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    'Practice' before doing a tour

    I'm planning my first tour this spring with my brother - Raleigh to Richmond along USBR 1. I ride road and mountain bikes with at most a tool bag on board. Does it make any sense as a newbie to run a few 20 milers with some loaded panniers before hitting the road on a 160+ mile trip or do you guys just hit the road? Guess I'm asking if you need practice to ride a loaded bike and how many miles make sense?

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    Best to take a one night practice tour. The bike will handle different.
    You will need to learn what you really need to carry. Less is better.
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    Yes, I think it's worth doing a local ride fully loaded before heading out, it will be a chance to make sure your load is secured and the bike handles ok. If you need to load it differently, it's nice to find out before you're actually touring.

    That said, you'll still readjust everything a few times on day one, it's not a show stopper if you don't do it.
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    Agree with the above recommendations for a local overnight tour, especially if this is a camping trip and you aren't a regular camper. Actually being out overnight is the best way to find out what you may have forgotten to take (or what items might be superfluous).

    Otherwise, I'd still recommend at least a short shakedown ride of a few miles to see how the bike handles, make sure the racks/panniers/etc. are secure and don't interfere with your pedaling, and just check everything out.

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    Quote Originally Posted by blilrat View Post
    Guess I'm asking if you need practice to ride a loaded bike and how many miles make sense?
    I practice riding with all of my gear for weeks or months before leaving on a tour. Mostly, this is so I know I'm in shape and able to carry all of my gear for 50-80 miles/day for several days straight without feeling miserably tired at the end of each day. I tend to pick routes with lots of hills, where "just hitting the road" doesn't work out so well...

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    Quote Originally Posted by sstorkel View Post
    I practice riding with all of my gear for weeks or months before leaving on a tour. Mostly, this is so I know I'm in shape and able to carry all of my gear for 50-80 miles/day for several days straight without feeling miserably tired at the end of each day.
    I'm a very experienced backpacker with many weeklong trips under my belt, so I think I'm ok with the camping gear list, but the extra weight on the bike is my biggest fear - how the weight will affect my endurance. We were going to split the trip into 3 50-60 mile days and I think I'll take the overwhelming advice here to do a short overnighter - maybe 80 miles roundtrip. Carry the gear for camping, but stay in a hotel

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    Senior Member Simon Cowbell's Avatar
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    That sounds like a good plan. I'd done enough backpacking, ski and mtb touring to know what to take. The only question question was how many miles I could do in a day. I loaded up the bike with everything and did a couple of twenty mile training rides after work, as well as a couple of fifty milers on the weekends leading up to my trip. Once I saw that it was taking me less that five hours to cover forty hilly miles, I knew that I'd have enough energy and daylight to do more. Have fun!

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    Senior Member Doug64's Avatar
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    It may also be a good idea to see how your loaded bike handles going downhill.

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    Senior Member SweetLou's Avatar
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    You can do training rides, but in my opinion they are not needed. A woman I worked with would load up her panniers and do 50-75 mile training rides before a trip to get her legs in shape. Another co-worker and myself don't do this, we just load up and go.

    If I haven't done any loaded touring for a while, my legs might get a little tired, but with everyday they become stronger. Since you seem to ride a lot, especially the mountain biking, I think you would do fine without the training rides.

    For bike handling, I don't think training rides are needed either. Just load up your bike and ride a bit. This is a good idea, since you can change the setup and see how it makes the ride characteristics change. I would recommend this over an over-nighter. Since an over-nighter you are thinking about getting to your destination. With just a ride, you might pull over more often to change things up to see how it alters the ride. You might even ride the same area. For example, if you have nice hill around, you can ride up and down the hill with different configurations to see which way the bike handles the best. These don't need to be long rides, just enough to give you an idea on each type of terrain you might encounter.

    Even my short trip to the grocery store shows this. I know if I take my bike with just the rear panniers and get a 20lb. bag of dog food strapped to the top of the rack will make it a little squirrelly going down hill. If I have my front rack on and load the groceries in the front with the dog food evenly divided between the rear panniers, it handles just fine. I don't need to do a 50 mile ride to discover this.
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    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by blilrat View Post
    I'm planning my first tour this spring with my brother - Raleigh to Richmond along USBR 1. I ride road and mountain bikes with at most a tool bag on board. Does it make any sense as a newbie to run a few 20 milers with some loaded panniers before hitting the road on a 160+ mile trip or do you guys just hit the road? Guess I'm asking if you need practice to ride a loaded bike and how many miles make sense?
    I was going to suggest doing an overnight tour, but I guess that's basically what you are doing on your 160 mile trip.

    So yes, go out and do a 20 miler or something to experiment with the load and handling. Ride on different terrain ... up hills, down hills ... and ride in wind ... headwinds, cross winds. You may discover you want to make some load adjustments.

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    can just go

    I just go these days, it feels awkward for the first few miles and then natural. But certainly nothing wrong with doing a practice run or two -- certainly to make sure the panniers are all on right, your heel doesnt catch them etc.

