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First cross country tour-Help a guy out

Old 12-15-15, 09:29 PM
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First cross country tour-Help a guy out

Repost from Adventure Cycling forum.

Currently planning my first cross country tour once I return from the Peace Corps. Due to time restraints, the only time slot I have available is from the Months of Jan-April. Planning on starting in St. Augustine, FL to San Diego (Southern Tier) and then go up the Pacific Coast route ending in Vancouver. I believe going East to West is the best option due to the months I can travel. Currently this tour will be solo unless I can find others to join in this adventure. This tour will be done via SS. Yes I am aware this may be more challenging due to lack of gears and extra weight, but I am sure I can manage. Sleeping accommodations as of now would rely on Couch Surfing, Warm Showers, and camping if there are no other options available...so I will be carrying a 1 person tent, sleeping pad, and sleeping bag plus all other gear. I also planned on purchasing the Southern Tier and Pacific Coast maps. Some questions I have and seeking advice from seasoned folks...
(1) Could one get away with 2 panniers and handlebar bag for this type of tour?
(2) Is going East to West the "best" or "preferred" option for travel during Jan-April.
(3) Is riding with maps only and no GPS a good idea?

I guess this is it for now. Feel free to ask any questions I may have not thought of asking myself. I appreciate any and all tips/advice/pointers you all can provide me.

Thanks and Cheers!

Last edited by BikesBrewsUM1; 12-16-15 at 10:14 PM.
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Old 12-15-15, 10:46 PM
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Originally Posted by BikesBrewsUM1 View Post
Repost from Adventure Cycling forum.

Currently planning my first cross country tour once I return from the PC. Due to time restraints, the only time slot I have available is from the Months of Jan-April. Planning on starting in St. Augustine, FL to San Diego (Southern Tier) and then go up the Pacific Coast route ending in Vancouver. I believe going East to West is the best option due to the months I can travel. Currently this tour will be solo unless I can find others to join in this adventure. This tour will be done via SS. Yes I am aware this may be more challenging due to lack of gears and extra weight, but I am sure I can manage. Sleeping accommodations as of now would rely on Couch Surfing, Warm Showers, and camping if there are no other options available...so I will be carrying a 1 person tent, sleeping pad, and sleeping bag plus all other gear. I also planned on purchasing the Southern Tier and Pacific Coast maps. Some questions I have and seeking advice from seasoned folks...
(1) Could one get away with 2 panniers and handlebar bag for this type of tour?
(2) Is going East to West the "best" or "preferred" option for travel during Jan-April.
(3) Is riding with maps only and no GPS a good idea?

I guess this is it for now. Feel free to ask any questions I may have not thought of asking myself. I appreciate any and all tips/advice/pointers you all can provide me.

Thanks and Cheers!
1) yes, should not be a problem.

2) i don't think it makes much difference.

3) maps are good.

remember, this is coming from someone that did the vast majority of their touring before GPS was available. the ACA maps, if that's what you are referring to, are good on directions. i always carried a large state map too. and i think i may have bought a delorme or two and tore out some of the pages...

on SSing.

i've been SSing, exclusively now for about 10 years. and done a bit of touring with that setup. it can be challenging. nice thing is that there will be plenty of bike shops along the way with SS freewheels that can be purchased, if you find your gearing to be inadequate. i'm sure they'll be happy to give you a chunk if chain if you need it.

