Bike Touring…My Beginning

20150909_12215820150719_175230This is a short blog on what got me started into bicycling, bike touring…

2 years ago I started to ride bike after I retired..before that it had been 30 years since I rode… I didn’t even have a bicycle.

Some thoughts when I first started riding though, especially my first time riding on the C&O Canal Trail at age 51… Thought to myself where have I been all these years, why have I never even considered riding here… the sites are so awesome… when you ride it’s like you thinking I gotta keep riding… what’s around the next bend…the next town… yet you’re limited on the distance because of your butt hurting, and getting whsts called saddles sores, and then having to take a week off and begin the process again all over… But it’s worth it… but a good pair of padded bike shorts and limit the clothing that rubs constantly against your skin helps.

Anyways back to my beginning on bike touring… What got me interested… Why do I love it so much…

I started riding when I ‘stumbled’ on this guy’s bike videos where was riding not only across USA with his bike but all around the perimeter 12,000+ Miles thru most of the states…

Threewheeljourney is his name.

Watch “Three Wheel Journey introduction” on YouTube

Before that never heard of “bike touring”…like what’s that…lol

Then I got a used Trek bike for $150…new it would have been about $700…that was a 2010 Hybrid 7100…good enough ride around and ride up on the C&O trail…actually any bike works for short distance .. . Before this I would have never considered paying more than $150 even for a new bike… But all that was about to change… My lifestyle about the change…

Before that, I thought why not just get a bike from Walmart or Dicks…not knocking them…but learned from others and experience they are made only for occasional ‘short’ rides..and uncomfortable to say the least. The parts are not made for the serious rider.

And also a good bike will be fit, measured, to fit your body… Most likely preventing physical injuries …like straind knees  arms etc

That’s when I found an LBS…local bike shop in Winchester…so went to just ask questions and learn more…I was shocked at some prices… $300 to $1000 bikes…of course they go up to cost of a new ATV..lol..yeah. so was shocked…

but..and I know was God guiding me that day…the bike shop had a nice hybrid bike good for city and C&O trail riding. .. yep the 2010 Trek 7100…i saw it and thought way out of my price range…got closer…heart pounding…wondering.. and..yep was used…good for me .. short on money…looked at the price.. $150 for a $700 bike…perfect .. so I scraped up that much.

Later after I converted the 7100 so that it would pull the BOB trailer and my gear ( gear that was heavy a bit impractical but may do until I could buy lighter traveling gear… every pound matters when you are bicycling… A 30 pound cargo load is about right especially when you consider having to carry food and water… The weight really adds up fast… I remember my first trial run with fully loaded cargo in my trailer… 65 pounds… Does not seem like much but going up a hill thats 4% grade which really isn’t that steep it was tough pedaling.

The trek 7100 really wasn’t made for that… I even lowered the crank gear teeth ratio from 48.38.28 to 42 32.22… learning much more about these ratios and how they convert to gear inches… Learning that a good ratio is a 22 Front and 34 rear… Unless you spin out and can I go fast enough to keep the bike going straight… and then I upgraded the rear cassette… So that it would climb Skyline Drive easier… but I knew I couldn’t afford a real touring bike unless I made some sacrifices and sold my ATV since money being retired is a bit tight most times… Which again leads me back to making lifestyle changes.

Long story short…I added rack … started researching best way to travel and got  trailer for it to haul camping gear…all new to me…learning … watching threewheeljourney videos
Etc…

Later on when Bev signed me up for Facebook about 1 1/2 years ago…I found this great group of people…Bicycle Touring… I didn’t know it then but I would make good friends over Facebook, people who love bicycle touring … People who don’t mind helping others especially when like me just learning about what bicycle touring is all about… And bike camping… Great bunch of people from all around the world… And just think two years ago never even touched Facebook…

Back to my Trek bike…not knowing where to ride I went to the c&o canal…at 51 yrs old never been on the c&o until 2 years ago..lol…BEST experience ever…never forget 1st times riding and seeing…I’m thinking …just little further. ..following the river…’what’s around the bend…then the next bend..’ meanwhile on that very first ride my butt hurting from sitting on that saddle after just a few miles… All worth it though… And just think today I can ride 75 miles… Although but gets a little sore sometimes, still working through those issues… Now with a new bike I’ll have to break that saddle in or get one that fits.. getting ahead of myself,…

I’ll tell u  best place to ride is c&o trail and GAP trail.. (when it’s not raining…mud)…I often heard others share their exoeriences..think wow 25 miles Shepherdstown to Harpers  Ferry and back was far..

Also near Hancock Maryland parallel to the C&O trail there is the Maryland Rail trail which is paved for about 22 miles going right through Hancock Maryland epicenter… Be sure to stop at the C&O bicycle shop, it’s under new management because the previous owner retired, support your local bike shops.

Actually my first ride was only 14 miles Williamsport to the Dam 5 and back. ..but after 7 miles I was hurting…my butt sooo sore…
As weeks went on I rode more ..got riders shorts with padding…that helped big time…

After few weeks was up to 25 miles. ..still after 15 miles then 20 saying to myself  ‘just a few more miles’…

Eventually I worked up to 25 miles …35…45..50..
I remember when I hit my 1st 75 mile day…yes sore butt but worth it…’the bike seat’ …saddle…has a lot to do with success..actually the bike itself does…

After research , and hearing others share their experiences in Bicycle Touring fb page…I learned that if I was serious about riding I need a better bike built to actually ride those distances…

I rode what I had…learned…and still learning. …

I never thought I’d ever pay in excess of $2000 for a Bicycle but a good touring bike that is dependable to ride across the country is what it takes…in little more comfort.

