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Messages - dombrosk

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1
General Discussion / Re: newbie planning Belgium tour
« on: Today at 02:44:39 am »
I'd definitely suggest that you take your own bikes.  I'm heading across this summer for my 4th European tour and never regretted paying the fee to have my own bike and gear that matched it.

One thought on logistics.  I've found that Amsterdam Schiphol is an incredibly bike-friendly airport to travel in and out of.  I'm often not the only cyclist setting up my bike in the baggage claim hall, and the truly amazing Dutch bike network begins across the pedestrian mall from the main terminal.  I used an Amtrak box for my 1st trip across... minimal fuss to get your bike ready to fly.

Perhaps more importantly, on departure you can buy bike boxes at the airport (left luggage office sells them for about 20 Euros).  These are sturdy cardboard boxes similar to the Amtrak style that last until the return trip you're going to want to make after this first one.   :)

There is a train station connected to the terminal if you want to speed south to Belgium, or it's a pleasant few days down along the coast to Belgium.  It's a reasonable option to take the train back to Schiphol from your tour ending point--- but do a bit of planning on which trains take bikes... most do, but not all, and some require reservations for your bike.

Happy riding!

2
General Discussion / Re: Bike Travel and Visiting Dress Up Sites
« on: March 12, 2014, 07:16:18 am »
"Are some environments or countries more or less tolerant of grungy bike tourists in potentially dressy locations?"

My experience is that in Germany folks are very accustomed to sport clothing.  Hiking is very embedded in German culture, and biking and nordic walking are also common today.  I'd have no concerns at all entering any 'tourist' destinations in bike gear.  For some restaurants, and events like opera, it would be best to clean up a bit, but you're less likely to run into that during a day's ride.

The Netherlands and the UK would also be places where I've felt little pressure to dress up.

Belgium, especially Brussels, tends towards the dressier side.  Italy is the place I've felt most inclined to want to present my best appearance.

A few things that I've adopted for European touring that might translate to any other place where you want to blend in:

--Keen leather bike shoes... they take SPD clips, are very comfortable for all day riding, and look like dress shoes.

--Monochrome bike shirts, especially the newer non-scratchy wool variety.  I've been astonished at how non-stinky wool is, and the range of temperature it's comfortable in.

--For a quick cover up, dark rain pants over bike short work well.

--Even in the U.S., I always make a point of taking off my bike sunglasses before entering any business.  That seems like simple politeness to me.

Hope this is useful.  Happy touring!




3
General Discussion / Re: Dry Bag Sizing?
« on: January 27, 2014, 09:16:32 am »
For clothing I use Granite Gear zippered sacks.  I also have non-waterproof panniers and was skeptical of a zippered item, but they've kept my clothing dry in days of saturating rain.  The benefit of this item for me is that I can easily see and access all my clothing when it's unzipped.

Here's a link to the Granite Gear site:
http://www.granitegearstore.com/Air-Zippsack-P76C50.aspx

I use two of their medium bags, one for on-the-bike clothing and the other for off-the-bike.  (My tours usually involve multi-day stopovers so it's worth it to me to carry dedicated off-the-bike clothes)

4
General Discussion / Re: how to keep my feet warm!
« on: January 18, 2014, 10:34:54 am »
As a Minnesota winter bike commuter I ride down to around zero.  One useful discovery I've made was nordic ski socks... smartwool and other companies make them in a variety of weights.  Because they come up over your calves they help keep the blood going to/from my feet warm.

Order of layering also makes a difference.  I'll start with bike shorts and socks.  I pull tights up over the socks to make sure there's no gapping at my ankle.  Then I'll add gore-tex pants and shoes.  Finally I put showers pass rain covers over my shoes and up and OVER the outside of my rain pants.  (Definitely don't want to do that when it's raining!)

As other's have mentioned, loose enough shoes to wiggle your toes are also important.

Happy (warm) riding!

5
Gear Talk / Re: Schwalbe tires
« on: March 29, 2013, 06:19:05 am »
Based on my experience with both, I'd go with the Marathon Supreme's over the regular Marathons.  I felt like they were noticeably faster tires, with excellent flat-resistance.  I just wish Schwalbe would make the Supreme in a 650B size...

6
General Discussion / Re: Cycling US = Crazy?
« on: March 24, 2013, 07:10:19 am »
Welcome to American Cycling!   

Perhaps from your name you are from Belgium?  If so, I understand you are worried.  Compared to Northern Europe, cycling in the United States is not well supported by our road system.  But, it is possible!

Keep in mind that unlike areas like the Netherlands, many automobile drivers in the United States do not respect cyclists.   Because of this, it is important to keep aware and alert at all times to vehicle traffic.  Many drivers will, sadly, assume that it is your job to clear the road for them.   This can be upsetting at first.  But many, many Americans do cycle and enjoy cycling so it is possible to adapt. 

