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Starting a Tour for the First Time Soon

Old 09-27-17, 07:03 AM
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Kahrpistols
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Starting a Tour for the First Time Soon

Hi! I just recently started looking into touring and have bought a lot of the required gear but still need to make some purchases here and there.

I have two main questions here - I bought a dedicated touring bike for myself and my wife will continue to use her endurance-based road bike (with only a rear rack). I have Ortlieb front and back panniers and I was thinking to use only the top of my wife's rear rack for stuff like the tent, sleeping bags, etc.

First question: Do you think the 60L capacity of my four bags is enough for two people, given that we can pack bulky items on the top of my rack and hers? We are planning to spend some time in the wilderness, away from civilization and therefore shopping etc and some time near cities so we'll have easy access to food etc. I'm not concerned with the latter, as we can buy food regularly, but we may need to store up to a week's (or two) worth of food for two people when we're in the middle of nowhere. Will we run into problems with only 60L capacity for two?

Second: Is it possible to buy one 20L compression waterproof sack for our sleeping bags and to pack two sleeping bags in one compression sack? I believe our sleeping bags (Kelty Cosmic Down 20) would fit in a 10L compression sack, so I was thinking to make things easier to just buy a 20L and use that for both. Would that work?
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Old 09-27-17, 07:26 AM
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Curious: Where in the "wilderness" that may keep you away from food sources for up to two weeks do you plan on going with a road bike?
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Old 09-27-17, 07:53 AM
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If you are away from food for two weeks I hope you plan on water filtration? I would skip the 20L compression sack and go with 2 compression sacks. This will give you the ability to move the two bags around if you need too. You may also find you can stuff a few bits of clothing in with each sleeping bag for more space.

If I was planning two weeks worth of food for two people I wouldn't try to put it and almost all of the camping gear and tools for two people onto one bike. I think you will run out of room.
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Old 09-27-17, 08:03 AM
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Your wife could use something like the Topeak Trunkbag DXP which has panniers which fold up into the sides of the trunk bag when not in use. This would operate as a regular trunk bag but have the extra volume available when you need it. I wouldn't use this as a full time touring set up, but for your needs it makes sense.
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Old 09-27-17, 08:06 AM
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Two things -

I think it is important for each person to be as self-contained as possible in case you are separated. Each person should have, at least, some food and cold/wet clothing. A sleeping bag is a primary source of warmth in an emergency situation - I would strongly argue that they be carried separately - esp. if you are planning more remote riding.

And about that remote riding - if you are from New Jersey, your definition of wilderness and mine are quite different. Technically, in the U.S. bicycles are not permitted in wilderness areas. I suppose you mean the backcountry. I have ridden 100,000 miles including places like the Yukon and Northwest Territories. Rarely are you all that far from essentials - expensive, perhaps - but there. None of us like schlepping around more than we have to. Unless you are planning to stop for extended periods in extremely remote locations, I doubt you need more than a few days' food. This is especially true if you are doing mostly paved touring. The GDMBR is a bit different, but still with frequent resupply points.

For example, on the TransAm, the greatest distance between resupply points is 125 miles between Rawlins and Lander, Wyoming. Many people do it in two days - some go further, although the two towns do act as magnets. In between these two towns are Grandma's Cafe in Bairoil (sometimes open), the Muddy Gap c-store, and the Jeffrey City bar/cafe. The Western Express in Nevada and Utah is more remote in between - with nary a smidgen of edible civilization. 77 miles between Eureka and Ely - 83 miles between Baker and Milford.

If you are new to touring, I would doubt you need to carry two weeks' of food. Nor would I suggest as a first tour one where you do.

PS - Never eat food in your tent if you plan on touring in the West or the Far North. That means not even in New Jersey. The scent will remain in your tent for bear noses to smell, even when your poor human nose cannot sniff a thing.
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Old 09-27-17, 08:24 AM
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Thanks for the replies, guys! I'm actually not from NJ, I'm from NC but living in NJ (for only a few more days!)

