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Messages - Pat Lamb

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General Discussion / Re: Traffic conditions around the ACA routes?
« on: February 25, 2013, 11:24:31 am »
I'd rank suburban moms in minivans and SUVs around some of the larger towns at rush hour would be my least favorite traffic.  Wheat trucks in Kansas would be second, due mostly to a couple bad (one very bad) experiences.  Logging and coal truckers were almost always professional and as polite as they could be to us, given road conditions and their loads.

Therefore, try to avoid rush hours and late afternoons on weekends, especially holidays and graduation at UVa.

I think cyclist's perceptions of truck drivers is more a litmus test of their response to motorized traffic in general.  If you're scared of a car, you'll be really scared of a truck.  Or perhaps it's the case that if you've learned and accepted vehicular cycling, the professional truckers (who probably see more cyclists than most motorists) respect your bicycle driving, and give you the space you need.  Hug the white line when there's no shoulder, and they figure you've already got all the road you need.

Gear Talk / Re: Touring bikes...
« on: February 18, 2013, 09:36:30 am »
Interesting questions, Cat.  I'll tackle some, and I'm sure others will put in their two cents.

Outside of recumbents, there's two things that could affect comfort differently for a woman than a man: frame dimensions and saddle.  Many of us get the saddle we like (Brooks for me!) and put them on all our bikes.  Many women have shorter torsos relative to leg length, so some bicycles for women are made with shorter top tubes for a given seatpost length than the corresponding seatpost-sized bike for men.  Terry makes some in racing and touring geometry, and Trek has some women-specific models, but Trek's WSD line doesn't include their touring bike (520).  If you're not an extreme case, some of the difference can be made up if your dealer will swap the stem for a shorter one, but this may affect the handling in extreme cases.

If you buy a stock touring specific model, everything is tilted towards reliability with a heavier load, and the bike ends up heavier as a result.  The frame and fork on the Surly LHT is perhaps 2 pounds heavier than your carbon frame and fork, but you'll also get attachments for racks; heftier tires that carry more weight at lower pressure, cushion the ride, and wear long (and may resist flats better); wheels with more spokes that can support the load without breaking spokes (you hope!) and won't be unrideable if a spoke does break; and rims to support the tires.  If you buy a full custom bike, you can get the latest lightweight components, but most stock touring bikes back down a level or two, and the cheaper components add a pound or two.  Note that you often need to allow 2-6 months lead time to buy full custom, and you pay an extra $2,000.

Do you need all that?  Maybe not, but be very careful trying to carry 20-30 pounds extra on a lightweight carbon bike.  It's not built to carry a load, and you may well induce shimmy or break the bike if you load it up.  The alternative is to carry the load on your back, and I, for one, would not even consider carrying a 30-pound backpack on a bike.  It would be hot, sweaty, and can injure your back.

How did you buy your current bike?  Buying a touring bike can be like that, if you can find a store that has them in your size in stock.  Leave them with a credit card or ID, take it out for a spin, see if you like it.  Or hop on a trainer and see if it fits you.  There are a couple of extra "gotchas" with a touring bike.  First, not many stores carry them, and they often sell out early in the season.  By the end of May, they're usually gone.  Second, especially if you carry substantial weight in a handlebar bag or front panniers, the handling loaded will be different than unloaded handling, so the test rides where you picked out your favorite won't mean anything for loaded riding.  (I named my bike Iron Pig because it was made of steel and handled like a pig...)

I won't address the buy and train at home vs. buy on site and ride question; I think there's arguments to be made on either side, but it boils down to your choice.


P.S.  Just thought of Bruce Gordon (  You might see if one of the semi-custom BLTs he has left would fit you.  He was featured in the latest Adventure Cycling magazine, and I bet he could sell you a bike now and ship it to your starting point for when you're ready to leave.

General Discussion / Re: car storage
« on: February 15, 2013, 09:53:02 am »
Also, if you're planning to stay overnight at a motel, call ahead and ask if you can leave a car parked there for a week.  Unless there's a big event in town and they're booked solid, many motels will let you leave a car there for a few days.

Gear Talk / Re: 2 people, 6 panniers for a cross country tour. Bad idea?
« on: February 13, 2013, 01:48:10 pm »
I'd be slightly suspicious when I see REI is selling replacement bags in 3-packs.

FWIW, many of the big-box stores will happily sell you a pre-paid cell phone at a pretty reasonable price.  Walk in to a Walmart, Target, or Best Buy, to name a few, plunk down $100, walk out with a cell phone and a couple hundred minutes.  Most are either big-name (Verizon, AT&T), or use the big-name networks.

Routes / Re: Route from West to East in September/October
« on: February 04, 2013, 10:53:51 am »
Check for a half-dozen cities along or near your route.  That route and timing seems designed to maximize the temperature extremes.

Routes / Re: Directional recomendation for Feb 1 start on ST
« on: February 04, 2013, 10:51:38 am »
As a curious bystander, I wonder if it wouldn't be preferable to go west?  That would give you a few weeks near the Gulf, keeping temperatures moderate, before you head into the interior of Texas and the mountains further west, which might be a bit further toward spring by the time you got there.  It would also get you out of the way of (most of the) severe storms happening later in the March/April timeframe.

