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Cross country: possibility, or a dream?

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Cross country: possibility, or a dream?

Old 08-06-12, 04:52 AM
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msa6
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Cross country: possibility, or a dream?

I turn 50 in October, and have for years thought about riding across country, but I've done absolutely nothing about it. I basically haven't been on a bike (other than here and there) for 35 years (when I did some very memorable riding in the Canadian Rockies). I would describe my current fitness as better than the average guy my age (I run 4-5 times per week, and was a decent, though not great marathoner...but the last one I ran was in 2003). After reading the Washington Post story about the two guys on the cross country trip who ended up in the Aurora, CO theater, I can't shake the idea that this ride is something I want to do. When my daughter told me that she was up for doing the ride next summer (the last summer before she heads to college), I thought it was time to do more than just talk.

Which takes me here...is this a possibility, or just a dream? Can I go from zero to cross country by next June? When I ran marathons, I came across a very helpful online coach who was incredibly valuable...training regimen, encouragement, the occasional hard push when I fell off the program, etc. Is there any sort of coaching like this available for someone looking to do what I have in mind?

Many thanks.
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Old 08-06-12, 05:21 AM
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Originally Posted by msa6 View Post
Which takes me here...is this a possibility, or just a dream? Can I go from zero to cross country by next June? When I ran marathons, I came across a very helpful online coach who was incredibly valuable...training regimen, encouragement, the occasional hard push when I fell off the program, etc. Is there any sort of coaching like this available for someone looking to do what I have in mind?
A few suggestions:
1. First thing is to get on your bike and get in some riding. Most areas I've lived (Boston, Northern Colorado, Portland, Austin, SF Bay Area) have a local group out for weekend rides and often during the week as well. A cross-USA trip is a sequence of 50-100 daily rides added together, so start by doing several.
2. Next try an overnight or three day ride. This helps accomplish two things (a) You can sort out what "style" works for you. For example, carrying all your gear (loaded touring) or staying in motels (credit card touring) or somewhere in between. There are also companies that for $$$ will carry gear and give you a route. There are different ways to do this and different preferences to work out (b) you can see what to bring.

It is useful to have a basic level of fitness, though I'd say the mental aspects are at least as big a part as the physical ones. If you give yourself enough time, then it is possible to simply take things as they come. What you don't cycle today, you can ride tomorrow. Particularly true with loaded touring. Getting some experience with shorter trips can give some confidence and experience as well as sorting out some of the gear to bring. You can do that alone or with local riding clubs as you find them.
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Old 08-06-12, 05:37 AM
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I agree with the above post, but I would also suggest incorporating cycling into your daily activities, shopping, commuting, if possible, going around the neighborhood etc. Learn about repair; it isn't that difficult. If you don't have a bike , try a used one at first. Some of the best touring bikes were built in the eighties. Look for one that fits.
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Old 08-06-12, 05:46 AM
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If you are not stuck with some tight schedule, surely you can ride across the country. You can cut back on miles per day and take more days off. Hills / mountains are the main obstacle. Just get a bike that has plenty low gears. It depends too how much stuff you are carrying. Figure out a way to travel light. I have never ridden cross-continent but I have driven it. I imagine a good half has enough motels for biking, but a good stretch is sparse enough you might need to camp. You can arrange for your camping equipment to get shipped to you at the beginning of the sparse stretch, and then ship the stuff back when you get back to civilization. The Adventure Cycling Association has excellent routes/maps going coast to coast.
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Old 08-06-12, 05:50 AM
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Odd motivation, but... 10 months is plenty of time to prepare, especially since you're still running.

• Get a proper fit. If you aren't in the right position on the bike, you increase the chance of a repetitive stress injury.
• Before you make a total job-quitting-level commitment to a 3-month bicycle trip, definitely do some shorter trips first.
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Old 08-06-12, 07:19 AM
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I just want to add a comment about training, coaching etc. Just ride. This is the title of a book by Grant Petersen of Rivendell. He wants to take some of the hype out of cycling. Maybe you should read it if you are getting back into bikes. www.rivbike.com
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Old 08-06-12, 07:34 AM
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It's a dream and a possibility once you start planning it's likely to happen.
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Old 08-06-12, 07:50 AM
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msa6, Welcome to the forum. Without a doubt you can be ready by next summer and this is a good forum for all sorts of advice pertaining to touring.

