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Intro to Touring?

Old 11-29-23, 01:52 PM
  #1  
JustaJoe
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Intro to Touring?

If there was any recent threads on this, I am sorry I missed them.

I am curious how you got started touring. Not in terms of which bike, what equipment, etc. but rather:
  • Did you just decide to tour, pack up and leave one day?
  • Fully supported first tour?
  • Credit card tour?
  • Ease into by doing short trips?
  • Classes/experiences like ACA's Intro to Touring?
  • Jumped right into bikepacking?
  • Or a methodical approach of increasing fitness, accumulating gear, extensive planning?
  • Other?
I've been increasing my fitness so I can tour and have the bike I believe will be great for my needs. I don't have specialized touring/bikepacking equipment: A 5lb 2-person tent, Exped Synmat, MSR Whisperlite and some other stuff from car camping. I am thinking of doing a faux tour - well, a 2 day ride on the forest service roads of Croatan National Forest near coastal NC (flat!). I will drive there in my car, load up the bike, and ride 40-50mi, camp, then ride back to the car the next day. I want to make sure this is something I can do and want to do before going all-in (e.g. not spending $1k on gear before going on my 1st real tour, then finding out I hate it). Also planning some over-nighters from my house to the 2 state parks within reasonable riding distance.

My goal is to do some of the common routes in 2024 - GAP/C&O, maybe Ohio to Erie (I have family at both ends, huge help), etc. I'm still working for a paycheck, so time away is limited + my wife and I are planning a big vacation in 2024.

Let's hear your stories...
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Old 11-29-23, 02:09 PM
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imi
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I hitch-hiked and lived on the road from 1978-1983 mostly around the Mediterranean.

Things changed around that time: harder to hitch hike and find temporary work, so I semi settled down in Sweden in 1984 and decided to bicycle tour.

First tour 1985, Gothenburg to Barcelona. I simply strapped my small rucksack, sleeping bag and guitar to a 5-speed (positron) Monark bike with plastic pedals and rode barefoot all the way.

oh, did I mention that some people might describe me as a hippy?

For all those years, I didnít have a tent or sleeping pad, just a sleeping bag and a sheet of plastic to lie on and wrap myself in if it rained. No stove either. I lived more or less on bread and cheese. Never went to a campsite, just slept under the stars wherever I was.

I could fix a flat when I started out, then learnt the rest as I went along.

All through the years of hitch-hiking, then bicycling, I have met so many wonderful people, some that have defined my life.

Last edited by imi; 11-29-23 at 02:24 PM.
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Old 11-29-23, 02:26 PM
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I started touring in college. I grew up in Colorado and did a fair amount of backpacking and camping growing up - so I had both experience and equipment from that. I went away to college in Boston, so a bike was one way of getting further away.

The first overnight tour was one I also organized for friends. The idea was simple enough, ride from Brookline, MA to the tip of Cape Cod and take the ferry back to Boston. Total distance was ~130 mile over two days and we didn't have definite camping reservations. My brakes didn't work fully, but that wasn't a big deal since I could sort of slow down and then put my feet down to stop . About 10 miles in, I ran into a problem... The Claire Saltonstall bike route went through a park and the path went down a small hill and then around a bend. I went down the hill but missed the bend. As a result, my bike went off the path and stopped. I kept going and did a summersault over the handlebars and landed on my back. My backpack broke most of the fall, but there was a wound in my lower back where a sharp rock/stick had poked me. A reasonable thing to do would have been to turn back and get it taken care of... However, I was young, male and invincible. So my friends helped me find a place that sold a bandage. We bandaged it up and I continued. It still hurt a lot, particularly in the afternoon as sweat got into the wound and in the evening when my friends changed my dressing. As the day got late, we stopped by a church and asked if we could camp in the yard. That was fine as long as we were out in time for services. Not a problem and we cycled on to Provincetown the next day. It was triumphant riding into Boston after taking the ferry.

From that start, I did a lot of informal touring. This was particularly true starting summers after my sophomore year. I had a summer job with DEC in Marlboro that was 26 miles from Brookline. There was a vanpool, but I rode my bike ~60% of the time and took the van ~20% of the time. For the remaining 20% I would sleep out in the woods or in my cubicle. Some weekends, I would take off from Marlboro and head further outbound and hence I rode through a lot of New England. I was pretty gung ho and some days I could ride from sunrise to sunset and cover 150+ miles. I had a tube tent and would sleep beside the road at least as often as anything organized (or expensive). I did a few longer trips including ~1200 miles in a week from Boston/Montreal/Rivier du Loop/Bangor/Boston and many shorter overnight trips. I also led subsequent trips to the Cape Cod and Martha's Vineyard/Nantucket for my friends.

