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Messages - Pat Lamb

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FWIW, I prefer a netbook for a couple of reasons.

First, I use a "real" camera, and it works quite nicely with a netbook.  It might work with a tablet, I don't know.  Smartphones, AFAIK, are right out.

Second, I think and write in paragraphs.  I got the smallest netbook I could type on for efficiency in getting those paragraphs into electrons.  While I could use a separate keyboard with a tablet, that would be twice the "things" to keep up with.  I can almost type sentences with a tablet, and words are about the best I can do on my phone.

Blogging is like sleep systems.  Thick foam pad or plastic ground cloth?  More power or more weight?  Each one of us has to look at the weight vs. features and choose the trade-off we're willing to accept.

Trikes suitability due to width is a myth.  A trike is about as wide as the panniers on a two-wheeler.  You can cower to the right a little farther with a bike, but you should not be doing this anyway.

I agree with this in theory -- but I try not to let a nice theory interfere with experimental observation, either.

In some western states (CO and MT in particular), bicycles are expected to be on the shoulder on some sections of some roads (including parts of the TransAm).  The problem with these sections is that the shoulders are not wide enough for a tricycle to ride without hitting rumble strips.  Those shoulders can easily be ridden on a bicycle.

Sure, you can choose to spend some quality time discussing road design and use, local laws, poor engineering standards, and Effective Cycling with a state trooper who calls you out over his bullhorn.  As a practical matter, when that trooper told me to ride on the shoulder, I got over for about five minutes (to make sure he didn't turn around and come back), and enjoyed my day.


Routes / Re: Transam: solo or group ride? Has anyone done both?
« on: December 02, 2015, 05:17:29 pm »
I've done a handful of week-long group tours, and my one long tour was a slightly modified TransAm with my daughter.

The group tours are nice in that you'll meet certain people you'll naturally gravitate to when you get to rest stops (not provided on TransAm), lunch, or dinner.  (I didn't meet a BFF on any of these, though.)  They give you a target to get to at the end of the day, and usually have SAG support if you need it (only available on ACA van-supported tours).

OTOH, on my TransAm, there were a couple days when either my daughter or I called "mercy" and we stopped after a shorter ride than planned, and we re-routed a couple of days for various reasons.  I was glad we could do that, and resume the next day as normal instead of having to ride 50% further to catch up with the group.

Going solo, if you decide you want a steak dinner, you have one.  If you're riding with TA, you buy one (if it's not your turn to cook), or 12-15 (if it is your turn to cook).

We never seemed to stick with other riders more than 2-3 nights.

We sort of tied up with an ACA TransAm group that caught up to us 3,000 miles in.  From talking with them, about a third to a half of the original group left them somewhere along the way, and a few other riders slotted into their places.  There were a few who stuck in the group, to the dismay of some of the other riders.  They only had two or three people who were good cooks.  Some of the riders ate out every other night, and one never spent a penny on food.

I'd really like to ride another long-ish tour solo, but She Who Must Be Obeyed is sure I'll be run over by a coal truck and eaten by bears unless there's another cyclist on the road with me.

GPS Discussion / Re: recommendations for gps for bicycle touring
« on: November 30, 2015, 10:50:40 pm »
One last piece of the puzzle is where you'll be sleeping.  In a motel or B&B, you can recharge the battery on some of the newer GPS (e.g. Garmin 820/1000/Touring).  Otherwise, you'll carry or buy lots of AA batteries.  (Of course, you can get a charger that uses AA batteries through a USB cable to recharge the Li ion internal if you want one of the new models.)

Also, check the claimed battery life for each model you consider.  It's probably a good idea to take your new GPS out for a ride similar to what you plan on for peak daily mileage and see how long the battery lasts under real world conditions.  My experience is that using a GPS for following a route and displaying a map (even without backlight) reduces the claimed battery life 25-50%.

