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Help with my first journey

Old 07-18-09, 08:55 PM
  #1  
kclv1988
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Help with my first journey

Hi guys.

First thing is I would like to introduce myself before I ask for any help. I am a 21 year old college student living in NYC. I don't have any cycling experience aside from joy riding my bicycle around town.

So my goal is simple to travel from east coast to west coast on a bicycle. It all started two years ago, when my friend suggested it. At first I thought it was impossible, but that was due to my limited experience and narrow understanding of reality. I want to do this for a few reasons, to have a true adventure and to see the country I live in.
I understand that this is not a simple journey and one just doesn't jump on a bike and ride away, there is a lot of planning that is involved. Since there are probably a lot of people who have done journeys like these on this forum they know more than me on the topic of preparing.
My question is this how is this journey prepared for?
What do I have to consider before I go on a trip like this?
What do I have to bring with me?
What kind of mods do I need for my bike?
How to I plan my route, are there any special maps for this type of stuff.?
Do I need cycling shoes the ones that clip on to the pedals?

Anything that would help me getting started in researching and accomplishing my goal would be greatly appreciated.
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Old 07-18-09, 09:40 PM
  #2  
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You'll probably get lots of advice, almost all of which has already been covered in the 'stickies.' I'd suggest you give them a good read then use the info to customize your bike and gear to fit your needs. If you hit a road block, you can come back and ask specific questions that weren't answered in the stickies or in other threads on the touring forum.

Most who tour do so on bikes designed for such, like the Surly Long Haul Trucker or Trek 520. There are a few others. Truth is tho that you can cross the US on just about any style of mechanically reliable bicycle, albeit perhaps less comfortably then on one designed to do it.

Target limiting your gear weight to less than 40 pounds, assuming you're planning a self supported tour. More and you've probably overdone it, especially in the summer months.

Be sure and mount puncture resistant tires such as Schwable, Vitorria or Continental. I am having good luck with Continental Touring Plus.

This could go on and on, but I'll refrain. Do as much research on here and over at CG as you can. Then you'll have the knowledge base to bring it all together into a pkg that'll work for you.

You're in for a lot of fun and a life time of memories. Good luck.
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Old 07-18-09, 09:47 PM
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Probably the most instructive thing you can do is to go over to crazyguyonabike.com and read every tour journal you have time for. Pay particular attention to the cross-country tour journals. Most of the journals have everything from packing lists and preparation notes to day-by-day descriptions to ending summaries of what went well and what didn't.

I'd strongly suggest making your first tour a modest trip, maybe a long weekend or so. You can still plan your cross country tour, but the shorter trip(s) in the mean time will be the most instructive on whether you have the right bike setup, equipment, and plan to set out on a 3,000 mile bike ride.
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Old 07-18-09, 10:59 PM
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kclv1988
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thank you guys for pointing me in the right direction. I am going to strat reading those journals.

One question for cyclebum what does CG stand for?
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Old 07-18-09, 11:04 PM
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I'm pretty certain cyclebum used "CG" as a shorthand notation for Crazy Guy, as in crazyguyonabike.com.
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Old 07-19-09, 02:28 AM
  #6  
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My question is this how is this journey prepared for?
Pretty much what has been mentioned, best option is crazyguyonabike.com and read journals, gear lists, peoples experiences and so on, that's how I did it.

What do I have to consider before I go on a trip like this?
Getting at least 3 months off work if you work, or clearing your schedule for 3 months otherwise. You can do it in 2, but I would recommend around 90 days to truely take your time and enjoy it, with sufficient off-days. You also need to consider the direction you travel, E-W or W-E, there are numerous debates on this issue in other threads here. You should also consider your route. There are three main American Cycling Association routes across the country. The Northern Tier takes in the northern states, the TransAmerica takes in mostly central states, while the Southern Tier takes in the southern states. All take varying amounts of time to complete, and all will provide different experiences. I did the TransAmerica and would highly recommend it. You should also consider whether you want to go solo or with a partner. Also, consider budget, are you going to want to stay in motels, hostels, or camp. Will you have enough money for food, off-days, that kind of thing. You can do the trip fairly efficiently if you don't mind camping every day.

What do I have to bring with me?
Touring bike recommended Racks, panniers, money, camera, clothes.... I could go on forever, but best to look at journals on crazyguy to get a good idea. One important thing to know is that most people tend to overthink this part, and thus overpack, taking everything except the kitchen sink. It's just not required.

What kind of mods do I need for my bike?
Depends upon whether you are wanting to convert your current bike or just buy a new one. There are special touring bikes as mentioned (surly, trek 520) which are good because they're built for this stuff. Most road bikes probably wouldn't be able to support a large load, and would be prone to frame cracking. The good thing about the Trek is it has a steel frame, heavier, but stronger. You'll also need a rear rack and a front one if you intend to be carrying lots of stuff. Panniers for the racks too. A lot of people like to have a handlebar bag also - including me - which I would say is essential, it's perfect for stuff you need access to quick, ie sunglasses, camera, money, valuables, sunscreen, food. You can just unclip it when you leave your bike so you never lose your valuables. I'd also upgrade to decent touring tyres. Some have been mentioned here already. I use Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres which I endorse 100% (crossed the entire continent with 0 punctures).


