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Practice or shakedown tours

Old 03-17-08, 01:49 PM
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Practice or shakedown tours

How many of you did a practice, or shakedown tour before you set off on your first long tour?

If you did, did you find it beneficial?

If you did not, did you wish you had?

Did you have some experience of some sort which would apply to cycle touring before you set off on a cycling tour ... such as:
... you and your family went camping every summer so you had a pretty good idea about setting up a campsite, etc.
... or you had done a lot of cycling before you decided to tour with your bicycle
... or you were a generally outdoors sort of person
... or ... ?


'Tis the season for the cycletourists to start hitting the road again, and we're already starting to get questions about the long/long-ish tours people have planned, so I thought it might be beneficial for the new cycletourists to hear from those who have been there and done that.
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Old 03-17-08, 01:54 PM
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In my case I had done quite a bit of camping before I started cycle touring, so I had a reasonable idea about tents and things. I had done a lot of cycling before I started cycle touring, so I had a pretty good idea what it was like to ride day after day after day. My family and I were into hiking and long walks, and I considered myself somewhat of an outdoors person.

I had done a short pseudo-tour in the mid-1990s, and then a few weekend tours over the next few years, and then a week-long tour in Wales in 2003, before embarking on my long tour in Australia in 2004. Nevertheless ... I wished I had done more practice/shakedown tours that year. It would have saved me from packing as much as I did, and having to put it into storage shortly after I got to Australia. And may have saved me from some of the difficulties I had with climbing with a loaded touring bicycle.
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Old 03-17-08, 02:31 PM
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My first tour was three weeks long. I didn't do a shakedown tour beforehand. The day before I boxed up my bike for the airplane, I loaded it up and rode it around the block.

My my point ov view, a shakedown tour wasn't neccessary. I did my research by reading books on how to do bicycle tour, and took their advise. So thirteen years later I'm still doing things pretty much the same as on my first tour. Prior to that first tour I had done plenty of cycling and camping. What I learned on that first tour is that bicycle touring is pretty simple.
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Old 03-17-08, 03:39 PM
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For short tours, I usually do at least one quick shakedown ride.

I haven't done any über-long tours yet, but will do at least a "shakedown weekend" before setting out on a 3+ month tour.
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Old 03-17-08, 03:52 PM
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Yes I did a 4 day shakedown before my first long tour, and a a little pre-shakedown riding too.

I wish I had paid attention to what I learned on my shakedown, which was that Bob and I didn't agree with one another. Could have saved myself a lot of pain if I had only followed my gut feel about that.

I had done quite a bit of car camping and some backpacking before, and I was with an experienced bike tourist who helped me pack, so I probably didn't learn as much as I would have if someone hadn't already taught me a whole bunch. I think it was worth it though- we did tune the packing list a bit, and ended up pretty satisfied with the choices we made. Plus it was a nice mini-vacation.
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Old 03-17-08, 04:42 PM
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I tend to take shakedown trips before taking long trips. For example, prior to bicycling across Canada in 1997, the year before I cycled the Dempster Highway (Dawson City to Inuvik). Before cycling around Australia in 2001, I cycled a week in Tasmania the year before. Before cycling across Russia in 2007, I cycled five weeks through Ukraine/Russia in 2006.

I don't really take shakedown trips before a small week long trip. I've chosen to not own an automobile and hence bicycle everywhere and also do weekend rides all year long. I've developed a fine-tuned checklist and so can pack most things the night before. However, when doing a long cross-continent type ride, I'll do several things including a week or two shakedown the year before and also plan my trip with enough "slack" so I can do some training on the ride - and also get a chance to mail things home and/or buy new things if necessary.
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Old 03-17-08, 04:50 PM
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Originally Posted by Machka
How many of you did a practice, or shakedown tour before you set off on your first long tour?

If you did, did you find it beneficial?

If you did not, did you wish you had?

Did you have some experience of some sort which would apply to cycle touring before you set off on a cycling tour ... such as:
... you and your family went camping every summer so you had a pretty good idea about setting up a campsite, etc.
... or you had done a lot of cycling before you decided to tour with your bicycle
... or you were a generally outdoors sort of person
... or ... ?


