Author Topic: Need advice for my trip this summer  (Read 4049 times)

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Offline tswhosonfirst

Need advice for my trip this summer
« on: December 05, 2013, 10:52:01 am »
Hello everyone,

I have been hanging around this forum for a little while as I plan a cross-country bike trip with a couple friends. We are planning on going from Savanna to San Francisco this summer. This trip is going to be a charity ride. We are new to this so we are looking for all the help we can get.

With our route we are planning on hitting the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, and a few other locations. Do any of you have any suggestions about this route?

We do not have bikes. Because this is a fundraiser and we are college students we do not have a lot of money to spend on bikes. We are trying to not spend over $800 on a bike but preferably less. Do you have any tips for getting a good bike in our price range? What would you recommend for a cheap touring bike, or would you recommend that we try a different type of bike. Could we get a hybrid or mountain bike to work well for this trip? We also heard that you could take a normal road bike if you pulled a trailer. Is that true? We could probably get a nice used road bike for cheap.

If a couple of the guys were to get mountain bikes while the others had touring or road bikes would the mountain bikes be able to keep up? Would it take a lot more work to stay with them or with smooth tires could they ride with the road bikes just fine?

Have any of you done a fundraiser trip where you were able to partner with a LBS and they provided gear for you? We are hoping that we can get some good deals because it is a fundraiser but we are wondering what we should expect. We are students in Chicago but live in Ohio and Michigan; let me know if any of you are from that area and have had luck with a specific bike shop.

If you have any other tips or comments that would be awesome too. We are getting really excited about this trip but there is a lot to figure out. This forum has already been a lot of help and I am sure that I will be seeking more advice in the future.

Thanks,
Tim

Offline RussSeaton

Re: Need advice for my trip this summer
« Reply #1 on: December 05, 2013, 02:28:32 pm »
I plan a cross-country bike trip with a couple friends. We are planning on going from Savanna to San Francisco this summer. This trip is going to be a charity ride.

We do not have bikes. Because this is a fundraiser and we are college students we do not have a lot of money to spend on bikes. We are trying to not spend over $800 on a bike but preferably less. Do you have any tips for getting a good bike in our price range? What would you recommend for a cheap touring bike, or would you recommend that we try a different type of bike. Could we get a hybrid or mountain bike to work well for this trip? We also heard that you could take a normal road bike if you pulled a trailer. Is that true? We could probably get a nice used road bike for cheap.

If a couple of the guys were to get mountain bikes while the others had touring or road bikes would the mountain bikes be able to keep up? Would it take a lot more work to stay with them or with smooth tires could they ride with the road bikes just fine?

Where did this idea of a cross country bike ride come from?  Charity ride?  Do you ride a bike now?  Have you ever ridden a bike over long distances?  A lot of your questions about bikes implies you know nothing about bicycling.  I'm not a fan of giving bike buying advice to someone who knows nothing about bikes.  I'd suggest you postpone your cross country ride for a few years.  Buy a road bike now.  Ride it for a half dozen years.  Ride 5,000-10,000 miles a year for the next half dozen years.  Learn about bicycling.  Then ride across the country.

I rode an entire summer immediately following college graduation.  But I had been riding for 10 years and knew what bicycling involved.  Touring for a summer wasn't much of a stretch for me.

Offline DaveB

Re: Need advice for my trip this summer
« Reply #2 on: December 05, 2013, 05:14:15 pm »
Where did this idea of a cross country bike ride come from?  Charity ride?  Do you ride a bike now?  Have you ever ridden a bike over long distances?  A lot of your questions about bikes implies you know nothing about bicycling.  I'm not a fan of giving bike buying advice to someone who knows nothing about bikes.  I'd suggest you postpone your cross country ride for a few years.  Buy a road bike now.  Ride it for a half dozen years.  Ride 5,000-10,000 miles a year for the next half dozen years.  Learn about bicycling.  Then ride across the country.