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    Probably a good idea, but three of us did the TA together with no previous loaded practice rides or mini tours. We were all experienced backpackers and camper though. Also Raleigh to Richmond is only what, 170 miles so it really isn't that huge of a commitment. I'd probably just go, but that is just me.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SweetLou View Post
    You can do training rides, but in my opinion they are not needed. A woman I worked with would load up her panniers and do 50-75 mile training rides before a trip to get her legs in shape. Another co-worker and myself don't do this, we just load up and go.

    If I haven't done any loaded touring for a while, my legs might get a little tired, but with everyday they become stronger. Since you seem to ride a lot, especially the mountain biking, I think you would do fine without the training rides.

    For bike handling, I don't think training rides are needed either. Just load up your bike and ride a bit. This is a good idea, since you can change the setup and see how it makes the ride characteristics change. I would recommend this over an over-nighter. Since an over-nighter you are thinking about getting to your destination. With just a ride, you might pull over more often to change things up to see how it alters the ride. You might even ride the same area. For example, if you have nice hill around, you can ride up and down the hill with different configurations to see which way the bike handles the best. These don't need to be long rides, just enough to give you an idea on each type of terrain you might encounter.

    Even my short trip to the grocery store shows this. I know if I take my bike with just the rear panniers and get a 20lb. bag of dog food strapped to the top of the rack will make it a little squirrelly going down hill. If I have my front rack on and load the groceries in the front with the dog food evenly divided between the rear panniers, it handles just fine. I don't need to do a 50 mile ride to discover this.
    +1 I had done a LOT of practice runs (not overnight due to location) and had even loaded my bike/trailer with nearly the same weight as my trip. No matter how much I had practiced, though, nothing could have prepared me for the actual trip. If you're an experience tourer, you know the little ins and outs that make things easier, but on that first trip, there's going to be something (or a lot of things) that you hadn't even thought about, no matter how much reading and planning you'd done. Your 160 trip is going to teach you better than anything you can read. Just relax and enjoy the trip. Little things will happen, but that's part of the adventure.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka View Post
    So yes, go out and do a 20 miler or something to experiment with the load and handling. Ride on different terrain ... up hills, down hills ... and ride in wind ... headwinds, cross winds. You may discover you want to make some load adjustments.
    +1. Before my first tour, which lasted nearly 4 months, I did one short ride (about 20 mi.) with empty panniers, a short ride with partially loaded panniers and finally a 62 mile ride over varying terrain with everything I intended to take on the trip. None of this was for fitness as I regularly rode for transportation and fitness. Rather, it was to get a feel for how the loaded bike handled.

    I had never camped before the trip. I didn't do any "shakedown" tours, but I did set up the tent and inflate the matress once to get a feel for what I would be doing most days of the trip.

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    Senior Member BigBlueToe's Avatar
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    When I first started touring in the 70's I had some apprehensions. I was worried about whether the load would cause me to fall, have control issues, etc. I was worried I wouldn't be able to make it up the smallest hills with a big load. I was worried about what I would eat, what clothes to bring, etc. I learned that handling was only problematic at very slow speeds - like starting from a stop, or riding up a hill in my lowest gear. I learned that pedaling up hills, though challenging, wasn't as bad as I had feared. I did learn the value of low gears, because my first tours were on a 10 speed. A little research showed me that they made triple cranksets. I coveted one, though I couldn't afford one.

    Now, some 40 years later, I feel similarly. I have to ride carefully when I'm going slow so my path doesn't wobble. I have my load distributed front and rear, and pretty even side to side, which makes handling a little better. I can still carry plenty of weight (too much, undoubtedly) up hills, but I now have a triple crankset with a 24-tooth granny, and a very wide-range 9-speed cassette on the back.

    The eternal question remains, what do I bring and what do I leave home? I still struggle with that before every tour, though my basic kit is pretty well set. I just make a few tweaks each time based on - what? fancy? whim? something that happened on the last tour?

    Different people seem to settle into different average daily mileage totals. Mine seems to be about 55 miies per day. Others do more, especially if they have a long tour to complete or limited vacation days.

    Before a tour I try to get in shape by riding. I don't load up my bike; I just ride my road bike and try and do longer and longer rides in the weeks before the tour. Before my last tour I varied this a bit. I was riding on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. There were a lot of steep climbs on dirt, and I'd never done anything like that with a load. Instead of trying to pull the actual stuff I would bring on tour, I simply put bags of bird seed in my trailer. I carried 40 lbs, which seemed about right (they came in 20 lb. bags) and headed up some steep dirt roads. I was getting into shape, but I was also practicing riding on uneven surfaces with a load. Before the trip I did load up the trailer with the same stuff I would bring on tour. I just wanted to confirm that it would be about the same as the bird seed. It worked fine.

    Incidently, no matter what I do to get into shape, I always feel the need to start easy on tours. On the first day I find myself looking for a campground after about 20 miles. I usually do 25-35 miles for the first three days - I've even taken a rest day after two or three days. After that I seem to settle in and 50-60 miles seems about right, and less than 40 seems too short.

