Author Topic: Newbie, just signed up for the TransAm tour!  (Read 3088 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline Apotheosis

Newbie, just signed up for the TransAm tour!
« on: October 18, 2013, 09:21:31 am »
Howdy gang,

I just signed up for the TransAm tour and am really excited for the ride.
http://www.adventurecycling.org/guided-tours/self-contained-tours/2014-transam/
This is going to be my first bike tour, so I’m certainly jumping right into the deep end.

Originally I was inspired by a friend who rode cross-country several years ago and blogged the experience. Ever since, I’ve wanted to do it as well. Circumstances have come together to make 2014 the year it will finally happen.
There’s still a lot I have to do; buy a touring bike (can’t ride 4k on my carbon roadie!), get some gear, break in the bike, figure out tips & tricks I wouldn’t even think to ask… and lots more.
Right now, I feel both competent and a little overwhelmed. There’s no question I can handle this physically (I’m in very good shape), but logistically, I don’t know what I don’t know.

I don’t have specific questions (yet) so if anyone wants to chime in with thoughts, experiences, advice or just a ‘how do you do?’, please feel free!

Cheers,
Aaron
« Last Edit: October 18, 2013, 09:23:58 am by Apotheosis »

Offline John Nelson

Re: Newbie, just signed up for the TransAm tour!
« Reply #1 on: October 18, 2013, 10:42:00 am »
Don't make the TransAm your first tour. Make it your third or fourth. Start with an overnighter some nice weekend. Pick out a campground about 50 miles from your home. Ride there on Saturday and ride home on Sunday.

Offline Apotheosis

Re: Newbie, just signed up for the TransAm tour!
« Reply #2 on: October 18, 2013, 11:00:42 am »
John, thanks for the feedback, albeit not very constructive.
I'm already committed to the tour, so it's happening. It's also 7 months away, and I plan to do some 'weekend touring' in the interim to field test my gear, get in some rides, etc.


Offline Cyclesafe

Re: Newbie, just signed up for the TransAm tour!
« Reply #3 on: October 18, 2013, 11:01:44 am »
Actually you can use your carbon roadie with a BOB trailer.  People do it all the time.  I did the Southern Tier in 2005 with a Trek 5200.

Of course, you may WANT another bike, which is understandable.  I bought a Co-Motion Americano for my next tour - which was the North Star.  My roadie would not have done well on that route. 

I finally sold my Americano in 2012 after riding it 47,000 miles.  Got $1500 for just the frame, which proves that there is a healthy secondary market for quality bikes.

There are lots of bikes and configurations that will do the Trans Am and most tours that are exclusively on well-maintained asphalt.  The bigger question is whether you plan to tour extensively after you are done.  Since this is unknowable, you might want to consider the trailer option for your first tour, then look for a dedicated touring bike if you get the bug and then have a sense of what YOU want.  For example, I sold the trailer and got panniers - personal preference.
Hoping to do the North Star with ACA in 2014.

Offline indyfabz

Re: Newbie, just signed up for the TransAm tour!
« Reply #4 on: October 18, 2013, 11:31:47 am »
My first tour was ACA's group self-contained Northern Tier tour. The first day of the trip was only the second time I had ever ridden a fully-loaded bike. (The first time was a 62 mile day ride with all my gear the week before I hopped the train to Seattle.) The first night of the trip was the first night I ever slept in a tent. After we reached Bar Harbor, I rode home to Philly on my own and then to the beach in NJ.

I enjoyed the experience very much. The trip also taught me skills and gave me confidence I didn't have before. Armed with such I did two solo, month+ tours the follwing year, including one in Andalucia, Spain.

Not to focus on the negative, but, IMO, the two biggest "cons" are not being able to set your own schedule/itinerary and the possibility that there may be a person or two in the group that just rubs you the wrong way. There is not much you can do about the former. In our case, majority ruled, and you do have to finish by a certain date. Ultimately, the issue didn't cause much dissention. As for the latter issue, the best piece of advice I can offer you is to try to be as tolerant as possible and, most importantly, don't let the actions of others get to you to the extent that it keeps you from ejoying the experience.

Offline Cyclesafe

Re: Newbie, just signed up for the TransAm tour!
« Reply #5 on: October 18, 2013, 11:40:32 am »
John's comment relates to the concept of testing out your gear close to home so you can address anything amiss before you leave for for a multi-month trip.  People bail ACA tours for all sorts of reasons.  The more issues you iron out before you leave, the better.
Hoping to do the North Star with ACA in 2014.

Offline rondickinson

Re: Newbie, just signed up for the TransAm tour!
« Reply #6 on: October 18, 2013, 01:40:40 pm »
My son (age 23)  and I (age 53) are committed to the TransAm in 2014.  Starting late May, going east to west.  I have been doing a lot of research and these forums are very helpful.  Lots of nice folks.

Last free summer for him and bucket list for me.  I think it will be a great memory for us.

Folks on these boards advised me to go East to West, instead of the reverse.


