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Messages - staehpj1

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Routes / Re: Jacksonville FL to New Orleans...
« on: January 28, 2015, 03:49:30 pm »
US 90 would probably be my choice for that section based on what I have seen of it and the other choices.  For this section that opinion is based on having driven most of it in a car as I have not ridden most of that section.

Different area, but I rode the ST from San Diego to Pensacola and used US 90 more than AC recommended,  I think that I'd consider using it for it's entire length (Van Horn TX to Jacksonville FL) if riding the ST again.

General Discussion / Re: folders
« on: January 28, 2015, 03:33:35 pm »
Are we talking about a bent or an upright bike?  I'll limit my comments to upright bikes since that is what I know.

For a car trip I see pretty much zero advantage to a folder.  A rack outside of the car makes more sense IMO.  I like roof racks, but there are other choices that can work too.  Even for shipping a bike to a tour or checking one as baggage I don't see any real advantage to a folder unless it fits in a standard checked bag size (l x h x w<= 62").

Most folders are not the best bikes.  I have a Dahon Helios and wouldn't dream of touring on it.  It is OK for short errands or to have in the deck locker of a small boat, but it really isn't that nice to ride.  The two biggest problems are that:
  • It is hard to set them up to an efficient riding position
  • They can be really noodley with the tall masts for seat post and stem.

The Bike Friday is reportedly better on both counts though.  Still it doesn't sound to me as if a folder suits your needs.

If you are thinking of a folding bent, I have no idea.

If possible, I prefer to know where I'm going to end the day before I get there, or at least know the possibilities. If I have no idea where I might spend the night, the anxiety is a bit uncomfortable. It always works out, but it makes me a bit uneasy.

Everybody is different.  I like having an idea of what the options are at least to the extent of knowing how far the next few towns are, but I really prefer not to commit to where I will stop, because I never know if I will feel like stopping at 40 miles, 140 miles, or something in between.  For me the flexibility that offers is liberating.  OTOH it makes it pretty much impossible for me to stay with hosts who typically want a little notice.

Has anyone taken the risk of not knowing where you are going to camp for the day?  Any ideas that have worked well?

I seldom plan ahead for where I will camp.  Where I stay varies depending on what part of the country you are in and how rural/small town it is.  It is typically easier to impromptu camp if you are away from either coast.  It is also usually easier in rural or small town settings.

For town parks... 
If the town is large enough to have cops, I usually ask first.  If the town is small enough I might ask the clerk at the general store if they think anyone will bother me if I pitch a tent in the park for the night.  Sometimes I don't ask and just set up.  I usually try to set up early enough that if I get run off I still have time to find somewhere else, but in practice I have never actually been run off.

Churches...  I usually ask first.

Outside or behind businesses or fire houses I usually ask first.

In places like rural Texas, roadside picnic areas work well.  I suspect that cowboy camping or using a bivy is less likely to get you run off than using a tent.

I am not big on stealth camping but in a pinch will just find a spot I won't be seen.

You get good at knowing what will work and what won't with experience.  I found that doing my first tour on an Adventure cycling route (Trans America) was helpful in learning what was likely to work with less worry since they listed a lot pf places to stay on the maps.

I find that opening with "I am riding from _____ to _____ and..." opens a lot of doors.  It probably won't work well if ______ and _____ aren't pretty far apart, but for a multi week or multi month tour its seems to.

General Discussion / Re: Washington, DC to Atlanta, GA
« on: January 27, 2015, 06:41:42 pm »
3. Be aware that leaving the parkway for camping or services usually means a long steep climb back up to the parkway.

This is commonly repeated, but I'm not so sure.  As long as you can get into a campground (Pete's point 1) and carry enough food for a day or two, I think things aren't as desperate as they're often portrayed.  For instance, I don't see the climb up to Rockfish Gap from Waynesboro as very bad.  Resupply there and you'd want to make the long slog to Roanoke; there's a number of small towns near the Parkway (and not too far downhill), i.e. Floyd and Fancy Gap, from there down to North Carolina.  Boone and Blowing Rock are easily accessible from the Parkway.  There are got a couple of restaurants and motels around Little Switzerland, then another day to Asheville, and another day to Balsam.

