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Messages - mathieu

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I recommend to delay the start, if possible, to mid-May for more agreable overall temperatures.

Flying to Washington-Dulles airport, I rented a large car (small minivan) to transport my boxed bike to a hotel in Williamsburg. A few days later I returned the car to Dulles, took a shuttle to Washington-DC and the afternoon train from Union Station to Williamsburg. This eliminates hauling an unwieldy box and other bags in shuttles and trains. It even allowed a few hours of carefree sightseeing in Washington. Returning a rented car was much less expensive than dropping it in Williamsburg.

Routes / Re: The Great Divide - question
« on: July 29, 2014, 03:34:18 pm »
Depends on how fast you go. Have a look at the chart in . If you can do the route in 1 month (i.e. about 100 mi/day), you may get to the US-Mex border, but if you need 2 months probably not. But this is not rocket science; every year is different.

Routes / Re: Geronimo Trail
« on: June 30, 2014, 07:53:58 pm »

Your start is 4 days before the Grand Depart of the 2014 Tour Divide race from Banff. Even at 100 miles/day, you will probably be overtaken after 7 days by the frontrunners. On you'll find the latest info about snowpack. I saw a cryptical post recently from Matthew Lee himself. He has eyes and ears everywhere on the GD. Follow that link!

General Discussion / Re: Tour Divide Race 2014!
« on: May 09, 2014, 07:28:05 pm »
There are 40 odd pages about TD 2014 waiting for you to read at

Gear Talk / Re: Making wheels stronger with a mixed spoke pattern.
« on: April 21, 2014, 03:58:53 pm »
In the end, for touring use a conservatively designed wheel built by a good wheel builder.  For most touring applications you should not use radial spoking.  Don't use low spoke count wheels, do use a good brand of spokes in a conservative pattern that doesn't require a tensiometer to build.  Use strong rims.  Make sure they're in good repair before starting your tour.

In June, about 120 racers will start for another edition of the Tour Divide race, 2700 miles from Banff-Canada to the US/Mex border. I guess only a few of them will have wheels that fit your recommendation. All of them will have loads that are substantially less than most tourers, probably between 15 and 30 lbs, but their pace is surely much faster and the dirt roads are much rougher. About one-third of them uses rigid forks. I guess for all of them the dynamic  impact on the wheels is much harder than for touring, whatever the load. The race rules prescribe that in case of a mechanical defect, the racer has to go back to a commercial bike shop; no private assistance or forward movement along the GD route is allowed. From the past editions, I do not remember any wheel defect. If it were a serious risk of modern MTB wheels, it would have shown.

What I want to say: there is nothing wrong with being conservative in chosing wheels, but you should be aware that your bike is probably heavier then needed!

Gear Talk / Re: 11-32 vs 11-34
« on: April 21, 2014, 12:05:30 pm »
Sorry for the odd grade measure (yet Wikipedia puts Angle first in Nomenclature ).
Anyhow, it sparked off several interesting topical memories.

Gear Talk / Re: 11-32 vs 11-34
« on: April 21, 2014, 08:54:36 am »
Slopes of  8 degrees is about the maximum you will see on the TransAm.
I think you'll find a lot of people who would dispute that.

John, there are probably few people who are more knowledgeable about the TransAm route than you, so I reverently give way. Still I tried to remember where those wickedly steep slopes occurred. Maybe in Kentucky, where the adrenalin from the many dogs in ambush drove me over the hills?

Did your remark take into account that I mentioned a slope of 8 degrees? More often slopes are expressed as the ratio of rise over run, which for an angle of 8 degrees amounts to a grade of 14%?

Gear Talk / Re: 11-32 vs 11-34
« on: April 18, 2014, 03:11:09 pm »
If you have to ask this question, the best advice is: take 11-34.
As others have said, the difference between 32 and 34 is about half a gear change or -6% in speed at the same cadence. This doesn't sound much, but feels big in the lowest gear.

If you ride at 20 mph, the kinetic energy of your bike and body is about a factor of 20 higher than the energy input from one pedal rotation. If you stop pedalling for a moment the kinetic energy keeps you moving, speed drops slowly and as air resistance drops with the third power of speed, the speed drop is much less than linear with time.
But if you ride uphill with 3 mph, kinetic energy is only about half the energy input from each stroke and gravity weighs linear with speed (at constant gradient). Each pedal stroke has a sense of urgency and speed gets a sawtooth profile because the energy input is only substantial when the crank arms are near horizontal. This 'do-or-die' pounding of the pedals doesn't feel comfortable and doesn't look great.  The more rotations per minute, the smoother and more efficient the pedalling and the less the strain on body (knees) and mind. 