General Discussion / Re: Cyclocross Bike for Southern Tier
« on: November 30, 2015, 10:42:28 pm »
If you want a new bike, go ahead and get one.  On a supported tour, you could probably ride any decent bike, but a new bike isn't going to make a huge dent in the overall cost of a tour (supported tour + incidentals + lost income).  After a week of long rides, I'd want nice low gears for the last 6%, 5 mile climb at the end of a 75 mile day; but if you're young, strong, and in good shape, you might be able to get by with the 30-35 gear inch low common on road bikes (and many racing 'cross bikes).  Of course, the ST will be pretty flat east of central Texas.

My philosophy on any long trip is to either use standard parts that will be available in any bike shop, carry spares for what's not standard, or be ready to park and wait for FedEx.  The last won't be possible if you're keeping up with a supported tour, so you'll either have to hitch a ride or go for one of the first two.  I don't know if spares will be available for either mechanical or hydraulic discs -- there are a lot of "standards" and a well-equipped shop will have a half a dozen different kind of pads, and be willing to order a new disc for delivery next Tuesday.  The hobby bike shop in West Podunk, TX may not have that inventory.  Ergo, I'd stick with standard rim brakes.

Likewise, I'd be looking at wheels built from common parts.  Lots of people report spokes breaking on long rides.  Goofy paired spokes or low spoke count wheels mean you'll have a hard time riding with a broken spoke, and may have difficulty repairing them.  Stick with 32-36 spokes per wheel, a good rim like Velocity Synergy or Aerohead (or equivalent).  Have them built (or tensioned and stress-relieved) by a good wheelbuilder.

Gear Talk / Re: Lightweight Slip-Jaw Pliers?
« on: November 19, 2015, 04:10:58 pm »
On a bike the slip joint pliers could be used to tighten bolts holding racks, bottle cages, stems.  But it would be easier and better to just carry the right size Allen wrench or open ended wrench.

You could carry a multi-tool (and probably should) with a couple of smaller open ended wrenches and it'd still be lighter than the slip joint pliers.

Better to go over the bike carefully a week or so before leaving and get everything "just so."  Then you won't need the Snap-On tool chest on the road.

Gear Talk / Re: Looking for a combination road / light touring bike
« on: November 15, 2015, 06:29:39 pm »
I apologize if I offended you, HelenaEngineer.  Apparently I didn't understand your question.

I inferred the need for additional training from your statement that, "I normally ride around 2000-2500 miles a year with most rides under 20 miles - but I do try to do 4-5 organized metric centuries a year and am looking to ramp up to a bit more mileage and some longer rides."  If you're on a van-supported Southern Tier you'll be doing the equivalent of 5-6 organized metric centuries a week.  It's no problem to ride one of those, but when you start stacking them up?  Also, my suggestion to try a week long trip is to see for yourself what you're getting yourself into.  After a week you can either go home relaxed and certain that you really want that new bike, or go home and find some other hobby.  It strikes me a foolish to invest thousands of dollars in a new bike and a long tour, arrange for 2.5 months off, and risk being one of those who heads home after the first two weeks.

But if you want a new bike, go ahead and get one.  Don't ask permission from a bunch of strangers on the internet!

Gear Talk / Re: Shoes/pedals for a cross country ride?
« on: November 14, 2015, 02:41:42 pm »
Just to be clear, I'm in no way saying everyone should get rid of their clipless pedals and go with platform. I'm just saying its a viable option that for touring can actually simplify the how many shoes? conundrum.

Two pairs of shoes (well, one pair of shoes and a pair of sandals) has been enough for all my tours.  It's really nice to be able to take off wet shoes after a day of riding in the rain.

And Russ is right -- feet flying off pedals is not good when riding with a group.  More than that, it can be particularly painful for a male rider any time!

Gear Talk / Re: Looking for a combination road / light touring bike
« on: November 14, 2015, 02:37:53 pm »
I have been riding for about 10 years or so on a Cannondale SR500 and am doing my first tour this spring - van supported Southern Tier. I am looking to buy a new bike for the tour but also hoping to find one that will work well as my everyday bike.

