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  1. #1
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    First bike packing trip! I got questions!

    So my buddy and me will be pedaling from Palatka, FL to Madison, FL via the Florida Trail in a few weeks. The trip is just over 200 miles. We plan to do it in 4 days.

    So here are some questions that I have.
    Training. What's the best approach? We have been riding at least 2 hours everyday for the past week with some longer 4 and 5 hour days mixed in. We normally can only coordinate the long rides over the weekends. It might be to late to ask now but, is this method going to prepare us for what we think will be 7-9 hour days during the trip? I'm afraid not but that's what we got.

    I've noticed during the training rides that my upper body -- lower back and neck especially -- become very stiff. What's the cause of this? My buddy thinks my back tightens up because I haven't properly stretched my hamstrings. I have tried stretching before and during rides to help alleviate and it seems to be helping. What do you think? As for the neck, I believe it's do to the geometry of my bike (Scott Scale) which keeps me in a more aggressive position for longer periods than I'm accustomed to. What do you think?
    I have been finding some relief with stretching. I'm wondering if some of you seasoned bike packers have stretching routines as part of your training and riding. If so, what are they?

    The next major thing that I'm curious about is food. What foods do you guys carry that are healthy and actually replenish what your body is losing out on the trail? What supplements would you suggest? What's your eating routine during a typical day? I know we're all different, just trying to get some ideas.

    Those are the main things I'm curios about now. I'm sure I'll ask more as they come to me. Thanks in advance for any advice you might have for me.

  2. #2
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    Ride your fully loaded bikes on some of the long rides to make sure your setup is tight and you aren't futzing with it on the trip. Doing a short overnighter on a weekend close to home would be good to see how the camping side of things comes together with your planned gear.

    If you are having issues with comfort on a 2-4hr ride that's something that's definitely worth sorting out before the trip. I know what works for me, but that my not be useful for you - more upright position with a balanced weight distribution between hands and butt. If you have a knowledgeable bike shop to work with I would start by talking to them. It will be a trial and error process so give yourself some time.

    To cover 50 miles a day you don't have to be super fast. You just need to be comfortable on the bike and keep moving efficiently throughout the day.

    I'll typically have instant oatmeal and tea for breakfast and then munch on snack food all day [granola bars, chocolate, nuts, jerky, etc...] and finish the day with a freeze dried camping dinner. I'll start riding with some fresh fruit and resupply with some if possible during the ride.

    You can probably soldier through being less than comfortable on the bike and/or having gear issues, but the more you prepare the smoother and more enjoyable the trip will be. That helps build the stoke for future adventures.
    Safe riding,

    Vik
    www.vikapproved.com

  3. #3
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    Just from my experience, I would say it sounds like you may be too stretched out. I used to tour with women back before mtn bikes existed and quite often their necks would hurt because they only made bikes to fit men. Women have shorter backs relative to their leg length so they would be too stretched out for long rides. Check with a good bike shop and google fit your bike for some starting ideas. I doubt it is your hamstrings.

  4. #4
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    First bike packing trip! I got questions!

    Quote Originally Posted by vikb View Post
    Ride your fully loaded bikes on some of the long rides to make sure your setup is tight and you aren't futzing with it on the trip. Doing a short overnighter on a weekend close to home would be good to see how the camping side of things comes together with your planned gear.

    If you are having issues with comfort on a 2-4hr ride that's something that's definitely worth sorting out before the trip. I know what works for me, but that my not be useful for you - more upright position with a balanced weight distribution between hands and butt. If you have a knowledgeable bike shop to work with I would start by talking to them. It will be a trial and error process so give yourself some time.

    To cover 50 miles a day you don't have to be super fast. You just need to be comfortable on the bike and keep moving efficiently throughout the day.

    I'll typically have instant oatmeal and tea for breakfast and then munch on snack food all day [granola bars, chocolate, nuts, jerky, etc...] and finish the day with a freeze dried camping dinner. I'll start riding with some fresh fruit and resupply with some if possible during the ride.

    You can probably soldier through being less than comfortable on the bike and/or having gear issues, but the more you prepare the smoother and more enjoyable the trip will be. That helps build the stoke for future adventures.
    Good stuff there! The food is almost exact to what I'm thinking about. Except i was thinking about some flatbread pbj's as well. And I'm not to keen on the freeze dried stuff. Curious about gels and other replenishing supplements. You use any of those?

    Thanks!

  5. #5
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    First bike packing trip! I got questions!