'Tis the season for the cycletourists to start hitting the road again, and we're already starting to get questions about the long/long-ish tours people have planned, so I thought it might be beneficial for the new cycletourists to hear from those who have been there and done that.
No shakedowns here. I do train with weighted bags for about 6 weeks before a tour. Weight is added progressively until I get to touring weight. I use rice for ballast since it's not abrasive and is edible.

Do not go doing any major rebuild on your bike just before a tour. That's part of what the training is for. Cables are set, wheels are bedded, any adjustments to the bike fit have been made, etc. The night before a tour is not the time to break out that new saddle
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Old 03-17-08, 05:59 PM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute

Do not go doing any major rebuild on your bike just before a tour. That's part of what the training is for. Cables are set, wheels are bedded, any adjustments to the bike fit have been made, etc. The night before a tour is not the time to break out that new saddle
I agree with that.

Yep, I always do a little weekend overnighter about a month out, maybe a bit closer. That is when I am dialing in all my equipment including the bike. It is invaluable time imo.

I learned quite a few things on last season's trip that get reinforced, or that you might forget over the winter; things like: you must know where the last food stop is before camping...and where to get beer.

I hook up my trailer and begin bike commuting a few weeks in advance of a tour as well. I carry all of my lunch and work clothes and supplies, and I add a 25lb. Olympic plate from the weight set to help me simulate tour weight. When the first day of tour hits, I am not really noticing all the weight in the back because I've been pulling it for weeks.
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Old 03-17-08, 06:06 PM
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I did the TransAmerica as a first tour with no training with a load as did my two companions. We were avid campers and had all done lots of other forms of camping so we didn't find any of that to be a big deal.

No regrets, it all went fine and we had fun right from the start and all through the summer.
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Old 03-17-08, 06:24 PM
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never trained until I was old. when I was young (14-late 20's) I'd just get on and go. Hurt for the second day or so... then fine.
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Old 03-17-08, 06:40 PM
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Before my first tour in 2004, I think I did two weekend trips (two days riding, one night camping), about a month and two months before my tour. I don't remember really learning anything shocking, so I probably could have done fine without them, but it was nice to have the comfort of *knowing* that I wouldn't learn anything shocking on my real trip.

Before my second tour in 2007, I made a much more concerted effort to prepare, doing three weekend trips in the month before I left. That was really more to get myself in optimal shape though; I only had ~30 days to do Chicago-to-Portland, so I wanted to make sure that I could go at full blast from day one. Still, it was nice to get a refresher and remember how to do everything with the camping and where everything goes in each bag.

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Old 03-18-08, 01:35 AM
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Nope, we've never done a shakedown. Just pack up and go.
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Old 03-18-08, 01:57 AM
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We do as many partialy loaded (+/-100kms) day rides as we can for our conditioning. We also do a fully loaded overnighter a week or two before a tour to make sure everything is in order and to get the feel of the loaded bikes.
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Old 03-18-08, 02:51 AM
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I did a "shakedown" tour over two days prior to my first "proper" tour in February 2000. By that stage I was already a regular cyclist, having completed my first century relatively recently. I was also used to carrying loads as a daily commuter. About the only thing I had no experience of was the camping side of things, including setting up the tent. I learned quickly (with the help of another camper), but perhaps it would have been better to have practiced in the lounge room first. That day was 47 degrees C officially (meaning the real temperature was probably a few degrees warmer still), and all I wanted to do was take a swim in the stream I'd camped near.
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Old 03-18-08, 07:52 AM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute
The night before a tour is not the time to break out that new saddle
A friend joined me for a tour. It was his first tour. He put on a new saddle the night before. He complained about his butt the entire week and a half of the tour. He did have his old saddle with him in his pannier, but he never put it on.
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Old 03-18-08, 04:41 PM
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Before cross country last year I did a 2 day shakedown with my partners. Good idea, but not as good as riding loaded for month prior to a trip and doing hills. Time on legs is one thing, but time on legs loaded is 100% better. I've seen a number of posts that talk about starting out slow and you'll get in shape and I personally think that's a crock.
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Old 03-18-08, 04:58 PM
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Originally Posted by vosyer
Before cross country last year I did a 2 day shakedown with my partners. Good idea, but not as good as riding loaded for month prior to a trip and doing hills. Time on legs is one thing, but time on legs loaded is 100% better. I've seen a number of posts that talk about starting out slow and you'll get in shape and I personally think that's a crock.
I tend to agree with you on that. I had done a lot of riding before my 2004 Australia tour, but figured I was in pretty good shape anyway, and would get in better shape on the tour. Plus, that's what everyone told me!