The only recommendation I can give you is the least helpful: Ride Lots.  Try to get up to a 50 mile ride once or twice a week.  You might have to go to spin classes if the winter in Helena is not conducive to riding outside.  3-5 rides a week, increasing mileage about 10% a week, has been the standard prescription for years; it's a good 'script.  Start now, if you're going to be ready to ride next spring.

Sometimes on longer event rides, I do hook up with a group of riders and would like to be able to have a bike that would give me a reasonable chance to keep up with riders of similar ability.

I'm afraid you've got that.  Those "riders of similar ability" have better endurance, or ability to ride faster than you, because they've trained longer and/or harder.  They actually have more ability than you do at this point. 

Your bike is 90% of the best you can get.  A fitting from a professional who knows what he's doing would be the best $200 you'd ever spend on a bike.  Swap the stem?  Adjust seat height?  Tweak the seat setback?  The fitter can help you with that.  At 54, you might well need a higher stem, especially for long days in the saddle.  You don't really need a touring bike for a van supported tour, although the lower gearing might be welcome when you start climbing mountains!  (Note I'm saying that with two of my three bikes being touring bikes, and those are the ones I've taken to all my supported tours!)

Have you considered doing a one-week van supported trip next year, and hold off on the Southern Tier for another year?  That would give you a chance to get into shape for the longer trip.

General Discussion / Re: Getting out of Dulles Airport.
« on: November 14, 2015, 02:19:00 pm »
Ease into your tour a bit!  Get a motel room close to the airport; most motels have shuttles that will take you and your luggage (including the boxed bike) to the motel.  Tip the driver a fiver and you'll get super service.  Then you can take your time unpacking and rebuilding the bike in the motel.

(I think there's one decent way out of Dulles, but I've never seen it in a rental car.  Dulles is one of the most inaccessible airports I've been into or out of; there's a limited toll access road, what you'd call a motorway, another entrance to the south that looks a lot like another one for the last couple miles in, and if you look really hard at google maps, there might be that other back door.)

U.S. 11 is busier than you might think.  There's way more high speed traffic on it than I expected a couple years ago.

Skyline Drive is easily doable in two days (camp at the 30 mile point - Big Meadows?).  There's a store and cafe every 15 miles.  Climbing out of Front Royal will probably be enough for one day, else you could do the whole thing in a day.  Hang your food and you won't have any problem with the bears overnight; they're unlikely to cause any problems during the day.

Rockfish Gap down to Waynesboro isn't bad either way.  It's a four lane with a turn lane road that was built before the interstate was completed. Now the interstate carries all the traffic.  It's not a problem coasting down or taking the lane on the easy climb back up.

I passed a 'bent tandem tadpole trike, pulling a trailer, going from West Yellowstone to Ennis.  Man, that was a long rig!

On most of the AC routes I've been on, that would  be a problem only intermittently, for a few miles at a time.  There'll be roads where there's virtually zero traffic, and motor vehicles can pass easily.  (With a bit of gawking, perhaps.)  There'll be a few spots where there's a wide shoulder, and you'll have no problems riding those.  There may be some spots where you'll have to be ready to take the lane, because of no shoulders or (the worst part) where there's a narrow shoulder, perhaps with a rumble strip.  Some of those narrow shoulders are un-rideable by any bike because they're too narrow, crumbling, obstructed by rocks, gravel, etc.  What's left to cause problems are those shoulders that can be ridden by a skilled cyclist, that motorists expect a cyclist to be riding in, but that you can't on a trike. 

Never saw that 'bent tadpole after we got to Ennis, but we agreed there were spots on that road we were glad to be riding uprights.

General Discussion / Re: Dogs n' bears
« on: November 09, 2015, 10:09:36 am »
I have worked out a manner of dealing with dogs. In spite of all the noise and chases not one dog has ever actually bitten me. 