It was after college that I did more extended trips including my first coast to coast trip in 1992.

As far as questions you ask;
> Did you just decide to tour, pack up and leave one day?
Mostly informal college kid also riding overnight...

> Fully supported first tour?
No.

> Credit card tour?
No, but my camping equipment was also pretty minimal.

> Ease into by doing short trips?
Yes, sort of.

> Classes/experiences like ACA's Intro to Touring?
No.

> Jumped right into bikepacking?
No, I've ridden off road on a extended gravel roads and done more of what I think of expedition type touring (e.g. across Siberia, Argentina). I did parts of the GDMBR as well.

I do think how you approach touring can be different if you are younger vs. older.

Last edited by mev; 11-29-23 at 02:49 PM.
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Old 11-29-23, 04:34 PM
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Great questions for this forum. Your take-it-by-steps regimen seems very close to how my wife and I started out--to test equipment, gauge our riding ability, establish some good riding protocols and figure out whether we really wanted to tour at all! We did the car camping, then overnights from home, then long weekends from home, then 2-week tours, then cross-country.
My wife and I started touring only 5 years ago, both past age 60, on the tandem. We've since ridden across the U.S. 2 1/2 times and down 1/2 the Pacific Coast.
Originally Posted by JustaJoe
I've been increasing my fitness so I can tour and have the bike I believe will be great for my needs. I don't have specialized touring/bikepacking equipment: A 5lb 2-person tent, Exped Synmat, MSR Whisperlite and some other stuff from car camping. I am thinking of doing a faux tour - well, a 2 day ride on the forest service roads of Croatan National Forest near coastal NC (flat!). I will drive there in my car, load up the bike, and ride 40-50mi, camp, then ride back to the car the next day. I want to make sure this is something I can do and want to do before going all-in (e.g. not spending $1k on gear before going on my 1st real tour, then finding out I hate it). Also planning some over-nighters from my house to the 2 state parks within reasonable riding distance..
I'll send answers to your bullet points from our experience in a reply a little later
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Old 11-29-23, 04:35 PM
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Originally Posted by JustaJoe
...
Let's hear your stories...
First some background to put my bike touring into perspective better:
  • I did my first bike tour with a friend and co-worker, he had done some credit card tours before but not camping on those tours. He however was well versed in camping and owned the necessary gear. We were both in our 50s.
  • I had camped a lot (backpacking, kayaking, canoeing, winter camping on snowshoes and cross country skies) for decades before, thus the only aspect that would be new to me was putting that stuff on my bike instead of on my back or in the boat.
  • And I worked as a bike mechanic before I went to college. I built up my first touring bike from parts.

Thus, I was fortunate that taking the leap into bike touring was pretty easy when I was not new to camping, had built my bike, etc.

Touring history:
  • My first bike tour was four days long. I was still working for a living (am now retired) and I could not take more than one week off of work. So, my touring buddy and I drove several hundred miles to a gravel trail to tour on, George S. Mickelson trail in South Dakota.
  • Next tour was a bit longer, Katy Trail in Missouri. By now both my touring partner and I were retired, length of tour was no longer an issue.
  • And the next tour, my friend declined to go, an ACA unsupported tour, the Glacial Waterton loop. In this case, unsupported means was guided but we hauled our gear and the community gear on our bike, no van support. I took Amtrak to and from that tour.
  • Then did a foreign cycle trip with REI Travel in Europe. They provided the bikes, lodging, guides, van support, and most of the food. I just had to get there and then get home again.
  • Then a few more tours, plus another REI trip in Europe.
  • Then the first international tour where I was not with an organized travel group was a month long in Iceland for a solo tour.
  • Have done a few more since, some with friends and one more international solo tour. And did a ACA van supported trip, week long.

If you have done car camping, have the gear needed for that, give it a try. Some overnights near home sound great.

Your comment on 40 to 50 miles on forest service roads, camp, then the same 40 to 50 miles back, if those are unpaved I suggest you scale that back to maybe 30 miles. Forest service roads can be rough, muddy, etc. Hauling a lot of gear on a bike can be slow on that sort of trip.