Times are good for folks interested in touring. There are more models of touring bikes in greater quanties than ever before, touring gear and tires are generally superior to what was available in the past. Personal fitness training and nourishment needs should be included also.

Perhaps the first requirement is that whatever bikes you and your daughter choose, they need to fit properly.

Brad
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Old 08-06-12, 09:59 AM
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Originally Posted by Bacciagalupe View Post
Odd motivation
I should have been more precise in my post...the parts of the article that were motivating were those that described the adventure, challenge, and experience that the two guys had before they (and so many others) tragically found themselves in that theater. The events in Aurora are not part of my motivation here (though I have found running races to be a great way to raise money for good causes, and I know there are people in CO who have untold needs now).

Appreciate all the suggestions/input.
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Old 08-06-12, 10:29 AM
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Get a bicycle asap, and start riding. If you can get ahold of a bicycle this week ... and it doesn't have to be anything really special ... by next weekend, you could be out doing some 5-10 km rides.

By the September long weekend, you could do a short tour ... cycle 30-40 km to a campground on Saturday, do a day ride around that area on Sunday, cycle 30-40 km home on Monday.

When you turn 50 in October do another weekend tour to celebrate.

If you enjoy doing that sort of thing ... keep it up through the winter and come next June, you could be on your way across your country.
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Old 08-06-12, 11:37 AM
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Totally doable. I thought about it for a year (and read this forum). Planned for another year (planning consisted of choosing and buying equipment). I used the Adventure Cycling Maps of Trans Am. They take the guess work out of the equasion. And of course, I rode. Nothing approaching "training," but I tried. The real training happened after I started the trip.

I was fifty, smoked and drank. Still do for that matter. I went solo. A father/daughter team should be great. I met a lot of people—that was the best part of the whole trip. I think folks that ride in groups may not meet as many people; for a variety of reasons.

The first few days were hard, but not because of any difficult terrain. My first thoughts once I got started were "What the heck am I doing?" But, you get over that. You'll have good days and bad days. It just works like that. The Appalachians were shocking. Really. By the time I got to the Rockies, well, comparatively speaking, they were easy. Loved the Mid-West. People said it was flat, but it's not. Where I live is flat. Flatter than anything I met pedaling across.

Start planning and go do it. I doubt you'll ever regret it. If I can do it—you surely can too. Make sure you have a good fit on your bike.
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Old 08-06-12, 12:56 PM
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MSA6,
I am 58 and my wife and I,we ride a tandem, are heading out on a 1600 mile trip in about a week. My goal is in 2014 when I turn 60 is to ride across the USA.
Hey man you have 8 years on me .GO FOR IT!!
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Old 08-06-12, 01:53 PM
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Originally Posted by Jim Kukula View Post
...It depends too how much stuff you are carrying. Figure out a way to travel light....
All the above, with emphasis on this quote.

I just turned 55 this year and rode the 4400 mile Northern Tier route. I hadn't toured in about 20 years, and was completely off the bike for 10 years. I started back on the bike a few years ago, trying to ride 3000 to 5000 miles per year. That worked fine--I was in great shape for the tour. But mainly because my load was less than 20 pounds, I believe.
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Old 08-06-12, 02:05 PM
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Originally Posted by msa6 View Post
When my daughter told me that she was up for doing the ride next summer (the last summer before she heads to college), I thought it was time to do more than just talk.
That sir is your motivation. You'll do it.

No need to kill yourself getting in pedaling shape. Start slow and short. Build from there. On a bike that fits you well and is reasonably comfortable to ride. Or, go to the gym, get on one of those exercise bikes, and build your pedaling muscles that boring way. Whichever works for you.

When you can ride 50 miles and still function reasonably well, you'll be ready to tour. 'Course you gotta do it day after day on tour. I'm 71 and do it. Should be no big deal for you.

