here, not all the "useful stuff to know".
    You really should provide more information to back up your request for "magic" advice.

    Are you camping? How many days? Hilly? What kinds of services (towns versus wilderness)?

    What bike and what equipment are you taking?

    Maybe, even say where you are going.

  9. #9
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cyclebum View Post
    The obvious:

    1. In addition to extra tubes, carry a spare tire.
    Sounds like overkill, especially for a 300 mile ride in familiar territory.

  10. #10
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by deadprez012 View Post
    In the way of a first tour, what are maybe the THREE most critical things I should plan for/take with/leave out/expect? I'm pretty impressively fit, so the distance is not a concern.
    Here is my list of three most critical...
    1. A positive attitude.
    2. A light load.
    3. Gear that you are familiar with and know how to use.

  11. #11
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    Three critical things: Credit card. Sunscreen. Food & Water.

    300 miles in familiar territory? Pack light, think of weather, and rather than be overly concerned about mechanical failure, inspect and lube the bike up before hand, and have a list of LBS phone numbers within hitch hiking distance of your tour. I probably wouldn't take any more tools than my day ride under-seat bag already contains, but might throw in an 8/10mm wrench for my fender stays. Focus on packing light and having fun.
    Last edited by mwatkins; 08-03-10 at 09:15 AM.

  12. #12
    Senior Member pasopia's Avatar
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    Don't change anything on your bike right before you go. Don't decide to try a new saddle for the tour, or something like that. I've done this a few times and always regretted it. Make sure you do some long rides on the bike you are bringing beforehand, to make sure everything fits ok.

  13. #13
    Je pose, donc je suis.
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    Quote Originally Posted by mwatkins View Post
    Three critical things: Credit card. Sunscreen. Food & Water.
    Ding, ding.

    These will avert disaster (other than a crash). The rest is all inconvenience.

  14. #14
    Bicycle Lifestyle AsanaCycles's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by deadprez012 View Post
    I'm looking for the BIG WINS here, not all the "useful stuff to know".
    almost no reason to never have a water filter on your bottle

    http://www.clear2o.com/Store/Replace...ottle+-+Silver

  15. #15
    Senior Member John Bailey's Avatar
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    Don't fall down!! My first tour ended on day three when I crashed and ruptured a shoulder tendon!!

    John

  16. #16
    Senior Member tarwheel's Avatar
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    Make sure your wheels are in good shape.

  17. #17
    Senior Member BigBlueToe's Avatar
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    1) Bring tools to fix the most likely mechanical problems. For really oddball mishaps, you can hitchhike to civilization or find a road angel to give you a lift. I've never had a tire fail in 40 years of cycling. I start a tour on good tires and don't worry. If they're looking old and cracked, I replace them before the tour starts (but I don't usually let my tires get like that.) However, I've had plenty of flats, so I bring a spare tube, a patch kit, and tire irons. Learn how to fix a flat reliably (if you don't already know), especially how to reliably find the thing that caused the flat in the first place. I've had tubes that were unpatchable - usually because there's a tear around the valve stem - but it's unusual. If it happens once, I've got the spare tube. If I get another flat before replacing the tube I can patch it.

    I've had spokes break, and it's much more likely to happen on tour when you're carrying a big load. For that reason I carry Stein Hypercracker tool and a couple of spare drive-side spokes. I also carry the FiberFix spokes as a backup, since they're so light. Of course, you need a spoke wrench too. Since I started carrying this stuff I've never broken a spoke, but I feel much more secure knowing I can deal with one if it happens.

    I carry a multi-tool. Sometimes I have to tighten bolts that have loosened. Sometimes I just tweak adjustments on things - saddle height, handlebar rotation, brake lever position, etc. Sometimes I have to adjust the limiting screws on the derailleurs. My multi-tool has a chain tool. I've never had a chain break, but I've seen it happen. It wasn't hard to use the chain tool to get the bike rideable, albeit with fewer gears available.