Dogs, for the most part, are a temporary nuisance, but not a real serious danger. However, I am sure cyclists have been actually attacked, and perhaps even injured.

When stopped, the hound may come close, but will not actually sink its teeth into your hide.

Don't count on not being bitten; one bit me.

Keep a careful ear out for the ones that don't bark.  If your first alert is the sound of toenails scratching rapidly along pavement, that's a dog that may be out to attack you.  If they bark a lot, the danger is probably less.

Gear Talk / Re: Shoes/pedals for a cross country ride?
« on: November 04, 2015, 11:30:37 am »
I can only remember one cross-country tourist I've met who was riding with road bike pedals.  There may be some on a supported tour (thinking Bubba's or PacTour) for whom the extra efficiency is significant.  But everybody else I've met on a long tour was using MTB pedals.  Even on shorter, supported tours I've ridden most riders go with MTB pedals so they can walk in the shoes.  Maybe 10%, probably less, on these shorter tours ride platform pedals.

For some reason it tickles me to see a little old lady, or a little old man, walking into a convenience store or ice cream parlor wearing Sidis...

Food Talk / Re: Eating well on tour.
« on: November 04, 2015, 11:22:38 am »
My first reaction (and I mean this sincerely, not trying to be offensive), is "Great!"  You're learning first hand that your presumably comfortable lifestyle is not universal, even in this first of first world countries.  That broadening of horizons is one of the main reasons I encourage people to try travel -- especially by bicycle.

I don't know if Dollar General has succeeded in driving "real" grocery stores out of large swathes of N.C.  I'm guessing that if you went a few miles out of your way to larger towns and even small cities, you could find Food Lion, Piggly-Wiggly, maybe even Winn Dixie.  Those are more likely (but still not certain) to have fresh produce.

A surprising number of convenience stores will have some of the less perishable fruits, such as bananas, apples, or oranges, located near the checkout.  They're overpriced, but that's what you'll have to pay to support the low turnover.

As far as nutrition goes, my ancestors managed to survive on preserved food through the winters.  I'd guess you'll have a fair selection of canned fruits and vegetables, even in small towns.  You might want to supplement those with a multi-vitamin, although I doubt you'll suffer severe vitamin deficiency on a tour of less than 5-6 months.

I remember walking into a restaurant somewhere in Kansas and exclaiming, "They have a REAL salad bar!"  After the western half of Missouri on the TransAm, that was a sight for sore eyes and a feast for a jaded palate.

Gear Talk / Re: Shoes/pedals for a cross country ride?
« on: November 02, 2015, 08:24:53 am »
The other "Con" I found was while in granny gear stopped on a busy road with heavy traffic (semi's included) companied with a significant grade and narrow shoulder "Clicking" back into the pedal was precarious and down right dangerous at times .. I have since re evaluated my pedal choice and have switched over to Blackspire flat pedals which I think will  alleviate those issues.

Getting re-started with a load in granny gear is a challenge.  It's hard to get and keep enough momentum to ride a straight line, because you lose momentum quickly when there's a lull in your pedal stroke (as there is near the bottom of every stroke), and because you're geared down so far one kick doesn't get you much speed.

On the really steep stuff (>10-15%) it's usually easier for me to walk the bike until the grade eases.  On back roads it's sometimes possible to wait for a gap in traffic (OK, on back roads there's usually not much traffic!) and "tack" up the hill.  Other than that, my best efforts involve clicking one pedal in, push/pedal to kick off, and then forget about clicking the other pedal in.  Just put your foot on that other pedal and pedal normally until you get some speed, or a break in the grade, where you can click the last foot in.  Often it'll click in after a few strokes without your conscious intent!  Once you become proficient with this technique, the only benefit to a platform pedal is getting off the pedal with less drama -- but if you've got spikes keeping your foot on the pedal, all bets are off there.

Glenn, I wish you luck with your spiked platform pedals.  I'm afraid you're going to need it!

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