Preparing to Tour

Tonight I met with Beth and Bob who are planning their own cross country bike journey on the ACA Southern Tier route later this year.   It’s fun to meet with those who are just starting their adventure and looking into all the same questions and concerns I had.

The biggest advice I can give anyone is there is no wrong way to do it, except not doing it at all.

Topics we covered and my responses:

  1. Did I use rain pants, jacket, or shoe covers and how did it work?
    • No rain pants, but did take a rain jacket and neoprene socks.  I went through 3 rain jackets until I found a good one that worked after 30 minutes of soaking.
  2. What type of bike pump did I use and how did I keep my tire pressure up?
    • I took a frame pump and since touring tires need only about 75 psi the frame pump was easily able to get them up to 60 psi, then top off at each bike shop we found.
  3. Was I ever worried for my safety and and what protection did I take?
    • This can be a polarizing question, but the biggest protection I had was a good cooking knife.  Use common sense and don’t stay out too late as alcohol can fuel situations that can get you into trouble.
  4. Did I prefer both front and rear panniers or just rears?
    • I started with both since I was carrying cooking gear, but once I found that I wasn’t cooking I ditched the fronts and got a bigger handlebar bag for my DSLR camera.  I did notice though that the bike rode better with the front panniers.
  5. How did we prepare for chains breaking or other breakdowns?
    • Before you leave put a new chain on your bike, then practice with an old one breaking it and putting it back together.  Park Tools and other bike tool equipment companies put out helpful how to’s and videos.
  6. Who was your cellular carrier and how did it do?
    • I had AT&T (GSM) and for the TransAmerica route it wasn’t so great in the rural areas.  The guys I rode with had Sprint & Verizon (CDMA) and it seemed to work much better.
  7. What tips would you give before leaving?
    • For sure go on a overnight training run fully loaded to test out all your gear and weight; work out the kinks.
  8. How would you compare camping vs hotel?
    • A real personal choice; camping will save you money but a hotel is quite a treat and can save you the weight of taking a tent .  You may still  want to take a sleeping bag if you choose to stay at hostels, churches, and fire departments.
  9. What type of gloves or head wear did you take?
    • Typical  finger-less cycling gloves, full winter cycling gloves, and a pair of cheap $1 magic gloves.  When it was really cold I wore all three.  For head wear I took a cheap little beanie I wore under my helmet.
  10. Did you use a 3rd water bottle cage and how much water did you need?
    • When distances between towns were really far or it was a hot day I used a third bottle, but our weather was pretty mild.  If you don’t have a 3rd water bottle cage you can bungee extra water to the rear rack.
  11. What was the closest you came to quitting and how did you deal with it?
    • For me adapting in the first few weeks were really the toughest, but I had read others say the same so I worked to prepare my expectations as much as I could and just tried to enjoy the changes.
  12. I noticed you used WordPress, did you have any training on how to use the site?
    • WordPress gives you more features and options than say Blogger does, but of course there are complications in understanding more functions.  The easiest way to learn is to see features someone else is using on WordPress then figure out how to duplicate it.  If you can’t figure it out check the WordPress Documentation and Forums or let me know and I will be glad to help if I can.
  13. Where else did you go to ask questions?
    • I spent hours upon hours at BikeForums.net Touring, but just remember everyone has opinions but only you know what works for you and at some point stop planning/reading and just go; you won’t regret it.
  14. How did you ship your bike to the start and what options are there?
    • That was one of the many questions I had and got answered at Bike Forums.
  15. How did you get the ACA maps on your phone?
    • For Android the built in Google Maps works fine for both GPX and caching the maps, for iPhone I saw these options with a easy Google search.
  16. What did you take to prevent flats or have spares?
    • I had three spare tubes and probably 20 patches since they are small, compact, and easy to carry.  I would recommend also taking a presta to schrader valve adapter.

Have other questions?  I have opinions🙂

5 thoughts on “Preparing to Tour

    • It took a few tries before I found a rain coat that really worked. It wasn’t until I was 2/3’s the way through the country until I got one. The best test I can tell (and it sounds silly):

      1. Take the rain coat you have now and put a cotton shirt on underneath
      2. Hop into the shower for 15 minutes
      3. Did your shirt get wet?

      I was stuck buying what was available in Jackson, WY which cost me a bit more, but found it worked better then what I had. It was an Alpine Design Rip Stop Rain Jacket, it was nice because it also packed down to a small size when not in use, though I see it has received some mixed reviews.

  1. I am departing in a month and a half, and have ridden close to none. I’m a medical student with very little time. . . any advice on the best way to train short-term?

    • Hi M, Sorry to take so long to respond. My recommendation if you are already in good general healthy shape then to:
      1. Focus on just breaking in your rear on the saddle even if this just means getting 30 minutes a day or every other day on the bike
      2. If you are riding loaded touring, load up all your planned gear and go out for test runs until you are happy with your gear setup. I did this before the TransAmerica ride by doing a S24O (Sub-24 Hour Ride).

  2. Congratulations on completing this amazing ride!! I am planning to complete the Trans-Am ride in May-June of 2014. However i am a very beginner not rode a bike for years. I’m 30 yrs old male, live in Illinois. How can i train myself so I am more prepared to take the tour by next May? Am i setting myself an impossible task with a short training period? Suggestions are greatly appreciated. If you can direct me to any online Trans-Am ride preparation websites (available if any), that will greatly help too. Thanks.

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