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Messages - Pat Lamb

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Routes / Re: best january route
« on: August 29, 2013, 09:28:49 am »
How long a trip are you planning?

There's a number of Adventure Cycling routes in the southern U.S., such as the Florida/South Carolina sections of the Atlantic Coast, the Florida Connector, and the Southern Tier.

If you like riding in the snow, you could try the Iditabike.

There's also Australia.

I certaintly like the looks of the Space Horse better, but I'm not fond of the build kit on the complete bike.  I'll probably ride both, along with a Vaya, and see which I like better.  I'm not sure if I'll love or hate the disc brakes.  I do wish the Vaya had a triple with bar ends instead of the double with Apex brifters.  I'm not crazy about the rest of the parts spec on the Vaya 3 (Sora triple crank, Microshift bar ends, lower-end wheels), or I'd just get it.

FWIW, and I'm not recommending for or against the Vaya 3...

A crank is an expendable in the long run.  Wear the Sora out, perhaps after two-three long tours, and replace it.  In the meantime, it'll serve you well.  Better yet, work with a dealer and get him to put on a mountain triple, with good, low gears (24 or 26 tooth on the low end).  Shouldn't add more than $100 or so to the price, even if he hits you with nearly full retail on the new crank.

Wheels are wheels.  It's unlikely you'll get wheels that are ready for loaded touring on a new bike, unless you go full custom from a good builder.  Instead, find a good wheel builder (or learn to do it yourself), and make sure they're tensioned adequately and stress relieved.  They'll be good enough after that, again until they wear out.  Maybe the hub won't last as long, or, if you repack as needed, maybe it'll last longer than the high zoot hub.  Sometimes bling takes weight AND durability out of the lower end parts, while replacing it with shine.  (The shine will disappear with the first rain.)

Gear Talk / Re: donkey boxx feasible for cross country tour??
« on: August 27, 2013, 10:50:56 am »
Those Donkey Boxes look to me like they're made of the same stuff the post office uses for its boxes and trays.  They surely get a lot of use and abuse, but I don't know if the USPS uses them because they're durable, or just cheap.

Since they're new, we need a few field reports.  If you decide to use them, please do report on how they work and how durable they are.

A few other concerns:

Since you zip tie them to the rack, it's not going to be easy to unload the bike.  For instance, if you decide to stay in a motel for the night, and the only room they have is a second or third story room with no stairs, how do you get 60-100 pounds of bike plus luggage up there?  (Happened to us twice...)  If you decide to unload the bike, do you have to re-attach the boxes while they're full, or do you re-attach the bike, then lug everything down and load it when it's on the bike?

Likewise, we stayed a couple places where the bike was parked in a shed, or otherwise out of eyesight.  What do you do then?

How rugged are the zip ties?  I can see using them for a week long trip on pavement.  What about 10-12 weeks, over some nasty, bumpy, roads?  Do you need to replace the zip ties periodically?  Will the attachment points in the box stand up to the load?

Finally, what do you do when / if you camp in bear country?  Panniers easily detach and go in a bear box.  I think you're left with either detach/reattach the box in the morning, or trying to unload the box, and just deal with whatever bears or raccoons do with good-smelling boxes.

If you do decide to try the box, I'd get Wayne's number at and put it on speed dial for the possibility that you need an emergency fix, and the replacement panniers positively have to be there overnight.

Routes / Re: Des Moines, IA to Knoxville, TN Starting Nov. '13
« on: August 24, 2013, 03:16:37 pm »
I'll check it out...definitely burning some extra miles going to the parkway, but it's also a beautiful ride I'd like to do, as well.

The Blue Ridge Parkway is, indeed, a beautiful ride and well worth the time and effort. 

That said, November (possibly early December) has some challenges.  The leaves are down, so you can see out through the trees if the weather's clear.  But it's early winter, and you're planning to ride the highest parts of the Parkway, so there's a good chance of (in increasing order) snow, ice, and fog.  Parts of the road may be closed, since they don't plow most of the Parkway.  Almost all the on-route services will closed.  Bring your own water, toilet paper, and trowel.  You'll have some huge distances and climbs to cover from one motel to the next; I'm not sure if all the lodges at Little Switzerland will be closed, but you could be looking at Boone/Blowing Rock to Asheville, then Asheville to Maggie Valley/Cherokee.  And anything you need, from snacks or energy drinks, to a meal, to dry lodging, will be 2,000-4,000 feet off route in that stretch.

