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Advice: please evaluate the route of my first tour

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Advice: please evaluate the route of my first tour

Old 04-16-20, 10:03 AM
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eddie_the_K
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Advice: please evaluate the route of my first tour

Good day all, I sincerely hope you and yours are well.

I am planning a tour in September. Will it happen? Who knows, but I'll continue to plan. It's my first road tour and I'm interested in knowing how practical people think it is.

I'm not entitled to include links in m posts yet. The entire route is on RWGPS, /routes/31973568

I'm traveling from Gaithersburg MD to Ferdinand IN. It's a 13-day trip, 12 days on the road and one rest day. The first 5 days are on trails (C&O, GAP, Montour in PA).

I'm staying in hotels and AirBnB. Don't hold that against me, I already paid my dues sleeping on the ground in my youth. I'm traveling as light as I can. The stays are noted on the map along with mileage.

I have one rest day. I plan a short but hilly trip the day before. The last day is pretty long and hilly, so I planned a short day before it as well.

What do you experienced planners think? Am I on the right track?

Thanks
Ed K
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Old 04-18-20, 08:35 AM
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I'd allow and extra day or two for "Just in case" some really bad weather happens or you get quite tired or achy.

It'll be interesting to see just what's open when you intend to make your trip.

Cheers
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Old 04-18-20, 12:26 PM
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Originally Posted by Miele Man View Post
I'd allow and extra day or two for "Just in case" some really bad weather happens or you get quite tired or achy.
+1

That area isn't my neck of the woods, but I would second comment above. The way I think about it is a bit of contingency planning. For example:
- What happens if remnants of a tropical hurricane parks over the region and drops an inch or two of rain (I had that a while ago in WV with hurricane Frances in 2004)?
- What happens if you get a mechanical issue you need to take care of - or some reason you can't progress (a different trip, also 2004 but in TN).

Depending on your answers to those sorts of issues, I might add some contingencies to the plan. My approach is to keep on the rough plan but delay enough to take care of the issue. There are a few things I might then consider adding:
- In addition to a planned rest day, I might also add a "contingency day" into my schedule". If everything goes right, I don't need it and could arrive a day early at my destination. Otherwise, if something happened, I'd take he contingency day there and rearrange things afterwards.
- Some places will likely have plenty of accommodation and others pretty scarce. In the spots with plenty, I might wait in making a reservation or at least understand cancellation policies so I could move it around if necessary. I might also look up not just the stopping location but are there alternatives 20 miles early or 20 miles late? That gives some additional flexibility of making a longer day if everything going extra well - or cutting short if not as much. In places with limited choices and perhaps holiday/festival congestion, I would still have some reservations.
Particularly on a first tour, I like to have some alternatives and flexibility to adjust as things unfold...
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Old 04-18-20, 01:07 PM
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I also have given up sleeping on the ground. I don't even carry camping and cooking gear (saves 10 pounds, at least) anymore.

On my first bike tour, from SF to LA, I did 70 mile days. This was too much and I have since tried to cap my days at 50 miles. I've also learned to limit my routes to 4000 feet of climbing per day. When in doubt, I select shorter days over longer days. I also try to schedule a rest day every 4 riding days. Of course, these are flexible limits, but experience has taught me to respect them.

I also add extra days to the schedule for emergencies, such as bad weather (I try not to ride in thunderstorms), mechanical problems, or the desire to spend an extra night at an interesting place. For a 12 riding day tour, I'd plan 2 rest days and add a day on the end, or a trip of 14 days: 11 riding, 2 to rest, and 1 just in case. Riding 20 miles when exhausted sucks the joy out of any bike ride.

As for places to stay, I'd strongly urge you to join warmshowers.org, a site for matching touring cyclists to overnight hosts. This is a free service all around and meeting other cyclists is always a trip highlight. While sleeping in a hotel is acceptable, it is much more pleasant to sit around and share stories and experiences with people I share a passion with.

