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About to start my new life ...

Old 05-20-14, 05:48 AM
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About to start my new life ...

Hi all,
I've been a member here for oh my god 6 years, mostly lurking. But the first day of the rest of my life is a little over two months from now on August 10 when I take off from LAX for Heathrow and thence, after a week or three in the UK and Ireland to France until the end of October. I'm retiring from my old job (technically, becoming a professor emerita) at the end of July. Between now and then I'll take delivery of my new Bike Friday New World Tourist and try to work up the muscles and stamina to ride in the rain and climb a few hills and sleep on the ground. So far my preparations have consisted mostly of commuting a few miles to work and shopping--in addition to ordering my Bike Friday I have or soon will have my REI Quarter Dome 2 tent and my ThermaRest Neo Air sleeping pad and my (quaint) Frostline down sleeping bag. A water filter and some Ortlieb panniers. A Showers Pass rain jacket and assorted bits and shiny bobs that looked useful. A stove and a water filter. I've made myself some merino tees and tights. When I was pregnant with my first child (she is now 28 and on her way to hike with her boyfriend in Peru) I was (accurately) told that Lamaze classes were as useful as preparing to get hit by a truck. Are my preparations adequate to take up bicycle touring after decades of sitting around? Or am I preparing to get hit by a truck?

What about you? Were you really prepared for your first tour?
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Old 05-20-14, 06:46 AM
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It sounds like you've studied and shopped for "the right" equipment. That said, touring has very little connection to shopping and equipment. We all know people who have successfully enjoyed bicycle touring with virtually no preparation nor attention to equipment. It is a lot like having a baby in that respect. Preparation is not a bad thing and often times good, and focusing your mind is even better. BUT, in the end, it's an adventure that can only be known by doing.
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Old 05-20-14, 07:37 AM
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The first day of my cross country+ trip marked the second time I had ever ridden a fully-loaded bike and the first night I had ever slept in a tent. It can be done, athough I must say that I was an advid roadie and a bike was my prmary source of transportation. Put in as many pre-trip miles as you can to build up your endurance. Try to take at least one fully-laoded ride to become familiar with the hadling of the bike when loaded. Even better would be to take at least one relatively short, local trip to get a feel for the post-ride aspects of tourng, like setting up camp and cooking after a day in the saddle.

Keep what you carry to a minimum while still fulfilling your needs and desires. On that subject, why the water filter for those areas? Much of that part of Europe is dotted with little towns where you should be able to find water easily. I once spent seven weeks touring in Andalucia. Even in the more sparsely populated areas I never had a problem fiidng water. Every little town had at least a bar and/or small grocery store for supplies. Some of the more mountainous areas had fresh springs or parks with potable water.
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Old 05-20-14, 08:08 AM
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One thing I would suggest is to see if any local bike shops or co-ops have any classes in bike maintenance. Learning how to keep the bike in shape, change flats etc will be helpful for your confidence and keep you on the road.

And no doubt when you ride your bike for a while you will stretch your cables etc., and need to do some minor adjustments to keep it running the way it was.

Doing the training rides with a fully loaded bike will help. You need to figure out where you put things to make them readily available, and to adjust the weight on the bike for better handling. You didn't mention a handle bar bag, but they are handy for things you need while riding like snacks (you will learn to eat an energy bar or banana one handed lol).

When I prepared for a similar adventure a few decades back someone wisely told me to not worry too much about the miles, because you train for it as you go. Certainly I think you want to do a comparable distance in training at least once. And you want to ensure you have at least one or two rest days a week. But don't get hung up about putting in 500-600 kms in a week. If you can do 70 kms now, think of the day as a morning cycle of 50 kms, a nice lunch and rest, and another 50 or so kms. You probably will need to adjust for the hot times of the day, which might mean getting up earlier to get miles in before it gets really hot, then planning your remaining cycle during your lunch. Of course by October, this won't be an issue.

You do want to give yourself time to get to your destination so you don't feel rushed to get you tent up. As the days get shorter you need to adjust. No one enjoys setting up tents in the dark.