If you still want to try it, consider taking the Virginia Creeper trail out of Damascus to Whitetop, then over the state line and down past Sparta, NC to the BRP.  That'll cut out a couple hundred miles following the TransAm past Lexington, and then back southwest.

Routes / Re: Des Moines, IA to Knoxville, TN Starting Nov. '13
« on: August 23, 2013, 01:19:53 pm »
You really are doubling back, going east to the Blue Ridge Parkway to come down to Cherokee and back on 441.  (Have they opened the BRP coming down from Mt. Mitchell towards Asheville yet?)  I'd suggest taking the TA, alternate route down to Mammoth Cave or straight in towards Buckhorn Lake, then working your way southeast.  There've been a couple of guys who've blogged on crazyguy about coming down U.S. 25 through the Cumberland Gap, and I think there was an post on a good way into Knoxville from near Norris Lake.  Those might fill in the details from this broad-brush approach.

General Discussion / Re: Complete newb, TA in 2014
« on: August 23, 2013, 01:01:04 pm »
Any recommendations on training?  I'm going to be very busy this fall, but this winter, I'll bring the bike inside, get a stand and try to do an hour a day 3-4 times a week.  Anyone have ideas on what training should look like.  I didn't train much for the AT, which wasn't a problem because there were plenty of stumps to stop and take a breath on while hiking.  I'm thinking I probably need to be in better shape for the TA.

There's plenty of guardrails, picnic tables at parks, stools at fast food benches, and booths at slightly better eateries and convenience stores along the TA; so it is possible to ride yourself into shape in a couple of weeks.  If you take this approach, back your expectations down to 30-40 miles a day for those first two weeks.

A better approach is to ride lots.  You may be able to get the fast-twitch muscles and cardiovascular system into shape with a trainer.  But as soon as the roads thaw, start doing some long rides.  2-3 hours a day on clear weekend days to start, aim for 4-5 hour rides the month before you leave.  Those long rides get your saddle interface ready for long touring days.

I have thought that a light weight road bike would serve me better on my daily rides (I have an old aluminum Raleigh hybrid....but average only 14-16 mph on my 40-55 mile rides and see many people with true road bikes going quite a bit faster and thought I would need a better bike to get involved with group rides and week long tours.

I'm skeptical about the value of a "go-fast" bike.  The weight of a bike doesn't make much difference to your top speed, though it does make accelerating a bit harder.  I regularly ride with a group that rolls along at 20-25 mph, and I lose them on the hills (I suck at hills!), then catch them on the downhills (gravity likes me!) and proceed along to the next hill.

You also need to ask, how far did everyone go?  It's not unusual for me to get passed after 45 miles when I'm taking the last 5 miles easy.  Funny how the passers look crisp and clean, while I'm dripping sweat.  How far had they ridden when they passed me?

A single sport touring bike is between.  Not too much difference in frame, but the wheels are intermediate in weight.  Or you could get a touring bike and a pair of light wheels, ride the light wheels, and swap out for touring.  You'd freak the group members by riding that HEAVY bike, especially when your fitness improves to the point you're keeping up with them.

Gear Talk / Re: do I have too much crap?
« on: August 17, 2013, 10:16:20 am »
Any significant weight in the front will load the front wheel and make steering feel heavy.

OTOH, if you start climbing a really steep pitch without weight in the front, the front wheel can lift off the ground.  Weight in the front keeps this from being an issue.

Your choice.  :)

The LHT is just too heavy for me, considering maybe 10% of my miles will be lightly loading touring. 

FWIW, Paddleboy is right.  There's about a third of a pound difference between the frame and fork weight of the Long Haul Trucker and the Cross Check.  The rest is how they are equipped (tires, wheels, and saddle likely make most of the difference).

Routes / Re: TransAmerica trail and others - prevalence of lodging?
« on: August 06, 2013, 11:25:15 am »
The good news is that WiFi is pretty much ubiquitous.  Almost every motel has it, and there's usually another source -- at least in most towns -- if there's not a wireless-enabled motel.  That said, you don't always get to choose which town and which day you lose the wireless, so you might want to communicate to your customers that you may be off the grid for a day every now and then.

