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Messages - staehpj1

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General Discussion / Re: camera choice
« on: December 30, 2010, 05:52:04 pm »
Do not buy an Olympus. My Olympus WP 550 has been in the shop more than in my hand.
Every brand has a bad model or individual lemon once in a while.  Olympus is a well thought of brand.  I know of or have owned Nikons or Canons that croaked prematurely and other's that went through hell and back for many years.  I don't think I'll boycott a brand because one person had problems with one camera.

General Discussion / Re: DIY Tips
« on: December 30, 2010, 10:26:28 am »
Back on topic...

One DIY piece of gear I like is a little "throw bag" I made with maybe 60' of parachute cord in it.  It is like a miniature version of the throw bags used in whitewater rescue.  It was made using a little sack that originally held tent stakes.  It works great for hanging the food bag to keep it away from critters and also serves as a clothesline among other things.  The bag probably adds less than a half an ounce compared to just carrying the parachute cord loose.

General Discussion / Re: DIY Tips
« on: December 30, 2010, 10:18:51 am »
I have taken to not using a ground cloth for bike touring and never bought into the fancy and expensive "footprint" options.  My rationale is that:

  • When I spend more money to get a lighter tent, I don't want to defeat that light weight by carrying a ground sheet.
  • I don't want to be a slave to making a tent last forever.  I figure that to some extent it is a consumable.  I try to pick nice surfaces to camp on, but don't sweat it when I can't.
  • When it starts to wear out and leak from the bottom, I can patch the bottom, re-coat it, replace the tent, or start using ground sheet at that point.
  • When touring I find that I camp on nicer surfaces the large majority of the time (as compared to canoe camping, backpacking, etc...).  On tour a pretty large percentage of the time my tent is on grass, concrete, or some other improved surface.

General Discussion / Re: Why the low thread numbers?
« on: December 30, 2010, 10:03:28 am »
In addition to biking, I race sailboats. To get most of my sailing fixes, I go to Sailing Anarchy - a website for sailing and stuff. What I noticed is that that website has over a million responses and new threads every day. This site seems to average 5 - 10 hits per thread and minimal new threads. Sailing Anarchy seems to average much more than that. My point is that sailing is a niche sport. My guess is that less than a fraction of one percent sail on a weekly basis. How many people cycle every week? I don't know if anyone can answer that, but it can't be less than sailing. So let's get some conversation going here. I will start it off. The best part about cycle touring is... 
There are quite a few different bicycling forums and several bicycle touring ones.  They each have their own community and their own biases.  Amount of traffic alone is a poor measure of their usefulness.  The fact of the matter is that often as they move toward the high traffic end of the spectrum the signal to noise ratio gets out of hand.

If you want more traffic you might try the touring section on Bike Forums.  It has most of the advantages and disadvantages of a higher traffic forum.  You can check it out at:  at

I'd recommend enjoying this forum for what it is and the others for what they are.

Gear Talk / Re: How accessible is propane on the TA Trail/good stove?
« on: December 29, 2010, 11:35:04 am »
And Wal-Marts have the SLX denatured alcohol in Paint Dept.
I have typically just used Yellow Heet, but am curious about the size containers you typically find the SLX denatured alcohol in.  I think I have mostly seen it in quarts and gallons which are about three and twelve times as much as I typically want.  Do you usually find pints or other small sizes available?

Gear Talk / Re: How accessible is propane on the TA Trail/good stove?
« on: December 29, 2010, 11:02:51 am »
Alcohol stoves are much cheaper and lighter and the fuel is fairly obtainable, but it takes 2X to boil water and you need to carry 2X+ more fuel weight .  It's my story and I'm sticking to it.
I don't disagree, but I will add that those two issues may not be that much of a problem depending on the specifics of the tour and how big of a rush you are in.

If using alcohol on a bike tour, fuel weight per BTU is typically not much of an issue because you can usually buy fuel frequently and in smallish quantities (12 ounce bottles of Yellow Heet).  If camping where you have to carry multiple weeks worth of fuel without chances to restock, then it does become a bigger deal.  In practice I wind up carrying more fuel weight when using a cartridge stove because restock points seem to be much fewer and father between.

On the boil time issue...  Yes it takes longer, but waiting 5 minutes for two cups of boiling water isn't a real hardship.  Even when there were two of us the output seemed adequate.  The boil time for a liter is more like 12 minutes, but even when boiling that much it isn't that long to wait.  While it is heating I am usually attending to some other aspect of the meal any way.

Gear Talk / Re: How accessible is propane on the TA Trail/good stove?
« on: December 29, 2010, 10:36:33 am »
I have not tried burning rubbing alcohol.  I am under the impression that it is inferior to wood or grain alcohol. 

Hardware stores carry denatured alcohol.  This is grain alcohol with just enough wood alcohol in it to be toxic.  It burns great.

I suppose in a pinch you could walk into a bar and get something...
"If you want to use rubbing alcohol (cheapest easily available fuel on this list) for fuel, you may want to use an open flame stove instead of a jetted stove.  If you decided to use a jetted stove, you may need to use larger jets in your stove (#57 drill, pushpin size, ~1.4mm or larger) and try to empty as much left over liquid from your stove as you can after each use (as this will further hinder future fire ups) for it to operate."

This comment matches what I found with my own stoves, but I did not experiment with bigger jets.  Easy enough to just buy more suitable fuel like Heet (Yellow bottle NOT red) or denatured alcohol so I never bothered to try to get my stoves to work with rubbing alcohol.

Gear Talk / Re: Fenders for touring
« on: December 26, 2010, 01:46:14 pm »
Anybody have experience with these Planet Bike fenders?
A couple of my roadie buddies have and like them, but I can't say more since I have not tried them.

