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Messages - John Nelson

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General Discussion / Re: What about your Bike??????
« on: January 05, 2011, 10:11:17 am »
In a tiny town with a population of under 100 where no one locks their doors even when away on vacation, and the next town is 40 miles down the road ...

Sometimes they don't even close their doors, and they leave the keys in the ignition of their car at all times. Even so, these same people remove their cars from the garage and put my bike inside, just because they know that we're more paranoid than they are.

Gear Talk / Re: Bike w/panniers Or BOB IBEX Trailer
« on: January 05, 2011, 08:21:01 am »
Ah, yes, the "big debate".

In my mind, since you already have a full-on touring bike and panniers, this is no contest. The panniers win hands down. But I know that many would disagree. I will note, however, that about 75% of the touring cyclists you meet on the road will be using panniers. There must be some reason for that.

Gear Talk / Re: What is a good weight for a tent?
« on: January 04, 2011, 05:58:51 pm »
I'm with Pete in that I leave most of my stuff on the bike and bring very little gear in. Nevertheless, I like extra room in the tent. Not infrequently my clothes for tomorrow are not fully dry and I lay them out on the tent floor to finish drying. And the extra room makes it easy to organize what little I do bring in.

Are there any Bike pros who could give me some specific tips on bikes?
The how-to department right here on the ACA web site is the first place to start:

Take this list and see if any of these bikes are in stock in your area (unlikely). Then ask which of these bikes can be ordered by your local bike shop. Ask if any of the staff at the shop is a touring cyclist. If so, ask for advice. Then ask if you are committed to purchasing if you have them order in a bike for a test ride. Find out how they will determine what size to order. And ask if they promise to work with you as long as it takes to make whatever bike you end up with fit well and be comfortable.

Make sure you understand as much as possible about what you plan to do with this bike. Most people are inclined to say "I want a bike that can do everything." This is a bad idea as that bike will probably not do anything well. If you are trying to buy a touring bike, e.g., don't try to also make it your "go-fast" bike. You won't like  it for either.
Here are some questions to ask yourself, and remember, try to make your answers narrow. Figure out what you will do with the bike most often, not everything you might do with the bike sometimes. Are you doing to tour mostly on paved roads or on dirt? Are you going to tour mostly in first-world countries, second-world countries, or third-world countries? What is your budget? Do you want something completely bullet-proof, or are you willing to risk some problems to save some money (note: some people like to solve problems)? Are you going to carry camping gear? Cooking gear? Do you like to take all the creature comforts, or run lean and light? Are you going to use panniers or a trailer? If panniers, two or four (I recommend four)? Are you also going to use the bike for commuting (that's about the only other purpose I'd suggest you plan for)?

Everybody has their own favorite bike, and we tend to naturally like the one we have. That's good news. If everybody likes the one they have, that means that all the bikes mentioned in the how-to department will do just fine. Very few people have ridden all these bikes and can give you an honst first-hand comparison. Don't try to find the "perfect" or "best" bike. Just try to find one that will work for you.

Buy it sooner rather than later. You want as much time with it as you can before your trip.

General Discussion / Re: Bike boxes
« on: January 03, 2011, 09:54:32 am »
If you decide to use an Amtrak box, be sure to check its dimensions against the rules of whatever airline you will be using to be sure that they will take it.

Gear Talk / Re: What is a good weight for a tent?
« on: January 03, 2011, 07:49:47 am »

General Discussion / Re: Across America: Beginning August
« on: January 02, 2011, 09:06:05 pm »
I don't think the answer is a $200 bike (unless you can find a good used one), but it doesn't have to be a $1000 bike either.

General Discussion / Re: Across America: Beginning August
« on: January 02, 2011, 07:18:06 pm »
The best tip I have is to go over to and start reading the journals. You'll learn a lot.