I rode an entire summer immediately following college graduation.  But I had been riding for 10 years and knew what bicycling involved.  Touring for a summer wasn't much of a stretch for me.
Thanks for writing this as you saved me a fair bit of typing.  My first reaction on reading the OP was incredulity.  These guys don't own bikes, don't know what type to buy, don't currently ride and don't say what, if any, charity they are trying to assist.   Amazing.

Offline John Nelson

Re: Need advice for my trip this summer
« Reply #3 on: December 05, 2013, 05:25:24 pm »
Tim,

Okay, let me try a more upbeat reply.

Let's say that you're already in great shape because you do lots of other sports. And lets say that you've got plenty of time to do this, at least four months. When you get to Savanna, go down to the local Walmart and buy a bike for $100 (don't buy it earlier, because it will cost you as much as you spend on the bike to get it to Savanna). Load it up and off you go. Plan your route to go past as many other Walmarts as you can. That way you can buy another $100 bike if the one you have dies. You can probably get across the country on two or three bikes. That's probably cheaper than many other options. When you get to SF, donate your bike to Goodwill (it'll be more economical than getting it home). Start out by riding 10 to 15 miles a day. Take some days off when you are tired. Gradually build up to riding 50 miles a day in about a month. Try not to get killed while you're learning safe cycling.

You're young. You're flexible. You're broke. You've got perseverance. You don't mind discomfort. You're not above taking a handout. You're willing to hitchhike if necessary. You'll make it.

Your chances of getting cheap/free stuff from your local bike shop is zero--come up with another plan. No, the mountain bike guys will not be able to keep up with the road bike guys. Yes, you can pull a trailer--that might be your best bet. Make the road bike guys pull the trailer(s) to even things out. Pack light--very, very light.
« Last Edit: December 05, 2013, 05:34:55 pm by John Nelson »

Offline tonythomson

Re: Need advice for my trip this summer
« Reply #4 on: December 05, 2013, 10:09:46 pm »
I'm with John on this, your young give it a good shot - in the end there is nothing mystical about riding a bike or long distant touring - you just keep going. Don't let anyone put you off.
 Do your research on your route and time of year. Take a tent and your set to go.  My advice would be not to go down the mountain bike route and whatever you buy put the best tyres around on it.
We need more youngsters like you willing to go out there and have an adventure - get out of your comfort zone.  Should be made compulsory  ;D  Most of all have fun.
Just starting to record my trips  www.tonystravels.com

Offline zzzz

Re: Need advice for my trip this summer
« Reply #5 on: December 05, 2013, 10:35:49 pm »
Hi Tim:

I'll also give you a little encouragement and advice. I had a friend who when he graduated from college decided to ride his bike across the country over the summer with little more experience than you apparently have and he made it. He started out doing 30-40 mile days and rode himself into shape and by the end of the trip he was doing 4-500 mile weeks. You all are young and if you're not playing video games all day and you start taking your prep seriously NOW,  you should be okay.

I think your inclination to go with a used road bike is a good way to go for the amount of money you want to spend. Reading this is probably a good place to start:

http://www.adventurecycling.org/default/assets/File/AdventureCyclist/OnlineOnlyFeatures/BuyersGuide/TouringBike_Shurbert.pdf

Alternatively, you can also buy a used cyclo-cross bike and that can work very well for touring. I was recently looking into buying a used 'cross bike and there were several pretty nice ones for around $800.

Whatever you buy you need to get it sooner rather than later and start getting out on the road. More than any issue with getting your legs ready, you need to get used to dealing with traffic and you need to get your backside prepped for being perched on a bike seat all day, every day.

I think it would also help you to find a local expearienced cyclist who is willing to go for a 1/2 dozen rides with you and explain the do's and dont's of being on a bike and out on the road.

Also take note of the of the "How to Department" on the ACA web site for lots of information you will find useful for what to pack.

