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Messages - John Nelson

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Gear Talk / Re: Touring Bikes - Surly LHT vs Novarra Randonee
« on: November 12, 2012, 08:20:51 pm »
The LHT and Randonee are similar. Test ride both and buy the one that feels best. It's really as simple as that.

General Discussion / Re: Cleaning A Bicycle
« on: November 10, 2012, 02:22:00 pm »
The chain is the main thing requiring lubrication. However, you might occasionally put a drop on the jockey wheel bearings, the derailleur pivot points, and brake lever pivot points.

Hubs, bottom brackets, headsets, and cables may also require periodic grease.

Park Tool has good online maintenance instructions:

And you might want to pick up Zinn & the Art of Road Bike Maintenance.

General Discussion / Re: Cleaning A Bicycle
« on: November 10, 2012, 01:21:50 pm »
There are many ways to wash a bicycle. If you Google "washing a bicycle", you'll find different options. Personally, I get a bucket of soapy water and a rag and wash it like you'd wash a car. I use an old toothbrush to clean the dirtiest and hard-to-reach parts, such as the chain, gears, jockey wheels and derailleurs. I use Simple Green as the cleaner, but you can use almost any detergent. I rinse the bike off with a hose without a spray attachment.

You could use 3-in-1, but I'd recommend visiting a bike shop and picking up a bottle of lube specific for bicycle chains. If you're a cheapskate, you can make your own out of a mixture of motor oil and mineral spirits--Google will help there too. I don't recommend starting a discussion of lubes, as such discussions always go on forever and everybody recommends something different.

You might consider cheap furniture polish (e.g., a "Pledge" knock-off for about $1 a can) to shine up the tubes.

International / Re: Bicycling in Cuba
« on: November 04, 2012, 09:32:01 pm »
Are you a U.S. citizen? If so, it's not legal without a license from the state department. Sometimes you can get away with it without a license, but you risk a fine of thousands of dollars. It is unlikely that you will be able to get a license.

If you are not a U.S. citizen, you can Google for "Cuba Bicycle Tours".

General Discussion / Re: Advice needed!!!
« on: October 31, 2012, 10:01:07 pm »
This isn't as daunting as you might think. The ACA maps lay things out pretty well for you. Be sure to go over to and read a few TransAm journals so you can see how other people have dealt with the challenges. It will also give you confidence.

You say you have no experience. Well clearly you have some experience--you haven't gotten all the way through high school with no experience. If you have some camping experience, that will help. If not, I suggest you get some before your trip. Be sure to take at least one overnight trip before the TransAm to make sure you've got what you need and can carry it comfortably on your bike. Try to also take a three or four day trip if you can.

Running out of water isn't too much of a problem. In the East, there are plenty of opportunities to get water. Take at least two water bottles each (three would be better), and refill whenever one of them gets empty. There are a few places in the West where a bit more precautions are in order. The ACA maps clearly tell you where these places are. Just stop and buy a couple of bottles of Gatorade and/or water to get you over these spots.

2% of first-time bicycle tourists underpack, 10% pack just right, and 88% overpack. Don't worry too much about underpacking. Read some of the equipment lists over at and here on this site to get ideas.

You will need to occasionally be resourceful, but that's part of the fun. You can handle most difficulties with a credit card and a cell phone. And there are a lot of really nice people out there who will help you with everything else.

Starting with a bicycle in tip-top shape isn't absolute necessary, but it will help avoid a lot of problems.

General Discussion / Re: Tales of Calamity and Woe
« on: October 31, 2012, 09:45:23 am »
I've been pretty lucky. Worst was a cracked rim, which I discovered in a town with bike shop that could build me a new wheel. Second worst was when I had to ride on a failing bottom bracket for a week before I got somewhere that could replace it. Neither one affected my progress.

Routes / Re: Pueblo to Yorktown only- best months?
« on: October 29, 2012, 09:40:42 pm »
Depends on whether you tolerate heat or cold better, and whether you will be spending your nights indoors or out. I think I'd go for May-June rather than April-May.

Gear Talk / Re: Bushwhacker bags and panniers
« on: October 27, 2012, 10:39:41 pm »
I had not heard of this brand before now, but they look serviceable enough. I would point out that they are not advertised as waterproof, but that may not be of concern to you if you are only planning to take weekend tours, as it's easy enough to go on a weekend where no rain is forecast. I also note that the trunk bag is insulated and padded, which may not be of much practical use when touring. If you plan to camp on those tours, you'll probably want this space for your tent, so the trunk bag may not make much sense. Finally, I note that the package price for the rack, panniers and trunk bag doesn't save any money over purchasing them individually.

