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  1. #1
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    Is This Too Ambitious?

    I've never done any serious, long distance, self-supported touring, and would like to get my feet wet. Due to limited ability to take time off, I'd like to do a 9 day, one way, 646 mile trip from my current home to Acadia National Park starting over Memorial day weekend. I'd like to do it entirely camping, with the exception of staying with friends 2 different nights, which will give me free showers and laundry, so I'll be heavily loaded. Daily distances are flexible, but I've mapped out a route with good places to stay each night with distances varying between 97 miles and 67 miles, with the exception of the last day, which is only 36miles. Due to logistics, the trip may have to be extended to a 10th day of 16 miles, and a 11th day of 17 miles. The route is nowhere near flat.

    My closest experience was an attempted 2 day, 300 mile trip, with camping plus a credit car for meals, that sort of failed and ended up being 3 days, after failing to get any sleep after the first day. I've done a fair amount of backpacking and camping, and am comfortable packing very light. I really don't feel like biking 70 miles a day, over the course of 12 hours should be challenging at all if I'm in shape.


    However, currently, I'm in what is definitely the worst shape of my life, need a bike, all camping equipment beyond a tent and sleeping bag, and will have only a few weeks riding outside before I leave. Spinning inside is completely different. I'll have had the chance to do a century maybe once or twice before that weekend.


    I don't want to set myself up for failure, injury, or a completely miserable experience. Should I rethink this, and look for a shorter trip to go on?

  2. #2
    Bike touring webrarian
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    There is a world of difference between riding 70 miles one day and riding 70+ miles day after day.

    I have never planned a bike tour that included a 97 mile day. Since this is a new thing for you, I'd suggest you not either. Can you get your starting/ending point closer to Acadia? There are buses in Acadia that have bike racks so you can save the riding along the roads into/out of Mount Desert Island.

    Since your last bike tour failed, I'd focus on making it easier to succeed than simply dividing some arbitrary distance by your time off and assume that a) you can do that and b) you will enjoy it.

    There are few worse things than having to ride long days just to keep to some schedule. Far better is to have extra time in your plan so that you have enough flexibility to change things as opportunities/problems arise.

    Bike touring is challenging. It shouldn't be at the edge of your ability.
    Visit the on-line Bike Touring Archive at www.biketouringtips.com

  3. #3
    djb
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    seems to me that common sense would point to you looking at what you have already done and know is doable, then go from there.
    As has already been said, dont plan it so that you are overextending yourself and not having fun.
    I mean, the bottom line is that the idea is to have an enjoyable time.

  4. #4
    Senior Member boomhauer's Avatar
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    Why not make your first day 36 miles? Seems more reasonable for a first day. You will likely start the first day late, if you're like me, because you're fiddling with all your gear.

    I never have trained for any of my tours. First thru third days are around 40-60 miles each. After that I feel like doing more.

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    Yes, try for more mileage toward the end of the trip, when hopefully you are stronger, and possibly you can leave some disposable items out of the load for the last day, such as a plastic ground sheet, excess food, and so on. My longest day ever with a camping load was on the last day of a mountainous trip--ended up riding an hour into the night, but made it. (Truckee to Sacramento, CA)

    And plan on everything taking twice as long as you hope it was going to--lunch, fixing a flat, waiting for a companion to show up, climbing a mountain, etc. That's just the way it seems to go on a tour.

  6. #6
    Senior Member mdilthey's Avatar
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    I can almost guarantee you that I've ridden your route. I've biked to Acadia and traveled there several times, and I'm reasonably familiar with it. If you're coming from New Hampshire, there will be a lot of hills, and 60+ mile days will be really tough. if you're coming south from Massachusetts along the coast, you'll have beautiful riding and can easily cover the distances you're talking until the Maine border, where the hills get a bit steeper but still manageable from Portland to Acadia.

    Don't even think about doing it until after April, though. I'd personally wait till June.
    Writing, Working, Photographing, and Living from the saddle. MaxTheCyclist.wordpress.com

  7. #7
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by swimmer View Post
    I've never done any serious, long distance, self-supported touring, and would like to get my feet wet. Due to limited ability to take time off, I'd like to do a 9 day, one way, 646 mile trip from my current home to Acadia National Park starting over Memorial day weekend.

