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  1. #1
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    Advice for a massive tour

    I live in Vancouver BC and am going to be leaving in 6-7 weeks, biking first to New York, then flying to London, and touring for an indefinite amount of time and to undecided places. I'm an avid cyclist, and have been for many years now, but I'm quite inexperienced when it comes to touring. My plan is to leave Vancouver on July 15th and make it to New York by (ideally) September 15th. I'm not entirely sure which route to take, or even if this is going to be enough time. I've been reading as many tour blogs as I can find and am asking all my cycling friends, but am always interested in hearing more from others. Any advice from anyone? Please.

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    1. Get a map.
    2. Look for pinch points in your route: border crossings, bridges etc.
    3. Look for areas to avoid (big cities)
    4. Look for areas to ride (pretty /rural/mountainous)
    5. Plan a provisional route in the general direction.
    6. Fine tune each days ride. You an do this as you go along, you dont need to start with a complete route.
    7. If you are riding to a timetable, have a bug-out plan usually involving rail or bus travel.

    My preference is to deal with major cities by commuter rail services rather than struggle to find a bike route out.
    Plan a weekend shakedown tour to test your kit, there are plenty of packing lists.

  3. #3
    the bike made me do it oneredstar's Avatar
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    The first leg of your trip, Vancouver to New York in 2 months is doable, but you may not have time to explore. A quick initial search on Google Maps puts the route at a minimum of 4,800 kms. This would be the minimum, and on a bike I would realistically think that would be 5,500. I like to average 100 kms a day and take one day off every 5 days. My concern would be bad weather, mechanical issues, etc...that may push you to your time limit.

    All that being said, I am sure it will be a great trip. Make sure you are comfortable on the bike that you are riding, and go have an adventure.

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    its all about personal preference but when on longer tours i don't like to have strict deadlines like having a plane to catch
    especially when you're on your own, you might come across people or places that are worth staying for, which is the whole point of touring for me
    of course there are those that enjoy pushing for 100km's everyday, it's just not for me, its not a race, its not about distance traveled or number of countries crossed or some stupid guiness world record
    but each to his own :-)

  5. #5
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    You migh consider following parts of Adventure Cycling's Nothern Tier route, which extends from Anacortes, WA to Bar Harbor, ME. One advantage to using their maps is that services like campground, motels, grocery stores, bike shops and libraries are shown. I did the entire thing many years ago. Good crosssection of secenery. Highopights include the North Cascades Highway, Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park, the headwaters of the Mississippi at Lake Istasca, Niagara Falls (thge Ontario side) and the Erie Canal tow path. If you keep heading east you will cross the Adirondak Mountains and ride through quaint New Hampshire and Vermont.

    Manhattan is tough to ride into. Coming from the west, the only way in by bike is the G. Washington Bridge. Google New York state bike routes. Alternatively, there are various ferries into the city from NJ. Chek out NY Waterways for starters.

  6. #6
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    bring a small, white sink stopper. trust me.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bekologist View Post
    bring a small, white sink stopper. trust me.
    Yes, that is a must I found

  8. #8
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    Wow, some great quick responses. I guess I have a couple questions about my bike too.
    My bike is a Miele Cicli /Cromo Tange 900, with the same fork. Ambrosio 19 Elite Rims, Shimano F105 Hubs and I have no idea what spokes. I'm also using biopace (which I know is likely to generate some discussion).
    I plan on going for as light a load as possible. I was thinking of two rear panniers, a bag no top of the rack, possibly a handlebar bag, and maybe a small backpack (is a backpack a bad idea?).

    Would you think:
    a)this is enough space to keep everything needed for a trip like this?
    b)the bike sounds sturdy enough to make the trip?
    c)biopace is a bad decision for touring?

    Also, with regards to the timing issue, I don't feel any overwhelming necessity to get anywhere by any point, but I have my concerns about touring in North America too far into September/October...unless this is not as terrifying as it sounds?...

  9. #9
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    I'm not familiar with that frame and its geometry. I like some weight on the front in low riders, and a small handlebar bag is useful to carry maps and food. But not all bikes handle properly with weight up front.

    The advantage of not having a lot ofspace to carry stuff is that you won't be tempted to carry too much. Equipment and clothing expands to fit all available space.

    Tires are important. I don't know what size you are planning to use or what size your frame can take.

