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ocanada 12-27-12 11:49 PM

cheapskate newbie interested in long distance
Hello all!

I tried searching this topic but little came up, so I figured I'd start a new thread. I have been a very loyal commuter for about five years (5-10 mi almost everyday), and have gone on short tours, S24O, etc. I'm now starting to get really interested in long distance, mainly because every time I have gone on a "long" ride (like, 20 miles, haha), I didn't want to stop!

I don't like to spend money if I don't have to, but I do understand that there are things to consider in a century that I wouldn't have to worry with riding around town, so I might have to invest.

So my question is-- what are the absolute necessary purchases, and in what area can I make do with what I already have?

I'm currently riding a 198? centuriuon sports dlx with fenders, rear rack, and toe clips. I may have access to another slightly sportier but also vintage road bike with fenders. Will these bikes do? Can I ride just wearing normal tights and shorts that I buy from inexpensive clothing stores? Will bananas do for food? What else should I think about?

Thanks to all in advance!

StephenH 12-28-12 12:16 AM

It sort of depends on what you want to do, exactly. I rode my first several centuries and first 200k on a Worksman single-speed cruiser. I rode my first cold-weather 200k in blue jeans. So there's a lot of things that CAN be done, even if they're not the best way to do them.

If you have any possibility of riding at night, you need good headlights and good taillights and preferably a backup headlight and extra taillights. Reflective gear helps, and is mandatory for organized night rides. Good headlights are not cheap.

You need appropriate clothing for the conditions. Here in Texas, about 8 months out of the year, all you need is shorts, jersey, and sunblock. In colder climates, or even down here in the wintertime, you need enough clothing so you don't freeze to death out there. And rain gear if there's any possibility of rain. If you start getting wool clothing, it's not cheap. I'm not sure what "normal tights and shorts" are- mainly make sure they're not cotton. Cycling shorts are intended to solve certain problems, and if you don't have those problems, it's not too critical to have the shorts.

An old bike is okay, provided it's reliable. I think some of the older gearing systems didn't go as low on the gearing, and that might put some hurt on you on steep hills. It helps to have similar size tires and tubes as other people, so I'd avoid anything with 27" wheels. If you're expecting to keep up with a group, you may wind up going for the fastest bike you can afford to help out on that.

"Long Distance" can mean different things, and I think of that as randonneuring. For a typical randonneuring ride here in Texas, we'll have stops at convenience stores about every 30 miles. If you're taking all your food with you, I'd throw some variety in there. I know on longer rides, you can eat a bunch of sweet stuff and after a while, sweet stuff just doesn't sound good anymore. Here in Texas, a lot of us need to carry more water than what bottles hold, so Camelbaks are pretty common.

Long-distance cycling in the form of randonneuring generally runs into quite a bit of money. You pay for your bike, for gasoline to and from the ride start, for convenience-store stops, for motel rooms, bike clothing, lighting, baggage, racks, etc.

Coluber42 12-28-12 01:02 AM

If you weren't ready to stop by the end of your longest rides, it sounds like you're in good shape for now. Lots of randonneurs love their older frames; there's no reason to get something else until there's something specific you want out of it. The only things you really have to have for long distances are a working bicycle, a way to carry whatever food and water you'll need between stops and/or services, lights if you ride at night, and whatever other safety gear (helmets, reflective stuff) is required by the event in question. Everything else is up to you.
Most of us find cycling clothing to be more comfortable than "civies" for long rides, even if we commute in normal clothes, but we aren't you. Wear what you've got until it starts causing you problems, then replace it.
Lots of things might make you faster or more comfortable, such as clipless pedals with cycling shoes. Lots of things can be upgraded or lightened, like tires, gearing, wheels etc.
The argument for buying/upgrading what you need to as you find things that could be improved is that you'll have a better idea of what you need. It's certainly more economical than going out and buying what people say you are supposed to have, only to find that it doesn't fit or doesn't quite work and you have to change it anyway. Solve problems one at a time as they crop up, which they very well might as you start increasing your distance. Your needs and preferences will change as your habits and experience do, and there's no off-the-shelf substitute for that.

Myosmith 12-28-12 09:20 AM

The most important considerations as far as a distance bike are:

Is it in good working order and reliable?
Does it fit you well and feel comfortable after an hour or more in the saddle?

Beyond that it is really up to you. You can make it as simple or as involved (and potentially expensive) as you want. Some of your first investments, after assuring that your ride is in good condition, should be rider interface considerations like bar tape/grips and gloves, saddle and shorts, and pedals and shoes. The more comfortable you are the longer you can ride. Next look at fulfilling your needs on the road, for organized or group rides you don't need much other than a flat n fix kit (spare tube, tire levers, pump or CO2, and a basic multitool), some way to carry a snack or two and a couple of bottle cages with bottles. For longer solo rides, especially away from high population areas, you may want more carrying capacity for water, food, and extra clothing. Depending on your needs you might get by with a handlebar bag or go as far as a rack with a trunk bag or panniers if you are looking at day or weekend touring. Last year I rode quite a few 50-100 mile solo rides in very rural country with just an underseat bag for my flat n fix kit and a small waterproof stuff sack bungied to a basic rear rack.

unterhausen 12-28-12 11:16 AM

don't buy anything until you increase your distances. I have always found 60 miles to be an important benchmark. If you can ride 60 miles in good form, you can definitely ride 100 miles. If I get to 100 miles in good shape then I can ride as far as long as I want as long as I eat.