I have a larger budget than most folks, and I ended up buying a Lynskey Backroads (www. lynskeyperformance.com) which is a Titianium bike.  It is durable, smooth and confident.  Long Haul Surley and Co-Motion also make nice touring bikes.  I spent about $4,000 but am very happy with the bike. Maybe I would be just as happy with the others, don't know.

I bought Ortlieb panniers.  Waterproof and durable.  Reading blogs and then seeing other riders on my test tour this is the most commonly used brand by far.

Think backpacking stuff.  Think of each item, tent, Thermorest, sleeping bag, etc.  Get the absolute lightest you can afford.  I just bought a Big Agnes one man tent which weighs 1.75 lbs vs. my older two man tent at 5 lbs.  You have to think about taking the absolute minimum amount of stuff that is necessary, and get rid of the nice to have things. 
Have some tools (spook wreng, multi-tool, fiber fix it, chain tools and spare links, tubes and levers) but keep this limited to what you know how to use.

Minimize your clothing.  Two sets of bike riding, one set of camp clothes.  No chair.  Jetboil cooker, one pan, one cup, plate and spork.   The goal is to ride not camp. 

Rain gear is where I am heavier than some.  I have shower pass jacket, pants, water socks and hood.  May go with just the jacket, I'm uncertain.

Test ride with 65-75 total weight of bike, bags and gear.  I'm capable but had to get it out of my mind to try and go 16-18 mph.  I'm riding at 11-12 mph and teaching myself to slow down and enjoy.  I don't know how the moutains will go.  I have riden in a Colorado week long ride before and if you slow up it's not that much harder.  I have a moutain tripple on the front.  I have been up 6% grade with full load and stay in the second ring, so I have another to go. 

We will camp 6 of 7 days.  We will eat out 50% and cook 50%. 

All in all I have spent a lot. For both of us around $10,000, but plan to do lots more touring.  Plus I got $10,000 from a bike accident in 2012.  I think we will spend $75-$100 a day for two of us for 75-80 days, so it's costly.
We are both have the same challenge.  Good luck to both of us :)
Just my thoughts so far.

Offline Apotheosis

Re: Newbie, just signed up for the TransAm tour!
« Reply #7 on: October 18, 2013, 01:49:05 pm »
Actually you can use your carbon roadie with a BOB trailer.  People do it all the time.  I did the Southern Tier in 2005 with a Trek 5200.

Thanks for the tips. I gave some serious consideration to doing just that. I love my Fuji roadie, and can ride it day in and day out. However, I don't think carbon is suited for a 3 month trip like this. I have this paranoia of taking a minor spill and cracking the frame. Or some other trivial incident that otherwise damages the carbon and subsequently ends my trip early. The other factor is that its set up for racing, and even if I swap out for a compact crank, it's still not optimum for fully loaded climbing.  I'll do better to just buy a properly suited bike. I'm looking at the Surly Disk Trucker. Surly Trucker has good reviews, is in my price range, and I like the idea of the disk breaks for more reliability on the downhills. (Though I'm not trying to derail this into a strictly bike choice discussion.)


Offline Apotheosis

Re: Newbie, just signed up for the TransAm tour!
« Reply #8 on: October 18, 2013, 01:56:47 pm »
Folks on these boards advised me to go East to West, instead of the reverse.

.....

Think backpacking stuff.  Think of each item, tent, Thermorest, sleeping bag, etc.  Get the absolute lightest you can afford.  I just bought a Big Agnes one man tent which weighs 1.75 lbs vs. my older two man tent at 5 lbs.  You have to think about taking the absolute minimum amount of stuff that is necessary, and get rid of the nice to have things. 
Thanks for the feedback. I signed up for the ACA TransAm group ride, which is East to West (which accommodates me, because I'm in Philadelphia.)

As for what gear to bring, good thoughts on minimizing. I've been trying to mentally identify what I need as absolutely necessary, versus nice to have, versus 'too heavy.'  I bought a nice "2 person" backpacking tent that is 5 lbs. I could get a 1.75 pound tent, but it would have cost me 3x as much. Gotta balance price with what that cost gets me.

One thing I'm going back and forth on is my camera. I have a nice DSLR that's not light (as DSLRs tend to be). But it feels like a missed opportunity to go on this trip and not take my best camera. I keep telling myself that I'm in super good shape, so I can handle the extra weight. But that weight does start to add up; a few ounces here, a pound there, and suddenly I'm carrying and extra 10 lbs!

Offline rondickinson

Re: Newbie, just signed up for the TransAm tour!
« Reply #9 on: October 18, 2013, 02:53:03 pm »
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=to0YTIj_tyY&list=PL454607BC28D11E51
Packing.

I'm think Go Pro Camera.  Very light.  Pricey :(

When you leaving  We are going toward the end of May.

Winter conditioning starts now :0

Offline Cyclesafe

Re: Newbie, just signed up for the TransAm tour!
« Reply #10 on: October 18, 2013, 03:48:24 pm »
Well, I forgot that my 5200 was triple.  That makes all the difference.

The LHT is a good value; discs add very little to a touring bike, so don't let their lack of availability foreclose other options.

