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Messages - Pat Lamb

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You've hit the nail on the head.  The manufacturers are driving the change, and it's the marketers driving the manufacturers.  I don't know if there's anything consumers can do, unfortunately.

It goes like this.  Component manufacturers (Shimano, Campangolo, and SRAM) sell the overwhelming majority of their output to bike makers.  Bike makers want to sell lots of bikes, naturally; it's how they make money.  And most of the people they sell these bikes to don't know what they need, so they buy the bling ads and bike magazines tell them to buy.  Laterally stiff yet vertically compliant?  Buy that one (never mind it's impossible)!  Eight speed?  No good, there's a 9 speed next to it.  And look!  10 speeds!  Even better, 11 speeds!  Best of all, 11 speeds with electronic shifting!  Who cares if it covers the same gearing range as the outdated 9 speed (or even 7), more is better!  It might not shift because the battery's dead?  No problem, I'll only ever ride 100 miles in a day, in 5 hours.  (5 hours 'cause I know I'm slow!)  Who says so?  Buycycling magazine and its ilk, which exist to (you guessed it!) sell magazine ads, and oh, maybe some subscriptions too, so they can sell more ads.

Any bike manufacturer who tries to fight the "more is better" mantra is going to lose sales.  Likewise any bike shop.  So they'll keep selling 9-speeds this year as "cheap" bicycles, but you know you really ought to "upgrade" to 11 if you can afford it.

Pretty soon there's no demand for 9 speeds (like there wasn't any demand for 8 speeds a few years ago).  The manufacturers used to make 9 speeds in the top of the line, then it was the bottom of the line, pretty soon it'll be out of production, period, and you'll have to troll for used parts on Ebay to keep that group going.  Or better yet, buy the a new bike with the new 14 speed group that will be announced in Next Month's Buycycling magazine!

Buy what you want, buy the spare parts to keep going as long as you can afford to; as I wrote above, I don't see any way to beat down the rampant stupidity.  Sit down with a mechanical engineer who's been around a while and ask him about some of the claims -- he'll get a good laugh out of them.

General Discussion / Re: Cycling Pants...
« on: May 15, 2013, 10:17:26 am »
Whenever this topic comes up, I always hark back to the title of Richard Feynman's book:

Why Do You Care What Other People Think?

General Discussion / Re: North Nevada & Utah in summer
« on: May 09, 2013, 09:27:09 am »
FWIW, Anacortes is close enough to Mt. Vernon to be an easy day round trip.  Doing it as a day trip saves you making the connection out to Anacortes, a nice shuttle but it takes an extra hour.  Starting in Mt. Vernon would give you a good shake-down ride after assembling everything, and there's bike shops in both towns should you need something fixed or adjusted.  If you must make progress that first day, extend the return trip to Sedro-Wooley or even Concrete.

Routes / Re: Blue Ridge Parkway / Skyline Drive input
« on: May 08, 2013, 08:55:54 am »
Recommendation: call your congresscritters and complain bitterly about them allowing sequestration to occur and to continue for everything except their convenience (FAA).

Politics aside, Alpine or Swiss Inn are the closest things to Crabtree.  Your other options are to try to get one of the (few) campsites at Mt. Mitchell state park, or Linville Falls.  If you're headed south and want to camp, stay at Linville, then climb up and over Mitchell.  You'll go downhill from Mitchell going down into Asheville, except for 3 miles climbing to warm up your legs, so that day will be 40 miles of mostly uphill, followed by an easy 20 mile coast down into the city.

Take lots of water.  (Stop for ice cream at Little Switzerland.)

Gear Talk / Re: Bike Sizing
« on: May 06, 2013, 10:53:20 am »
Is there any way you could test ride each? I realize that this is a tall order because finding a bike shop with one of each on the floor might be very difficult.

Just a thought -- is there an REI near you?  They may have LHTs in stock, or order one of each and buy the one that fits best.

If you go that route, make sure to take off a day in the middle of the week when it's not raining and the store isn't busy.  You may have to swap stems, and my experience with REI is they don't want to do that, especially when it's busy.  It wouldn't be the end of the world if a house-brand Randonee or Safari fit you better.

