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Messages - Pat Lamb

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Routes / Re: Best cities for TransAm ride
« on: October 05, 2010, 11:30:02 am »
   A few friends and I are planning a 2011 coast to coast cycling trip.  We plan to start in June and take about two months.  We're going to start somewhere on the Atlantic and end somewhere on the Pacific but specific start and end cities have not been established.  So truly we may not be on the Trans America trail the entire time. We we're thinking about Boston, New York, possibly DC to Los Angeles, Portland, OR, etc. but really I just want to find the best route (both start and end points and possible cool destinations along the way).  I'm sure we'll stay in a motel every once in a while but mostly we're planning on camping most nights.
Here are some of my main concerns and questions:

-Safety (traffic, width of shoulders, bike lanes, etc.)
-Fun destinations along the way
-Resources (Food resupply, gear resupply)
-Beauty (Scenery)

Adventure Cycling has done the work for you on Safety and Resources; +1 for following one of their routes.  Roads with little traffic, excellent listings of resources by town/hamlet.  I don't know that I'd tie myself down to TransAm, as we had a great time on the Northern Tier.  Some of the best times you'll have will be talking with other cyclists, especially at campgrouds; and the AC routes tend to concentrate other cyclists so you'l have more to talk with.

Best scenery on TA was between Pueblo and Missoula, second best was Blue Ridge Parkway (which you could ride further SW) to a bit beyond Breaks.  NT was spectacular from Sedro-Wooley to Glacier, and there's some nice scenery in New England.  I'd like to ride the Grand Canyon Connector east on the Western Express to Pueblo, too.

-What are the best start and end cities and why?
-What are some great destinations, not too far out of the way?
-Are there any places I'll have to worry about not finding a good camp or stealth-camp spot?
-Feel free to throw any other advice at me.

What cities do you want to see?  Note it'll take a day or two to get across the larger cities.  Camping and especially stealth camping could be tough in the suburbs.  Check out warmshowers for alternates.

What do you want to visit?  There was an AC article a couple years ago about a  guy who wanted to bicycle to a home game in every major league baseball park in one season.  Or Cooky's Cafe in Golden, MO offers good food and great pies.

Pick some cities and take off.  Choose NT, TA, ST, or TA plus your choice of WE or L&C.  TA+WE might be the shortest, if you really can't stretch your two month time off.

So decide to go now.  This winter pick a route, next spring prepare, and have a great ride in the summer!

All the airline baggage policies I've read have specific exemptions for S&S coupled bikes or Bike Fridays, as long as they're packed in a 62" case.

Having said that, "Bike parts" is accurate and deflects the person behind the counter.

Could I trouble you for a link to an airline policy that exempts S&S coupled bikes packed within 62 linear inches from treatment as a chargeable "special baggage item"?  Also, I think "bike parts" would deflect no one.  It would prompt the direct question of whether it is a bicycle.  "Camping gear" is better because then you'll have a conversation about whether you've packed fuel or bear spray.

American's policy, for example, is at (you may have to do some cut and paste on the location).  Note the Exception: If bicycle and container are less than 62 dimensional inches and under 50 lbs., the bike is charged the applicable baggage charge for the 1st checked bag.

I don't really think you're lying when you say "bike parts."  If they object, open the case up and show the ticket agent or baggage handler, and ask them, "Does this look like a bike?"  It's not a bicycle, obviously, and it fits within a standard size piece of luggage (see for details).  I've never had to pay the bicycle surcharge.

Bear in mind that if the airline check-in person discovers that you're packing a bike he/she may charge you anyway. 

Airline Person: "Sir/Maam, what do you have in the box?"
Traveling Person: "Oh... just some bike parts!" or "Oh... just my camping gear!" ;-)

All the airline baggage policies I've read have specific exemptions for S&S coupled bikes or Bike Fridays, as long as they're packed in a 62" case.

Having said that, "Bike parts" is accurate and deflects the person behind the counter.

I don't really know what your plans are for the Thorn you're considering.  You might want to also consider a Bike Friday for travel touring.  Turning the suitcase that carries the bike into a trailer for touring is, IMHO, a seriously cool idea -- just pack everything else into a duffle for travel, and you're ready to go.

As I inferred in my prior post, my S&S bike packs reasonably easily into its hard case, but if I wanted to start touring on arrival, I don't know what I'd do with the case, or where I'd have packed racks and panniers to get them there.  I suspect I'd either have to pay through the nose for 2-3 airline bags, or ship something ahead; and if you're going to ship something, why not the bike too?