When I cycle in Europe I need to adapt also.  It can be hard to realize that motorists actually do give right of way to cyclists in some regions!  But, it is perhaps a more happy adjustment.  :-)

For your immediate question:  I am guessing you are in Banning, California?  If you are still there, below is a quick suggested route to Joshua Tree based on using Google maps for walking directions.  Google is often incorrect for cycling in the U.S., but the walking directions are sometimes helpful. 

Perhaps those directions will help you request local assistance. 

Another tip is to seek out local cyclists for help.   

Google shows a bike shop in Beaumont, telephone (951) 916-4600.  According to their web site they are open on Sunday from noon to 4 pm ( 12:00 to 16:00)

1. Head east on E Ramsey St toward S Murray St   0.5 mi
2. Turn right onto N Hargrave St   0.1 mi
3. Turn left onto Johnson Ln   2.7 mi
4. Turn left onto Malki Rd   59 ft
5. Turn right onto Seminole Dr   1.1 mi
6. At the traffic circle, continue straight to stay on Seminole Dr   4.1 mi
7. Turn right onto Kimdale Dr   1.1 mi
8. Turn right onto Rushmore Ave   0.2 mi
9. Turn left onto Tamarack Rd   4.4 mi
10. Slight right onto Service Rd   0.1 mi
11. Turn right onto Whitewater Canyon Rd   0.1 mi
12. Turn left onto Whitewater Cutoff   0.7 mi
13. Slight left onto Old Morongo Rd/Painted Hills Rd   0.4 mi
14. Turn right to stay on Old Morongo Rd/Painted Hills Rd   1.1 mi
15. Turn left onto Windhaven Rd   236 ft
16. Turn right toward Old Morongo Rd/Painted Hills Rd   0.1 mi
17. Slight left onto Old Morongo Rd/Painted Hills Rd   1.1 mi
18. Turn left onto CA-62 W/Twentynine Palms Highway   25.3 mi
19. Turn right onto El Reposo Cir   85 ft


7
Gear Talk / Re: Shaving Creme
« on: March 21, 2013, 03:40:53 am »
I like the original poster's concept of dual-purpose items.  It's great to carry one item that can serve multiple purposes.  As another person who shaves on tour, my solution is Dr. Bonners liquid soap (I like the peppermint variety).  It's available at REI and many other outlets.
For me, this product works as shaving cream (just a few drops works), soap, and shampoo while on tour.  Makes it very efficient heading to the shower at camp!  To get road dirt off in the shower, it does help to carry a mini-size pack towel to use as a washcloth. 

8
International / Re: Help! I want to go to Europe.
« on: March 16, 2013, 08:12:04 am »
I've taken my bike from the US to Europe several times on Delta... they charge a lot, but it's worth it to me to have my own bike and my gear (and a non-stop flight, I live in a Delta hub).  For the trip over, I pack my bike into an Amtrak cardboard box. All I need to do is remove the pedals, turn the handlebars, and slightly deflate the tires and I'm set for baggage check-in.  On the return I've been lucky flying in and out of Amsterdam / Schiphol in the bicycling heaven of the Netherlands and been able to purchase a comparable box at the airport.  Happy riding!

9
General Discussion / Re: Self Contained Touring in Northern Minnesota
« on: February 04, 2013, 04:47:49 am »
You might want to include the Mesabi Trail as part of your route.  I've ridden it twice as part of the MS-TRAM fundraising ride and it covers some nice countryside and interesting history.
http://www.mesabitrail.com/

10
General Discussion / Re: Step thru frames
« on: November 18, 2012, 07:03:52 am »
I wish this style of frame was more available.  Yes, I do tour on a 'women's bike' AKA mixte AKA step-through-frame, and I really prefer it.  But to get my bike I ended up having a custom frame built for me. 

Here's a photo:

In addition to being able to step-through the frame the generous stand-over height is a real plus. 

As you can tell from the photo, I'm far from an ultra-light tourist.  I've never had any concerns with stability with the frame, and I've gotten pretty close to single-track mountain bike terrain with it, fully loaded.

As Americans begin to ride more for basic transportation and the baby-boomers (hi gang!) continue to age, I think this style of bike will become more popular.  When I'm in countries where people use their bikes on a daily basis, I see very few 'racing' style bikes and a lot more step through frames.  Actually on one tour a German man came up to me and after discovering that I was American asked me, "Das ist ein Amerikaniches Fahrad?!?"  That's an American bicycle?  I pointed to the 'hand-made' decal on the front tube and he understood.

If your friend's bike can mount racks, is comfortable for a day in the saddle, and has (or gets) the proper gearing, there's no reason to fear the step thru frame.
Happy Touring!

11
Gear Talk / Re: Thermarest pads - are Neoairs that much better?
« on: October 22, 2012, 02:50:09 am »
Another option to consider: the Exped SynMat.  After years on several models of thermarests I switched to one of these a few years ago.  If you're in the AARP age bracket, and especially if you like to sleep on your side, this might be a good option for you.