    Backpacks get sweaty , however they are handy when you are off the bike. I used to strap one on top of the rear rack.

    Fenders are really useful.

    The only problem with October and November is that the days get short very quickly.

    Take a couple of short tours first with all your equipment.

  10. #10
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    I have seen a few people tour with backpacks, but in general I think they really suck. Any weight in it and it will make your shoulders sore, and put more weight on your wrists all day long. Of course your back gets sweaty and hot and your centre of gravity is shifted higher up. In my opinion, only bring one if you think that there will be some reason that you need a backpack. Like you will go hiking or something. Even then, I would get an ultralight bag and stow it inside the panniers.

  11. #11
    Senior Member lucille's Avatar
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    I wouldn't tour with a backpack, I don't even commute with one. I suggest you get a front and back waterproof panniers (like Ortlieb), and forget the backpack. Bike with 4 panniers is a lot more stable than just two.

    You can tour on any bike, really. Just make sure you're comfortable on it, all parts are in good working order, you have good wheels with enough spokes, and get a good quality rack. I had a rack break on my once, thankfully I had a bungee with me to keep bags attached.

    There are a lot of packing lists posted on the internet, look them up for ideas of what people need on long trips like this. Once you figure it out, pack your panniers (make sure they're all balanced weight wise) and go for a test ride. It takes a bit getting used to riding with loaded bike, but once you get it, it's very stable and easy to balance.

    As per weather, I'm in Southern Ontario and September is usually warm and beautiful (pretty much into Thanksgiving weekend), with leaves changing etc. We do most of our riding in September/October.

    Sounds like a fantastic trip, have fun!

  12. #12
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    Ditto to the various folks who have encouraged riding in September and October. Even here in northern Minnesota it's usually nice until the end of October -- yes, there can be a few nasty days, but the weather usually is crisp and lovely -- actually our favorite time to bike.

    I think MichaelW hit it on the head with his suggestions. Expanding on them, I'd say that in my view, the most dangerous places to ride are on the fringes of large metro areas -- lots of traffic, often fast, and a road net that is overwhelmed. Avoid those areas unless there's a clear safe way in and out (e.g. a rail trail), or take public transit through them. In contrast, the older parts of cities are usually fine because there are tons of side streets with little traffic.

    For me, low traffic trumps everything else. If possible, therefore, bike in areas that have lots of secondary or tertiary paved roads -- I'm talking paved county or township roads. Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois are great for that. Leave the main highways for the cars unless there isn't an alternative.

    Many states have bike maps, and you can get a lot of useful information that way.
    Last edited by OldZephyr; 05-31-11 at 06:12 PM. Reason: typo

  13. #13
    Life is a fun ride safariofthemind's Avatar
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    Just saw a Brazilian near Machu Pichu with a cheap mountain bike and a 50 dollar backpack strapped to a rear rack. He was happy as could be. He had an entire back wheel with tire strapped to the top of his pack and no panniers. A cute little brazilian flag served as a safety flag (conveniently bright green and yellow). Definite advantage to have 26" fat tires in the dirt roads around Peru as that is what shops carry. Many interesting sites are off road. Water is an issue. You need to carry at least a gallon in places. A steri-pen comes handy.

    Lay all your packing list items out in front of you, take half, buy what you need (non high tech) as you go along. Camping in the rain in developing countries can really sap the fun out of a day. Consider cheap hostals (about 10 dollars a day) as a treat.

    And remember the old adage, " when you can't stand to see one more church, it's to time to sit tight for a while and take a break".

    Have fun, and have some kind of plan if you get really sick or have to get out in a hurry.

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    Do a, say, four-day, three-night shakedown tour now, a loop from home to home, equipped as you describe. I'm certain that it will convince you to abandon the backpack idea.

    (Where does this backpack idea keep comiing from? Is it Camelback propaganda? Put stuff on your bike, not your back. Sheesh, Physics 101, Comfort 101. Backpacks were disproven on bikeforums.net by our youthful grandfathers back in the 1930s, and all the major world newspapers picked it up and published it just before all the heroic backpackless bike tours that preceded World War II. Read your history!)

  15. #15
    Senior Member eric_the_poor's Avatar
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    touring for an indefinite amount of time and to undecided places.
    you are my hero

  16. #16
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    Miele Cicli with Ambrosio 19 rims.