I'd really like someone who tours (unsupported) with an S&S bike to chime in here, as I'm getting curious!

I've got a different bike with S&S couplers, and while I've enjoyed it immensely, I'm not sure I'd buy it again.  Mine's more a play bike than one intended for long tours, and it's a bit difficult to pack a large (~60 cm) bike -- mostly because I insisted on getting the bars up where I can reach them, which means packing the fork and bars in the case gets difficult, and partly because of the breakdown that's necessary.  I have to take off the cranks, seatpost (with saddle attached), front caliper, fork, stem, and bars, deflate both wheels, and the TSA inspectors don't mess up the careful packing if I take the front tire off the rim.  If I had it to do over, I'd go with 26" wheels and small slicks.

I can pack or unpack in about 40-60 minutes each way.  When I was going to a town for 2 weeks, it was easy to justify.  Now that the job has changed, most of my trips are 2-3 days.  It's a bit of a hassle to assemble, then pack, for just one or two rides.

(Take a couple pairs of cheap rubber gloves to wear when unpacking or packing.  They'll save a lot of dirt and grease cleaning.)

Now to your questions, there's not necessarily a lot of mechanical ability needed; the stem adjustment is the only critical thing, if you can figure when to stop tightening the other bolts.  The big S&S wrench and 5 allen wrenches, plus a pump, are the only tools I need.

If you're going to use this bike for multiple tours or trips, it becomes much easier to justify the price.  For one trip, I'd suggest you ship it ahead to a local bike shop at the start of your trip, and have them assemble and tune everything.

Routes / Re: Route Advice
« on: September 16, 2010, 12:09:35 pm »
That said I can't agree that there is nothing in favor of W-E.  There are quite a few reasons why someone might choose W-E (like we did in 2007).  Here are a few reasons why we did:
  • We wanted the air travel out of the way up front.
  • We think that the Appalachians are the hardest part and wanted to do them when we were a bit road hardened.
  • We thought that starting far from home made bailing out harder.
  • It was awesome that we finished close to home and were greeted by friends and family at the end.

Isn't it interesting how two people can look at the same facts and come to opposite conclusions?  We went E-W because:
  • We were half way to Yorktown after my daughter's graduation.
  • We felt more comfortable with taking the bikes fully assembled and not damaged by baggage handlers to the nearest coast.
  • Friends and family encouraged us more at the start, when we needed it the most.
  • More civilization (small towns, stores) in the east, meaning more support when we weren't in such good shape

BTW, do you still think the Appalachians were harder than the Rockies?  Some east-bounders were in such good shape by the time they got to Kentucky that they didn't think they were hard at all.  I thought the Appalachians were about twice as hard as the Rockies.  Appalachians were 3x as steep in places, but not as high, and after 30 minutes, what difference does the length of the climb make?.

If you took the train to DC, you could take the Metro from Union Station to Washington National, and then catch the Washington Flyer bus out to Dulles.  Most Metro trains allow for up to 4 bicycles (non-rush-hour) per train.  Don't know about the buses, but I'd expect you could take a boxed bike (like you were going to fly with it) as luggage.

Agree with the car rental idea as the best solution, if at all possible.

Gear Talk / Re: Newbie looking for Good Gear advice
« on: September 12, 2010, 10:18:13 pm »
You might just want a handlebar bag, like the Ortlieb from or  Everything else could go on the trailer, about which I have zero knowledge.  Aside from a spare cable or two, a spare spoke or two, and maybe a rain jacket, you've probably got all the other gear you'll need from hiking.

We did the Great Parks connector from the TransAm up to Columbia Falls and Glacier NP (Apgar).  One of the prettiest, quietest parts of the trip.  Highly recommended.

One thing nobody else has commented on is, what are you going to be riding?  IMHO, riding a mountain bike for 4,200 miles so you could ride 200 miles off-road (making up the numbers here, but that's probably in the ballpark) would be foolish.  You're going to wish you had something that would roll coming across Kansas (and 9 other states). 

If you stay on the connector and go into Glacier, you'll have 6 miles of dirt road between Columbia Falls and Apgar, and that'll be plenty if you're on the road/touring bike.  (We went up that way, came back on the paved road, and had one problem -- a flat tire.)

To sum up my recommendations: TransAm to Missoula, Great Parks to Apgar, Northern Tier to Anacortes, all on (alleged) roads.

