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Old 06-13-11, 07:37 AM   #1
dengidog
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What I've learned pre-tour (my "light bulb" moment)

In a little over 2 months, I'll FINALLY (whoo hoo!) be on my cross-country tour. I've been riding up and hills/wannabe mountains with my bike & trailer since October trying to prepare. I've lurked on this site and I've posted. I've asked a lot of dumb questions and had some really terrific advice. And it finally dawned on me:

1. No matter how many blogs/journals/websites I read, my gear needs aren't going to be the same as someone else's. Stop obsessing!

2. If I overpack, the world won't end tomorrow. The US Postal system exists for a reason. Stop obsessing!

3. Make a packing list and test it out. If I miss something or find that I need warmer/cooler clothes, I can buy them on the way. Stop obsessing!

4. There is no one right bike for everyone. I need to go with what I want as long as I can afford it and the fit is good. Stop obsessing!

5. My trip is my trip. I have an obligation to respect anyone who rides with me, but I shouldn't change my dream just because someone else doesn't think it's "right". It's okay to be flexible, but not jello.

6. I'm never too old to learn. If someone has given me advice, there's a reason behind it, but I know that some things I'll have to experience for myself.

7. I'm going to do what I can not to smell/look homeless, but I don't care whether or not I'll be color-coordinated, wearing the latest cycling style. It's not like I'm going to be on the cover of "Biking Weekly". If others laugh at some of my more creative outfits, well...at least they smiled.

8. Stop obsessing over the details!

As you can see, I've really been overthinking this whole thing. I was so determined to get it "right" that I forgot about how much fun it is to simply ride. What brought it home for me was speaking to someone about my trip. The individual, a much more experienced rider, was making me question myself because MY tour didn't match HER needs. In talking it out with hubby, the light bulb finally was lit. I'd been so busy obsessing over small details and what others thought of them, that I'd lost sight of why I wanted to tour--to have a chance to see my country and have fun.

Whew! This is long, but now I'm curious: what was your particular "light bulb" moment and what caused it?
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Old 06-13-11, 08:17 AM   #2
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I think it helped that I started travelling, camping, cycling, and doing hub-and-spoke cycling tours with my family long before personal computers existed ... and long before I cared what other travellers, campers, cyclists, and cycletourists thought about what I was doing ... long before I knew that there was such a thing as cycletouring.

The tours I've done as an adult have just been an extension of what I grew up with. As a child, I travelled, camped, and cycled all over western North America. As an adult I just expanded my travels to include parts of eastern North America, Europe, and Australia ... so far.



There is no "right" way to cycletour ... you have to do what works for you. And this is why several of us suggest getting out there and riding your bicycle in all sorts of conditions, camping with the gear you're thinking of taking, and generally travelling and experiencing different things, whether it is a part of a cycle tour or not. That way, you can find out what works for you.
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Old 06-13-11, 08:24 AM   #3
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Op, your post ought to be a 'sticky.' You nailed it.
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Old 06-13-11, 08:43 AM   #4
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When I did my first overnight shakedown ride I realized that weight made a difference and that I needed more camping experience.

I went out and bought lightweight clothes and left the the Levis at home.

Ray
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Old 06-13-11, 08:49 AM   #5
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When I left for my first tour, I didn't know what I was doing. I felt like I was just stepping off a cliff. I was psyched, but a couple days before I starting to wonder what I was even doing...

I learned that a lot of things that are worth doing scare the **** out of you. When you have the courage to do things outside your comfort zone, at first, it's terrifying. But that doesn't mean that it's not the right thing to do. Don't be scared of being scared
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Old 06-13-11, 08:59 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Machka View Post
There is no "right" way to cycletour ... you have to do what works for you. And this is why several of us suggest getting out there and riding your bicycle in all sorts of conditions, camping with the gear you're thinking of taking, and generally travelling and experiencing different things, whether it is a part of a cycle tour or not. That way, you can find out what works for you.
+1. When I read those "Just load up your bike and head out the door posts I cringe. That may work for a few, but if touring AND riding a bike is new to you, not knowing what works for you and what you are realistically capable of can cause pain.

I started this message fully intending to post a journal link that personifies this, but then decided that I didn't want to make an example out of someone since many people have a hard time differentiating between being meanspirited and pointing out the obvious.

Send me a PM if you want the link.
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Old 06-13-11, 09:34 AM   #7
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+1. When I read those "Just load up your bike and head out the door posts I cringe. That may work for a few, but if touring AND riding a bike is new to you, not knowing what works for you and what you are realistically capable of can cause pain.

I started this message fully intending to post a journal link that personifies this, but then decided that I didn't want to make an example out of someone since many people have a hard time differentiating between being meanspirited and pointing out the obvious.

