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Touring on your commuter.

Old 01-12-14, 09:13 PM
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Bikeforumuser0011
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Touring on your commuter.

Well, Lola and I have decided to take our very first bicycle tour. As a "gift" to myself in August when I graduate with my MA, I am going to take my very first bicycle tour from Roscommon, Michigan (where my parents have a cabin) to Mackinaw, Michigan to enjoy a few days on the island. However, I am completely lost as to where to begin. Gear? Training (i.e. fitness)? Mapping out my route? Advice for going by yourself?

To see more about my bicycle (as she is is the only one that I have and I am unable to purchase something simply for touring at the moment) check out this link. I will post photos, upon request.

Please, keep in mind, that I am on a very tight budget, so purchasing another bicycle simply for touring is out of the question. I can get some stuff for the trip, but not much.

Thanks!
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Old 01-12-14, 09:44 PM
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Figure out what kind of distances you'll need to cover every day to get there and back within the timeframe of your choice and then get used to riding at least that far.

There's a touring subforum on BF -- great place to do some research.

Will you be bike camping as well, staying at hotels, or with relatives and friends? This will dictate what you'll want to bring with you. I imagine you'll at the very least need rack and panniers to carry stuff?

[check mapping...]

Ah, around 100 mi? Some tourers cover that in a day, otherwise, probably two days on the road, or three if you want to take it easy. Sounds like a great, reasonable, very attainable first stab at touring.
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Old 01-12-14, 10:19 PM
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It does not look like the tour is extremely long so as long as everything is in good shape I would not hesitate to tour on it.

What I would do, a thorough run through a few weeks before you leave to make sure everything is in good shape (tires/wheels especially). If you are comfortable working on bikes that should be easy to do from home, if not take it to a trusted LBS and while you are at it, ask them to show you how to adjust some of the more common things like gears/brakes. If it is summer they may be too busy to be able to walk through the entire bike with you at that time so asking about classes could be a good option.

After that figure out how much gear you plan on carrying and simply make sure everything you need will fit on the bike without buying anything extra. The shorter tours I have done I was able to get away with my commuting panniers. If you can not comfortably fit everything on the bike either invest in a way to carry more gear (bigger panniers, front rack, etc) or see if you can loose a few things without affecting the quality of your trip.
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Old 01-12-14, 11:01 PM
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The touring subforum is good, but I spend some time reading CGOAB (Crazy Guy on a Bike) to see if anyone has gone whatever way I'm interseted. I use the search and see what pops up. Many people go to Mackinaw Island, so you have all sorts of journals to read.
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Old 01-13-14, 04:23 AM
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Are you camping, or riding from hotel to hotel?

If the former, carrying the necessary gear on the bike may be a challenge. Definitely load the bike up with all that gear and do a test run, meaning go ride 20 miles and see what it is like. A loaded bike rides differently than an unloaded one, and a heavily loaded bike different yet. "Different" not meaning better, usually.

Are you in shape for riding 30 or 50 miles a day, whatever it will be? Depending on how much you have been riding lately, you might want or need to train up a bit.

Any chance of being caught out after dark? Then you need lights - not optional.

What are the roads like? Narrow two lane, busy four lane, with or without bike lane or wide shoulder? How much auto/truck traffic, how much bike traffic, are you comfortable riding on those sorts of roads? Need to know that - you might even consider driving your proposed route first.
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Old 01-13-14, 05:13 AM
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I would go the other way...if I could only own one bike, it would be a tourer and I'd commute on it. I view tourers as the most versatile all a rounders...and while they may not be the ideal bike in every situation, they can usually function in any non-extreme situations. If I recall, your commuter is a townie, which simply lacks the versatility, or comfort of a tourer over distance. So...while touring on a townie can be problematic, commuting with a tourer isn't.

I would most definitely ride the distances you are thinking about touring first to make sure your saddle is comfortable and that the lack of hand positions won't be a problem for your back and hands; they certainly would be for me. That upright, one hand position might be ok for 5 mile jaunts in the city, but I'm betting it won't be for daily long riding. Your townie's upright position is also not ideal for climbing...a hill will likely take more out of you. I'd check the weight capacity of your rear rack...most standard racks that come on bikes like this have a surprisingly low carrying capacity. if you're just going light and staying in a motel, it won't be critical. You might be younger and more resilient than me...I like things to be optimal and I'm definitely a little fussy about comfort.