a flip flop rear hub can be handy. i made it a point to find out the tooth counts of the largest and smallest freewheels that my dropouts could accommodate, assuming the chain length was not altered. and fixed those to either side of the hub. then a gear change, if necessary, was a three minute job. and i always end up using both sides!
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Old 12-15-15, 11:54 PM
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GPS can be really handy to locate one's position if roads aren't marked well or if one ends up off course.
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Old 12-16-15, 12:08 AM
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Yes as to (1) and (3). The ACA maps are very good and you do not need a GPS. 2 panniers and a handlebar bag can work very well; you'll have to pick your gear carefully.
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Old 12-16-15, 02:39 AM
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First off, welcome to the forum! Second, I would have to second what other people are saying. (1) depends on the size of the panniers and the amount of gear you're planning on bringing. You say tent, sleeping bag, pad, and all other gear. Well ****, now that we've narrowed that down, let's get into the meat of it. Are you bringing electronics? If so, how are you charging them? Clothes for on and off the bike? Cold weather gear (early spring in the desert is going to be cold)? Eating out or cooking for yourself? Food Storage? Cooking gear? Bike maintenance/repair tools? Spare Parts? First Aid/Hygiene? Also, what kind of gear do you have? Ultralight backpacking gear or everyday camping gear. Not trying to be an ass and you, of course, do not need to bring everything I mentioned. I'm just trying to get sense of what your style is. The answers to these questions will determine how much storage you need. Remember, just because you have four panniers doesn't mean you must have them filled all the time. There are plenty of gear lists on Crazyguyonabike.com in the journal, forum, and article sections that may help (3) I am not planning on bringing a GPS on my first tour. Partly it's to do with the fact that I'm a cheap skate. Mostly it's because most GPS aren't made for this type of travel and will either get you lost or on a highway with high traffic and no shoulders. ACA and standard paper maps should do fine and add to the adventure.
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Old 12-16-15, 06:40 AM
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My last XC tour I went with only two rear panniers. Try it for handling first. A lot depends on how much weight you cram in there. If you keep the weight below 20-25 pounds or so, it should work fine.

I don't own a GPS and doubt I ever will. I like maps, and especially the ACA route maps. I find they pay for themselves in pointing out lodging options. And then I re-sell them after the trip.

Since this is your first tour, it's unlikely you'll get everything right the first time. You may need some contingency money to buy different gear along the way. Like a GPS if you figure out you just can't navigate with paper maps!

It's fairly common to see cyclists reducing their packed load along the way rather than adding to it. I met a guy in Montana unceremoniously throwing his front packs and rack into a campground dumpster. Though I did meet one couple adding trailers to their bikes in order to carry more stuff, so it does happen. (They were leaving the US southbound into Mexico on the way to Argentina on an 18-month trip from Alaska, and still figuring things out.)
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Old 12-16-15, 07:45 AM
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BTW - up until December 20th, the ACA purchases over $50 get $10 off. I just purchased 4 of the 5 Sierra-Cascade Route maps.
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Old 12-16-15, 08:41 AM
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Three out of the last four years I've ridden my bike trip SS, okay so last year was the only truly SS the rest of the time I just didn't change gears. I was riding upper midwest, mid-Atlantic, and New England, where you do have plenty of hills and I had not problems riding SS. I was going to go FG this summer but after getting an offer I couldn't refuse I ended up buying a new and went multi-speed this year. Once I got down south I didn't change gears much though. I'm not sure if it was the weather or the packing method, which also changed this year, but I was glad, especially until I got into southern SC that I had went multi-speed instead of fixie this year. I'm not what was going on early in the trip. Everything this year was radically different compared to the previous three years so I have no real way of comparing anything to nail down what was causing what I was seeing happen this summer.

I would think the only area where you would see any real trouble would be out west when you hit the climbs...not sure what route the Southern Tier follows but I don't think you can avoid the climbs anywhere. If your in good shape now you'll be in even better shape by the time you get there though and that should help quite a bit.
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Old 12-16-15, 11:22 AM
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January to April will be better in Australia , in the US, that's Winter and Early Spring. Snow & Ice melts to Mud and Flooding..

South to North, On West Coast, If it's still Winter. the storm tracks come out of the south ..

Fair weather is more pleasant, then the North Pacific High predominates, and south to north is all Headwinds ..

july to september..

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Old 12-16-15, 12:33 PM
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Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
January to April will be better in Australia , in the US, that's Winter and Early Spring. Snow & Ice melts to Mud and Flooding.
Australia would be nice, but I thought the weather on the ST was pretty good when I did it in an early February - March time frame. It wasn't my favorite route but the weather was OK. There were a few cold nights, but daytime temperatures were mostly pleasantly cool. I much preferred it over hot weather.
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Old 12-16-15, 02:08 PM
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It can get quite cold that time of year in the South, but it doesn't last long. What I find hard to adjust to is getting camp set up before dark - maybe 5- 5:30 and having lots of time in the dark before bedtime. So, I tend to go to sleep at about 7, and wake up at 4 something
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Old 12-16-15, 02:16 PM
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Overnight With No Cloud cover , which is Common In The Desert of course, the surface heat goes away quickly
when the sun goes down.

