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Messages - dombrosk

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General Discussion / In praise of rest days...
« on: October 18, 2012, 11:25:23 am »
Looking back over past threads, it seems that a lot of the discussion of rest days revolves around whether they are necessary and how often they should happen.  Kind of like how most folks approach the idea of a colonoscopy.    :)

I'd like to open up a thread for riders to share stories of memorable rest days.  Perhaps this could be a resource for people who are new to bicycle travel, or experienced riders who are looking ahead to their 2013 rides.  To kick it off, I'll share stories about two past rest days and one that I'm planning for my next tour.

1st - Colville, Washington, 2005
After cycling west out of Seattle and heading north across Whidbey Island to Anacortes, I'd turned east onto the Northern Tier headed for East Glacier.  By the time I reached Colville I was ready for some time off the bike.  I found a cheap motel with doors that opened right into the room, wheeled my bike in, and found some reasonably clean clothes to change into after a shower.  My first night was a hot meal in a friendly cafe followed by a movie at the Alpine Theatre.  I love old main street movie houses, and it was great to be able to visit and support another one.  The next day I slept late, then put on my rain gear and very little else and headed to the nearby laundromat.  Such a luxury to have every bit of clothing clean and dry after 10 days of travel including heavy cold rain on the coast and scorching dry heat around Okanagon.  Once I had clean clothes it was time for a nap before heading out the explore the town. 
There was an impresssive amount of sculpture!

After a visit to an ice cream parlor, more walking, and dinner, I found myself on the hill overlooking town in time for the lighting of the candles for a Relay for Life at the local high school.  By the time I got back to my room it was getting dark, but still enough time for a serious look at my bike and gear before another sound nights sleep. 
The next morning I headed east refreshed and amazed to see the world turn green before my eyes as I headed into a new climate zone.  By intentionally 'breaking' the touring mentality for a day I had managed to get a fresh pair of eyes on the world.  And, it was amazing how much stronger I was after a full day off the bike.

2nd Schiermonnikoog, The Netherlands, 2011
If you've ever run across a children's book called "Paddle to the Sea", you can relate to the theme of this ride which was "Pedal to the (North) Sea".  After cycling south from Amsterdam to Cologne, I'd looped back up to meet my wife in Amersfoort before heading north to Friesland.  The last 2 days heading north were into intense headwinds, so it was a real joy to board our ferry to Schiermonnikoog.  Most of this island is national park, and cars are very limited.  Even for a country with such a cycling tradition, this was a cyclists dream.  Being June, the beach crowds had not yet arrived and we enjoyed having a sleepy village and open spaces stretching to the sea largely to ourselves.

It was during this rest day that my wife christened layover days as a 'vacation from our vacation', which for me sums up the notion of a day to hit the reset button in as many ways as possible.

And next?  Wernigerode, Germany 2013 ?
As I'm planning next summer's ride from Amsterdam to Berlin, I'm already looking forward to a layover in the Harz Mountains in the former East Germany.  This will probably be more than one day, because there's a steam train up Der Brocken, famous for Walpurgisnacht and a role in Goethe's Faust.  And, who knows what else I may discover while wandering about...

I'd love to hear other forum members share their stories of rest days that were about more than 'just' rest.

Happy riding (and resting)!

Gear Talk / Re: front platform racks: Surly Nice or Old Man Pioneer?
« on: October 03, 2012, 05:25:18 am »
I've had good experience with the Surley front rack.  Yes, it is heavy, but I have a personal preference for bomb-proof over lightweight.  The top rack is handy.  I've sometimes bungied large bundles of firewood on top of it with no problems with stability.  I can't speak to the attachment system because I left that to my good friends at my local bike shop... it rides quite solidly on the bike. 
One odd feature that I like is the attachment point at the front of the rack.  For commuting in the U.S. I mount a front white blinkie light there in addition to my more serious headlight.  My guess is that a person could find other uses for that, also.
Enjoy Africa!  I've never biked there, but during a month travelling across South Africa I was struck by the friendliness of the people I  met and the beauty of the land.