Make sure you do some route mapping, but be prepared to adjust your timetables to reality. You may not want to put in long distances in rain, you may have mechanical issues, you may want to spend time exploring some areas by foot.
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Old 05-20-14, 09:12 AM
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I've never had a baby so I'm not qualified to compare that activity to any other activity. As a certified card carrying old guy, currently 75 y.o., I can tell you how cycling has been for me. I began 4 years and 13,000 miles ago. I was not in decrepit condition, being a hiker and packpacker but pedaling a bike is very repetitious and so has it's own physical demands. It was difficult at first. I lacked strength and endurance so that toward the end of a ride, even 25 miles was painful. It has taken 3 to 4 years to build up both the necessary strength and endurance so that longer rides, say 50 to 60 miles, are a satisfying, rewarding experience. Between the beginning and the present, I rode about 3000 miles per year, a bit more miles each year. I had a similar experience when beginning back packing. That also took 3-4 years until I was able to carry 45 pounds in a back for days on end. Yes I was tired at days end but happy and with a good nights sleep, ready to do it again.

Based on the above, I would recommend doing short tours in the beginning. Perhaps an out and back overnight followed by several days out and several days back. In this way you will gradually build up the necessary muscles and endurance and at the same time evaluate your equipment and your ability to deal with the usual sort of emergencies you are likely to encounter from flat tires to broken chains or adjusting shifters. In the last two years I've undertaken two weekend tours and love it.

I just googled Long Distance Cycling and there is much info available for free.https://www.google.com/search?q=Long...a&channel=fflb There is also a web site devoted to journals of long distance cycling. Some of the journals are well written a a good read. crazyguyonabike.com: Bicycle Touring: A place for bicycle tourists and their journals Much can be learned by reading about other people's experiences. As has been said, 'experience is the best teacher' and I would add, 'it does not have to be your experience'.
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Old 05-20-14, 09:35 AM
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A good resource for someone new to bike touring is a book published by the Sierra Club: Bike Touring, The Sierra Club Guide to Travel on Two Wheels, Raymond Bridge.

It seems like you have done your homework, and have already made some good choices in equipment. Getting physically prepared, as some folks have mentioned, makes life on the road a little easier. In some respects mental preparation and attitude are more important to the success of a bike tour than physical ability.

I also recommend a couple of short overnight trips; not so much for physical conditioning, but as a confidence builder and getting familiar with your gear.

No, you will not get hit by a truck; although, there may be days when you feel like you have come close. It happens to all of us at one time or another on long rides.

Enjoy you retirement, and your tour.

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Old 05-20-14, 04:45 PM
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I've been working toward this for a long time--I bought a touring bike in 2009 in large part because I wanted to feel like I could leave at any time, even though I only used it for commuting and rides around Los Angeles. That was my 2008 Novara Randonee, and I've ridden it long enough to know it's the wrong bike for me to tour on--I'm too short for a 700C front wheel which I hit with my toes all the time, for example. And I'm already on my second tent, having set the first one up in my living room and decided being able to turn around in the tent was worth a few more ounces in weight. So the "shopping" has been done gradually--a used item from Backpacking Light's Gear Swap or Craigslist here, an REI sale or member coupon there. Anyway, I admit it: I like to shop. Indyfabz, the water filter is probably a symptom of that. And JamesRL, I definitely plan to take a bike maintenance course between now and August, or hang out at the Bicycle Kitchen, or both. And I'm planning a few overnights, and a lot of fully loaded work on hills, which right now strike fear in my heart. And lungs and legs. I'm a bit less worried about distance than I would be if I was going cross-country in the US because it seems that towns and villages are much closer together in Europe than they are in the western US. I have no shame--I'll ride from one village to the next and call it a day if I feel like it. What I do have to worry about is rain. I'm talking mental preparation here. I ride in Los Angeles where even when we aren't in a drought it never rains. For that, reading touring journals helps some, at least when the authors are honest about how wet and dirty they are. Berner, I'm a big fan of Crazy Guy on a Bike and will probably journal there myself.
Doug64, thanks for recommending the Sierra Club book. More shopping!
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Old 05-20-14, 05:14 PM
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I'm my opinion touring is a bit like Camping while using your bike as transport. Come to think of it, a bit of actual camping may be a convenient way of preparation to a degree. Other than that regular riding is about it. If you haven't discovered the site yet, you may wish to check out Crazyguyonabike for more info on your planned route. Take your time, enjoy the sights, you'll have a great time.
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Old 05-20-14, 05:19 PM
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On closer inspection I see you've all ready found crazy guy, . Great, there are so many journals it is amazing.
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Old 05-20-14, 09:01 PM
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Just be aware that many camping grounds will be closed from September onwards in France. You may have to wild camp or use other accommodation. Some camps stay open but you have to do research to find out which ones they are.
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Old 05-20-14, 09:27 PM
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Thanks, Steve0000. That is helpful. I'll have to work hard on warmshowers and similar connections.
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Old 05-21-14, 07:18 AM
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Originally Posted by Steve0000 View Post
Just be aware that many camping grounds will be closed from September onwards in France. You may have to wild camp or use other accommodation. Some camps stay open but you have to do research to find out which ones they are.
Yes ... the campgrounds were closing down around us when we were there in late September 2012. So were the hotels in some places. It actually got rather challenging to find accommodation in a few locations.
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Old 05-21-14, 08:53 AM
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Originally Posted by Nerdanel View Post
...I'm retiring....try to work up the muscles and stamina....Lamaze..
groovy! awesome! you've been looking into the technical stuff........bikes and accessories,
maps and gps, routes and destinations.