You might consider a tour with ACA after you have done some overnights near home. The unsupported ACA tours, the guide helps organize food, ACA arranges for the campgrounds, etc. You would be assigned to assist with cooking for one night and one morning, plus shopping for the food. That would give you a chance to travel with some others, some will be as new to it as you but others could have a lot of experience.

Last edited by Tourist in MSN; 11-29-23 at 04:44 PM.
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Old 11-29-23, 05:10 PM
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I too was thinking scaling back the daily distance to maybe 35-40 miles. Unless you are getting a lot of riding in and are comfortable with 5 hrs in the saddle, as 10 mph on a loaded tourer is typical. Local trips is a good idea and you otherwise seem to be on the right track.
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Old 11-29-23, 05:11 PM
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As a beginner nothing will teach you about touring like loading the bike and doing an overnight somewhere. If you don't have a campground nearby you can cheat by driving x number of miles from one and starting your trek from there. You'll forget stuff, bring too much stuff, and stuff may even fall off or be a pain to repack, but you'll get a full schooling. The only other early experience that will teach you as much is doing the same overnight trip in the rain.

From there it is a matter of what you like. When I was living in Japan I was a huge fan of credit card touring; travelling light, hiring the onsens and starting at the small hotels. I would take the train to a starting city and cross the countryside before getting on another train to get back home.
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Old 11-29-23, 11:10 PM
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Baby steps:
First do a one day ride. 60-120km. Don't make it too easy and don't kill yourself. Plan a lunch on the road
Second, do one nighters. You decide whether to camp or a bed. Be sure it is long enough to arrive at your destination late afternoon, early evening.
At that point, you should have an idea of what you prefer. Camping, beds and showers, solo, groups and if your bike is the right steed for your tours.
If you are still convinced that you want to throw yourself into touring, then plan longer trips
As for technical, there are literally thousands of videos on YT that explain everything
Cheers

Last edited by MarcusT; 11-29-23 at 11:15 PM.
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Old 11-30-23, 06:41 AM
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Added a few more comments in addition to my previous comments:

Originally Posted by JustaJoe
...
I don't have specialized touring/bikepacking equipment: A 5lb 2-person tent, Exped Synmat, MSR Whisperlite and some other stuff from car camping. ...
For my first several bike tours I used a two person tent that weighed 6.11 pounds. I still use that tent for canoe camping, there the weight does not matter. But I bought a lighter tent for bike touring. Use what you have, you can upgrade later. That is what I did. Most people use a two person tent, gives you room for your gear, etc. On a rainy morning, I like to be able to pack up my dry gear inside a dry tent, and when everything except the tent is packed, that is when I put my rain gear on and take down my tent. That is harder to do with a one person tent.

Air mattress is good. I suspect you have a good sleeping bag, but it might be a bulky one. If it is quite bulky, a compression stuff sack can make it smaller, but you might need a really big stuff sack if it is really bulky.

A friend of mine has a Whisperlight, is quite happy with it. Nothing wrong with that stove. For bike touring where I do not get on an airplane, I generally use a liguid fuel stove similar to your Whisperlight. If I fly somewhere or if I want to camp lighter, a good stove that uses a butane mix is quite affordable, but you can get that later after you have done several overnights.

Since you said nothing about bike or racks or panniers, etc., I assume you have already been researching that and have come to some conclusions.
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Old 11-30-23, 07:48 AM
  #10  
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First trip was a supported overnight trip. They carried my gear and I just rode.
Second trip was a supported weeklong trip They carried my gear and had food/water stops.

Those two trips got me started.
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Old 11-30-23, 07:49 AM
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Originally Posted by JustaJoe
Also planning some over-nighters from my house to the 2 state parks within reasonable riding distance.
I do this now with ~4 state parks close to Austin. It works for me because:
- I get to try out some equipment
- I've sometimes gone with others, typically neighbors who go car camping but then we meet up and socialize in the evening
- If the weather looks like a complete downpour I can bail (haven't done that often)

In January to March this year I also did the equivalent in a credit card overnight, riding on Saturday to nearby town, staying overnight and riding back Sunday. That got me into a mode before setting off on a six-month tour from April to October.