    Quote Originally Posted by crackerdog View Post
    Just from my experience, I would say it sounds like you may be too stretched out. I used to tour with women back before mtn bikes existed and quite often their necks would hurt because they only made bikes to fit men. Women have shorter backs relative to their leg length so they would be too stretched out for long rides. Check with a good bike shop and google fit your bike for some starting ideas. I doubt it is your hamstrings.
    Thanks! I think your on to something. I feel like I'm in too much of an aggressive position. Maybe that equates with being too stretched out. I find relief when I sit straight up with my fingertips just touching the bars. I'm going to go see what the lbs can help me out with.

    Thanks again!

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by count123 View Post
    Curious about gels and other replenishing supplements. You use any of those?
    No. Not a fan of those on tour.

    But nutrition and palate is quite personal so I would use whatever you think will work based on previous exercise related nutrition that's worked for you. Then tweak it each tour as you see how it's going .

    I tend to bring a variety of items so I can switch it up depending on how I am feeling.

    If you can fit in an overnight tour I would eat just like you plan to on the longer trip.
    Safe riding,

    Vik
    www.vikapproved.com

  7. #7
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    On back pain and tight hamstrings: Stretching hamstrings consistently on days off has really helped me through back pain at least once. A very well done bike fit can also help. I had a fit done once on a Guru fit system (a Cannondale/Dorel dealer in your area may have one) when my back was a little sore and moving quickly through different positions while pedaling really helped sort out what worked well for me.

    Upright or Stretched: Again, go get a proper bike fit. Worth every penny. In the aforementioned fit, I ended up being lower and more stretched out in my final position. This seemed counter-intuitive to everyone in the shop, but it did take weight off my back and have me more balanced.

    Food: Gels are for people who can't carry real food. On a bike, I prefer real food over gels and goops. Your training rides should have a strong focus on how and when you feed as well as just physical conditioning. It's worth trying all sorts of stuff over time to find out if your body is violently opposed to certain stuff. A buddy of mine projectile vomits with certain type of sports drinks that are popular on supported rides-- a fact he only discovered in the middle of a 100+ mile event. I rarely use a gel or shot block kind of thing, but I almost always carry one with me in case I "get behind" a bit on feeding.

    50 miles a day should be fine. Stand up out of the saddle frequently, enjoy the trip, and don't forget to stay loose and stretch out your whole body when you stop.

    Have a great trip!

  8. #8
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    First bike packing trip! I got questions!

    Quote Originally Posted by Clydesdale Clint View Post
    On back pain and tight hamstrings: Stretching hamstrings consistently on days off has really helped me through back pain at least once. A very well done bike fit can also help. I had a fit done once on a Guru fit system (a Cannondale/Dorel dealer in your area may have one) when my back was a little sore and moving quickly through different positions while pedaling really helped sort out what worked well for me.

    Upright or Stretched: Again, go get a proper bike fit. Worth every penny. In the aforementioned fit, I ended up being lower and more stretched out in my final position. This seemed counter-intuitive to everyone in the shop, but it did take weight off my back and have me more balanced.

    Food: Gels are for people who can't carry real food. On a bike, I prefer real food over gels and goops. Your training rides should have a strong focus on how and when you feed as well as just physical conditioning. It's worth trying all sorts of stuff over time to find out if your body is violently opposed to certain stuff. A buddy of mine projectile vomits with certain type of sports drinks that are popular on supported rides-- a fact he only discovered in the middle of a 100+ mile event. I rarely use a gel or shot block kind of thing, but I almost always carry one with me in case I "get behind" a bit on feeding.

    50 miles a day should be fine. Stand up out of the saddle frequently, enjoy the trip, and don't forget to stay loose and stretch out your whole body when you stop.

    Have a great trip!
    Once again, very good stuff there! Thanks! I'm hoping my local Cdale shop has the Guru system.

  9. #9
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    I would second(third?) the suggestion on trying to fit in an overnighter beforehand if possible.

    Big fan of instant grits(w/cheese) or oatmeal for breakfast, snacks throughout the day(fruit chews, granola, chocolates, beef jerky, and other gas station junk with calories ), and I'll mirror the dehydrated camp meals for dinner. The Mountain House spagetties and lasagnas aren't any worse than a Stoufers meal. The Chilli Mac with Beef is the shiz!

    A lot of the Florida Trail is foot path only, may want to check in on that. Check your route for areas to refuel if possible, its good to drink more than just water along the way. Any gas station will have day time junk food and Gatorade foodstuffs.

    Keep up the stretching, it does nothing but good!

    I'm also a Florida Bikepacker and run the FB page www.facebook.com/tallahasseebikepacking . I have some more Florida routes there if you're looking for other routes in the future.

  10. #10
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    First bike packing trip! I got questions!

    Quote Originally Posted by SuPrBuGmAn View Post
    I would second(third?) the suggestion on trying to fit in an overnighter beforehand if possible.

