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  1. #1
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    I'm planning to circumnavigate the U.S. using Adventure Cycling's maps. I need some feedback on the biggest difficulties involved in long distance touring. My trip will take about nine months and I will doing this trip as a continuous tour. Any information would be welcome.
    Justin

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    I've done 8 self-contained tours but never for the length of time you're planning. Biggest issues were:
    1.) allowing myself rest days...tend to ride continuously and rest days really are needed to allow muscles to rebuild
    2.) Not getting tired of same bike foods. Finding a variety of foods that are not heavy or bulky yet are nutritous can be tough. I took a variety of sports bars, beef/turkey jerky, trail mix, dried fruit and Mars bars (my bro-in-law
    says they're endorsed by Navy Seals for training... whatever they're good).
    3.) Shuttling was a big issue for us since I rarely do circular routes but sounds like that won't be a problem in your situation.
    4.) Packing concisely for all weather....answer is, of course, layering and good rain gear...waterproof booties..neoprene just keeps them warm not dry. A billed hat orv isored helmet is essential in the rain to keep water from running in eyes.
    5.) Injuries...take a good first aid kit with lage guaze bandages in case of unforeseen crashes..they always seem to happen when you're out in the middle of nowhere...same for tools, tires and tubes.

    Adnebture cylcling does a good job for the most part with there maps. be sure to ask if there are any updates to there maps available. They print out addendums between printings that point out problem areas.

    Good luck, sounds like fun!

  3. #3
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    Good advice posted above. In addition:

    I cycled a week with a guy who was on his final leg of his own circumnavigation of the US and told me that he wouldn't drag his worst enemy through western Texas.

    You're forewarned.

  4. #4
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    ...and a couple more suggestions on long-distance touring: I was not all that impressed by Adventure Cycling maps. I found some serious omissions and errors. But in general I'd say they're as good as anything...just be on the lookout for better options. Two methods I employ:
    1) ASK THE LOCALS!! Even AC doesn't always have time to do this adequately. Many a beautiful side road cuts through places not shown on maps, and local folks can tell you about them. Especially true when new roads replaced older ones that are now almost unused. These, too, are often not on maps.

    2) Follow the pavement symbols from bike tours, when available. You know, the little painted symbols, often a circle and line indicating a turn or "go straight", etc.

    have fun!!

  5. #5
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    Good Luck on your venture. One of the most important things I've learned while touring is PACK EVERYTHING IN PLASTIC BAGS! I've never had a set of panniers that was water proof. Roll everything individually. Zip-lock bags are perfect. .
    Dried concentrated food gets tiresome quickly, so I manage to stop at grocery stores to get fresh fruit, salads etc. There are rare days when you aren't near some place to get fresh goods.
    I also keep plenty of gorp and liquids with me. If you dehydrate or run out of energy, the day can become brutal. I carry at least a gallon of water for cooking and hydration.
    Most of this you are probably aware of, but it doesn't hurt to hear it again.
    As for maps, I get local maps wherever I go.
    Aagain, Good Luck! And most of all Enjoy!!!!!
    ljbike

  6. #6
    Senior Member Bubba's Avatar
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    Advice that was given to me, which I've always followed, but fortunately never needed:

    Take a well recognized credit card with a high enough limit to get you home from anywhere, quickly. Because you never know...

    Enjoy! :thumbup:

    Bubba

  7. #7
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    [QUOTE]Originally posted by ljbike [/i]
    One of the most important things I've learned while touring is PACK EVERYTHING IN PLASTIC BAGS! I've never had a set of panniers that was water proof. Roll everything individually.

    I must reply to -- and respectfully disagree with --ljbike's letter, quoted above. Plastic bags are a thing of the past, and thankfully so!! For decades, Ortleib has been making waterfproof ("vasserdicht") bike panniers. In the past 10 years they have become very commonly available across the U.S. There are now even other brands copying them.

    For bike touring, I have used nothing but these packs for the past 15 years. My 15-year old packs are as good as new. They have never leaked one drop, through torrential downpours, over tens of thousands of miles of touring and commuting. Gladbags and Ziplocks be gone!!

  8. #8
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    The two greatest inventions of civilizations: Zip Lock bags and ThermaRest mattresses. Be sure to take them with you.