General Discussion / Re: New to cycling and taking a loop around America
« on: January 30, 2013, 10:40:45 pm »
Sounds like it could be a great trip, with a couple of provisos.

First, your itinerary is about 10,000 miles on the back of my envelope, in 120 days; or about 80 miles a day.  That could be tough.

Second, you'll be hitting the southern tier as things start to heat up.  I don't know what the temperatures are like in the southwest deserts around April-May, but it could be hot.  Not impossible, but it could be a challenge.

Are you going to post a journal or blog?

Gear Talk / Re: Brooks B67
« on: January 20, 2013, 11:36:27 am »
I think you're over-thinking things - analysis paralysis!  B-17 or B-67?  Pick one, order it from, and try it.  If you like it, you're done.  If not, return it (for a full refund) and try the other one.

GPS Discussion / Re: Computer GPS vs ACA maps
« on: January 09, 2013, 08:58:21 am »
ACA maps are great if you're going where they take you, but you say you're looking at routes not mapped by ACA.

I'm a GPS skeptic.  I've not seen a GPS that shows both the fine scale you need to find those great back roads, and the large scale to show you where you're going.  If you're going to plan out your route ahead of time (on a computer), and download it onto the GPS, that could work.  Likewise, if you're carrying a laptop or netbook and can plan a day or two ahead of time, that could work.  If you didn't pre-plan, you're going SE, and run into a junction where your road tees into two perpendicular choices, well, good luck.

If you're planning to do this on the fly, I'd look at either state DOT maps, or get a more detailed paper atlas like the DeLorme.

General Discussion / Re: Bike and Cars - share the road
« on: January 08, 2013, 01:54:25 pm »
I had a conversation with a nice lady at work last month.  She started off with, "Pat was that you I saw riding a bike on XXX yesterday?  OMG, that bicyclist was riding down the middle of the road, and then he turned left!"  I let her vent, and then responded with, "Susie, was that you I saw driving a car on YYY last night?  That person turned left from the right hand lane right in front of me!"

She laughed and walked off.

General Discussion / Re: Which cycling maps for U.S. and Canada?
« on: January 08, 2013, 10:26:28 am »
State Department of Transportation (DOT) maps are generally free (I expect Jennifer will jump in with the the appropriate URLs as soon as she gets to work), and provide pretty good overview down to the state highway level, sometimes better.  For finer detail, DeLorme publishes atlases for each state.  I don't know if they include all the county and Forest Service roads; if not, you'll want to go to detailed topographic maps.  I'd recommend you get one of the computerized topo packages and plan things out on your nice, big monitor before you leave; the alternative is several large file cabinets full of hard copy topographic maps.

There's a lot of land out there.  You do realize, don't you, that California alone is larger than all of Germany?

General Discussion / Re: network provider for cell phone
« on: January 08, 2013, 09:27:04 am »
This question pops up fairly regularly, so you might want to search previous iterations.

Verizon is generally acknowledged to have the best nationwide coverage for cyclists, including small towns.  You will want to note that Verizon doesn't use GSM, so your German / European phone won't work on Verizon.  You can, however, buy a pre-paid phone fairly inexpensively once you arrive (check with the large chain discount stores).

AT&T seems to be second best, and they do use GSM.  I don't know the details of how to get "turned on" coming from outside the country, though.

Don't expect any cell provider to provide seamless coverage.  Out in the woods, or out on the plains, you can find plenty of spots that are more than 5 miles from the nearest cell tower = no coverage.  As I noted above, Verizon does have towers in most small towns, and strangely enough almost all the way across Kansas.  But if you leave the beaten track, and especially if you take small state or county roads, or even Forest Service roads, through the mountains, your phone will drop coverage.

Routes / Re: Start Dates?
« on: January 04, 2013, 03:57:30 pm »
If you're starting in April, I'd plan to start in the east.  It may still be cold and wet, but the roads will be open (with the possible exception of a late season snowfall).

If you're doing a coast to coast ride from California, you can't count on the Sierra passes being open, so the Western Express is out.  It's going to be darn hot by the time you finish the Southern Tier, with an April start.  If you stick with an Adventure Cycling routing, you're left with a Southern Tier to Grand Canyon Connector to Western Express to TransAm.  Possibly doable, depending on snowpack and seasonal variation in the weather at the higher altitudes of Utah and Colorado.

And while you're not really limited to the AC routes, similar comments would apply to similar routes -- you'll want a diagonal, or at least a partial diagonal route, to get past the mountains and avoid the worst of the heat and cold.  (N.b. -- in 3 months, you're going to be hot and cold anyway, but you don't have to be miserable or endangered!)

Gear Talk / Re: Schwalbe Marathon Plus 26 x 1.75 Comments?
« on: January 03, 2013, 10:57:15 am »
I just changed out a Marathon (no plus) the other day.  Finally wore the thing out, after 8,000 miles.  The good: good flat resistance all the way down to seeing the underlaying layer of rubber.  The bad: in the running as one of the stiffest, "deadest" tires I've ridden.  About half of the miles were commuting, and it was a relief to have a dependable tire after a problem batch of another brand; but it's also a relief to ride with a more compliant tire back there!

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