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  1. #1
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    Mileage, Terrain, and Pedals

    Last summer I attempted a cross country ride on the ACA transam route. I didn't make it very far and ended around Breaks Interstate Park between VA and KY. The reason I had to stop was because I have bad knees and I think the pace I was going and the hilly terrain was too much.

    I want to try another cross country tour, and this is what I have come up with to be able to finish:

    (1) Instead of going 60 miles a day from the start like last time, I will give myself more time and will only have to go an average of 35-40 miles a day.

    (2) Last time I tried the ACA transam which was very hilly and mountainous. This time I thought it would be better to start at my house near Washington DC and hook up with the Northern Tier route in Cleveland. I have heard that this route is much flatter.

    (3) Instead of using clipless pedals, I think it might be a good idea to use toe cages. This way my feet won't be locked into the same position the whole time.

  2. #2
    Galveston County Texas 10 Wheels's Avatar
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    What gearing do you have on the bike?
    [SIZE=1][B]What I like about Texas[/B]
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PGukLuXzH1E

    Set F1re To The Ra1n ( NY Night Rain Ride)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W7jfcWEkSrI

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by 10 Wheels View Post
    What gearing do you have on the bike?
    Cassette is 11-32
    Chainrings: 26,36,48

  4. #4
    Galveston County Texas 10 Wheels's Avatar
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    That should be good enough.

    I use a 50-39-24 w 11-34
    Toe clips No Straps for me.

    Take your time and take many rest stops.
    I hate hills, but have learned to ride them.

    I start in my lowest gear, relax, sit up, Don't look at the top of the hill.

    Go slow and easy, change up gears if the low gear was too easy.
    [SIZE=1][B]What I like about Texas[/B]
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PGukLuXzH1E

    Set F1re To The Ra1n ( NY Night Rain Ride)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W7jfcWEkSrI

  5. #5
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    You could have lower gears than those. That said, I don't find I can back my way up a hill. I like to hit them at speed and only give up gears as required, I don't hang around in a gear to get beaten up, but I try to cruise it as long as I can. Starting low from the bottom wouldn't work for me.

    I have pretty beat up legs, I find on hill it helps me to try to spin, or at least use both legs through the stroke. Seem a lot more powerful. I also work on fully using my lung capacity.

    I don't know the US routes trans am, but I would be looking for the one with the best grades in the first few weeks. The East is very hilly, often worse than the big mountains out west. And from what I have gleaned the southwest might have the easiest ramp for the first part of the trip. You need to get your legs conditioned for the heavier stuff. So while my impressions may be wrong about routes, I would be looking for one that allows the best break in period.

  6. #6
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andy727 View Post
    Last summer I attempted a cross country ride on the ACA transam route. I didn't make it very far and ended around Breaks Interstate Park between VA and KY. The reason I had to stop was because I have bad knees and I think the pace I was going and the hilly terrain was too much.

    I want to try another cross country tour, and this is what I have come up with to be able to finish:

    (1) Instead of going 60 miles a day from the start like last time, I will give myself more time and will only have to go an average of 35-40 miles a day.

    (2) Last time I tried the ACA transam which was very hilly and mountainous. This time I thought it would be better to start at my house near Washington DC and hook up with the Northern Tier route in Cleveland. I have heard that this route is much flatter.

    (3) Instead of using clipless pedals, I think it might be a good idea to use toe cages. This way my feet won't be locked into the same position the whole time.
    There is nothing inherently wrong with clipless. If you feel that your feet locked in the same position, you might want to try a lighter tension on the pedal and/or replacing your cleats with a floating cleat. Floating cleats allow your to move your feet more without disengaging from the pedal. Before you throw out the clips, try the above.

    I'd also change the inner ring to a 22 if you can. That makes some difference on the low end for hill climbing. Hill climbing is mostly about perseverance. You'll get to the top eventually. Even on terrain that looks like it's more ski jump than road



    or like you are riding to the moon



    or riding up this
    at this speed
    Last edited by cyccommute; 11-02-10 at 02:51 PM.
    Stuart Black
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    An Good Ol' Fashion Appalachian Butt Whoopin'.

  7. #7
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    I'd like to try clipless, but my right ankle is so out of whack since the plane crash I can't even put the foot fully on the pedal. I keep intending to do some custom thing. But I can ride with straps and toe clips!

    Obviously if you are riding with bad knees, lighter weight is better:

    http://www.rayjardine.com/adventures...nsAm/index.htm

    Get your gear down to ten pounds.

  8. #8
    Professional Fuss-Budget Bacciagalupe's Avatar
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    Knee trouble can have many sources, depending on the type and location of pain. Your pedals may not be the culprit.

    Get your fit checked by a professional.
    Minimize the amount of gear you carry.
    Make sure to use a high cadence at all times.
    Do a couple of weekend tours to shake out your gear.