General Discussion / Re: Overcoming butt pain
« on: October 03, 2012, 05:10:22 am »
I've had good luck with another non-Brooks alternative, the Serfas RX saddle. Like the Terry saddles, it has a cut out section.  Serfas makes several of these model saddles, some are too wide, more like a 'comfort bike' saddle.  The one I have is narrower, I think they call it the 'performance' model now.

Before I got my first one of these saddles I had considerable pain after 50 miles which got very challenging above 70 miles.  My first ride on this saddle was magical.  I remember the distance- 82 miles, because I was so astounded that I had experienced no pain at all, actually zero.

I appreciate the love that Brooks owners have for their saddles.  For me, the ability to leave this saddle in the rain, zero maintenance, and especially the zero break-in time made it a better choice.

Gear Talk / Re: Panniers - dry bag vs. traditional
« on: October 01, 2012, 06:25:36 am »
Hi Rick...
to reply to your question, after having worn out a lot of gear over the years I'm tending now to buy things that I think will last longer.  Given my age these Arkel panniers will probably last as long as my touring days.  Some of it is a financial guess that replacing will cost more over the long run... but a big part is more trying to avoid a throw-away mentality.

And, to be honest, the Arkel GT-54's are just pretty amazing bags.   :)

Routes / Re: Barcelona to Amsterdam
« on: October 01, 2012, 06:17:28 am »
I wouldn't worry about winds along the Rhine... I've bicycled sections in both directions between Koblenz and Amsterdam and it's not been an issue.

Where winds have been an issue for me is north of Amsterdam where there can be strong winds coming off the North Sea, especially along the Ijssselmeer and up in Friesland.

For your trip I'd think following the seasons north would make sense.  Enjoy the ride!

International / Re: Suggested Routes or Tours in the Netherlands?
« on: September 30, 2012, 02:55:45 pm »
Sorry to be so slow replying to this message, because there is so little traffic in the International forum, I wanted to add a few thoughts for other folks coming here.

Definitely tour in the Netherlands.  I think it's an experience every bike tourist should experience, imagine a land where bikes take precedence over cars, where you can go (almost) anywhere more easily by bike than by car.  My big "I'm not in Kansas anymore" moment was realizing that the bike route system begins at the terminal in Schiphol... as you can see in this photo:

I've done two tours so far

Schiphol - Haarlem, then north to Hoorn and Enkhuizen, before coming back south across the long causeway to Lelystad, then down to Otterlo and the Hoge Veluwe National Park (REALLY nice), then down along the River Maas to Roermond before turning into Germany heading for the Mosel.

2nd Trip was Schiphol - Utrecht, then down the Rhine into Germany (to Cologne, back up through near Munster to the Netherlands), then Amersfoort - Deventer - Drents-Freise Wold National Park, then north to the island of Schiermonnikoog (spectacular) - then south to Zwolle.

Schiphol is a very bike-friendly airport.  If you fly back from there they sell cardboard bike boxes for a reasonable price, very similar to the Amtrak box if you're familiar with it.

For navigation in the Netherlands you need to learn the 'Knopppunkt' system.  While there are long-distance routes (LF numbered) you have a lot more flexibility going point to point.  At every intersection you will find signage to the other points onward from there. 

Like this

My daily riding plan tended to be a cyptic list of numbers tucked into my handlebar bag.

For an on-line routing tool here's a great site:

(hint, if you use Google Chrome it doesn some auto translation for you)

For map purchase in the US I've had good experiences with these folks

Happy planning and riding!

Gear Talk / Re: Surly and Jeff Jones H-Bars
« on: September 30, 2012, 02:26:07 pm »
Drop bars vs. alternatives tends to be a personal choice that lots of folks have strong opinions on. 

I prefer more upright riding positions, much closer to fully vertical than an aerodynamic tuck.  Also, I like to be able to stretch my back and neck by rolling forward and back while riding.

There is a real issue with a variety of riding positions, no matter what kind of bars you ride on. 

