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Messages - biased bohemian

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General Discussion / Re: Is it ok to travel solo...
« on: October 28, 2010, 11:47:34 am »
I am a beginner that traveled solo earlier this year.  It can be done and is a thrilling experience.  I didn't make it across country, but this was due to my diet limitations in regard to available food (vegan) and not the feasibility of a solo tour.  I can give several pieces of advice:

1. As others said, begin a routine of biking daily to increase your distance.
2. Do a 4-5 day practice trip prior to leaving and bring all the supplies that you are planning to bring on the full trip.  This will give you an idea of items that you need to add to your gear and others that need to be removed.  It also gives you an idea of what amount of food and water you need to stow with you at all times, which, for me, was the biggest impact to weight.  You will also gain an understanding of how reliable your maps and cell coverage may be.  Reliable maps are important. 
3. I would recommend buying an individual GPS system in addition to your cell phone (even if cell has GPS).  The cell battery should be reserved for emergencies and I hit plenty of areas in the mountains where I had no coverage and wish I could get a GPS signal.  Even ACA maps can have inaccuracies and it can be unnerving if you get lost alone, or are even uncertain if you are heading in the right direction, especially if you are getting tired or fighting the darkness.
4. Study the maps prior to leaving and know your distance that you can travel in a day fully loaded.  70-80 miles is nothing on flat ground but, if you are a beginner, cut this in half or more for mountains.  In some more remote areas you may find that the distance between campgrounds is longer than you can travel, which means a more expensive stay at a motel or hotel.  Maps like ACA don't have all the motels and hotels in the area listed, only some, so any means of preparation you can do beforehand will make for a better trip.     
5.  I think the most difficult part of traveling alone is bike and bag security, especially when going into a supermarket or restaurant.  I never had a problem, but I did lock my bike up every time and took in my front panniers when the area seemed sketchy.
6.  I prefer to travel solo.  If you like being alone then you are going to love this trip.  If you like meeting strangers then you will love this trip.  Having a fully loaded bike attracts attention.  I didn't have a concern about safety from people.  I did have a concern about problems with my bike and being stranded, especially during long stretches where there were no bike shops.  To help offset this, get a bike that is not complex and so is easy to repair, and bring replacement parts and tools.
7. Finally, I recommend bringing a camera (with additional memory storage), journal and a good audio recorder.  They are worth the extra weight.  I used the audio recorder for recording thoughts as well as the ambiance of each place that I slept.

If you are interested I kept a blog of my gear purchases, practice run and trip here:

Good luck

Gear Talk / Re: liquid fuel or canister fuel stove for Southern Tier?
« on: August 17, 2010, 03:53:56 pm »
Yes, not all post offices accept general delivery.  I had a package sent to one that did not accept general delivery because I didn't know any better.  The practice for this post office was generally to forward it on to the central post office (it was in Portland).  However, neither the post office i sent the package to or the Central post office could tell me if in fact they would forward the package, or where the package was at the time of inquiry.  The USPS 800 number also could not tell me how the package would be handled (it differs by post office and he could not "speculate" or where it was.  The package interestingly ended up at my residential address 3 weeks later - I have no idea how they found my home address given that I had just moved.  Long story short, I second the recommendation to confirm that the post office accepts general delivery.

Gear Talk / Re: Which pedal?
« on: August 08, 2010, 01:08:39 pm »
I ride Shimano SPD 520 on my touring bike and have had 1 wipe out and a near crash with a parked car. As others have said it comes down to gaining experience.  Climbing a steep hill fully loaded and then coming to a stop at the apex is the most difficult scenario, due to exhaustion, the incline with the bike load pulling back due to gravity, and the difficulty of getting started pedaling again.  After the first accident i learned that there are some steep hills (those with stop signs or lights at the top) where its safest to unclip and even walk the bike the final few feet.  In all cases i have learned to unclip at least one foot when approaching a stop sign or light.

I have platforms on my hybrid and much prefer the freedom.  For city and recreational riding SPD are probably not worth the hassle.  For touring I wouldn't go without, given the added power and stability.  I went with SPD with the added platform that the 520 comes with, instead of other cleat types, because the accompanying shoe could be worn indoors without the cleat scratching the floor.  This is another important consideration if touring.

Gear Talk / Re: Panniers- EZ on/off
« on: July 19, 2010, 10:44:35 pm »
I have a pair of front and back Ortlieb Roller Plus panniers.  The bags come off in one step, simply by grabbing them by their top strap and lifting (the strap is connected to a mounting system that opens when the strap is pulled but that close around the rack bar when pressure is released, so the panniers remain secure when riding).  A secondary latch is included on the back of the bag to further secure it to the rack, but this can be set in a way that doesn't restrict it from easy removal from the rack.  Also, if you are concerned about theft I believe Ortlieb sells an anti-theft system for the bag.  The panniers come with straps so that they can be worn as messenger bags.  As previously noted, they are waterproof.  Though I have never tried another brand, I have immensely liked these Ortlieb Roller Plus.  You can go cheaper with the Roller Classic and sacrifice the nice fabric look of the Roller Plus for a more traditional vinyl appearance.  Also, I think the Classic cannot be used with the anti-theft system.