What is different between the weekend trips and a multi-month trip is my mindset and planning horizon. For a weekend trip I mostly know where I am staying and how I am getting there. On the months long trip, I have the large parameters organized (how long in time and rough mileage budget, area/climate I am visiting, visa requirements, etc). However, I don't decide where I stay or how I get there until the day or shortly before that. I also adjust some larger pieces (e.g. where to visit, rest days) keeping in mind a larger time/distance budget.

A good example was my six month trip. I ended up visiting 26 US State Capitols. For example, I had an approximate approach (e.g. Madison to St Paul to Des Moines to Lincoln to Pierre...). But I didn't work out specifics until I was in that section (e.g. Madison to St Paul). I took rest days when it made sense (e.g. one day with extreme heat warnings in Iowa). I even adjusted my plans a little so I intersected with one day of RAGBRAII.

That mindset/style of an extended tour is something I don't get on my weekend trips - and something I really enjoy about touring.
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Old 11-30-23, 08:17 AM
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Really appreciate the histories and advice put forth so far! This is helpful and interesting - thank you all. I have an interest in hearing even more recaps of how others got started.

Guess I didn't really think through riding loaded on gravel, thankfully I can easily scale back my initial route in Croatan to something like 30ish miles each day. That is some invaluable advice: Had I been shooting for 40-50 and found it too much, that could've been a huge turn-off. Although now I'm thinking, for my first ride, to leave from our house, ride roads out to a state park (25mi), spend the night, come home. Then go do Croatan and Uwharrie FSR's based out of my car.

One odd thing: I cannot stand sleeping bags and don't use them, although I have one. I prefer the thermal poncho I kept from the military, a small wool blanket, and a Thermarest blanket I got years ago. Thankfully this all packs down much smaller than a sleeping bag and works very well for me.

You're all quite inspiring, thank you again!
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Old 11-30-23, 08:31 AM
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my first few one week long tours were with an experienced friend. Now with young kids I only squeeze in one or two weekend trips per year with two buds.
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Old 11-30-23, 09:26 AM
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Originally Posted by JustaJoe
I've been increasing my fitness so I can tour and have the bike I believe will be great for my needs. I don't have specialized touring/bikepacking equipment: A 5lb 2-person tent, Exped Synmat, MSR Whisperlite and some other stuff from car camping. I am thinking of doing a faux tour - well, a 2 day ride on the forest service roads of Croatan National Forest near coastal NC (flat!). I will drive there in my car, load up the bike, and ride 40-50mi, camp, then ride back to the car the next day. I want to make sure this is something I can do and want to do before going all-in (e.g. not spending $1k on gear before going on my 1st real tour, then finding out I hate it). Also planning some over-nighters from my house to the 2 state parks within reasonable riding distance.
like most other things in life, planning a bike trip so that it is is a good experience for a newcomer, just comes down to common sense. You seem perfectly well on your way to starting out and as you are well aware, to see if you actually enjoy this sort of thing. This well planned, reasonable amount of distance debut is the smartest way to go at it.
Make sure your bike and tires are in good shape, have to tools with you to change a flat, a spare tube, perhaps practice this if you have never done this, look at towns nearby the destination so you can buy your supper and breakfast food at the end of the day (so you don't have to carry this stuff all day). It's super easy now with the internet and google maps from home to get all this info, and personally I think it is nice to have a shower at the end of the days riding, so researching campgrounds is easy also. If easier to just camp somewhere, and having been in the military, you know how to look after yourself with sleep, eating and drinking. If wild camping will be done, again just common sense to bring some sort of other bottle to fill up with water in a bathroom somewhere towards the end of the day, along with food for supper and morning.
Pretty basic stuff. Most of us did a similar thing as. you to start out.
I had canoe camped growing up, so bike traveling was pretty much the same thing in terms of not bringing redundant crap, clothes whatever, and again due to your military experience, you should know clothes and sleeping arrangements works for you for a given temperature range.
I used a 7lb tent for all my first bike tours, sure heavy for todays standards, but it worked out and a few pounds certainly didnt kill me nearly 35 years ago.

pretty simple-- as long as you have food, water, aren't a complete idiot for orientating yourself with a map or whatever, and are in reasonable shape, this is all doable and will be fun.