Send me a PM if you want the link.
I'll send a PM since I like reading what others have to say and I totally agree with you about some of the mean spirited postings versus genuine advice (although most on the Touring board have been absolutely wonderful and patient in their help/advice/comments).

As a newbie, I'm trying to do everything that I can to be ready. While I've taken long day tours in the area over some really rough terrain, not everyone can hop on their bike and just ride for weekend practice runs, etc. Maybe work limits them or family or their particular area...but, it's also disheartening when you get the sage that tells you that you're going to fail because you haven't done "X". No, you shouldn't just hop on your bike and go, but don't over obsess about things. Let's face it. If all goes reasonably well, I'll finish my first tour having learned what does and doesn't work for me. If I get smooshed (bigger risk here than the States), injured, or the bike snaps in two, well, I'll dust myself off, buy a plane ticket home, and try again. While it's important to be ready, you can't know what traffic/road conditions/weather is going to be in the future. Many things that may happen to me could happen to anyone. Be prepared but don't make it rocket science (oooo...I think I have a new motto!).

And a big thanks to Cyclebum for the kind words!
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Old 06-13-11, 09:35 AM   #8
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Nice, dd - glad the lightbulb went on for you.

I love problem solving, so I just look at a tour as an extended opportunity to do that.
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Old 06-13-11, 10:43 AM   #9
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To the OP... Great post. Glad you figured that out, and I hope you have a great tour.

I guess that I was lucky in that I tend to not be one to obsess over the stuff that people tend to obsess over. As far as what my "light bulb" experience was... I don't know that I ever had a big one, but I guess the closest was when I realized that, within reason, for me the comfort of a light load trumped the comfort of extra stuff in camp.

I seem to constantly have tiny little light bulb moments. Mostly they are realizing that I don't need stuff that I originally thought was necessary and I am happier without it. The moments when I think that I made an error by leaving something home or taking a lighter item are exceedingly rare.

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+1. When I read those "Just load up your bike and head out the door posts I cringe.
I hope our TA journal is not your example of what not to do. Three of us did a Trans America as our first tour. Two of the three had done little riding before the tour. We all were in reasonably good health and quite proficient with camping and general outdoor skills though. We had a great time.

A lot depends on the individual, what they expect, what previous experiences they have, how able they are to be flexible and adjust as they go, that and a myriad of other factors. Taking off on a long first tour with somewhat minimal preparation can be a positive experience. I know that it was for us.

There is room for lots of different approaches.
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Old 06-13-11, 11:16 AM   #10
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This is applicable to all of cycling, not just touring. Good call. Doesn't really matter what someone else thinks unless you can apply it to your exact situation. The best teacher is experience, right?
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Old 06-13-11, 01:20 PM   #11
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I travel a lot for work, and have aspirations to touring, but I share your outlook. Travel does not stress me out at all - Before I leave I ask myself two questions:

1. Do I have my passport?
2. Do I have my wallet?

Anything I forget, need, or want is really no big deal. Everything does need to be perfect when I walk out the door, I just need to be flexible.
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Old 06-13-11, 01:53 PM   #12
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I think it helped that I started travelling, camping, cycling, and doing hub-and-spoke cycling tours with my family long before personal computers existed ... and long before I cared what other travellers, campers, cyclists, and cycletourists thought about what I was doing ... long before I knew that there was such a thing as cycletouring...


There is no "right" way to cycletour ... you have to do what works for you. And this is why several of us suggest getting out there and riding your bicycle in all sorts of conditions, camping with the gear you're thinking of taking, and generally travelling and experiencing different things, whether it is a part of a cycle tour or not. That way, you can find out what works for you.
I've toured nowhere near as extensively as Machka, but I too grew up around bikes and camping long before computers existed. Trial and error is a great teacher.
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Old 06-13-11, 03:00 PM   #13
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this is great for me because i am planning a tour of new zealand for about 6 months that starts in october, i have not had a light bulb moment yet, i have just started getting what i need, tent, sleeping bag, and my bike so far. Im lost as to all the other stuff, i have been camping since i was 10 so i got that mostly figured out i think i just need to get what i need but i need to figure out what i can take to get it first.
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Old 06-14-11, 04:45 AM   #14
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My only real lightbulb moment was realising that I could get home by riding the three or four thousand kilometres not by plane, not by train, not by bus, not by car... but by bicycle.

Good opening post, dengidog. Now you can get down to the serious business of looking forward to the trip.
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Old 06-14-11, 05:49 AM   #15
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My light bulb moment was half a day into my very first tour, when I realized that touring was just like riding a bike.
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Old 06-14-11, 07:12 AM   #16
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Great post. I opine on this forum regularly, but anyone who feels my opinions are the "right way to tour" and feels bad about different things they do needs to re-think. Over the years I've learned a lot of things that work for me. I share them in hopes that they are helpful to someone else, but I know that others have very different approaches. More power to them. "Stop obsessing."