    Also, the Department of Transportation for each state is often a great source of information about bicycling. Some states will provide basic information, while others will provide such things as maps that show how many cars use which highways each day. They can mostly be reached by e-mail, too.

    Most important: Watch out for nutrition (a cup of coffee won't do it for breakfast, get plenty of protein to build your muscles, etc.) and water (you should sweat all day and have to visit the restroom on a regular basis or you aren't getting enough). Naturally, these recommendations are the result of my learning from experience.

    I switched to a two-wheel trailer a few years ago. If you haven't got the equipment yet, you may want to consider a trailer. It tracks well, carries more stuff more conveniently, and your bicycle itself is a lot easier to ride. Also, when you stop, it is easier to unhitch and ride without than taking off paniers.

    When I go on 3-week or longer trips, people will ask, "Are you going alone?" I used to say, "Yes," but realized that I really am almost never alone. There are great people on the road and in all the towns that I got through--they help make the trip fun and memorable.

    Enjoy!

    Carl

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    Great advice everyone, I hope you can help me too. I want to plan a cycling trip (1-2 weeks) and have never done it before so I don't know where to start. I'm considering New York State, perhaps Lake George area, or somewhere in New England. I live in NJ so I want to be able to drive to my starting point.

    Do you have suggestions for the trip?
    I would prefer to stay in hotel's or B&B's. I don't really want to camp or carry camping gear. I plan on traveling extremely light.
    I have a road bike, will this be okay? I know I can get a rack and panier's to fit it.
    I will most likely travel alone. What are the problems with this that I need to be prepared for?
    As a note, I have traveled alone extensively in 3rd world countries so I am acustomed to solo travel that is not of the "resort" type.

    I would appreciate any ideas, suggestions, experiences.

    Thanks,
    Hieloazul

  10. #10
    Love Me....Love My Bike! aerobat's Avatar
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    Hi Hieloazul, check out the partner site Bicycle Exchange. They have a large section with touring books in all areas of the states.

    You may find your area in there, or even change where you're going to take advantage of the info.
    "...perhaps the world needs a little more Canada" - Jean Chretian, 2003.

  11. #11
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    Do you have suggestions for the trip?

    upstate NY is one of my favorite biking areas ... Adirondacks being the best, but also the areas east of the Hudson, bordering Vermont. All you need there are good local maps (forget Rand McNally ..spring for the county maps in each county).


    I have a road bike, will this be okay?

    Not so ok, but if that's all you got, then it's still better than driving. I would still recommend finding a way to afford a touring bike. Used is fine, and with some work you can get by for under $500. Touring bikes are a big advantage in many ways, but I'll just list the most important: 1) comfort after riding all day; 2) ability to go on the occasional off-road or dirt road. One of my favorite memories of the Adirondacks is a 50-mile smooth dirt road through incredibly gorgeous woods, with no traffic ... couldn't have done that on a road bike. 3) ease and integrity of rack installation. Sure, you can get racks to sit on a road bike, but without the braze-ons, they're always just waiting to move, or worse. 4) they're much tougher, both in terms of frame strength and as a result of the wide rim/tire that you can fit 5) you can fit real fenders on them

    I know I can get a rack and panier's to fit it.

    I will most likely travel alone. What are the problems with this that I need to be prepared for?

    I have travelled across country alone. Only "problem" I can say is that it can be lonely.
    Cures: keep a good journal; hook up with other riders; eat out (at restaurants). Advantages are many, including the ease of meeting strangers.

  12. #12
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    Thanks for the advice TD. I will look into touring bikes, used is a good idea. It's beginning to look a little silly at my place with 3 bikes and just me. A fourth will add to the "exotic" look of my garage.

    Did you camp on your trips or plan to stay at hotels? My preference is hotels/B&B's since I'm not an experienced camper and don't think I'd feel safe camping alone.

    Good advice about the journal and eating out to ward off loneliness. I've traveled alone through India for 6 weeks and Mexico for months and both my journal and talking to strangers were some of my biggest survival skills as well as the most enjoyable.

  13. #13
    Senior Member mike's Avatar
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    Good suggestion to bring a journal. Instead of journals, I write to friends. This is my savior when eating alone in resturaunts. I decide which of my friends or family I want to dine with and then start writing to them. For this, you need to bring an extensive address book.

