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Messages - John Nelson

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Sorry, I was not clear. When I said "the Rockies", I was referring to the Colorado Rockies, not the Montana Rockies, although that was implied by the context of this thread, which is about the TransAm starting in Denver. As someone who lives and rides in the Colorado Rockies, I have rarely had a bad riding day in the second half of June, with or without support.

I'm flattered that you quoted from my Northern Tier journal. At least somebody read it! Thank you!

The Rockies should be enjoyed from mid-July.
With rare exceptions, mid-June is the best time for riding in the Rockies. That's why one-week supported rides such as Ride The Rockies and Bicycle Tour of Colorado always pick mid-June. Your best weather in the Rockies is usually in June. Once you get into July and August, thunderstorms start posing more of a problem.

Safety is 99% dependent on common sense, and 1% dependent on luck. Nobody can make promises, and nobody else can define your tolerance level for risk, but this trip is almost certainly safer than you think, and much, much safer than your parents and friends think. Keep your senses on high alert and don't say indiscreet things to strangers.

Despite what we see on TV, there are very, very few psycho killers who jump out of the bushes and attack people in the middle of the night. And there are very, very many people who will go out of their way to help and protect you.

Some of Colorado passes are closed in winter. Most, however, are open year-round, weather permitting. For the year-round passes, they are mostly open, closing occasionally for a day or two or three when it snows. So if you have some flexibility to wait out occasional snow storms, you can probably get through.

Trail Ridge Road is a spectacular cycling road, although not for the faint of heart, but is a seasonal road. Target date for opening is always Memorial Day (last Monday in May). Sometimes they get it open earlier, sometimes later. Sometimes they open it and have to close it again.

Even if it is sunny and warm when you start to climb a pass, you need to be prepared for below freezing blizzard conditions at the top. Never start up a Colorado pass without inquiring about the state of the pass, even in the middle of summer.

There's no way anyone can tell you today what the state of the Colorado passes will be in May. But I'd say you have a 50/50 chance of good weather for it. If you're comfortable riding on snow-packed roads (I am not), your odds would go up. At any rate, take winter clothing.

The Great Parks South route offers two options to get to Granby. I've ridden them both. As I said earlier, you probably will not be able to take Trail Ridge Road in May. So that leaves Berthoud Pass. Berthoud Pass is a year-round road, but it closes for a few days after each big snow storm.

Gear Talk / Re: Poor Trek520 brakes
« on: February 10, 2014, 11:32:48 pm »
I have a 2009 Trek 520. Depending on model year, your brakes may be different, as components change frequently.

I found the stock brakes worked very well, but they wore down fast, were very noisy and kept picking up aluminum bits off the rim. I had to frequently take up slack in the cables and clean the pads.

After a few thousand miles, I replaced the pads with after-market pads. All the problems mentioned above went away, and the brakes still worked very well. As with any brakes, they must be carefully adjusted to work properly.

Do you have any flexibility with the start date? Can you wait a month?

Denver isn't on the TransAm, so where exactly do you plan to join the TransAm? Can you start in Pueblo instead? Or maybe fly to Denver and take a bus to Breckenridge for the start. That would get you past the passes with the most risk of snow.

The Rockies will be your first problem, but you may also run into problems in Yellowstone and the Cascades. You may get lucky with weather, but it's risky. The later you start, the better your chances. Depending on how far you ride in a day, you may be able to start in early June and still make SF by late July.

Traffic on the Pacific Coast is definitely more in the summer, but since you are only going as far south as SF, you should be fine. Traffic would have been more of a concern farther south.

Trail Ridge Road won't be open in mid May. It will be under 20 feet of snow.

Yes, it's currently cold in the U.S. But the weather in February has no correlation to the weather in April, so you really cannot use today's temperatures to predict the temperatures for your trip. If you have not made any arrangements yet and you are flexible, then yes, you'd have a higher probability of good weather if you wait. But if you've already booked your flights or this time is more convenient for other reasons, then I'd just go and hope for the best.

Temporary ACA Route Road Closures / TransAmerica Trail, Section 9
« on: February 06, 2014, 03:14:22 pm »
According to this article, a bridge will be out in Ste. Genevieve County in far eastern Missouri on Route P over Mill Creek from March 24 to July 1, 2014, but cyclists will be able to cross the creek anyway without detour. It's good to see the Missouri DOT taking bicyclists' needs into account, and even further, acknowledging the special circumstances of the TransAmerica Trail.

