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Never Toured, Need Advice

Old 08-12-10, 04:11 PM
  #1  
mister
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Never Toured, Need Advice

I'm looking at doing my first tour from San Francisco to Los Angeles sometime in 2011 (probably late May, Early June). I've never done any sort of touring before and I'm pretty much lost with everything. I'd be going solo and would be self supported and would stick to hotels (gotta have a hot shower...) and eating on the road as much as possible, so no carrying cook sets and tons of food.

My cycling background is definitely road. I've done the 30 - 40 mile fitness/ fun rides regularly, commuted off and on for the past 4 years distances from 3 to 20 miles round trip. I've also done a couple triathlons too.

I currently have a 2006 Trek 5200 with Ultegra components and Mavic Open Pro wheels. I would love to ride my current bike, but I'm concerned with the load since 1) it would all be on my back, and 2) it's not a touring bike by any stretch. If I kept my current bike, I'd probably swap out my current saddle with a Brooks.

So, here are the questions I have...
1) Should I not worry about the bike or should I look into something else?
2) How's the timing? Should I adjust it? I've lived all over California, so I'm trying to miss the bulk of the rain up north, but still not get stuck in the summer heat down south.
3) What type or terrain should I expect? Any crazy climbs (I'm no where near a climber)? I'd be sticking to HWY 1 for the most part.
4) Anything else to consider?

Thanks in advance!
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Old 08-12-10, 05:25 PM
  #2  
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Originally Posted by mister View Post
I currently have a 2006 Trek 5200 with Ultegra components and Mavic Open Pro wheels. I would love to ride my current bike, but I'm concerned with the load since 1) it would all be on my back, and 2) it's not a touring bike by any stretch. If I kept my current bike, I'd probably swap out my current saddle with a Brooks.
Carrying weight on your back is a good way to be miserable for the entire 500-mile trip. I used a Carradice Nelson Longflap saddlebag attached to a Bagman support and a Lone Peak H-100 handlebar bag. You might also consider a Tubus Fly rack and panniers.

If you've got a saddle that works, you might want to stick with it. I've yet to find a Brooks saddle that works for me...

1) Should I not worry about the bike or should I look into something else?
I didn't like the way my road bike handled when I attached the gear I planned to take on my credit card tour from SF to LA. I ended up building a touring-specific bike based on the Nashbar aluminum touring frame and some components I had lying around. Very happy I decided to install a trekking crank!

2) How's the timing? Should I adjust it? I've lived all over California, so I'm trying to miss the bulk of the rain up north, but still not get stuck in the summer heat down south.
You probably need to be prepared for fog and cool temps at any time of year. I rode from SF to LA in September, just after Labor Day. Very little traffic on Highway 1, but a couple of cool (~50s) foggy days.

3) What type or terrain should I expect? Any crazy climbs (I'm no where near a climber)? I'd be sticking to HWY 1 for the most part.
None of the climbs are especially long, but there are quite a few of them in the Big Sur area. I think my most difficult day was around 75mi and 5000-6000 ft. of elevation gain.

4) Anything else to consider?
Sounds like you need to buy a copy of "Bicycling the Pacific Coast" by Spring and Kirkendall. It'll get you up-to-speed with the basics...
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Old 08-12-10, 07:03 PM
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I rode from Marin to San Luis Obispo a few years back. So...

Hwy 1 has numerous massive climbs, especially south of SF, Big Sur, and north of LA.
Pick up the Adventure Cycling map of the Pacific route.
Backpack definitely won't work. If you don't want to use a rack and bags, get a trailer.
Raise your handlebars and sit more upright than usual.
Make sure your bike has very low gearing.
Campsites have hot showers. You just have to pay for them. However, many state campsites only charge $5 a night for cyclists and don't need a reservation.
It's California.... as long as it isn't raining, you'll be fine temperature-wise.
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Old 08-12-10, 07:49 PM
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Here's a site which has great coverage of all aspects of touring for the beginner:

http://www.biketoledo.net
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Old 08-12-10, 08:30 PM
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With the amount of lead time you have, it would be plenty to set up another 'touring' bike, as sstorkel says. Low gears for the climbs, and racks/panniers or trailer for gear. I carry a Camelbak, but would NOT use a backpack to haul gear. Too much weight, too high, for me! My touring bike is set up to haul a trailer, but many more people prefer racks/panniers for gear.

Spend some time researching touring in general, and the Pacific Coast in particular. A little 'homework' can pay dividends in helping you understand things like loaded bike handling (different than unloaded), as an example. If you have never camped, it might be a little intimidating, but after checking it out, you might find you like it. Some weekend tours, or S24O (sub 24 overnight) tours would probably help you get ready for the longer one, as well. Good luck, however you decide to do it.
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Old 08-12-10, 08:46 PM
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An alternate view here.

Your bike is fine, get a Tubus Fly rack (www.thetouringstore.com) with a quickrelease adaptor and a pair of small lightweight front panniers. (edit - 2 front panniers on the rear rack, I don't mean carrying front & rear bags).

Don't change the saddle if you like the one you have.

Make hotel reservations in the morning for each night if possible, sometimes hotels fill up.