You may be able to plan well and avoid the longer and steeper climbs when leaving the parkway.  That said I'd definitely advise planning that carefully and not leaving it to chance.   While there are some places where the climb back up isn't bad there are also some real humdingers.  Some places leaving the parkway looks like dropping off the edge of the earth.  In any case it will be a challenging route for most riders.

Not everyone feels the same as I do, but I really hate going far at all off route for camping, shopping, or other services.  I also hate being tied to plan, preferring to be able to play it by ear as I go.   As a result I have only ridden the portion of the BRP that is on the TA (Vesuvius to the norther end of the BRP).  I have a few times considered riding the BRP and always decided against it after looking closer at the logistics.

General Discussion / Re: How picky are you?
« on: January 27, 2015, 04:50:51 pm »
The only time I've had a squeaking chain around home was after a good downpour on the commute in to work, but I drove my (younger) companion nuts on tour -- she could hear the chain half a day before I could

That sounds familiar.  I have had the same issue with a variety of sounds that I never heard driving my daughter nuts.

Gear Talk / Re: What lube to use for touring.
« on: January 27, 2015, 01:19:11 pm »
Pete, you are the only person I have ever heard report getting 10,000 miles out of a chain (or even anything close to that). I have read how you care for your chains, but try as I might, I cannot duplicate your experiences. I lube once a week with a quality lube, never deep clean it off the bike, and yet I cannot get more than 4000 miles out of a chain. When doing loaded touring, I cannot even get that much.

I started the TA in 2007 with a few hundred miles on the chain of my then new Windsor Touring bike.   Subsequently I did at least 3000 miles of other tours on that chain.  I know I did a few centuries and a bunch of around town riding, in between all of that.  So truth be told the 10k is an estimate, but I don't think it is off by all that much.  I can definitely document 8k miles.

I have no good explanation for why my chains last as long as they do.  I sometimes joke that it is my silky smooth spin, but I really don't do anything all that special.

General Discussion / Re: Washington, DC to Atlanta, GA
« on: January 27, 2015, 10:03:37 am »
In Front Royal you can pick up the Skyline Drive/Blue Ridge Parkway.

A few comments on that
1. Be sure the camping you plan to use is open when you will be there.  Most of it closes in the Fall and opens again sometime in the Spring.  I think some sites open as late as May.
2. Be aware that it is a challenging route with camping and facilities pretty widely spaced even when they are all open.
3. Be aware that leaving the parkway for camping or services usually means a long steep climb back up to the parkway.

None of that is intended to discourage you from using the route.  Just be sure you know what you are up against before you decide to use it.

Gear Talk / Re: What lube to use for touring.
« on: January 27, 2015, 05:53:40 am »
What is missing from these discussions is what our personal tolerance is for the manifestations of chain and cassette wear. I swap out a chain when the shifting begins to be anything but perfect. I love the exact crispness of a good quick shift. That is just my preference. Others may be more tolerant of shifting that isn't as precise.   If I was riding downtube or barend shifters, maybe I  could also get 10,000 miles because I would have more direct control over the shifting with those systems than with any indexing system.

Since you brought that up...  As one of the folks who tends to get very long wear out of chains and has indexed shifting on all of my bikes, I have not found that within the normal range of chain wear that shifting is affected much as the chain wears.  I find that once I set limit screws on the derailleurs they never need to be adjusted again, but cable tension does need a tweak once in a while on indexed systems.  That probably means tweaking it a few times on a coast to coast length tour and usually amounts to twisting a barrel adjuster 1/4-1/2 turn or so, which I typically do while riding.

I typically check my chains by measuring 12 complete links.  When they are 12-1/16" it is time to start thinking about a new chain and I make sure to get one before it is 12-1/8".  As I said, within that range, it has never seemed to me that chain wear had anything to do with any shifting issues.

