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Messages - John Nelson

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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.

Routes / Re: Pacific Cycle Route tour suggestions for visiting Brits
« on: October 16, 2012, 05:25:44 pm »
So is it your objective to get to Reno as part of your bike ride? You could use the Western Express for much of this. This is more doable in late spring than early spring. Once you get to the intersection with the Sierra Cascades route, you can (and should) dip south to see Yosemite.

Renting a suitable touring bike in the U.S. will be difficult, so research this well in advance. I'm not sure what's available in San Francisco, but that's probably as good as your chances will get. There is an REI in SF, so you could buy a Novara touring bike there and try to sell it later. It may be so hideously expensive to bring your own bikes along that giving away $2000 worth of bikes at the end might not be as silly as it sounds.

General Discussion / Re: The TransAmerican for a beginner?
« on: October 14, 2012, 07:58:33 pm »
"Too warm" and "too cold" are relative and something each person has to decide for themselves. Furthermore, every year is different, so that July might be oppressively hot in the Midwest one year, and then quite comfortable the next year.

You may tolerate cold well and hot poorly, but I'm more the opposite. I will point out that preparing for hot doesn't require adding any weight, but preparing for cold does.

Good luck.

Connecting ACA Routes / Re: Denver, CO to NW Iowa, two alternatives?
« on: October 13, 2012, 02:09:45 pm »
I have found Google bicycle directions good for getting you to the grocery store, but not good for getting you to Iowa. Instead, Google driving directions with the "avoid highways" option usually produces an acceptable bicycling route.

Since you didn't say where in NW Iowa, let me just arbitrarily presume that you want to go to Le Mars. Google driving directions without the avoid highways option shows 620 miles. With the avoid highways option adds only 4 miles and seems to be a reasonable route.

The route piecing together the TA and L&C would add almost 400 miles and would not, in my opinion, be that much better of a route. The ACA service directory, however, would find you a lot of free places to camp.

Two weeks is very generous for the shorter route, and doable but tight on the longer route.

Since you only have two weeks, I'd suggest you take the shorter route so you have more time to smell the roses, see the sights, talk to locals, deal with breakdowns, etc. It depends in part on whether you enjoy the actual riding the best, or whether you enjoy all the other parts of the experience the best.

Gear Talk / Re: How much does a sleeping bag liner increase warmth?
« on: October 11, 2012, 09:18:03 pm »
I agree that it's noticeable. I was camping at 10,000 feet once and woke up at 3 a.m. shivering and too cold to get back to sleep. I added my silk liner and slept comfortably for the rest of the night.

Routes / Re: Timing and weather
« on: October 10, 2012, 08:30:37 pm »
Maybe that's because places with tougher terrain also have fewer good places to stop.

Routes / Re: Timing and weather
« on: October 10, 2012, 10:00:19 am »
I am curious...  John, do you ride all those hours of daylight, start late in the morning, or just like to take long breaks off bike during the day?

I sleep until I wake up, and then I take my time breaking camp. I typically don't get on the road until 9:00 a.m. I do take frequent breaks during the day, but they are not long breaks. On the NT, I got into camp after 9:00 p.m. quite a number of times, mostly on days when I either went long, got a late start, got into numerous absorbing conversations with locals, or had vicious headwinds. I typically do the same number of miles in a day regardless of the difficulty, so on windy or hilly days, it takes me longer. I really like the flexibility of riding late if I want to. Riding after 6:00 p.m. is often magical. The heat of the day has broken, the sunlight is soft, the wild animals are out, the traffic is down--it's very peaceful.

Classifieds / Re: Big Agnus UL2 Tent For Sale
« on: October 09, 2012, 09:12:25 pm »
I will note that "Big Agnes UL2" is not the name of a specific tent. Big Agnes sells both the Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2 tent and the Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2. From your picture, it appears that this is the Fly Creek UL2.

Routes / Re: Timing and weather
« on: October 09, 2012, 02:54:46 pm »
Every person is different and every year is different. Pretty much all of the general parameters have been laid out here. Attempts to narrow it down further would just be guessing.

If you are from Arizona, you probably tolerate the heat well. I lived 20 years in Phoenix, and I didn't mind the 100-degree days on this summer's Northern Tier at all.

