Bicycle touring?

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Bicycle touring?

Post by Shiloh » Thu Apr 16, 2015 7:29 pm

So, I had a crazy idea the other day.

Short rundown of things going on:
-I don't have a car/license, due to eyesight problems
-Moving from a community college in Riverton, WY to the University of Wyoming in August/September of 2015
-All of my friends who have cars have moved or are going to move out before then
-I need to get there somehow, parents live in western WA so that's far from convenient for them.

Now, most "normal" people would probably just find someone else with a car, take a bus, etc. But I thought this might be a great opportunity to test my confidence, dedication, equipment, and cycling abilities. I currently ride about 5-10 miles a day, but that's increasing consistently.

It's about 350 miles from Riverton (where I live) to Laramie. I checked google maps and found it's relatively flat, with a few long but pretty shallow climbs on the way there. If I did this, I'd also plan on doing the following:

-Mailing a good amount of my stuff ahead of time, so I only have to carry the minimum
-Getting rid of a lot of junk that I don't need beforehand
-Ensuring my bike is capable of the task (Trying to sell my Trek 3900 ATM, looking at something like an affordable aluminum frame model such as a Vilano or Giordano)
-Making sure I'M capable as well. Sometime next week I plan on doing a 25 mile trip to the nearest town and then taking a bus back, just to see how I handle that.
-Spending at least a few days a month practicing living out of my bike.

Does that sound doable, and do you pros have any advice? The longest I've ever ridden before was around 40 miles and did that in an entire day, though that was because we were with a bunch of people and kept stopping for pictures, bathroom breaks, saddle adjustments (lots of those) etc etc.

Right now this is more a pipe dream than anything else, but I'm still really excited and hoping I can pull it off. It'd be a great opportunity to test myself beyond what I've tried so far.
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Re: Bicycle touring?

Post by Halfapint » Thu Apr 16, 2015 7:43 pm

It's completely do able. In boy scouts every summer we'd take off for 7 days and ride around, we had a support vehicle to carry food and such but we'd carry saddle bags to simulate touring. The longest was our senior year where we rode 720 miles in 7 days, starting in Washington and going gown to crater lake, and out to the coast to a Boy Scout camp. In college I continued with my best friend for a couple years doing the STP on Friday, resting Saturday (getting drunk) and heading on Sunday. We'd carry food, water tents and other gear wth us.

The biggest thing is test yourself, do increasingly further rides. Get that callus(sp) on your ass from sitting in the saddle. Do the ride to the other town, see how you feel and then eventually do the ride round trip. 50 miles is a good amount to practice. A good bike (see the other thread you started) will really help.
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Re: Bicycle touring?

Post by majorhavoc » Thu Apr 16, 2015 8:12 pm

When I graduated from college, I biked from main line Pennsylvania to Carlisle, PA where my girlfriend was finishing up her junior year. That was a trip of about 150 miles on back roads. I sent most of my stuff in a classmate's car who happened to live near Carlisle. He offered to give me a ride and thought I was nuts telling him to just take my stuff.

Several years later, I biked from Portland, Maine to my parent's house in northern New York state when my relationship with the same girl went south. That was closer to 400 miles. And that trip was most certainly not flat.

So your idea is not crazy at all. You just need to be smart about it. Shipping most of your stuff ahead of time is a really good idea. A couple of longer day rides is another. If you can knock off that 25 ride and feel reasonably comfortable afterwards, then you can apply a general rule of thumb that I've found to be pretty accurate: if you give yourself all day, you can reasonably ride about three times the distance you'd cover in a comfortable 2 hour ride. And sustain that mileage over a period of days.

But get some saddle time in. It really helps condition your body for pedalling a bicycle all day for several days in a row. And it's not the obvious things like leg strength and cardiovascular fitness that tend to limit you. It's surprising things like a saddle that's fine for a two hour ride but starts to really, really, really bother certain parts of your anatomy after a full day's riding. Or the muscles in the back of your neck and upper shoulders that have never had to hold your head up while leaning over for 8 hours at a pop. Or your achilles tendons if you don't have proper gearing for the terrain. It's amazing how some inconsequential part of your body that you've never given a second thought to can completely incapacitate you.