Clear dry Nights cool off quickly in the Winter Here , even though the Oceans do moderate the temperature swings a Lot.
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Old 12-16-15, 11:19 PM
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Some anti-GPS posts here. Paper maps are simple & reliable but they don't show one's location when lost. GPS (either phone or dedicated device) can be a valuable complement there, not replacement, for paper. GPS maps might also show some smaller roads that paper maps don't include.

Used GPS can be cheap, one doesn't need bike-specific features for simple location purposes. & don't vast majority of bike tourists tote a phone anyway?
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Old 12-17-15, 04:33 AM
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Originally Posted by DropBarFan View Post
... & don't vast majority of bike tourists tote a phone anyway?
goldangit! i don't tote a phone! jeez, am i doing that wrong, too?
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Old 12-17-15, 07:20 AM
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Originally Posted by saddlesores View Post
goldangit! i don't tote a phone! jeez, am i doing that wrong, too?
I got some new fangled thing called a "flip phone." Sometimes I use it to make phone calls, send text messages and wake me up in the mornin', but it don't do much more than that. Did ACA's entire Northern Tier route and then the Atlantic Coast route from Baaaaaaaa Harbaaaaaa to Philly using only the maps. I got lost once or twice. When I did, I done figured things out for myself or had some nice people learn me the way.
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Old 12-17-15, 07:32 AM
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You'll very likely encounter cold rain. Be prepared with good rain gear and/or to hole up somewhere until it passes. You might encounter snow/sleet in New Mexico/Az, for sure 20F temps at night. You can avoid these wx issues and long, steep climbs by riding I-10 Las Cruces to Tucson(exit before urban areas,) then the frontage road to Phoenix. East to West keeps the morning sun out of your eyes, and some say saves the best for last. Cell phone apps that work off gps are adequate for location/directions.

As for gear, you'll need minimally one set of winter clothing, good for 20F mornings, and one set of summer wear. I say one, as you're trying to keep you gear volume low. Rear panniers, a rack pack, and bar bag should be sufficient. As for bike handling with most of weight on the back, should not be a significant issue. Consider shifting the panniers to the front for a more balanced loading.

Do a couple of 50 mile overnighters to check everything out before pushing off for the long haul.

As for gearing, if SS is what floats your boat, then so be it. Pushing is always an option.

BTW, check out the Pecan House in Las Cruces for overnighting. It's free.

Thanks for your Peace Corp service, and enjoy the ride.

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Old 12-17-15, 07:49 AM
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Originally Posted by Ridefreemc View Post
It can get quite cold that time of year in the South, but it doesn't last long. What I find hard to adjust to is getting camp set up before dark - maybe 5- 5:30 and having lots of time in the dark before bedtime. So, I tend to go to sleep at about 7, and wake up at 4 something
I tend to get up early and turn in early any way so I am fine with that. Also the daylight hours are already starting to get a lot longer in February and March. For example in Tallahassee the shortest days in December are 10:11 long, but by mid February that are an hour longer and by March 21 they are two hours longer.

So length of daylight hours is a lot bigger deal in December, but with a mid to late winter start much less of an issue.
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Old 12-17-15, 08:47 AM
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did a bunch of riding in the southwest, had a trailer so not
worried about weight, carried a couple delorme gazetteers.

lots of dirt roads in new mexico and arizona if you want to
get off the beaten path.




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Old 12-17-15, 09:10 AM
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That time of the year you will experience everything.

Heat, Cold, Rain, and Wind.

Plan on many flat tires.

Hope you can bring a Point n Shoot camera and take many pics.

Chris did it on ssfg.



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Old 12-17-15, 09:52 AM
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I don't think I'd do it without a GPS. I'd have a dynamo hub in my front wheel, which I'd use to power lights at night, and to keep the cell phone charged as necessary, and to power the GPS when necessary. I realize these things can be expensive, but you can also get them pretty cheap. A ten year old GPS receiver without much battery life can be had for $25 on ebay, and it'll get you to the nearest campground.

I definitely prefer paper maps, and I don't think I'd use the GPS much, but there comes a time when you would rather pedal the bike and listen to the electronic voice, rather than get out the map.
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Old 12-17-15, 11:02 AM
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Someone that is just coming out of the peace core is probably unusually self reliant and used to having a minimal amount of "stuff". For that reason, two panniers might do it. But be ready for really full pair of panniers and a drybag on top since you will probably be bringing warm weather gear that consumes more volume. But if you are in Mongolia, you probably will think it is downright tropical.