I said 1-2 weeks as a worst case scenario but realistically you are right, we probably do not need to go further than 3-5 days without a food resupply. We will be exclusively touring on the road. And yes, we will have water filtration systems instead of packing water.

This perhaps leads to another question: How much food does one person need while on tour? I currently ride 40 miles a day, hard, and eat in excess of 3,500-4,000 calories a day. If I have to keep up something similar to my current intake of food I will burn out of food quite quickly. Does touring 80+ miles at an easy pace burn considerably fewer calories than 40 at a race pace? (I have to keep up with cars around here to keep drivers happy and prevent them from driving me off the road so I usually reach speeds of 24-28 mph between stop lights.)

My plan is to start with a 1 week tour of the Blue Ridge Mountains to get used to the daily life of touring, and then after my international travels (non-bike), do the entire Parkway (~1 month?), then head over to the west coast and do a 3 month tour.
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Old 09-27-17, 08:35 AM
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1. Food. Stocking up, even on dried food items that will require added water, means something in the order of 1kg/person/day. Two weeks supply for 2 will add up to 28kg (more than 60 pounds). In our (limited) experience, bikes have such a range that you can usually re-stock every other day, at the worst. Longer term stays in remote areas would usually require the use of a trailer. We always carry emergency food items (GORP + some rice + tuna can, enough for 1 day), and re-stock as needed.

2. Volume. My wife and I (self-supported) tour using front panniers only (Ortliebs). So, yes, it is definitely possible to carry everything inside a front+rear combo.

3. Rear rack. Is probably better used to carry food items. The problem with food is that volume and weight (usually) vary considerably over time. I much prefer to routinely pack panniers with the same items, for two reasons. First, we eventually know exactly where everything is so we do not have to rummage the find the stove. Second, once the load is balanced, we are set for the duration of the trip. We use a bear bag to store food and secure it on top of a rear rack. Not that we have ever encountered bears, but these bags are also good at preventing squirrels/mice attacks. And it greatly simplifies odor management.

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Old 09-27-17, 09:19 AM
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Originally Posted by Kahrpistols View Post
My plan is to start with a 1 week tour of the Blue Ridge Mountains to get used to the daily life of touring, and then after my international travels (non-bike), do the entire Parkway (~1 month?), then head over to the west coast and do a 3 month tour.

Even if you add in Skyline Drive, you'll have a hard time making the BRP into a month-long tour. 10 days to 2 weeks is more likely, unless you're taking a lot of time to hike or camp en route.


BTW, if you're trying to ride yourself into shape, loaded touring on flat ground is a whole lot easier way to do that. I've commented before that the best way to ride yourself into shape for bike touring the TransAm would be to start in Wichita, KS, ride to the west coast, fly back to Wichita, and ride to the east coast. Flat riding to get your butt used to all the riding, then the easy mountains, followed by the hard stuff. You'll want to be in shape before you hit the Appalachians (and Blue Ridge).
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Old 09-27-17, 09:24 AM
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Originally Posted by pdlamb View Post
Even if you add in Skyline Drive, you'll have a hard time making the BRP into a month-long tour. 10 days to 2 weeks is more likely, unless you're taking a lot of time to hike or camp en route.


BTW, if you're trying to ride yourself into shape, loaded touring on flat ground is a whole lot easier way to do that. I've commented before that the best way to ride yourself into shape for bike touring the TransAm would be to start in Wichita, KS, ride to the west coast, fly back to Wichita, and ride to the east coast. Flat riding to get your butt used to all the riding, then the easy mountains, followed by the hard stuff. You'll want to be in shape before you hit the Appalachians (and Blue Ridge).
I'm not worried about my shape, as I bike almost every day anyway but my wife would need a primer. I'll take your suggestion into consideration ... kinda scared about all the uphills for her if we start on the BRP, actually.
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Old 09-27-17, 10:06 AM
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Well - - as Archie Bunker once said, "Somebody's gotta live in Jersey."
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Old 09-27-17, 10:20 AM
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These are just random thoughts on some of your plans.