    However, currently, I'm in what is definitely the worst shape of my life, need a bike, all camping equipment beyond a tent and sleeping bag, and will have only a few weeks riding outside before I leave. Spinning inside is completely different. I'll have had the chance to do a century maybe once or twice before that weekend.
    If I'm not mistaken, the Memorial Day weekend is in late May ... is that right? So you've got 5 months to get ready for the trip.

    1) Buy a bicycle as soon as possible.

    2) Buy a trainer. Look for a fluid trainer ... you can pick one up from Nashbar relatively inexpensively

    3) Put the bicycle on the trainer and ride.

    I presume you're taking spinning classes 1-2 days per week ... keep that up.
    Then add a couple evenings of 30-60 minute rides on the trainer.
    And add a couple longer rides on weekends ... get outside if you can, or if the weather is too bad, pop in a movie and ride on your trainer for a couple hours.

    You might also want to add in some outdoor snow sports ... and if you've got a gym membership, get on the treadmill, do some rowing, lift some weights, and maybe swim some laps.

    Whenever you can ride outside ... go do it.

  8. #8
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    Why not make the one way trip in reverse?
    Go to Acadia, spend as much time there as needed and cycle out to home.
    If time runs out, take public transportation to hometown from where you are at that point - provided it is available.

  9. #9
    Senior Member BigBlueToe's Avatar
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    My recommendation is to average about 50 miles a day on your first trip, and start out easy - the first day go no more than 35 miles.

    That's what I recommend. I like to enjoy my trips, not suffer, and I like to sit around the campground and relax, so I like to get there before the day is completely gone. Others might have very different advice. Opinions are like noses.

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    Yeah, pick a shorter trip. Those are high miles for experienced tourists / trained cyclists, you're going to want to give yourself more time, since it sounds like you aren't going to be in great biking shape.

    Can you get a ride part way there to start out? Even a 100 mile reduction would help. Would your friends be willing to bump you forwards on the morning after you stay with them?
    ...

  11. #11
    djb
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    Quote Originally Posted by BigBlueToe View Post
    My recommendation is to average about 50 miles a day on your first trip, and start out easy - the first day go no more than 35 miles.
    Bluetoe has written this in the past and the shorter first day or two is really good advice. Unless you will be able to get out regularly beforehand on your loaded bike close to or near the weight you will do your trip, for numerous good long rides (3, 4, 5 hours of riding) the first days are always going to be tough, there is just no way around this.

    if you take anything from the opinions on the touring forum, this one of planning shorter first days is an important one.

    All the best prepping for your trip idea.

  12. #12
    eternalvoyage
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    Quote Originally Posted by swimmer View Post
    I've never done any serious, long distance, self-supported touring, and would like to get my feet wet. Due to limited ability to take time off, I'd like to do a 9 day, one way, 646 mile trip from my current home to Acadia National Park starting over Memorial day weekend. I'd like to do it entirely camping, with the exception of staying with friends 2 different nights, which will give me free showers and laundry, so I'll be heavily loaded. Daily distances are flexible, but I've mapped out a route with good places to stay each night with distances varying between 97 miles and 67 miles, with the exception of the last day, which is only 36miles. Due to logistics, the trip may have to be extended to a 10th day of 16 miles, and a 11th day of 17 miles. The route is nowhere near flat.

    My closest experience was an attempted 2 day, 300 mile trip, with camping plus a credit car for meals, that sort of failed and ended up being 3 days, after failing to get any sleep after the first day. I've done a fair amount of backpacking and camping, and am comfortable packing very light. I really don't feel like biking 70 miles a day, over the course of 12 hours should be challenging at all if I'm in shape.


    However, currently, I'm in what is definitely the worst shape of my life, need a bike, all camping equipment beyond a tent and sleeping bag, and will have only a few weeks riding outside before I leave. Spinning inside is completely different. I'll have had the chance to do a century maybe once or twice before that weekend.


    I don't want to set myself up for failure, injury, or a completely miserable experience. Should I rethink this, and look for a shorter trip to go on?
    Hi Swimmer,

    Not too ambitious. If you do it right.