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Re: Bicycle touring?

Post by Shiloh » Thu Apr 16, 2015 8:21 pm

Thanks for the tips guys, wasn't even sure if it'd be possible but hearing that makes me feel pretty good about my chances of doing it. Recently the furthest I've ridden was around 12 miles or so, and felt surprisingly good at the end of it. I've got mondays open, so I might give 25 miles a shot then.

Majorhavoc: What do you think the toughest part of a 200+ mile journey was? Also were you staying in hotels, camping it, etc?
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Re: Bicycle touring?

Post by majorhavoc » Thu Apr 16, 2015 9:36 pm

I did mostly camping, some sanctioned, some not so sanctioned. First of all, it was a phenomenal experience. And there's nothing inherently crazy about the idea of covering long distances by bicycle. People pedal across the country, across deserts, ride from Canada down to the southern tip of South America.

Without a doubt, the two worst aspects of bicycle touring for me are rain and headwinds. Of the two, headwinds are the worst. I'd much rather do a multi-mile uphill climb than bike hour after hour into a headwind. There's something especially demoralizing about it. I think it's a combination of it being an invisible enemy with no obvious end in sight combined with the fact that visually, it looks like at any given moment you should be able to pedal much more easily than you can. With a hill climb at least you can see what's making it so hard, you eventually see the end approaching, and there's always that reward when you crest the top. No such payoff with a head wind.

Rain stinks, but it's not quite so bad. It's possible to deal with it in relative comfort if you have good gear, or can wait it out if you have a flexible schedule. There are worse things in the world than nursing a coffee in a diner for a few hours with a good paperback book. And there are no more glorious words in the english language to a long distance cyclist than "All you can eat buffet". Conversely, there are no worse words in the english language to the owner of an all you can eat buffet than "long distance cyclist".

The other thing I'll say is that if you maintain a good attitude, something really special can happen on a bike trip. If something goes wrong and you suddenly find yourself in need, somehow help always seem to present itself exactly when you need it most. It's simply uncanny. AT through hikers actually have a name for this: trail magic.

It happened to me on that Maine to NY trip. It was near the end of a long, miserable day of rain and headwinds. I had already pedalled close to 80 miles, including a tough stretch up and over the spine of the Green Mountains in Vermont. I had just crossed over into New York state and I was totally spent. I rolled into this little town like a drowned rat. I couldn't even read my map because it had essentially turned into mush. So I stagger into this little public library, dripping wet. I'm looking for a local camping directory because at this point all I want is a place to pitch my tent. I can't find what I'm looking for so I ask the librarian and she says the closest campground is 30 miles away, up in the Adirondack mountains. Well, I didn't have 30 miles left in me at that point. 10 was going to be a real stretch for me.

"Well do you know any place where someone could, you know, pitch a tent without disturbing anyone?" Sorry, she says, she can't help me. So I just wander away, find a seat I don't think I'll ruin with my damp clothes and just kind of sit there, dejected. After a while I pick up a book or something and I'm reading it when the librarian comes over. "Listen, I just got off the phone with my husband, and we have a farm at the edge of town and it wouldn't be a problem for you to camp on it for just one night. We're closing in about 45 minutes, if you could wait, I could give you a ride out there, I'm driving a pickup truck." Well, you know, I could have kissed that woman right then and there. Long story short, we get to talking on the ride out and she suddenly says: "This is ridiculous, you seem like a nice young man and it's supposed to rain all night. We have a guest room and it's stupid for you put up a tent in a muddy field." So I end up with a dry bed, in a heated house with a real bathroom and a hot shower. Well, her husband comes home a little later it turns out he's an artist, works with stained glass. Who has always wanted to hit the open road on a bicycle and live in a tent. Actually thinks what I'm doing is admirable. Heroic even. Just the coolest dude you could imagine. Before I know it, they've invited me down for a sit down meal, beer, wine, great company. I try to offer money, maybe there's some chore they need done around the farm. Nope, they won't hear of it. I'm their guest and they're delighted to have me and by the way, sorry wifey was a little stand-offish at first but you just can't be too careful these days, you know?