You said nothing about your cycling background, but I assume when you refer to your wife's bike as an endurance based road bike, that it is a randonneuring type of bike (I call that a rando bike). Thus, I assume you have some cycling background for longer distances, but without carrying much of a load.

I think a rando bike would work well, but putting the weight up high on a rack could lead to poor handling. I try to pack my panniers so that the most dense stuff is in the bottom, lightest weight up higher. That way I get my center of gravity as close to the frame dropouts as I can.

Some campers want to carry more than others, I can't comment on volumes when I have no idea how much you typically would carry for a camping trip. When I go backpacking, my pack usually weighs more than 30 pounds without food or water, but I have some neighbors that backpacked the AT and when they finished it their backpacks were 12 and 15 pounds for the two of them. They obviously carry a lot less than I do.

Two weeks of food is a lot. I almost never carry freeze dried food, thus my food is heavier and bulkier. A year ago while cycling in Iceland interior, I started with two weeks of food and it filled my 31 liter Ortlieb duffle, plus I had a couple days of overflow in another drybag. That two weeks of food was for me, not two people.

Another trip - I got home a few weeks ago from a two week kayaking trip on Isle Royale. Since it was kayaking and my kayak handles well with a load, I did not have the weight concerns that you have for cycling. I had over 30 pounds of food (four drybags) for those two weeks but that included 15 cans.

Compression stuff sacks, it is impossible for anyone here that does not own the sleeping bags you cite to know how big a compression sack has to be. For sleeping bags, I always put them inside an Ortlieb waterproof pannier. But I have two waterproof compression sacks that I use for kayaking that I like, both made by Granite Gear, but I am careful to avoid getting them wet even though they are labeled as waterproof because I really do not want a wet sleeping bag. If you do a google search for - granite gear event compression - you will find the ones I mean.

Photo of my bike with two weeks of food on it. The drybag in between my Ortlieb duffle and seatpost is the overflow drybag with more food in it. My opinion is that you need to adjust your plans to either carry less food or scale up your carrying capacity.
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Old 09-27-17, 10:22 AM
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Seems like you've already gotten some pretty good answers on your initial questions. For getting into shape, in my experience women who don't ride a lot do struggle especially with the uphills, even without hauling the cargo. Make sure she knows how to use low gears for climbing!
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Old 09-27-17, 10:32 AM
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Originally Posted by Kahrpistols View Post
Thanks for the replies, guys! I'm actually not from NJ, I'm from NC but living in NJ (for only a few more days!)

I said 1-2 weeks as a worst case scenario but realistically you are right, we probably do not need to go further than 3-5 days without a food resupply. We will be exclusively touring on the road. And yes, we will have water filtration systems instead of packing water.

This perhaps leads to another question: How much food does one person need while on tour? I currently ride 40 miles a day, hard, and eat in excess of 3,500-4,000 calories a day. If I have to keep up something similar to my current intake of food I will burn out of food quite quickly. Does touring 80+ miles at an easy pace burn considerably fewer calories than 40 at a race pace? (I have to keep up with cars around here to keep drivers happy and prevent them from driving me off the road so I usually reach speeds of 24-28 mph between stop lights.)

My plan is to start with a 1 week tour of the Blue Ridge Mountains to get used to the daily life of touring, and then after my international travels (non-bike), do the entire Parkway (~1 month?), then head over to the west coast and do a 3 month tour.
I saw this posting after I wrote my dissertation above about how much food two weeks worth of food is. I obviously did not get the message that you were going to be on the road where food is often available. I assumed you planned something like my Iceland trip were you were in the wilderness for a long time.

I would not be surprised if you eat 3500 to 4000 calories or more per day on a bike tour. Since you plan a 1 week tour to start, you will have an opportunity to find out how much weight you gain or lose with that caloric load in a day. You can assume 3500 calories is about one pound of body weight.

If you can limit your food to no more than 3 day supply on the bike, that would be great. When I did Pacific Coast, I tried to resupply every time I saw a Safeway store, which was about every three days. My Nelson Longflap bag (black saddle bag in photo) carried almost all the food, plus an occasional wine bottle.