I take it this is a spring 2024 idea?
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Old 11-30-23, 10:01 AM
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Myself and 2 friends bought some cheap bikepacking bags, way overpacked, and decided to follow National Cycle Route 3 from Bristol to Bude and back over 4 days (roughly 380 miles). It was a bit of a disaster, but we had fun nonetheless. It turns out that blindly following a national cycle route in the UK isn't the best of ideas. Well some of the terrain was suitable for our road bikes, there were other parts where a hardtail mtb would have been better. So we did a lot a re-routing on the fly. And also realised 90-100 miles/day fully loaded was a bad idea. We were riding for like 12 hours a day, and not really getting to enjoy the trip and the scenery. We do a bit more planning nowadays, ride far less miles, and still have a ball. We still sometimes overpack though- though I have gotten my set-up (including bike) to around 17.5-18kgs for up to a week's camping.
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Old 11-30-23, 10:40 AM
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Originally Posted by djb
like most other things in life, planning a bike trip so that it is is a good experience for a newcomer, just comes down to common sense. You seem perfectly well on your way to starting out and as you are well aware, to see if you actually enjoy this sort of thing. This well planned, reasonable amount of distance debut is the smartest way to go at it.
Make sure your bike and tires are in good shape, have to tools with you to change a flat, a spare tube, perhaps practice this if you have never done this, look at towns nearby the destination so you can buy your supper and breakfast food at the end of the day (so you don't have to carry this stuff all day). It's super easy now with the internet and google maps from home to get all this info, and personally I think it is nice to have a shower at the end of the days riding, so researching campgrounds is easy also. If easier to just camp somewhere, and having been in the military, you know how to look after yourself with sleep, eating and drinking. If wild camping will be done, again just common sense to bring some sort of other bottle to fill up with water in a bathroom somewhere towards the end of the day, along with food for supper and morning.
Pretty basic stuff. Most of us did a similar thing as. you to start out.
I had canoe camped growing up, so bike traveling was pretty much the same thing in terms of not bringing redundant crap, clothes whatever, and again due to your military experience, you should know clothes and sleeping arrangements works for you for a given temperature range.
I used a 7lb tent for all my first bike tours, sure heavy for todays standards, but it worked out and a few pounds certainly didnt kill me nearly 35 years ago.

pretty simple-- as long as you have food, water, aren't a complete idiot for orientating yourself with a map or whatever, and are in reasonable shape, this is all doable and will be fun.

I take it this is a spring 2024 idea?
Very sage advice, thank you djb !
I intend to do these little trips within the next few weeks. I'm in central NC, yes it's winter, but for me this is prime riding season - it's obviously mild here, snow is rare, and I'm ok camping with what I have down to about 20*F.

Funnily enough: several years ago I signed up for a canoe-camping trip through a local park system. Never did that before, never really even went canoeing, but it was cheap and sounded like a great time. Had the same gear I have now. That 4-day paddle down the Allegheny in northern PA was absolutely incredible, even though it was chilly and rained!
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Old 11-30-23, 11:09 AM
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Originally Posted by JustaJoe
Very sage advice, thank you djb !
I intend to do these little trips within the next few weeks. I'm in central NC, yes it's winter, but for me this is prime riding season - it's obviously mild here, snow is rare, and I'm ok camping with what I have down to about 20*F.

Funnily enough: several years ago I signed up for a canoe-camping trip through a local park system. Never did that before, never really even went canoeing, but it was cheap and sounded like a great time. Had the same gear I have now. That 4-day paddle down the Allegheny in northern PA was absolutely incredible, even though it was chilly and rained!
wow, your early to mid dec temps are like our mid to late sept temps....so having seen that, as a commuter in similar temps and also who has toured in these temps, just keep in mind that if its raining and cool like that, it can kinda suck. I ride all our Montreal winter, so cold doesnt bug me, but being out in mid 30s-mid 40s F or whatever in rain is pretty crappy, you get cold and miserable pretty quickly.
Cue the obvious points of having fleece, wool or whatever that will still be warm when wet and dries out well on your body, no cotton, but you know that from the military.