I will point out that the later you leave, the less daylight you'll have, and I like lots of daylight. I finished the Northern Tier this summer in August, and towards the end I was missing the fact that I could no longer ride until 9:00 p.m. if I wanted to, but needed to finish by 8:00 or before. When I did the TransAm, I started in early May in the east specifically because this enabled me to center my trip around the summer solstice for maximum daylight. But this may not matter to you at all. Pete did the Southern Tier in February and March of this year, and has said that the shorter days were a non-issue.

Gear Talk / Re: tent for transam
« on: October 08, 2012, 12:28:41 pm »
Also note that what a retailer says a tent weighs and what it really weighs can be different.

Routes / Re: Timing and weather
« on: October 08, 2012, 10:16:25 am »
I'm going to assume that by "transam", you actually mean the TransAm or TransAmerica Trail, and not just any old generic cross-country route.

Starting on June 8 suggests that W-to-E is fine. In my opinion, the first half of May is the best time to start for E-to-W and the first half of June is the best time to start for W-to-E.

Your plan for distance and time seems just about right. Some do more, some less. Your plan is just about average.

I prefer, and suggest, a lighter sleeping bag. On those nights when it's cold, you can always wear more to bed and/or use a liner. But a 20-degree bag will be way, way too hot for most of the trip. So why carry the extra weight and bulk.

One approach is certainly to mail home your warmer stuff after you get to Pueblo. That's a very reasonable plan. But don't send everything home. Although it will generally be warm after that, you will have some chilly nights in the Appalachians. I have known several people who sent their sleeping bag home after weeks of hot weather where they couldn't imagine it would ever get cold again. Don't go that far. You'll need it again.

I carried, and used, knee warmers. They came in handy on a number of cold and/or rainy days, and they weigh little. You could substitute tights if you prefer, but there is little reason to take both. I took a pair of lightweight zip-off pants, and never zipped off the legs. They were light enough that even on hot days, I appreciated the fact that they kept the sun, wind and mosquitoes off my legs. I took arm warmers too, but these are probably not necessary since you will undoubtedly be taking long-sleeve shirt(s) and a rain jacket as well.

How much clothing you take is largely a personal preference. You obviously need to take enough to stay alive. After that, however, it's a tradeoff between comfort and weight. My own preference is to accept a bit of discomfort occasionally to keep the weight down.

Keep in mind that every year is different. Many people, like me, will tell you how the weather was on the year they did it. It may be very different for you.

Routes / Re: TransAm to Western Express, VA to Califorinia
« on: October 04, 2012, 10:02:31 am »
I also agree that a hammock might not be the best choice for this route. You mention "sleeping on the side of the road in the woods" but on a good portion of this route, there are no woods by the side of the road.

If you stick to the route, traffic is only an issue in a few places. Many people are seduced by a short-cut, however, and traffic can be bad on these short cuts. You will avoid traffic (and increase distance and hills) by sticking to the route. I encourage you to do so. Some people prefer light traffic even if it comes with no shoulders, and others prefer wider shoulders even if it comes with higher traffic. The ACA routes generally prefer the former (as do I).

I did the TransAm with zero flats and the Northern Tier with only one. This can be accomplished with good tires, not riding too close to the edge of the road, riding around road debris, and brushing your tires off every time you take it off pavement.

I did the TransAm on $16 a day, which I'm sure is below average. This is possible if you stay out of motels and expensive campgrounds, buy most of your food in grocery stores, and start with a bike in perfect condition. Luckily, the TA has a lot of free places to stay and they are identified on the ACA maps (which is a good reason by itself to use the maps). I agree with Pete, however, that you should budget about $30 a day (less if you are sharing expenses with somebody). I only count expenses from wheel-dip to wheel-dip, nothing that comes before or after.

Eat whatever you like, but eat often. My cross-country trip this year was powered mostly by sandwiches, fruit and cookies. On most days I would put two apples and two bananas in my handlebar bag and a large sub sandwich in my pannier. You should be aware, however, that fresh food can be hard to come by along the TA in Virginia and Kentucky, so you have to be willing to eat junk when only junk is available.

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