Stay in touch and let us know how it's going.
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Old 08-06-12, 03:04 PM
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FFFPPPPssshaw! 50 is in your prime. If you've run marathons and are still active then you should be able to ride across the US, or anywhere else for that matter. Get a bike, start pedaling, do a little reading, educate yourself, and get your touring rig together, baddaboom. 10 months should be plenty of time to get ready.

I'm wondering about your daughter. Is she an avid cyclist?
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Old 08-06-12, 09:45 PM
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Originally Posted by Thulsadoom View Post
FFFPPPPssshaw! 50 is in your prime. If you've run marathons and are still active then you should be able to ride across the US, or anywhere else for that matter. Get a bike, start pedaling, do a little reading, educate yourself, and get your touring rig together, baddaboom. 10 months should be plenty of time to get ready.

I'm wondering about your daughter. Is she an avid cyclist?
She's no more of a cyclist than me. But she has great endurance and a great sense for adventure. She'd be a great road partner.

All the encouragement is great! Heading to the beach tomorrow for five days and I'm bringing my old road bike. Perfect opportunity to get my first few rides in. Figure I will do what feels good. And I'll report back. Thanks!
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Old 08-06-12, 10:33 PM
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Originally Posted by msa6 View Post
I turn 50 in October, and have for years thought about riding across country, but I've done absolutely nothing about it. I basically haven't been on a bike (other than here and there) for 35 years (when I did some very memorable riding in the Canadian Rockies). I would describe my current fitness as better than the average guy my age (I run 4-5 times per week, and was a decent, though not great marathoner...but the last one I ran was in 2003). After reading the Washington Post story about the two guys on the cross country trip who ended up in the Aurora, CO theater, I can't shake the idea that this ride is something I want to do. When my daughter told me that she was up for doing the ride next summer (the last summer before she heads to college), I thought it was time to do more than just talk.

Which takes me here...is this a possibility, or just a dream? Can I go from zero to cross country by next June? When I ran marathons, I came across a very helpful online coach who was incredibly valuable...training regimen, encouragement, the occasional hard push when I fell off the program, etc. Is there any sort of coaching like this available for someone looking to do what I have in mind?

Many thanks.
I'm a lifelong biker, used to ride hundreds of miles/week as a courier but overall I've found that even as a 50+ age rider, intense pre-tour training is not necessarily a must for touring. A base is good if at least for getting accustomed to hours on the bike but OTOH my local fun rides usually top out at 40 miles but on 2-4 day tours I've gone twice that daily distance without undue fatigue w/o special training. Got a little back/butt soreness but nothing major. Went on a Blue Ridge Parkway trip & on the climb from Buena Vista VA to the Parkway (with camping gear) I thought "this is crazy, I'll never make it" but persevered & a couple of days later I was laughing at the climbs. That's the cool thing about touring ie how quickly the body adapts. Pretty soon the body says "hurry up with breakfast, I wanna ride!".

Read the WashPost article about the Aurora rider, sad situation though from the pic it seemed like they had serious touring bikes. Awesome that your daughter is up for the ride, a little "co-opetition" (phrase coined by NASCAR legend Darrell Walltrip) might be the ticket for keeping motivated. Ride from West to East & when you get to Rockies you'll already be in super shape & when you get to tough rolling Appalachians you'll both be pros! I don't think you need coaching, just some good miles on your intended bike.
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Old 08-06-12, 10:44 PM
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Originally Posted by msa6 View Post
Can I go from zero to cross country by next June? .
Absolutely, touring is much more mental then it is physical. The hardest part of touring isn't being sore, it's being out in a rainstorm in the plains facing a 30mph headwind wondering why are you doing this.

I would suggest a weekend tour beforehand though, to test out your equipment and yourself. If you can ride 2 to 3 days in a row, you can ride 2 to 3 months.

Of course, riding your bike now can only be a positive. Best wishes.
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Old 08-07-12, 07:41 AM
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Are you able to bike commute? That is a great way to train as well as get used to carrying loads and work out your gear issues. A touring bike also makes a great commuting bike, and regular commuting will give you a taste of the challenges faced in riding cross country. Eg, I have already ridden the distance of a cross-country tour so far this year, just riding to work and back -- not counting the mileage from weekend rides and tours.
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Old 08-07-12, 10:44 AM
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I agree with what has been said here, don't over think it. Get a bike that fits, start riding and just do it. For a little more information and inspiration try these links.
http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/?o=1
http://www.adventurecycling.org/
http://www.kenkifer.com/bikepages/touring/index.htm
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Old 08-07-12, 11:26 AM
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This is all incredibly encouraging...thanks.