how about a doctor? you probably had a physical (or will have) when you leave your job,
maybe something to do with transferring your insurance policy.

so far, so good. you might even have told the doc you're an 'active senior.' which means
(to the doctor) that you'll be mall-walking for 20 minutes every sunday.

better get the extensive, intensive, intrusive, full-body tsa-style exam. make sure the
doc knows your future plans. things that would just be ordinary gittin'old creakage could
blow up on a long tour.
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Old 05-21-14, 09:24 AM
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I find that long-distance touring is more about your mind rather than your body. Two weeks into the tour and you will be touring-fit and sore muscles and such things will cease to be an issue. It's about developing a rhythm in riding, eating and setting up and dismantling camp. Once you have that then it just becomes habit and is quite addictive.

The thrill and sense of adventure comes from knowing that you have to cycle so many thousands of miles and also knowing that you are going to have to rely on your own resources to do so. Again, knowing that you are capable of tackling some basic maintenance does help but in Europe there are usually cycle shops which can be called on and people are kind when you are a stranger in their country.
As has been said, many camping grounds close in September but there are also Chambre D Hotes which offer accommodation and cheap hotel chains which are happy to have your bike in your room.

I'm very envious and would wish you all the luck in the world.
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Old 05-21-14, 10:34 AM
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I took a connecting flight with little time between SFO>LHR> Dublin .. The Irish Airport is about the size of a Regional US one .. like Eugene.

easy to depart on the bike from ..
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Old 05-21-14, 11:16 AM
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Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
I took a connecting flight with little time between SFO>LHR> Dublin .. The Irish Airport is about the size of a Regional US one .. like Eugene.

easy to depart on the bike from ..
Thanks for that info. I already have my plane tickets for this trip, but that brings up another question: I'm flying from LAX to Heathrow in August, but flying back from Paris to Cleveland, OH (to visit my mother) in November. I worked very hard on that itinerary, but right after I pulled the trigger I realized I had to get my Bike Friday suitcase (not the trailer version) from London to Paris somehow. Oops. My tentative solution is to hop on the Eurostar as soon as I get to London and arrange to leave the suitcase at the hotel where I'm staying at the end of October. Or at a Paris bike shop. Is there a better solution?
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Old 05-21-14, 11:28 AM
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One option is to leave the suitcase home and pack your bike in a similar sized cardboard box; one that can still go on the plane as checked baggage. When you get to Paris, bring it to a bike shop and have them do the same thing. I know it is not in the spirit of the Bike Friday concept, but it may be cheaper and more convenient than some other options.

We seldom leave and arrive at the same airport on our tours. My wife's bike has S&S couplers which, at least in theory, allows her to break it down into a suitcase size package. While we break it down, I pack it in a box which is recycled when we reach our starting destination. We either pick up bike boxes at the airport or at a bike shop for the flight home.

Last edited by Doug64; 05-23-14 at 02:06 PM.
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