You can fly to Bangor and take a one-hour $40 shuttle into Bar Harbor. Or, you can fly into Portland and take a bus to Ellsworth, but then take the shuttle in. You can ship your bike to the Bar Harbor Bike Shop. I'm sure they will be willing to receive them, and they are a first class bike shop. You can likely also ship them to whatever hotel you will be spending your first night in Bar Harbor.

By way of disclaimer, I didn't do any of the above, but I did exactly the reverse in the summer of 2012. I rode the NT west to east, had Bar Harbor Bike Shop ship my bike home, took the shuttle to Bangor, and flew home via Philadelphia.

Since you have four of you, you may find some more economical way. E.g., it might be cheaper to fly to Boston with your bikes, and then rent a one-way van to drive to Bar Harbor. Flights in and out of Bangor can be a bit pricey.

Connecting ACA Routes / Re: Transam to Bloomington, IN Route?
« on: February 01, 2014, 08:05:32 pm »
wide shoulders, least traffic, fewest steep hills
Pick one.

If you like the way the ACA picks routes, then "least traffic" is a much higher priority than the other two. But if "wide shoulders" is your top priority, you'll almost certainly need to ride major highways. Major highways also typically minimize the hills, but at a cost. Distance and services also factor into the equation.

Personally, I find that Google driving directions with the "avoid highways" option produces acceptable routes. You can tweak it to suit your preferences.

Gear Talk / Re: Ultralight Panniers?
« on: January 29, 2014, 02:56:10 pm »
Panniers take a lot of abuse, so they usually have to be rugged, especially if you expect them to last a long time.

But you can buy a 44 liter Cuben Fiber backpack that weighs just over four ounces. I'll bet you could adapt this to bicycle touring, and it would easily hold all your gear. But these things are not designed to be long lasting.

Also, this article might give you some good ideas:

General Discussion / Re: bike tour spring summer 2014 questions
« on: January 28, 2014, 04:23:57 pm »
I believe that lard has the highest calorie to weight ratio. I don't think I can recommend it. Seriously, just eat real food. On a bike tour in most places, you'll pass food sources often so there's never a good reason to carry very much. I like to always be prepared to spend the night in a dry, foodless place. It can happen that a mechanical breakdown, bad weather or simple exhaustion can force you to stop for the night in a place you didn't plan. Or maybe that restaurant or grocery store you were planning to stop at is closed. So if you have enough food and water to last 12 hours, you probably have enough. There are a few places in the U.S. where you might go 100 miles without a supply, but you should know where those are before you go through them, and then you can stock up specifically for that.

Bike touring is very different than wilderness backpacking in this regard.

Gear Talk / Re: (Cyclo)cross-country
« on: January 28, 2014, 10:21:21 am »
Here are her specs:
Your low gear is 30 gear inches, which is decent. Touring bikes usually come with a low gear of 20 gear inches, but some road bikes don't go below 45 gear inches, so yours is somewhere in between. You may have to work hard to get up the steepest and longest hills, but it'll be doable. It's encouraging to see that your bike comes standard with 700x34c tires.

And water (3L reservoir, so about 6lbs) and food will *all* be in my backpack, not on the frame.
Conventional wisdom suggests that you don't carry too much weight (if any) on your back, as that can get uncomfortable over the long haul. Experimentation will tell you what you like.

Collect all your gear together and weigh it to see where you are. If you're in Pete's ballpark, you should be fine with your bike.

Gear Talk / Re: (Cyclo)cross-country
« on: January 27, 2014, 10:28:49 am »
You posted a link to a picture of your bike. Better would be to post a link to the specs.

Gears: 20 gears isn't an issue, but the size of the lowest gear might be. It depends on your age and fitness level. Can you tell us something about yourself.

Carbon: It is generally recommended not to clamp to carbon. A trailer is often the best option for a carbon bike, unless you are going super light. Are you planning to go super light? Are you going to camp? Cook?

Brakes: Any brakes are fine. Disc brakes on touring bikes are uncommon.

Bar-end shifters: These are sometimes preferred because the cables don't get in the way of your handlebar bag. If that's not an issue for you, then what you have is fine.

Suck it up? If you budget allows, a touring bike would be more suitable (unless you're going ultra-light like Pete does). But you can make what you have work if the budget is tight.

Wheel size: 700 is perfectly fine and has advantages. There's no reason to prefer 26.

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