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My first fully loaded ride! And the lessons I learned...

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My first fully loaded ride! And the lessons I learned...

Old 07-13-14, 07:31 AM
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jhawk
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My first fully loaded ride! And the lessons I learned...

Hi guys,

I recently did a fully loaded (all bar a few things and the fourth "food" pannier) ride on my touring bike. It's been a while since I posted any pictures of it, so here it is. I've replaced the saddle with a Selle Anatomica Titanico X, which I'll be reviewing over the course of my cross-country trip next year. After initial discomfort, I softened the leather and now she's comfy as can be!



Apart from the new saddle, and new dynamo front light (which doesn't work, despite following instructions - we're thinking faulty wiring within the system itself).

Here's the write-up from my website about it!

Tuesday afternoon, I loaded up my bike with fully-packed panniers (except for my newly-purchased sleeping bag, which is currently en-route, a sleeping pad, and my fourth pannier which will be mainly stocked with food.) and decided to head for Bouctouche again, I wanted to find out just what it was like to ride fully-loaded with all of my gear.

It was… different, that’s for sure. Here are the five major lessons (in no particular order) that I learned from the ride.

Lesson 1: Always bring more water and food – always.

I learned this the hard way. I did a rather idiotic thing and bought only my CamelBak hydration pack with me, this sits on my back in a backpack. Which, now that I reflect was an incredibly stupid move. I have three water bottle cages on my bike – why didn’t I just fill those up with water bottles?!

The last few kilometres home were hell. I was dehydrated, malnourished and running on the reserves of my reserves. I made it home, up-chucked, and then slept for twelve hours. Heat stroke sucks, so, always bring more than enough water and food – even if you’re only going out for a few hours. Oh, and when you have the means to let your bike take all that water weight for you – use it! My CamelBak, love it though I do – will now only be used when I go mountain biking, because with every pedal stroke on Tuesday, I was carrying that weight on my back and thereby expending more energy… Never again.

Lesson 2: It’s okay to slow down…

I had ridden this same stretch – the 36.6 mile, shoulder-of-the-highway ride a week prior, on my touring bike, unloaded. My average speed was 20 km/h, I made it there in an hour and a half. This time, it was a whole different animal. My average speed this time around – according to the Cyclemeter app was 13.6 km/h, and it took me just over two hours. I’ll admit I was slightly disappointed that I couldn’t maintain a quicker pace. But, perhaps that has something to do with the fact that it was all uphill, and my legs aren’t used to riding with a full load. This is no doubt something that my body will adjust to over time. But in a way, it was nice to stop and smell the roses (or the dead roadkill that I had to weave around). But this isn’t a race – it’s perfectly okay to take your time and enjoy your lack of Lance Armstrong-esque, PED-induced speed. The sooner I accepted that, the sooner I began to enjoy it.

Lesson 3: Hills are made by an evil, evil being with a total lack of moral compass and/or no soul.

Did I mention that it was mostly uphill? Yeah, it was mostly uphill. Actually, it was all uphill.

And I don’t mean those short hills that you can climb with short bursts of speed – I mean loooooooooong, towering beasts that make your heart sink when you see them in front of you. It was endless… No sooner had I dragged myself, using plenty of swearing words of encouragement, up one and crested it… I was faced with another… And another, and another… Oh, and the transport trucks that go zooming by in the opposite direction when you’re climbing one – further adding to your climb with a blast of headwind – I frown upon you with great disdain. (Only joking, thanks for the tailwinds, they were a great help!)

Lesson 4: Know where you’re going!

Because going left and zooming down a big hill, only to stop at the bottom and go — “Hang on, this isn’t where the Dollar Store is…” *Sigh*, as the realisation dawns on you that you’ve just gone the wrong way – down a hill… And so, I turned around and headed back up the hill. ‘Bloody stupid place to put a hill!’ I thought. But I arrived at my destination, thankfully, without having to climb another one!

