My Epic Bicycle Touring Thread!

Discussion in 'Sports' started by Nihon Newbie, Feb 20, 2013.

  1. Nihon Newbie

    Nihon Newbie Been here awhile

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    Ok, so the title is a bit extreme, but I've been encouraged to make a thread about my biggest touring experience. On a motorcycle, the longest ride I've ever done was 1100 miles r/t. Not very long, IMO, or worth writing about.

    However! May 2011, I left my hometown in California, having only ever been in 3 states. Over the course of 16 months, and about ~14,000 miles, I covered every state except Hawaii, hit Alaska via ferry, and rode through part of New Brunswick, Canada. :D I got home a few months ago, and am readjusting to life off the road.

    I'm not here to try to do an epic recounting of the Tour, as I am already writing a "book" about it, but I thought it would be cool to share some tid-bits about it, a few bitchin stories, answer questions, and provide a place for people to maybe draw on my experience as it may help them in their current cycling ordeals. I'm a pretty humble dude, even though this is a huge accomplishment for me. I'm no celebrity, just a guy who really likes bikes and motorcycles, and wants to help others if I can. :freaky

    In addition to this, if you want to go back in time and check out the whole Tour on the Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/ProjectRunaway

    This is the bike and trailer I used:
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    2011 Surly Long Haul Trucker, BOB YAK trailer and bag
    Planet Bike Road Hybrid fenders
    Mavic Open-Pro 32 spoke rear wheel, with Shimano XT hub
    Easton Vista 20 spoke front wheel
    TRP Ti linear pull brakes, stock pads
    FAS Gossamer 52T/42T/30T cranks
    Speedplay Zero Track Special pedals
    2006 Specialized Pro Carbon Road shoes
    Shimano 105 series STI levers
    Shimano 105 derailleurs
    Shimano 12T-25T 9spd cassette, later an 11T-32T cassette
    Specialized alloy shallow drop road bars, dual layered bar wrap with gel inserts
    Ritchey alloy stem
    Specialized Avatar Saddle, carbon post with Zertz, later added a Serfas Gel saddle cover
    Surly's included seat post clamp
    Shimano Ultegra 9spd chain, then SRAM PC-991 non-hollowpin chain, with Gold Powerlink
    Jagwire cables/housing
    Various stickers from bike shops and equipment companies...proven to make bikes better...
    #1
  2. Gummee!

    Gummee! That's MR. Toothless

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    Someone pass the popcorn

    :lurk

    M
    #2
  3. Chisenhallw

    Chisenhallw Avowed Pussbag

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    I've narrowed it down to 'earth'. Or 'Baltimore'.
    Nice rig!

    Two starter questions - why a Bob trailer, and not a two-wheeled trailer?


    And, what technical breakdowns occurred, and how'd you deal with them?

    :freaky
    #3
  4. Nihon Newbie

    Nihon Newbie Been here awhile

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    About the trailer, I went with the BOB based mostly on my more thorough understanding of how it would track, relative to the movement of the bike. I also favored the narrow profile for lower drag, increased lateral clearance, and always knowing that I was essentially no wider than my handlebars at any point - Great for splitting traffic, or for peace of mind on roads with no bike lane. There is also the matter of it being less likely/prone to tipping/hopping while cornering at higher speeds. There is a sticker on it that says not to exceed 25mph...I had it up to ~53mph while loaded to ~80+ lbs, and it was rock solid, even in the bends at 45mph. One wheel also means less tires to worry about flatting/spare tubes to carry. The reputation the BOB YAK has in touring was also a consideration. I favor it's basic, easily repaired/modified design, and the fact that you can simply lift the waterproof (Tested) duffel right out of the frame, in seconds, and have a rugged cargo cart, and all your kit still in one bag. No zippers, velcro, snaps, etc., just 3 very burly buckles.

    As for breakdowns...I had 32 flats over the course of the Tour. I think 7 on the BOB, 24 on the rear bike wheel, and only 1 ever on the front. This was my most common breakdown. I carried numerous CO2 cartridges, and the inflator head that fits onto the valve stems. I carried a small pump, too, but usually opted to use the CO2 while out on the road, so I didn't wear myself out, trying to reach 120psi with a 6" barrel pump, lol! Even when I did use the pump, starting from 0 psi, it was a 2 step process, because by 90psi, the barrel of the pump would be too hot to hold, even with gloves, lol! The pump was mainly for topping off my tires every morning, or after significant altitude loss during a descent.

    I never had any chain issues, and only used 2 chains the whole time. I credit this to obsessive driveline maintenance: Every day, I would clean the chain, cassette, derailleurs, and crank rings with a rag and a toothbrush, before lubing it all up again. Especially important when riding in rain or snow!