As mev said above, often there is no reason to book in advance unless you will be in a place with limited options or during the high season. I am a compulsive planner and often have hotels booked weeks in advance. But, I always choose places that can be canceled without penalty as close to the date as possible. If you are booking at a non-chain motel, it is often a good idea to call them, explain that you are a traveling by bicycle and your schedule isn't set. Often, they will extend their cancellation policies to meet my needs. I always contact these places when I am certain I will be able to get there on the appointed date.

I wrote an article about how I plan my (credit card) tours, which you might find informative.

Last edited by raybo; 04-18-20 at 01:11 PM.
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Old 04-18-20, 01:54 PM
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Your schedule is too ambitious. There are excessive cycling days and insufficient time to rest or deal with the unexpected. And I am reasonably confident the unexpected will happen! It might be having to replace a broken bike component, getting lost, developing a cold, developing an overuse injury, dealing with unseasonable weather, wanting to stay longer somewhere, learning serendipitously about an off-route destination you want to explore... all of these things have happened to me while on bicycle tours.

I don't think a day off every three or four days is excessive, unless you are fairly young, and/or in top physical form.
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Old 04-18-20, 03:20 PM
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What happens if there is heavy rain and the C&O becomes a mud puddle?
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Old 04-18-20, 04:00 PM
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I'm seeing ~750 miles (sorry, I'm a Luddite and can't find your exact route via RWGPS), so I used Google Maps and bicycle transportation... That AVERAGES 63 miles per day given the 12 riding days. Through hilly terrain for much of it. Probably NOT at all realistic!

My only long tour was back when I was in top form at age 20, and had been riding at least 500 miles/week. My 'tour' was along the glacially-scoured (and flat) southern Great Lakes from Cleveland to Milwaukee. The biggest hills I had were highway and railroad overpasses! Yeah, I had a few 100 mile days. I even stretched three together. Note again, that I was only 20! I only carried two changes of clothes, plus what I was wearing. I allowed time to wash my clothes every other day in a laundromat that I'd find along the way. I didn't carry any camping or cooking gear, preferring to eat at local town 'greasy spoons' or a McDs or Burger King... I slept under city park picnic tables, or under bridges/culverts along he way... Minimalist!!! Yeah, I made the first ~480 miles without any problems, I 'rested' for a week while I visited relatives in Milwaukee and Madison - but on the way home, I taco'd my rear wheel in the middle of EBF-Indiana, and that put me behind a whole day and a half while I sourced another... Not too many bike shops out in Rural America!

I have a tour kicking around in my head -- ~1040 miles of mostly flat terrain, and I am planning on only riding 35-50 miles/day on my riding days. I'm giving myself almost a month. 22-23-ish riding days. I'm adding some planned rest days, and a few more for weather delays ( I've ridden many Century rides in the rain, and I don't like it! ). Hey, I'm ~62 now, and this time I'll be B&B or motels -- I'm getting too old to be sleeping on the ground! -- which means I have to plan the day's riding so I can find one within range... I can't make a reservation more than a day in advance because of my weather (or equipment) uncertainty... again, bike shops can be hard to find!!!
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Old 04-18-20, 05:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Cougrrcj View Post
I'm seeing ~750 miles (sorry, I'm a Luddite and can't find your exact route via RWGPS), so I used Google Maps and bicycle transportation... That AVERAGES 63 miles per day given the 12 riding days. Through hilly terrain for much of it. Probably NOT at all realistic!
13 days of riding with one rest day carrying full camping gear, a lot of cooking gear and cold weather clothing:

https://ridewithgps.com/routes/23235312

The OP is planning on going light, sleeping inside and thus (assumedly) not cooking, and his first 5 days are on trails. (The ruling grade on the GAP is only about 1.5%.) It's doable if he is in shape.
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Old 04-18-20, 06:48 PM
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Another anonymously strangers opinion
very reasonable and experienced opinions expressed here btw

without knowing how much you ride, fitness, age blah blah, it's really in your best interests to have at least short days at start. Ease your body into it.
it's completely common that folks overestimate stuff, so in the end, you'll know how many miles you'll have in the legs and how your body is for riding a bike of the trip weight AND 100kms and climbing.
If you can, easier first days and maybe another day off , plus some extra wiggle room for unexpected stuff.

