Adventure Cycling Association Forum

Bicycle Travel => Routes => Topic started by: KathyE on July 12, 2021, 11:25:43 pm

 
Title: What's a good first tour?
Post by: KathyE on July 12, 2021, 11:25:43 pm
I have my new Trek 520 and now trying to decide where to go for my first tour. I don't have any time constraints and just want to ride until I decide to stop, if that's even a thing.

I'm in MD so plan to start from there. I have been doing a lot of the C&O and GAP, including some overnights, for preparation. I thought about the Eastern Express Route but read that it should be started by early June. Am i too late?

I'm looking for suggestions please.

Kathy
Title: Re: What's a good first tour?
Post by: trek520touring on July 13, 2021, 12:14:35 am
Ragbrai would be a good one . But it’s in 2 weeks
Title: Re: What's a good first tour?
Post by: John Nettles on July 13, 2021, 12:28:09 am
Sounds like a wonderful idea!  Riding with no time limit.  The "start time" is based on doing the entire ride but I personally think you could start as late as end of July if you are willing to take a few days off if necessary in the northern Rockies if snow comes early.  It will melt quickly in a day or two. 

However, since you have no time limit, I would head out on the Eastern Express (EE) and take it to where ever you fancy.  If you get tired, you can quit in several locations and take the train back.  If you take it nice and slow, you can head south on Route 66 to the Pacific and then drop down to the Southern Tier (ST) on the Pacific Coast before heading to Key West.  That would use up a 3-6 months.  You don't say when you are leaving, how many miles a day you will do, and your tolerance for cooler temps so if you want/need shorter, ride the EE east and then maybe head up into Michigan or better yet, Wisconsin.  If it is getting too cool, take the Great Rivers south to the ST and decide from there. 

If you want something ever shorter, take the EE over to St. Louis and then train it back to Maryland in less than a month.

Or for that matter, take the train to lots of places and ride from there.  With no time limit or constraints, you really can do what you want to do pretty much.

Tailwinds, John
Title: Re: What's a good first tour?
Post by: staehpj1 on July 13, 2021, 07:29:48 am
What John said sounds good if you want to "just ride until you decide to stop".  Also depending on your timing you could do half now and half next season, some people do that.

If you were committed to going coast to coast you could also reconsider your plan to start near home and just start in the west and ride home.  You'd have the Cascades and Rockies out of the way long before it got cold and you'd have air travel out of the way up front.  I assume you'd probably get to see more unfamiliar territory.  You might hit the Ozarks and/or Appalachians for the Fall colors.

I try to start at the far end of my tours.  It is nice to have air travel out of the way up front and ride home.
Title: Re: What's a good first tour?
Post by: HobbesOnTour on July 13, 2021, 08:33:28 am
What are you interested in?
Plan a tour around that/those?


Are there places you want to go?
Link them together and cycle there.

While a route, be that a Trans America etc. can be appealing at first glance, it's a line on a map that someone else has drawn. Much more interesting to draw your own lines on a map and follow those.

Much easier to stay inspired when the destination at the end of the day or week is a place you really want to visit.
Depending on where you go, though, it may require a bit more research.

It strikes me that you seem to have the one thing most cycle tourists would give their eye teeth for - time! You have the chance not just to visit and see places but to really absorb them. Local festival at the weekend? Hang around and get a feel for somewhere different. Ask locals what you should see and visit.

European, I've done tours following rivers, WWII cemeteries, Belgian breweries, military advances, Normandy invasion. Town cemeteries are a popular spot for me. (I'm really not so macabre!)
Where I have followed "official" cycle routes I have almost always tacked on my own added destinations. But they always had a time constraint.

In the US I arrived in Virginia, satisfied a long held urge to visit Charleston then set off to Nashville then Texas on a musical pilgrimage.
Cycling into Music City, USA - now that's s thrill!

Where are your thrills?

Good luck!

Edited to add:
If you're not aware have a look at CrazyGuyOnABike.com It has a treasure trove of journals from all over the world and a really good search/map function. Great for inspiration and information.

(I'd strongly suggest staying away from the fora there, though).


Title: Re: What's a good first tour?
Post by: HikeBikeCook on July 13, 2021, 09:01:02 am
Couple ideas from a different angle. The GAP and C&O can be pretty long and lonely, but we have ridden it often and love it -- we ride together and enjoy the solitude. If you want to be with other cyclists and share their experiences you might want to head over to Crazy Guy on a Bike https://www.crazyguyonabike.com/ (https://www.crazyguyonabike.com/) and try and find a group (or a pod) that is heading East to West and planning on finishing on the TransAm Eastern Express. When I say "pod" I am referring to a group of riders in the same general area that are riding at the same general pace and keep crossing paths at camp. etc. If you could hit the route just ahead of them you could get your tour legs and allow them to catch you. This would allow you to hang out with more experienced riders and ride your way back home. Most East to West riders (at least the ones I am following) seem to be centered around Missoula, MT right now. I have not been tracking West to East since we are preparing for an East to West ride next spring, but you can search out some journals. One journal leads to another.