Buying a touring bike is frustrating for just the reason John mentions -- it's hard to find them to test ride.

Routes / Re: Looking For Route Recommendations
« on: May 05, 2013, 05:22:59 pm »
Adventure Cycling had an interesting tale some years back about a group in Kansas that decided that, since they hadn't seen a car or truck in 45 minutes, they'd do the next mile naked.

Naturally, a truck came by with a young kid in it.  :)

From memory, there are also places like that in Colorado, Montana, Washington, Illinois, Kentucky, Virginia, and Alabama.  As John mentioned, get away from the big cities, and traffic goes way down.  When traffic nears zero, most of the truckers and other traffic has little problem driving around you. 

It helps a bit if you're not riding the white line or the shoulder -- if it looks to you like there's room for both of you within the lane, why should they worry about it?

Gear Talk / Re: ACA & Smartphones
« on: April 25, 2013, 05:10:01 pm »
I may get mod'ed out, but:

I find it interesting that I submitted a comment on the blog entry announcing the new Adventure Cycling web site, questioning the web developer's choice to require a wider display than the previous version.  Again, that decision makes it much more difficult to use on a small screen.  Somehow that comment evaporated.  I can only assume someone decided that was objectionable -- that fits the pattern of the editor's response to a letter I wrote to AC magazine a while back.

I really prefer to be able to see honest, polite disagreement than sycophantic yodeling over poor decisions.  It's a shame my preference isn't shared by the management.

General Discussion / Re: The importance of always wearing a helmet
« on: April 22, 2013, 10:32:34 pm »
I am off of work, healing a broken collar bone, five broken ribs, and some head trauma.

Had I had a helmet on, my head injuries would not be as severe.

Gotta wonder, if you had been wearing a helmet, would you be off work with only a broken collar bone and five broken ribs?

General Discussion / Re: Do we need to do any training?
« on: April 22, 2013, 03:04:07 pm »
Start with butt conditioning.  I'd suggest you start increasing weekend ride length, shooting for a 50-75 mile ride each weekend.  This will get you used to being in the saddle for long periods, and you can start to learn how much water and salt you'll need to ingest to replace what you sweat out.

Legs, lungs, heart -- you can ride those into shape in a week or two.

General Discussion / Re: touring without "eating out"
« on: April 21, 2013, 11:26:53 am »
Several of you mention "local mom and pop diner" - What is that?

Small, locally owned and operated diners are often operated by the owners' family, thus known generically as "Mom and Pop Diner."  They know and are known by the locals, who often will go there for a regular cup of coffee, sometimes a breakfast, every morning.  These restaurants are often the only restaurant option within 15 miles or so, and are often overwhelmed when a chain restaurant opens nearby, as they can't compete with the variety of pre-packaged foods the chains offer.  When they do survive, you can bet it's because of the welcoming atmosphere and fresh, tasty food -- both great reasons to stop and check them out.

On a side note, it's accepted wisdom that when you come into a town and there are several restaurants, go to the one with the parking lot ful of local cars and trucks.  The locals know where the good food and good prices are; out-of-towners will often spring for a well known name, even when the food's not so good and more expensive.

Gear Talk / Re: do I have too much crap?
« on: April 20, 2013, 10:23:33 am »
Like John says, if you ask this question, the answer is "yes."

Adventure Cycling started weighing all the loaded bikes that came through last year.  IIRC the "champion" was around 120 pounds.  So you're well under that.  The average load, which most people weigh, seems to come out around 35 +/- 10 pounds.  My bike is 32 pounds "naked" (with saddlebag, fenders and racks); if your bike is a similar weight, your load is around "normal" (assuming there is such a thing among people who are so abnormal that they go for long tours on a bicycle).

Do you have what you need?  Have you made contingency plans for an emergency?  Do you have enough for comfort that you won't go ape on the trip?  Have you taken into account that you can probably resupply within two or three days via mail order and express shipping?  After you've gotten that far, your load is adequate.  You should forget about it and go ride.

Routes / Re: Blue Ridge Parkway / Skyline Drive input
« on: April 19, 2013, 01:24:38 pm »
I do not have that book (YET), will get it this weekend!

It's one of those things that can pay for itself many times over!

