Author Topic: general advice on making a tour happen  (Read 690 times)

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Offline litespeedlujak

general advice on making a tour happen
« on: June 26, 2014, 11:16:43 pm »
Any recommendations on good reading material such as books, blogs or other for a guy looking for a way to put it all together for an extended tour next summer.  Not really looking for inspiration.  I have that, but more is always better.  I'd love to do a circumnavigation of the U.S., if not 2015, then 2016.  Thanks

Offline BikeFreak

Re: general advice on making a tour happen
« Reply #1 on: June 27, 2014, 02:29:58 am »
Back in 1999 I was in a bike shop and accidentally stumbled across a Adventure Cycling map section. That map inspired me so much and triggered everything. I bought the complete Northern Tier set and just looked at them and got inspired. Then I read something about pack lists for touring cycles. That was it and nothing more. Sometimes I feel that nowadays I read too much instead of just hitting the road.

So my advice is: Don't read anymore and just hit the road.

Offline staehpj1

Re: general advice on making a tour happen
« Reply #2 on: June 27, 2014, 06:37:33 am »
So my advice is: Don't read anymore and just hit the road.

There is definitely something to that.  On the other hand some reading will give you an idea what others are doing.  That reading might be reading here , on bike forums, and reading some CrazyGuyOnABike.com journals.  Bear in mind that because others think something is the way to go doesn't mean it is the right answer for you.  This is especially true if you have some experience with packing for some other self supported form of travel like backpacking.

My advice is to pack light, taking only what you need, but don't get too wrapped up in the bike and gear choices.  Reading too much will be likely to make you think you need a lot of stuff that is definitely not necessary and get you too fixated on specific brands and models of stuff that may not even suit you and your touring style.  Read packing lists more with seeing what folks can do without in mind than with what added items they carry that you can do without. After you figure out what to carry, pick a bike and baggage system that suits your packing style, but don't get too wrapped up in that.  Packing the right stuff (and leaving stuff you don't need home) is a lot more important that building up the ultimate touring bike.

For learning what works for you as far as the actual touring...  The best way to learn that is to get out and tour.  Using an AC map for a well developed route like the TA, NT, or ST, especially in the beginning is a pretty good kick start.

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: general advice on making a tour happen
« Reply #3 on: June 27, 2014, 10:19:57 am »
A year or two out, I'd concentrate on riding a lot and planning your time off.

Riding a lot will get you used to hours at a time on the road, and if you have any half-way decent roads near you that will provide its own inspiration.  Go down a little hill and start thinking about going down big mountains; find a mile of quiet road and try to imaging riding like that for miles on end.

Unless you're young, rich, and foolish, you'll have to plan ahead.  Read some blogs or some of these discussions to figure out how much money it'll take you.  Do you need to win a lottery, or can you live frugally and save enough?  Figure out how you're going to take 3-6 months to go for a bike ride; save your leave if you've got a job and talk to your boss about being gone that long.  Can you get extra time off without pay, or do you need to plan on job-hunting when you get back?

I really like Willy Weir's writing.  Get his books and read a story every couple of days.  Space them out so you have time to digest and incorporate his gentle lessons.

Offline John Nelson

Re: general advice on making a tour happen
« Reply #4 on: June 27, 2014, 01:30:43 pm »
Reading too much will be likely to make you think you need a lot of stuff that is definitely not necessary.

For me, it was just the opposite. The more I read, the more I saw how much trouble people had early in their tours with overloaded bikes and how much stuff they mailed home. So all that reading convinced me of several things: (1) Don't send stuff home--leave it home in the first place, (2) Take stuff you will actually need, not stuff you think you might need, (3) Do at least some riding close to home with exactly the same gear you will be touring with.

Everybody is different with how much preparation they want to do. For some, intensive preparation reduces stress and allows them to enjoy the trip more. For others, intensive preparation takes all the spontaneity and fun out of it. Figure out what camp you're in and act accordingly.

I read a lot of journals over at crazyguyonabike.com, and a lot of forums both here and at CGOAB. This added many problem-solving options to my arsenal. I saw what problems others had had and how they had solved them. That gave me a lot of good ideas, which not only helped me feel comfortable that I could cope out there on the road, but it helped me solve the day-to-day issues I actually did encounter. Furthermore, it alerted me as to what I might want to stop and see along the way. It's a bummer when you later realize that you passed close to something really cool but didn't stop because you didn't know it was there.

