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New biker planning 600mi bike trip - plausible?

Old 04-18-20, 11:35 PM
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walter smitty
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New biker planning 600mi bike trip - plausible?

I'd like to visit a friend this summer who lives ~600 miles away, and thought it might be a cool adventure to bike there. This is potentially a dumb idea for a couple reasons, namely that I'll be riding a single speed commuter bike and have very little biking experience.

I'll be going across Eastern CO and Kansas, so my single-speed and I won't have to worry about hills (the whole trip averages 9ft/per mile of climbing and 17ft/mile of elevation loss, and I have yet to find any parts of the route that deviate much from this average). I also am not unfit; I'm a serious runner with good strength and aerobic fitness, and I regularly supplement my running with stationary biking (and more recently, real biking as well). Still, I don't really have a sense of how exhausting this kind of endeavor might be: my goal is to average 70mi/day, and I've never ridden anywhere near that far before, let alone multiple days in a row. I plan to build up my weekly long rides over the course of the next 8ish weeks, and practice doing some long rides back to back. Still, am I vastly underestimating the difficulty or danger of biking 70mi a day, or of doing so in the middle of nowhere?


Any insight is appreciated. I tend to assume I can do anything I set my mind to, but also would prefer not to die.
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Old 04-18-20, 11:59 PM
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IMHO it is completely unrealistic. It is mostly not even about your fitness - you may be strong as a bull but riding 70 miles every day for 9-10 days in a row requires properly fitted bike, properly fitted clothes, properly fitted shoes, comfortable saddle and trained ass. And if you've never ridden anything long then it is pretty safe to assume that you have none of this.
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Old 04-19-20, 12:52 AM
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Singlespeed is great until you need to shift gears. Pedaling into a 20 mph headwind is like riding uphill. Pedaling with a 20 mph tailwind is like riding downhill. So the terrain may be flat, but it sure won’t feel like it
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Old 04-19-20, 01:26 AM
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Gears are your friend... and 70 miles is a long way in a day. That being said a lot of that way there isn't much to see and do except ride. And if you are gonna ride all day you'll need a good comfortable cockpit with lots of hand positions and a comfortable seat .

How are you going to carry your luggage? Does your bike have rack mounts. What are the wheels like, 32 spoke? Got water bottle mounts?

If I was in your shoes I'd go hunting for an old rigid MTB in good condition with 36 spoke wheels. Tune up, whack on a set of butterfly bars, some racks, a set of Schwalbe Marathons, buy some cheap panniers and go for it. But expect to start with say 40 miles in a day and build up slowly.

Incidentally I think you're a little optimistic thinking things will be back to normal in the next 6 months...
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Old 04-19-20, 01:55 AM
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Originally Posted by alan s View Post
Singlespeed is great until you need to shift gears. Pedaling into a 20 mph headwind is like riding uphill. Pedaling with a 20 mph tailwind is like riding downhill. So the terrain may be flat, but it sure wonít feel like it
but will the terrain actually be flat?

eastern kansas fer shur, flat as a pancake with nothing to stop the wind, but i recall western kansas being an endless series of rolling hills.
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Old 04-19-20, 02:32 AM
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Not really plausible, go back to flying your Spitfire.
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Old 04-19-20, 03:31 AM
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Back in 1987, halfway through my first X-USA trip in Nebraska
I saw a guy pedaling westbound on a three speed, wearing oxford shoes, and with plastic kiddy panniers.
He only had a tarp and asked to sleep at fire and police stations in small towns.

So, I believe you can make it - maybe not with the greatest level of comfort.
But I would, at least, check your route to see how heavy the traffic is.
Just picking any route - esp. the most direct - can put you on hairy roads.

Kansas Traffic Count Map -
https://www.ksdot.org/Assets/wwwksdo...untmap2018.pdf
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Old 04-19-20, 03:54 AM
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Well personally, I think the surest way to make a man complete the impossible, is to tell him that he can't do it. But that said, SHOULD he do it? Like others have said, I vote an emphatic "no". Like others before you, traveling across the great state of Kansas, as a first tour, on a single speed, would be a miserable experience and not one I'd enjoy with any amount of miles under my belt. It would be a grueling, mind-numbing ride. smudgy recently did this ride and posted a video. He is a seasoned veteran and I think given all he knows, and with all of his touring specific equipment, it was tough.
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Old 04-19-20, 04:30 AM
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I have no doubt that any determined individual in reasonably good shape could physically complete that ride. How comfortably they could do so and how enjoyable it would be would vary with how prepared they were.

I rode with my daughter and her college dorm mate coast to coast after their graduation. They had less time to get ready. One was a cyclist who hadn't ridden much since being in college and the other was a runner. Their training rides for the trip were relatively short and not what I would have considered frequent enough, but they did okay. They did start out doing shorter days and building their mileage as the trip progressed. On a 4000 mile trip you have that advantage.