Pack light. Really light. One set of bike clothes, wash them in the sink every night, or maybe 2 shorts. Regular tools. Very small amount of off-bike clothes (no jeans or sweatshirts, think LIGHT - down jacket, t-shirt, one pair pants with zip-off legs), plus armwarmers, knee warmers, rain jacket.

Weather should be gorgeous! I toured through Big Sur in May a few years ago, and it's cool in the morning and warm and nice later.

Have a great trip!

Edit again -
PS, you can keep the pack weight under 10 pounds - I did a credit card tour in the ROcky Mountains like this on my road bike, you just have to be ruthless with not taking any extra anything.
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Old 08-12-10, 09:56 PM
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what valygrl said. honestly with hotels lined up every night you can go with or without a back rack carrying 10lbs. spread between a front bag and seatpost bag. I did that run twice camping with 12lbs. You don't have to have panniers.
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Old 08-12-10, 10:02 PM
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Wow! Thanks for all the great input!

I'm in between building another bike or using what I have. I know I have plenty of time to build one, but that brings in a whole new set of things to work out. Most likely new/ new to me bike is the way I'll go. I do like the Tubus rack that was suggested, but I'm not sure how the carbon fiber frame of my current bike would hold up over time with a rack. In all honesty, I'm sure it'd be okay, but I'd rather not find out mid way through a solo 500 mile ride.

I went to my local Barnes and Noble to pick up the Bicycling the Pacific Coast book but it was regional specific and is only sold in Washington state. Weird...

I'm notorious for over-planing, researching and doing my homework so that I know exactly what I'm getting myself into. I have some other travel plans in Northern California this year and will probably end up driving down the coast just to see what I can expect.

Thanks again for all the info! I'll be sure to keep my plans updated and checking back as things progress.
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Old 08-12-10, 10:27 PM
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I got my copy of BtPC on Amazon (and a bunch of other bicycle touring/camping books). Nothing wrong with planning everything ahead of time--just be prepared for contingencies as they occur.
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Old 08-13-10, 04:57 AM
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http://www.bookfinder.com is a great place to find used/out of print books.
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Old 08-13-10, 05:26 AM
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Originally Posted by Bacciagalupe View Post
I rode from Marin to San Luis Obispo a few years back. So...

• Hwy 1 has numerous massive climbs, especially south of SF, Big Sur, and north of LA.
• Pick up the Adventure Cycling map of the Pacific route.
• Backpack definitely won't work. If you don't want to use a rack and bags, get a trailer.
• Raise your handlebars and sit more upright than usual.
• Make sure your bike has very low gearing.
• Campsites have hot showers. You just have to pay for them. However, many state campsites only charge $5 a night for cyclists and don't need a reservation.
• It's California.... as long as it isn't raining, you'll be fine temperature-wise.
I agree with most of that except I personally do not see any need to raise your handlebars. Mine are at the same 4-5" below the saddle on all my bikes. Sitting upright just puts more weight on your butt and is less efficient. This is a personal preference thing, but a more upright posture is not a must and it does have it's down side.

Just to clarify...
The comment about "massive climbs" might be an overstatement, it depends on what you call massive. I think the worst climb on the whole route is about 1000' if I am not mistaken. So it is hilly, but not mountainous. Low gearing is definitely needed though as some of the hills are fairly steep and moderately long.
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Old 08-13-10, 09:07 AM
  #12  
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To get an idea of what kind of hills you'd be in for, take a look at this route map on ridewithgps. The lower pane shows the hills along the route. Running the mouse across it gives you the elevation and gradient at various locations. Whether or not it is exactly accurate, I'm not sure (it shows lowest elevation at -33 feet, which obviously isn't corrrect), but on routes I've mapped there it did get the hills right in terms of location and approximate gradient.

Edit: Also, take a look at this journal on Crazyguy to get a perspective of others who have ridden that route. These are folks I rode with for part of this tour, before they got to SF. Scroll down and click on "Central California," for the part that starts at SF.

Last edited by simplygib; 08-13-10 at 09:33 AM.
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Old 08-13-10, 09:55 AM
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I have a Surly LHT and a Specialized Allez. I always tour self-contained (camping, cooking, etc.) so I take the Surly. But it would be awesome to take a credit card tour - stay in motels and eat in restaurants - and take the Allez. It's a fun ride!

I don't know what stuff you're planning on taking. I imagine I'd bring a couple changes of bike clothes, a couple of changes of off-the-bike clothes, some street shoes (or sandals?), toiletries, camera, book, and that's about it. That light of a load shouldn't be a problem for the frame, but I wouldn't want to carry it on my back.

I already have a light rack on my Allez. I like to bring a sandwich, book, multitool, tube on local rides. For a credit card tour I'd probably try my smaller, normally-on-the-front panniers on the back of the Allez. My only worry would be heel strike. I have big feet. If that wasn't a problem I'd be good to go. If you can put a rack on the back of your bike (and you should be able to make it work even if there aren't eyelets) that would be my suggestion.

As far as the weather goes, I live on the central coast near Morro Bay, and hot weather is seldom a problem in summer. You're more likely to have clouds all morning and a mist that is almost like a light rain. However, in the spring it can get pretty rainy. So June, July, August, and September should be great - just be prepared for cold, misty mornings.
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