I swear, Dollar Stores are going to be my blessing when I cross the country next year – everything you could ever need in a touring cyclists’ diet! Four packets of Ramen noodles for a dollar, and everything else you’d need to refuel, chocolate (most of which I can’t have – dairy allergies be damned!), granola bars, cookies, the odd bottle of pop, utensils, plus other nick-nacks which will come in handy at some point, I’m sure! Oh, and a GIANT Canadian flag – which I’m thinking of strapping to the bike next year!

Lesson 5: I need to lighten my load! (But I have more than enough space for everything).



That is the pannier in which almost all of my clothing fits into! There are a few things that I’m missing out on – but, still, I think that I’ll need to lighten my compliment of clothes, especially since next year, I’l mainly be riding in the Spring and Summer, and parts of early fall – but hopefully not winter!

So, with some careful thinking ahead, hopefully I can squeeze that particular pannier down to size. Plus, I will be making more space in my other panniers, as I have decided to use a Hennessy Hammock instead of my one-man tent, so, that will add more space – since the Hennessy will take up less room that my Walrus Micro-Swift One Man tent does. Just waiting to get paid so that I can order one.

You’re also probably wondering how the added weight affected the bike, (given that this bike has crossed the country once already, and admittedly, I haven’t had to do much maintenance/repair on it…) well, I didn’t notice a significant difference as I was riding – except for perhaps slightly sharper turning and handling, and obviously it was heavier - other than that, it still rides just as well as it did the day that I got it.

It was a great test ride nonetheless, and I learned a lot from it. Here’s to many more!

Thanks for reading,

Jack.

Any tips you guys have with regards to anything to do with my bike, load-lightening, hills, or in-ride replenishment is greatly appreciated and encouraged.
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Old 07-13-14, 08:42 AM
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Jack, For the lights, trouble shoot with a VOM. A bad ground, generally the frame, connection is common.

Brad
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Old 07-13-14, 11:59 AM
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Your numbers are awol. Apparently you need a real cycle computer, like my great Sigma 16.12. Phone apps are goofy, even if you meant 36 km.
I also wondered WTH are your water bottles.
Your wires may have the polarity wrong or the tail light needs to be grounded to the headlight. I had those issues with my SA dyno and Edelux light.
Otherwise your load looks fine to me. Good luck.
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Old 07-13-14, 12:20 PM
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Originally Posted by GamblerGORD53 View Post
Your numbers are awol. Apparently you need a real cycle computer, like my great Sigma 16.12. Phone apps are goofy, even if you meant 36 km.
I also wondered WTH are your water bottles.
Your wires may have the polarity wrong or the tail light needs to be grounded to the headlight. I had those issues with my SA dyno and Edelux light.
Otherwise your load looks fine to me. Good luck.
Agreed on the numbers! Definitely need a dedicated cycling computer.

I took my Camelbak hydration system and NO water bottles - why? Because, I'm an idiot! I got heatstroke.

Thanks for the luck - think I will need it!
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Old 07-13-14, 12:55 PM
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If you are "4 bagging it" one bag should be pretty much empty after cramming in all your regular gear. Around the world, winter touring or up and down the Americas may require partial filling of that extra bag. What is that extra space for? Water, multi day food stores or keeping the look of of rig clean by stuffing bulky hiking shoes on the inside instead dangling on top of the rear rack.

Best way to lighten your load? Drop down to two bags and a stuff sack. I try my darnedest to achieve this look while schlepping a two man tent. Cold/foul weather gear, lack of water hauling space often get in the way.

Yes, riding with a camelback -on your back- when you have four bags is a HUGE head scratcher.
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Old 07-13-14, 02:02 PM
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A camebak wasn't enough water for a 2 hour ride? How much did it hold and how hot was it that day. If you were bonking and dehydrated that bad from a two hour ride that you needed to crash for 12 hours I think you really need to put in a lot more training miles. I know that I usually don't even bother with food for a two hour ride or run and two water bottles would be plenty for me for two hours of riding. Most times I find I only drink one in that time. It probably helps that I trail run 1-1/2 to 2 hours just about everyday and do not take food or water. I drink before and after.

I usually don't tour with a camelbak, but when it is hot they can be nice and cool on your back if filled with ice.