I find that cassettes and chain rings typically last me a very long time.  So long that I have no idea how long.  I have found that cassette wear and derailleur wear have a lot more impact on crisp accurate shifting than chain wear.  A gunked up drive train also has a negative impact, but with my current routine that doesn't usually happen on tour.  Gunk build up does seem to be more likely for commuting for some reason I don't understand.

I have to politely disagree with staehpj1. I notice that on his TransAm he averaged just shy of 60 miles per day - - 73 days, 4244 miles. Similar for his other trips.

Yes I think my TA was actually about 58 miles per day.  Not sure how similar my other trips were though.  They were actually kind of all over the board at 38, 38, 53, 73, and 74 mpd if you count all days (one of the 38's would be a 43 if I didn't count a 5 day stay in Yosemite).  I don't think anything about that says much about how feasible an 80 mile per day TA would be for the OP especially since he is 24 years younger and a triathlete who has done an ironman (actually the OP only need to average 75 mpd to finish in his allotted time).   Bear in mind that the TA was my first trip and I was over packed, that I am not a very good athlete, that I turn 64 this year, and that I typically ride very little when not on a tour.

I probably do more hiking and exploring than staehpj1 does while on tour - backcountry up to the Pacific Crest in Yosemite, crossing the Grand Canyon and picking up my bike on the other side, hiking up to the ancient bristlecone forest in Great Basin.

Yep, I am sure that you do and that is great.  The thing is that I don't think that riders who are focused on riding something like the TA are typically doing very many long hikes.

Then there are the big breakdowns which I hope you never have - but if you tour long enough you probably will. I can think of three offhand - when you are in Fumbuck, Arkansas miles from nowhere. I had a derailleur snap. I had a seat post snap. (Which makes for some rather uncomfortably cycling) And I had a wheel rim split. If you care close enough to a big town with a bike shop, you can limp along. But if you are 150 miles away from anything, you may just need to call Performance, FedEx it, and wait.

Maybe, but then again if "150 miles away from anything" with a rim split, it might be just as likely that the rider would hitchhike the 150 miles, particularly if they have a deadline.

General Discussion / Re: Green-lighted to go cross-country! (questions)
« on: January 25, 2015, 11:08:57 am »
Jamawani's experience is unquestionable and his advice good, but I think that it is at least a bit conservative with regard to mileage, especially considering that you are apparently fairly athletic.  Also a lot depends on your touring style.

One example is whole notion of rest days.  He mentions "only 5 days off for the entire trip" as if that was a pretty low number.  I have not racked up the amount of touring miles that he has, but I have crossed the US a couple times with no zero mile days and without having any real desire to take any.  I do take an easy day here and there, but definitely do not consider rest days a given.

On the TA we did take what was essentially a day off to go whitewater rafting, but even then we rode 8 miles down the road to our next camp.  I have fairly rarely taken days off on other tours to do things but never really considered them rest days since I was generally active hiking or something.  That was pretty much limited to a day at an especially day at a nice beach and adjacent hiking trails when I did the Pacific Coast and a week in the Yosemite Valley area hiking and sightseeing when in the Sierras.

I think the only actual "real" rest day I ever took was when I was very sick on my Santa Fe Trail trip and slept for 24 hours straight.

Lots of folks manage to average 80 miles per day (when I calculate an average I count all days).  The Trans America is listed as being 4232 miles, at 80 mile days that is 7.5 weeks.  It takes a 75 mile per day average to do it in 8 weeks.  Whether you should do that much mileage is a different question, but it is certainly possible without superhuman effort.

Personally, if I were going to do the TA again I'd probably expect to finish in nine or ten weeks, but allow eleven weeks just in case.  I am a reasonably fit mid 60s non athlete who carries a pretty light load due to a minimalist style of packing.

I agree 100% with Jamawani on the suggestion to pack light.  Going no cook is a reasonable option, but even when I pack only 15 pounds or less base weight (including gear, clothing, and baggage, but not any food, fuel, or water) I still manage to carry minimal cooking gear.  My cook set varies with the trip, but is almost always under a pound and sometimes well under (plus 12 ounces of fuel).   Even if it is only instant oatmeal or Ramen noodles with tuna, a hot meal or even just a hot beverage can be pretty nice.