I don't like townies at all and am definitely biased...to me their only real purpose is as inexpensive short distance commuter/beaters that you don't mind leaving out in the rain. This is obviously subjective and many like them.
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Old 01-13-14, 10:51 PM
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Originally Posted by KonAaron Snake View Post
I would go the other way...if I could only own one bike, it would be a tourer and I'd commute on it. I view tourers as the most versatile all a rounders...and while they may not be the ideal bike in every situation, they can usually function in any non-extreme situations. If I recall, your commuter is a townie, which simply lacks the versatility, or comfort of a tourer over distance. So...while touring on a townie can be problematic, commuting with a tourer isn't.

I would most definitely ride the distances you are thinking about touring first to make sure your saddle is comfortable and that the lack of hand positions won't be a problem for your back and hands; they certainly would be for me. That upright, one hand position might be ok for 5 mile jaunts in the city, but I'm betting it won't be for daily long riding. Your townie's upright position is also not ideal for climbing...a hill will likely take more out of you. I'd check the weight capacity of your rear rack...most standard racks that come on bikes like this have a surprisingly low carrying capacity. if you're just going light and staying in a motel, it won't be critical. You might be younger and more resilient than me...I like things to be optimal and I'm definitely a little fussy about comfort.

I don't like townies at all and am definitely biased...to me their only real purpose is as inexpensive short distance commuter/beaters that you don't mind leaving out in the rain. This is obviously subjective and many like them.
Thanks for the advice. When I originally bought Lola, I did not have too much of an interest in touring, but it has now peeked my interest, so I am going to start with this small ride, to see if I enjoy. If I do, I will definitely look at investing in a touring bicyle down the road when the time & funds are right. I, tend, to be one of those people who believe that as long as you take excellent care of your bicycle, then it can get you where you are going, where ever that may be.

Thanks, again!
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Old 01-13-14, 10:54 PM
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Originally Posted by jyl View Post
Are you camping, or riding from hotel to hotel?

If the former, carrying the necessary gear on the bike may be a challenge. Definitely load the bike up with all that gear and do a test run, meaning go ride 20 miles and see what it is like. A loaded bike rides differently than an unloaded one, and a heavily loaded bike different yet. "Different" not meaning better, usually.

Are you in shape for riding 30 or 50 miles a day, whatever it will be? Depending on how much you have been riding lately, you might want or need to train up a bit.

Any chance of being caught out after dark? Then you need lights - not optional.

What are the roads like? Narrow two lane, busy four lane, with or without bike lane or wide shoulder? How much auto/truck traffic, how much bike traffic, are you comfortable riding on those sorts of roads? Need to know that - you might even consider driving your proposed route first.
jyl,

I'm not sure what I am going to be doing yet. I would love to camp it (just to say that, at least once I bicycle camped, because this is my first time touring, I am just testing it out to see if it is something that I would like to continue with), but I am not sure of my logistics yet. Fo rlights, I've got my Reelights, as well as my Knog Blinder 200, and will most likely be investing a couple more, because let's face it, bike stuff is addicting!
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Old 01-13-14, 10:55 PM
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Originally Posted by chriskmurray View Post
It does not look like the tour is extremely long so as long as everything is in good shape I would not hesitate to tour on it.

What I would do, a thorough run through a few weeks before you leave to make sure everything is in good shape (tires/wheels especially). If you are comfortable working on bikes that should be easy to do from home, if not take it to a trusted LBS and while you are at it, ask them to show you how to adjust some of the more common things like gears/brakes. If it is summer they may be too busy to be able to walk through the entire bike with you at that time so asking about classes could be a good option.

After that figure out how much gear you plan on carrying and simply make sure everything you need will fit on the bike without buying anything extra. The shorter tours I have done I was able to get away with my commuting panniers. If you can not comfortably fit everything on the bike either invest in a way to carry more gear (bigger panniers, front rack, etc) or see if you can loose a few things without affecting the quality of your trip.
I agree with you, I, tend, to be one of those people who believe that as long as you take excellent care of your bicycle, then it can get you where you are going, where ever that may be.
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Old 01-14-14, 12:32 AM
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What else would one tour on but the bike they've got? My lovely spouse has a Townie and loves it. I used to live in Kalkaska, and I've spent many happy hours tooling about in all directions in LNM. You shouldn't have any trouble at all finding a semi-quiet route to get up to Mackinac City especially if you're willing to take a few dirt roads- just make sure you stick to the County roads where possible, the non-maintained ones get beat up pretty fast. The Townie will only take certain racks because of the frame shape. But there were always a lot of old baby trailers on craigslist when I was there, or at garage sales for fairly cheap, something thats worth considering for your gear. They also make great grociery getters, are pretty water resistant, and they pull well in up to 4 inches of snow!