Gear Talk / Re: Packing Thermarest
« on: July 17, 2010, 08:31:04 pm »
I use a 35 liter Sea to Summit “Big River Dry Bag”, which fits my tent, thermarest and water bladder with room to spare.  the bag itself has strong reinforced loops sewed onto the body so it can easily be strapped to the top of the back bike rack with a couple of bungie cords.  It is waterproof and easy to seal.  Purchased mine at EMS.  One of the best decisions I made.

I rode with trash bags prior to this, but these rip easy and aren't as easy to tie down.  Also can be a pain to get to the rear panniers with a bunch of loose junk strapped on top of the back rack.  With a single bag accessing the back panniers is a snap.

Gear Talk / Re: Good Cycling Shorts w/ Chamois
« on: July 17, 2010, 08:25:06 pm »
I have 2 pairs of Pearl Izumi shorts that I wore on extended trips.  Both are dark blue with deep pockets and are quick drying and rugged.  They come with tights that are decent and also removable. I don't bike in anything else.  Shorts can be worn stand-alone without sticking out in a crowd.  I'm not one to bike in straight tights so highly recommend these.

Gear Talk / Re: Chain Rings
« on: June 24, 2010, 08:21:42 pm »
Everybody that has posted to this comment is very experienced, whereas I am relatively new to touring, so take this for what it is worth.  I have a 48-36-26t crankset and find that, going uphills on the lowest gear with a bike weighed down with front panniers for a long tour, the bike at that speed is somewhat difficult to control, especially under high traffic conditions and with a narrow road shoulder.  This may not be an issue for more experienced bikers, but there must be a point that one crosses with lowering the gears that it becomes unsafe for long tour traveling.

Gear Talk / Re: Trek 520
« on: June 08, 2010, 06:57:19 am »
I agree with CastAStone that the Trek is a sharp looking bike.  I just recently went through the process of selecting a touring bike and you can read my review here if interested: .  Like you I am new to touring.  I ended up going with the Surly Long Haul Trucker in a Truckaccino color.  In reading reviews online I found that the LHT seemed to have a higher ratio of positive reviews and a large cult following.  The Trek cost about $250 more for a very similar bike.  Though the components may differ, select the bike for the frame and wheels, as the rest can be replaced.  In the end the bike will be loaded with baggage and covered in dirt, so the paint job won't really matter.

Gear Talk / Re: Finding a Touring bike
« on: May 31, 2010, 07:55:46 pm »
I just got through researching bikes and went with the Surly.  My first choice was the Rocky Mountain Sherpa 30.  If you have an opportunity to test drive this or buy it then i would consider it.  I have been riding the Surly for over a week now and its smooth as can be.  Surly has a large following and seems to be the old reliable in touring bikes along with the Trek.  I found the Trek to be better looking but overpriced for what it offered.  I won't be able to comment on the integrity of the Surly until I am done my cross country voyage, which will be September.

Gear Talk / Re: Tool kit?
« on: May 27, 2010, 09:09:28 pm »
As far as a multi tool, I have found the Specialized EMT Comp to have all the fixings that I need.  See my amateur review here:

Basic summary - it has:
Exclusive Disc pad separator and shims
Allen Wrenches: 2/2.5/3/4/5/6/8
Box Wrenches: 6/8/9/10
T25 Torx
#1 Phillips
4.5mm flat blade
Tire lever
Chain breaker
Bottle opener

Nice thing is it is compact and easy to manage.  Also, the bottle opener is the only tool that will get me through a hard days ride.

Thank you for the info on the gears and tires.

Has anybody ridden or owned the Fuji or Rocky Mountain Sherpa?  I am leaning towards the Sherpa.


I am new to touring and I want to purchase a touring bike in the next several weeks for the Nothern Tier trip from NH to WA.  The local bike shop sells 3 touring models - the Fuji Touring and the Rocky Mountain Sherpa 10 or 30.  As the trip is long and I will be flying solo my primary concern is reliability.  I will be camping whenever possible.

I have seen recommendations for bikes that have a low gear setting at most 25 but these bikes all come with 30.  Also, the tire size is 32 and I have read that 35 is the recommended size.

First - does anybody have experience owning or riding these 3 bikes?  If so, please let me know what your thoughts are on quality and reliability.  Would you recommend another bike in its place?  I am willing to spend in the ballpark of $1,500.

Second - is a 30 crank and 32 tire size reasonable, or will I regret not getting the recommended 25 / 35?  I'm fine with a workout, but don't want to skimp if most people have found it worth the cost.

Most reviews are for the Trek and Surely, with some for the Jamis Aurora and Canondale.  I have seen mixed reviews for the Fuji Touring and only one extremely positive review for the Sherpa.  I can try other bikes, but I trust the bike shop and would prefer to do business through them if possible.

Thanks!!! :-\

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