That said I think that your plan sounds very doable as far as cycling logistics. The biggest concern is getting enough saddle time in so that your butt isn't miserable, but even if you don't you can make it if you suffer through the misery.

Wind can be a pretty big deal on the plains. As I recall from my rides across Kansas, summer winds tend to kick up any time between late morning to some time in the afternoon so getting some riding in early is helpful. As I recall winds in summer tend to be out of the north east there. Not sure how that works out with your direction of travel.

I do see one big potential issue though... I am not sure how the corona virus situation may impact things for you, but it may be a problem. Are you camping? In other years I found that sleeping in rural small town picnic areas was never a problem for me and the people of that area were especially friendly and welcoming. It is possibly the easiest place in the world to find impromptu camping in plain sight. On the other hand, I worry that in the current political/social climate folks may be less accepting of strangers/outsiders.
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Old 04-19-20, 05:34 AM
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You probably have enough time to find out if it's remotely possible. A rule of thumb I use in prepping for big trips is to train to 30% of the demands of the trip. If you can work up to being able to cycle 25 mile days repeatedly in comfort, you'll find out about most of the above issues. You'll find out about winds, you can find some hills, you can figure out how to carry your load, most important you'll get your butt in condition.

Think of your downside risk and your bail-out options (and costs) if you simply can't make it. Trains don't run along your route. Where are bus stations? Do you have someone who will come get you? Hitchhiking is probably going to be impossible with our current health scare. Same with many other random acts of kindness that make bike touring what it is.
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Old 04-19-20, 09:21 AM
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The way you have posed your question, makes your plan seem unrealistic.

However, people vary in abilities including ability to train. So, I offer a suggestion as well as a few notes:

Suggestion: Update your plans to answer the following question first: Can you ride a 200-mile loop on the Colorado eastern plains over a three-day Memorial Day weekend (or weekend before or weekend after). There are several reasons behind the suggestion:
-- Doing such a shakedown ride will get you a lot more information on how realistic the later plans are - while also giving a weekend or two to recover before the longer trip.
-- Gets valuable experience on things like your gear and how you approach the trip.
-- Gets you a more immediate goal to focus training on
-- A loop ride frequently has some alternatives to cut things short if you discover while trying it that it is too much

In addition to the suggestion, a few notes relative to the route chosen:

1. With not many exceptions, I think you'll find towns big enough to have a motel closer to 30-40 miles apart. It is not quite as much "middle of nowhere" as you might expect. In addition, if you keep some flexibility on the eventual trip (e.g. extra days if needed), that can help.
2. On average, the winds blow from SW more often than from other directions. However, they can come from most any direction. Until about Hays or so, there really isn't much in way of trees to stop the wind. When that happens, it can make travel more tiring and frustrating. I've been able to keep some flexibility by (a) changing which days I go South vs which ones I go East depending on winds (b) starting early, sometimes less wind, though not always. June has long hours of daylight. So the issue isn't so much your stamina as much as whether your body is set for potentially longer hours in the saddle.
3. After Hays you'll find more trees. However, on average the humidity can also be higher. By June or so, it isn't out of question to have an occasional 100F afternoon in western Kansas or a very humid 90F+ day in eastern Kansas. Not the most common weather, but also not unheard of.
4. Wheat harvest in Western Kansas seems to happen in latter part of June. I haven't had huge difficulties but you will want to be on lookout for large trucks on otherwise not very busy, but narrow country roads.

So in summary, I'd focus on some more immediate milestones first including a shakedown ride over Memorial Day weekend - that more than many other things will help you answer your own question. I'd also anticipate some wind, humidity and high temperatures - so plan the subsequent trip to allow some flexibility to adjust.
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Old 04-19-20, 09:32 AM
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Originally Posted by saddlesores View Post
but will the terrain actually be flat?

eastern kansas fer shur, flat as a pancake with nothing to stop the wind, but i recall western kansas being an endless series of rolling hills.
Is Kansas really as flat as a pancake? Scientists have studied that important question:

https://www.improbable.com/airchives...9i3/kansas.php
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Old 04-19-20, 10:33 AM
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Mev really hit some of it better. You would be far from the first person to attempt the feat, there were plenty of decades in which bikes only had one or two gears and the roads would have been worse but they attempted similar. The question is if you can handle it and the biggest thing in the way of doing it is if your ass can handle it; quite literally you really need to know if your butt can handle hours on the saddle and finding out on the first 50 miles will be the worst. Trying to ride on saddle sores after will be a whole new pain. You need to get a couple of 30 mile days in before the ride to see if you can even handle that.
Tossing a rack on and loading it with your equipment and trying out a few 30-40 mile days will give you an idea of how it will work.
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Old 04-19-20, 10:38 AM
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Originally Posted by walter smitty View Post
...I tend to assume I can do anything I set my mind to, but also would prefer not to die.
I think you answered your own question here. You are asking advice from folks that have fine-tuned their touring experiences over the course of many trips. I challenge any one of us who've been doing this for a while if we'd attempt anything like the first long ride we did with all of the same equipment and methods.