We probably ate about 5 large meals a week in a restaurant too, sometimes that was a breakfast, sometimes lunch and sometimes a supper. Generally we did not plan restaurant meals in advance, but if we saw a good restaurant on the road we would often stop. Or, if the campground was near a community we might plan on eating supper out that day by riding from the campground for supper.
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Old 09-27-17, 11:00 AM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
These are just random thoughts on some of your plans.

You said nothing about your cycling background, but I assume when you refer to your wife's bike as an endurance based road bike, that it is a randonneuring type of bike (I call that a rando bike). Thus, I assume you have some cycling background for longer distances, but without carrying much of a load.

I think a rando bike would work well, but putting the weight up high on a rack could lead to poor handling. I try to pack my panniers so that the most dense stuff is in the bottom, lightest weight up higher. That way I get my center of gravity as close to the frame dropouts as I can.

Some campers want to carry more than others, I can't comment on volumes when I have no idea how much you typically would carry for a camping trip. When I go backpacking, my pack usually weighs more than 30 pounds without food or water, but I have some neighbors that backpacked the AT and when they finished it their backpacks were 12 and 15 pounds for the two of them. They obviously carry a lot less than I do.

Two weeks of food is a lot. I almost never carry freeze dried food, thus my food is heavier and bulkier. A year ago while cycling in Iceland interior, I started with two weeks of food and it filled my 31 liter Ortlieb duffle, plus I had a couple days of overflow in another drybag. That two weeks of food was for me, not two people.

Another trip - I got home a few weeks ago from a two week kayaking trip on Isle Royale. Since it was kayaking and my kayak handles well with a load, I did not have the weight concerns that you have for cycling. I had over 30 pounds of food (four drybags) for those two weeks but that included 15 cans.

Compression stuff sacks, it is impossible for anyone here that does not own the sleeping bags you cite to know how big a compression sack has to be. For sleeping bags, I always put them inside an Ortlieb waterproof pannier. But I have two waterproof compression sacks that I use for kayaking that I like, both made by Granite Gear, but I am careful to avoid getting them wet even though they are labeled as waterproof because I really do not want a wet sleeping bag. If you do a google search for - granite gear event compression - you will find the ones I mean.

Photo of my bike with two weeks of food on it. The drybag in between my Ortlieb duffle and seatpost is the overflow drybag with more food in it. My opinion is that you need to adjust your plans to either carry less food or scale up your carrying capacity.
That is quite a neatly packed bike! I hope I can get mine to look something that neat after I get some experience. My thoughts, to continue my initial post, were to strap the tent and both sleeping bags to my wife's bike and then to put the rest of gear/food etc on my bike. Reading some of the comments above made me realize maybe I should split the sleeping bags for safety reasons. Therefore, tent & 1 sleeping bag on her bike, 1 sleeping bag & everything else with mine.

If I can get away without buying a second set of panniers for my wife's bike, what else can I strap to the top of her rack in addition to the tent? If possible, I'd like to avoid the $180 cost of extra Ortlieb panniers but if absolutely necessary I have the budget to buy them. But the wifey is already wincing at the existing expense, so anything I can do to minimize further expenses would be appreciated.

Also, I've been reading some stuff about loading only the rear messes with the handling of the bike - if we were to get panniers for her and strap the tent, and only load the light items in the panniers (maybe ~20-25 lbs total?), would her handling be affected terribly? http://www.performancebike.com/webap...400306__400306 this is her exact bike

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Old 09-27-17, 12:10 PM
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The specifications on that page you liked to said your wife's bike does not have rack mounts, so I am not sure if it will work.

I put my tent in a pannier. A tent is more dense than a lot of my other camping gear so I want it down low. I usually carry my tent in the front right pannier. Everything else in that pannier can get wet, so I do not have to worry about a wet tent getting anything else wet when I pack it. When I make camp, if it is raining I can get my tent up before any of my other stuff gets unpacked because I only had to open one pannier to get my tent up. Then I can start transferring my stuff to my tent. But, I still can carry my tent weight low in a pannier instead of up high because it is pretty dense.