A few suggestions for the weight thing...
1. You really need very little when on tour, most folks could leave half of the stuff in their panniers at home and still have stuff they could do without.
2. A whole pannier for food? I'd suggest buying food every day where possible and having very little more than enough to get to the next store, plus some calories for just in case situations.
3. If you wind up with over 30 pounds of stuff including panniers, but not food and water, I;d suggest going over your list and trimming. Not necessarily everyone's cup of tea, but 20 pounds isn't that hard to get to and 10 is definitely possible for the more spartan. Give that you ought to be able to get to 30 pounds base gear weight including baggage.
4. I won't go into specifics here, but check out my article on ultralight touring at http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/Ultralight You probably won't want to go as light as I do, but can still find a lot of useful advice there.
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Old 07-13-14, 06:16 PM
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And this is precisely why we recommend that people load their bicycles up and go for a few rides before The Big One. It can be a real learning experience.

Regarding the stuff you bring ... I haven't had a look at your packing list yet, but a tip. If the item does not have at least 2 purposes, set it aside and do some serious thinking about whether you need it.

For example, I do not bring jerseys because they have one purpose ... to wear on the bicycle while riding. Instead I bring wicking T-shirts which can be worn on or off the bicycle. Another example, I bring a small bottle of plain ordinary shampoo ... and that works for my hair, me, my laundry, and even my dishes. No sense bringing a different soap for each thing you might need soap for.

Obviously things like tubes are going to have one purpose, but there are a lot of things which can be streamlined by multi-purposing.
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Old 07-13-14, 07:02 PM
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Originally Posted by Machka View Post
If the item does not have at least 2 purposes, set it aside and do some serious thinking about whether you need it. Obviously things like tubes are going to have one purpose, but there are a lot of things which can be streamlined by multi-purposing.
That's an excellent thought.
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Old 07-13-14, 11:06 PM
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OP, from the tone of your post you seem quite new to cycling. There was a time when I also loathed and feared hills. Here is some advice.

1) Lighten you load....most tourists carry far too much weight. Try to keep all your gear under 30lbs. Personally I shoot for under 20lbs, some hardy folks make it 10lbs. Those that have 40 or 50lbs or more are just making life harder for themselves, IMHO. This is particularly the case when going up hill where power to weight ratio (rather than pure power) is important.

2) Ride hills, it's the only way to get comfortable on them.

3) Patience is important, find a comfortable gear and don't thrash it, keep your cadence around 80rpm and don't worry if you are only going 4 mph.

4) Start a long climb slowly so you can speed up half way up.

5) If you get tired stop on the next low gradient bit of the hill. Eat and drink something before starting again.

6) If you want to feel better on climbs lose weight, from yourself and your bike.

This is a good video o climbing....not touring specific, but lots of good advice.

Climb Like a Pro - Tips On Cycling Up Hills - YouTube
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Old 07-14-14, 03:44 AM
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Originally Posted by Machka View Post
If the item does not have at least 2 purposes, set it aside and do some serious thinking about whether you need it.
Originally Posted by Louis Le Tour View Post
That's an excellent thought.
You can and should save weight with multipurpose items, but be careful because it can also be a trap if you go multipurpose just for the sake of doing so. I use many multipurpose items and in many cases they work out well, but don't just assume that a multipurpose item is automatically better.

A few thing to consider when going with multipurpose items:
  1. Does the multifunction item actually weigh less than the single purpose items it replaces
  2. Does the multifunction item actually do the functions all as well or at least well enough
  3. Are all of the functions actually necessary, if not is the item lighter than the single purpose items that it replaces that are actually necessary
  4. Are any problems created by the multifunction item? For example do you need it for two different purposes at the same time or will the item be wet or dirty from one use when it is needed for another

If it meets those requirements then go for it; if not you might want to reconsider.

Note that I have not found space to be a big concern for me, but if it is for you the items in the list where weight is considered you may need to consider bulk as well.
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Old 07-14-14, 06:38 AM
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Great tips so far. Regarding your photo of a stuffed pannier with "almost all" your clothing--looks like too much clothing. One way to look at it is that you should be able to wear everything at once as part of a coordinated layering system. That way, everything should fit easily into less than half a pack for three-season touring. This is where Machka's comment about multiple uses is very good. For instance, on tour I wear a long sleeve nylon trekking shirt with a collar and pockets--good for sun and bug protection, carrying valuables safely, sleeves can be rolled up and down and buttons undone for ventilation, washes easily and dries quickly, layers over a polypro jersey and under a rain jacket for a wide range of temps, and even looks decent enough (when clean) for town wear and travel.