How to I plan my route, are there any special maps for this type of stuff.?
Yes. the american cycling association (ACA) - http://www.adventurecycling.org. they produce brilliant maps for many routes within the USA, including three cross-country routes (transam, northern tier & southern tier). The maps are very detailed and include everything you could possibly need - elevations, distances, motels, campgrounds, food, gas, restaurants, temperature/road conditions, historical facts, you name it. I would very much recommend doing one of the ACA routes (especially the TransAm !)
Do I need cycling shoes the ones that clip on to the pedals?

Anything that would help me getting started in researching and accomplishing my goal would be greatly appreciated.
Hope this has helped.
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Old 07-19-09, 05:45 AM
  #7  
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The Adventure Cycling maps are great. I liked the fact that the maps showed where pretty much all of the services (libraries, post offices,bike shops,restaurants, stores, police departments, motels, campgrounds, free places to stay, etc.) along the route were shown on the maps. I also like that we met a lot of other cyclists along the way.

I highly recommend using the AC maps to follow one of their regular routes. Three of us did the Trans America as our first tour and it was a terrific experience. Since our trip was one with three first timers, I think it is a very good one for a new tourist to read before their coast to coast tour. Check it out at:
http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/staehling2007

Have a great adventure. A coast to coast bike tour is something really special.
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Old 07-19-09, 08:54 PM
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Originally Posted by Weetbix View Post
Pretty much what has been mentioned, best option is crazyguyonabike.com and read journals, gear lists, peoples experiences and so on, that's how I did it.


Getting at least 3 months off work if you work, or clearing your schedule for 3 months otherwise. You can do it in 2, but I would recommend around 90 days to truely take your time and enjoy it, with sufficient off-days. You also need to consider the direction you travel, E-W or W-E, there are numerous debates on this issue in other threads here. You should also consider your route. There are three main American Cycling Association routes across the country. The Northern Tier takes in the northern states, the TransAmerica takes in mostly central states, while the Southern Tier takes in the southern states. All take varying amounts of time to complete, and all will provide different experiences. I did the TransAmerica and would highly recommend it. You should also consider whether you want to go solo or with a partner. Also, consider budget, are you going to want to stay in motels, hostels, or camp. Will you have enough money for food, off-days, that kind of thing. You can do the trip fairly efficiently if you don't mind camping every day.


Touring bike recommended Racks, panniers, money, camera, clothes.... I could go on forever, but best to look at journals on crazyguy to get a good idea. One important thing to know is that most people tend to overthink this part, and thus overpack, taking everything except the kitchen sink. It's just not required.


Depends upon whether you are wanting to convert your current bike or just buy a new one. There are special touring bikes as mentioned (surly, trek 520) which are good because they're built for this stuff. Most road bikes probably wouldn't be able to support a large load, and would be prone to frame cracking. The good thing about the Trek is it has a steel frame, heavier, but stronger. You'll also need a rear rack and a front one if you intend to be carrying lots of stuff. Panniers for the racks too. A lot of people like to have a handlebar bag also - including me - which I would say is essential, it's perfect for stuff you need access to quick, ie sunglasses, camera, money, valuables, sunscreen, food. You can just unclip it when you leave your bike so you never lose your valuables. I'd also upgrade to decent touring tyres. Some have been mentioned here already. I use Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres which I endorse 100% (crossed the entire continent with 0 punctures).



Yes. the american cycling association (ACA) - http://www.adventurecycling.org. they produce brilliant maps for many routes within the USA, including three cross-country routes (transam, northern tier & southern tier). The maps are very detailed and include everything you could possibly need - elevations, distances, motels, campgrounds, food, gas, restaurants, temperature/road conditions, historical facts, you name it. I would very much recommend doing one of the ACA routes (especially the TransAm !)
Do I need cycling shoes the ones that clip on to the pedals?


Hope this has helped.
Thanks for your reply really helped me out
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Old 07-19-09, 09:12 PM
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It looks like CG is a site that I should be able to get all my info from. I am going to start reading those journals, after that I will stat researching individual parts.

Trek 520 is a pricey for me. You guys said I could convert my current bike to a touring bike. Is that possible with every bike or just certain bikes. I have a Mongoose xr500 Picture( http://picasaweb.google.com/kclv1988...73707348965602 )

Lets say I would like to convert my bike into a tourer what would I have to modify.

I cant find the specifications any were sorry.

Last edited by kclv1988; 07-19-09 at 09:13 PM. Reason: picture
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Old 07-20-09, 05:50 AM
  #10  
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Originally Posted by Weetbix View Post
Getting at least 3 months off work if you work, or clearing your schedule for 3 months otherwise. You can do it in 2, but I would recommend around 90 days to truely take your time and enjoy it, with sufficient off-days.
We found 73 days to be a comfortable amount of time, but allowing more and having an open schedule is a big plus. OTOH, Having to worry about meeting a deadline is a joy killer. So I agree that allowing 90 days is a good idea, but I think that is mainly to allow you to not feel pressed not because you will actually need the time.