Please- do plan out your route though, and plan for more time than you expect for it to take. There's always something that you didn't expect. As for going by yourself, I don't remember if bear spray is legal in MI, but its something to think about if you're camping- wolves and the like crossing the channel in the winter; chances of you needing that almost 0, but it's nice to have. Also, and much more importantly, tell folks that you trust your actual route, and when you would expect to at places you will stop for the night. Actually check in with these people. I know that sounds a bit condescending, but the Coasties in the helicopters at Traverse City will thank you (I've gone searching for odder people than a lost cyclist).

Congrats to you, and enjoy your trip!
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Old 01-14-14, 01:16 AM
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Way back when, my friend and I decided to go on a mountain bike camping trip. We installed rear racks on our bikes and loaded up the biggest panniers we could find. We had both been gram-counting backpackers, and welcomed the prospect of a trip where we could carry whatever we wished - since the weight would be carried by our bikes not our backs.

The trip was to be 20 miles down the Sespe Creek canyon outside of Ojai, to some mythical hot springs where beautiful maidens bathed naked and beckoning, so we'd heard.

It was a beastly hot weekend in high summer. Our bikes, so lithe and nimble, rode like crippled water buffaloes. With fifty pounds on the rear wheels, we could hardly maneuver and hopping was impossible. We slammed into every rock and stump, smashed into every dip and hole, overran turns and washed out at any loose surface. Climbing became a gasping misery, then a leaden push. Descents were uncontrolled terror. Carrying our 80 pound bikes over water crossings was agony. It grew hotter. Far less than 20 miles in, we stopped and slept where we fell.

The next day it was even hotter. We started homeward, the bikes even heavier and somehow every uphill on the way in was also an uphill on the way out. After a while, we saw a brown haze, then a spreading stain in the sky, then rising smoke plumes. Oh eff. There was a forest fire in the canyon. And only one way out.

Now the trail was full of campers, struggling as fast as they could toward the trailhead ten miles away. The horse campers were fastest and soon disappeared, our curses trailing behind. We were pedaling hard, lungs hanging out of our dry mouths. The backpackers, desperately speedwalking under their forty pound packs, were left behind.

Pedal the lead pigs, crash and fall, heave the bastard bike upright, remount, flee on, scraped and bleeding. At the water crossings now we simply pushed the bikes through, heedless. Once my bike completely disappeared under water higher than its handlebars.

When we reached the trailhead, it looked like a disaster zone. Abandoned camping gear, cars spraying dirt as they zoomed off, forestry helicopters hovering over the river sucking water through long hoses, clouds of dust and the smell of burning brush. We never went mountain bike camping again, and I think I threw away the panniers in disgust.

Lesson: pack light.

Last edited by jyl; 01-14-14 at 01:23 AM.
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Old 01-14-14, 01:52 AM
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Touring is a bunch of day-rides stacked ,end to end .. only determination
and cash/credit to buy food and lodging along the way stands in your way.


Of Course, It all depends on where you go ..

Donauweg, a path on the shores of the Danube River bank/levee
is so casual families ride it as if a MUP.. from Passau to Vienna over several days.


FWIW, I'm the reverse, Touring bikes get used for commuting-utility..

The Pannier bag set goes on Grocery runs.

Last edited by fietsbob; 01-14-14 at 12:00 PM.
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Old 01-14-14, 07:42 AM
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I'm thinking of doing the GAP this Spring/Summer, so I'll be paying attention to this thread.

For the OP: my commute is 7 miles each way in normal clothes. I rode a 30 mile ride on my commuter (also my only bike) last Fall and I was ready to be off the bike by the end. Invest in some padded shorts and padded gloves. My legs were fine, but I was aching after about 20 miles on the saddle.
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Old 01-14-14, 08:06 AM
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Ha, good story and well written. It got me thinking that, for that kind of touring, that carrying the load, or most of it, on your back would be better than on the bike.

