Bike Tour & Camping during Covid - SE US (1 Viewer)

MetalBryan

Vagabond
Joined
May 30, 2018
Messages
222
Location
Miami, FL
Covid got my old cycling & mechanic skill set back into action. I'm in a good place to prepare for a bike tour, so this isn't so much about the HOW or the WHERE, but the WHY.

I'm in Miami and I have a place to stay until late January or early February. I've been giving serious consideration to going for a long ride because for the first time in my life I feel like I can... but everything I read about doing this right now says NO because of covid. I have to leave Florida eventually that's a fact. I took a plane to get down here and that wasn't great and I don't have a car... so bicycle seems the way to go.

My best estimate is that the nighttime temp in Florida will plateau as I ride north - what I mean is the gear I need to stay cozy on a Florida February night will be the same gear I need for late Feb through the south and early March as I continue the ride north. I have 95% of the gear I need to do this right now.

The good thing about the south is that everything I need to be open will be open. The bad thing is that staying away from the yahoos and antimaskers will be tough. I can hit a grocery store pretty easy with some planning and I can dig a hole in the woods, but I don't want to ever use public restrooms and when I pass through towns not enforcing the mask mandate I won't want to go into stores. If the health care system hasn't totally collapsed by late January, it will probably begin to stabilize because of the vaccine but joes like me won't get one until July or August... so eating and shitting are the two biggest problems.

I've been taking covid seriously and sacrificed a lot because of that, so I don't care to hear your advice how I should just live my life or be brave or whatever. I'm interested in hearing what the traveling cyclists are up to and how they're protecting themselves. If it's a hard NO, let me know why. If you are doing this now in the South maybe we could tour together though I'm a noob and don't intend to go fast or furious.

Stay safe and be well!
 
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Mrcharwe

Wayfarer
Joined
Oct 2, 2018
Messages
46
Location
On a bicycle, in the desert
I'm a traveling cyclist and I love bike travel. I used to camper van but don't see myself going back to that for a long time. It's amazing seeing the world at 10mph. Its closer to walking than any other forms of travel but much easier than walking because your bike is carrying the weight and not your shoulders. camping is easy because you get 200 ft from the road and lay down the bike and you're invisible. You are also treated different by locals and the cops than a walker or hitcher. People are interested in your trip and want to talk to you as opposed to being watched and harassed. The bicycle is an amazing piece of machinery and I would definitely suggest you give it an honest shot.

If you have to leave Florida in the winter I would look at the Southern Tier, if you want a route. Bike travel is fast and you could easily catch winter if you head straight north. I could ride Florida to Maine in probably just over a month (50 miles a day, 6 days a week is 300 miles a week and 1200 miles a month. Miami to Portland Maine is only 1500 miles) once you get out west and it start warming up you can pick a different route, and start heading north, the ACA maps listed on this site will give you an idea of established routes. You could almost ride to California before it gets too hot in the desert and head up the pacific coast. Its the opposite direction most people go but the pacific coast route is amazing and probably one of the most beautiful bike rides in the country, plus $5 hiker biker sites with wifi are awesome. Obviously you don't have to follow a route but they are nice because someone else did the planning and you know the roads a generally safe. I follow route if they match where I'm going but if not, I just ride.

As for Covid, I think it's the same recommendations as for everyone else. Just wear your mask, minimize your chance of exposure. Wash your hands. I try to keep my stops in towns to a minimal, which mostly means stopping at a larger town with real grocery store or Walmart. Get a few days food and a day or two of water and keep pedaling. I camp in the desert, away from others and stick to myself. Get a water filter and you won't have to worry about stopping for water in the east, out west I try to use the refillable water stations and just refill my 2 gallons. I feel that my stopping in a town every 2-3 is about as low a risk as I can have and I would probably have the same or more exposure no matter how I lived. But I also feel the fresh air, sunlight all day, exercise all day, and low stress lifestyle is hopefully protective if I do get sick. As for the bathroom, just dig cat holes and piss on the road side.

My regular recommendations for new cyclist is make sure your bike fit is right. a poorly fit bike, even a half inch too low seat can cause serious pain. invest in a good comfortable seat, your going to be on it for hours a day, every day. The right seat could run anywhere from $50-$150, its worth it. and outside of that learn how to fix and change any part on your bike. I don't think components matter that much, meaning start with what you have and upgrade things as they break because they will break but not that often. Make sure you can change a tire in the dark in the rain when tired because you might ride 900 miles without a flat and at the worst time you will get a flat. Look into tubeless. If you don't want to go tubeless, get Flat Attack. It's a sealant thats designed for tubes. I'm in the desert running flat attack and haven't once got a flat. Worth every $. I don't worry about rotating tires, I just plan on the back tire going bad first. Then I buy a new tire, put the new one on the front and the old front on the back. If you invest in something like schwalbe marathons you should get 5k-10k miles before you have to get a new tire so they aren't expensive compared to a new cheap tire every 1k.

edited: grammatical issue
 

MetalBryan

Vagabond
Joined
May 30, 2018
Messages
222
Location
Miami, FL
@Mrcharwe thanks for the great advice. I think we're on the same page about covid but the touring advice is really helpful.