I've gotten some great information from this forum, as well as from other tourers I meet on the road, and I've changed or added some practices, equipment, etc. I've also rejected plenty of advice, respectfully of course.

You really have to try things out and make your own choices. Unfortunately, my approach is usually to try some piece of equipment out by buying it. As a result I have a lot of stuff I've tried and rejected. But I like a well-stocked parts department and my wife is tolerant.

Have a great tour. Do as much planning as you want (I like to do a lot) then get out there and make all the changes you want. No worries. (Well, maybe a few, but no obsessing.)
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Old 06-14-11, 08:02 AM   #17
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My light bulb moment was half a day into my very first tour, when I realized that touring was just like riding a bike.
Brilliant! (now why couldn't I have realized that about 8 months ago?)
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Old 06-14-11, 08:16 AM   #18
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My light bulb moment was half a day into my very first tour, when I realized that touring was just like riding a bike.
Exactly.

There's really no difference between a local day ride on a weekend and a day on a "bicycle tour" ... except maybe on the "bicycle tour" you might be carrying more stuff.

Take this past weekend for example. Rowan and I drove to a town about 45 minutes away, and then spent the whole day cycling in a big loop in that part of the world. We've been on some of those roads, and to all of those towns, a few times before, but this past Christmas was the first time we'd cycled through several of them so they are still quite new to us, and there was a section of road we hadn't cycled before. We stopped for a morning snack, then stopped again at lunch, and then stopped at the end for dinner ... much like we would have done if we had been on a tour.

We do this sort of thing just about every weekend, and before I moved to Australia, I had been doing that sort of thing for years. Exploring here, there, and everywhere on the bicycle.

For us, touring often (although not always) involves a flight somewhere, rather than the drive, in order to explore an area a little further afield than we'd normally go on a weekend.
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Old 06-14-11, 09:10 AM   #19
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My first "Light bulb moment" was the second day of my first long tour when I realized I should have asked experienced riders for advice. (I rode with blue jeans rather than padded riding shorts and ended up with severe heat rash so painful I could hardly walk)
My second "Light bulb" moment was the second day of my second long tour when I realized I should have asked for DETAILED advice from experienced riders. (I rode with the padded shorts, but wore cotton underwear, and still received nasty "bum rash")
Now, even after many long tours, and being comfortable with my equipment, and knowing what to expect, as well as how to pace my body, I am always asking questions and reading this site to glean any new info which I might use.....the "extra wheel" is a good example.
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Old 06-15-11, 02:23 AM   #20
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When you stop learning, you stop living.

That's something I do know.
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Old 06-17-11, 08:11 AM   #21
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9. Never underestimate the power of duct tape!
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Old 06-17-11, 08:17 AM   #22
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Sigh just realized my map holder is now next to useless without reading glasses.

A kickstand is the first accessory that should go on your touring rig.
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Old 06-17-11, 10:06 PM   #23
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dengi, as you say, we all kinda just figure out what works best for each of us as we go along, and one adjusts things as we go along, whether it be which doo-dads to have, which doo-dads not to have, etc etc. I too did a lot of outdoor stuff growing up, so bike travelling was not that different than canoe camping or hiking in terms of thinking of what really is needed and balancing too much with too little. As Macha said, before internet I just read some books on cyclotouring and bumbled my way along figuring out what things worked best for me. Kinda another example of my life, I always feel I am bumbling along figuring things out as I go.

I'd have to say regarding your question (well, I guess more of "post tour" really....) I think the thing that sticks in my memory is the neat feeling of accomplishment of looking at a map and realizing, cool--I've gone from this point to this point over "x" kilometres all on my own power, carrying the stuff I need to sleep, eat and be independent. In our world where we travel by car, bus, plane-I always found it pretty neat how one can travel by bike and cover an impressive line across a map and experience the land and people in such a different way than usual.

hasta luego

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Old 06-18-11, 12:38 AM   #24
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9. Never underestimate the power of duct tape!
Yes! In fact, just today I made a pouch for my bike tools and spare parts out of 100% duct tape. Taking it on a 6-week tour starting Sunday.

Love your original post. Do it your way! Just like Burger King.
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Old 06-18-11, 08:21 AM   #25
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Sigh just realized my map holder is now next to useless without reading glasses.

A kickstand is the first accessory that should go on your touring rig.
My parents bought me a little bag that sits on the top tube and attaches to the steerer. It has just enough room for my camera and my glasses. Now I can easily put on my glasses, which is mandatory to read the map and also to read my gps. I'm taking lots more pictures now that I don't have to dig the camera out of my cluttered handlbar bag.

I don't use a kickstand. I have XXL bikes and they're too top heavy; they always fall over. I have to find something to lean them up against.
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