Riding alone or hiking alone offers great solitude, but can also wear on you after a while. For me, even if I am with a group (other than my wife) I tend to ride or hike at my own pace. However, camping with someone, or sharing a meal, and discussing the days events is very comforting and fulfilling.

I find it very tiring trying to keep someone else's pace (slower or faster) but I also seem to do it at a subconscious level. When I feel out of sync I just stop and get the other rider or hiker out of my sight and start again. How many times have you seen a rider behind you in the distance that gains on you slowly, then catches you with one big push, passes you and then their pace just dies in front of you because they have pushed beyond their limits?
Title: Re: What's a good first tour?
Post by: staehpj1 on July 13, 2021, 09:42:48 am
Couple ideas from a different angle. The GAP and C&O can be pretty long and lonely, but we have ridden it often and love it -- we ride together and enjoy the solitude. If you want to be with other cyclists and share their experiences you might want to head over to Crazy Guy on a Bike https://www.crazyguyonabike.com/ (https://www.crazyguyonabike.com/) and try and find a group (or a pod) that is heading East to West and planning on finishing on the TransAm Eastern Express. When I say "pod" I am referring to a group of riders in the same general area that are riding at the same general pace and keep crossing paths at camp. etc. If you could hit the route just ahead of them you could get your tour legs and allow them to catch you. This would allow you to hang out with more experienced riders and ride your way back home. Most East to West riders (at least the ones I am following) seem to be centered around Missoula, MT right now. I have not been tracking West to East since we are preparing for an East to West ride next spring, but you can search out some journals. One journal leads to another.

Riding alone or hiking alone offers great solitude, but can also wear on you after a while. For me, even if I am with a group (other than my wife) I tend to ride or hike at my own pace. However, camping with someone, or sharing a meal, and discussing the days events is very comforting and fulfilling.

I find it very tiring trying to keep someone else's pace (slower or faster) but I also seem to do it at a subconscious level. When I feel out of sync I just stop and get the other rider or hiker out of my sight and start again. How many times have you seen a rider behind you in the distance that gains on you slowly, then catches you with one big push, passes you and then their pace just dies in front of you because they have pushed beyond their limits?
I too have found that I greatly enjoy having company in camp sometimes and have made friends on tours.  Falling in with a loose group on tour that you camp with can be really nice whether it is just bumping into them here and there or it becomes an every evening thing.  I have never chosen to ride with them preferring to ride alone unless I was with a partner or group I started with.

On the TA we had friends we crossed paths with semi regularly.  On the Pacific Coast I hung out with a group every evening much of the way.  We planned where we would stop the next dat and met up there at the end of the day.  I usually was the first out of camp and never saw any of them on the road.  They were a fun bunch and we had a great time together in camp.  On other tours I crossed paths again with some the new friends I met just here and there.
Title: Re: What's a good first tour?
Post by: KathyE on July 13, 2021, 10:07:39 am
This is all such good information.  I think I prefer to ride on my own but being able to meet up with familiar faces in the evenings would be awesome. Especially since camping alone is still one of my things to get over. I don't yet know how many miles I  would do on average but some of it depends on how hilly it is that day.

I'll check out Crazy Guy on A Bike. So far during my training I've found that meeting others has been one of the best parts and look forward to that continuing.

I hadn't considered getting to the start and riding back. Interesting concept.

I am finishing gathering the rest of what I need and hope to start within 2 weeks - or less if I can.

Is using Ride with GPS enough for navigation or should I buy something like the Garmin Edge?
Title: Re: What's a good first tour?
Post by: HikeBikeCook on July 13, 2021, 10:36:57 am
Kathy -

I am recently retired and planning on doing much longer trips than our recent week to 10-day tours and a TransAm tour next year using the Eastern Express. A couple of things, everyone one is riding up the same hills you are and with a loaded touring bike very few of us can jump on the pedals and sprint over the hills. It is more sit back and grind them out and enjoy the ride. It is about seeing the country at slow speeds. There are no ribbons for first into camp and no one to judge you so try not to judge yourself.

I bought a Garmin Edge, and I have been near the leading edge of the tech industry for years, think in Excel, have Alexa manage multiple shopping and gear lists, and have lots of tech toys. We just did our first shake down ride with the GPS for a few days on trails and I found all the technology a bit distracting. My phone is typically off when hiking or touring and I want to hear babbling brooks and birds. If you can afford the GPS (we added an InReach Mini for peace of mind) go for it, but I think I am going to use mine more as a backup. I like to plan my route in the morning and focus on key turns and intersections. If you have ridden the GAP you are familiar with ZERO phone service for miles and the Garmin gear works if you can see the sky.

$$$ is not the only budget consideration but also watch your weight. We are doing on another shake down ride in a few weeks as we tackle the Erie Canal. We ride Surly Disc Truckers and my bike with front and rear racks already weighs in at around 41 pounds. Ortlieb panniers front and rear add another 8 pounds - empty!!! Toys add up! I have now weighed every item on my bike and in my pack to the ounce and have at least 10 pounds to eliminate - and I buy light high quality gear and hike with a pretty light pack.