Also check out the NPS web page and the blow-up map at

Have been going over the route plan, and would like a bit more insight (probably in the book).
I will be at park camp grounds most nights. 

Where do you suggest to stay between:
 - Cherokee and Mt. Pisgah

Check the book.  I don't remember any campgrounds on that stretch.  There's a few small hotels close the the Parkway off U.S. 23/74, or you could coast down the hill to Waynesville.  It's about 25 miles, and about 5,000 feet of climbing, out of Cherokee.

- Doughton Park and Rocky Knob (Mt. Airy?)

There's KOA just north of the I-77 overpass.  Nice place, if a bit noisy from interstate traffic, but bring all your supplies -- there's a few small stores over on 52, but nothing else nearby.

- Suggestion in Roanoke?

There's a campground at Roanoke Mountain, but I've never been there.  Check da book for more suggestions, lots of hotels/motels nearby if it's time for a shower!  (Also check out the transportation museum downtown if you're at all interested in trains.)

- Oronoco Campground around MP 48 off Rt 60 any good?

Don't know, never been there.

GPS & Digital Data Discussion / Re: Copilot Live
« on: April 18, 2013, 09:07:34 am »
CoPilot downloads a base map to your device so you can navigate without an internet connection. I'm pretty fair at navigation, if I know where I am and where north is so I don't need turn by turn directions. I don't plan on using it every day let alone all day. But in towns it might be nice to use turn by turn navigation.

Turns are the strength of the AC maps, of course, but don't discount GPS assistance.  Country roads in eastern Kentucky, in particular, are like "a maze of twisty little passages, all different."  Just because you started up a road going northwest doesn't mean your next right turn won't see you going south.

Routes / Re: Blue Ridge Parkway / Skyline Drive input
« on: April 17, 2013, 10:06:45 pm »
We are planning to start our South to North on the 25th of May.  Any other reccomendations for camping locations?  How much trouble can we get if we need to camp and no campground is available? (ie - storm/medical/breakage)

If you don't already have it, get a copy of "Bicycling the Blue Ridge."  Also, go to the BRP web site and get all the planning information you can find.  Unfortunately, as noted above, it looks like some of the campgrounds are going to be closed this year, so figure out how to ride around the closures.

As to trouble, the BRP rangers are notorious for threatening to ticket a cyclist who looks like they might even thing of camping on the parkway outside a campground.  Expect a hassle if you spread a tent or tarp to dry at lunch, or set up a stove to cook lunch, coffee, or tea.  But look closely at the maps; there's a fair few miles where the parkway proper owns a narrow right of way.  If you're stuck in one of those spots, you have a good chance of riding a quarter mile into National Forest lands where you can set up camp.  Or ride off the Parkway on a dirt road or driveway, and a kind farmer might let you set up camp in their field.  Rangers have no jurisdiction in those places!  (As long as the field isn't leased from the Park Service.)

General Discussion / Re: Bears
« on: April 16, 2013, 10:07:04 am »
That reminds me of a camp we stayed at near the California Nevada border (Bootleg Camp).  There were a lot of signs about securing food from the bears.  I asked the camp host how bad the problem was and he said no one had reported seeing a bear there in something like the last 15 years.  We hung our food anyway, but more because we figured raccoon might be a problem

Campground hosts may not be entirely reliable, reference our stay at Newhalem, WA.  Bear signs, but no bear boxes, and we didn't have rope to hang food.  So I asked the host if there was some place we could store our (depeleted) food, and he told me, don't worry about it, they haven't had a bear in the campground for 10-15 years.  So we left panniers on bikes overnight and didn't worry -- until we got back to civilization, and in contact with my wife.  She'd been cruising various journals, and somebody had taken a picture of a bear walking through that same campground a week earlier.  At least he didn't bother our stuff!

This may be one of those motorist/non-motorist split kind of things.  The bears hadn't started to break into campers, cars, or even locked motorcycle boxes, so the host may have honestly thought there was no problem.  And if most of the few nutcases riding bicycles or hiking hung their flimsy nylon bags containing food, maybe there really wasn't.

Or maybe the bear was just picky, and didn't care for instant oatmeal, Poptarts, and Clif bars.  "Where's the Kentucky Fried Chicken?" he growled.

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