Oh, and if you want to make sure the trip actually happens, set a specific starting date now, tell everybody you know, mark it on your calendar, and start counting down the days. I counted the days down to my first major tour starting at 815 days out.
« Last Edit: June 27, 2014, 01:34:04 pm by John Nelson »

Offline staehpj1

Re: general advice on making a tour happen
« Reply #5 on: June 27, 2014, 02:03:27 pm »
Reading too much will be likely to make you think you need a lot of stuff that is definitely not necessary.

For me, it was just the opposite. The more I read, the more I saw how much trouble people had early in their tours with overloaded bikes and how much stuff they mailed home. So all that reading convinced me of several things: (1) Don't send stuff home--leave it home in the first place, (2) Take stuff you will actually need, not stuff you think you might need, (3) Do at least some riding close to home with exactly the same gear you will be touring with.

You have a point.  My advice may be bad if it leads someone to not pare their list down.  What I was trying to help avoid was reading other folks lists and saying, "that's a good idea, I'll add that and that and that..."

Offline litespeedlujak

Re: general advice on making a tour happen
« Reply #6 on: June 27, 2014, 11:41:27 pm »
Pretty good advice from all of you.  I've read quite a bit on hiking the Appalachian Trail.  That is something I've wanted to do for years.  Bad knees is likely gonna kill that.  Not many folks pack lighter than AT hikers, so I totally agree with the light hiking deal.  The only real catch to this is the money issue.  Correct in that I need to plan ahead and save quite a bit.  I am hopeful of starting a non-profit for needy folks in my area.  Gonna try and get some sponsorship.  I want to use my ride to raise awareness and funds.  I'm a dreamer, but I'm a 50 year old dreamer.  I guess that might make me a realist as well.  The tip on doing quite a bit of riding fully loaded is an excellent tip.  Lots of country roads in my state of West Virginia to do that.  Thanks again.

Offline bogiesan

Re: general advice on making a tour happen
« Reply #7 on: June 28, 2014, 10:28:02 pm »
Knees, back, wrists... I run recumbent, these are not issues for me.

Urge all newbies to participate in several charity metric and full century rides. You learn how to ride, how to hydrate and fuel, take care of flats and minor mechanical issues and you can always bail.

Then sign up for a few week long fully supported tours. You learn how to pack, pitch and strike camp, deal with downtime, and you will meet dozens of experienced tourers. 
I play go. I use Macintosh. Of course I ride a recumbent

Offline JDFlood

Re: general advice on making a tour happen
« Reply #8 on: June 30, 2014, 12:58:13 pm »
Weekend bike tours... 2 days, 3 days. I used to ride to work, then ride to a place along my route for Friday night, then ride further along the route on Saturday, and home on Sunday. When I had done local 2 and 3 day loops, I then drove after work on Friday to a starting point, a motel. Then ride my loop from there. I did lots of credit card touring. Then when you cut the cord, you just keep going. And you have plenty of experienced. It's fun to read when you can't be riding. I love, "Where the Road Ends", amazing book by a girl that rides from Russia through Mongolia, China, Vietnam, etc. Gutsy chick.

Also, I am 6' 3" and my weight has varied between 220 and 265. That weight and touring gear will no work on a regular touring bike. A Trek 520 will carry me, and ten or twenty pounds before the frame starts to flex, when it does, the steering becomes unstable. If you experience ANY instability in steering, first place to look is if your bike is overloaded. Money is not  a problem for me, so I had three custom bikes made for me in different configuration to bear different weights. So my fully loaded touring bike is dead solid with me and 40 or 50lbs of stuff going 50mph down a pass... it is really absolutely solid.

I also, read a couple books like a couple guys that quit their corporate jobs and did the Northern Tier... so when I hit Rainey Pass on June 3rd, I was ready for the weather and grueling climb.
« Last Edit: June 30, 2014, 05:33:38 pm by JDFlood »

Offline litespeedlujak

Re: general advice on making a tour happen
« Reply #9 on: June 30, 2014, 04:34:13 pm »
JD, good tip about the weight thing.  I have looked at Gunnars.  I might need to look at them again.  I can't imagine the 520 flexing like that.  Does anyone have any thoughts on riding aluminum on a long tour?
« Last Edit: June 30, 2014, 04:41:14 pm by litespeedlujak »

