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Bike Tour 2012: In the beginning...

Bike Tour 2012: In the beginning...

Bike Tour 2012: In the beginning...

Our beloved bikes getting ready for the Transamerica
The bikes that will take Don and I across the United States of America

Welcome to a blog series following me, Rochelle Comeaux, and my boyfriend, Don Eaton (both enthusiastic Next Adventure employees) as we embark on our very own "Next Adventure"! I'm sorry, I couldn't help myself :) In less than one week Don and I will begin biking from Astoria, Oregon to Yorktown, Virginia along the 4,241.5-mile TransAmerica Trail. We have 72 days to complete our journey before flying back home to Portland. We are estimating a total of 62 days of riding at approximately 68 miles/day. Our ride will take us through 10 states, including Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, and Virginia. We have been planning this trip since December and even though there is always more to do, we are feeling more ready than ever to hit the road. 

First and foremost, we want to thank Next Adventure for helping to sponsor this trip and for providing a platform for us to share this experience with other adventurers in Portland and beyond. We hope this blog will provide everything from entertainment to inspiration to advice. This is Don's and my first bike tour, so everything we do from planning to biking to blogging will be trial and error. We look forward to sharing our experiences with other novice bike tourists and hopefully in the process we will make this sort of trip a reality for more people. There is a lot that goes into planning an adventure like this one, but now that we are a week away, I think that our preparations mostly fell into the following five categories.

1. Big picture logistics

Map of Transamerica RouteThe first step to planning a long-distance bike tour is deciding to do it. This isn't the same as adding it to your bucket list or even following a lot of blogs from others who are doing it. This is the point where you actually say you will make this trip a priority and you will do what needs to be done to see it through to the end. Don and I had decided by the beginning of January that we were definitely going to bike across the country. Our commitment was made up of three important decisions: we would go together, we would follow the TransAmerica trail going West to East, and we would do it in 2012. Knowing a general idea of where you want to go, who you want to go with, and when you want to go will put you on the right track. (Picture: An overview of Adventure Cycling Association's TransAmerica Trail...not the shortest route across the states.) 

2. Time and money

Booking our flights home

The first two excuses that most people give for not going on bike tour are that they can't get the time off work and they can't afford it. In fact, I wrote a whole blog post a couple months back about this very topic. To be honest, saving money was a huge piece of our planning. We came up with a rudimentary budget back in January, including costs for gear, transportation, spending money on the road, bills, and rent for when we got home. While our budget has shifted around a bit, for the most part it gave us a great goal and we have managed to stick to it by using savings accounts and putting a part of every paycheck in every month. We have budgeted for $18/each per day. On the topic of time, Don and I are fortunate to work in a flexible, seasonal industry, but we still had to work our bike tour dates around our jobs. We realize that not everyone can leave for a couple months in the fall, but most people are able to at least get a few weeks off with the right planning and preparation. Once we knew our dates, we purchased plane tickets home and have worked backwards from that date (Nov. 12th) ever since. (Picture: Buying plane tickets in June while sitting at Crema...bike tour becomes official!)

3. Gear

Getting together our gearI think this might be the most important, time consuming, fun, and expensive area of planning. Back in February we compiled a list of all the gear that we needed for bike tour and then proceeded to hunt it down...trying to save as much money as possible. The key is small and lightweight, but not necessarily to the same extreme as for thru-hiking or backpacking. We will post a detailed blog before we leave outlining all of the gear we are bringing, hopefully including weight and retail cost. We will also include some product reviews as we use our gear and truly put it to the test. We hope to be able to add to the myriad of opinions that exist surrounding various products and their effectiveness for long-distance bike touring. (Picture: My gear on the right, Don's on the left, and mutual gear/food in the 

middle...still unfinished as of today, but getting closer.)

4. Bikes

Getting the bikes readyIt has helped A LOT that Don is a certified bike mechanic and the he worked this summer at City Bikes here in Portland. People often say that you can tour on just about any bike...but there are definitely features that will make for a safer and more comfortable ride. My bike is a Dawes Lightning, which is a cheap order-online road bike. But it sure looks cool! We spent the past 8 months adding features like a women's-specific saddle, a steel fork, a rack, etc. in order to make it ready for this tour. Don started from scratch with a steel frame which he built into a great touring bike for himself. While it has been fun for us to deck out our bikes, and there are some accessories that we will highlight in future blogs because we think they're important, it is not necessary for someone to have more than a basic knowledge of bike maintenance skills and even a basic bike. If you have the money you can buy yourself a properly-fitting touring-specific bike and then there will be very little that you'll need to add or worry about. (Picture: Don working on my bike this winter before I had even installed fenders or a rear rack.)

5. Training

On a training ride near Mt. HoodOne of the most common questions asked of us throughout our planning is what kind of training we're doing. We have tried to reassure concerned friends and family that we've been getting in lots of longer rides in order to prepare, but the truth is that we haven't done all that much. We both bike most places anyway and try to rarely use a car, so we are in the saddle on a daily basis. We completed six official "training rides" ranging in distance from 28 to 62 miles and truly enjoyed each one. The best thing about long rides is that they usually take you to beautiful places. We biked on the coast, through Oregon wine country, out at Mt. Hood, on Sauvie Island, and more. With bike touring it is all about endurance and not about speed, so we plan on taking all the time we need and truly enjoying the journey. The first couple week will count as the majority of our training, and we are starting out with lower mileage (60-65 mile) days, with expectations that we will also have some 80-90 mile days right around Kansas or Kentucky.

Well hopefully that is helpful in understanding some of our planning process. On Friday, August 31st we will drive out to Astoria and we begin biking on the morning of September 1st. We will continue to post blogs in the days ahead and we look forward to sharing our journey with you. Please check back in soon and if you see us, wish us luck! 

Coming soon....Bike Tour Gear: A detailed list of what we're bringing along, including photos!

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