Availability?  In the east (say to Wyoming), there's a motel every 15-45 miles, averaging roughly every 30 miles.  Further west (and north), availability drops to one every 50 miles.  The ACA maps do a pretty good job of alerting you to services like lodging.  Try searching google maps for Town, State, motels -- you'll find a lot more.  There's a couple of holes -- Jeffrey City, WY is the famous 120-mile stretch with one motel, and things are pretty thin west of Dillon, MT until Hamilton.  Getting through the Tetons and Yellowstone requires excellent planning and 6-month lead for reservations (difficult to plan that precisely), or luck and persistence calling until you catch a cancellation in the last 5 minutes.

Some people can find motels for $50-75, but I averaged $100 per night in a motel four years ago.  I don't know what the intervening downturn and time have done to that average.

If you're going to ride in the Pacific Northwest, look at the dropouts.  Many 'cross and touring frames are remarkably similar, except that some 'cross frames have horizontal rear dropouts (Surly Crosscheck, for one).  This can be an issue with clearance getting the wheel out when you have fenders (highly recommended for the PNW).

OTOH, the Surly LHT has an extended top tube to go along with its vertical dropouts.  Note frame weights are within a few ounces for comparable 'cross and touring models.

Best advice I can give is test ride a lot, if you can find models to test ride, and pick the one you like best.  You'll probably be riding it long after the tour is over.  If you can't find a touring bike to ride, work with a good bike shop that will help get you set up right on the fit.  Despite "pick the one you like best" advice, there's not a whole lot of difference between different models.

Gear Talk / Re: Fenders and tires for a Surly Disc Trucker with 26" rims
« on: August 01, 2013, 04:27:19 pm »
FWIW, the parts of the C&O I've been on were a little rough on 700Cx32s, I think they would have been fine on 38s (1.5 in.).  Anybody who takes a road bike with 23 or 25 tires is going to think it's terrible.  Surface ranges from sandy clay, to finely crushed rock, and back to mud.

Gear Talk / Re: My "new-to-me" bike!
« on: July 31, 2013, 07:59:50 am »
As I wrote earlier, clipless or not is a choice for every cyclist.  That said...

"Pedal the size of a nickel" doesn't match any pedal or cleat I'm aware of.  My Frogs might come closest, but the cleat is about the biggest MTB cleat you can get.  Can you explain how his pedal ended up so small when the cleat wore out?

I just can't visualize how flats would improve bike handling skills.  Can you give us an example or two?

Are clipless pedals unnecessary?  Well, in the sense you can ride a bike without them, yes.  So is a saddle.  But I'd rather have both on my bike.

Gear Talk / Re: My "new-to-me" bike!
« on: July 30, 2013, 09:23:16 am »
Clipless or not is one of those things we each get to choose.  I think I've done the clipless tumble three times in a dozen years, all slow speed.  One of those was a broken crank, I don't know if I could have avoided that with platform pedals.  For what clipless gives me, that's a good trade-off.

The two big things clipless does for me: First, it keeps my feet on the pedals and lets me maintain a high cadence.  Nothing is worse than charging a hill, cranking away like made, when your foot slips off the pedal and down you go.  Doesn't happen with clipless, and the high cadence saves my knees when riding up ridges with a load.

Second, it lets me use stiff shoes and locates my food on the pedal where I want it.  After 25-30 miles in sneakers, my feet are talking to me, and they ain't happy!  Good clipless shoes distribute the pressure over a wider area, and while my feet may get tired, they don't get sore.

I typically carry a pair of Teva sandals when touring.  Great for showers in strange, dark venues.  Get out of the shower, put on some socks, go for a walk.  That's a half a pound (in my large size) I'm happy to carry.

BTW, the great thing about MTB clipless pedals is you don't go skating when you stop for lunch, a snack, shopping, etc.  I use Speedplay Frogs instead of SPDs, but they're similar aside from the clip.  I'd have to be on one of those century-a-day cross country supported rides before I'd consider road pedals on a bike tour.

Don't let chipseal, per se, scare you off.  In the southeast U.S., where I'm from, chipseal denotes one (small) step above gravel or dirt roads with plenty of potholes.  Washington (and Montana), on the other hand, do a decent job of chipseal, using small, often rounded, gravel.  The ride isn't quite as smooth as well paved fresh asphalt, but it's usually quite tolerable.  Much better than asphalt over old concrete, for example.

That said, I don't know the specifics of what they're using in the Olympics.  Hope it's better than the sharpened boulders California put down last year!

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