Good luck,

Pete

Offline tswhosonfirst

Re: Need advice for my trip this summer
« Reply #6 on: December 05, 2013, 10:42:16 pm »
Russ and Dave, I see where you are coming from. It would probably be the smart thing to wait a few years and gain some experience and then go on a trip but we have found that we have the time to do it this summer and it may be our only shot. We may be novice bikers but we have plenty of experience in camping and backpacking; there are plenty of skills that should transfer over. We are also in pretty good shape (we are on the college soccer team) and we have the next six months to train.

I have done plenty of research on touring bikes to know what is a good touring bike but most of them are out of our price range. What I have not found much information on is what would be a good cheap bike to do a trip like this on. Posting on this forum is part of my research. I am perfectly ok with you saying that I should not take a mountain bike. I will trust your opinion; that is the reason I am asking people on this forum.

Our idea came from us wanting to do something crazy and different. We are willing to step out of our comfort zone and try something new. We also have friends and teachers that have done the same thing and they have influenced it.

The organization is A21. They work toward ending human trafficking and helping the women that get stuck in these terrible situations. We decided on this organization because our school had a conference on human trafficking awareness and it really affected the four of us.

John, Tony, and zzzz I thank you for your support. I do not think that we want to be so unplanned as you mention John, but we are definitely willing to learn things as we go; that is part of the adventure.

zzzz your information is really helpful, I thank you. I will definitely check out those links.

I thank all of you for your comments but I am looking for helpful information that would help us with this trip because we are pretty set on doing it. The people that we know that have done it are completely supportive and almost as excited as we are about it. I have no doubt that it will be a challenge and there is plenty to learn and prepare but all of us are willing for the challenge and the challenge excites us.

Thanks again,
Tim

Offline CanvasAndSteel

Re: Need advice for my trip this summer
« Reply #7 on: December 06, 2013, 08:58:40 am »
Stalk craigslist. It's astonishing what kind of deals you can find on nearly unused vintage tourers: miyata, bianchi, Raleigh, univega, etc. Expect to spend under $300 and then repack bearings and replace cables and housing, buy new tubes and tires (plus an extra one of each), get racks and panniers from Craig's as well and you're set. Should be able to outfit bike and carrying for under $600. Have fun, go slowly and carefully as you're learning. When you get to SF you'll be pros and you'll have fabulous memories.

Sent from my HTCONE using Tapatalk


Offline DaveB

Re: Need advice for my trip this summer
« Reply #8 on: December 06, 2013, 09:08:22 am »
Forgive  me for originally thinking this was a completely hairbrain idea.  Your second posting sounds a lot more reasonable and more like you've really thought this over. Your current physical conditioning and outdoor experience should allow you to get into "cycling shape" fairly quickly.

As to a source of reasonably priced bikes (I assume the Walmart suggestion was a joke, I certainly hope it was! :) ) do you have a local Craig's List?  That can be a source of very good bikes at low cost.  Also, post WTB (want to buy) notices in local bike shops specifying what you are looking for.  Most have bulletin boards for this type of posting.

I would avoid mountain bikes unless you can find decent quality rigid fork/hardtail  (i.e. no suspension) model and put slick tires on them.  They will have a weight disadvantage but will have appropriately low gearing and most have rack mounting eyelets.

Otherwise road bikes are preferable for their reduced weight but pure racing/sports bikes will have too-high gearing and lack mounting eyelets for racks.  The suggestion for a cyclocross bike is a good one as they are rugged and can be regeared rather easily. Obviously, a real touring bike would be ideal but used ones are rare.

Finally, no matter what, get bikes that FIT.  Bikes are like shoes, you want the right size.  If you have a knowledgeable friend or if there is a bicycle club at your school or in town, by all means get their help with choosing and setting up what ever bikes you buy.  Then ride, ride, ride.  And enjoy.   

