Incredible road trip ahead and I need your help.
Hello. I first need to announce that I´m a rookie in this road biking culture.....but only for a short time. Three friends and I are currently mapping out a long bike tour that would begin outside of Panama City, Panama and ride us on up to San Diego, California. This enduring expedition will give us time to pass through the many diverse cultures throughout Central America and visit our fellow volunteers in the Peace Corps. Intense it will be and we could really use some advice from the many experienced riders out there. The four of us are in our mid 20´s and remain in very good shape. Two are runners and two of us are mountain bikers yet we know little about road bikes and the quality to purchase for such a long trip.
Please provide me with any helpful tips. Our dedication to the sport of road biking has begun and I am pumped!!!
Be competent in your bike repairs. Learn spanish.
Originally Posted by Cheddy Ray
Beyond the Bike
You're going to get a lot of advice on specific bikes or specific frame materials, I would imagine, (For example, I have an urge to point you towards Surly's Long Haul Trucker) so I'll refrain from indulging that temptation.
Thommy's right about getting your repair skills straight. Although it costs more and seems extravagant, there's something to be said for building up the bike you intend to take from scratch. You'll get to choose each part based on all of the recommendations you get for the exact purpose you're aiming for, rather than for a company's mass-market purposes. And if you have to hit a price-point, better to hit yours than the one set by Fuji's marketing dept. But more importantly, it provides an incomparable hands-on intimacy with your machine that can pay off when you're a day's walk on a gravel road from the next town.
One major concern beyond the bike is the selection and transport of your gear--not just regular camping stuff, but spare parts for the ride. Tubes, spokes, extra chain, maybe a spare tire? Panniers are a given, but you should perhaps think about a trailer. That said, I'll point out that you probably won't be looking at a traditional road bike, so take things traditional roadies say with a grain of salt.
I'm much more a traditional roadie than an expedition guy myself, I suppose, so I'm sure the crusty among us are laughing at this post even now. But I've given them something to jump in and correct, so hopefully you'll have the help you need soon.
I don't know what the roads are like along the way, but you may want to consider getting mountain bikes instead of road bikes. They should survive better. You can get slick or semi-slick tires that are good for riding roads.
Originally Posted by Cheddy Ray
Welcome to the road, however based on your description I'm not so sure it's time to come over from the dark side.
You may want to consider doing the tour on mountain bike, cross bikes, or perhaps a good heavy duty touring road bike. I think you're going to want to accomdate wide tires at the very least, and may want some sort of suspension. Do you think your going to be able to plan a route with reliable pavement between all ponts A & B along the route. I personally doudt it.
Good links to check:
Good source for advice rearding what to expect, what to bring etc
One of Adventure Cyclings contributing freelancers. His journeys are pretty close to what you are contemplating. Guess what, he's not on a road bike.
If your going to use a road bike, get a Gordon
I found this forum the other day. http://thorntree.lonelyplanet.com/ca...s.cfm?catid=32 I don't know how reliable the responses are, but it has a lot of information about people cycling in all kinds of locations.
I try to be perfectly civil, until someone really pisses me off.
Ya, what ATP said...!
Greetings Cheddy. I have no advice for you, other than to take lots of photos and post them for us upon your return. Just wanted to welcome you to the boards.
May be good advice
To look into mtn bike, or at least a crosser with suspension seatpost. I heard the "roads" in Guatemala and Nicaragua are like the surface of the moon. Better have a good set of maps/GPS too or count on many bonus miles...oh, and do have all your paperwork in order for the border crossings, don't buy drugs, don't let your stuff out of sight, etc. On the other hand, prostitution is legal in Costa Rica!
Think Eco Challenge type bikes
At the very least a cross bike with canti type brakes and larger (700x28-35) tires. At the most a hardtail MTB with slicks. Nashbar has frames that might fit the bill. Here is what I'm thinking; put the bulk of your money into your components and less into the frame. Banditos may relieve you of your bike, it would be a shame to loose a great bike as opposed to just the component group. You can always strip the parts off when the trip is over and put them on a better frame for a nicer road bike.
Originally Posted by Cheddy Ray
Nashbar touring frame
Just took a peak, $190 alu touring frame. Could put Ultegra 10 mini group on it, touring crankset, and better bullet proof wheels and get out the door for under $1500.
Originally Posted by Lone Gunman
The last thing he needs is 10-speed stuff in Mexico. Just break a chain, and you'll be waiting for days to have a part mailed to you!
