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Messages - John Nelson

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General Discussion / Re: USA visa problems
« on: October 31, 2014, 09:53:39 pm »
Normally you put the address of your first night. Even campgrounds have addresses.

General Discussion / Re: Choosing a Bike
« on: October 30, 2014, 10:02:24 pm »
I'm trying to to stay as inexpensive as possible.
When trying to use a non-touring bike for touring, it's usually best to consider using a trailer rather than panniers. You won't need the extra fittings, the short chainstays won't be a problem, the wheels don't need to be quite a strong, and you can carry extra water in the trailer. Be sure to take some test trips before your big one. Go for a few days with all the gear you need to go cross-country. Unfortunately, riding in Florida is not going to tell you if your gearing is low enough. Good luck.

General Discussion / Re: Choosing a Bike
« on: October 30, 2014, 05:57:59 pm »
Start here:

The bike you cited is probably okay, but just okay. The specs don't tell you the number of teeth in the rear cog, so I can't tell if the gearing is low enough--probably not. The 700x32 tires are probably about right for loaded touring on paved roads. I don't know if you could mount panniers on this or not. Does it have attachment points? I only see room for one water bottle cage--hope you don't drink much. The chainstays look pretty short. The wheels look like they have enough spokes. I would worry if the brakes are strong enough to stop a loaded bike, and if the frame is stiff enough to support the load. If you plan to use a handlebar bag, the cables may get in the way. It does have Shimano deraileurs, but fairly low-end ones. Most touring bikes are steel. This one is aluminum, but that's probably okay.

General Discussion / Re: Trans Am Trail guidebook
« on: October 29, 2014, 10:21:24 pm »
There are two.

"Bicycling Coast to Coast: A Complete Route Guide Virginia to Oregon" is better for the average cyclist who is doing considerable camping, but it is now 18 years old so a number of things in it are out of date. The route itself has changed many times since then, and the restaurants, motels and campgrounds cited may or may not be there. Nevertheless, it's good to read.

"The Complete Handlebar Guide to Bicycling the Transam Virginia to Oregon/Washington" is better for cyclists doing mostly motels. It has less detail about the route itself. It has a 2014 publish date, but I don't know if or how much it has been updated in the new version.

I have both. They are interesting to read, but neither is a suitable substitute for the ACA map set, and neither is probably worth the weight of carrying them along.

You can learn almost as much by reading TransAm journals over at

Note that the abbreviation "TAT" is most commonly associated with the motorcycle coast to coast route. The bicycling route is sometimes abbreviated "TA" or "TransAm".

Fly to Newport News and ship your bike ahead via FedEx or UPS (to Grace Epicopal Church, to a local bike shop, to a Warm Showers host, or to your first-night motel). I used FedEx. Use a free cardboard box from your bike shop rather than your travel case. Throw the box away at the start and get another at the finish. It's only about 9 miles from Newport News to Yorktown, so you could take a cab, hitchhike, walk, or see if your motel or Warm Showers host will pick you up. I had somebody pick me up.

General Discussion / Re: leaving May 20 from Willliamsburg
« on: October 26, 2014, 07:33:39 pm »
I left around 1st June going E to W and met a total of 20 i would guess.
So maybe the date you leave is more important than I thought. I did the TransAm E to W, leaving Yorktown on May 7, 2010. I just went back and looked at my notes. I have pictures of 61 TransAm cyclists I met along the way, and those are just the ones I remembered to take pictures of. There may be as many as another 61 that I didn't get pictures of. I do think that your decision to take the Western Express, however, reduced your encounters. I'm not sure if you camped or not, but camping every night (or staying in cyclist-only accommodations) significantly increases the encounters.

General Discussion / Re: Touring Bicycle
« on: October 26, 2014, 12:49:53 am »
I'm wondering how a cyclist from Kansas knows that he's a strong climber. He surely didn't figure that out in Kansas!

There's two kinds of climbs the touring cyclist needs to worry about: (1) 20% grades for a quarter of a mile (e.g., in the Ozarks, New England or Appalachians) and (2) 6 to 8% grades for 30 straight miles (e.g., the Rockies).

My lowest gear is 20 gear-inches, and I need every inch of that. Over and over and over again. Even with that gear, I sometimes feel that I couldn't get up the hill I'm on at all if it were even a bit steeper.