Gear Talk / Re: Backroads maps of the US.
« on: October 23, 2012, 10:10:37 pm »
In the US, we generally have interstate highways, US highways, state highways, county roads and city streets. Stay off of the first three as much as feasible.

If you ask Google maps for driving directions and check the "avoid highways" option, you'll usually get a fairly good bicycling route.

Also, most states publish on-line cycling maps with shoulder widths and average daily traffic volume.

Finally, you can check any roads you're interested in with Google maps street view.

Routes / Re: TransAm to Western Express, VA to Califorinia
« on: October 22, 2012, 08:46:36 pm »
For me the worst place was Rt 50 east of Monarch Pass as it runs along the Arkansas River in Colorado.
Ah yes, but if you don't get killed there, and even if you do, it's spectacular scenery in the Arkansas River Valley.

Gear Talk / Re: Well, here we first touring bike is........?
« on: October 21, 2012, 10:16:50 pm »
They are both fine bikes. For me, the scales would tip to the LHT because of the triple chainrings. You may, however, be drawn to the disk brakes on the Salsa.

Gear Talk / Re: Gear Shifting
« on: October 21, 2012, 02:10:28 pm »
The left shifter controls the front gearing and the right shifter controls the rear gearing.

The rear has seven cogs that range from 14 to 34 teeth, specifically 14, 16, 18, 20, 22, 24 and 34. Note that these cogs are all evenly spaced except that there is a big jump between the sixth and seventh cog. The seventh cog provides a very low gear for the steepest hills.

The front has three rings that have 28, 38 and 48 teeth.

The difficult of pedaling is a function of the front teeth divided by the rear teeth. The lowest gear you have (for the biggest hills), in the small front ring and the large rear cog, has a ratio of 0.82. That means that the wheels rotate 82 times for every time you turn the cranks 100 times. The highest gear you have (for downhills) is 3.43, which means that the wheels rotate 343 times for every 100 cranks.

You can continue to do what you're doing if that provides sufficient gearing for you. But if you need further help on steep hills, you can shift that left shifter down to "1" and if you want to go faster on downhills or flats, you can shift that left shifter up to "3".

If you do all the divisions (e.g., in an Excel spreadsheet), you can see that there is some practical overlap in your 21 gear options. For example, if you put the left shifter in "1" and the right shifter in "7", it's the same gear ratio as if you put the left shifter in "3" and the right shifter in "2". Both of these produce two rotations of the wheel for every rotation of the crank.

As you get more experience, you can start to pay attention to the "chain line". The chain runs most efficiently and lasts the longest if your chain is parallel to the bike and not at sharp angles. So that means that you should in general use the "1" left setting with the low numbers on the right shifter, the "2" left setting with the middle numbers on the right shifter, and the "3" left setting with the high numbers on the right shifter. This is just a general guideline and you don't need to be obsessive about it.

To answer your specific question, to go from the lowest gear to the highest gear (not that you'd ever want to), the following are the settings for the left shifter and the right shifter respectively:

3,2 (same as 1,7)

General Discussion / Re: First tour for Brits in US
« on: October 21, 2012, 12:46:46 pm »
I've shown up late at a lot of campgrounds, and have never been turned away. Even if the campground is full, they figure something out, especially if you make it clear that you don't need a numbered site. Prices range anywhere from free to $50. I would estimate that showers are available at more than half, lakes or rivers call fill in at quite a few more, a sink-bath at most others, and you'll only have to go to bed dirty at a few.

50 miles a day is enough in most places, but you should be flexible enough to put in up to 80 occasionally, especially in the west. On the other hand, campground fees are typically less in the west. The ACA maps are great for finding places to stay.

Gear Talk / Re: Thermarest pads - are Neoairs that much better?
« on: October 20, 2012, 07:18:28 pm »
I think you need to figure out how much pad thickness you need to be comfortable. I have found that one inch isn't near enough for me. I find 2.5" thickness much more comfortable. You don't really know until you sleep on it. It's nice to go to a store that allows you to inflate the pad and lie on it for a good long while. Or better yet, take it camping and bring it back if you don't like it (REI allows this).

Routes / Re: Google biking maps
« on: October 17, 2012, 09:27:52 pm »
It's not new. It's been available for over two and a half years. I really like it for getting short distances in town, and often use it to get to a host house. But it's awful for intercity travel. It gives you a route with a million turns, many of which are onto unnamed and undescribed paths, routes you onto unpaved roads and sometimes even onto rugged hiking trails.

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