It is not so much the east to west as it is the south to north on the Pacific Coast, there you would have strong headwinds. I wrote my observations on going south at this link: https://www.bikeforums.net/touring/95...l#post16933424

GPS would come in really handy when looking for addresses for where you plan to stay, restaurants, grocery stores, etc. If you are doing this with two panniers you are not carrying much extra capacity for food so you will be shopping and stopping more often.

Winter weather in USA is very odd this year, El Nino in the Pacific is disrupting the normal weather patterns. I have no clue how that could impact your trip. But be advised that if El Nino is still strong during your trip you could see some unusual weather from that.

Are you trying this on a track bike? (No gears, no freewheel?)

If you have good access to internet, look at some of the trip logs for your routes on Crazy Guy on a Bike.

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Old 12-17-15, 11:52 AM
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A few things... I think that some on this thread might be overstating the likelihood of difficult conditions. On my ST (Feb and Mar) I had frost quite a few nights and one overnight low in the teens, but I had no days that were excessively cold once the morning chill was off. I think it always got up into the 50s during the day. On my ST there was very little in the way of wet riding. Only one day did it rain hard and for a significant portion of the day. I had one afternoon where it actually got a little to warm to suit me, but I am a hot weather wimp.

Yes you might have worse days than I did, but they likely won't last long.

Bottom line... Feb-March would be my very first choice of dates to do the ST.

On the west coast the usual N to S recommendation is based in large part to winds out of the NW that occur in the Summer. I think that in the winter and early spring they are just as likely to go the other way.
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Old 12-17-15, 11:58 AM
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Originally Posted by 10 Wheels View Post
Plan on many flat tires.
Definitely know what goat head thorn plants look like and where they grow, check for thorns EVERY time you pull off the pavement in goat head country, and be prepared with a patch kit or two and spare tubes.

That said I didn't have all that many flats except for one section a bit east of El Paso. It was bad enough there that I left the secondary roads and rode the interstate shoulder for a while.
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Old 12-17-15, 02:00 PM
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A lot of good thoughts here. So I'll add mine. I've just recently retired from American society. I'm living on my bike, currently in S. CA. I've done 5 tours before and the first 3 weeks of this new phase of my life was a tour as well. Yes, it's a pain that I have to be in my sleeping bag by 6pm (most nights it's warm enough not to put my tent up and I just sleep in my bag on the tarp next to a hay stack on a farm). Can't get used to that. The 21st is right around the corner tho. The great thing about bike touring is that there are no rules! The other great aspect is that bike touring doesn't have to be technological. Which means GPS and computers and cell phones and ipods and ipads and ihomephones and all that garbage... is optional! I would never travel with a GPS, even in the states. Use a map - people love looking at maps and they're a great conversation starter as well. How many conversations have begun by looking at a GPS?? ha! My thought that only one other mentioned was that you're already in the Peace Corps, so you're probably an organized and thorough person and not a high-maintenance traveler. I can't imagine that you'll bring a lot with you not needed. As long as you do your homework first and read, read, read, you'll do okay. Personally, I would never tour the U.S. without front panniers. This is due the long stretches of distance in which you have to stock up on food supplies. My last tour was in 2007 doing E. Canada - not the easiest due to the distances among other aspects. Prevailing winds - nobody's mentioned it, I think. I believe generally most tourers go east to west, but don't know why. In the same manner, I believe most tourers go south along the coast, not north. Is that due to the winds? Use the website World Climate: Weather rainfall and temperature data to get an idea of reg. temps in any area/city. Don't count on couchsurfers coming thru. I've given up on that site as pretty much everyone ignores emails/messages and it was sold a few years ago and has gone down hill. Warm showers may be different and in fact I've had 2 people on this trip come up to me and say they belong. Try to free camp, which should probably be easy in TX and out in the boon docks.
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Old 12-17-15, 02:01 PM
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fietsbob
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I never got lost because the hand held GPS commodity had not been Invented Yet . Map and compass FTW.

& you can always show your map to one of the Locals and Ask, It works even if you dont speak the same language.



At Sea after the Compass, in 1765, The big advance in navigation was the Chronometer (clock). Noon Set at GMT London.

The Greenwich Meridian - where east meets west: The Quest for Longitude
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