I don't even want to think about how different my memory of that trip would have been if I had spent that particular night in a damp tent, miserable and scared of being caught trespassing on someone's property. I needed a break at that exact point in the trip, I really needed it. And there it was; it just happened. My path crossed someone else's and for no sensible reason, they were not only in a position to help, but they wanted to.

Trail magic.

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Re: Bicycle touring?

Post by Shiloh » Thu Apr 16, 2015 9:44 pm

That's awesome! Glad to hear that there's still people like that out there willing to just help someone out who's had a rough day. Warm bed and food > muddy field in the middle of nowhere.
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Re: Bicycle touring?

Post by Shiloh » Thu Apr 16, 2015 10:33 pm

Actually, I goofed: It's 250 miles, not 350. Even better!
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Re: Bicycle touring?

Post by LJ126 » Fri Apr 17, 2015 9:07 am

It's totally doable, and in some ways, a bicycle is more versatile than an automobile.

Practically everyone who lives in Saint Louis has come to Forest Park on a warm, sunny Saturday afternoon to either visit the Zoo, one of the museums, or hell, just have a picnic. And they remember being diverted all the way around the park for an hour+ because traffic is insane. That's what happens when 50,000 people show up in a single afternoon (and that's not on the busiest of days, which can reach several times that number, as there are 13 million visitors annually.)

HOWEVER, the people who park outside of the park and use a bicycle can move easily and effectively throughout, with practically no wait whatsoever. That's largely why you'll find the constabulary here on ATV's, horseback, on a bicycle, or most recently, tricked-out golf carts. Don't laugh, those little wagons are surprisingly quick, shaded, and much more convenient than the ATV for moving multiple people.
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Re: Bicycle touring?

Post by Mikeyboy » Fri Apr 17, 2015 10:57 am

Ditto on it being doable. There are even some bike touring folks who go cross country east to west or visa versa. Supposedly it takes about 2 months, so its usually done over the summer. Here is a real good blog I read a few years back from 2 Irish guys who bicycled across the US for a cancer charity and they had great info on the gear they had and how they did it. They use a combination of Hotels stays, Couch Surfing, Tent camping at campsites, and stealth camping.

http://cycleacrossusa.blogspot.com/p/wh ... bring.html

http://cycleacrossusa.blogspot.com/sear ... date=false

If you do a point A to B directions on Google Maps it does give options for driving, walking and bicycles. It will at least keep you off of roads/highways where bicycles are not permitted. Get a good route, figure out your resupply points and campsites/hotels along the way. Personally, even if you plan to bounce from hotel to hotel I would bring a 1 man tent just in case you get stuck in the middle of nowhere and/or to wait out rain storms . Then you need to figure out how many miles you could do "easily and comfortably" in one day fully loaded with gear, which means a few long distance test rides. Then break that 250 miles all down into segments. Maybe you start out thinking that 30 miles a day is your limit and you end up doing 75 miles, great you just shaved off a day. Just don't over do it. You don't want to burn yourself out which requiring a day or two to rest or more importantly hurt yourself, and then your screwed.

Above all it sounds like a fun learning experience. You don't have to make it a race, take a little time to enjoy the journey.

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Re: Bicycle touring?

Post by Shiloh » Fri Apr 17, 2015 4:12 pm

I really appreciate the advice, this isn't a for-sure thing yet but now that I've realized it's not entirely ridiculous to ride 250 miles it seems much more feasable.

Speaking of mileage, I did just a hair over 15 today and actually felt really great! No major aches and pains throughout the ride, kept up a nice steady pace of around 12-13mph, so it went pretty great. My right wrist is bugging me a bit, but I think that's partly due to the fact that I have a tendency of sleeping on my hand. :lol:
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Re: Bicycle touring?

Post by zero11010 » Fri Apr 17, 2015 8:00 pm

Do you want to bounce your plan off us when you get closer?