I started that tour exhausted (moving right before the tour kind of took it out of me), rode exhausted for 3 months, and finished that tour exhausted. I had way too much stuff with me (which I corrected as I went along), and had bitten off a bit too much.

Given that I had done all my training in Manitoba (flat as a pancake), and had done very little riding in hills or mountains ... especially with loaded panniers (1 week in Wales the year before didn't cut it) ... I had a lot of difficulty covering the distance. Toward the end I did improve my hill climbing, but I had a rather miserable first month and a half walking up everything in sight. If I had focussed more on hill climbing with loaded panniers, I could have saved myself a lot of grief during the first half of the tour.

Also, my ride partner on that tour and I weren't on the same page. He was the type of guy who was happy covering 100 to 150 kms a day. I'm the type of girl who would prefer to cover about half that. I'm a randonneur so I'm used to riding long distances, but this tour turned into a 3-month randonnee, and that was a bit too much. I just wasn't in shape to ride 100+ kms a day over mountains. And again, perhaps if I had trained with that in mind, it might have made the whole tour a bit more enjoyable.

Not to say I didn't enjoy the tour, there were very enjoyable aspects (loved the trip out to the Great Barrier Reef, for example), but the cycling part wasn't one of them ... and I still think that lack of preparation on my part was partly to blame for that.

In recent years my training has changed ... lots more hills because I live in a hillier area now. And my tours have changed ... much more relaxed.
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Old 03-18-08, 08:09 PM
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I never did a "shakedown tour" per se. I rarely had the time, inclination or patience to do one. And now, living in Montréal, it would be difficult to find a nice camping destination within a day ride... unless I want to duplicate my tour. However :

– I commute a lot, oftentimes with panniers full of books, grocery, etc. I don't mind buying milk and canned goods at the grocery near work and riding the long way home, for instance. This means anything between 17 and 30 km in urban and sub-urban environment.

– I also do long evening and day rides, so my rear end is used to the saddle.

– I used to commute, do day rides and tour with the same bike. Now that I tour with kids on the tandem, I do some commutes and day rides with the tandem, both for comfort and to make sure issues are ironed out.
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Old 03-18-08, 09:16 PM
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I wonder if my life is a shakedown tour.

Gosh, I suddenly feel strange. I go out at least every other weekend, for two or three days, stealing a four day weekend now and then in really good weather. For example, I'm leaving this Thursday and will return Sunday. I guess its my love for camping and being out and cycling is just the means of travel. Even for an overnighter, I ride fully over-loaded, sometimes with enough food for a week or more. I realize it sounds kinda desperate, but the cows don't complain much(I see way more cows than people.) I would guess some will say what I'm doing is not really touring, just weekend camping on a bike. That said, there will not be much guess work when I finally get to go on my 600++ mile ride to the mountains this July - maybe I can call this all prep for that? Anyone else suffering from this affliction? Should I start a support group?

Bye & Cheers!
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Old 03-19-08, 08:57 AM
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I'd say I've never done a shakedown tour prior to a "big" tour. I'd just pack and go and learn through experience for my next tour. Sometimes - but not often - I did a long pretour day ride of the approximate daily mileage I'd anticipate covering on tour and load up my panniers with books, magazines, camera equipment, rain gear, picnic supplies or some other things to approach my tour weight.
But I am also a year round bicycle commuter and do most of my shopping and errands on a bike as well, so I often carry weight on my bike which helps keep me adjusted to riding a bike under load. That probably helps.
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Old 03-19-08, 09:13 AM
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My "shakedown tour" before my first long (18 day) trip was to load down my panniers and ride for an afternoon. I did this a couple of weeks before the tour. Everything seemed fine, so that was it! At that point I had been using the bike for shorter trips for 12 years, so I was dialed in to it.