It's not just about weight.  You need to be comfortable in the worse conditions you are likely to get stuck in.  Many a cyclist has bailed because they were ill-equipped for the elements.  Look at sample gear lists from experienced people on CGOAB, but decide what suits you best.  This is another reason to have done some camping before you leave for the Trans Am.

My Allak weighs 7 lbs, but it is a veritable palace.  But my bag and pad together weigh about 2 lbs, so my total sleep system is reasonable.  Lots of opinions.  Weigh those of experienced people more than those with lots of posts...
Hoping to do the North Star with ACA in 2014.

Offline indyfabz

Re: Newbie, just signed up for the TransAm tour!
« Reply #11 on: October 18, 2013, 04:00:14 pm »
One thing I'm going back and forth on is my camera. I have a nice DSLR that's not light (as DSLRs tend to be). But it feels like a missed opportunity to go on this trip and not take my best camera. I keep telling myself that I'm in super good shape, so I can handle the extra weight. But that weight does start to add up; a few ounces here, a pound there, and suddenly I'm carrying and extra 10 lbs!

Try to bring it if you can. When I did my x-country trip I was doing a lot of B&W photography. I carried a Mamiya 645 with a metered finder, power winder and 3 lenses and a 33mm with 1 lens, and, of course, film. I didn't regret it. Take it on your "shakedown" trips and see if it works for you.

BTW...Depending on the time of year, Trophy Bikes on 2nd Street in NoLibs may have several LHT's in stock. They may not have a disc version, but at least you might be able to try different sizes to get a feel for what might fit you best. And they have at least one employee that actually does some touring.

Let me know if you would like some ideas for weekend shakedown trips close to home, such as French Creek State Park. If you can arrange transportation, ACA's Atlantic Coast route between Port Jervis, NY and Philly makes a nice three day ride.

Offline westrid_dad

Re: Newbie, just signed up for the TransAm tour!
« Reply #12 on: October 18, 2013, 05:02:00 pm »
John's comment relates to the concept of testing out your gear close to home so you can address anything amiss before you leave for for a multi-month trip.  People bail ACA tours for all sorts of reasons.  The more issues you iron out before you leave, the better.

I definitely echo Cyclesafe's recommendation.  As a former leader, I know how challenging these longer group tours can be, for a variety of reasons.  Be as prepared as possible for the things you can anticipate and control.  That way you'll have energy left to deal with the unexpected, whether it is having make and break camp in the rain for 5 days straight, putting in longer days than planned, or learning to live with that "new friend" for 90 days.  You know, the one who wants to ride with you the whole time and talk, talk, talk...?   :-\

One of my stories of lack of preparation is from a Northern Tier ride.  A gentleman signed up last minute, flew into Seattle and bought all his gear, including a new bicycle.  The first day with the group, preparing for the "shake-down" ride, it took him over an hour to get his bike loaded up.  Just getting out of camp, he took two falls because he couldn't get out of his clipless pedals, which were also new to him.  He called it quits right there, before the trip had even started.  He said he would sell all the equipment before he flew home.  While this was a "what the heck???" experience for most of us, it really was a shame.  I don't know if that gentleman ever tried bike touring again, but based upon his first attempt, totally unprepared both physically and equipment-wise, I'm sure it was very discouraging for him.

btw, while he was struggling with his clipless pedals most of us were either in awe and/or slightly jealous.  This was back in the day when LOOK pedals and shoes had just started making their way into mainstream road cycling, primarily for racers / triathletes.  I know, I just dated myself there.

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Newbie, just signed up for the TransAm tour!
« Reply #13 on: October 18, 2013, 07:40:41 pm »
Folks on these boards advised me to go East to West, instead of the reverse.

Always fun to debate all winter, but I agree E-W is a good idea.

Quote
I bought Ortlieb panniers.  Waterproof and durable.  Reading blogs and then seeing other riders on my test tour this is the most commonly used brand by far.

Another good choice.

Quote
Minimize your clothing.  Two sets of bike riding, one set of camp clothes.  No chair.  Jetboil cooker, one pan, one cup, plate and spork.   The goal is to ride not camp. 

On the ACA tour, you can leave the stove and pan at home.  You'll end up sharing the cooking gear.

Quote
Rain gear is where I am heavier than some.  I have shower pass jacket, pants, water socks and hood.  May go with just the jacket, I'm uncertain.

Go double-purpose as much as possible.  The Showers Pass jacket is a good choice for a outer shell on chilly mornings.  I rode through some chill showers with just tights, though you'll want to dry them ASAP.  You can probably skip the rain pants, water socks, and hood.  Add some long-fingered gloves and a long fleece or pile top (maybe arrange for someone to mail it to you at the foot of the Rockies).

And remember the USPS.  As long as they stay around, you can mail stuff home, or have someone mail it to you as required.

Offline PeteJack

Re: Newbie, just signed up for the TransAm tour!
« Reply #14 on: October 19, 2013, 03:13:40 am »
Another plus of going E-W. On three days you get an extra hour as you cross time zones. How cool is that?