one unexpected thing folks don't anticipate is if they don't ride enough and long days enough, a bike fit issue can really rear it's ugly head with consecutive long days"--- sore knees, sore arse, hands, you name it. And this can really screw up a tight schedule if you start getting a bad knee for example due to poor fit issues that don't show up on shorter rides beforehand.

so ride lots, make sure bike fit is good, then ride lots with the extra weight on bike--- there just ain't no substitute for hours in the saddle and getting harder.

good luck with your countries responsible response to the situation with covid 19.
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Old 04-18-20, 10:19 PM
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I'll give you different advice. You mention its going to be your first trip, and not until fall? I'd suggest you take a few short trips before then (1-3 days) to see how you, your bicycle, and your gear work together. You can find what gear works/what doesn't; how far you can really ride in a day; adjust your bicycle's fit for multiple days of riding (quite different than everyday workout riding); and see if you actually like bicycle touring. Just my 2 cents.

Personally I prefer shorter tours (2-5 days) and staying in hotels or hostels. I cant imaging going across the USA in one 3-month trip, but can see doing it a week-at-a-time over the course of a few years.
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Old 04-20-20, 04:45 AM
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If you regularly do 60 mile rides in the Gaithersburg area, if you've done that occasionally multiple days in a row, then you should have a good feeling about doing that many miles in a day over 13 days. If you do it in September, plenty of daylight to spread the miles across. If it slips to November, gets tougher.

Someone already brought up the C&O Towpath rain issue - that would turn the first three days from a 180 miles to a hilly 180 miles or a three very long days of mud slogging. Other than the climb out of Frostburg, the GAP is much more forgiving of rain but often thunderstorms bring trees down and there are flood issues in spots, especially around Connellsville.

I'm a credit card tourer, too. What I try to do is also plan out bail-out stops somewhere (ideally midway) between my planned stops - If weather or mechanical issues mean I am not going to make it to the planned stop, what is my bailout? If I had to do an unplanned short day, is a long day to get back on track even feasible the next day? Seems like at least half the time I have to use those bailouts, usually weather issues.
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Old 04-26-20, 08:52 AM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
What happens if there is heavy rain and the C&O becomes a mud puddle?

Exactly my thought! Love the C&O but it is what it is and there has been a ton of rain lately! R
aining hard again today and will rain almost every day this upcoming week.
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Old 04-27-20, 03:08 PM
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Hey! I thought I would get emails notifying me about replies. Sorry I have not been looking at the thread. Thanks for all of the great info.

Some more about me:
59 y.o. male in pretty good health and good condition, rode not at all over the winter but kept working out and will be riding spring & summer, training for this trip.
I married into a group of friends in Southern Indiana and they have a big party every fall. That's the event I am riding to meet. I thought it would be fun to show up on my bike. Wife will drive there and haul me home. If I keep that as a goal, then my start and end dates are pretty firm. Doesn't mean I won't take the trip, but it's a constraint right now.

First, I have a promise from my lovely wife of a rescue if I need it. All I have to do is stay dry and she'll be there in a day or two. That takes a lot of the worry away.

Weather: big concern, of course. If the long-range forecast threatens anything of duration, I'm not going. It just won't be fun to plow through foul weather, and fun is the whole point. I'm a fair-weather cyclist, and I'm OK with that. Of course, bad weather can happen along the way, so I plan on some rain gear. But if hell breaks loose, I'm calling for backup.

Hotels: The stops are planned around availability of rooms. Only places with liberal cancellations. In most cases, I will be staying in locations with multiple hotel options. If I need to stop and spend another day, I can probably swing it. The only place that won't work is Salt Fork State Park OH (middle of nowhere). That's a 2-day stay (my one planned rest day), so I will have time to formulate plan B.