If you're not starting until August, I'd stay out of the top half of the U.S. unless you like the cold. Start thinking about when and where you'll cross the Rockies. You may want to go west-to-east to cross them early. For a first big trip, I strongly suggest following one of the ACA routes. The Western Express to the TransAm would probably work. If it starts to get too cold, you could drop down to the Southern Tier somewhere in the midwest. If you like the heat, you could take the Southern Tier the whole way.

There's at least a 50/50 chance your friend will bail on you, so be prepared to go solo. Solo is fantastic.

Start accumulating your gear when it goes on sale. REI offers members 20% off one item about once each season, and it's a great way to buy the big stuff (e.g., tent, sleeping bag, panniers, racks).

You're going to have a blast.

Gear Talk / Re: What is a good weight for a tent?
« on: January 02, 2011, 03:44:16 pm »
A good weight for a tent is zero.

Six pounds for a one-person tent is, in my opinion, very heavy. At $285, this is no bargain either.

There are a lot of one-person tents you can find for around 3 to 4 pounds, and a lot of two-person tents for around 4 to 5 pounds. Many people prefer a two-person tent for solo camping. A one-person tent can get quite claustrophobic.

Do you need a four-season tent? If so, you will have to compromise some on both weight and price over a three-season tent. Most cyclotourists use a three-season tent.

General Discussion / Re: need tips for first tour
« on: December 31, 2010, 03:57:46 pm »
Shipping your bike to the motel where you will spend your first night is very common. Be sure to talk with them first, of course. You can also ship your bike to most bike shops for a fee. Also consult Warm Showers to see if there are any hosts at your starting point willing to take delivery and hold it for you. ACA maps also list bike-friendly churches and other bike-friendly businesses who may be willing to take delivery.

Reading forums like this one and forums and journals over at is an excellent way to know what to expect on tour and how common problems are solved.

General Discussion / Re: Serious back/rump problems
« on: December 31, 2010, 03:53:44 pm »
If you have recently begun riding or increased your mileage, there's a pretty good chance this will resolve itself. Most new riders experience these pains for the first few weeks or months.

In addition to stretching, strengthing your core can also help ease the transition. The other important thing to do is to visit a bike shop and have them make sure your bike fits you. They will likely charge for this service, but it's worth it.

If the problem persists, visit a sports medicine clinic in your area for help.

Routes / Re: newbie needing advice
« on: December 31, 2010, 12:56:38 pm »
Just a point of ACA terminology to avoid confusion. The "TransAmerica" and the "Northern Tier" are two separate routes. If you are doing part of the "Northern Tier," you are not on the "TransAmerica."

You'll have a blast. There's very little you need to know. Just go.

General Discussion / Re: re-entering cycling
« on: December 22, 2010, 10:08:41 pm »
Ride outside as much as possible, including any of the nicer days in the winter. Ride hills if any are available in your area. Slowly build up your weekly mileage through the summer, and then don't lose your conditioning over next winter. Try to ride every day, but don't force it. If you're beat, take a day off. Make sure your bike fits you. If you start having knee or other joint problems, get a professional fitting.

Start collecting your gear. Read touring journals and forums to learn what you need. Start taking your gear along on some of your training rides. Try to take a simple overnight trip sometime this summer, and a week-long trip some other time between now and your big trip.

Gear Talk / Re: Biking Shorts/Pants
« on: December 20, 2010, 12:02:18 pm »
Threads wander. You cannot stop it and it's not necessarily bad. Just go with the flow. Once you get to page 2 of a thread, most people don't even remember what the original question was. Use what you can and ignore the rest. No one person owns a thread.

General Discussion / Re: West Nile anyone?
« on: December 20, 2010, 10:54:02 am »
There have been 979 reported cases of WNV in the U.S. in 2010, and 43 deaths. These are not big numbers. WNV is fairly easy to prevent with simple precautions (use DEET, don't handle dead birds). 80% of those who contract WNV show no symptoms at all. You should worry about it to the extent that you take precautions, but it shouldn't restrict your activities.

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