    You mention that you will be heavily loaded (for camping). It doesn't have to be this way. Doing it right would include changing this, and that would include doing some research and making excellent gear or equipment choices. You could start with Pete Staehling's article over at CGOAB. There are other good resources on the web as well. Listen to what Andrew Skurka has to say about tents vs tarps (in his book, or in his presentation on ultralight gear at www.youtube.com -- 'Skurka google ultralight' in the www.youtube.com searchbox should get you there). Ray Jardine also has excellent material on the subject, both on his website and in his books.

    Have a look at bikepackers' sites and gear lists, and at the pictures of their setups. If you will be mainly on-road, you can use a lighter bike. See nun's thread on ultralight evangelism.

    Your attainable daily mileages in the hills and mountains, along with your levels of fatigue, will be much better if you keep it light or very light.

    You can also save some meaningful pounds by researching suitable lightweight bikes.

    Why can't you ride outside earlier than you are thinking? Get past that self-imposed limitation. Check out the commuting forum -- people are commuting year round in all kinds of weather. Toughen up, man. It will serve you well when it comes time to tour.

    You mention being in the worst shape of your life. Not good. Change this. Find a way. There are many ways, in addition to the few that have already been mentioned, including more creative approaches that you might not have considered yet.

    There is a good short video about a guy who got back into shape, from being way out of shape, by riding (in all kinds of weather, in New England). Entering 'Dartmouth Hitchcock Cycling' in the www.youtube.com searchbox should get you there.

    Just buck up, get off the butt, and start now. Start the journey to fitness now, concretely rather than vaguely or sometime in the future. Take the steps. Do the research. Get the right gear. Find a way, or multiple ways, of making it all work.

    Another possibility is to find a bike you really enjoy riding. If you enjoy it, you are more likely to want to get out there actually riding it. And find the gear that will allow you to enjoy riding it in a variety of conditions, including winter and early spring day rides. Maybe get some added recommendations from the good people on the commuting forum. Talk with local riders and shops. Find the hardy souls who make it work. Make some time for day rides. Commute or partly commute. Don't shrink or hide from 'bad' or 'scary' weather or conditions. The gear and attitudes exist, that will enable you to convert riding in these conditions into something enjoyable. Find or create recreational activities that are enjoyable, or find ways of making them enjoyable. Have fun conquering the elements.
    Last edited by Niles H.; 12-07-13 at 11:31 AM.

  13. #13
    eternalvoyage
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    Entering 'Dartmouth Hitchcock Cycling Ayaz' in the www.youtube.com searchbox will pull up that video.

  14. #14
    eternalvoyage
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    Where, roughly, is your current home. I don't know too many ways you can get to accadia that are flat. Some of them are downright vertical.

    I think the point where you have to ask, is the point where you know it's too much.

    What is more, you have several hard points in your trip where you need to be places at certain times, which is normal enough, but a killer.

    Don't fall for the training routine, that's like dieting, if you are already into it, great. Otherwise it can just be one more stress that will make the whole thing too much. The smart way to have a good time is to keep the mileages real, and the timetable loose, and just enjoy it.

  16. #16
    eternalvoyage
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    There are real benefits to being fit. Even if you tour in a more easygoing way, fitness improves your energy levels, outlook, health, longevity, stamina, recovery, and options, whether on tour or in the rest of life.

    It seems worth finding a way there, and making it happen.

  17. #17
    Senior Member lanahk's Avatar
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    I was thinking it was doable until you said you were in the worst shape of your life. Cut down the miles per day and enjoy them more.

  18. #18
    Senior Member saddlesores's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by swimmer View Post
    I've never done any serious, long distance, self-supported touring.....9 day, one way, 646 mile trip......heavily loaded....varying between 97 miles and 67 miles....route is nowhere near flat....closest experience.....failed.....definitely the worst shape of my life....will have only a few weeks riding outside before I leave..

    I don't want to set myself up for failure, injury, or a completely miserable experience. Should I rethink this, and look for a shorter trip to go on?
    no experience, worst shape ever, 9-day trip in hills, no rest days?

    gosh, what could go wrong?

    plan a shorter trip, shorter daily mileage, with several rest days. 2-3 on, 1 off.

  19. #19
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    He's got 5 months to get into shape. If he starts working on it now, he'll be in shape to do the trip.

  20. #20
    Senior Member irwin7638's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BigBlueToe View Post
    My recommendation is to average about 50 miles a day on your first trip, and start out easy - the first day go no more than 35 miles.