Of course … ride what u have or can get…simply ride the c&o…and Great Allegheny Passage trails. ..they are awesome. ..get out with your family..

Don’t wait like I did til 50 years old…

So last week I sold my ATV, four wheeler, had been thinking about it for a while every time thinking no I can’t do that… But  I only use it 2 or 3 times a year and mostly just to plow snow…and I want a dependable touring bike  (bicycle)… it’s been not quite a week since I sold the ATV, not missing it a bit especially with the expectation of receiving my new bike bicycle in a couple weeks… I still need to choose racks and when I can afford it get a couple rear panniers… But I pretty much have what I need to travel now… I know this was the right decision… Yes lifestyle changes…

So yeah I sold it and used a good bit of the money to get myself a real touring bike… Not a motorcycle … Lol… A touring bicycle.

Did a lot of research, and after many months reading other peoples experiences on bicycle touring Facebook page, I became a little more familiar with some of the better more dependable touring bikes…

I was still shocked at some of the prices of touring bikes… Anywhere from hundreds of dollars all the way up to 4000…5000… $6,000…

Didn’t realize the components of a bicycle can be that expensive… But yet having the right wheel set derailers cassettes and crankset etc makes all the difference in a good experience on a bike and a great experience and comfort with dependability.

So yeah I started researching all about the parts of bicycles and trying to compare what brands of components were better than others etc.

So after reading a lot of forums and other people’s stories and asking other people’s opinions what to get… I decided on name brand of Surly… I never heard of surly before talking with some bicycle touring people… But I won’t go into all the details but trust me it is a good touring bike… There are still better touring bikes but this is a moderate middle grade bike that will last me.

So you would not have guessed ever that I would be puting that kind of money into a bicycle… But I knew when I first started riding a couple years ago , and watched all of the threewheeljourney YouTube videos… I knew that one day here probably next year I will be touring across the USA.

So started to learn and hear about southern tier Trans Am and other routes bicycles have traveled… Starting reading online… Finding out about good groups like ACA…etc

There are thousands of people that Tour cross the country every year… & I was even more amazed after reading bicycle tourist blogs that there are people touring around the world… Some people have been travelling non stop around the world for years , even more than two or three decades. I’m still amazed. But it is a lifestyle…

I don’t know that I’ll be doing that but I definitely know I want to bike tour and travel with my bicycle… Pulling my trailer with my camping gear… Pulling over whenever I get tired or when I reach my destination for the day, set up my tent, a place to layover for a day… Etc

But that won’t be until at least next year 2017 that I will cross the country like many have done already…

I know this year I will be making several short Bike Tour trips… I know a lot of them will be on the C&O and the GAP… that is one way from Washington DC to Cumberland 185 miles and then to Pittsburgh another 150 miles… for me most nights camping along the way that designated camping spots that mostly are free, rustic run along the river most of them…

And it’s important to me that bev retire as soon as we can get her retired… and travel with me… But in the meantime taking days off when she feels like it to take short rides on the towpath C&O Trail… although she says she does not like camping and she says especially does not like camping in a tent… We’ll see if we can scrape up enough money for a couple B&B’s one weekend. ..

Other places I’ll be touring this year will be on the Skyline Drive, 105 miles through the Shenandoah park National Forest… Starts in Front Royal Virginia and go south… Of course that will be quite a trip which involves constant climbing mountains and coasting… I rode part of the Skyline Drive last year on a day trip… Doing about 25 miles. But this year I will be taking my BICYCLE BOB trailer and camping gear and camping at designated areas about every 25 to 50 miles…

A longer trip which also involves mountain climbing the whole way is on the Blue Ridge Parkway… Which continues from the Skyline Drive where it ends… And goes for 470 miles all the way into Tennessee… Gatlinburg.

Another trip what I like to do is across the state of New York, the state I grew up in as a child… Going from Buffalo to Albany about 800 miles across the Erie Canal trail.

Of course all of these take some planning, looking up to see where the next camp site is… Some places you can camp pretty much anywhere… But other places like the Blue Ridge Parkway campsites are roughly 75 miles apart…

But if I save enough money I can do what’s called a credit card tour… Well I just ride 75 to 100 miles each day and stay in Motel that I would have previously arranged… that’s a highly visited tourist area and lodging fills up very fast months ahead of time… So will take a little bit more planning then just riding on the C&O and GAP

So if you’re new to bicycle touring, or haven’t rode a bicycle in a while, get out and get one… any bike will do at first , and hit the C&O trail and gap trail. .. even if you have just a few hours each week or in a month… Start now don’t wait till you’re old like me… Take your wife take your girlfriend take a friend take your kids… But youtube I can get out there… It will change your life, and your whole outlook…

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One thought on “Bike Touring…My Beginning”

  1. Nice read, I watched and learned from Dave on TWJ also. Will be making my first trip this year from Pitt-DC in June. Gathering gear now, camping, trying to find some panniers that won’t break the bank.

    Like

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