Conditioning: I'll be training all season. By Aug 22 I should be able to do a 4-day excursion, 70 miles/day on rolling Maryland hills, with one day of climbing 3000 ft, loaded. If I can make that goal, I think I should be able to start this trip on Sep 5. Days 1 through 5 are C&O / GAP / Montour / Panhandle trails, from Gaithersburg MD to the PA-OH state line. Pretty flat, should be a good shakedown. A few years ago we started in Pittsburgh and came back on the GAP/C&O, so I know a little about it.

Distances: yeah, I'm not so sure. The average is 74 mi/day. The spread is large, I have a 100 mile flat/downhill day, and hilly days of 44 and 37 miles. Again, it's pure credit card - tomorrow's clothes, a few spare parts, a few tools, some drink mix and snack bars, and something from the 7-11 for lunch on the trail. No camping nonsense. I hear what you are all saying about overestimating. I'll noodle around with adding a day to bring the average down.

Here is my route with stops:
ridewithgps.com/routes/31973568

I read Ray's article on touring. I've been working towards doing everything he recommends. Here is how compulsive my planning is:
ridewithgps.com/routes/32163103
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Old 04-27-20, 09:03 PM
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Do a couple overnight out and backs to the C&O as training, and work out kinks in your gear and routines. From Gaithersburg, you can ride on roads to Monocacy at Mile 40 on the towpath. Then ride to Harpers Ferry or further. Sharpsburg, Shepardstown and many other places.
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Old 04-28-20, 05:41 AM
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Doing the Towpath in 2 days is doable if it hasn't rained for a few weeks before, tough if not. Using the WMRR for the 26 miles or so now paved east and west of Hancock will give you a good break and increase average speed.

I've done Cumberland to Ohiopyle on the GAP, that is an easy day. The rest of the 50 or so miles on the GAP is pretty easy - big rains may cause issues around Connelville. I've never done the Montour part, have no meaningful input there.

I've done the trails in/out of Columbus and in the Dayton/Xenia area - many are along creeks and have flooding after hard rains but are fine when just normal rainfall.
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Old 04-29-20, 05:21 AM
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I was wondering how to get through Columbus. I resorted to Rt. 40 through the section south of the river. It's a green dotted line on the map. East and west of there it's rail trail, but that meanders through town. Ohio has a surprising trail network.

Alan, do you think I need to practice on the C&O? I was planning at least one loaded overnight road trip, possibly to Annapolis (60 miles but could easily be longer). It's 63 miles to the first stop on the towpath. It just seems more romantic and adventurous to start with something somewhat unfamiliar. The wife is game for that, and we've come south before, so that's my plan for now.

I have a modified schedule that adds a day to the second half of the trip, and evens out the distances to an average of 67, with a smaller spread. That puts me in Dayton for the night with an arrival as early as 10 am, if I start early, plenty of daylight to spare, so a visit to the Air Force museum is possible. And if there is time, on the other side of town is the Holy of Holies, the Wright Bros, Cycle Shop. That's what you guys mean by stopping for something interesting, I suppose. And yeah it's better than just blasting through the whole trip. I was trying to minimize the time spent looking at soybean fields.

- Ed
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Old 04-29-20, 08:53 PM
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My 2 cents:

C&O would be the bumpiest part of the trip so I guess a practice run could help show if the bike is comfy there. I'd lean to an Annapolis practice trip. I've ridden a couple of times from PG County to Annapolis, one time all on Rt 450 & another time part 450 & part side roads. It was pretty fun, Rt 450 isn't a great bike road but some nice rolling hills & semi-rural parts.

C&O can get muddy but in September usually drier than in spring/early summer. Not sure if more than one rest day would be needed, I'd be more concerned with limiting daily mileage so as not to be rushed.
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Old 04-30-20, 04:08 AM
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True, i need a rough road to evaluate fully. It would be a real shame to get a saddle sore or wear out my butt or find out my bags won't stay put on the first two days of the trip. That could be worse than bad weather. I have 48mm Schwalbes so that's a help. But I need to bounce things around a bit.