I think you are perfectly capable of making it if you have a flexible enough time schedule. If you are forced to ride an average of 70 mpd you should modify your plan. Drive, or get a lift, partway there and finish the ride by bike or arrange with your friend to come partway in your direction to pick you up if you are behind schedule. If you can spare some extra time to take short days, especially in the beginning or when facing horrendous head winds, you're more likely to finish, and like it more.

As far as dying: You won't, from physical exhaustion, but you can, from some unforeseen traffic calamity. No amount of prior riding experience or fancy equipment will guarantee that can't happen. If you are used to riding a bike on the side of the road and have been careful to avoid situations that put yourself at risk, you can't do more than continue that practice to help avoid the worst. Route selection can help. The KS traffic count map is a good source of info. Check with the ACA to see what you can learn from their route selection research. Not only will they route you onto the quieter roads, they'll take you to the more interesting places along the way. Even the Google bike option will help steer you onto the lower traffic volume routes.

The Covid-19 situation is the joker in the deck. None of us have any experience touring under these kinds of conditions. You'll be just as much an expert on this as we all are.
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Old 04-19-20, 10:41 AM
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Originally Posted by axolotl View Post
Is Kansas really as flat as a pancake? Scientists have studied that important question:

https://www.improbable.com/airchives...9i3/kansas.php
Trivia note: Wikipedia tells us Haskell County is the flattest county in Kansas (still not flatter than a pancake...)



Originally Posted by saddlesores View Post
but will the terrain actually be flat?

eastern kansas fer shur, flat as a pancake with nothing to stop the wind, but i recall western kansas being an endless series of rolling hills.
*Western* Kansas has a lot less moisture and no trees to stop the wind. South Eastern Kansas where I went through it had a lot more rolling hills. Photo below taken not too far from Colby Kansas and somewhat representative of the terrain I saw in western parts of the state.
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Old 04-19-20, 10:59 AM
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Just to be clear... I have met lots of folks who probably were less fit and had zero experience and were doing longer trips. Some succeeded and some failed. How determined they were had as much to do with how they did as anything. You can go a long way toward insuring your success by doing one simple thing, make sure you are well acclimated to longish hours in the saddle. That one thing will be about as key as anything other than being determined to succeed. One other killer if you take it too far is over packing, but the flatter terrain makes that less critical.
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Old 04-19-20, 11:19 AM
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Yes you can do it, and you should. However as others have pointed out a single speed bike would be difficult. Proper gearing makes all the difference in the world, it decreases the physical demands of the trip so that it becomes more of a mental challenge than a physical challenge.
Using myself as example, my very first tour was from Paris to southern Egypt, on a used 12 speed $178 bike ( CCM Concorde, some Canadians would know the bike), a bike that a lot of people here wouldn't ride to the grocery store. The longest journey prior to that was ride of ~30 miles and the first time I ever rode with loaded panniers was the night before my flight, I rode to the end my street and back, just to see what ridding with loaded panniers felt like. I don't necessarily recommend that you follow my example, but I'm sure you get the idea.
So yeah go for it. What the worst that could happen?
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Old 04-19-20, 11:24 AM
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Is it going to be the end of the world if you have to bail out? If not go for it. I did a shorter trip last summer and got pretty beat up but had a great time. I did not have time for much conditioning or any kind of shake down ride, so there was a lot of on the job training. I do have a history of previous endeavors that let me push forward with a "wouldn't be nice if it all worked out" kind of mind set, while at the same time tracking an exit window.

I believe that the military folks have a saying: Embrace The Suck. Sounds like fun, huh?
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Old 04-19-20, 11:24 AM
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Originally Posted by walter smitty View Post
I'd like to visit a friend this summer who lives ~600 miles away, and thought it might be a cool adventure to bike there. This is potentially a dumb idea for a couple reasons, namely that I'll be riding a single speed commuter bike and have very little biking experience.

I'll be going across Eastern CO and Kansas, so my single-speed and I won't have to worry about hills (the whole trip averages 9ft/per mile of climbing and 17ft/mile of elevation loss, and I have yet to find any parts of the route that deviate much from this average). I also am not unfit; I'm a serious runner with good strength and aerobic fitness, and I regularly supplement my running with stationary biking (and more recently, real biking as well). Still, I don't really have a sense of how exhausting this kind of endeavor might be: my goal is to average 70mi/day, and I've never ridden anywhere near that far before, let alone multiple days in a row. I plan to build up my weekly long rides over the course of the next 8ish weeks, and practice doing some long rides back to back. Still, am I vastly underestimating the difficulty or danger of biking 70mi a day, or of doing so in the middle of nowhere?