Offline staehpj1

Re: Need advice for my trip this summer
« Reply #9 on: December 06, 2013, 09:27:48 am »
Thanks for writing this as you saved me a fair bit of typing.  My first reaction on reading the OP was incredulity.  These guys don't own bikes, don't know what type to buy, don't currently ride and don't say what, if any, charity they are trying to assist.   Amazing.

Not sure why that is amazing.  I met lots of folks who were on long tours that they started as non cyclists especially on the Trans America.  My two companions on the TA had almost no miles under their belt at the start and one was never a cyclist previous to the TA.  They both did great.  Being young and in generally good shape helps but even being older of somewhat sedentary doesn't mean someone can't start a coast to coast trip if they either train a bit of take it easy for the first 10 days to 2 weeks.

Offline indyfabz

Re: Need advice for my trip this summer
« Reply #10 on: December 06, 2013, 01:07:18 pm »
One of the guys on my Northern Tier group tour was a non-cyclist right out of college. He did great as he was in shape from being a runner who lived at high altitude in CO. He once joked that his house was higher than the highest pass we crossed.

At the risk of stirring the "strike out on your own" crowd, I am going to at least suggest that you consider chaning your starting and ending points and follow the TransAm route. It would take care of a lot of the planning and the map list the valuable resoruces you will need. If you have the time and really want to end in Frisco, you could ride down the coast from Florence, OR.

Offline John Nelson

Re: Need advice for my trip this summer
« Reply #11 on: December 06, 2013, 01:23:46 pm »
I second the idea of considering using the TransAm/Western Express if you're not firmly committed to the route you mentioned in your first post.

Offline DaveB

Re: Need advice for my trip this summer
« Reply #12 on: December 06, 2013, 01:38:02 pm »
Not sure why that is amazing.  I met lots of folks who were on long tours that they started as non cyclists especially on the Trans America.  My two companions on the TA had almost no miles under their belt at the start and one was never a cyclist previous to the TA.  They both did great.  Being young and in generally good shape helps but even being older of somewhat sedentary doesn't mean someone can't start a coast to coast trip if they either train a bit of take it easy for the first 10 days to 2 weeks.
Read my second posting.  As to my first one, yes, what you describe can be done and has been done but that still doesn't make it a good idea.   

One difference is in your example, your non-cycling companions had you as a guide to both bike choice and riding.  Based strictly on the OP, these guys have absolutely no knowledge of bikes and anything related.  I'm sure they can and will learn but, at first blush, it really did sound like a poorly thought out idea. 

Offline tswhosonfirst

Re: Need advice for my trip this summer
« Reply #13 on: December 06, 2013, 03:02:39 pm »
I am sorry that I made my first post unclear, I guess I did make myself sound pretty uninformed.

About the route, I will look into other routes like the TransAm. We decided on our route because we know some people along the way and we have all dreamed of some of the sights (Grand Canyon, Yosemite). I will discuss it with the other guys.

So more about bikes:

If we were to get used bikes, how old is too old. I have seen a ton of bikes from the 80s and early 90s on ebay and craigslist for $200-400. At what point would we have to upgrade too many parts/components that it would no longer be worth it. I guess I'm asking would an older bike's components work well or would we basically have to build a new bike?

I looked more into hybrids(thanks zzzz for the link) and they seem like they could work. If we were to go that route would the wheels work? I noticed that they have 32 spokes whereas most touring bikes have 36+ spokes. I don't want to be constantly changing spokes along the ride. Also would the upright seating position make it that much more difficult because of the wind? Are there any other pros/cons about hybrids?

It looks like I would have to change the gearing of a cyclocross bike whereas a hybrid should be ok where it is at. How much would it cost to make that change?

Offline staehpj1

Re: Need advice for my trip this summer
« Reply #14 on: December 06, 2013, 03:06:15 pm »
it really did sound like a poorly thought out idea.

I agree with that, but lot's of folks do something similar and they typically get along fine.  Also since they are starting to plan about 6 months out they have plenty of time to get it all sorted out.