    Is it an 80's road bike that can't take tires larger than 28mm? If you're a light person it's doable but a road bike isn't ideal for for a "massive tour". A road bike is good for going fast but once you put a pair of panniers on there you aren't going fast.

    Without more details on the bike it's not possible to say if the bike is up to it. If you're seriously out of there in six weeks I'd take the bike to a shop and get their $.02.

  17. #17
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    Small backpacks are really useful for hiking, shopping and carrying waterproofs in showery conditions. I always take a minimalist one and it serves as a pillow, a stuffsac for my waterproofs, stowed in my panniers or under a bunjie chord.
    I only ride wearing it from the shops to campsite.

  18. #18
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    Take it a step at a time.

    When I've done my long tours, I've sometimes been tempted to think too many steps ahead and anticipate too much of the time. While that is important for key logistics (e.g. make sure you have right visas, documents) and key choices (e.g. going in the wrong seasons), there is also a lot you can work out along the way.

    On both my 10 month and 12 month trips I took the first 1 month/2 month respectively in the US. This gave me a chance to work through equipment, get into general "flow" of cycle touring and then be better prepared when I was overseas for the longer part of the trip.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by scare_yourself View Post
    Any advice from anyone? Please.
    Given your lack of experience you really have no idea how you'll feel once you are on the road. I would just head out and see what happens. Don't make firm plans as you have no way to know if they are realistic for you. As you ride be ready to deal with what happens on the road. You may have bike problems, body problems or mental problems. Given that your first leg is through Canada/USA the solution to whatever is happening for you should be available once you figure out what you need. Don't soldier on if you are not close to 100% happy now as once you leave North America for more exotic locales it will be harder to sort out your issues and you may end up with a different plan if you work things out now vs. trying to make it work and then 4 months from now realize that you need a major change to occur will be a much bigger PITA than adjusting plans early on.

    Don't take this to be discouraging advice. If you have the time and money to tour for a long time all you need to add to that mix is reliable equipment and enjoyment of the tour for it to be successful. Just keep in mind that being an avid cyclist at home is not the same as being a successful long term bike tourist. So be open to what's happening and adapt as needed.
    safe riding - Vik
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  20. #20
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bekologist View Post
    bring a small, white sink stopper. trust me.
    Why? For doing laundry? Something else?

    I've never carried one and never missed it. If doing laundry in a sink either a wadded up paper towel or one of my socks have worked fine.

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    I hope this isn't rude or crossing the line or something, but since you plan on staying over in London for a while how do you plan on making money? I'd like to know because I'd like to start touring for a couple years, and I need a means to make money on the road. Thank you.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MichaelW View Post
    Small backpacks are really useful for hiking, shopping and carrying waterproofs in showery conditions. I always take a minimalist one and it serves as a pillow, a stuffsac for my waterproofs, stowed in my panniers or under a bunjie chord.
    I only ride wearing it from the shops to campsite.
    Also, in defense of backpacks...yea, they probably should only be used off the bike...but a backpack with a water bladder is the only way I'll be able to carry more than 50oz of water at a time. With the hydration pack, I'll actually be able to carry 150oz of water. I think that's a pretty good reason to carry one.

  23. #23
    Senior Member lucille's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by albertmoreno View Post
    Also, in defense of backpacks...yea, they probably should only be used off the bike...but a backpack with a water bladder is the only way I'll be able to carry more than 50oz of water at a time. With the hydration pack, I'll actually be able to carry 150oz of water. I think that's a pretty good reason to carry one.
    I've seen people strap the bladders to frame. Just an idea.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
    Why? For doing laundry? Something else?

    I've never carried one and never missed it. If doing laundry in a sink either a wadded up paper towel or one of my socks have worked fine.
    A stopper would come in handy for shaving. You don't have to keep the water running to clean the blade. But as you note, wadded up paper works just fine. I discovered this on Cycle Orgeon, where the portable sinks that accompany the shower trucks don't have stoppers.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Alex carnavas View Post
    I hope this isn't rude or crossing the line or something, but since you plan on staying over in London for a while how do you plan on making money? I'd like to know because I'd like to start touring for a couple years, and I need a means to make money on the road. Thank you.
    I am selling everything I own, and couch surfing for the last month of being here. I'll also be couch surfing as much as possible when I'm on tour, plus using warmshowers. I'm also getting my ancestry visa for the UK, which allows me to work there for five years.

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