Gear Talk / Re: Fenders for touring
« on: December 24, 2010, 10:45:09 am »
That would have to be one tricky rock to make it all the way UP the tire rotation and be big enough to jam the wheel. A twig stuck in the tread seems slightly more possible but with the force of rotation I would think that anything small enough to be caught in the treads would snap instead of jam.

I will say that I have seen it happen a couple times.  In both cases it wasn't a huge deal though (no crash).

Gear Talk / Re: Biking Shorts/Pants
« on: December 23, 2010, 11:05:07 am »
First, Thanks for the clean up Fred.  I wanted to post again but things were heated enough that I didn't want to risk inflaming them further.  I will do that (post that, is hopefully not inflame) now that things are cleaned up a bit.

To Staehpj1.....your point about being more recognizable as a  touring cyclist is a good one. But I believe that riding a bike loaded with panniers would serve the same purpose.

I was actually referring to when off the bike in a store, diner, pizza joint or whatever.

I know that one of the nicest hosts we had was a couple who only recognized us because we were in bike clothes.  We were camped in a nearby small town park and walked to the town pizza joint.  This super nice couple invited us to drop in on them for dinner the next day when we would be in their town.

When we got there they had the grill already fired up and a couple chickens roasting.  We had wine and cheese and great conversation before dinner, then a delicious meal.  They had offered to let us camp in their orchard, but when we got there they put us up in a really nice little house they run as a B&B or rental unit.

In the morning they fed us again and sent us on our way with a lot of local knowledge.  We wanted to go whitewater rafting and as it turns out he had worked for some of the local rafting companies and sent us to the best one.

We would have missed all of that if we hand not been easily recognizable as cyclists.

BTW, meeting folks like this couple is also the reason why I prefer to camp in the open in town parks, church yards, or what ever (with permission when necessary) rather than "stealth" camp.  We still manage to camp for free a good percentage of the time and it almost never requires stealth.

General Discussion / Re: re-entering cycling
« on: December 23, 2010, 08:55:06 am »
First...  Just wanted to wish you success.

I did a similar return to cycling a few years ago.  My advice is this...

1. Staying in shape and training is always good but huge amounts of training are not a prerequisite for a long tour.  It does help greatly to have enough time on the bike to be comfortable for longish days in the saddle, but being a trained athlete is not a requirement.  The key is to set daily goals that are reasonable and achievable.  It is bad news to attack a trip and find yourself worn out 2 or 3 days in.  Much better to ease into the trip, hitting your stride in a week to ten days.

2. I am convinced that all the hype about the ultimate bike, racks, saddle, panniers, sleeping pad, or whatever does a disservice to new tourists.  I did my first tour (Coast to coast on  the TA)  on mostly inexpensive gear and a $599 bike.  I didn't regret any of my gear choices other than the fact that I started out with a bit too much gear.  Some gear I have since upgraded, but a lot of stuff I actually found I prefer some of the cheap items I used.  The bike itself is the last thing I think about when thinking about my tours.

3. General rule of thumb, if in doubt leave it home.  Then when under way periodically, go over your stuff item by item and mail stuff you aren't using home.

4. Another rule of thumb, don't try to think of things that might be useful.  That approach will add lots of items to your list that sound like a good idea but you really don't need.

5. Having someone at home that can accept things you mail home and send you things via general delivery you decide you need is a big help.  For example there may be things you only need for one geographic region of the tour.  Why carry them the whole way?

Gear Talk / Re: Biking Shorts/Pants
« on: December 20, 2010, 12:24:17 pm »
if anything, arriving in gear has led to conversation and networking.

Since you mentioned that I will add that I enjoy talking about my tour and like the fact that others immediately recognize me as a cyclist.  Being in clothes instantly recognizable as bike clothes has often led to pleasant conversation and many times to offers of hospitality.  It might start with "did we see you 60 miles down the road this morning?" and then wind up with "I fixed way too much pot roast can you help us eat it?", and finally "can we put you up for the night" or "do you want to camp in our yard?".  Those encounters allowed me to meet some wonderful people.

That said some folks don't want to be recognized as a cyclist and asked a lot of questions.

Gear Talk / Re: Biking Shorts/Pants
« on: December 20, 2010, 08:53:21 am »
... I agree that almost no one else is going to worry about how you look or pay any attention to you.  They are too busy worrying what others think about them.
I agree at least for the US.  In some countries Lycra may be a bigger problem.   I always found that, in the US at least, I was generally received warmly just about everywhere and never found my bike shorts to be a problem when interacting with the local folks.  That said if the OP is self conscious he can certainly either wear baggier shorts or slip something on over them.

Oh and off topic a bit, but I have found that wearing sunglasses while speaking with folks is way more alienating than wearing lycra.  Definitely take those shades off when speaking to folks.  It makes a world of difference.  A warm smile, good eye contact, and an open attitude will be far more helpful than your choice of shorts.

Gear Talk / Re: Biking Shorts/Pants
« on: December 15, 2010, 06:32:29 pm »
Personally I just wear regular bike shorts, but if that isn't your thing some folks either wear basketball shorts over them all the time or just slip them on when they stop.

I do wear some light weight zip off leg pants in camp most evenings and they aren't horrible to ride in either.  I wore them when we were in Yosemite and were just riding around the valley to get to trail heads and stuff like that.  That was usually less than 20 miles a day, but I probably could stand them for longer rides, I just prefer the bike shorts so I don't.

Routes / Re: A Monkey Wrench...
« on: December 15, 2010, 01:00:14 pm »
I looked into doing a perimeter tour starting and ending in Baltimore, Md.    My conclusion was that the only way to go was counterclockwise.

Check out these old threads:

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