Offline JDFlood

Re: general advice on making a tour happen
« Reply #10 on: June 30, 2014, 05:45:02 pm »
As a test tour, I rode to a local state park with my Trek 520 with my camping equipment (this was 15 years ago, fairly heavy stuff) and literally the back would flex a couple inches to the left, then a couple inches to the right... I'm not joking. It was scary. Then I started to realize, that my other bike was doing it also, just with much less flex and the steering was unstable. Then on long rides I talked to a bunch of slightly large people on LiteSpeed titanium bikes (vintage early 2000's), and they were talking about having to break all the way down hill because of wheel shimmy. Over time, I realized how common the problem is, and how few people actually even recognized it as a problem. And if they do, they don't realize why it is happening. So, all my bikes are carefully built to be flexible enough to take out the maximum road bump (vertical flex), but with no lateral flex at all. Independent Fabrication built my tour bikes, and Waterford built my communter bike, each hit the weight thing on the head. Maximum bump removal, absolutely no flex under the expected loads (commuting, credit card touring, fully loaded touring). To me, this is the reason you buy a custom bike, not the size... unless you are outside the normal bike dimensions. Co-Motion recognized this long ago and builds bikes not to flex.

« Last Edit: June 30, 2014, 05:47:14 pm by JDFlood »

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: general advice on making a tour happen
« Reply #11 on: June 30, 2014, 05:52:25 pm »
I'm surprised at the report of the 520 flexing.  Just FWIW, my Novara Randonnee has carried me (close to JDFlood's weight) and 50+ pounds of load without any flexure.  I had a little bit of shimmy at one point, but that turned out to be a slight wheel truing issue.

At our weight, I'd expect some of the lightweight road racing bikes would flex.  On a touring bike, though, there's a whole laundry list of problems that need to be checked before blaming shimmy on the frame.  Wheel true is my bugaboo (winter commuting is hard on wheels!), but there's also weight distribution on the loads, fork flex, wind on long trail bike designs, loose headset, stem flex, and even user error -- the rider shivering or riding with locked arms.  After those causes (and the rest I can't think of off the top of my head) have been eliminated, then you can blame the frame itself.

Offline JDFlood

Re: general advice on making a tour happen
« Reply #12 on: June 30, 2014, 07:14:32 pm »
With the 520... I couldn't go fast enough to have wheel shimmy, I had to hold on for dear life to prevent lateral oscillations from getting out of control. If I stood up the back would go a couple inches one way then it would rebound like a spring... the frequency was three or four seconds per oscillation, like slow motion. In less sever cases as far as the wheel shimmy, perhaps that is an over simplification. Maybe head tube shimmy would be more accurate, it is frame flexing at the head tube that causes the instability I am talking about the fork goes one way and the head tube flexes with it.  Also, what frame size you have is important. I am 6'3", so I have a pretty big frame, they get stronger the smaller they are. Anyway, I have spent a lot of time over a couple years becoming aware of and mitigating the issue.
« Last Edit: June 30, 2014, 07:16:18 pm by JDFlood »

Offline driftlessregion

Re: general advice on making a tour happen
« Reply #13 on: July 01, 2014, 10:57:39 pm »
Jobst Brandt has this to say about shimmy: "Bicycle shimmy is the lateral oscillation of the head tube about the road contact point of the front wheel and depends largely on frame geometry and the elasticity of the top and down tubes. It is driven by gyroscopic forces of the front wheel, making it largely speed dependent. It cannot be fixed by adjustments because it is inherent to the geometry and elasticity of the bicycle frame. The longer the frame and the higher the saddle, the greater the tendency to shimmy, other things being equal. Weight distribution also has no effect on shimmy although where that weight contacts the frame does. Bicycle shimmy is unchanged when riding no-hands, whether leaning forward or backward." Complete article at http://www.sheldonbrown.com/brandt/shimmy.html.
I watched a friend almost go down two days ago during a shimmy at 35 mph. He stopped it by grabbing the top tube with both knees. Like JDF he was a tall guy with a big bike (steel).

Offline Westinghouse

Re: general advice on making a tour happen
« Reply #14 on: July 02, 2014, 10:11:24 pm »
Load you panniers. Mount them on the velocipede. Get on, insert, move your legs and feet in little circles. Travel light and free. Don't sweat the wind. It happens. Watch for storms. They can be lethal.