Friday, October 26, 2012

Lessons Learned: What to Do on the Next Tour

Although I had to cut last week's tour short, I was able to go for long enough that I learned some valuable information. One thing that I learned was that my assumptions on daily distance were correct -- a touring day should not be more than 75 miles or have more than 5,000 feet of climbing. It's probably best to balance these as well, so that your 75-mile days have only about 2,500 feet of climbing, and your 5,000-feet days are not more than 60 miles long. This is the only way to keep the pace down to a level that you can enjoy the world through which you are riding, and not have to suffer the Bataan Death Ride.

Here's some other things that I discovered:

  • There are no good camping pillows. Just leave them at home, and use that nice bag of clothing instead. While lying in the sleeping bag and reading in your tent, use two bags of clothing.
  • If it's a cool night, go ahead and put on a pair of socks. I don't know why my feet get colder than anything else in the sleeping bag, but they do.
  • The E-Werks cache battery is the bomb. Unless it is dead, it will begin charging your iPhone or iPod as soon as you plug it in -- even when the bike isn't rolling and the DynaHub isn't putting out juice. It will not charge your iPad, however.
  • You probably don't need to carry an iPad. I had my netbook with me, as well as my iPhone. That was really enough, since I don't like to write anything more than a FaceBook update on my iPad.
  • The "two nights camping followed by one night in a hotel" plan works great. Ideally, the hotel day should be a little easier, so you can do laundry. My hotel day ended up being almost 100 miles, but I still probably could have washed my clothes that evening. Whenever possible, pick a hotel that has a washer and dryer available for patrons. You can use the sink, but it takes longer for stuff to dry.
  • The rear wheel on my 32cc tires will rub against the brakes if not fully inflated, or if the set screw back at the hub is not all the way in. I may have to see if Gran Fondo can do something about this.
  • The front panniers are still a little too far forward. I adjusted them, and ended up bungee-ing them a bit to keep them from shifting around. The distribution can be exacerbated if I don't put the tent as far back as I can on top of the front rack.
  • Descending with a fully loaded rig, you tend to tense up. When I do that, the bike actually shimmies. If I just shift my weight a little further back and loosen my shoulders and elbows, the shimmies stopped.
  • Stop at stores. You never know when there's going to be another one. If your bottles are full, get one for the panniers. If you're camping that night and there's less than 20 miles to your campsite, see if they have anything that would be good for dinner.
  • Campsites under street lamps are mixed blessings. Yes, you can stay outside for a while and read by the street lamp, but it will also light up your tent a bit during the night.
  • Although I brought a sleep mask and ear plugs, I never needed them. But I will continue to bring them.
  • It's nice to have a bottle of something to drink in your tent. You may think that you drank well during the day, but you didn't really. You will get thirsty during the night.
  • It's also nice to have a candy bar for dessert when you're hanging out in the tent.
  • Try as you may, you will not be able to get your tent's rain fly dry. Morning dew and condensation make it impossible. The best you can hope for is to put it in the hotel dryer for five minutes every third day.
  • Also throw your sleeping bag and the cover for your sleeping pad in that dryer for five minutes. Put in a sheet of fabric softener, too. They may not be wet, but when you clean the dryer screen afterwards you will see just how much hair, little leaves, cracker crumbs, and bits of candy bar were in that tent with you.
  • The quality of the wifi at McDonald's varies.
  • McDonald's is a popular hang-out for retirees in small towns in Tennessee and Kentucky. There will be at least two tables full of guys drinking coffee. They will ask where you are going, and offer you advice on the roads to take. Make sure that they understand that you prefer paved roads.
  • The big busy roads often have wide shoulders, but these shoulders get lots of debris ... particularly gravel. These roads are often shorter, the climbs more gradual, they have more stores, and dogs don't usually come out onto them to chase you.
  • Smaller roads get more dogs and fewer cars, but don't have as much shoulder. They are generally more pleasant until you get to the steep hill, or when a big truck passes you that has no business being on that quiet road in the first place.
  • On a weekday, the front porch of a church makes for a good spot to take a mid-morning break and put on your sunscreen.
One final tip: If you don't want to do an out-and-back tour, get to a town that is big enough to rent you a small pick-up truck which you can drive home. It's not really that expensive, and allows you to see more cool stuff.

1 comment:

  1. Great post-ride report, Robert. I've only done single overnight camping trips. It appears you need a lot more preparation for multi-day excursions.