    I wouldn't recommend women camping alone. I do a lot of camping, but would feel at least a little uneasy doing it solo these days. The wilderness is less lonely and more "wild" than it ever was.

    Something on your bike is sure to break. Bring all the tools and spare parts you can think of. There is almost no indespensible part on a bike. Virtually everything is needed to keep the bike moving.

    Know how to fix everything on your bike. If your bike breaks down 30 miles from the nearest bike shop, you will be faced with walking a day and a half or taking a ride from a stranger. In some places (like Texas, New Mexico, Montana, Nebraska, etc.), you can be 100+ miles out of your way to the nearest bike shop and they may not even have the part you need. (Remember to bring extra chain links).

    Heilo; six weeks through India? Fascinating!! If you can't get your journal published, open a web-page and put it there. You should be heard.
    Last edited by mike; 07-05-01 at 08:13 PM.
    Mike

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    HI Mike, India was fascinating. I would love to go back there again. I wish I had the luxury of really long trips but these days I just can't take the time off. I miss traveling.

    How would you suggest getting to be an ace Bike Mechanic? I did a little biking in Nepal way out in the hills where there were few people. I'm sure these people never saw a Caucasion let alone a female, wearing pants, and on a bike. Well, my rental bike of 8 speeds which really only had 3 that worked and all 3 seemed to be identical decided to pop the chain off. I didn't even know how to do that. I figured it out out of necessity but it did make me realize that I need to be a little more familiar with fixing my bike if I plan on more solo rides. Help!

  15. #15
    Senior Member mike's Avatar
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    Originally posted by hieloazul
    How would you suggest getting to be an ace Bike Mechanic?
    Learning to fix bikes is like learning to swim(?), nah, that's boring. Let's say it's like learning how to make babies. It starts with gettin' dirty.

    Get an old bike (with derailures like a 10-speed) and a bicycle maintanance manual. Take the whole bike apart and put it back together. I mean take the WHOLE bike apart. Take SOME spokes out off the rim, take all the bearings off. Take the cables out of the casings on the shifters. Take it ALLLLLLLLL apart.

    Then, put it back together.

    Then, ride your re-assembled bike 100 miles and see how it holds up. Hopefully something will go wrong and you will know how to find it and how to fix it.

    Offer to tune up the neighbors bikes.

    Ride other people's bikes that do not maintain their machines and see if you can find out what is wrong with it (if anything).

    Take good notes as you take the bikes apart. It makes getting them back together easier.

    Once you think you are pretty good, ask you LBS if you can work as a wrench helper for a couple of days. You will learn about a variety of different components and will make friends.
    Mike

  16. #16
    Senior Member mike's Avatar
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    Originally posted by hieloazul
    HI Mike, India was fascinating

    Well, my rental bike of 8 speeds which really only had 3 that worked and all 3 seemed to be identical decided to pop the chain off
    Heilo, your example supports my idea that when touring overseas, you should do it with local bikes - just for the simplicity of maintanance.

    Hey, I'll bet that most street urchins knew how to fix your bike in India, didn't they. In bicycle cultures, everybody knows something about being a bike wrench.
    Mike

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    I think that learning bike maintenance falls somewhere between learning to swim and making babies......closer to the learning to swim side. I have my old 12-speed Schwinn, maybe I'll attack that. Great idea Mike, thanks!

  18. #18
    Senior Member mike's Avatar
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    An old 12-speed Schwinn should be perfect for learning bike maintanance. It is most probably a very straightforward bike.

    Better yet, you know the feel of the bike and will be able to notice any changes your work does to it.

    Good luck. Let us know if you have any questions.
    Mike

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    Hi guys, I've only just joined Bike Forum and already sense an addiction in the making. The Forum is awesome and, despite years of touring experience, I'm learning a lot from your combined contributions. I'm a 70 year old Tasmanian and planning a 4 months European camping trip, from mid-May, on a Hase trike. My touring experience however, is limited to Australia and North America and I'm struggling a bit putting together an itinerary that will take me to exciting places, both in terms of scenery and culture... if possible, away from cities and crowds. Also, I'm a free spirit and like nothing better than stealth camping! Any ideas? Love to hear from you! Thanks, Winard

  20. #20
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tdwitten View Post
    I have a road bike, will this be okay?