From experience, I personally have full rain gear, a good rain jacket, rain pants, rain booties so my shoes dont get soaked and freezing feet, even a helmet cover so my head isn't wet--but pretty much accumulated this stuff from "been there, done that" and not wanting to "done that" again, plus I'm an old skinny bugger who doesnt like being cold.
So, as a first time bike trip thing, hopefully you have some flexibility to avoid really crappy wet and cold weather--again, using the internet can give us pretty darn good forecasts, especially for two days, so it makes sense that if you can, to find at least a dry window of a few days. Things will be more pleasant and you'll enjoy yourself more.

have fun, that's the whole idea
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Old 11-30-23, 12:20 PM
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I always wanted to ride across the country. As I was preparing to be "downsized" in the wake a corporate acquisition that was a couple of years away (federal approval required, and then implementation), I began looking at options. Supported trips were relatively expensive, and I thought the daily mileage would not leave much time to fully enjoy the experience. As such, I started considering the unsupported option. I was a road snob and always thought I would never want to ride with all that junk strapped to my bike. Moreover, that was just an excuse to wear t-shirts and tube socks from Sears, eat granola and ride slowly. But I ended up settling on a group, unsupported tour with Adventure Cycling Association. Nothern Tier from Seattle to Bar Harbor, ME in 93 days. Conveniently, their Atlantic Coast route passed very close to my hometown, so I planned to ride home from ME solo at the end of the trip.

So that is what I did. Accumulated the necessary bike and gear. Took Amtrak from the east coast out to Seattle in late May. Started riding two days after I arrived. The first day of the tour marked only the second time I had ridden a fully-loaded bike. The first night of the tour marked the first time I had ever camped. (When I was a camp counselor, we took the kids and our mattresses down to the model campsite for sleep outs a couple of times, but that doesn't count.)

The fourth day of the trip it poured a cold rain until, as I would discover often happens, the day's ride was pretty much over. The sixth day of the trip we crossed the North Cascades Highway in rain that turned into snow before the first pass. Got snowed on crossing Sherman Pass a few days later. Despite that beginning, the awful heat and humidity from southern MN through IA, IL and IN, and having to ride a few miles in the early bands of a hurricane to hole up in a motel, I fell in love with the activity and did, in fact, ride home to my front door and then to New Jersey shore and back a few days later as part of a charity ride I did every year. Even though the ride was supported, and I had a room for the night, I carried all my gear.

Before I left for the trip, someone I know asked me why I would pay someone (ACA) to ride across the country. I told him my goal was to gain experience from others who might have experience in areas that I did not. I did, and I gained enough experience and confidence that I took two seven-week trips the following year.

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Old 11-30-23, 12:34 PM
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Originally Posted by JustaJoe
...
One odd thing: I cannot stand sleeping bags and don't use them, although I have one. I prefer the thermal poncho I kept from the military, a small wool blanket, and a Thermarest blanket I got years ago. Thankfully this all packs down much smaller than a sleeping bag and works very well for me.

You're all quite inspiring, thank you again!
It helps when you know the limits of the equipment that you already have, that is great.


Originally Posted by JustaJoe
Very sage advice, thank you djb !
I intend to do these little trips within the next few weeks. I'm in central NC, yes it's winter, but for me this is prime riding season - it's obviously mild here, snow is rare, and I'm ok camping with what I have down to about 20*F.

Funnily enough: several years ago I signed up for a canoe-camping trip through a local park system. Never did that before, never really even went canoeing, but it was cheap and sounded like a great time. Had the same gear I have now. That 4-day paddle down the Allegheny in northern PA was absolutely incredible, even though it was chilly and rained!
Have you biked in 20 degree weather?

In that weather, I leave my bicycling shoes at home and use hiking boots or hiking shoes, ones that are big enough in size that I can wear thick wool socks inside them.

If you slept outdoors in the military, then you probably have the knowledge and skill to avoid frostbite, etc. But, hanging on handlebars when it is really cold can be difficult. On a windless day you will have a 10 to 12 mph wind. In winter you are only rarely too cold or too warm, instead you usually are sweating and too warm on parts of your body while other parts of your body are too cold.

Is your helmet big enough to put on a thin stocking cap or ear band without being too tight. I use a rain cover on my helmet in cold weather to keep teh wind off the top of my head.

Ski googles are really nice when it is in the 30s or colder. Will your helmet and a ski goggle fit well? Some goggles do not work well with bike helmets.

Shifters and mittens do not always play well together. Even for just an hour and a half ride in the cold weather, I bring three pair of gloves or mittens so that I can try to get just the right amount of insulation, fingers not too cold but also not so warm that I am getting my gear to sweaty.

Sometimes I have worn rain pants, simply because they are great at breaking the wind so any insulation I have on my legs works.

