Tips for Bike Trip from NJ to DC in March
February 15, 2005 11:38 AM   Subscribe

Bike touring [+]

I’m planning a bicycle trip with a friend from college, from New Brunswick, NJ to Washington, DC in mid-March.

For anyone who has done similar trips, what do you wish you had known? What did you take that you didn’t need, or what did you wish you’d taken? I’m especially interested in clothing and tools you think are needed. My friend has AAA, so we should get deals at hotels and some restaurants. Any advice is welcome.
posted by lorrer to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: 1. Rain gear!
2. Unless you have a SAG, several spare tubes (patch kits generally suck), tire irons, a pump, adjustable wrench, phillips & standard screwdrivers, allen wrenches, chain tool/spare chain, and if you have presta valves--a standard-presta adapter. Basically, anything you might need to get yourself back on the road short of suffering major damage to your bike.
3. Basic first aid kit.
4. Space blanket (wafer thin, way warm).
5. Phone card.
6. Camera.
7. Map.
8. If you are riding after dark, head and tail lights and spare batteries for them.

In my touring career I've been caught without all of these things at some point or another and while I survived, I spent a lot of time cursing for lack of that particular missing thing. Then again, most of my touring took place on the empty county roads of western Nebraska and northern Wisconsin where bike shops were few and far between.

For advice all I can offer is water water water and bananas bananas bananas. Leg cramps lick bottom when you are miles from anywhere. That and have the bike tuned up before taking off.

/me is excited that touring season starts soon!
posted by Fezboy! at 2:45 PM on February 15, 2005

I always take highly detailed, up-to-date maps of the regions I'm going through.
posted by tellurian at 3:10 PM on February 15, 2005

Buy Adventure Cycling maps. They are well worth the modest investment, and their east coast route goes where you want to go. Cross at Washington's Crossing, ride by Valley Forge, head south, see some sights. Sounds like fun. This summer we're touring Civil War battlefields. Gettysburg, Anteitam, Harper's Ferry, etc. We stay in B&B's 'cause I hate to rough it and we take turns driving the 12 passenger church bus van. Take a multi tool - Ritchey pocket rescue, Topeak Alien or McGuyver. Take some duct tape wrapped around a stub of a pencil. Tyvek from a USPS or FedEx envelope makes a great tire boot. Take a Kevlar emergency spare spoke.
posted by fixedgear at 4:06 PM on February 15, 2005

I second fixedgear. You need Adventure Cycling maps for your trip, particularly if you've not done much touring in the past. The maps are spectacularly detailed, are printed on waterproof, tearproof plastic, and remove much of the uncertainty from the self-supported touring equation. They tend to send you along lower-traffic scenic byways, which will be particularly important on the East Coast.

Adding to the list of specific items you may find handy:

- Lots of zip ties.
- Carry more food and water than you expect you'll need.
- Electrical tape (wrap a bunch around your frame).
- A well-broken-in saddle, and/or prescription steroid cream to address saddle sores.
- For a trip of the length you mention, a good map case and rear panniers (Ortlieb stuff is expensive but excellent - the waterproofing alone is worth the cost).

I've done a lot of touring, so if you have specific questions, my email's in my profile. Good luck!
posted by killdevil at 4:33 PM on February 15, 2005

There is much good advice here. Make sure you know how to use that chain tool. In fact, buy a full size one , the little ones can be a bitch - you don't necessarily need a Park but they are the best if price isn't a factor. Pack a good light, buy some bike shorts and don't wear underwear. Take a quality, high volume pump. I use co2 but these are an expensive convenience for racers, don't be fooled - flats will be your number one problem. Oh, and take lots of these, messy kits are no longer worth the hassle. And yes ...

Tyvek from a USPS or FedEx envelope makes a great tire boot. Take a Kevlar emergency spare spoke.

You can also use powerbar wrappers and Park sells sticky boots. I'm a bicycle mechanic, if you have any questions let me know.
posted by rotifer at 4:47 PM on February 15, 2005

One more comment - think about what NOT to take with you. Like backpacking, bike touring is an exercise in determining the minimum number of objects you really need to ensure a fun and successful journey.

Most bike tourists tend to over-pack. Don't succumb to the everything-and-a-lawn-chair-too syndrome, particularly on a short tour. If you're hotel-touring, I'd say 15-20 pounds of stuff should be more than sufficient.
posted by killdevil at 5:21 PM on February 15, 2005

Best answer: I did my first trip with little more info than what I found on Ken Kifer's Bike Pages. For this summer I'm planning a 2,000 mile trip across much of the U.S. and I don't think much of the planning will be different.

As far as the Adventure Cycling maps, I'd say skip them. Find your own route (while checking safety and all) and find your own adventures.

Don't overpack, try to camp everywhere you can (should cut down costs), most rain gear soaks through no matter what, pasta is good, spokes break when loaded down, try not to focus on miles, look up once in a while and ENJOY YOURSELF. Don't push too hard.
posted by Hall at 7:18 PM on February 15, 2005

I'd suggest doing a 2-day ride on a weekend (ride somewhere Saturday, ride back Sunday) before the bigger trip as a test run. My first 2-day ride made it clear to me that I was packing too many clothes, not enough tools, and that I was overestimating how far I could comfortably ride in a day.
posted by teg at 8:33 PM on February 15, 2005

Make sure you're well trained and plan out your route. A friend and I road our bikes through Austria last summer and the biggest mistake we made was planning on too much bike-riding each day causing us to be too tired to enjoy the place we were staying that night.
posted by jmd82 at 10:18 PM on February 15, 2005

As far as the Adventure Cycling maps, I'd say skip them. Find your own route (while checking safety and all) and find your own adventures.

I think this is bad advice, and not just because I recommended AC maps. This is the east coast, between NJ and DC. The megalopolis, IOW. Looking at a map and seeing a route that looks good and then trying it can really, really suck. Riding down that two-lane no-shoulder road with an endless stream of ten wheel dump trucks passing three inches from your left elbow will make you wish for a little less of your own adventure and a little more of the tried and true approach How can you check the safety of a route without riding it first? Drive the route first to preview?.
posted by fixedgear at 2:18 AM on February 16, 2005

Maybe check traffic statistics with the state's DOT.
posted by Hall at 4:47 AM on February 16, 2005

I have to second fixie's thinking in re the AC maps. Unless you are familiar with the route, you run the risk of finding yourself in uncomfortable environs. Especially if you are just starting with touring, having someone else choose your route is a good idea.

Which brings me to odinsdream's tangential question. Check out local bike shops for fliers or ask the staff about organized rides--they're the best way to get started. Pick up US Geological Survey maps of your area and locate points of interest 15 - 30 miles away and make day trips. These can also be used as training rides. The beauty of touring is that, while you can do the hobby-fetish thing and spend lots of cash on premium equipment, you can also get started without a lot of overhead if you stick pretty close to home. As you find you enjoy the activity you'll invest in it accordingly.
posted by Fezboy! at 7:20 AM on February 16, 2005

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