Any insight is appreciated. I tend to assume I can do anything I set my mind to, but also would prefer not to die.
Take a couple of days and actually ride back to back 70 mile days. Gauge how you feel. Your legs, your butt, your back. And imagine doing that for another 4 or 5 days. Personally, I would get a touring bike with plenty of gears, but that is me.
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Old 04-19-20, 12:29 PM
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Every body has to start somewhere.

Do a 30 mile out and back (total of 60 miles) ride with your camping gear on the bike. Add a 10 pound brick to simulate some water and food for the load. Then ask yourself if you would want to do that the next day, and the next. Assume it will rain one or two of those days.

If you still think you can do it, as mentioned above, wind can be a hassle especially if you do not have the gears you need. So, on a windy day, do that 30 mile out and back ride again with your camping gear on the bike. And see how that goes.

Only you can know your capabilities.

And if you do it, have a plan B to bailout if you need to, bring a cell phone and know whom you can call if you decide you need to quit part way through.

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Old 04-19-20, 03:47 PM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
Do a 30 mile out and back (total of 60 miles) ride with your camping gear on the bike. Add a 10 pound brick to simulate some water and food for the load. Then ask yourself if you would want to do that the next day, and the next. Assume it will rain one or two of those days.
Probably good advice, but personally not advice I have ever taken. I figure riding, even training rides, should be fun and I ride unladen unless I actually need to carry my gear. I NEVER train with a load, but that is me.

BTW, on the food issue... when actually on the trip I recommend carrying as little as possible, buying daily just before you need it with only a little in reserve so you never run out. Carry all the water you need, but where you can restock frequently do so rather than carry a lot.

As a long distance runner you can probably judge how well you can manage the mileage. The one thing you are likely to under estimate are saddle comfort issues as have been mentioned a few times already. So just be sure you can handle some long hours on the saddle.
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Old 04-19-20, 04:40 PM
  #22  
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Originally Posted by walter smitty View Post
Any insight is appreciated. I tend to assume I can do anything I set my mind to, but also would prefer not to die.
You are able to do this....no problem, but your thinking is a little off.
Only the western half of Kansas is flat. In reality, it's more like the western third.
If you have a single speed commuter i'm assuming you are sitting upright? This isn't a problem except the wind will kill your ambition of 70 miles per day. If you have drop-bars (and preferably aerobars) then your goal is more realistic.
I can't imagine doing it on a single speed but others have done it.
You won't die because people in the rural areas of Kansas are the best in the nation as far as helping out someone in need. They have pick-up trucks and are eager to use them.
I've crossed Kansas a few time now. I've never trained for a tour but took it easy the first few days only averaging 40 miles.
When I was 27 I crossed the country averaging 77 miles per day on a $300 bicycle (with gears). I wouldn't have too many doubts about yourself. It sounds like you can do it.
If you are on a limited time schedule and this is the reason you want to average 70 miles per day I would think you are flirting with disappointment.
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Old 04-19-20, 05:00 PM
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Rolling hills are the worst, especially with a head wind. All that work going up and then you don't get to roll down the other side...
You can do it for sure, but don't make life hard on yourself. Get a bike with gears. Bike touring is fun so don't scar yourself for life.
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Old 04-19-20, 06:51 PM
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Originally Posted by hilltowner View Post
I challenge any one of us who've been doing this for a while if we'd attempt anything like the first long ride we did with all of the same equipment and methods.
Other than change my sub-standard wheelset, I would do my first long tour again with what I used back then, if I had to. Nearly 4 months and 6,000 miles. Fortunately, I donít have to.
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Old 04-19-20, 07:58 PM
  #25  
mev
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Originally Posted by hilltowner View Post
I challenge any one of us who've been doing this for a while if we'd attempt anything like the first long ride we did with all of the same equipment and methods.
For me, it would be more a question of abilities than equipment.

I worked up to it, but my first trip >1000 miles was an 1194 mile loop I cycled over 8 riding days + 1 rest day - some 35 years ago.

First three days were Boston->Montpelier, Monteplier->Montreal, Montreal->Quebec City. At that point with 480 miles cycled, I took a day to walk around exploring Quebec City. After that, I continued to Rivier-du-Loup, Woodstock NB, Houlton ME, Bangor ME and then down along the coast back to Boston. I pretty much cycled almost every hour between sunrise and sunset - before sleeping beside the road in a tube tent - to start again the next morning.

I couldn't do that ride at that pace now some 35 years later. I likely could have ridden at a further daily pace on a single-speed bike 35-years ago, than I would today on a multi-speed touring bike.

So the wild card for me with the OP is a bit of what level they are at including what ability they have to quickly train for a more intense ride...
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