If you'll indulge me, I have a friend who insists on not taking a lot of extra parts because the cell phone connects him to the cycling community who is happy to help someone stuck with a taco wheel or a snapped crank shaft. That's probably what you are getting at when you mentioned people being interested in the unorthodox method of travel. This friend told me no to taking even a few extra spokes and a few extra tools. Obviously if I need a bottom bracket or something serious I'd have to make a call but spokes weigh nothing??? Maybe others could also benefit from your thoughts on what things to take specific to bike maintenance and why.

I really want to buy a new bike for this and like you said, upgrade it as I go. I'm 6' and just under 300lbs so I need to be more secure in my ride so I'm trying to figure that out. Most folks could do well with a used bike that's been maintained. The two used bikes I've bought since I started riding again have their original cost in new parts incurred within six months.
 

Mrcharwe

Wayfarer
Joined
Oct 2, 2018
Messages
46
Location
On a bicycle, in the desert
I would take a basic bike tool with chain tool and any tools needed to remove the wheels at least. Bolts get loose and need tightening. I don't carry spokes anymore or any other spare parts except for a spare quick link for the chain. I've bend a rear deraileur hanger and straightened it enough to ride without shifting until I could get help. Ive worn through brake pads and just picked up news as the other brakes started letting up. I had a pedal go bad and managed to kick it loose every time it seized until I could hit a shop. I had a chain break in the middle of an intersection in mexcio, but I was right in town so it was no big deal. Outside of a loose head set and some small issues these have been my biggest problems in probably over 20k miles of cycling(I actually lost a fender bolt today, a piece of string was a quick temp fix).

I've actually never broken a spoke or taco'd a wheel. I'm careful about how I ride and don't drop curbs on a loaded bike. 1 broken spoke isnt a huge issue and you can carefully limp for a while, once you break 3 or more the wheel needs rebuilding. But if that happened in a remote place I would probably just hitch to a shop. If people see you pushing a bike on flat ground they will stop to make sure your ok, at least thats been my experience.

And yea the cycling community does a great job looking after each other. Even little things, I was in wyoming fighting a 40 mph head wind a guy pulled over and offered a ride to the next town. I took the ride and it turned out he lived in the next town. He offered a place to stay and a meal. He was a cyclist that understood how terrible a head wind in wyoming can be. Bike shops also love to help travelers on long tours or routes. most of the small issues and little things like missing bolts have been handled for free on the spot.

If I was to start from scratch and I might in the slabs. I would find a quality frame, new or old just what ever style you are looking for and build up from parts bins in local co-ops and discount sales online. If you shop for deals and hit co-ops you will get a better bike for less $. If you buy parts at retail it will run you the same to build a bike as to just buy a new one.

I prefer shimano mid grade stuff(Lx, deore, etc) The high end bike stuff is for racing and not durable enough for touring. Also the shimano cartridge bottom bracket are like $20 and will last the life of the bike. Don't get the new external bottom brackets they have all failed me within a few thousand miles the cheap shimano i think its a bb7 will last forever. I don't think chains matter that much if you shift correctly and don't jam it or cross chain it. Any old chain should last most of a year of traveling and a replacement is cheap. Do mechanical(cable) brakes even if you go disk, I've never had a cable fail but I don't want to deal with loosing a hydraulic brake in the middle of nowhere in the mountains.

It's probably best to look into 36 hole rims. A few more spokes makes for a stronger wheel and shrader valves can be filled at a gas station unlike presta. I know sun rigle mtx33 are 26" rims with 36 holes and shrader. They can handle 2.5, maybe a little larger. You're a bigger guy so the bigger the tire the better, it might even be worth looking into 29" or fat tires. I did a few thousand miles on a fat bike and loved it. It's slightly slower on roads but way more cushioned. You can also air the tires up higher and the drag isn't too bad. I'm going back to fat tires or 29+ on my next bike. Also, if you are worried about the wheels, maybe get a trailer and throw your gear on a trailer. It will take some of the load off the bike. I tour with my 50lb dog and he rides in a trailer. The extra drag is slightly noticeable but the wide trailer forces people to give you a little extra room while passing so its got its goods and bads. But outside of that, maintenance is bare minimum. keep the drive train lubed and the brakes and shifters adjusted correctly. and just deal with the other issues as they arrive. My current trip is on a folding bike I bought for $150. The pedal seized, the rear tire wore through, and i'm about to replace the brakes but thats all the problems its had it over 2k miles.

if you have any other questions let me know, ill be glad to answer. I'll be on the road tomorrow so it may not happen as quick but i will get back to ya.
 

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