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Messages - Pat Lamb

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I gotta say Pete Staehling is a stronger rider than I am.

Since you say you live in Virginia near the start of the Blue Ridge Parkway I would suggest you take your current bicycle over to Otter Creek on the Parkway and ride south toward Peaks of Otter. I think you will quickly figure out on that hill whether your current bike is adequate and how much lower gearing you will need. It would be a weekend day well spent.

Great suggestion!  It's probably one of the tougher climbs in Virginia (riding north or south from Roanoke gives you a couple more like it).  South of Boone is a short stinger, north and south of Asheville, and north from Cherokee are similar climbs in North Carolina.  Or you can check out the full list of climbs at the bottom of

I've ridden most of the Blue Ridge Parkway, and I'm a senior, so I'm going to come across as cantankerous.  With that warning:

Learn how to use a gearing calculator.  Look for a low of 20 gear inches.  You're going to want it, unless you're in such good shape that you don't come here asking for advice.

You've got two choices bicycle touring, and they come out to the same answer on the BRP.  The Parkway itself is mostly 6% or less, and tops out at 7.6% grade, IIRC, so it's not TOO bad.  However, it climbs at that grade for 5 miles at a time.  First choice is loaded touring: you'll want low gears so you can ride the bike with your gear up 5 miles of 6%.  It's really tough to walk those long stretches -- you'll go half as fast, twice as long, and bark your shins on the pedal every 100 yards or so.  So get the low gears so you can ride; it'll still be tough, but it's doable.

Second choice is motel (or warm showers, or …).  With three or four exceptions, there aren't services near the Parkway.  Motels and diners are a long way off the Parkway.  And since the Parkway is on the top of the Blue Ridge, especially when you get into North Carolina, that's three miles or more down steep hills, and the same back up.  Those hills are often 10% or more -- nasty climbs on twisty roads.  Your standard road bike with a 27 gear inch low, or even the Surly LHT with a 24" low, is going to be tough to ride up that hill, and then you're tired for the rest of the day's ride to go.  So again you'll want lower gears -- 20 gear inches is 2-3 more low gears, and yes, it will often be the difference between walking and riding.

Strangely enough, the Surly Disc Trucker has an adequate low (unlike the rim brake Long Haul Trucker).  You might also want to look at some of the gravel or adventure bikes, like REI's ADV 3.1.

Same as John, find lightly traveled streets and roads to ride.  If there's a lot of cars at the MUP trailhead, I'll ride the roads.

Since this forum has a preponderance of bicycle tourists, most of us have learned to ride comfortably with (light) traffic.  As I've posted elsewhere, it's a matter of getting accustomed to it.  Ride around your neighborhood, or nearby neighborhood streets, where there's little traffic.  Once you're used to that, try riding suburban streets with a little more traffic.  When that's comfortable for you, find some rural roads with next to no traffic -- get used to taking the lane, most country drivers are used to changing lanes to pass slow moving traffic like bicycles (or tractors).  Next, find three or four lane roads that only have two lanes' worth of traffic when you're riding them, and get used to that.  Pretty soon you're OK on all but the most crowded, high speed roads none of us want to ride on a bike.

Gear Talk / Re: Opinions on first budget touring bike
« on: May 01, 2020, 11:10:05 am »
I don't even know how many "standard" bottom brackets have come and gone since the "obsolete" square taper fell out of favor.  I can still order those old square taper BBs, and the last one I put in is now nine years old and they're going strong.  (Next time I change a crank I'm going to put in a Problem Solver metal cup instead of the plastic one, even though, as noted, the plastic cup is 9 years old.)

There's an interesting discussion on standards, including bottom brackets at:
and at some of the linked articles there.

Gear Talk / Re: Mechanical or hydro?
« on: April 26, 2020, 08:19:35 pm »
Personal preference for the win!

I've got brifters on two bikes, and bar-ends on a third (aka the "play bike").  I love them all.  The way my bars are set up, it doesn't require any torso movement to reach the bar-ends; just swing my arms down 4", click, and move back up.  It actually helps me keep from locking my elbows in varying terrain, as it forces me to move my hands.

Gear Talk / Re: Opinions on first budget touring bike
« on: April 23, 2020, 09:00:56 am »
John Nettles is right; 9 speed parts are still available.  OK, maybe your local bike shop doesn't have them sitting on the shelf, but they're also unlikely to have spare Di2 derailers.  Today's 9 speed Sora is virtually the same as 2003 Tiagra.  Your shop can change out the crank for lower gears (after the part comes in next week), adjust the front derailer, and have you out the door within an hour.

General Discussion / Re: ACA Maps & 2-lane Highways - how often?
« on: April 20, 2020, 10:55:16 am »
I've read that a number of times, but I was ready to get off the backroads shortly after leaving Whitefish headed to Eureka.  May have just been Sunday morning (there's that time of day/day of week thing), but I had no problems on the main road through there.

Routes / Re: Going to the Sun Road
« on: April 17, 2020, 01:58:54 pm »
BTW...Despite the park being closed to visitors, plowing has already started.

Gotta have it ready for the day everyone's healthy and the contagion is over (May 1).