Routes / Re: Route Advice
« on: September 12, 2010, 10:01:51 pm »
You've got a couple of choices with AC maps.  The Western Express shoots east from San Francisco to Canon City, CO, where is meets up with the TransAm.  As some of the Sierra passes don't open until May/June, depending on the year and the snowpack, that might be an issue.  (Or maybe not.)

Alternatively, you could start on the Southern Tier from San Diego, pick up the Grand Canyon connector to the Western Express in Utah, and continue east from there.

You'll have to check for local knowledge about when the Utah and Colorado passes open.

(Sure you don't want go E-W?  Snow's kind of rare in the Virginia and Kentucky mountains after March!)

Have to agree with alfonso.  Grant (at Rivendell) has different ideas from conventional wisdom on how a bike should fit.  As long as you've got a long enough stem, you may be able to ride the Atlantis forever, despite what a racer boy fitter would say.

So unless you've got some sort of pain from riding the bike, I'd be inclined to say, "Thank you very much" and keep riding!

General Discussion / Re: Novice coming to America !
« on: September 03, 2010, 01:33:39 pm »
Another security question - how do most bikers carry their valuables ?

- money, credit cards, cell phone etc? belt....panniier....pocket...under your hat !!... ??????

I can imagine valuables in a pannier could disappear in a flash if you turned your back for a second in the wrong place. 

We kept wallets and camera in a bar bag, and took wallets with us when off the bike (in jersey pockets).  Lunch where we couldn't see the bike, the bag came inside.  Some places one of us stayed with the bikes, while the other one went inside to shop.

I usually kept about a week's spending money in cash, replenishing it from ATMs along the way.

I suppose a pannier could disappear in a flash, if the thief could figure out how to get it off the rack.  Most people wouldn't want to root through two or three days of damp, sweaty laundry to find what's in the bottom of a pannier.  And most Americans have a hard time figuring how to get a pannier off the rack, which is sometimes very nice for me!

General Discussion / Re: Novice coming to America !
« on: September 03, 2010, 01:25:03 pm »
I hope to ride east to west....I understand the wind blows the other way ???

Is this a big consideration ? it a problem ?

In a word, no.  At least, not if you're cycling below 30,000 feet altitude.

The worst of the winds on our trip were in Kansas and Wyoming.  One really bad day in Wyoming, and lots of SE to SW winds in Kansas.    See if you can find (and understand) a wind rose for sites along your way, and in most places, it's like a rose - the wind at ground level comes from all directions, so there's no real benefit (from the wind) to riding east.

On the other hand, most TransAm riders eventually rise and ride early.  The heat and wind come up as the day wears on, so if you get done riding early, you miss the worst of both.  And if you're going west at dawn, the traffic on your side of the road (right) will not be blinded by the sunrise.

Also, as you go west, you give the western passes time to melt.

Both are reasons to go west, young man...

Gear Talk / Re: Which touring bike?
« on: September 03, 2010, 10:35:40 am »
Agree the Horizon is out, this time on the basis of the tires.  If it comes with 700x25s, a 28 is going to be tight (if even possible), and the 32s I like will be right out.  If I were going to buy one and start touring the next day, I'd probably go for the Panorama, since it includes clipless pedals and the front rack.  I'm guessing there's £150 right there.  Also 9 speeds, since 8 speed may be difficult to find if you need parts (at least in the US).

You might pose this question on uk.rec.bicycles.moderated, and see what the suggestions are from there. 

Prices seem high, compared to Left-Pondia.  The Voyager looks like it's priced comparable to the Trek 520 or Surly Long Haul Trucker, but those are spec'ed closer to the Panorama.

How are you going to get into shape for touring, if you don't normally bicycle?

General Discussion / Re: Bike shop in Nashville, Tn
« on: September 02, 2010, 05:10:50 pm »
In rough order:
Suggest you check out the Harpeth Valley bike club site for local shops.  Maybe someone you contact there can give you a firm recommendation.

I stopped by Bicycle Pedlar (sp?) back when they were Allanti.  (They were advertising Gunnar bikes, and I was thinking about getting a custom tourer.)  I don't get up there often, so I was surprised when they had moved a year or so later.  Staff was interested, pleasant, and seemed knowledgeable during our chat, but I didn't actually buy anything, so I can't give you a firm recommendation.

Also, REI has a store in Brentwood.  The bike department wrenches usually have something to do, for whatever that's worth.

Do a google search for "Nashville bike shops."

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