You have plenty of time to figure out how far you can realistically go in a day with the load you can expect (I'm kinda assuming at least 50 miles a day to complete the trip in a week - doing more than 100 miles in a day is a modest number but I'm not sure what kind of shape you're in). You have maps and can route out your path in advance to determine where you'll be bedding down each night.

Something to consider is that the shorter you can make the trip, the less you have to carry (food and water are heavy).

You may want to consider researching the topic of stealth camping. It's not something that is easy to discuss on this website as not all versions of it are legal.


I don't want to discourage your trip attempt. Spending the money to ship a bunch of things is going to add up quickly. If cost is a factor it may be cheaper to pay for someone to drive you 250 miles with your things and drive back by themselves.

I'm kinda thinking you'll need:
* shipping for an unknown number of pounds of gear in an unknown number of boxes (UPS ground cost to ship four 30lb packages will run you about $100, six 40lb packages will run you about $215)
* a bike (these are typically hundreds of dollars even used)
* bike touring gear (realistically another $100+ give or take your local used market and what you already have, you can spend $100 just getting racks for the front and back of the bike without any panniers to attach to them, plus the panniers, plus safety equipment, plus clothing if you want anything more comfortable than street clothes for your 250 mile trek, and you may want bottle cages and such), potentially spare tires and travel tools if you don't have those
* potentially you may require smaller/lighter supplies (like shelter) for your trip
* potentially food

It may be cheaper to rent a vehicle than to buy the things you need for the bike trip. You can't drive, so you need someone to take you. You'll want to pay them for their time and for a meal or two for them on the trip. You'll also be covering fuel costs.

* A 10 foot truck rental from uhaul would be about $300 (this is a one way trip fee which won't be applicable for you because you don't drive)
* The same truck from Budget is $231 (again, a one way trip fee which won't be applicable for you because you don't drive)
* Taking an 8ft pickup 500 miles (your round trip) from uhaul will cost about $520 (which still may be cheaper than buying the things you need for the bike trek. This accounts for someone driving you there, and driving the truck 250 miles back to return it.
* Getting a 4ft by 8ft cargo trailer is a flat fee and only about $15. For this you would need a vehicle to tow it. A 5x8 trailer is only $20 (flat fee). A 5x10 trailer is only $30 (flat fee). This solution is one meal for you ($15), two meals for your driver ($30), gas costs for 500 miles ($150 is a high guess assuming 500 miles 10mpg!! and $3 per gallon), and some extra cash to say thanks, plus the cheap cost of a trailer rental. The total is about $315 plus whatever cash you would give to say thanks (again, this is assuming 10mpg and $3/gallon gas).

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Re: Bicycle touring?

Post by Red_Snow » Sun Apr 19, 2015 9:09 pm

Shiloh, shoot me a PM. I live in Casper and could help you with the logistics of getting all your stuff and yourself to Laramie if you decide to not do the bicycle thing.

ETA:

What I mean by that is I can haul up to a pickup load of stuff for you for the cost of fuel.
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Re: Bicycle touring?

Post by Shiloh » Tue Apr 21, 2015 1:34 pm

Well, the folks weren't too happy when I put the idea out there, but hopefully I can bring them around.
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Re: Bicycle touring?

Post by zero11010 » Tue Apr 21, 2015 2:00 pm

Shiloh wrote:Well, the folks weren't too happy when I put the idea out there, but hopefully I can bring them around.
My girlfriend has a kid in college. I'll tell you the same thing I'd tell him.

Right now you have an idea and it isn't well thought out yet. Come back when you have a plan.


* Have an outline for what it will cost and how you'll pay for it.
** This includes the bike (bike, bike parts, touring equipment)
** This includes shipping your belongings (you know what you want shipped so you can know the price pretty much exactly in advance)
** This includes the gear required to go (camp gear, food, clothing)
* Have the trip mapped out in advance with exactly where you'll stay each night, and where you will get more food and water along the route.
* Show me what you have to keep yourself going so I know you're not going to break down in 80 miles and call for help at 1am because you don't want to do this anymore.
** This means a powered cell phone and a plan to keep it powered.
** This means you can deal with flat tires, chain malfunctions, loosening bolts, and derailer issues while you're out there.
** This means enough food, water, and plans for where and how to get more if needed.
** This means that I know you can travel X miles each day with that loadout.