Ditto the comments on amount of food and water needed. As experience and fitness increase, you may find you need to carry less, if any.

And you'll start to actually enjoy the hills, because you always come down them. I once heard a comment that rookies complain about hills, experienced cyclists complain about wind.
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Old 07-14-14, 06:52 AM
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Originally Posted by andrewclaus View Post
I once heard a comment that rookies complain about hills, experienced cyclists complain about wind.
I must be a rookie then.
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Old 07-14-14, 07:31 AM
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Looking back at what I carried last month, other than some clothing items, which you can wear on the bike and also put on at night to provide extra warmth if needed (e.g., arm and leg warmers, rain jacket), very few of my items were multipurpose unless you define that term broadly. For example, one could consider a pot or a stove multipurpose if one uses it for cooking dinner and then boiling water for coffee.
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Old 07-14-14, 05:17 PM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
For example, one could consider a pot or a stove multipurpose if one uses it for cooking dinner and then boiling water for coffee.
Well, for example ... we don't bring a kettle because a pot will work as a kettle for boiling water for coffee, a cooking pot for dinner, and a serving bowl. It can also work as a dishwashing bowl in a pinch.
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Old 07-14-14, 05:24 PM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
You can and should save weight with multipurpose items, but be careful because it can also be a trap if you go multipurpose just for the sake of doing so. I use many multipurpose items and in many cases they work out well, but don't just assume that a multipurpose item is automatically better.

A few thing to consider when going with multipurpose items:
  1. Does the multifunction item actually weigh less than the single purpose items it replaces
  2. Does the multifunction item actually do the functions all as well or at least well enough
  3. Are all of the functions actually necessary, if not is the item lighter than the single purpose items that it replaces that are actually necessary
  4. Are any problems created by the multifunction item? For example do you need it for two different purposes at the same time or will the item be wet or dirty from one use when it is needed for another

If it meets those requirements then go for it; if not you might want to reconsider.

Note that I have not found space to be a big concern for me, but if it is for you the items in the list where weight is considered you may need to consider bulk as well.

Yes ... as I indicated, the main thing is to think carefully about each and every item you bring.
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Old 07-14-14, 06:32 PM
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JHawk, regarding #3 . hills

make peace with the hill at the bottom, you set the pace, not the hill. Go the same speed at the bottom as you would at the top. Not the speed you can no longer maintain because you pushed hard the moment the incline increased. Pushing at the bottom then being forced to a lower gear as you slow down simply loads up your muscles with lactic acid that has to be metabolized as you ride. It's a great way to get stronger but it requires recovery. If you don't budget for recovery your body will force it on you through exhaustion or injury.

Going boringly slow at the bottom of a hill will do a few things, it'll leave you less tired at the top of the hill and at the end of the day, on average your total mileage will be the same. The other thing is that it will give you a learning opportunity for developing better hill climbing technique.

Think of it this way, you ride along a flat road at a fairly steady effort of 60% and when a hill approaches that takes 30min. to climb you charge into it pushing the same gear until the effort hits 90% and you're forced into downshifting until you're finally down to a manageable 75% effort. When you get to the top you coast recovering from an effort that is greater than your flatland cruising. Next time you come to the hill downshift way early, maybe even raising your cadence from your flatland cadence. Instead of pushing hard to 90% until you are forced by your physical limits to a lower gear spin a bit faster to a 75% effort. Eventually you'll discover that riding up a hill at a consistent effort without bursts of effort will leave you with energy to enjoy the view and ride a few more miles.