When I looked at the photo you posted I did have some concerns about that.  My solution to a varied riding positions is bar-ends mounted at a fairly steep angle.  I can mix up left and right hands up and down them, cup my palms on top of them to get fully upright, and pull back against them on ascents to get more leverage.

I wasn't sure how well bar-ends would fit onto the Jeff Jones bars.

FYI, here are some photos of my setup

Gear Talk / Re: Panniers - dry bag vs. traditional
« on: September 30, 2012, 02:12:26 pm »
I'd been using a pair of Jandd bags for year round commuting and touring, and faced the decision you're up against a few years ago when I wanted bags that would come on and off more quickly for European touring.

The damp cloth issue that BikeFreak mentioned put a real wet blanket on the dry-bag for me.  I've been on tour a LOT where I'm making and breaking camp in a steady rain.  I like drysacks inside of a bag that can breath.  I also like pockets... it really helps me keep track of stuff to have a number of them.

I ended up keeping my Jandd front bags... they get no use commuting so they're in good shape.  Also, I keep my camping gear in them so if I'm staying in a hotel where they let me keep the bike indoors in the hotel (has happened a surprising number of times in Germany and the Netherlands.) I just leave them on the bike.

For rear bags I got the nice Arkel bags.  I've liked their small handlebar bag and tailrider bag, and in general like doing business with them as a company, even more so now that they have a good relationship with my local bike shop.  Sometimes for me my purchases revolve around 'voting with my dollars' for a business I like supporting.

I've done three tours with the Arkels now and have zero regrets.

But as you pointed out... definitely a personal choice.

General Discussion / Re: Health/Medical Insurance while cycling abroad
« on: September 30, 2012, 01:59:12 pm »
When I spent a month in South Africa a few years ago, one of the requirements of the sponsoring organization was insurance that provided 'medical evacuation'... to cover a situation where you might need to get back home for continuing care, but a standard airline seat would  not be OK.

Since then, I've NOT purchased additional coverage while travelling... my regular coverage is OK for me overseas.  But if I were to be looking at policies I'd definitely check out their coverage of medical evacuation.

Safe riding, everyone!

Gear Talk / Re: Surley Troll
« on: July 06, 2012, 08:44:52 am »
We just returned from our first tour with my wife riding her new Surley Troll.  While it has been a good commuting/recreational bike, I was anxious to see how it rode loaded with front and rear panniers.  The handling was excellent and she kept exclaiming during the trip how much she liked the bike!

Her Troll is set up with Planet Bike fenders, Surley Nice Rack (front), Jannd Expedition rack (rear), Schwalbe Marathon Supreme tires, and a Rohloff.   If you're thinking of a 26" wheel bike, I'd definitely consider a Troll.

General Discussion / Re: What do you use for sunscreen?
« on: June 29, 2012, 08:13:45 am »
For folks with 'non-reactive' skin, almost any sunscreen may work fine.  If, like me, you tend to be prone to rashes, it gets more difficult.

Here's one to try:  Aveeno Face SPF 30... although it's sold for face I use it as my primary sunscreen without having any skin reactions.  In the past I've had good luck with some of the fragrance-free Neutrogenas.

Gear Talk / Re: Need a large lightweight bag
« on: April 18, 2012, 05:41:16 am »
On my last tour in Europe I was able to get an amazing amount into a North Face Base Camp duffel
It's not something you'd want to throw away... I took a 12x12" cardboard box (flat in the duffel) with me and then mailed it to my last-night-stay from the airport in Amsterdam. 
Probably too expensive for some folks, but I've found it handy for other uses than bike touring.  I like having something sturdy enough to put trekking poles and hiking boots into with no worries about tearing.

Gear Talk / Re: Surley Troll
« on: January 15, 2012, 11:09:48 am »
I don't have any experience with the Troll, but am also interested in the bike. 

My wife is considering getting one as a commuting/touring/all-around bicycle.  Upright handlebar riding position and Rohloff-ability are both nice features.  She did test ride a stock model and was very happy with the ride and handling.

Here are some resources I've stumbled upon, I'd love to hear other 'opinings'!