You are obviously going to have to get all your stuff and then start moving things around to see how it works out and the best way to optimize handling.

Your wife's bike handling would probably be fine with 20 to 25 pounds. But as I noted I like to have the densest stuff down low. I have no clue how heavy your tent is.
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Old 09-27-17, 02:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
The specifications on that page you liked to said your wife's bike does not have rack mounts, so I am not sure if it will work.

I put my tent in a pannier. A tent is more dense than a lot of my other camping gear so I want it down low. I usually carry my tent in the front right pannier. Everything else in that pannier can get wet, so I do not have to worry about a wet tent getting anything else wet when I pack it. When I make camp, if it is raining I can get my tent up before any of my other stuff gets unpacked because I only had to open one pannier to get my tent up. Then I can start transferring my stuff to my tent. But, I still can carry my tent weight low in a pannier instead of up high because it is pretty dense.

You are obviously going to have to get all your stuff and then start moving things around to see how it works out and the best way to optimize handling.

Your wife's bike handling would probably be fine with 20 to 25 pounds. But as I noted I like to have the densest stuff down low. I have no clue how heavy your tent is.
There are bosses for the rear rack installation on my wife's bike. I just looked up the specs on my tent; it's a little bit on the heavy side at 5 lbs 11 oz. Since I'm just getting into bikepacking, I didn't want to get a $$$$ tent until I know it's something I want to do a lot ... if the tent is too heavy / cumbersome on the week I take it in the mountains, I'll probably upgrade to something like the REI Quarter Dome before my 3 month trip.
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Old 09-27-17, 03:13 PM
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Here's a pro tip that will be worth more than anything else you will hear in this tread: Pack some stuff on your bike and go ride for a few days. You will quickly discover what you need and don't need. Personal experience is exponentially more valuable than what a random person may suggest on the internet. Also, there are only a few places on the planet where it's necessary to carry two weeks worth of food, and they're definitely not in the United States.
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Old 09-28-17, 08:14 AM
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My wife rode across the U.S. using only a set of Ortlieb front pann0iers on her bike's rear rack. She carried her sleeping bag and Thermarest on top the rear rack. Probably 25 lbs. gear weight.

She has started using regular Ortlieb rear panniers and her camping gear is still on top the rack. Her gear weight has gone up to about 30-35 lbs. for longer tours. Go figure. She does not have any bike handling issues due to weight distribution. I was riding behind her on the tour we are presently on and started backing off when she approached 40 mph.

Both of our daughters use Ortlieb Classic Backrollers on their rear racks along with an Ortlieb Rackpack without any problems. I'm afraid to ask how much weight they are carrying. It is amazing to see what they pull out of their bags, like a bottle of wine! However, they both ride Surly Long Haul Truckers, which are very stable bikes
.
We usually carry a couple of freeze dried dinners for "emergencies". We usually end up using them because we misjudged or were too lazy to ride a few miles out of our way to resupply.

I'd recommend a set of smaller panniers on the rear rack for your wife.

If you wife's bike does not have a good low gear, 17 gear inches, I'd also recommend setting the bike up with as low of gearing as possible. Make it work for her, and you might end up with a life-long touring partner

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Old 09-28-17, 08:43 AM
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Originally Posted by Timequake View Post
Here's a pro tip that will be worth more than anything else you will hear in this tread: Pack some stuff on your bike and go ride for a few days. You will quickly discover what you need and don't need. Personal experience is exponentially more valuable than what a random person may suggest on the internet.

+1. And ride terrain you expect to encounter so you can assess learn whether your bike is properly geared.
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Old 09-28-17, 08:52 AM
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This is not rocket science. As suggested, go for a long weekend ride. You will soon see what you need and don't need.
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Old 09-28-17, 08:58 PM
  #21  
Kahrpistols
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I appreciate the answers, guys. I'll definitely do a few short rides before the big one to see if I need to fine-tune the setup.
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