So why doesn't everybody opt for 34t? Well, there is a small weight penalty and the greater efficiency with faster pedalling stops at about 80 rpm. With a 22/32 combination and a 700-32c tires, at 80 rpm you advance about 2.0 m/sec (4.5 mph). At a gradient of 8 degrees, the altitude gain is 0.28 m/sec, which for a weight of 80 kg for rider+bike takes 220W (proportionally more if you are heavier or carrying an additional load). There are not many recreational cyclists around who can produce 220W power in steady-state, say over 20 minutes. Many will reach their limit at 175W steady power output. But those who can produce more power, are lighter or cycle lesser gradients, don't need 34t.

Slopes of  8 degrees is about the maximum you will see on the TransAm. Not in the Appalachians, but in the Ozarks. The Rockies and the Cascades are also less steep.

Gear Talk / Re: Advice on a Bicycle for Trip to France
« on: April 11, 2014, 06:43:22 am »

If I weren't to take the Bike Friday, it would mean purchasing a new bike. My dad always talks about getting a "real bike", however he is referring to a road bike, and I'd be shopping for a touring bike. We only have so much money and so much room in our shed, so for me to buy a pure touring bike for my trip would be a stretch. More practically, the touring bike I purchased could also double as something my dad and I could take out on rides for fun/exercise.

I'd appreciate any feedback on my situation! Should I stick with the Bike Friday? Should I investigate a new bike?

I would seriously consider to make the Cannondale fit for travel. It doesn't involve a great deal, because I saw in the specs that the suspension fork has a lockout, which is important in climbs because it is hard to suppress rocking movements in climbing and each compression of the fork  eats a lot of your power.
The main points for adapting the MTB are tires and ways for carrying your gear.

You should replace the knobby tires with tires that have a smooth surface and possibly smaller width. Schwalbe Big Apple 50 mm is an excellent choice. In laboratory tests they easily beat most 28 mm tires in low rolling resistance. Don't let yourself fool into buying 'unpuncturable' tires like Schwalbe Marathon Plus.  They are heavy going. Punctures, if any, are a small price for a nimble ride.

Regarding carrying gear you mentioned a saddle bag. You could add a frame bag. However, the volume of saddle bag and frame bag combined is small compared to the usual rear panniers, so you have to be a minimalist in selecting your gear. If you cannot reduce the volume sufficiently, you need at least a rear rack. Your frame probably has screw eyelets on the saddle tube for mounting a rack. Try if an Old Man Mountain rack which is supported at the bottom by the skewer, doesn't conflict with the disc brake mounts. Or get a Thule rear rack, which fits on all hard tail MTB's. I wouldn't trust it on bumpy dirt roads, but for paved roads it should be fine. You can always fixate it additionally to the screw eyelets in the saddle tube.

Gear Talk / Re: Making wheels stronger with a mixed spoke pattern.
« on: April 04, 2014, 04:35:43 pm »
..... All a large flange hub does is make the spokes shorter.

Yes and no. I don't think shorter spokes is a real advantage, not even in weight. What a larger hub mainly does is that it enables a larger number of spokes. You see them on tandems, where 48 spoke wheels are not unusual. But with a larger diameter flange, the spokes get more under a skewed angle at the rim, which is a recipe for spoke fracture (viz. Rohloff Speedhubs). We now enter the finesses of wheel building.

What I see over a decade or more of wheel building is that commercial wheel sets use less rather than more spokes, higher spoke tension, a tendency towards 0-cross spoke patterns rather than 3-cross or 4-cross, a reinforcement of the points of attachment of the spokes, a reduction of the rim and nave mass where there are no spokes, and a liberty to introduce arty patterns rather than maintaining traditional artisan symmetries. I guess this is all the result of finite-element design calculations that gave much better insight in wheel strength.

Gear Talk / Re: Making wheels stronger with a mixed spoke pattern.
« on: April 02, 2014, 06:57:02 pm »
I cannot add much own insight to the question whether a mixed spoke pattern makes a wheel stronger, but I believe it does. Wheel design has advanced a bit further than Pat Lamb is probably aware of.
For at least 10 years my road bike has a set of Campagnolo Proton wheels. The front wheel, 22 spokes, has a radial (i.e. 0-cross) spoke pattern. The rear wheel has 24 spokes, 12 at each side. It has a radial pattern on the non-drive side and a 1-cross pattern on the drive side. I have used these wheels a lot on fast descents on bad mountain roads, including several via sterrata in Italy. They never needed truing.
Campagnolo Zonda wheels that are now on the market have 21 spokes on the rear, a number which is bound to violate the 'same number of spokes on each side' rule. They have 14 spokes on the drive-side and 7 on the non-drive side ; all radial. The spokes are grouped in 7 groups of 3, a pattern Campa calls Mega-G3.