If you want to jam up hills do it with an unloaded bike. Think of your loaded bike like a loaded truck, there's nothing to be gained pushing limits except an overheated engine and using lots of fuel. The idea is to get over the hill, not break the engine or watching billowing black smoke pour out the exhaust. Keep it cool.
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Old 07-14-14, 07:26 PM
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Originally Posted by LeeG View Post
JHawk, regarding #3 . hills

make peace with the hill at the bottom, you set the pace, not the hill. Go the same speed at the bottom as you would at the top. Not the speed you can no longer maintain because you pushed hard the moment the incline increased. Pushing at the bottom then being forced to a lower gear as you slow down simply loads up your muscles with lactic acid that has to be metabolized as you ride. It's a great way to get stronger but it requires recovery. If you don't budget for recovery your body will force it on you through exhaustion or injury.

Going boringly slow at the bottom of a hill will do a few things, it'll leave you less tired at the top of the hill and at the end of the day, on average your total mileage will be the same. The other thing is that it will give you a learning opportunity for developing better hill climbing technique.

Think of it this way, you ride along a flat road at a fairly steady effort of 60% and when a hill approaches that takes 30min. to climb you charge into it pushing the same gear until the effort hits 90% and you're forced into downshifting until you're finally down to a manageable 75% effort. When you get to the top you coast recovering from an effort that is greater than your flatland cruising. Next time you come to the hill downshift way early, maybe even raising your cadence from your flatland cadence. Instead of pushing hard to 90% until you are forced by your physical limits to a lower gear spin a bit faster to a 75% effort. Eventually you'll discover that riding up a hill at a consistent effort without bursts of effort will leave you with energy to enjoy the view and ride a few more miles.

If you want to jam up hills do it with an unloaded bike. Think of your loaded bike like a loaded truck, there's nothing to be gained pushing limits except an overheated engine and using lots of fuel. The idea is to get over the hill, not break the engine or watching billowing black smoke pour out the exhaust. Keep it cool.
Great advice. I often go on training rides on my loaded bike. I don't ride them exactly as I would when touring. I try not to use my lowest granny gears, keep myself seated with hands on the top of the bars and tap out a good cadence. When I am touring I will use the granny gears so I can be more comfortable on the hill. If I am feeling really good half way up I'll speed up a bit or even go to a higher gear so that I can top out with a bit of speed.
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Old 07-14-14, 08:03 PM
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Originally Posted by andrewclaus View Post
And you'll start to actually enjoy the hills, because you always come down them. I once heard a comment that rookies complain about hills, experienced cyclists complain about wind.
+1 Hills ALWAYS have a top and then a down-side. Wind, on the other hand, may never end. Especially if you let it "get in your head". In either case "granny" is your friend.
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Old 07-14-14, 11:49 PM
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Originally Posted by BigAura View Post
+1 Hills ALWAYS have a top and then a down-side. Wind, on the other hand, may never end. Especially if you let it "get in your head". In either case "granny" is your friend.
Personally, I think it has more to do with what you get used to as a cyclist. Having spend 13 years cycling long distances in Manitoba, one of the flattest and windiest places on earth, I don't like going up hills ... and I don't like going down hills. Going down is often worse than going up! Its a tremendous amount of effort and agonising pain for very little benefit. Plus I'm off and walking half the time anyway ... thinking to myself that it would be easier to have just hiked the whole thing and saved myself the trouble of pushing a bicycle.

But put me in wind, and I'm fine. I can settle in and be quite comfortable.

However, I will say that if you're heading into a hilly area, the lighter you can make your bicycle the better. I'm often thinking of jettisoning my panniers when I'm slogging up some hill somewhere.
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Old 07-15-14, 06:46 AM
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Originally Posted by Machka View Post
...I don't like going up hills ... and I don't like going down hills...But put me in wind, and I'm fine. I can settle in and be quite comfortable.
That's cool. For every rule there is an exception! I'd love to have that attitude about wind. It's kind of funny, the other day I was a little upset with a tail wind! I was climbing the same speed as the wind and I was getting too hot with no breeze. I enjoyed the hill, but still complained about the wind!