Originally Posted by jyl View Post
Way back when, my friend and I decided to go on a mountain bike camping trip. We installed rear racks on our bikes and loaded up the biggest panniers we could find. We had both been gram-counting backpackers, and welcomed the prospect of a trip where we could carry whatever we wished - since the weight would be carried by our bikes not our backs.

The trip was to be 20 miles down the Sespe Creek canyon outside of Ojai, to some mythical hot springs where beautiful maidens bathed naked and beckoning, so we'd heard.

It was a beastly hot weekend in high summer. Our bikes, so lithe and nimble, rode like crippled water buffaloes. With fifty pounds on the rear wheels, we could hardly maneuver and hopping was impossible. We slammed into every rock and stump, smashed into every dip and hole, overran turns and washed out at any loose surface. Climbing became a gasping misery, then a leaden push. Descents were uncontrolled terror. Carrying our 80 pound bikes over water crossings was agony. It grew hotter. Far less than 20 miles in, we stopped and slept where we fell.

The next day it was even hotter. We started homeward, the bikes even heavier and somehow every uphill on the way in was also an uphill on the way out. After a while, we saw a brown haze, then a spreading stain in the sky, then rising smoke plumes. Oh eff. There was a forest fire in the canyon. And only one way out.

Now the trail was full of campers, struggling as fast as they could toward the trailhead ten miles away. The horse campers were fastest and soon disappeared, our curses trailing behind. We were pedaling hard, lungs hanging out of our dry mouths. The backpackers, desperately speedwalking under their forty pound packs, were left behind.

Pedal the lead pigs, crash and fall, heave the bastard bike upright, remount, flee on, scraped and bleeding. At the water crossings now we simply pushed the bikes through, heedless. Once my bike completely disappeared under water higher than its handlebars.

When we reached the trailhead, it looked like a disaster zone. Abandoned camping gear, cars spraying dirt as they zoomed off, forestry helicopters hovering over the river sucking water through long hoses, clouds of dust and the smell of burning brush. We never went mountain bike camping again, and I think I threw away the panniers in disgust.

Lesson: pack light.
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Old 01-14-14, 09:37 AM
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Touring is very doable on a commuter bike, but as JYL alluded to, your enjoyment will largely depend on how much gear you carry. The simplest way to do it would be to travel light and stay in motels/inns/hostels if your trip involves overnights. You should be able to do that kind of "credit card touring" with a load comparable to what you carry commuting. However, if you plan to camp out, that could require a lot of heavy, bulky gear that might be too much for your bike (and yourself) to handle. You might need additional racks and bags for your bike so that you can distribute the weight properly. The first loaded tour that I attempted had to be scrapped when I realized that my bike didn't handle safely with all of my gear loaded on the rear rack and panniers. I ended up buying a front rack and panniers so I could distribute the weight, and my second attempt at touring was a success.
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Old 01-14-14, 09:56 AM
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The best way to get touring experience is to do a couple shakedown day trips out and back comparable to the longer trip you are planning. Spend a weekend or three days in a row, and you'll quickly see if your bike and equipment is up to the task, and whether you really want to do this. No additional investment required, other than time.
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Old 01-14-14, 09:58 AM
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I feel the same as Aaron but not as strongly. A townie bike is not ideal for touring except in some cases. The fact is that it's your only bike, and you're not going to buy another bike soon, so just make the most of it. You might not even have any problems, and even if you do, it will be fun.
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Old 01-14-14, 10:18 AM
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Originally Posted by GeoKrpan View Post
Ha, good story and well written. It got me thinking that, ]for that kind of touring, that carrying the load, or most of it, on your back would be better than on the bike.
Not in the real world.
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Old 01-14-14, 10:57 AM
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I forget, what kind of bike is your Lola?

My recommendation: plan carefully and conservatively. Plan for fewer miles per day than you think. Plan to maintain a leisurely pace. Hauling weight up hills is hard, you might consider lowering your gearing by buying smaller chainring(s) and/or larger/wider cassette. Chainrings are trivial to replace simply with an allen wrench, no need to pay LBS for that labor. Cassettes are also easy to change, but you need the tools. Cost of tools (cassette removal tool, chain whip) probably equivalent to labor charge of 1-2 times of having the LBS do it. Or maybe a friendly LBS will change cassette for you for free if you buy the cassette from them and bring in your rear wheel, already removed from the bike. It's a 30 second job.