There is an old adage for biking and hiking - the more gear you carry the happier you will be camping, the less gear you carry the happier you will be biking. Not getting a good night's rest can kill the joy in anything. You are off to a great start, hope to see you our there.
Title: Re: What's a good first tour?
Post by: jamawani on July 13, 2021, 10:48:01 am
Take the Amtrak "Capitol Limited" to Cleveland -
Then hop on the Northern Tier heading east towards wherever?
You ride along Lake Erie where it is cool.
Then the Erie Canalway in NY state.

There are Amtrk stations all along this route.

Once you get near Syracuse, the Northern Tier heads up into the Adirondacks.
So you are further from any Amtrak stops - but sweet riding.
You can head all the way to Bar Harbor, Maine - -
Then take Amtrak back to Maryland.

Cool summer weather all the way - until you get back home.
Title: Re: What's a good first tour?
Post by: staehpj1 on July 13, 2021, 10:56:54 am
$$$ is not the only budget consideration but also watch your weight. We are doing on another shake down ride in a few weeks as we tackle the Erie Canal. We ride Surly Disc Truckers and my bike with front and rear racks already weighs in at around 41 pounds. Ortlieb panniers front and rear add another 8 pounds - empty!!! Toys add up! I have now weighed every item on my bike and in my pack to the ounce and have at least 10 pounds to eliminate - and I buy light high quality gear and hike with a pretty light pack.

There is an old adage for biking and hiking - the more gear you carry the happier you will be camping, the less gear you carry the happier you will be biking. Not getting a good night's rest can kill the joy in anything. You are off to a great start, hope to see you our there.
We all draw the line in different places on gear weight.  I find that for me two kinds of comfort matter.  Comfort while riding and comfort while sleeping.  I find I can manage both with very little gear.  I did the Southern Tier with a base gear weight of 14 pounds not counting any consumables (water, fuel, or food).  I have gone both a little lighter and a little heavier since then.

Early in my touring career I toured with over 50# of gear and gradually trimmed the weight.  I find the lighter load much more pleasant.  Going that light isn't for everyone, but most folks could benefit from some trimming of their gear list.
Title: Re: What's a good first tour?
Post by: HobbesOnTour on July 13, 2021, 06:19:42 pm
This is all such good information.  I think I prefer to ride on my own but being able to meet up with familiar faces in the evenings would be awesome. Especially since camping alone is still one of my things to get over. I don't yet know how many miles I  would do on average but some of it depends on how hilly it is that day.

I'll check out Crazy Guy on A Bike. So far during my training I've found that meeting others has been one of the best parts and look forward to that continuing.

I hadn't considered getting to the start and riding back. Interesting concept.

I am finishing gathering the rest of what I need and hope to start within 2 weeks - or less if I can.

Is using Ride with GPS enough for navigation or should I buy something like the Garmin Edge?

As a solo traveller I have never had a problem meeting friendly people along the way or in campgrounds. I think a single person on a bike is far more approachable to a lot of people. I often think one of the most important things to pack is a smile.

As regards navigation perhaps start a new thread as there are lots of different opinions and experiences and this thread title suggests routes.

I'm sure you could use RWGPS exclusively but be aware of the limitations. It cannot reroute you if offline. Battery life can be an issue, especially if using the phone to take photos (powerbank?). Attaching the phone to the bike, especially for bumpy surfaces is important. Display can suffer or be damaged (sun and rain). Phone charging sockets are not usually designed for the bouncing a phone can get on the road so topping up could damage your phone. Finally, for the solo tourist there is always the question of a fall or crash and the need for a phone. A phone on the handlebars may not survive.

If you go down the gps route I'd advise you to have a good think about what you need and how you will use it. People are different, units are different. Remember, a bike gps unit is not the same as a car unit. Most units work best with a separate planner, like RWGPS, since a unit rarely has the capacity to plan a good route. Depending on where you go and the road options that may not be a big deal.

It's not clear how long you are going for, but based on not having a route I assume you will need to create routes "on the road". For that you will probably need an internet accessing phone, tablet or laptop for the planning to send to the unit. (Osmand, an app will work totally offline).
Wahoo units work with a phone app.

If it sounds complicated, sorry. It's really not when you can figure out how you will use it.

If you're leaving in two weeks I wouldn't bother too much. A couple of weeks on the road will tell you a lot about what you want and need. No reason you can't pick up a unit on the road if you decide you want one.

There are a couple of advantages for a unit -
Dedicated, weather proof and decent battery life.
For me, a huge advantage is the ability to record my daily journey, add photos, comments etc. and have a great memory of each day. Great fir family and friends to follow too. Also possible to do on your phone (RWGPS & Strava).

Good luck!




 
Title: Re: What's a good first tour?
Post by: OHRider on August 23, 2021, 02:01:31 pm
You could try the Ohio to Erie Trail.  It runs between Cincinnati and Cleveland.  Four of us completed it in June- 326 miles over 6 days.  We camped two nights, stayed at our houses two nights, and stayed at a Warm Shower's host one night.  The ride is upward of 90% on paved trails or the Towpath Trail which is crushed limestone.  Drop me a message if you'd like more details.