I agree with you about not liking the descent. I'm usually the last one down, being very cautious and not so young any more. But I love climbing, maybe because to me, hills mean scenery and excitement (and welcome cooler weather here lately).
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Old 07-15-14, 07:18 AM
  #21  
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Originally Posted by andrewclaus View Post
That's cool. For every rule there is an exception! I'd love to have that attitude about wind. It's kind of funny, the other day I was a little upset with a tail wind! I was climbing the same speed as the wind and I was getting too hot with no breeze. I enjoyed the hill, but still complained about the wind!

I agree with you about not liking the descent. I'm usually the last one down, being very cautious and not so young any more. But I love climbing, maybe because to me, hills mean scenery and excitement (and welcome cooler weather here lately).
I'm of the opinion that I can see the scenery just fine from the bottom of the hill looking up.


The main reasons I don't mind the wind are:
a) I've only every been off the bicycle and walking in a wind once that I can remember. The wind was clocked at 160 km/h and I was knocked off my bicycle and ran for shelter.
b) Even in a fairly strong wind (let's say 50 or 60 km/h), I can still maintain something over 10 km/h.

However, on hills, I've been off and walking so many times I've long since lost count ... and when I cycle up a hill, I'm usually crawling along somewhere between about 4 and 7 km/h. I have discovered that 4 km/h is as slow as I can go without feeling in danger of tipping over, and I've done that speed up a hill more times than I can count because it was all I could manage.

So at least with wind, I'm usually managing something over 10 km/h ... that's twice what I'm doing up a hill.

Plus, after all those years in wind, I've learned to ride the wind (like how people in hilly areas learn to climb hills). Wind is never 100% consistent ... it gusts and shifts. And if you're really paying attention to the gust patterns and to land features (even a lone tree), you can use those things to make a sudden surge ahead.

I also ride wind differently than many people suggest ... what I've found works for me is to ride hard every time there is a slight break in the wind. That's not the time to rest, that's the time to cover some ground. You can knock off a decent distance in even a short break from the wind. Then when the wind really starts blowing again, I relax and rest into it ... waiting and watching for the next little break from the wind. It's almost a game!


We rode the 7 Peaks Challenge in Victoria in 2011/12 ... 7 really good climbs, long with decent grades, some quite steep. I was very surprised I could make it up each one (there was a little bit of walking) ... so when I really psych myself up, I can climb ... very, very slowly. But because of a bad accident on a descent in 2007, I did not enjoy the descents. In places I was slower going down than going up.
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Old 07-16-14, 02:38 PM
  #22  
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I may have missed it, but what gearing do you have on your bike? IMHO even touring specific bikes have too high a gear ratio. How many teeth on your smallest front chain-ring?
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Old 07-16-14, 06:11 PM
  #23  
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In that first photo, do I see your bike with three bags: two rear and only one front?

Isn't your steering completely unwieldy that way? When I got back into touring some 9 years ago. I was told by several reliable sources to always have the two front bags ("lowriders") evenly loaded. You can get away with unevenly loaded or a single rear pannier, a setup we often use around town, but you need to be very careful of your R/L balance with front panniers. You may get away with it for a day of slow and careful riding, but at more speed eventually that uneven front end will trip you up or stress your bike the wrong way.

My husband and I put almost as much weight on front as on rear. I find riding a bike with a good part of the load distributed forward way better than the everything-on-back I used to do in my 1970s touring days. We've done some 50,000 km on 4 continents since we got back into this, and those we see who don't use front panniers, carrying nearly all weight on back, end up with rear wheel issues before finishing any big rides.
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Old 07-17-14, 09:08 AM
  #24  
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"Oh, and a GIANT Canadian flag – which I’m thinking of strapping to the bike next year!"

I suspect next year you will add -

Lesson 6: Leave the GIANT Canadian flags to GIANT Canadians.
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Old 07-17-14, 09:20 AM
  #25  
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Originally Posted by rzldzl View Post
"Oh, and a GIANT Canadian flag – which I’m thinking of strapping to the bike next year!"

I suspect next year you will add -

Lesson 6: Leave the GIANT Canadian flags to GIANT Canadians.

+1.

OP: Why do you think carrying the water weight on your back required more energy than carrying it on your bike? And if you are getting dehydrated that easily, I suggest the bottles and the Camelback. I ride with both when there will be longer stretches without water.
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