If interested in more details on my packing list decisions check out:
There is probably some useful info there for most folks even though most will not want to take it as far as I do these days.

General Discussion / Re: Green-lighted to go cross-country! (questions)
« on: January 25, 2015, 07:05:23 am »
John covered things pretty well and I generally agree.

It took us about 10 weeks doing the TA route on our first tour and two of us were starting with good general fitness but no cycling specific fitness.  I was inexperienced carrying a lot more than I now recommend.  If I wasn't riding with companions that got going later in the day and were slower getting back on the road at stops than me I think I would have taken a bit less time.  8 weeks is doable, but I like to allow a bit of extra time whether you need it or not.  It is good to not be a slave to a rigid schedule.

On the camping experience issue...  Depending on how adaptable you are the camping doesn't need to be too big of a deal.  Do at least be familiar with and know how to use your gear.

Bike selection...  To some extent packing style will affect that.  I think that non touring specific bikes are fine if you pack fairly carefully and I actually have begun to prefer a sportier bike as my packing style has gone more minimalist.  My advice would be to try to pack pretty light.  What is considered light varies from person to person, but I'd suggest a first timer try to shoot for 30 pounds base gear and clothing weight and if you wind up at 40 pounds I'd take a long hard look at the packing list.  Folks usually have a tendency to take too much.  It helps to have a well thought out list that has been gone over many times trimming and trimming.  Even then be open to sending things home if you find you can get by without them.  Most folks wind up doing that.

I have found I prefer to go very light (10-15 pounds of gear and clothing).  The relatively unladen riding is wonderful, but camping and cooking with really minimal stuff isn't for everyone.  I mostly mention this to emphasize the notion that you really need very little.

General Discussion / Re: How picky are you?
« on: January 24, 2015, 02:08:44 pm »
I keep chains lubed, bearings packed, and things generally in adjustment, but don't get too carried away either on tour or at home.

My approach is pretty much the opposite of Peny's in that I try to clean chains as infrequently as possible.  I do apply lube frequently and wipe it off but that is the extent of it.  It seems to me that my chains last longer when I avoid cleaning with solvents or soap and water and only apply lube.

I keep an eye on wheel trueness and spoke tension, but only to the extent of spinning the wheel and looking for wobble or hop and plinking the spokes to see that they are fairly evenly tensioned.  I do that now and then when it crosses my mind.

Shifter cable tension adjustment gets tweaked, most often while riding.  Limit screws pretty much never get touched again once set up correctly.

Brake cable tension might get tweaked any time it needs it at any stop during the day, but it happens pretty rarely.  Brake pads only get attention beyond a glance when there are starting to squeak, grind, or not work.  That or if they are visibly close to worn out.

If going on a multi-month tour I am likely to give it a bit more of a preemptive going over, but even then don't get to carried away unless it has been a long time since I repacked bearings or something is close to end of life.

Truth be told, I do very little maintenance on tour.

General Discussion / Re: TransAm summer 2015 - timing and solo female
« on: January 23, 2015, 02:23:07 pm »
I'd recommend West to East because of the prevailing winds.  I remember meeting people coming from your direction.  When I asked them how they were doing, they said that besides riding against the wind for 3,000 miles, they were doing just peachy. But that's your option.

My experience is that with the Trans America route, summer winds favor going  E-W, but I really don't advise choosing direction of travel on the TA based on wind direction.    In the middle of the country the TA tends toward southeast and the prevailing summer surface winds tend to be out of the southeast.  The map below matches what we found on the TA pretty well.

Routes / Re: Southern Tier San Diego from mid February
« on: January 21, 2015, 05:27:38 pm »
I started in San Diego on Feb 12, 2012 and had a great trip.   Obviously it may vary from year to year, but I think mid February is usually a good time to start in San Diego.  A friend went about that time another year and made out well.  I had frost quite a few nights and one very cold night on top of a pass at BlackJack State Forrest camp just before the New Mexico line, but daytime temperatures were mostly nice for the trip.

I'd go again at a similar time of year if doing it again.

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