General Discussion / Re: ACA Maps & 2-lane Highways - how often?
« on: April 17, 2020, 01:56:18 pm »
I've had a few incidents, but like John and Pete note, they're uncommon.  Most of the complaints I've heard, like Pete, are from people who aren't used to riding on roads or streets, and they're scared when there's not a line of trees separating them from motorized traffic.

My suggestion is to acclimate yourself to riding on roads.  Start with quiet suburban or rural streets -- most of the people who pass you will probably drive on the other side of the road to do it.  After you're used to that, look for roads with a little bit more traffic.  Then try a 3-5 lane road (there's one on my daily commute) that doesn't usually need more than two lanes for the traffic.  (You'll want to avoid rush hour, of course, at least at first.)  When you're comfortable riding there, you're ready for 97% of Adventure Cycling's routes.

Do consider looking at vehicular cycling recommendations.  Start with the LAB videos, the better cycling one halfway down the page at  Also take a look at John Allen's Street Smarts at  The ideas presented at those sites freak some beginners out, but they work well. 

In support of vehicular cycling, someone pointed out (and I've confirmed from personal experience) that most drivers give you as much room as you take.  Ride right next to the white line?  One out of ten passing cars feels like you're cleaning their window with your sleeve.  Move a foot from the white line, they'll pass with a foot to spare.  Ride three feet from the line, and they'll give you three feet of passing space.  It's counterintuitive, but it usually works!

General Discussion / Re: Need information on Continental Gatorskin.
« on: April 13, 2020, 11:41:06 am »
Here's the other bit of news, according to the Bicycle Rolling Resistance site; the Conti Gatorskin weight is only 255 grams for the 32 size, but it's rolling resistance is at 26.2 watts at 60 psi (the watts usage goes up as the PSI goes up, and it's puncture resistance rating is a 18 on the tread and a 7 on the sidewall, with a tread thickness of 3.2 mm.  Compare that to a Schwalbe Marathon Supreme that weighs 380 grams for a 32, rolling resistance is 19.1 watts, puncture rating is 75 and 3, tread is 5.0 mm.  So all around except for weight which it makes up for with lowering rolling resistance the Marathon Supreme is better to use just from stats alone.

I'm not sure about your assertions that the power required goes up as the pressure increases.  I normally run 32s (including Gatorskins) around 85 psi, and I can feel the extra work it takes to push the bike down the road at 70 psi.    At 60 psi, it feels like I've got a flat.

I last tried a Marathon (something or other) a while back.  When I replaced that (finally!) worn out tire, it felt like I was riding a different bike.  That was one of the only two times I can remember changing a tire made such a difference in rolling resistance.

So while I'm not NIST calibrated, your assertions and test results certainly don't jive with my experience.

At least in my state, the stay at home order has an exemption for outdoor activities of groups of less than 10 people who maintain 6 foot isolation distance. 

That pretty much covers most of my touring, except for local restaurants, swimming pools, and convenience stores.

Of course if this pandemic continues to spread, we're likely to see a bifurcation between "clamp down harder" and "let the virus infect everyone, for the Lord will know His own."

General Discussion / Re: transam june 20
« on: April 03, 2020, 09:56:22 pm »
FWIW, I understand the good people of eastern and central Washington persuaded the governor to halt plowing and clearing of a couple of the passes over the Cascades.  The feeling is, keep the sick people from the coast from being able to get here easily.

I can imagine that attitude becoming widespread.  It's not just that's on TV.  It's the politics (do you believe the news?), it's what people are seeing and hearing locally.  You can point out that there's at least one COVID-19 case in almost every county by now (or shortly will be), but when the mayor's wife takes the last ventilator in the local hospital, or the store- or saloon-keeper comes down sick, the attitude may well become, "Keep them outsiders out of our town!"  It's going to be a tough, fast-talking sell to say you left the coast a month ago and have been riding through isolated, rural areas when you need groceries, a meal, a bed, or just some water and Gatorade when confronted with that attitude.

Streets and roads are even better than usual with motorized traffic way down.  I did a loop just before supper tonight, right during "rush hour," that I'd never ride by choice in normal times.  Fantastic!

Gear Talk / Re: MEC National 2019-2020 VS kona sutra 2018
« on: March 10, 2020, 11:20:39 pm »
First, if you're going to pay a shop's mechanic to swap things out for you, parts and labor will eat up most of the difference.

Second, 38 tires should be wide enough for any decently paved road.

Finally, if you can, try both bikes out with a test ride.  You'll probably like one more than the other.  Buy the one you like to ride -- just wanting to ride that bike will get you riding now, and the training will make the touring much more enjoyable this summer.

General Discussion / Re: Need information on Continental Gatorskin.
« on: March 10, 2020, 11:16:07 pm »
Off topic: it's hard to keep track of tire names.

That said, I usually get about 2,000 miles on plain old Gatorskin (rear) tires, given a total load around 250-270#.  As you know, front tires seem to wear more slowly.  The Gatorskins seem to ride better than the Marathon (possibly with a suffix) I tried a while back, but the Marathon lasted between 3,000 and 4,000 miles, IIRC.  I'm not sure what the Duraskin variant is; how do the tire weights compare between plain Gatorskin and Duraskin?

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