You need to be able to make sure you can get home. Pump, tubes, spare tire (maybe), tire boot. Lights that will last a long time are a good investment. Reflective gear: vest and ankle bands. That's all as far as I'm concerned.

mprelaw 12-28-12 01:14 PM

I've ridden 100 miles on older, 70s-80s vintage touring bikes that weighted in the mid-20 pound range. They were what I had available at the time. You need to do some longer rides first, if 20 is a long ride for you. You need to know that you can spend 5-6 hours or more on your present saddles. And that the fit is right. Old touring bikes with quill stems can offer easy changes in bar height, but if the frame doesn't fit, your comfort will be affected.

One other thing that's important is your hands. It helps to be able to move your hand position around the bars. If your touring bikes have drop bars, that's not a problem. If it has flat bars, consider attaching a set of extensions, or "bull horns" as they're commonly referred to.

lhbernhardt 12-28-12 01:16 PM

I'm definitely in the "minimalist" end of the rando spectrum. I am amused by guys who concern themselves with equipment. I ride just about everything on my fixed gear commuter bike, but it's a semi-custom Rodriguez with couplers and it is always impeccably maintained. I switch out parts (handlebar/stem, brake calipers, seatpost/saddle) for winter riding, I install ceramic bearings for big events. So, mea culpa, I guess I'm the same sort of guy concerned with equipment!

I've ridden the fixie in Paris-Brest-Paris and various other events. I just put fenders (race blades), a water bottle cage, and LED lights on it as events and conditions require. I've never liked racks or handlebar bags, so I never use them. Everything fits in a seat pack or in my back pockets (or strapped to the saddle rails). I don't care about comfort other than having a saddle that works for long distances (currently a San Marco Regal), so I normally ride 700C wheels with 23mm Vredestein TriComps. I like feeling the steel bike vibrating like a living thing underneath me.

As for clothing, you may find cycling shorts are more comfortable over long distances, or you may find you've chosen the wrong cycling shorts. You have to try a variety of different shorts before you find the ones that are most comfortable for you. In general, cycling shorts are more comfortable than not cycling shorts, as long as they are the right fit. If they are not the right fit, chamois butter goes a long way to correcting any deficiencies.

So really, equipment makes little difference. You can ride brevets on anything, as long as it is well-maintained, and you're not using stupid-light racing stuff that will break. But if you're doing cheap, you are not likely to have this problem. It is ironic that the most reliable stuff is also usually the cheapest (except maybe brake pads. And performance tires).


Machka 12-28-12 01:25 PM

I rode my first century in 1994 on a 1985 Venture (department store road bicycle) that was way too big for me.
I wore a cheap pair of cycling shorts I found in the basement of a small city Co-Op and a T-shirt.
I ate GORP and drank water. And if I recall correctly, I stopped at 50 miles and had perogies.
It was a very tough century ... probably one of the toughest I've done, but I did it.

If 20 miles is your longest ride ... just keep increasing the distance. Keep eating and drinking. Make sure you bicycle fits you as well as it can.
Go out and do 25 miles this weekend and see how it goes.

hybridbkrdr 12-30-12 01:05 AM


Originally Posted by lhbernhardt (Post 15095524)
It is ironic that the most reliable stuff is also usually the cheapest (except maybe brake pads. And performance tires).


Are you talking about stuff like friction shifters and downtube shifters?

skiffrun 12-30-12 02:32 PM


Originally Posted by unterhausen (Post 15095159)
don't buy anything until you increase your distances. ...

Bingo! Make do with what you've got until you are sure you really like / want to ride longer.

hybridbkrdr 01-03-13 12:02 PM

Just thought of something that might be usefull. I read to avoid overnight muscle cramps, it takes calcium, magnesium, potassium and sodium. I eat bananas from time to time (although not a long distance rider) and add salt my soup. And I take Caltrate calcium pills, the ones that have the magnesium in it. (I also take Stresstabs vitamins with the iron, the red box one.)

By the way, my soup is a mixture of hamburger, corn, beans, lentills, riz, pasta, tomatoes, chick peas, salt, pepper, basil, oregano and a bit of olive oil. This is an inexpensive soup I eat with bread. I use Rubbermaid containers to freeze portions so I have cheap "TV dinners". lol, I get the canned tomatoes and bread from a food bank.

EDIT: Barley is fun to add to the soup too. Soya beans also work if I get them. And, if you have the money, garlic, onion, potatoes and mushrooms.

DXchulo 01-03-13 05:22 PM

It's possible to do it on a budget. You just have to know the difference between "cheap" and "inexpensive". Focus more on finding good deals than on finding the cheapest, lowest-quality stuff. You also have to learn where spending more money actually makes a difference. For example, the right saddle and the right shorts make a huge difference in comfort, so don't skimp there. Meanwhile, you can spend a lot of extra money on the highest end bar tape or cables and housing, but I doubt you'd notice much of a difference there. It's also worth noting that the most expensive chain, for example, isn't necessarily the most durable. Once you get to the top end stuff, you pay a big premium for lower weight. Same goes for tires- the fastest, most expensive tires aren't going to last the longest. They're all about low rolling resistance, not high durability.

MUDDY88YJ 01-08-13 06:15 PM

Did you do a longer ride than 20 miles yet you must push yourself just ride longer and eat if your hungry and change/upgrade things when you find them inadiquite at a cirtin mileage. Good luck

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