No, your best bet would be using a MTB frame with 135mm spacing, put a 7-speed internal-gear hub, possibly with a singleator and a 2-speed front deraileur of humble origins. Nothing much to break, uses common tires that can be bought along the way, common sized chains, etc.
We are the 801
We are the central shaft
i´ve used various bikes for expeditions over the years, depending on the country, roads, equipment i´ve needed to carry, etc. a lot of stuff comes down to personal preference, but the main thing you have to be sure of is that you are comfortable on whichever bike you take. i don´t know how many hours you intend to ride each day, but even if it´s only 2 or 3 then being uncomfortable on the bike can mean the difference between a dream trip and a nightmare. the most important parts of the bike are frame and wheels. the rest of the bits should be simple and easy, especially given the countries you´re going to (my latest bike weighs exactly 14kg, including bottle cages and pannier racks, it has a 7 speed rear cassette, dt shifters and canti brakes for simplicity). Make sure you know exactly how every single piece of you equipment works before you go, so that when the worst happens you know how to fix it. doing a few practice trips (weekends or a week) before going is also a really good idea to help you work out what equipment you like and what you don´t, what works for you and what doesn´t. don´t go out and buy all the lastest most expensive gear thinking that it´s going to be what you need. start with what you´ve got, or the basics, and build up from there. too many times i´ve seen too many people go out and buy (for example) a 200 quid jacket, only to find later that it´s a 50 quid one that they like better and works for them, and the 200 quid model never gets used....
expeditioning is really a whole new area of cycling, with many more variables than racing, mtbing or single day touring. there are a thousand pieces of advice you could learn from each person who´s ever done anything like this. i can give you all my stories and experiences and advice on bikes, camping gear, how to survive torrential rain and sandstorms, great expedition recicpies and loads more if you´re interested... there´s far too much to put down right here right now. maybe it´ll give me a motivation to finally get my webpage underway!!! let me know if you want specific advice and i´ll be happy to help.
maybe this thread should go to the commuting and touring forum? just a thought....
I would ride a steel frame (strong, comfortable and repairable) with canti brakes.Something straightforward and reputable. It would have substantial racks hung with panniers that dont depend on zippers a lot. As an old timer, I would use down tube shifters without indexing even going into a triple crank with a decent 7-9 sped cluster in the back. I'd spec 36 hole rims (substantial) with solid sealed hubs and simple steel skewers. Bars with a lot of positions and maybe even some of that "bar phat" I've seen; you're hands are gonna want to be comfortable.I might even take out a mortgage on one of those stainless steel chains from Wipperman. A good chain is important.Road test everything loaded alot as set up for trip before you start. It's much easier to make adjustments at home.
Adjust everything for good position and remember you're gonna be riding alot on rough stuff, it's not the tour.If you're not sure you should bringsomething leave it out. If you know you'll need something early on but not later you can always ship it home.
I'd bring extra cables , brake pads, 3 tubes, a tire, a wrench for every fastener on your bike. I would locktite all the threads that can come loose and create havoc. I'd bring a squeeze bottle of triflow or Pedros or some lube you like.
Pack light and low, keep track of your bikes location and condition. Don't be stupid. Drink lots of safe water. Eat breakfast with the locals. It gets you out of camp quick and gets you into the culture. Keep a journal and take tons of pictures(mailfilm home or upload periodically if possible. Don't rush...
When I was in my 20's I went xc solo and it was one of the best things I ever did. It took 2 months and went down the west coast and back to CT after a trip out to Vancouver BC by train. The only real mechanicals I had were a bad set of wheels that I had had built by, as it turns out, AN IDIOT! but I was an idiot for not breaking them in enough before they tacoed at a stop light in Coos Bay,Oregon. It turned into a nice weekend but it was a pain in the neck. I also stripped the adjustment screw to the hanger on the rear deralleur. That's why I believe in simple tough tested equipment.
Oh yeah, sunblock!
Assuming no support wagon and poor road conditions -I've never been to central America, but I'd guess you'll be on some poor roads -and assuming you will be riding fully loaded (i.e. self contained with tent, sleeping bag, etc) I'd definitely recommend a frame such as the Surly LHT. Having a specialized touring frame will obviate such issues as poor handling, toe strike and heel overlap on panniers (another alternative would be to use a trailer such as a BOB, and a strong but not necessarily specialized touring frame).