    As to pedals, IMO clipless isn't nearly as important for touring as people presume. It's a myth that you genuinely "pull up" on the pedals in a truly useful fashion -- all you're doing is getting your leg out of the way. If you prefer clipless though, you may want to adjust your fit before changing the pedals.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Cyclebum's Avatar
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    Seems like a good plan too me. Less daily mileage, flatter terrain, toe cages. I recently switched from clipless to platforms due to knee pain. Don't miss the clipless at all. No more knee pain, no more hotfoot, much less fiddle factor. I agree with others that a 22 tooth chainring would be wise, and keep the cadence up, like 70-90. The right aero bars can also be a big asset for aerodynmics into a head wind, another comfortable position, and more pedaling power.
    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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    shimano do pedals spd one side flat the other cant think of the model but there great .probably one of the reasons you hate hill's ,and i'm only guessing here, is because your convinced you can't climb ,you more than likely panic when you see a climb coming up .i'm no great climber but what i usually do, i find a nice gear granny ring and i twiddle my way to the top ,think nice thoughts don't beat yourself up and when you do finally get to the top sit down get the kettle out and have a nice cuppa.
    other than that buy a motor bike only joking.

  11. #11
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    General consensus over on CGOAB is that the Appalachians are worse than the Rockies as far as hills go - you'd already ridden the worst.
    That being said, the Southern Tier starts out flatter than either of the other two ACA E-W cross-country routes if you start in Florida. By the tim eyou hit the Rockies, you'd definitely have ridden yourself into shape and know whether or not your knees can handle the climbs.

    I have bad knees myself. The key for me is keeping the kneecap directly over the pedal no matter how my feet are placed on the pedal itself. I find toe clips with loose straps preferable to clipless. Loose straps allow me to move my feet around within the toe clips so that I can change the pressure point under my feet as required/in case of hot foot without worrying about slipping off the pedals.

    FWIW, I use a 24 tooth front inner chainring but I have never been able to sustain the "biblical" 90 rpm spin rate you hear people preach about. My rate's probably low-80's at best, but I can do that for hours.
    -----------------------------------------
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  12. #12
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    By the way. A lot of knee pain in cycling comes down to the quads pulling the knee out of position. Relatively modest exercise of the hamstrings can help a lot. I find something like a picnic table where I can hook my heel under with my thigh hanging down, and pull up with the heel. Of course if you have diagnosed osteoarthritis, it might help, but you still have a big problem.

    I think that while I don't pull through the whole circle, when I get on a hill I pull hard with my hamstrings on the bottom pedal, as I come down with the top leg. It helps a lot. You don't need clipless to do that, but something helps. However I am only at it like 90 or 120 degrees, so I can do it on platform pedals if need be. What I am doing is not just getting out of the way, which would be more an issue in the vertical return stroke. What I am doing is in the pendulum portion.

  13. #13
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    clipless --> platforms plus toe cages solved my knee pain...

  14. #14
    Senior Member Doug64's Avatar
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    I believe that if you learned to pedal as much of the crank path as possible you really do pull up. I know when I jump on my "go to the store" bike with platforms I am dangerous. I am constantly pulling up and losing the pedal. I learned to ride with toe clips, straps and cleats. This secures your foot to the pedal substantially more than clipless pedals. The only way you could get out was to bend down and loosen the strap. The toe strap also put a lot of pressure on the top of the foot on the upstroke. That is how you could tell if you were really pedalling the full circle. When I finally tried clipless pedal I thought they were best thing that happened to pedals.

    +1 on the professonal fit. My wife has no ACL in one knee and the leg is about 4mm shorter. She had a physical therepist who specializes in bike fitting set up her bike. She uses Look pedals with 9 degrees of float, and has thousands of racing and touring miles without any knee problems. Both her road and touring bikes are set up with relatively low gears, but she makes up for that with RPMs. I think the folks who recommend the lowest gear possible have a good point. I set up our touring bikes with a 44/32/22 crankset and an 11-34 cassette. This set up has taken us across the US and over 1300 miles of the Pacific Coast route. I have never regretted not having a high gear on a tour, but before I changed out our gearing; I often regretted not having one more low gear. Just becasue you have a 22 --34 combination, does not mean you have to use it. However, it is nice knowing that it is there.

  15. #15
    Long Live Long Rides
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    +2 on the professional fit. You may find something as simple as adjusting saddle hight or stem height/length will help.

    Jerry H
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    Touring...therapy for the soul.

  16. #16
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    I actually had a professional fit before the tour, but I still had the problems. So, I think I am going to try out clips for my pedals and I'll see how it goes.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andy727 View Post
    (2) Last time I tried the ACA transam which was very hilly and mountainous. This time I thought it would be better to start at my house near Washington DC and hook up with the Northern Tier route in Cleveland. I have heard that this route is much flatter.
    I have done the tntire NT once, the western portion east to Glacier National Park once, and the TransAm from Missoula to Fairplay CO, which is where you leave the Rockies behind you when heading east. I have also ridden some of the Oregon portions of the TransAm as part of Cycle Oregon. Overall, I would say the NT west of Cleveland is "flatter," but that's a relative term. IN and IL are pretty easy. IA, MN and even ND will throw some serious rolling terrain your way in places. MT to Cut Bank is pretty flat terrain-wise, but you could encounter killer headwinds. (If you do, ride very early and later in the afternoon/evening, taking a break in between. You will have plenty of daylight.) West of Cut Bank is where the real fun begins. And when you finanly hit WA, you will have Sherman, Wacunda, Loup Loup and Washington/Rainly Passes back to back to back to back.