I suggest that you consider the possibility of using rest half days once in a while and skip the rest days except where you want a day off to actually do something and even then riding 20-40 miles in the morning is usually better than taking a day off for me. This does not suit everyone, but I suggest trying it. I know that I am not all that happy when I wind up staying the same place twice when on tour. On the TA the only full day we took off was to go whitewater rafting and even then we rode a short way down the road rather than stay the same place.

I figure that if I need a full day off I am probably doing too much daily mileage and I would rather do a daily mileage that allows me to ride day in and day out. Also I find an easy day a better recovery than a day off anyway.

That reminds me of another thing... Especially for the first 10 days to two weeks keep your daily mileage at a manageable level and don't push for long miles. Build the daily mileage as you go, but keep it at a level you can maintain. If you push hard enough that you need to take a day and veg out in a motel that is a big waste in my mind. I did take one full day doing nothing on my last tour but only because I was too sick to ride. If you take days off I would much rather save them for doing something interesting and fun and that wouldn't be sitting in a motel room watching TV. If you want a day off save it to go rafting, hiking, kayaking, horseback riding or whatever. Still even doing most of those things doesn't preclude riding for a few hours at an easy pace.

Also another advantage of allowing extra time is that you may want to take a detour to see something that is a bit out of the way I am thinking of things like leaving the TA to hit Glacier NP, explore Rocky Mtn NP, or to ride over to the Tetons. We were on a tight enough schedule that we didn't feel like we could do much of that. A more open ended schedule frees you to be a bit more spontaneous in taking side trips.
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Old 07-20-09, 10:17 AM
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I would like to make another suggestion. While ACA maps are great for what they are designed to do, they do take some of the "adventure" out of the trip. We planned our own "Trans-Am" route, essentially following Highway 20 from Newport, OR to Boston, MA. Not knowing what was ahead, other than what we could glean from state maps and local information, was a big part of the adventure. We only saw about 6 other cross country cyclist on the whole trip (except where we crossed the Trans-Am in Yellowstone). I consisered this a plus, but others may like the social aspects found on the main routes. People treat you differently when cyclist are more of a novelty, than the norm. We even got interviewed by a small town newspaper!

On the other hand, we have also done the Pacific Coast route which does not offer any options. We talked to many other bikers, and found the trip enjoyable, but in a different sort of way. There are not very many "unknowns" on the coast route; numerous state parks, motels and more clam chowder than you want.

If you follow the advice from the folks above, and ask youself what you you want to accomlish on your venture you will be on the right track. Good luck, and regardless of the route you will not regret the trip.
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Old 07-20-09, 11:50 AM
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http://www.bicycletouring101.com/index.html
http://www.kenkifer.com/bikepages/touring/index.htm
http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/
http://www.adventurecycling.org/
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Old 07-20-09, 12:45 PM
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Originally Posted by Doug64 View Post
I would like to make another suggestion. While ACA maps are great for what they are designed to do, they do take some of the "adventure" out of the trip. We planned our own "Trans-Am" route, essentially following Highway 20 from Newport, OR to Boston, MA. Not knowing what was ahead, other than what we could glean from state maps and local information, was a big part of the adventure. We only saw about 6 other cross country cyclist on the whole trip (except where we crossed the Trans-Am in Yellowstone). I consisered this a plus, but others may like the social aspects found on the main routes. People treat you differently when cyclist are more of a novelty, than the norm. We even got interviewed by a small town newspaper!

On the other hand, we have also done the Pacific Coast route which does not offer any options. We talked to many other bikers, and found the trip enjoyable, but in a different sort of way. There are not very many "unknowns" on the coast route; numerous state parks, motels and more clam chowder than you want.

If you follow the advice from the folks above, and ask youself what you you want to accomlish on your venture you will be on the right track. Good luck, and regardless of the route you will not regret the trip.
Also there is a middle ground of using the AC maps and going off route for portions of the trip. It allows a bit of mixing and matching.

We did some of that and other than meeting fewer cyclists I really didn't see much difference in the experience. Even on The TA we met locals everyday who were living on the TA and still had no idea what we were doing. As far as knowing or not knowing the route... I have done some of both. I have done longish sections just using state maps and not much planning and don't find the AC routes to be substantially more or less of an adventure, but that is probably in the eyes of the beholder.

To me the TA has it's own appeal due to the fact that Bikecentennial was a big deal when I was younger (1976) and I always regretted that I missed out on it. It was something I wanted to do at the time and it just didn't work out. That made the route something special when I finally did it 31 years later.
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Old 07-20-09, 12:49 PM
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Good site for new tourists

If you're new to touring, take a look at this site:

http://www.biketoledo.net

It has a lot of good stuff you'll be glad you learned before you started out.
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Old 07-20-09, 01:20 PM
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Lots of good advice in front. I would emphasis. Try short trips around your home... to a friend or relative, or motel. I have seen people touring on all kinds of bikes. Too much weight on a frame can make it dangerously flexible (you'll know). Adventure Cycling maps are incredibly good, all you really need. Don't push too fast, enjoy it. Take half the stuff that you think you will need.

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