Author Topic: What I Learned - My First Long Distance Tour  (Read 3961 times)

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Offline mikeedgar

What I Learned - My First Long Distance Tour
« on: July 17, 2011, 08:17:29 pm »
Most of this may be old information for you multi-tour veterans, but maybe it'll help the person getting ready for that first tour. My tour took me from Seattle to my home in Louisville, KY; a total of 3075 miles. I used the Northern Tier maps for about 2/3 of the ride.

1) Shorts - Buy new shorts for the tour if your's are worn. My old shorts were fine for 2 hour local rides, but the padding didn't hold up. I finally bought new shorts about 600 miles before the end. What a difference.
2) Maps- I had the ACA maps and they were great. However, once I left the route, it was hard to find a decent map that showed county roads. Gas stations don't carry maps. So be sure to pack a map for each of the states you'll pass through. I know, lots of people have smart phones or PCs, but there's nothing better than a printed map.
3) WiFi - Its almost everywhere. I paid extra for a Verizon mobile hotspot and web account. It wasn't worth the extra money I paid.
4) Food - In the Western states, there aren't a lot of grocery stores. I hate carrying lots of food around, but at a minimum keep one day's supply in your bag.
5) Tires and tubes -The roads in the Western states are hard on tires and tubes. There is more gravel and it seems to be sharper. Many times I'd dig out small rocks from my tires. I had two flats and they were in the first 1000 miles. Once I got into MN, WI, MI, etc. I had no problems. Check your tires for imbedded rock chips, especially before a long descent.
6) Chain Cleaner - When the roads get wet, the bits of gravel and sand will stick to your chain. Have some system/product for keeping your chain clean. (Most local riders don't start rides in the rain, but when you are touring you'd better be prepared to ride in the rain. Otherwise, you may not move for days.)
7) Money - I kept my wallet well secured. Each day I'd take out enough cash for expected expenses and put it where it was easy to access.
8) Camera - Convenience is more important than features. Take an easy to use, light weight camera that you can pull out and use at moments notice. You'll take more snapshots than photographs.
9) Miles - I averaged 75 miles per day, but had as few as 32 (headwind and rain) and as many as 130 (tailwind and net downhill). If you need to stay on a timetable, keep riding when the riding is good.
10) Heat, Fluids, Food - In the hot weather, its easy to drink lots of fluids, but as everyone says "drink before you are thirsty." If you can sweat and keep moving, you can remain remarkably cool. Hot weather diminishes your appetite, but make it a point to eat good healthy meals. If you slow down or get tired, its not so much the heat as the lack of fuel. I had 100+ mile days when the temp was in the 90's.

I hope this helps someone planning their first tour.

Offline John Nelson

Re: What I Learned - My First Long Distance Tour
« Reply #1 on: July 17, 2011, 09:04:58 pm »
Good tips Mike. Thanks for putting this together.

Offline LexieCali

Re: What I Learned - My First Long Distance Tour
« Reply #2 on: July 18, 2011, 01:26:40 am »
3075 miles? This is impressive. Thanks for the tips. I am actually gearing up for my first 2-week tour, and been collecting tips. In fact, good maps are my foremost concern. Looking for some interactive maps I can upload into my iphone at the moment.


  • Guest
Re: What I Learned - My First Long Distance Tour
« Reply #3 on: July 18, 2011, 09:47:57 am »
Regarding good paper maps, check with the DOT for each state you will be passing through. We got a very good MDOT map (for free) during our 9-day trip in Montana earlier this month. It shows both paved and unpaved roads. Came in handy when we had to take a detour to avoid a closed road. If you cannot get them ahead of time, local chamber of commerce offices, tourist information centers and/or highway rest areas may have them.
Regarding tires, don't start off on worn tires, especially if you will be out there for a while. And take the 3 minutes to inflate them every morning. Something like a Topeak Road Morph G with a pressure guage helps.  You can lose a surprising amount of pressure riding under load.  Even more that you think if you have long stretches on bumpy, unpaved surfaces like we did.
Availability of food depends on where you are. We found grocery stores in or near every place we stayed.  Some of the towns were pretty small, but if they are in areas where there is heavy tourist activity, you might just find a decent selection. One thing you can do is use the internet to search for chamber of commerce type sites for particular towns or areas you will be passing through. Such sites will often list local businesses, including restaurants and grocery stores.  Understand, however, that some of these places may have shorter hours than you are used to. Don/t be surprised to find that the only grocery store in the small town you will call home for the night closes at 6 p.m. on Saturday. Having emergency rations is a good idea.  Sometimes it’s worth shoipping early and carrying food.  While riding in CO years ago I went off route a mile or so to reach a relatively large town that I figured would have a good grocery store rather than take my chances with the small sotre that was near my intended camp. This required me to carry food for about 8 miles, but it turned out to be worth it as that small grocery store had burned to the ground a few weeks earlier.
Never hesitate to ask locals. They will almost always be happy to answer your questions. It’s good to get advice/information about what’s down the road, even if the answer is “There are no stores or water sources between here and there.” This type of information helps you plan accordingly.

Offline ChromolyWally

Re: What I Learned - My First Long Distance Tour
« Reply #4 on: July 18, 2011, 12:06:15 pm »
Great list of advice.  I would probably just add one thing, which is more pre-tour than the tour itself.  Know your route.  Meaning, know what kind of hills to expect, what kind of weather conditions, etc.  From that information you will know how much training you need to do, if any.  Long tour with unlimited time?  Might be possible to train on the tour itself by starting out slow with short days, taking frequent days off, and building as you go.    If time is more limited, and/or if you're way out of shape, pre-tour training would be highly recommended.

Offline DaveB

Re: What I Learned - My First Long Distance Tour
« Reply #5 on: July 19, 2011, 08:46:31 pm »
Excellent summary.  I would add one more thing; have lower gears than you ever think you will need.  I don't care if you live in a truly hilly area and climb all the time,  a loaded bike is different. Riding against a headwind and up long hills will require gears you NEVER thought you would need.   

They are like fire insurance, you hope you never need it and resent paying for it but it's invaluable if you ever do.