Also, you presented this idea like this was your only option. Not like this was something you really wanted to do and there were other options that your folks would be more supportive of (like bringing you themselves).

I respect that you want to do this yourself.

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Re: Bicycle touring?

Post by majorhavoc » Tue Apr 21, 2015 7:24 pm

Right now your parents are having trouble seeing this as anything other than a foolish, dangerous endeavor far beyond your experience and abilities. And to be fair, they may be about half right.

Do a weekend trip first, preferably with a friend. Pick a camping destination somewhere; 50 miles away. Bike out there with your gear, spend the night and return the following day. If the destination is near someone your parents know and trust, all the better. Hell, spend the night with them if necessary.

Take lots of pictures. Assuming it's successful and you're still enthusiastic about bike touring, share your experience with your family. It'll introduce them to the concept that this is possible and something that you care deeply about.

My very first "tour" was when I was 16. A friend and I biked from northern New York state, across the Seaway Bridge into Canada and then on to my buddy's uncle's camp in southern Ontario. It took two days each way and we camped along the way in a little municipal park, right along the Rideau canal. I bet it was a 250 miles round trip.

I think the fact that I was going with a friend and our destination was the home of a trusted family member helped convince my parents that I wasn't insane. Once I had that trip under my belt, my parents stopped questioning my interest in bike touring.

FWIW: we did that first trip with crappy equipment. Schwinn Varsity (heavy ass, steel rimmed) 10 speeds with a sleeping bag wedged between our drop handlebars and daypacks strapped to the top of our rear racks. I only mention this because you don't need to invest heavily in equipment before you do a moderate trip. Consider a shorter trial run as a proof of concept.
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Re: Bicycle touring?

Post by bbwolf » Fri Jul 17, 2015 11:04 pm

did you make the trip yet? how did it go? 250 miles should take 5 or 6 days, i ride myself and usually 50 miles a day is the norm, some days more some less,

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Re: Bicycle touring?

Post by Shiloh » Fri Jul 17, 2015 11:33 pm

Unfortunately my plans changed a bit. The folks were a little more than adamant about me not riding a bike for 250 miles, so I'm getting a ride out there. However, I'm already planning on doing a tour from Laramie to Denver sometime in the next few months. I did 24 miles a few weeks ago and was surprisingly fine after. Sore? Hell yes. But I did a short ride the next day and worked out the fatigue, everything was gold.
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Re: Bicycle touring?

Post by Shiloh » Sat Jul 18, 2015 12:05 am

Also, question: What's a good way to go about carrying a handgun on a bike? Normally I carry my M&P in an Alien Gear IWB, but not sure how well that would work while touring. I thought about finding/making something that could secure to the frame and maybe carry a spare mag or two.
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Re: Bicycle touring?

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Re: Bicycle touring?

Post by bbwolf » Sat Jul 18, 2015 5:14 am

as i said i ride as well, back in 2011 i have to switch over to a recumbent tricycle due to spinal problems, but it made long distance riding a whole lot more pleasurable, and the trike i ride is rated to carry up to 400lbs, and you dont catch nearly as much wind as being hunched over a upright, im trying to gather up enough equipment and stuff so i can build up a good bug out bag, that'll allow me to do over nighters and stealth camping, hunting and fishing maybe some touring and of course to bug out if i had to

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Re: Bicycle touring?

Post by zero11010 » Thu Jun 30, 2016 2:58 pm

Shiloh wrote: I'm already planning on doing a tour from Laramie to Denver sometime in the next few months.
How did your tour go, man?

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Re: Bicycle touring?

Post by Shiloh » Thu Jun 30, 2016 10:07 pm

zero11010 wrote:
Shiloh wrote: I'm already planning on doing a tour from Laramie to Denver sometime in the next few months.
How did your tour go, man?
Sadly it didn't happen this year. Combination of busy school/work schedule, weather, etc kinda turned my plans into mush. Plus I realized my bike is going to need some work (read: money) before I'd really feel comfortable taking it out on a longer trip like that.
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