The Zonda pattern may well be the result of a design where the striking looks was a prime criterion. The Proton wheel design, however, is from a time when optics were not yet a big marketing point and the finite-element calculation software for making wheels lighter and stronger was available for the industry. That's why I believe that the mixed spoke pattern for the rear wheel is a functional design.

I contest that a start in the South in early June is too early. Of course snow levels vary from year to year, but the statistics over the past years show that the passes in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado have generally cleared by mid-June.
In 2010 I myself started in the south at end of May and entering Colorado on June-10 found no snow on the route.
In 2011, 2012 and 2013  the Tour Divide Race had a group starting from Antelope Wells on the second Friday of June. These guys go very fast and enter southern Colorado between 14-21 June. They didn't report snow either.
In contrast, the TD racers starting on the same date from Banff often meet snow in BC and Montana.

General Discussion / Re: newbie planning Belgium tour
« on: March 26, 2014, 05:33:48 pm »
I am from the Netherlands, the northern neighbour and older brother of Belgium. So take some of my advice with a pinch of salt.

Bringing your own bike or find a used one?
Like others, I advice to bring your own. It might cost in the order of $400 per bike for the return trip, but you are unlikely to find a good used bike for that money. If they are for sale, it will cost you time to find and view them and time is also money. There is a sort of Flanders craigslist . Look in the left hand panel under 'Fietsen' (=bikes) and then 'Herensportfiets & City Bikes'.

Planning a Route
You will find a lot of tools and maps of specific bicycle routes, in English language, under .
There are much more specific tools in Dutch for planning routes in Flanders and in French for routes in Wallonie, but it is difficult for me to judge how much you can use them if you do not have command of these languages.

I recommend the yellow Michelin maps, 1:150.000. You will find them at tourist information desks, supermarkets and gas stations. They are excellent!

Some general comments:

-  You will find that Belgium is a country that is deeply divided in the two language communities, dutch and french (the german-speaking part is only a tiny corner). In Flanders about half of the people you'll meet is able to communicate in English ; in Wallonie less than 20%. Probably still enough to get around. Flanders has a lot of bike paths ; Wallonie much less.

-  I urge you to spend time to understand the different bicycle signage systems. I do not mean the traffic signs (e.g. in, but the navigation signs.  For most foreigners it is bewildering.  If you spend one hour to learn the specifics it will make your touring a lot easier.
Basically there are 4 different signs systems in use, each adressing a specific group.
(1) Destination driven signage, e.g. for commuters, usually the shortest bicycle route from A to B.
(2) A nodal grid for local leisure cycling (in dutch: knooppuntenroute). The advantage is that after preparing your route on a map or computer screen, you just have to write down and follow a string of numbers, instead of writing and spelling difficult names of towns and streets. This grid guides you over low-traffic, scenic roads, but is less suitable for long-distance cycling ;
(3) Long distance (LF) bike paths (Grote Routepaden) ; for bike travel ;
(4) Local thematic loops, often for a full day or multi-day of recreational cycling, e.g. 'Molenroute' (windmill route) or 'Limburgse bierroute' (Limburg beer route).
Each of these sign systems has a specific shape (round, square, hexagonal, etc.) and lay out. See pictures in Unfortunately I didn't find a comprehensive overview.

- In Flanders you will find a sort of 'hot showers' hosts, called 'Vrienden op de Fiets' (Friends on the Bike). These are often bicycle travellers themselves and more than happy to guide you through your first days in Belgium. Try ! See

- In contrast to the US you will find every few miles a place to sit down at a cafe, usually in a garden or terrace outdoors, for a coffee and pastries, or a choice of Belgium beers. Flanders people are proud about their cycling  heritage in professional road cycling and especially in cycle cross- ; it is their national sport! Enjoy the stops and the chats and adapt your daily mileage target.

- To get ideas, read some touring journals on Crazy Guy :

- Three weeks should be sufficient for cycling Belgium through-and-through, including beer stops. If you have time left, try The Netherlands or Northern France. The quality of the dutch bike paths is much better than those in Belgium, but our choice of beers is much less, unfortunately.

I agree that Yorktown isn't much, but I would not skip Williamsburg! Remember that the TransAm was previously called the Bicentennial Trail. There is no other town along the route that highlights the era of Independance as strong as Colonial Williamsburg. You might call some of the performances  Disney-history or even kitsch, but the total  is unique and very American. After Williamsburg, Richmond is nice and Mineral is entirely forgettable.

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