    I broke a few spokes, and always made sure I was carrying multiple spares. Learned how to change them out when the first one popped in New Mexico. Took a while, but figured it out, and thankfully had all the necessary tools with me, and even more thankfully, found a truck stop right after it popped! I carried more spare nipples than spokes, because I assumed I would drop at least one each time I had to replace one, and that the dropped one would likely be immediately eaten by a hawk or something. It's not like they weigh much.

    Had a front wheel fail on me in Texas, just east of Houston. The rim cracked, I got pissed and made it much worse (Temper, temper...) and I ended up having to find someone to take me to the nearest town with a bike shop so I could buy a lower-spec replacement.

    I was hit by a car in Portland Maine...That effed my bike up something fierce, but I was just scraped, and very intensely disheartened. Driver never stopped, and impact broke my GoPro! I had to pay hundreds of dollars to replace both rims/spokes, but thankfully there are many bike shops there. I did as much of the work myself as I could, but I was too stressed to try lacing and truing 2 wheels.

    That's really all for mechanical stuff...Like I mentioned, I was obsessive about maintenance, and constantly evaluating the bike for any damages, or failing components. The shifters, derailleurs, and cranks already had ~15,000 miles on them before I used them to build the bike, but I reconditioned them all before I installed them. Repacked bearings, solvent washed everything, etc. I met many other touring cyclists while I was on the road, and most of them had much different opinions on bike maintenance than I do, but that's just how I roll.
    #4
  5. PSJ

    PSJ Adventurer

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    :1drink verrrry cool !How many hours a day would you spend on the bike usually ?
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  6. zippy

    zippy Hinter dem Feld

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    what tires (look like continentals ) and how many did you go through ?


    and thanks a bunch for sharing this !
    #6
  7. Dranrab Luap

    Dranrab Luap E-Tarded Super Moderator

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    The LHT is an awesome platform for that sort of work. Tell us more about what you hung on the LHT for components, wheels, tires etc. What worked and what didn't. What would you do differently if you had to do it again? Those wheels look like comparatively low spoke count wheels. I will have a zillion questions for you. A bike tour is on my bucket list.
    #7
  8. zippy

    zippy Hinter dem Feld

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    his first post stated

    Mavic Open-Pro 32 spoke rear wheel, with Shimano XT hub
    Easton Vista 20 spoke front wheel


    later he said

    Had a front wheel fail on me in Texas, just east of Houston. The rim cracked, I got pissed and made it much worse (Temper, temper...) and I ended up having to find someone to take me to the nearest town with a bike shop so I could buy a lower-spec replacement.
    #8
  9. fullmonte

    fullmonte Reformed Kneedragger

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    Did you wear that green downhill helmet the entire trip?:huh If so, how many bottles of Febreeze did it take to keep it from stinking to high heaven?:evil
    Looking forward to the next installment.
    #9
  10. ducnut

    ducnut Long timer

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  11. Chisenhallw

    Chisenhallw Avowed Pussbag

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    I've narrowed it down to 'earth'. Or 'Baltimore'.
    Well shoot, it's already broke, might as well get your ya-yas out and break the bejeezus out of it. :lol3

    If you had to do it again, would you go with a 36 spoke?
    #11
  12. DriveShaft

    DriveShaft Long timer

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    +1

    And one less contact patch adding rolling resistance. Makes the most sense. Woulda been my pick too...except I'd actually opt for a longtail if I could get away with it.

    Man, Long Haul Trucker owners reeeeally like to ride cross country.

    :D Good to know the spoke holders actually got used.
    #12
  13. Dranrab Luap

    Dranrab Luap E-Tarded Super Moderator

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    Thanks, I somehow missed all of that below the pics!
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  14. Nihon Newbie

    Nihon Newbie Been here awhile

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    You know, I have been hit by cars numerous times, while walking and cycling, and I know how much it sucks balls! I wore this helmet knowing it would super safe, and be great in the rain/snow, which it totally was, but holy hell, it was going to melt my brain!! I wore it for the first 4 months or so, then I mailed it back to myself from Montana, and rode without a helmet, until Salt Lake City, where I got a regular Giro road helmet. While I had the TLD one though, I would wash the liner once a week or so, but it still always smelled funky. I did miss having its visor though...Even wearing sunglasses all day every day on the Tour, I worried about eye issues brewing from excessive UV/dust/wind exposure...

    This, like daily mileage, was all over the map. It would depend a lot on weather, wind, terrain, and resource availability. On average it was probably around 7-8 hours per day. My longest day was probably 14 hours, including small rest breaks...Shortest riding day, probably 2 hours. The longest day was the biggest mileage day, at 126 miles, but the shortest day was not the day on which I rode the least miles.

    Yup, 700x25 Gatorskins all the way! I carried a Specialized Mondo 700x23 as a spare. I think I only totally wore out 4 tires. There was almost no weight on the front end of the bike, so rotating those to the back made for great longevity. Many, many flats though. I probably went through 16 tubes, with 32 flats over the whole Tour. Have to say it though, I never got a flat in the rain/snow, thank God!