    I've had bolts vibrate loose (almost always on racks) so I use Loctite when I install them, and I carry a couple of spares - cheap insurance.

    I also carry a few zipties and spare brake and derailleur cables. Zipties have come in handy dozens of times for all sorts of obscure uses. I bring a bunch. I've never needed the cables. If they weighed much I probably wouldn't bother, but they're light so what the heck?

    2) Be prepared for a huge increase in your appetite. I probably eat close to twice as much on tour as at home - two breakfasts, big snacks throughout the day in addition to a big lunch, and a big dinner. I know there are people who aren't affected this way, but I've also talked to lots of first-time tourers who were amazed at how much they were eating. I spent a lot more money on my first big tour than I had expected, and the biggest reason was the amount of food I was eating.

    3) You'll probably bring stuff that it turns out you don't need. You can send it home. I've done it several times - even after years of experience. Go as light as possible - ounces add up, and extra weight makes hills seem steeper and can contribute to breaking spokes. That said, don't go so Spartan that you're uncomfortable and miserable. Comfort items seem even more valuable on tour when you're doing without so many conveniences.

    Whatever choices you make, don't lose sight of the fact that you're doing it for fun. If you're starting to suffer, why not take a day off? If you find a beautiful campsite that's 20 miles short of your hoped-for daily average, why not stop? Enjoy! If you are really into your book and don't want to stop reading, why stop? So you get a late start, so what? It's your trip, not someone else's. (Of course, if you're travelling with someone, all of those points are up for negotiation.)

    Have fun!

  18. #18
    Senior Member deadprez012's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by njkayaker View Post
    You really should provide more information to back up your request for "magic" advice.

    Are you camping? How many days? Hilly? What kinds of services (towns versus wilderness)?

    What bike and what equipment are you taking?

    Maybe, even say where you are going.
    Okay, lots of good stuff in this thread, but I can answer these:
    I am camping (with which I have plenty of experience), and will be out for 4 or 5 days and the accompanying nights. Not "wilderness" but lots of miles between tiny towns. Going west from Lubbock, TX to Valley of Fires (Carrizozo, NM). Not terribly hilly, often pancake flat, southern winds (so cross) nearly all the time.

    The bike would ideally be my Diamondback, but it's still under the knife, so it will be the Denali on which I've commuted for 3 months (and "rebuilt" in a piecewise fashion). There's a rack on the back that holds things quite nicely up to about 30 lbs so it will have the tent and emergency rain gear, tools are in the under seat bag, and I'll get a handlebar bag for anything else minor. All my previous camping excursions have been absolutely minimalist, and I expect my tour will be as well.
    Running season is in full bloom but I have the itch to ride cross.

    Latest post: 2011/10/14 - Red Raider Road Race 10km Race Report

  19. #19
    Senior Member deadprez012's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BigBlueToe View Post
    2) Be prepared for a huge increase in your appetite. I probably eat close to twice as much on tour as at home - two breakfasts, big snacks throughout the day in addition to a big lunch, and a big dinner. I know there are people who aren't affected this way, but I've also talked to lots of first-time tourers who were amazed at how much they were eating. I spent a lot more money on my first big tour than I had expected, and the biggest reason was the amount of food I was eating.
    I already eat this way, so is it worth expecting to change? I eat this way now because I'm active all day--swimming in the morning, bike commute, running in the afternoon, commute home, and hours spent working as a trainer. I figure my exertion touring will be about the same...perhaps even less?
    Running season is in full bloom but I have the itch to ride cross.

    Latest post: 2011/10/14 - Red Raider Road Race 10km Race Report

  20. #20
    Senior Member Newspaperguy's Avatar
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    A couple of items to consider.

    First cycling in wind, whether a head wind or a cross wind, can be a disappointment. If you're in hills, you can see the end of the hill, but if you've got wind on flat land, you can't see the end of the wind. A cross wind is much easier to handle than a head wind, but it will also slow you down somewhat.