I once went on a bike tour with my best friend from college, we started at the base of the Bruce peninsula, rode north and took the ferry to Manitoulin. The plan was to then ferry across to the mainland and keep going clockwise until we got back to the truck. Good thing we were too unprepared and knackered, because it turns out that would have been nothing but ugly, dangerous freeway. We retraced our steps (pedals?) back to the truck, drove up to Killarney Provincial Park and spent a few days canoeing. Beautiful, but don't go in May/June, the blackflies are ferocious!

Anyways, there were two of us, which meant that only one of us had to haul the tent (we shared 1 small tent), we both had a sleeping bag and pad, and otherwise we were carrying food and clothes. And a Frisbee.

But we were unprepared -- especially I was unprepared. I had taken only one long ride (New Brunswick-->Princeton and back, about 35mi) in "preparation", and had never ridden loaded before. Hills were killing me, and because I was so tired, my friend had to pull all the time, and his knee was hurting after a couple days.

I say your best bet is: get your racks and panniers (or kittiers -- cheap, capacious, and waterproof) on your bike, load it up with a touring load (or at least comparable weight/distribution) and go for a bunch of 10-20 mile rides.

If hills are impossible in your lowest gear, lower your gearing as mentioned above.

Before you set out, make yourself a map with every campground along the way noted, so you can ride as long as you want, and stop when you want.

Last edited by RubeRad; 01-14-14 at 11:01 AM.
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Old 01-14-14, 11:49 AM
  #20  
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Lola, the Kinks song [ Just had to add it.. ]


I met her in a club down in old Soho
Where you drink champagne and it tastes just like cherry-cola
[LP version:
Coca-cola]
C-o-l-a cola
She walked up to me and she asked me to dance
I asked her her name and in a dark brown voice she said Lola
L-o-l-a Lola lo-lo-lo-lo Lola

Well I'm not the worlds most physical guy
But when she squeezed me tight she nearly broke my spine
Oh my Lola lo-lo-lo-lo Lola
Well I'm not dumb but I can't understand
Why she walked like a woman and talked like a man
Oh my Lola lo-lo-lo-lo Lola lo-lo-lo-lo Lola

Well we drank champagne and danced all night
Under electric candlelight
She picked me up and sat me on her knee
And said dear boy wont you come home with me
Well I'm not the worlds most passionate guy
But when I looked in her eyes well I almost fell for my Lola
Lo-lo-lo-lo Lola lo-lo-lo-lo Lola
Lola lo-lo-lo-lo Lola lo-lo-lo-lo Lola

I pushed her away
I walked to the door
I fell to the floor
I got down on my knees
Then I looked at her and she at me

Well that's the way that I want it to stay
And I always want it to be that way for my Lola
Lo-lo-lo-lo Lola
Girls will be boys and boys will be girls
It's a mixed up muddled up shook up world except for Lola
Lo-lo-lo-lo Lola

Well I left home just a week before
And I'd never ever kissed a woman before
But Lola smiled and took me by the hand
And said dear boy I'm gonna make you a man

Well I'm not the worlds most masculine man
But I know what I am and I'm glad I'm a man
And so is Lola
Lo-lo-lo-lo Lola lo-lo-lo-lo Lola
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Old 01-14-14, 03:17 PM
  #21  
GeoKrpan
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Sheesh, the bike blog know-it-all vibe rears it's ugly head. I've got plenty of experience touring off road and on.

Originally Posted by xtrajack View Post
Not in the real world.
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Old 01-14-14, 07:27 PM
  #22  
Bikeforumuser0011
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Originally Posted by RubeRad View Post
I forget, what kind of bike is your Lola?

My recommendation: plan carefully and conservatively. Plan for fewer miles per day than you think. Plan to maintain a leisurely pace. Hauling weight up hills is hard, you might consider lowering your gearing by buying smaller chainring(s) and/or larger/wider cassette. Chainrings are trivial to replace simply with an allen wrench, no need to pay LBS for that labor. Cassettes are also easy to change, but you need the tools. Cost of tools (cassette removal tool, chain whip) probably equivalent to labor charge of 1-2 times of having the LBS do it. Or maybe a friendly LBS will change cassette for you for free if you buy the cassette from them and bring in your rear wheel, already removed from the bike. It's a 30 second job.