    But the $128,000 question is how are you going to get to Cleveland in a way that avoids the steep hills that one often encounters in places like central and western PA? As noted by others, the eastern hills are tougher grade-wise than the mountains out west. During my entire NT trip the one hill that almost reduced me to a walk was in VT.

  18. #18
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andy727 View Post
    I actually had a professional fit before the tour, but I still had the problems. So, I think I am going to try out clips for my pedals and I'll see how it goes.
    A professional fit is not always a panacea for the following reasons:
    1. Not all fitters are equal.
    2. They can get you to a starting point based on measurements and your general riding style, but it is not an exact science and on some things they can only give you what you want based on what you tell them.
    3. The person being fitted may not really know what they want.

    Hopefully a good fitter will ask the right questions and hopefully lead you to a good fit. Still your fit may need tweaking either to dial it in a bit more or because your needs changed as the result of conditioning or physiological changes over time.

    When it comes to pedal alignment... minor changes can be a huge deal wrt to knee health and comfort. You may need to make numerous minor changes to arrive at what works for you either on your own or working with a fitter. Even then you may find that if knee pain occurs, changing the angle of the cleats slightly again may be needed at some point.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
    But the $128,000 question is how are you going to get to Cleveland in a way that avoids the steep hills that one often encounters in places like central and western PA? As noted by others, the eastern hills are tougher grade-wise than the mountains out west. During my entire NT trip the one hill that almost reduced me to a walk was in VT.
    I was planning on taking the C and O Canal and Great Allegheny Passage to Pittsburgh. The C and O Canal is completely flat and the GAP has slight grades. From Pittsburgh, it's not too far to Cleveland.

    I'm not afraid of riding hills. I just want the beginning of the trip to be easier to get my strength up. I'm going to train ahead of time, but it's not the same as riding everyday with a fully loaded bike.

  20. #20
    Senior Member Cyclebum's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andy727 View Post
    I'm not afraid of riding hills. I just want the beginning of the trip to be easier to get my strength up. I'm going to train ahead of time, but it's not the same as riding everyday with a fully loaded bike.
    I start a tour about 2/3rds conditioned from regular riding around home with no load. Lots of short hills. After about the 3rd or 4th day on tour, I reach my conditioning peak. Point being, if you're sort of in condition before the tour, you can finish the conditioning while touring with a load. Just take it easy for a few days. I frankly don't see much point in trying to be in peak touring condition before a tour, unless of course, you just want to be.
    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

  21. #21
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cyclebum View Post
    I start a tour about 2/3rds conditioned from regular riding around home with no load. Lots of short hills. After about the 3rd or 4th day on tour, I reach my conditioning peak. Point being, if you're sort of in condition before the tour, you can finish the conditioning while touring with a load. Just take it easy for a few days. I frankly don't see much point in trying to be in peak touring condition before a tour, unless of course, you just want to be.
    I feel somewhat the same way only I tend to not condition specifically for a tour at all. I try to stay in some kind of decent shape all of the time, but may not ride much when not on tour preferring to trail run. If necessary, taking it easy for 10 days to two weeks at the beginning isn't much of a problem on a 4000+ mile tour.

    BTW... To the OP, since you are in DC, if you want an easier start maybe consider starting in the west. There are some advantages:
    1. You get air travel out of the way upfront which allows for a more easily flexible end date
    2. You are automatically more committed to the trip because it is harder to bail when that far from home
    3. Family and friends can meet you at the end. In our case they threw a picnic in Yorktown. It was an awesome way to finish the tour.
    4. You save the steep climbs of the Appalachians for the end when you are more road hardened

  22. #22
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    My knees are shot. (No ACL on the right, not much remaining on the left.) Getting back on a bike after years away, I found several things together helped.

    1) Do knee stability exercises, religiously. Any decent PT can help you set up a program in an hour or two. Then, stick to it!
    2) Short cranks, high RPM. I use 150mm cranks, spin 90-110, which is very easy with the shorter cranks.
    3) Yes, get a fitting. And don't be surprised if you're told to get clipless pedals and *good* cycling shoes and floating pedals, like Speedplays. A good fitting will cost money, as much as $300, and isn't done at the back of a local bike shop in 20 minutes by a kid with a ruler. Your knees will thank you. You can ride free of pain and hot spots.

    The good shoes allow for wedges under the cleat to remove the varus or valgus tilt of your foot which can cock your knee and keep it form tracking well. The float allows the knee some wiggle room. Free pedaling doesn't work on my knees; I need the firm footbed of the cycling shoe, and I need the wedges to keep my foot-calf-knee in column.

  23. #23
    Senior Member Doug64's Avatar
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    Just curious--
    What is the objective of starting a tour "out of shape" and "riding into shape"? I guess the real question is: if you like riding a bike (why would you be touring on one if you didn't?) then putting in some good miles before a tour should not be onerous.

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