    Second, prepare yourself mentally for the experience. For some riders, long distances in open or sparely populated country seem boring or monotonous. Others find beauty and joy in those rides. If you're out for a few days, it shouldn't be a problem, but I've heard stories of riders who have attempted long tours and given up because they found the experience too boring. It's a state of mind.
    Life is good.

  21. #21
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Most of this advice should go into the other thread started by the guy who hasn't sat on a bicycle for 10 years and is planning to ride across the US.

    The guy in this thread is doing a 4-5 day "shake-down tour" of only 300 miles in familiar territory on a bicycle he has used for commuting for the past 3 months. He's fit. He has previous camping experience. It sounds like he knows how to fix bicycles. If something goes bad enough that he can't keep riding he can ring home for someone to pick him up and take him home.

  22. #22
    Senior Member deadprez012's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka View Post
    Most of this advice should go into the other thread started by the guy who hasn't sat on a bicycle for 10 years and is planning to ride across the US...

    ...If something goes bad enough that he can't keep riding he can ring home for someone to pick him up and take him home.
    All true...except that last part. But I should probably look into that.
    Running season is in full bloom but I have the itch to ride cross.

    Latest post: 2011/10/14 - Red Raider Road Race 10km Race Report

  23. #23
    Senior Member deadprez012's Avatar
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    So I've been doing more reading, and looking at more pictures, and thinking more and more, and it's overwhelmingly possible to do this without the DIY panniers I was planning to make (may still do so, but not necessary). Assuming I can fit the sleeping gear on the rack, and my tools are in an underseat bag, and I actually plan on taking meals from the variety of awesome tiny places along the way, is there any real need for more bags?

    All the clothes are moisture wicking, and I'm pretty adept at the sink-wash.

    And of course, with maybe 8 lbs more on the rear than normal (normally about 10), need I be concerned with a really twitchy front end? At speed probably not a problem, but on hills or soft ground?

  24. #24
    djb
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    front will be fine with 20 lbs on back. Keep the tire pressures at the max or close to them, this will help a lot avoiding getting flats, not to mention make it easier pushing along more weight. Soft ground is soft ground, the bike will be heavier than usual so you have to use common sense.

    rear panniers are very handy, even just for keeping stuff in one place, drier even if not waterproof as you can use garbage bags to pack clothes etc. If you have a rack already, why not borrow panniers if possible (if you dont have them already)

    you will get lots of advice, but seeing if all the bolts etc are tight on your bike before going, wheels are in good shape (perhaps have a bike mechanic check the spokes) and tires in good shape--all this is a good common sense thing to do so that you dont have probs. Not heavlily loaded and a bike in good shape, it should be fine.

    *making sure you have adequate water is a big one, I second or third that. it sucks to be hungry and especially thirsty.

    have fun

  25. #25
    Senior Member Newspaperguy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by deadprez012 View Post
    And of course, with maybe 8 lbs more on the rear than normal (normally about 10), need I be concerned with a really twitchy front end? At speed probably not a problem, but on hills or soft ground?
    Almost all my gear weight is over the rear wheel. It's not a problem at all. My position on the bike puts some of my body weight over the front wheel. On the first day, for the first kilometre or less, I notice the bike is a little sluggish. It takes more energy to move and more energy to stop, and the bike isn't quite as responsive as when it's unladen. After that, it feels comfortable, as if I've always ridden with a rear load.

    I haven't done rides with only a large underseat bag, but I've done some overnight and short trips with a tent, sleeping bag and small sports bag strapped on top of the rear rack. That's a similar load to what you're taking. It's not a problem, but keep in mind your gear is going to be a little higher than with panniers. The advantage of carrying such a small load is that it teaches the discipline of light, minimalist touring, which is good for any cycle tourist to learn.
    Life is good.

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