    Not so ok, but if that's all you got, then it's still better than driving. I would still recommend finding a way to afford a touring bike. Used is fine, and with some work you can get by for under $500. Touring bikes are a big advantage in many ways, but I'll just list the most important: 1) comfort after riding all day; 2) ability to go on the occasional off-road or dirt road. One of my favorite memories of the Adirondacks is a 50-mile smooth dirt road through incredibly gorgeous woods, with no traffic ... couldn't have done that on a road bike. 3) ease and integrity of rack installation. Sure, you can get racks to sit on a road bike, but without the braze-ons, they're always just waiting to move, or worse. 4) they're much tougher, both in terms of frame strength and as a result of the wide rim/tire that you can fit 5) you can fit real fenders on them.
    I think it depends entirely on how light he is packing. I find my road bike more comfortable on long rides than my touring bike. I feel much better after a century on my road bike than one on my touring bike I would use my touring bike without hesitation for a tour with camping and cooking, but if staying in motels, hostels, and with hosts if I could get the load down to the 15 pounds or so, a road bike would be my choice.

  21. #21
    Formerly Known as Newbie Juha's Avatar
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    Cheers Winard, and welcome to the Forums.

    Holy thread resurrection: notice how the previous poster (before you) had posted on July 7th, 2001!

    re: your European tour. Stealth camping is actually legal in one form or another in Northern Europe (Finland, Sweden, Norway and Iceland). This Wikipedia article on Freedom to Roam describes legislation in various countries, including stealth camping in the mentioned Nordic countries. The part about Finland is accurate, and the part about Sweden sounds OK too. I'm not familiar enough with other countries to be able to say whether information is good throughout the article. I also know that other BikeForums members have reported having succesfully stealth camped also elsewhere in Europe, where it's not legal.

    You say you're not looking for cities and crowds. Central Europe has some very scenic river valleys with good bikepaths, lots of culture and points of interest. There will be people though, and if not huge cities, at least towns and villages everywhere. If you head up North (Baltic states, Sweden, Norway, Finland), it gets a lot less populated, you'll meet more mosquitoes, and it will be increasingly difficult for you to sleep in your tent due to the amount of light throughout the "night". It would seem in 4 months you'll have plenty of time to sample both areas.

    --J
    Last edited by Juha; 02-17-09 at 06:13 AM.
    To err is human. To moo is bovine.

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  22. #22
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    I'm a solo female tourer and must stress that going alone is not so scary as Mike makes it sounds. I camp all the way and have never had a problem; quite the contrary. Also, I think this is source of contention I've seen in other threads, but some of us simply are not expert bicycle mechanics. Knowing how to fix a flat, I would say, is imperative. But to say you MUST KNOW HOW TO FIX EVERYTHING ON YOUR BIKE is simply not true. I know enough to "limp" my bike into a shop, and carried a lot of parts when I toured Alaska (and still carry them since I never used them). But, I have a thumb, which works wonders in Alaska, and a cell phone. I think this is where the credit card might come in handy.
    The most difficult part of touring for me is the first week, when the body is shaping up. You will not believe how quickly your body strengthens. Also, prepare yourself for some CHAFFING. I have never figured out how to prevent it entirely and when it burns, it BURNS.
    Cycle touring is a blast!!! L

  23. #23
    Flying Under the Radar X-LinkedRider's Avatar
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    In north, finding places to clean up and do laundry and such. In the south, WATER. The rest is pretty much dependent on well you prepare yourself and adapt to the situation at hand.
    12' SuperiorLite SL Pro w/ Sram Rival | 10' SuperiorLite SL Club w/ Sram Force | 06' Giant FCR (Dropbar) w/ Shimano 5700 | 10' GT Avalanche 3.0 Disc

  24. #24
    Senior Member bktourer1's Avatar
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    check into warmshowers.org for cyclists who host others

  25. #25
    cyclotourist
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    Pretty much everything has been covered so...


    Never play poker with a man called "doc".
    Order anything with wild rice in it.
    Do your laundry as often as possible.

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