Gear Talk / Re: shoe covers for cold weather
« on: December 11, 2011, 08:36:50 am »
I've been bike-commuting through the winter for six years now in Minnesota, riding about an hour each way.  Here are a few things that help me stay happy.

1.  Exact temperature matters.   I dress very differently at 35 than at 20 degrees.  Above 20 I think in 10 degree bands, once it gets below 20 then every five degrees makes a difference.

2.  Warm feet and hands have a lot to do with warm ankles and wrists.  Those are the places that blood flows through to get to our fingers and toes.  For my ankles, I've taken to wearing smartwool nordic socks that come up over my calf quite a way, then pulling my tights on over the socks to create a double layer.  Below 30 I'll usually add rain/wind pants on top of that.

3.  Above 30 I ride in my leather Keen bike shoes, adding neoprene toe covers which are the bottoms of old worn out shoe covers that I cut off.  (Thanks LBS for that tip!)  Sometimes I'll add Showers Pass shoe covers over that, especially if it's damp out.   Yes, the shoe covers don't breathe, but for an hour that's not been an issue for me.

4.  Below 30 for many years I wore Shimano gore-tex 'winter' shoes which had little insulation but were somehow quite warm, adding the toe covers and shoe covers as needed. 

5.  The chemical 'toe warmers' really do work, as do the hand warmers.  But it has to get down close to or below zero for me to need those.

6.  Last year I picked up a pair of Lake winter shoes at an end-of-season sale... I'd heard they were magical and that's been my experience with them.  Last week I rode in 5 degrees with just my medium-weight nordic socks and the Lake shoes and was fine for an hour.  With both fingers and toes, I find it's really important to do a lot of wiggling around to keep the blood flowing.  Because I could only find road style shoes in my size I bought them, but they are not easy to walk in so if buying full price for touring/commuting I'd go with the mountain style shoe.

7.  Although it's not about warm feet, staying upright is a big part of a happy, safe, bicycling experience, and if you live in a part of the country that has ice/snow, consider the nokian studded tires. They understand winter riding in Finland!

Riding in the winter seems crazy until you try it... and the best way to do that is to keep riding through the fall to gradually acclimate and adjust your gear.  But having an owl 10 feet in front of me,  silently pacing me in my headlight beam through a soft falling snow in the pre-dawn darkness is worth having to wiggle my toes.

I think of bike commuting as the tour that never ends.  Happy riding in all seasons!

Gear Talk / Re: Rohloff- two questions
« on: November 21, 2011, 05:53:37 am »
Because I started this thread, I thought I should give an update on how my decision went.  I decided to get my frame built up for a Rohloff, and have no regrets at all.

I'm a daily bicycle commuter (10 miles each way) and did a 700 mile tour this summer through Germany and the Netherlands.  With the first snow I've finally retired the new bike for the winter and pulled out my rusty old diamondback with studded tires, and I miss the Rohloff already. 

The noise issue has been a non-issue for me.  At times, it's been a plus as I'm coasting up on a pedestrian and they can here me before I ding my little bell, but it's not significantly louder than other freewheels.

For gearing, I went to the absolute lowest ratios possible and my old knees have thanked me for that.  I tend to pedal as slow as 4 mph uphill, and the Rohloff has handled that just fine.  On the top end, pedalling maxes out a bit above 20 mph.  That's fine by me, faster than that and I'm usually coasting.

Being able to shift at a stop turned out to be a bigger advantage than I expected.  Yes, we all know to shift in advance of a stop... but sometimes a car or pedestrian does appear in front of us... or we forget.  It's kind of magical to be able to spin into any gear.

I was nervous about the grip shifter, but the triangular design has been very easy to handle, even with heavy cold weather gloves or heavy rain.

My chain life is definitely improved thanks to the lack of stress put onto it.

It was interesting to notice how many cyclists in Germany noticed my Rohloff.  Many were surprised that Americans had heard of it.  In many cases it was the first thing they noticed about the bike.

Summing up, yes it was expensive.  But I'm satisfied that the price is fair for the quality of the unit and I expect to get many years of service and happy riding.

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