I forgot to mention plan B: Amtrak offers roll-on bike service from DC to PGH. No boxing, just hang it up and sit down. Get to downtown around midnight, hotels within a couple of blocks that welcome bikes. Next morning take the commuter train to the Library station, which is a trailhead for the Montour, and I'm on my way. That eliminates 4 days and the C&O/GAP, which would be too bad, but if the weather or the mud is bad I can skip it if needed. The bike racks go fast so I already bought the ticket, just in case. Forty bucks, and if I don't use it the credit is good for a year.

- Ed
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Old 04-30-20, 06:41 AM
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Already 48mm tires are a huge help for comfort.
at the right pressures for your weight and load. How heavy are you, what load weight roughly?

don't over inflate. I run about 40f 45r with this tire size loaded up, and can be easily less pressure with rough terrain and lighter load.

saddle sores tend to come from seat and padded short issues, so that's entirely up to you to ride regularly and sort that out long before your trip.
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Old 04-30-20, 07:25 AM
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240 lb, 6'5", heavy bike (Rivendell Bombadil - a beast). I can't climb to save my life, but I have a 24/36 granny. 36 hole rims, worried that I need 40s. Luggage should be light but I don't have a guess yet. Panniers and trunk, loaded over the front wheel, small panniers on the rear if needed. Handlebar bag for good measure.

I assume that once I hit pavement my tire pressure goes up?

I'll put some more thought into luggage sooner rather than later.

- Ed
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Old 04-30-20, 07:30 AM
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Geez, I forgot to say my weight. Im only 140 tops so disregard completely my numbers given you're 100lbs more.
heavier guys might have more experienced suggestions.
what tires are they? Specific model.
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Old 04-30-20, 08:03 AM
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OK, I just went and double-checked myself. Currently mounted are the Little Big Bens, 700x38: https://www.schwalbetires.com/bike_ti...little_big_ben

On the shelf are the Marathon XRs, 700x40, no longer made but they have a good rep.

Apparently I conflated the sizes. I didn't remember what I had on the shelf, which are the ones I was going to mount. The bike and fenders will certainly take 48s if I need them.

I know, I should be cross-posting this on the Clydes group...

- Ed
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Old 04-30-20, 08:43 AM
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As for pressures for dirt vs pavement, I'd suggest having some sort of gauge, and given you've got months of riding before September, you can try out different pressures and get a feel for differences.
For instance, for years I probably ran too high pressures, and only started realizing this as I regularly did the same commute and I got a floor pump with a gauge, the pump made all the difference of being both actually aware of my tire pressures, and then trying out different pressures and paying attention to how too much waa harsh over bumps and bringing it down a bit helped a lot comfort wise but was no slower at all.

and you'll see that if a gravel path is reasonable, you don't need necessarily that much less pressure compared to roads, and frankly around here in Canada with our extreme winters, paved roads can be very rough with potholes, so too high pressures aren't great on pavement either.

trying out different pressures with and without baggage will still be the best way to go. Make it part of your training as you try out riding with what you think you'll be taking.
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Old 05-01-20, 10:09 AM
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Memorial day weekend of 2008 I did a roundtrip tour on the C&O. First day had thunderstorms which created a lot mud and my panniers are still stained from it.
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Old 05-01-20, 12:48 PM
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Originally Posted by TomM View Post
Memorial day weekend of 2008 I did a roundtrip tour on the C&O. First day had thunderstorms which created a lot mud and my panniers are still stained from it.
That's funny.
I have a nice swiss Jersey with lots of white, rode through an area with construction and as it was a huge highway project, they regularly spray the road down with a truck to keep dust down, result from being on my fenderless lighter bike was that the jersey still has stains on it too from a few summers back....
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