Get good quality pannier bags -waterproof! -and rack. Keep your components at a simpler level (i.e. I'm not sure you'd want STI levers as if they go wrong there's not much you can do to fix them on the road, plus they might interfere with a handlebar bag). Thumb shifters/barcon shifters are good as if the indexing fails, you can still utlilize them in the friction mode. Road handlebars or straight handlebars are your call, but I might err for straight handlebars with barends if the roads are expected to be really tough. I'd say if possible stick with 26 inch wheels as they are more common, as well as potentially stronger. A general rule of thumb is to look for components or functionality that stress durability and strength over weight -e.g. good quality flat resistant tyres.
Take a good toolkit with appropriate allen keys for essential components, chain splitter, etc and learn how to dis/assemble a bike -I think people who posted that you buy a frame and build it yourself are right on. Pack a rudimentary medical kit, and definitely some insect repellent. There's nothing more miserable than being attacked by insects. And a 100% must (leave out food for this ;^) is an emergency toilet roll.
Now..... I've just covered the ideal. Onto some other thoughts: you can pack almost everything to cover every eventuality, or choose equipment based on every eventuality, compromising your comfort or ease of use. For example, when I've toured in Europe and the States, I've never packed a spare tire. And I've never needed one -though admittedly I've never been too too far away from being able to get one. I've used STI shifters for thousands of miles without any problem -so you could definitely use them. You could use a steel framed bike because they are easily repairable (i.e. you can find a welder) but guess what? I've never broken a frame, steel or otherwise. You could take something like a Pamir Hypercracker so you can get a cassette off, but I've never had need to. A chain splitter? Never needed one..... My point? Well, based on worst case situations, if you're not careful you'll end up with a fully loaded 50lb pound steel framed monster pulling a BOB trailer with a bike stand strapped onto it and a Park Tool kit box hanging off the back!
So with that in mind, here are some points I think you should consider:
i. learn as much as possible to help you decide the right bike for you (be it a hybrid, mtb, touring bike, road bike or whatever made of whatever).
ii. Be prepared to make comprises and calculated risks concerning equipment.
iii. DEFINITELY DO a trial fully loaded ride with whatever you decide for at least a couple of days before you even consider going.
iv. learn bike mechanics
v. learn something about where you are going, e.g. language, conditions, safety (what number do you call in an emergency? Can you?)
vi. take insect repellent/rudimentary first aid kit
vii. don't take everything!
Good luck -please post pictures!
Fight Cystic Fibrosis: http://www.cycleforhaylee.org
Apply KISS principle
After getting married, my wife and I traveled Europe for 6 months on bikes, she had a Peugot, I a Fuji Royale. Neither bike was fancy, they both had simple components that were easy to service on the road. We carried all our gear (including tent, cooking gear, sleeping bags, etc.) on these bikes. We were completely self-sufficient. Here's what I learned:
1. Go with steel frame as they are field repairable.
2. Have a good strong wheelset (36 hole, 3x) with easily serviceable hubs. Would avoid sealed bearings as you would have a difficult time replacing such if one blew up on you.
3. Get powerful canti brakes. On my fuji, loaded down with about 60-70 lbs of gear, at times it got dicey going down a steep incline trying to moderate speed with side pull brakes.
4. Avoid anything fancy, eg stick to simple down tube shifters, a good comfortable seat, etc.
5. Have spares, cables, pads, tubes, pannier parts, and spokes.
6. Get a good set of tires, minimum 25mm width. Also, we used these small attachments called tire savers (basically a small wire mounted on brake mount) that rubbed the tires ever so slightly to flick out any glass before it could work its way in to give one a flat. In the six months of travel, combined we had two flats.
7. Test ride your fully loaded bike for the length of an average day of riding to familarize yourself with the bike, handling, what feels right and what may need to be tweaked.
8. Invest in decent pair of bike shoes that you can easily walk in (recommend MTB shoes such as Sidi Dominator) and that dry quickly.
9. Know how to repair your bike.
10. Keep your drivetrain clean (Durring our trip, I'd clean with toothbrush and rag and lube ours 2x per week).
11. Pack light. After the first month of travel, we went through our gear and sent a big package home. Its truly amazing just how little you can get by on. Also, the pack light is a good idea for during your travels, as you are sure to buy stuff along the way which will add to your burden.
There are a number of good books on the subject of bike touring. Purchase one of those, they can be a big help and also will psych you up for the trip.
You don't need anything fancy to do an epic tour such as you are proposing. In fact, fancy doodads will probably cause you nothing but problems on the road. Just keep it simple, interact with the locals, take lots of photos, keep a daily journal, and have a great time. It will be something you'll treasure for the rest of your life.