I once went on a bike tour with my best friend from college, we started at the base of the Bruce peninsula, rode north and took the ferry to Manitoulin. The plan was to then ferry across to the mainland and keep going clockwise until we got back to the truck. Good thing we were too unprepared and knackered, because it turns out that would have been nothing but ugly, dangerous freeway. We retraced our steps (pedals?) back to the truck, drove up to Killarney Provincial Park and spent a few days canoeing. Beautiful, but don't go in May/June, the blackflies are ferocious!

Anyways, there were two of us, which meant that only one of us had to haul the tent (we shared 1 small tent), we both had a sleeping bag and pad, and otherwise we were carrying food and clothes. And a Frisbee.

But we were unprepared -- especially I was unprepared. I had taken only one long ride (New Brunswick-->Princeton and back, about 35mi) in "preparation", and had never ridden loaded before. Hills were killing me, and because I was so tired, my friend had to pull all the time, and his knee was hurting after a couple days.

I say your best bet is: get your racks and panniers (or kittiers -- cheap, capacious, and waterproof) on your bike, load it up with a touring load (or at least comparable weight/distribution) and go for a bunch of 10-20 mile rides.

If hills are impossible in your lowest gear, lower your gearing as mentioned above.

Before you set out, make yourself a map with every campground along the way noted, so you can ride as long as you want, and stop when you want.
Lola is a Schwinn Voyageur.
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Old 01-14-14, 07:29 PM
  #23  
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Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
Lola, the Kinks song [ Just had to add it.. ]


I met her in a club down in old Soho
Where you drink champagne and it tastes just like cherry-cola
[LP version:
Coca-cola]
C-o-l-a cola
She walked up to me and she asked me to dance
I asked her her name and in a dark brown voice she said Lola
L-o-l-a Lola lo-lo-lo-lo Lola

Well I'm not the worlds most physical guy
But when she squeezed me tight she nearly broke my spine
Oh my Lola lo-lo-lo-lo Lola
Well I'm not dumb but I can't understand
Why she walked like a woman and talked like a man
Oh my Lola lo-lo-lo-lo Lola lo-lo-lo-lo Lola

Well we drank champagne and danced all night
Under electric candlelight
She picked me up and sat me on her knee
And said dear boy wont you come home with me
Well I'm not the worlds most passionate guy
But when I looked in her eyes well I almost fell for my Lola
Lo-lo-lo-lo Lola lo-lo-lo-lo Lola
Lola lo-lo-lo-lo Lola lo-lo-lo-lo Lola

I pushed her away
I walked to the door
I fell to the floor
I got down on my knees
Then I looked at her and she at me

Well that's the way that I want it to stay
And I always want it to be that way for my Lola
Lo-lo-lo-lo Lola
Girls will be boys and boys will be girls
It's a mixed up muddled up shook up world except for Lola
Lo-lo-lo-lo Lola

Well I left home just a week before
And I'd never ever kissed a woman before
But Lola smiled and took me by the hand
And said dear boy I'm gonna make you a man

Well I'm not the worlds most masculine man
But I know what I am and I'm glad I'm a man
And so is Lola
Lo-lo-lo-lo Lola lo-lo-lo-lo Lola
I've never even heard of that song. Thanks! I named her after the Barry Manilow song.
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Old 01-14-14, 08:09 PM
  #24  
no1mad 
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One thing to consider is your lighting. Your reel lights don't require recharging (and only you know if they are sufficient 'to see' lights), but that Knog Blinder of yours is not something you'll be able to swap out batteries on, nor is it hopeful you'll be able to charge it at night if you've elected to camp in the wild.*

*There are external power supplies that would allow you to recharge, but they are essentially just external batteries that will need to be recharged before they can function again. There is also a way to charge while you ride, but that will require a dyno hub ($$$).
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Old 01-14-14, 08:34 PM
  #25  
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Originally Posted by LiteraryChic View Post
I've never even heard of that song. Thanks! I named her after the Barry Manilow song.
This post made me throw up in my mouth a little. Naming an inanimate bicycle is bad enough...but after a Barry Manilow song? I thought being named after a Kinks tune could be its redeeming quality
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