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Old 08-18-11, 06:31 AM   #1
Yetis Exist
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Touring in fall/winter

Question for any tourers out there--

How practical is it to set out on a long distance tour, starting in about a month? I haven't set anything in stone, but I'd be thinking of riding from the west coast back home to WI.

I know its a bit late in the season, but I've got a few months before my job is set to start, and I'd rather get out and go somewhere than sit around!

I have absolutely no experience with touring on bicycles. That being said, I'm an experienced hiker; I've hiked the Appalachian Trail solo, and frequently take shorter solo hiking and canoeing trips. I also put a whole lot of miles on my bike-- my current commute is 35 miles a day, which I'll bike so long as the roads are clear of snow. I do know how to dress for cold weather biking. My biggest concern is the mountains-- I know early season storms can blow up, and there's not always a whole lot of options as to where to go.

If anyone has any thoughts, it'd be appreciated!
thanks
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Old 08-18-11, 06:59 AM   #2
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I bet you "can" do it, but will it be "fun?"

I would stay south, forget about riding home to MI. Better to enjoy the actual trip than avoid a day or two and a few dollars of expense getting home. Early September is about as late as you want to be in the Rockies.
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Old 08-18-11, 07:00 AM   #3
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In the mountains, you'll get snow in late June.

The main problem is the shorter days (not as much light to get from point A to point B). A secondary problem is the weather (not as many good days to ride).

You will want lights on your bike, front and back, to do what needs to be done. I take it that you already have lights for commuting.

You will want to do a test run. Load your bike on your commute for a week, and then take a long weekend trip fully loaded. Any weaknesses in your setup can be spotted then.

Build in rest days where you can do laundry or wait out a bad storm system. If you're tenting it, it would be better to carry a 3-season tent and budget for motel days when the 3-season tent won't work.

You can get a lot of good biking days in September, October, and November. Just plan to stay within yourself and you should be fine.
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Old 08-18-11, 09:04 AM   #4
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Might ought to get yourself a good wx radio for this one.
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Old 08-19-11, 12:02 AM   #5
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It's doable, but keep a close eye on the weather report - if a big storm is coming be sure to take cover somewhere.

As ploeg mentioned, the short days are an issue. It could be very cold in the morning which makes packing up difficult. It may be very cold in the afternoon as well, so you'll want to be in your tent early. That doesn't give you a whole lot of hours to pedal.

Chances are you'll have lovely fall days for the actual cycling part of your days. We loved cycling through the USA in the fall - it's beautiful! It's not so hot so you're not drenched in sweat and you've got the lovely fall colors... It's really a delightful time to ride. Just be prepared for the cold snap that you're sure to encounter.
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Old 08-19-11, 11:58 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by valygrl View Post
I bet you "can" do it, but will it be "fun?"

I would stay south, forget about riding home to MI. Better to enjoy the actual trip than avoid a day or two and a few dollars of expense getting home. Early September is about as late as you want to be in the Rockies.
+1

You might consider taking the Southern Tier, then turning North once you get closer to WI's longitude. If the weather turns nasty on your way north, take a bus the rest of the way. If not, ride all the way home. Just a thought.
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Old 08-19-11, 01:19 PM   #7
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Before you do this route, do a quick Internet search for typical weather conditions in cities and towns along the way. Also keep in mind you can get almost any kind of weather in the mountains. One pass near where I live can get snow 10 months of the year.

You may also want to consider asking this question on the regional forums here. People who post there will have the information about where and when to travel and about what to expect.
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Old 08-19-11, 08:13 PM   #8
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Thanks, everyone, for your help. I guess it really comes down to how much I'd be pushing forward on the ride. Personally, I have no problem with hunkering down for a few days to let weather move through, and I'd have a good 2-3 months to pick and choose my riding days, which seems like a decent amount of time to cross half the country.
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Old 08-20-11, 08:28 AM   #9
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If you are going to transport(bus/train/fly) on one end of the trip why don't you make it the end instead of the beginning? Start out at home in the wonderful fall weather and tour south and west to wherever you end up. You'll be down on the southern tier route during the most wintery of your ride. Quite a few riders cross on the southern tier route in winter.
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Old 08-20-11, 06:42 PM   #10
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i did a similar tour a few years ago Started in august. i took the train from Wisconsin to Portland then headed to the coast and took the T A route east; When i got to Montana my plan was to hit "going to the sun hy" and do Glacier park again from the opposite direction Id done it previously. then hop on the northern tier route i caught a weather report of snow in the pass so I went just below G T S Hy . Eventually I headed north and got on the northern tier route. The winds in north Dakota were brutal! .Most days were warm fall days The nights were cold Sometimes it rained and some times it sleeted. Occasionally I had some snow. When i got to Wisconsin in the colors were spectacular so I headed north and rode to Eagle River then south to home. Being so late in the touring season i many times thought I had to be the only guy left out on the road then just like that, i would run into another touring cyclist

All in all it is doable the first part the weather will be nice and mostly warm nights later in the higher altitudes the nights will be cold in the tent. Sounds like you got the time have a good sleeping bag and deal with whatever comes your way best of luck to you

Where about in WI are you headed back to?
Catfish

Last edited by catfish; 08-20-11 at 06:47 PM.
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Old 08-21-11, 05:35 PM   #11
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I can't imagine trying to ride through any of the passes in Montana in October. We've had week-long below freezing cold snaps in late September, and that's in the valley.
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Old 08-21-11, 06:19 PM   #12
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Catfish-- I'm in the Janesville area, near the Illinois border. Where are you at? This is probably a separate thread, but how is touring round WI? I know there's a WI bike trail out there-- are there other published routes?

Generally speaking, do these early storms in MT stick, or does the snow melt off after a few days? I know the weather isn't predictable, but in general, what is the trend?
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Old 08-21-11, 08:53 PM   #13
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Yetis, you are south of me I am between la Crosse and Prairie Du Chine along the Mississippi river. Lots of good riding in the area also rails to trails can take you a long ways in Wi and many interconnect. Although it is doable the cold and wet weather and wind may get to you. Since you are in Janesville area you might hook onto the Great River route south and either catch part of the T A going west or continue to the southern tier as some one else suggested.you could ride to La Crosse hop the train and head down the west coast route lots of options have you looked at the maps fro Adventure Cycling yet? if not check their web site.
All good wishes
CF

MS you are right Montana will be pretty cold at night I went through mid to late September. October would be worse Some mornings the tent was covered with frost took extra time to dry things and get going. The worst is getting out of the tent middle of the night for nature call uo in northern Wisconsin I woke up to a snow storm had to hole up a couple days. The weather did improve and the nights got colder

Quote:
Originally Posted by Yetis Exist View Post
Catfish-- I'm in the Janesville area, near the Illinois border. Where are you at? This is probably a separate thread, but how is touring round WI? I know there's a WI bike trail out there-- are there other published routes?

Generally speaking, do these early storms in MT stick, or does the snow melt off after a few days? I know the weather isn't predictable, but in general, what is the trend?

Last edited by catfish; 08-21-11 at 09:06 PM. Reason: better idea
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