12
General Discussion / In praise of rest days...
« on: October 18, 2012, 08:25:23 am »
Looking back over past threads, it seems that a lot of the discussion of rest days revolves around whether they are necessary and how often they should happen.  Kind of like how most folks approach the idea of a colonoscopy.    :)

I'd like to open up a thread for riders to share stories of memorable rest days.  Perhaps this could be a resource for people who are new to bicycle travel, or experienced riders who are looking ahead to their 2013 rides.  To kick it off, I'll share stories about two past rest days and one that I'm planning for my next tour.

1st - Colville, Washington, 2005
After cycling west out of Seattle and heading north across Whidbey Island to Anacortes, I'd turned east onto the Northern Tier headed for East Glacier.  By the time I reached Colville I was ready for some time off the bike.  I found a cheap motel with doors that opened right into the room, wheeled my bike in, and found some reasonably clean clothes to change into after a shower.  My first night was a hot meal in a friendly cafe followed by a movie at the Alpine Theatre.  I love old main street movie houses, and it was great to be able to visit and support another one.  The next day I slept late, then put on my rain gear and very little else and headed to the nearby laundromat.  Such a luxury to have every bit of clothing clean and dry after 10 days of travel including heavy cold rain on the coast and scorching dry heat around Okanagon.  Once I had clean clothes it was time for a nap before heading out the explore the town. 
There was an impresssive amount of sculpture!

After a visit to an ice cream parlor, more walking, and dinner, I found myself on the hill overlooking town in time for the lighting of the candles for a Relay for Life at the local high school.  By the time I got back to my room it was getting dark, but still enough time for a serious look at my bike and gear before another sound nights sleep. 
The next morning I headed east refreshed and amazed to see the world turn green before my eyes as I headed into a new climate zone.  By intentionally 'breaking' the touring mentality for a day I had managed to get a fresh pair of eyes on the world.  And, it was amazing how much stronger I was after a full day off the bike.

2nd Schiermonnikoog, The Netherlands, 2011
If you've ever run across a children's book called "Paddle to the Sea", you can relate to the theme of this ride which was "Pedal to the (North) Sea".  After cycling south from Amsterdam to Cologne, I'd looped back up to meet my wife in Amersfoort before heading north to Friesland.  The last 2 days heading north were into intense headwinds, so it was a real joy to board our ferry to Schiermonnikoog.  Most of this island is national park, and cars are very limited.  Even for a country with such a cycling tradition, this was a cyclists dream.  Being June, the beach crowds had not yet arrived and we enjoyed having a sleepy village and open spaces stretching to the sea largely to ourselves.

It was during this rest day that my wife christened layover days as a 'vacation from our vacation', which for me sums up the notion of a day to hit the reset button in as many ways as possible.

And next?  Wernigerode, Germany 2013 ?
As I'm planning next summer's ride from Amsterdam to Berlin, I'm already looking forward to a layover in the Harz Mountains in the former East Germany.  This will probably be more than one day, because there's a steam train up Der Brocken, famous for Walpurgisnacht and a role in Goethe's Faust.  And, who knows what else I may discover while wandering about...

I'd love to hear other forum members share their stories of rest days that were about more than 'just' rest.

Happy riding (and resting)!




13
Gear Talk / Re: front platform racks: Surly Nice or Old Man Pioneer?
« on: October 03, 2012, 02:25:18 am »
I've had good experience with the Surley front rack.  Yes, it is heavy, but I have a personal preference for bomb-proof over lightweight.  The top rack is handy.  I've sometimes bungied large bundles of firewood on top of it with no problems with stability.  I can't speak to the attachment system because I left that to my good friends at my local bike shop... it rides quite solidly on the bike. 
One odd feature that I like is the attachment point at the front of the rack.  For commuting in the U.S. I mount a front white blinkie light there in addition to my more serious headlight.  My guess is that a person could find other uses for that, also.
Enjoy Africa!  I've never biked there, but during a month travelling across South Africa I was struck by the friendliness of the people I  met and the beauty of the land.

14
General Discussion / Re: Overcoming butt pain
« on: October 03, 2012, 02:10:22 am »
I've had good luck with another non-Brooks alternative, the Serfas RX saddle. Like the Terry saddles, it has a cut out section.  Serfas makes several of these model saddles, some are too wide, more like a 'comfort bike' saddle.  The one I have is narrower, I think they call it the 'performance' model now.

Before I got my first one of these saddles I had considerable pain after 50 miles which got very challenging above 70 miles.  My first ride on this saddle was magical.  I remember the distance- 82 miles, because I was so astounded that I had experienced no pain at all, actually zero.

I appreciate the love that Brooks owners have for their saddles.  For me, the ability to leave this saddle in the rain, zero maintenance, and especially the zero break-in time made it a better choice.

15
Gear Talk / Re: Panniers - dry bag vs. traditional
« on: October 01, 2012, 03:25:36 am »
Hi Rick...
to reply to your question, after having worn out a lot of gear over the years I'm tending now to buy things that I think will last longer.  Given my age these Arkel panniers will probably last as long as my touring days.  Some of it is a financial guess that replacing will cost more over the long run... but a big part is more trying to avoid a throw-away mentality.

And, to be honest, the Arkel GT-54's are just pretty amazing bags.   :)

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