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Photo by Adam Coppola
I get emails all the time from people who ask: “I'm planning to go on a bicycle tour sometime soon. What kind of touring bicycle should I get?”
Looking back (and a little bit forward) on a season of winter riding, the Canari Static Jammer gloves were a big surprise for me. Just looking at them, they don't appear to be padded up enough to handle the cold winter bite, but the windproof/waterproof fabric does a great job of keeping your hands protected, while allowing some breathing room to keep too much moisture from building up inside.
About a month ago, I wrote up some tips for purchasing a used bike. What I neglected to include in that post was where you could go to find a used bike. In the past, I have found places such as Ebay, Craigslist, and local listservs for bicycle clubs useful. These are all good places to find a used bike; however, in some cases, your local bike shop can also be a good starting point.
Even when you're out on tour, you may find yourself riding around town in the dark. Maybe you're heading to the store to stock up on food, or checking out the nightlife away from camp. In such cases, it's a good idea to make sure you are visible to traffic. While headlights and tail lights are great for this, you also want to be seen from the side, especially at intersections. Spoke reflectors are certainly helpful, but they aren't a lot of fun. If you really want to make your presence known, the Bike Glow is worth taking a look at.
The derailleurs on a bike may seem pretty complex, but once you start fiddling around with them you'll find them surprisingly easy to troubleshoot. When you're on the road, and away from a bike shop, knowing how to tweak your derailleur can save you a lot of skipping gears and frustration.
For years, I've noticed people using their water bottle cages to carry tools and other miscellaneous gear on day rides, as well as on tours. The most common carrying technique I have seen is cutting off the narrow neck near the top of an old water bottle, cramming gear into it, and stuffing the top with something like an old sock to keep items from rattling out. This gets the job done, but it isn't super elegant and it knocks your water carrying capacity down by one bottle.
The other day I received a great question over the phone from a cyclist who said she could really take on just one bike. She wants it primarily for fast-paced road riding, but she'd also like it to be worthy of loaded touring. Having been in a similar situation in the past myself, I suggested the route I chose: a cyclocross bike.
We get a lot of questions about planning through our Travelling Two bike touring blog, and every time someone emails us to ask which panniers are best or how many T-shirts they need to pack, I think of Lee.
While buying a new bike can be fun and exciting, it can also be very intimidating when you start looking at $900 price tags before you even start adding in racks, panniers, and other touring equipment. This isn't always in an individual's desirable price range, especially when they are just trying to get their feet in the door.
When planning out a bicycle tour, the main focus is often on the route, and a well thought out pack list. One thing that easily escapes my mind when planning ahead is extracurricular activities. You may have a long afternoon ahead of you by the time you have camp setup at the end of your ride, and if you have some energy left, it can be fun to take on a secondary adventure/activity. Here are a few ideas:
If you're still looking for a good New Year's resolution, how about working on your upper body and core fitness? As far as cycling goes, this kind of strength isn't something that is super intuitive, but if you don't pay a little attention to it, you will feel it once you start putting in longer rides as the weather warms up.
This is a busy time of the year for airlines, and if you are flying with your bike, get ready for some stiff baggage fees. But, as long as you're paying to get your bike on a plane, you may as well make the most of it.
The winter season is a great time to get on top of some bike maintenance projects, or to learn some basic mechanical skills to help save time and money spent at the shop. Regardless of your skill level, the book Zinn and the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance is a great manual to have on hand.
Some use it all the time, others have specific conditions they prefer to use it under. In my own experience, I find it most useful in cold/damp weather, or on extended tours, where it isn't always possible to consistently wash my bike shorts. Like bike saddles, everyone has their own preference, and those hardened over time may not need to use it all. One thing is for certain, there is a huge pool of brands to choose from, most of which have some pretty clever names.
Our shipping specialist, Sarah Raz, was kind enough to let me tag along on her series of holiday gift ideas. I'll start this one out with a few inexpensive safe bets before getting into the fun stuff.
With bicycle touring, there is a fair amount of time spent off the bike. Maybe you're stopping to top off on supplies at a store, or doing a bit of sight seeing between destinations. For this reason, it can sometimes be nice to have clothing that is not only comfortable and functional on the bike, but looks good off the bike as well.
When touring, I do my best to make sure I start and finish my rides with the sun up, but considering that most of my plans are made on the fly, this doesn't always work out so well. With the darkness descending quickly (especially with the daylight savings period concluded for many of us), lights are a great thing to have on hand, regardless of the conditions you intend to ride in.
Initial assembly of the trailer does not require any special knowledge, and tools consist of a some hex wrenches, two adjustable wrenches, Phillips head, and flat head screwdrivers. For the most part, you are only attaching the swingarm, fender, and rear wheel to the frame. The instructions are detailed and provide a few illustrations to help you through the process.
At least once a week, I receive an email or phone call from someone asking if its okay to ride a mountain bike for their tour, whether it be a weekend trip or a cross-country tour. The quick answer to the question is absolutely, but here are some reasons behind the answer, and ways you can go about making it happen.
If there's one thing I enjoy as much as bike touring, it's taking old things and turning them into something new.
The vast majority of touring bikes are built with cantilever brake bosses, which as the name suggests, are designed to take cantilever style brakes. The reason for this style is that they allow you to run wider tires, and provide a lot of space for fenders.
Despite the boring names, the PR77 and PR107 pedals from Exustar are worth some attention. Taking an initial look at the pedal, it appears to be a standard Look style clipless pedal, but flip it around and check out the underside, and you will find an SPD compatible entry point.
I was happy to see someone comment last week on the newly updated Salsa Casseroll. Salsa has been super busy over the past year updating and adding to their already impressive line of adventure-oriented bikes, so here's a rundown of a few bikes that I was excited to check out last week, starting with the Casseroll.
After a long hiatus, the Brooks Colt saddle is making a comeback, and this time in color. In it's former life, the Colt was a widely popular premium saddle for road and touring bikes. With deep sides that help prevent chaffing, and a very thick hide, this saddle was known for it's durability, and we still spot some older models on touring bikes here and there, so perhaps we shouldn't call it a comeback. The new saddles will have some unique colors (thanks to natural vegetable dyes), which can add some additional flare to your touring bike.
Lastly, Shimano had their new Alfine 11spd internal hub out on display. It looks to be a great improvement over their 8spd internal hub. The new hub not only gives you a larger range of gears, but improves shifting and rolling efficiency, and even manages to shed some weight over the previous model.