Guess I should ask for one of these for my 50th birthday: http://www.trekbikes.com/us/en/bikes/road/touring/520/

One more hurdle: heard too many stories about people getting taken out by cars while on a bike. I live in a small town, with easy access to lots of quite country roads...except for the occasional speeding pickup driver who could care less about the cyclist hugging the side.

Here's my current take: there's risk in a lot of things we can choose to do. I got my private pilot certificate a few years ago. Definitely not the safest thing to do, but I viewed bearing the risk as worth it in order to achieve a goal (learning to fly a plane). I've stopped flying...don't have other current flying goals in mind, so it's not worth the time, money, or risk to me to continue flying.

I've enjoyed running for many years, and if it's just about exercise, I'm happy to keep my two feet on the ground. But if there's a goal attached to getting on a bicycle (x-country), then bearing that additional risk is worth it.

Just some out loud rationalizing here. Other thoughts on why the risks of cars (and dogs...a friend got the nastiest hip bruise I've ever seen falling from her bicycle while trying to escape a nasty dog) are bigger in my mind than in reality?
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Old 08-07-12, 11:31 AM
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Car risk is real. Driving a car has real risk.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wgPlc...eature=related
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Old 08-07-12, 02:26 PM
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Biking isn't particularly dangerous. For sure you want to get comfortable on the bike before tackling heavy traffic. Beyond that, there are things you can do to cut down the risks. A book like Forester's Effective Cycling would be worth some study.

A rear view mirror is good. Mine hooks onto my glasses, but the helmet ones are nice too. Either is better than a mirror that mounts to your bike. It's nice to be able to shift your head around a little to scan behind you, rather than making big shifts of your body.

A bell is good too.

Good to study accident reports - keep an eye on various on-line forums - to see what could have been done to avoid the problem. I will ride quite far out of my way to avoid busy narrow twisty roads. I try to time my rides to avoid the busiest stretches at the busiest times.
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Old 08-07-12, 04:25 PM
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Living life is risky. I hate flying, particularly take off and landing and all the time in between, even though I know that the number of aircraft related deaths world wide is a small fraction of the tens of thousands of automobile deaths each year in the US. It is strange that we accept 40,000 annual traffic deaths as normal. As you ride your bike you will gain confidence in your ability to handle any situation you may come across. Again don't over think it, ride your bike and just do it.
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Old 08-07-12, 08:42 PM
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Originally Posted by msa6 View Post

One more hurdle: heard too many stories about people getting taken out by cars while on a bike. I live in a small town, with easy access to lots of quite country roads...except for the occasional speeding pickup driver who could care less about the cyclist hugging the side.

...further you said....

Other thoughts on why the risks of cars (and dogs...a friend got the nastiest hip bruise I've ever seen falling from her bicycle while trying to escape a nasty dog) are bigger in my mind than in reality?
Have never been hit by a car while bicycling in my life. There are things you can do that can reduce the risk of bike vs car accidents. Making yourself visible, obeying traffic laws, bright colors. If you see a line of cars at a light, don't ride up the right side of them to the light, wait your turn with cars. Stuff like that helps. Every so often, you will have a vehicle buzz by you within a few inches, that will happen. But also, as you ride more, you'll almost get a sense of when a car/truck is getting close.

I personally also don't like riding the white line on the edge of the road, as some cars will attempt to pass you while staying right of the yellow. I ride about a foot off the white line, also gives me more room to dodge on the right if I have to.

As far as dogs, yes, you will have to deal with dogs when touring, and once in a while the dog will want your ankle instead of a chase. There are different opinions on how to deal with dogs, myself I will only spray them with HALT if they are going after by ankles. I've been taken out by a dog t-bone style and it hurt like crazy, but because I was wearing a helmet, I didn't have head injuries.
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