    Your 160 mile tour is relatively short. If you learn something you'd like to change, you won't have to put up with it for long. Maybe it will become a warmup ride for something longer???

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    Thanks for all the experienced advice! And it sounds like 160 miles is short to a lot of you here, but as always, family and work duties come first right now. Hopefully, down the road when I have fewer immediate responsibilities, I can take some longer tours.

    Picking up some Ortlieb backrollers and Cannondale panniers for the two bikes this week. Can't lie, I'm actually excited about giving bike touring a try.

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    I wouldn't really bother, sounds like your tour is pretty short to begin with, and you already have camping experience and aren't horribly out of shape. As far as bike handling goes? I honestly only had to take my loaded bikes around my house to get a good idea of how they handle (even then, I don't think its really required unless you're incredibly clumsy.)

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    I would at least install the panniers and ride a bit,whether overnight or just around town,just to get a feel of it.Sounds like your in good enough shape to just take off whenever.Getting used to how the bike handles will take a bit of time and you may have to fidget with the load a little.

    If you have a short hill (or big hill) close to home,you might want to give that a whirl also.Could be exciting, depending on what kind of bike your doing this on.
    Last edited by Booger1; 12-20-11 at 12:28 PM.
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    160 miles for an old guy thats 3 maybe 4 days on the bike.
    I'm Averaging 7 miles per hour.

    IMHO, you should not commit your self to ambitious fixed mileage goals,
    just a period of time you are willing to stay in the saddle
    turning the pedals..
    Last edited by fietsbob; 12-20-11 at 12:30 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
    160 miles for an old guy thats 3 maybe 4 days on the bike.
    I'm Averaging 7 miles per hour.
    Is that just on logging roads up in the coast range? That's where I want to do some tours. I'm hoping my commute will prepare me for touring, as I carry a stupid amount of junk for work on my commute anyway.
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    Like others have mentioned, I don't think you really need any practice or test overnighter (though IMO any overnight is worth doing in itself).

    But, since it seems that your equipment is new and untried, I'd load it up and take it for a 10-20 mile test ride to make sure it works properly and is not defective, fastening points are adequate, etc.

    After all, you're going to be doing some riding before your tour anyway, you might as well do some of it with the rig you're going to use.
    Last edited by rogerstg; 12-20-11 at 07:55 PM.

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    Still more helpful advice, thank you.

    Lots of 'this is a short tour' comments. What kind of miles are you traveling? I'm doing this over a long weekend, but that's because I enjoy the camping as much as the trip to camp. I'm figuring 5 hrs/day in the saddle max - long breakfast, long lunch at local BBQ joints and a nice long evening at camp drinking, eating and story telling.

  23. #23
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by blilrat View Post
    Still more helpful advice, thank you.

    Lots of 'this is a short tour' comments. What kind of miles are you traveling? I'm doing this over a long weekend, but that's because I enjoy the camping as much as the trip to camp. I'm figuring 5 hrs/day in the saddle max - long breakfast, long lunch at local BBQ joints and a nice long evening at camp drinking, eating and story telling.
    The weekend before last, Rowan and I rode a 300K randonnee ... 312 km (just shy of 200 miles) in about 17 hour straight through, including all breaks. In each month of this year, we've ridden a century (100 miles) or longer ride as a part of the Century-A-Month challenge. We're long distance cyclists. So from our perspective, 160 miles (270 km) could be a day ride.

    I've also done multi-day and multi-month tours of 800 km, 1200 km, 5000 km, and distances in between. So from that perspective 160 miles (270 km) is quite short.

    That said, I've also done lots of short tours too, and enjoy them (see the Short Tours thread).
    http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...ur-Short-Tours

    Through all the touring I've done, I've discovered that I prefer shorter daily distances on tours so that I can relax and enjoy the tour, and see the sights, and maybe even do other things like going for a hike or swim at the end of the cycling day ... so preferably no more than 80 km/day (unless it is a supported tour, where someone else is carrying my luggage).

    But you have to do what's comfortable for you.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by blilrat View Post
    I'm a very experienced backpacker with many week long trips under my belt
    That simplifies it a lot. Only add a small amount of bike repair stuff (spare tube, tire patch, tools for fixing a tire) and you're good to go. No need to load more on your bike just because you can.

    Quote Originally Posted by blilrat View Post
    how the weight will affect my endurance
    Remember, it's not a race and you have all day to ride the 60 miles. So I doubt you'll have any issues with it, especially since you're fit enough for backpacking.

    Quote Originally Posted by blilrat View Post
    Carry the gear for camping, but stay in a hotel
    You might just as well skip this. The reason for doing an overnight tour is to try out everything and figure out what you didn't need and what you forgot. So if you're staying in a hotel then this becomes mute.
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    As a general rule I ALWAYS do at least one or possibly two shake down rides prior to heading out on tour. Mine tend to be in the 40 mile range, that is a bit under my average daily mileage when on tour. They have usually been an out and back based from the house. It gives me a chance to get back in the groove with a loaded bike and a chance to do a weight and balance check. I pretty much tour with the same stuff all the time so that isn't as much of a concern.

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