General Discussion / Re: leaving May 20 from Willliamsburg
« on: October 25, 2014, 09:58:21 pm »
Agreed, but I do also recommend stopping and comparing notes with folks going the other way when you get the chance.  It is worth it for the chance to meet other cyclists, but also for info sharing.  It is a good way to learn about great places to stay, things to avoid, and things not to be missed.
Absolutely! It's an unwritten rule of the TransAm that you must stop and talk with every touring cyclist you see going the other way. To not stop would be violating the code. The only exceptions I would make is if you are on opposite sides of a divided highway, or if you are currently going 50 MPH down a mountain pass.

There's a message system running up and down the TransAm. A lot of cyclists you meet, especially the unusual ones such as the very heavily loaded, the ones riding unicycles, the walkers, the family all dressed alike, the guy with the 100-pound dog, etc., you will already know about from other cyclists.

General Discussion / Re: leaving May 20 from Willliamsburg
« on: October 25, 2014, 12:59:25 pm »
You will meet fewer people headed in your same direction
Yes, fewer, but much more meaningful. I might spend perhaps 10-15 minutes with cyclists on the road going in the opposite direction, but perhaps weeks with cyclists going in my direction.

General Discussion / Re: Touring Bicycle
« on: October 25, 2014, 12:25:31 pm »
If you are a strong climber with a lightweight load on non-mountainous roads, then you can get away with significantly higher gearing than a weaker rider with a heavier load going through the Rockies, Appalachians, New England or even along the Pacific Coast. I would caution, however, that a Kansas cyclist may have little idea about what to expect pretty much everywhere else except in the states between North Dakota and Oklahoma. Almost every other state in the country is significantly hillier than those states.

On my TransAm, I met eastbound cyclists in Idaho that asked me when it was going to flatten out. I had to tell them that, with the exception of eastern Colorado and Kansas, it didn't. For anyone buying a bicycle for touring, I would suggest not just thinking of their first trip, but thinking ahead to future trips too.

Since this thread is about bike selection, however, I'll note that gearing is only one of the considerations, albeit one of the more important considerations.

General Discussion / Re: Touring Bicycle
« on: October 24, 2014, 11:52:21 am »
Although you can tour on any bicycle, I would always recommend a touring-specific bicycle if your budget and garage space allow. It has at least a dozen features specifically optimized for touring.

Although there are many touring bikes available (and you should consult the ACA buyers guide on this site), I would generally recommend one of the standards, i.e., either the Trek 520 or the Surly Long Haul Trucker. If you can find a bicycle shop with touring bikes in stock (unlikely), however, I would probably test ride and buy one of those, whatever it is. Most bike shops, however, do not carry real touring bikes and will probably try to convince you that some bike on the floor is just as good. Don't fall for that. Get a shop to order you a real touring bike, preferably with no obligation to buy (many shops offer this service). REI is the most likely place to find touring bikes on the floor. They often stock two different Novara touring bikes and the Long Haul Trucker, although perhaps in limited sizes.

There's no sense in figuring out what the perfect bike on paper is and then finding out that you can't practically get it. I'd suggesting doing it the other way around. Figure out what touring bikes you have reasonable access to and then deciding which one of those suits you best.

General Discussion / Re: leaving May 20 from Willliamsburg
« on: October 24, 2014, 11:43:58 am »
No, May 20 is not too late. You should see many other cyclists.

Richmond is the nearest major airport, although there are many other smaller airports in the area. I flew into Newport News. If you do that, you can even start in Yorktown if you want.

The ACA guided TransAm typically starts in Williamsburg. Get their handout and it will give you suggestions for motels and transportation. Sorry, I don't really know how to get a copy of the handout. I saw one years ago.

Calculating your fit only gets you in the ballpark. You need to take a test ride. Don't just ride around the parking lot. Go a number of miles, including flats, uphill and downhill.

General Discussion / Re: Wireless computer on touring bike
« on: October 20, 2014, 12:04:11 am »
You can use either. The panniers will not interfere with the wireless signal. Some people complain that wireless is more subject to interference, but this is a small problem. I use a wired computer for touring, just because it's one less battery to worry about. But that's a very small issue too. I use a wireless computer on my daily bike. Flip a coin.

General Discussion / Re: Toe clips? Clipless? None of the above?
« on: October 15, 2014, 11:58:13 pm »
I use MTB shoes with SPD cleats/pedals. I see absolutely no downside to it.

Routes / Re: California Hike Bike Sites closures
« on: October 15, 2014, 01:39:08 pm »

To the best of my memory, Catherine complained about being turned away at San Onofre State Beach because the campground had closed for the season, despite the fact that the California Parks web site says that the campground is open year round. Also, the ACA maps do not indicate any closing dates for that campground. She did not say what date she was there.

She also reported some non-specific problems at some non-specified locations.


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