    I talked about this at length in a PM, but I think the main things I would have done differently with respect to the bike, would be a 36 spoke wheel in the back, and have 26T/42T/52T gearing on that same triple crank. I liked having that big ring for descents, and the very rare tailwind day, but my granny gear on the bike was a 30T chainring, and I should have had something lower, to be easier on my knees in places like the Appalachian Range, and the Sierra. Some of those climbs were absurdly steep, and long, and with towing ~90 pounds of weight...It was rough.

    Thanks, I somehow forgot to mention that, ha!

    I had to hold my temper in check a lot, but that time it got the better of me. Broken or nowt, I shouldn't have flipped out, heh. And yes, if I were to build up another touring wheelset, I would go 36-spoke in the rear, and 32 spoke in the front. The 32 in the rear still held up really well, but 36 would have provided more peace of mind. There was almost no weight on my front wheel though, so the low count wheels I used up front were fine for the most part.

    Indeed, I met a number of other cyclotourists who were rocking the LHT also. It has a pretty bad-assed reputation in this field of cycling, for sure! And that spoke holder got used a lot, yup! I carried more than the 3 it holds, too, just in case.
    #14
  15. Nihon Newbie

    Nihon Newbie Been here awhile

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    Excerpt from a writing session a few days ago...Had New Mexico on the brain that day...

    "I'd known for a while that this was coming, but I was nevertheless apprehensive about it. The bleak, endless fields of wind-whipped grasslands, divided only by yet another snaking ribbon of blistering-hot tarmac, foretold what would become of me if I stayed out here too long. The intersection was almost without signage, a not uncommon sight in rural New Mexico, but thankfully I had the convenience of having looked at the turn-off in Google maps days earlier. After stopping to take a few pictures, I turned down the heavily worn road, almost directly into the wind, immediately feeling that familiar rage that only such winds can provoke. You might think after 6 months on tour, I'd have been used to it by then...Nope.

    A couple hours later I stopped to take a picture of an enormous spider that was sunning itself on the asphalt. Always searching for any irregularities in the road, I was startled to see this thing, and but oddly not afraid of it, despite my intense fear of spiders. After continuing on my way, I was soon passed by a lone truck, whose occupants looked upon me with a thoroughly perplexed stare. I didn't have time to explain that I was riding on the wrong side of the road because as soon as they passed, I would be enveloped in a thick cloud of fine dust from their passage, and that being where I was spared me from the worst of it. I managed a brief wave, and continued, wondering how long it would be before I would no longer feel the grit of New Mexico in my mouth..."
    #15
  16. Jurgen

    Jurgen Trolljegeren Super Moderator

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    :lurk
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  17. Chisenhallw

    Chisenhallw Avowed Pussbag

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    I've narrowed it down to 'earth'. Or 'Baltimore'.
    Holy run-on sentence, batman! :lol3
    #17
  18. Nihon Newbie

    Nihon Newbie Been here awhile

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    Another excerpt:
    "Riding at night always tended to be a last resort measure. Intense daytime heat was the main reason this time. Turns out, most of Washington state is not the lush, damp, evergreen expanse I had always pictured it to be. No, a vast part of Washington is a dry, blistering, desert planet-like place during summers. I had run out of water twice on my way to the Grand Coulee Dam, having not learned my lesson the first time, while climbing a horrendous grade that ascends from the Columbia River, to meet a highway just South of Nespelem. It was around 105F ambient, and I was being outrun by a lizard. Pedaling that slowly was probably death for my knees, but I couldn't help but laugh a little at the fact that I was nearly done with the Cascade Mountains, and was still wanting for even lower gearing!

    Leaving Grand Coulee on the 174E, I was looking forward to sunset. People were eating dinner, and I was just hitting the road, but it felt good to be on the way to Spokane, and nearly out of Washington, slashing another checkmark into my list of states. The first 8 miles pitched me up a 1600 foot climb, back out into high plains desert, which eventually transitioned into endless, dimly lit farmland. The grass was a welcome sight, as well as the chill of night. The climb was tempered only by the view...I came over a large hill and remember looking into the dark at scattered twinkling lights, which I thought were cars, but were actually small towns and some houses. The expanse over which I was looking must have been absolutely massive, and I'm sorry my pictures don't do it justice. Aside from the coyote howls, it was silent, the dead-straight road lit only 20 feet at a time by my headlamp, as I pedaled over an infinite stretch of rollercoaster hillocks. My hand-written directions assured me this kept on for many miles, but I was nevertheless wary that the road would suddenly just end, and I would fall into an abyss, or maybe ride into a barn. I may have been a little tired at this point..."

    In other news, it looks like I'll be putting my Surly back to good use next month! I have a good buddy coming back into town to visit the area, and he wants to ride together, but his catch was that I wasn't allowed to use my Tarmac, haha, so Ill be putting pedals back on the LHT once more...:D
    #18