Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Bicycle Touring and Sandwiches (needs expounding / edits)

Every pedal stroke burns 0.1% of a sandwich. Many strokes daily will require many sandwiches over the course of your trip. If you replace your own chain on the side of the road instead of employing a shop, you've saved yourself the cost of one sandwich. If you patch a tube three times before replacing it, you've saved yourself the cost of a good hot sandwich.

Bicycle Touring is Affordable (needs edits)

Bicycles cost money. Chains, cassettes, and eventually chainrings all wear out. Brake pads... don't last forever.

The Rivendell Atlantis appears to be the perfect touring bicycle. The Surly Long Haul Trucker addresses many of the same needs.

I hosted a Warm Showers guest who rode to my house on a Trek 7100. I've seen homeless travelers wear out a freewheel on a department store bike until the teeth went beyond 'shark-tooth.' The most traveled man in the world used a common 3 speed to explore hundreds of countries. He raced elephants in the desert.

After you get the bicycle, you need to make sure the parts are going to work without letting you down. There are tons of cheap parts that fit the bill, but some costlier parts make you second guess the cheaper options. Tires are a good example. What's the difference between a Schwalbe Marathon XR and a basic circle of house-brand rubber? I rode 120 miles on $5 tires, and the only complain I had was about my butt. (What does that say about saddle choice? How about mileage?)

Hobos have asked if I've ever tried to fly a sign. I haven't yet, but it's an option. If you run out of options, there is always the sign flying safety net.

The best way to save money is always with self sufficiency. If you do your more of your own service and cook more of your own food, then you will be able to travel sooner, or go further, or have money for more sandwiches.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Bicycle Touring is for Anybody

Let me talk about money and bicycle touring. People of all different social and economic backgrounds choose to travel by bicycle. It's a highly accessible activity, so it's not just rich people or poor people doing it. Anybody can travel by bicycle, but there are distinct differences in modus operandi. There are long tours and short tours. There's the "credit card" tourer, and the "self supported" tourer. Most people combine aspects of each. Some others only ride in organized groups. We're all cyclotourists.

There is no exact number of days or nights needed to call your trip a "tour," but I would say that an over-night is just that, and anything longer can be called a "tour." When I hear someone say that they went on a bicycle tour, I assume that they were out for at least a week, otherwise they'd call it something different, like a "trip." I've heard a long day-ride called a tour, but that's just incorrect usage.

A "credit card tour" sometimes called an "inn to inn" tour is just as it sounds. The cyclist carries some provisions for the ride, but expects to find accommodation at the end of the day. The planning and itinerary need to be somewhat precise, and you need to have some dosh for all those hotels.

A self supported tour requires more equipment. A majority of the nights are spent camping. The equipment list is more extensive, and the gear resembles the same kit used by hikers. The self supported bicycle tourist will usually have racks with bags that they call "panniers" (I say 'pan-yers'). The equipment includes a shelter (tent; sleeping bag; tarp), and sometimes provisions for cooking. Equipment costs can vary greatly. High tech and lightweight cost more. Before leaving home, there is usually a careful balance made between weight and expense. Lightweight isn't everything - but keeping it in check is important. Too heavy will make you sluggish and put a bigger strain on your bicycle. There are examples across the spectrum, but the savvy cyclist can travel surprisingly light.

The third type of bird pays for an organized tour with a ride leader. There are organized tours which are self supported, but some are van-supported, which means you don't have to carry more than a couple Clif bars and some water. Adventure Cycling is the biggest outfit I know of selling tours in the USA.

I'm trying to save $3600 dollars, which is about $30 per day and a plane ticket home. I'm mostly camping in random spots and hoping to have some money left over.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Shakedown Ride.

I’ll call it a shakedown. I took my 1970 Phillips out for a longer ride to see how it would go. I wanted a mid-winter check for atrophy and general malaise. Am I really ready to ride over 3000 miles on a 3 speed? Maybe.

The important thing was to just get on the old bicycle and start cranking. I gave the Phillips a basic cleaning, but aside from the addition of a shifter cable, it’s exactly how I found it. All of the parts are original, and it’s kinda old. Garage kept and not too beat. It’s a cool fifty-one bucks worth of bicycle.

The bicycle shop where I work is closed on Mondays. February temperatures in the mid 50s were an omen. It was time to see what the Phillips could do. This was our first ride longer than 5 miles - my first time out for pleasure rather than the business of my daily commute.

Pleasure was had, but there was also a certain misery. Strong headwinds kept romance at bay. The best part of the ride was breakfast at the Denny’s by the airport.

After setting off, the congested streets of Philadelphia slowly gave way to more open scenery. Steady headwinds with strong gusting persisted. I entered the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge for the first time. Snow and mud made the riding slow or impossible along the path. I walked for long stretches through this subtly molested wilderness with sections of serious pollution.

I was out there alone, and it was easy to understand why. Still, the new scenery was worth the trip. A person like me can only survive so many winter days shut away indoors. In spite of conditions that were far from optimal, I’m calling the shakedown a success. A shakedown mission is for finding facts, and I found what I was looking for.

My legs are weak, and my bicycle needs a better tuneup. My GPS unit is an excellent tool, but I need to learn how to maximize its potential.

I will soon be making significant upgrades to the 1970 Phillips. Better rims, better brakes and new tires are on the list. I will also be adding some sorely-needed cargo racks.

Monday, February 7, 2011

At The Beginning...

I’m leaving Philadelphia in May to go on a cross country bicycle trip. I bought a Phillips 3 speed for $51, and I’m riding it across the United States. I’m saving my money and preparing for the trip. This blog will document the planning and execution.