    That's what I recommend. I like to enjoy my trips, not suffer, and I like to sit around the campground and relax, so I like to get there before the day is completely gone. Others might have very different advice. Opinions are like noses.
    +1. I always try to enjoy the trip rather than prove anything. I plan days averaging between 50-70 miles per day, I plan to ride 3 hours in the morning and 3 in the afternoon and whatever I feel like after making camp. Sometimes I will go farther than 70 miles, but I don't plan on it.

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  21. #21
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    Have you considered just jumping in and giving it a go with a well thought out bail out plan?
    One Foot Less

  22. #22
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    Yes, I've started spinning at home on a trainer about 30minutes every day, so as long as I keep that up, I should be in better shape come spring. However, riding indoors is a lot different than riding outside, especially given some parts o my route are relatively hilly. I'll plan on driving a little in the right direction, which will shave off 15miles on my first day, and I won't feel bad if I don't make it as far on the first few days, as I know I'll be able to do more towards the end.

    Luckily, my planned transportation on the way home is to have a family member pick me up in his small plane, so I'll be able to "bail" at the end of the trip, so long as I end up at pretty much any airport in the Northeast US, so nothing bad will happen if I don't make it, however, i'd like to not have a plan that's completely impossible.

    I guess my biggest worry is that I'll probably have only done, at most, once small trip overnight trip to test all of my gear out.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by saddlesores View Post
    no experience, worst shape ever, 9-day trip in hills, no rest days?

    gosh, what could go wrong?

    plan a shorter trip, shorter daily mileage, with several rest days. 2-3 on, 1 off.
    I don't know if it is necessary to change the plan. A few years back, I had a series of issues that led to my being in the second-worst shape of my life, but I had the opportunity to ride the 750 mile stretch from my house to my dentist as long as I could do it in a week and a day. I half-followed big blue toe's advice by making the first day shorter than my average, but that was still 90 miles. The ride was mostly along the Pacific Coast, so it was relatively flat (not counting the Lost Coast and the trip from the coast through the Sonoma and Napa valleys), although since it was March I did get slammed by headwinds for half of it.

    What could go wrong? I got my first ever saddle sore. To make matters worse, one of my two pairs of cycling shorts was an antique that had a real leather chamois. Having blood/lymph/whatever clot on the leather and then peal off every time I stood up was truly a memorable experience. (I eventually tore off a piece of T-shirt to use as a bandage.) I was whipped at the end of nearly every day and in pain the first hour in the saddle every morning. In short, the trip was awesome and I had a great time. I do that same ride twice every year, usually in five or six days, but it has never been as intense and wondrously challenging as that tour, maybe because that was a rare trip on which I truly did not know if I could complete it.

    I'd suggest to the OP to do what is necessary to get into what s/he considers acceptable physical shape. Create some bail-out locations just in case (I recommend something around half-way and another around three-fourths). Then just go do it. If you are the type of person who enjoys a physical and mental challenge, and it sounds like you are, you'll have a blast. If you decide you aren't ready, then find a way to shorten the trip so you have a reference for next time.

  24. #24
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    I've decided to go ahead and do it, but starting July 4th instead. I'm in better shape now, though still not great shape, a 30mi ride still leaves my legs slightly sore, but I have a few months to work up to doing a century at least once before I leave.

    My first two days will be pretty hard, but they're on roads I know, and will end with staying with friends. After that, I'll be averaging about 75 miles a day, which I think, if split up enough, is pretty doable.

    Would most people consider doing 22mi every weekday, and longer rides on the weekends adequate preparation for averaging 75miles on tour?

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by swimmer View Post
    Would most people consider doing 22mi every weekday, and longer rides on the weekends adequate preparation for averaging 75miles on tour?
    I would make some of those longer weekend rides fully loaded rides. Preferably, they should be things like overnight trips. Ride 75 miles to a campground and then ride back the next day. But if that is not possible, at least ride the bike loaded for 75 miles to get a feel of what to expect on a 75 mile day. And with your timing, you might consider reservations in Acadia if you plan to camp there.
    "I've wanted you to succeed, but watching you find excuse after excuse after excuse and then laugh it off as the loveable, quirky, chubby guy is getting old."--Ill.Clyde

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