Touring

All bicycle touring related content has or will be imported to the Bikeasaurus subdomain. Also, currently (Summer 2011), Evan is doing a SFO to DC trans-con, it’s all here folks:

http://bikeasaurus.marybicycles.com

I did a solo ride up the Pacific Coastal Highway from San Francisco, California to Olympia, Washington during June 2000. I don’t have many pictures from that trip. Perhaps I should update this site with the journal entries and scan the photos.

More recently, & available on this blog & Flickr, in August of 2005, Matt, Ben, and I rode up to Montreal from Cambridge, Massachusetts. We had really nice week, here are the links from that adventure:

Cambridge to Montreal on Bicycles August 2005: Ben, Matt, Mark

The blog entries start here: http://www.marybicycles.com/2005/08/
(you have to read it backwards)


An old schoolmate recently asked some bicycle commuting and touring related questions, I thought I’d post my response here:

Garret asked: Anyway, some bike questions. You don’t like disc-brakes for a commuter? Obviously not on the touring bike, but I feel like it’d be really nice to have that stopping power with all the traffic I ride in.

1) If you can’t stop sufficiently quick enough in traffic, something is amiss with your brake / rim setup. The only times I ever have trouble slowing down is when it is either very wet or very icy and the rims tend to be slick, also there are brake pads / rim combos that work better than others in wet/cold conditions. I’m going to hazard a guess here but likely what’s going on with the Nishiki, or any other bicycle you’ve ridden that doesn’t stop well is one of 3 things:1) The rims are chromed “shiny” steel and not machined wall aluminum or ceramic coated aluminum. The slippery chromed steel is cheap and will never stop as well as a flat machined aluminum rim. Aluminum wheels can be quite inexpensive and stop wonderfully especially with the salmon colored Koostop brake pads (see number 3).

2) The brake (caliper/lever) is setup improperly, such that the lever is bottoming out or the cable is frayed, and/or the brake-pads are set too far from the rims. New brake cables + housing and aligning the caliper withing a 1mm of the rim can make a huge difference. If the wheel is out of “true” laterally, this will also make good brake setup difficult, as the wheel will rub side to side and the pads will have to be set further out from the rim, requiring more lever travel, and providing less power.

3) Choosing the right pad. If you’re finding the rain to be a pain in the ass, Koolstop Salmon is the best (this shop is in Mass. sells them) but you should have them in the Bay area, they are the standard for stopping quickly in the rain. Note the color is not red, but more of an orangish brown, so don’t get hoodwinked, the true dark salmon color is what you want. I believe the “Koolstop Continental Salmon” are the cheapest especially for old brake calipers and work pretty well on slippery chromed steel rims.

Per disc brakes: Out of necessity in NY I’ve pared down the stuff I have/need/use. Now I do think disc brakes, especially on a day like today where Zoe and I were crossing the Queensboro Bridge and it was icy and wet, discs would’ve been killer. But 90% of the time they simply add too much weight and complexity to an already highly efficient system. You need hubs that take the rotor, you need a mount for the caliper, and you need to run extra lines to protect the system. Not to mention that mountain bike disc brakes tend to be hydraulic and require mineral oil and or toxic brake fluid, where as cheaper cable actuated discs for road bicycles tend to be clunky. It’s sort of like double wall hiking boots, or ice axes, yes they are great to have when you need them, but for most people on most trails they are simply un-necessary. And unless you buy a really nice commuting bicycle say for $4000, you’re better off dollar per gram, going with good rim brakes and simple shifters. Which takes us to your last question…


Garret posited: “Bar-end shifters all the way?” As opposed the newer ones that are built into the brakes (I don’t know what those are called), or as opposed to old-school down-tube shifters?

Here’s an image of a bar-end shifter here, it’s self descriptive. They work with bicycles using anywhere from 5-10 speeds in the rear. They work in both indexed, i.e. 1 click per gear, or usually there is a switch to go to friction mode if the shifting starts to go bad. They are very burly, if the bicycle falls they will not break, they are cheap, and they allow you to match your brake calipers to the best lever of your choice. Downtube shifters are the same type of shift lever that the bar-end shifters are composed of, just mounted on the “downtube”. Especially for touring, commuting, racing cyclo-cross, hauling couches, the bar-ends are a much much better place for your hands. Don’t get me wrong though, on a classic road bicycle, down tube all the way. But if you’re going to put together a commuter/tourer, go for bar-end.

Shimano makes integrated brake-shift-lever combos called STI (Shimano Total Integration) they cannot be fixed and once they go bad they must be thrown away and bought anew. I imagine you are the type of guy to eschew this sort of thing. Luckily there are two other popular brake-shift lever combinations that can be fixed with small part orders, one made by the Italian Manufacture Campagnolo, they call theirs “Ergolevers” , and the 3rd option is the German/Chicago based SRAM company which calls their integrated lever techology “double tap”. It’s all very 21st century. Most of these levers require 9 or 10 speeds on the rear of the bicycle. Most have pieces that wear out and must be maintained, and for commuting and/or heavy touring they won’t last as long as bar-ends.

Bar-end shifters hearken to simpler days, when bicycles weren’t made with military space age composite fibers. Most of the integrated shift/brake levers add weight/complexity, in a similar manner to disc brakes. That is, unless you pay for fancy, expensive “pro level” components the best weight-dollar ratio is to go simple and old school.

Here are some sites related to all this retro grouch non-sense:

http://sheldonbrown.com/touring/index.html and anything else on Sheldon’s site….
http://www.daystarbotanicals.com/biketrip/packinglist.html the tour I did from Boston > Montreal was on this very frame, classic early 80’s specialized lugged steel. lots of info on touring.
http://peterwhitecycles.com/ Curmudgeonly crazy Ron Paul supporter based out of NH pretty much has the best selection of German commuter parts / nice solid stuff sold in the US.
http://www.fullyloadedtouring.com/ this site is dedicated to touring bicycles and links/photos/articles…. just ogle the bikes and you’ll get some ideas of overpacking….
http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/ is a place for all kinds of touring cyclists to put up their trip journals and classifieds etc…
http://velo-orange.blogspot.com/ more in the “old man fetishizes French classic bicycle frames” but has some good stuff good articles, based out of Maryland
North American Handmade Bicycle Show, 2008, Portland, OR – Flickr Photo Set is from the blog http://bikeportland.org but the photos are what you want to look at, amazing steel stuff, lots of really elegant handmade bikes in the randonnĂ©e style and commuter/ ‘cross varieties, great variety of custom builders.
http://bikesnobnyc.blogspot.com This guy is really funny, I think right up your alley, acerbic & sarcastic, makes fun of hipsters and fixed gear bicycles.
Cycling News did a 6 part series on the NAHMBS in Portland, with write ups, that may be more accessible than just looking at photos.