I am sure you get the idea from your military experience. Anticipate what will go wrong before it does.
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Old 11-30-23, 12:40 PM
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This is my go-to weather source to get historical averages, probability for precip, number of hours per day when I do not need artificial light, average winds, etc.
https://weatherspark.com/y/146992/Av...tes-Year-Round

Pick an airport so that there is historical data when you want to research an area for a trip. Note that they consider a day with precip to have had at least a millimeter of precip, so it will often be wetter than that website predicts.

That said, for your initial trips that are close to home, just use your local weather forecasts. The Weatherspark site is best used when planning for an area that you are not familiar with.
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Old 11-30-23, 02:47 PM
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OMG

who can answer all these questions?

get your bike, attach some bags and start riding. after some time you will find out yourself.

enjoy!
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Old 11-30-23, 03:02 PM
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Had to look up the conversion, so -20f is -29c, that's effing cold. I commute down to about -15c , -20c , and that's cold enough for me. Pretty similar basically to cross country skiing at the same temps and fat biking. I'll do it for a few hours, but it all day is a different kettle of fish-- and how fast the wind is makes a huge difference.
I've had derailleurs freeze up at these temps from road brine slush spray but usually you feel it coming so I get into a gear that will at least work when it happens

Have never winter camped, so hats off to the hardasses that do!
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Old 11-30-23, 03:55 PM
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djb and Tourist in MSN I am prepped for the cold, and have ridden my bike at temps as low as 20*F (rare where I live now). I have 2 pieces for my head which allow for normal helmet fitting - a thin yet warm/windproof balaclava, and a water- and wind-proof skull cap. Have some glasses/goggles that work well. Hands and the rest of my body have not been an issue, the only thing I'm still working on is my feet. Between the various wool socks and hiking boots, I just haven't found the perfect combo yet. And I do have rain gear as well, so that's covered.

I am not looking to tour in 20*F temps. Around here, our winter temps are usually in the 40's, low 50's; with overnights in the 30's. Great biking and sleeping weather!

djb not -20*F, just 20*F. That's kind of my limit since I've 1) aged and 2) been in the US South for almost 25 yrs.

indyfabz and Tourist in MSN I appreciate you both mentioning guided tours. I've looked into various trips with ACA, REI, others, and found the cost... costly? But it seems it may well be worthwhile to learn, observe what others are doing, etc. A cross-country trip ain't happening (major respect to you for doing that!), but perhaps a 5-7 day tour would be a good experience. I'll consult the CFO and see what she says.

Silly anecdote: We did an exercise on our main battle tanks where the high temperature got up to -10*F, but was usually around -20*F. You can't really get 50 tons of steel warm in that environment, so we let the engine run continuously and napped on the back deck!

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Old 11-30-23, 04:22 PM
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oops, not -20f-- doh, sorry about that .....

so 20f then is about 7c, just about what it is today here in fact, a pretty warm day for us.
Ya, all the stuff you mention, balaclava etc is all the same stuff I use commuting. I've had to get the balaclava out a few weeks ago as we got closer to freezing. And all the various wind blocking layers for body and legs work, you just have to figure out what works for you--I use the same clothes pretty much for my fall and winter biking as all my other outdoor activities, using varying layers and whatnot depending on the actual temperature, and just keep using the same clothes year after year.

as for feet, I have some older boots that have room to put larger wool socks in and still are not tight-this helps with cold feet.
I also regular use my rain booties just for cold protection, and stick old pieces of fleece on top of my shoes as insulation or even wrapping other old bits of fleece around my ankles before putting the booties on as a wind stopper--but again, for commuting I don't have to worry as much as being out all day---the one advantage with these bits of fleece is that they weight hardly anything, I have the booties anyway, and along with other stuff like fleece neckup , or a thicker balaclava, all these things can make all the difference in one not getting chilled, but take up so little room that its totally worth having them in case needed.
I also have some outer mitt shells that I put over gloves if it getting really cold, cuts the wind and helps so much with hand warmth--again, small and quite light, so totally worth having in my pannier.
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Old 11-30-23, 04:29 PM
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I just planned out what I though we needed and went on a coast to coast tour (the Trans America). There were three of us together. It helped that we were all experienced with other outdoor activities including backpacking and some of us had done canoe camping and other self supported travel. Using an ACA route also helped.

That said it isn't rocket science. If you have some camping experience pack up some gear and head out on a ride. Doing some short shake down trips isn't a bad idea, but with some other experience it probably isn't a necessity.
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