Another time, I took a new bike on a long tour without having had many chances to ride it beforehand, and had mechanical and fit problems galore. A few extra hours in the saddle would have revealed some of these problems before I set off.

So I would say a shakedown tour -- or even a shakedown ride or two -- is a good idea.
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Old 03-19-08, 09:27 AM
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I didn't do a shakedown before last years tour, wish I had though. I had no camping experience whatsoever and had not ridden a bike since early May (tour was in August). Needless to say it didn't start well.

The first 3 days were hell, I think I covered around 160 miles and I spent alot of time cursing and pushing the bike up steepish hills, which was far from fun.

The first nights camping was a disaster, I couldn't get my stove to work so I ended up just eating a bag of peanuts. I then managed to set my tent up backwards and naturally being England it rained during the night and I woke up with my feet in a puddle of water. I nearly threw in the towel there and then, I even started to cycle back towards home.

Anyway long story short I toured for 3 weeks (made it to Denmark) and it got alot easier, the aches and pains dissapeared and the miles rolled on by, I even learned to set my tent up correctly.
I came home earlier than planned though (aiming for Norway) and I still dont know why because I had a great time and on what was to be my last day, I felt like I could of just kept on pedalling forever.

I am touring again this year and I fully intend to last the distance this time as I learned alot from the last tour and if it taught me anything at all it was that what is hard to endure is sweet to remember.

Shakedown tour this weekend, only an overnighter but still I can't wait.
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Old 03-19-08, 09:53 AM
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Originally Posted by vosyer
I've seen a number of posts that talk about starting out slow and you'll get in shape and I personally think that's a crock.
Given the variety of people who tour I would say calling it a crock is a bit of an overstatement. It really depends on your fitness level, how much you carry and your personal physiology.

My last longish tour I hadn't been on a bike for a month, had ridden seriously for 2 months and hadn't ridden with a touring load for over a year. I had one flat day at the start and then the climbing started. It was no big deal and I got stronger each day for 3 weeks. By that point riding through the mtns all day was easy.

I'm not suggesting that would work for everyone and I'd rather go on tour at peak form, but it isn't a deal breaker for me. Each of us has to make a realistic assessment of our abilities and decide what training you need prior to a tour.

One thing to consider is that unless you have some specific goals you are trying to achieve you can [and probably should] take it easy on the first few days of a long tour, eat well [not just lots] and get a good rest every night. Set your goals each day based on how you feel not some arbitrary distance target.
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Old 03-19-08, 10:20 AM
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Hi,

I never made a shakedown tour and I made several tour were I was trained and several tour without any training at all.

For me the training is not necessary, because:
- Totally untrained (half year: 0 km cycling) I can go 100 km in hilly regions
- The speed on tour is reduced (14 km/h on tour / 25 km/h "normal" cycling)
- The third day is always hard (trained or untrained)


Experience:
I made my first self guided 100 km day tour then I was 10 years old (just told our parents to ride to a friend in neighbourhood)
I made my first several days tours with my father between 13-16 years old.
I camped as I was a student and the income was low.

But I would say nowadays my experience is quite high. The Canada trip (see homepage) was planned in 8 hours (1 week before the trip starts) and I packed my things in less than 2 hours. This routine is frightening
Then I remember which thoughts I had and effort it took before my first trip on a foreign continent...

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Old 03-19-08, 10:45 AM
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i think the value in doing a mini tour prior to your first major outing really lies in the camping experience. i've been an avid cyclist for a few years, and a mechanic for a few years, so i know my bike inside and out. however, i didn't know that trying to use spare clothes as a pillow was a horrible idea (or just doesn't work for me) and that thermarests are quite the specious accessory.
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