Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Top 10 Lessons Learned on Previous Cycle Tours

This will be my third 7-day bike tour. I did Cycle North Carolina in 2004 and Sierra to the Sea last summer.

Each trip has taught me something about myself and my equipment. So here's a list.

#10 (from CNC) I don't like riding flat, unscenic roads day after day. I can do that at home. No more flat-state bike tours. (CNC Mountains to the Coast is 1 mountain day, 2 days of rolling hills and and 4 days of boring flats)

#9 (from CNC) Avoid wet climates. Camping in the rain is not fun. Camping in the rain after riding all day is hell. (Can you tell I did not enjoy this ride?)

#8 (from STTS) Packing each bike outfit (jersey, shorts, gloves, socks, doo rag) in a separate ziplock bag makes getting ready in the morning easy and provides an airtight container to repack the stinky outfit after it is worn.

#7 (from STTS) A lot of space can be saved by not over-packing civilian cloths. We ride all day, shower and throw on shorts and a T-shirt for a couple hours, then go to bed. I didn't wear 1/2 the cloths I brought.

#6 (from CNC and STTS) In the mountains it is cold in the morning and can be hot in the afternoon. It's nice to have a place to put the cold-weather gear as I shed it. So, as if it's not enough to haul my behind up the Rocky Mountains, I'm going to carry some luggage too.

#5 (from CNC) It's also nice to have a way to carry beer... er, I mean... groceries to the campsite.

#4 (from STTS) I'm too old to ride a stiff, aluminum racing bike 60-70 miles/day for 7 days. I need a bike with touring geometry and a vibration-dampening frame for this kind of riding. I bought the Roubaix after Sierra to the Sea.

#3 (from STTS) Diaper rash ointment can save your ass... and your tour.

#2 (from STTS) Road shoes and pedals are great for club riding. Mountain pedals and shoes with recessed cleats are better for touring. Walking around the rest stops, sightseeing spots, campgrounds, etc. in road cleats is hard on the legs, hips and back. I had more pain from that than I did from riding.

#1 (from STTS) It sucks to run out of gears. And it's easier than I thought to run out of gears, even with a triple, on a long, steep grade. I learned that people in mountain states often have reverse ratios on their bikes, many have mountain bike cassettes on their road bikes.

The Gearing Solution

The Roubaix came with a 50-39-30 triple chain ring and a 10-speed, 27-12 cassette. When I bought it I swapped the 50 for a 53 right away. I like big gears for big descents.

After studying the RTR elevation profiles, Lisa and I both traded the 30T ring for a 28 and added a 29T cog on the back (at Jeff's suggestion we removed the 16 cog to make room for it). We tested this configuration in North Carolina on the 18% grade of Mount Mitchell and a 4-mile-long 12% grade. It was perfect!