    Big fan of instant grits(w/cheese) or oatmeal for breakfast, snacks throughout the day(fruit chews, granola, chocolates, beef jerky, and other gas station junk with calories ), and I'll mirror the dehydrated camp meals for dinner. The Mountain House spagetties and lasagnas aren't any worse than a Stoufers meal. The Chilli Mac with Beef is the shiz!

    A lot of the Florida Trail is foot path only, may want to check in on that. Check your route for areas to refuel if possible, its good to drink more than just water along the way. Any gas station will have day time junk food and Gatorade foodstuffs.

    Keep up the stretching, it does nothing but good!

    I'm also a Florida Bikepacker and run the FB page www.facebook.com/tallahasseebikepacking . I have some more Florida routes there if you're looking for other routes in the future.
    Thanks!
    I'm thinking our route is about to change. I've been wanting to do the Cross FL trail my buddy wanted to do this FL trail route. We've rode sections of it and frankly it's boring to me. I like scenery and/or fun riding. What we've ridden has neither.

    I checked your FB. That Forgotten Coast ride looks nice. Where does it end? Thinking it may be cool to link the end of that with the end of the Cross FL. It looks like the end of both are pretty close to each other. How much pavement is involved in that ride?

  11. #11
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    The Forgotten Coast Ride is 80% dirt. Starts at Ochlockonee Bay in Panacea, FL and ends in Steinhatchee, FL at the river. I would have to map it out, but I'm guessing that connecting Steinhatchee to Withlacoochee would probably add around 100 miles.

    To be honest, with Ocala National Forest and all the WMAs, state forests, and state parks that are in your backyard; a nice loop would be logistically much easier and likely much more scenic than either the Cross Florida Greenway or your trip to Madison.

  12. #12
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    First bike packing trip! I got questions!

    Once I started upping the mileage I also noticed back issues.
    I raised position up front to relax the strain on my lower back.
    Then I added aero bars. Not for aero riding, but for a rest position on the longer rides.
    I've done 73 miles on this set up and it works well.

    Bill

  13. #13
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    Def try an overnight, even if you just ride loaded for a few hours to crash in the back yard, then get up to ride a couple hours more. There's so much you learn on short outings, totally worth it. Plus it's fun too.

    We do freeze dried food for dinners because our routes are so far away from stores etc. I do coffee (yeah it's more hassle to fire up the stove again in the morning, but that's the price of homicide prevention) and a Cliff bar for breakfast, then whatever for snacks along the way... shot bloks, crackers & cheese if I have it, nuts, dried fruit, etc.
    "...Some local fiend had built it with his own three hands..."

  14. #14
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    Rode my first bikepacking ride last summer, Anchorage to Valdez. It was a 300-mile trip with a climb over two 'mountains' with 3,200' and 2,800' elevation gain. We did this ride in four days. We figured if we averaged 10 mph we'd be doing great and get there in five days. The 2nd day we rode 95-miles which included our highest climb. The final day we rode about 80 miles with our 2nd highest climb with a hell of descent to sea level that made it all worth it.

    If you are having issues with your back I would first get a professional bike fitting. Then, I would work on your core muscles. It could just be that your core muscles aren't fit enough yet to deal with the position but a properly fitting bike is key.

    I damaged the nerves in my palm, rendering my thumb, pinky and ring finger useless after day two and for almost two months after the ride. Don't use a handlebar bag, wear new padded gloves and change the position of your hands often.

    Regarding food, I make my own muesli and took that for breakfast. It can be eaten dry, hot like oatmeal, with dehydrated milk like cereal, etc. Oats along with nuts and dried fruit are a good way to start the day. We managed to eat at least one meal in a restaurant, somehow, as there are stretches without anything for miles in Alaska. I did take dehydrated meals for dinner. They are light weight and do the job. I prefer the lower sodium meals with more vegetables. You should be able to replace electrolytes/sodium with the dehydrated meals. I just learned from a friend who is a trainer, she recommends using Emergen-C rather than Gatorade (yuck) or the more expensive but good Cytomax.

    Understanding how your body uses energy will help you fuel the ride. Carbs are digested quickly but don't last long, complex carbs a little longer and last a bit longer. Protein takes longer to get into the system but will also last longer. I would recommend constantly fueling but mixing up your carbs and protein so you don't bonk. Always drink plenty of liquid.

    Trying an overnight first is a good indicator of how prepared you are you. We had someone join last minute and had the wrong tires on his bike. Two flats in the first 40-miles wasn't good for anyone.

    Good luck on your ride and have fun!

  15. #15
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    First bike packing trip! I got questions!

    Quote Originally Posted by AKPeach View Post
    Rode my first bikepacking ride last summer, Anchorage to Valdez. It was a 300-mile trip with a climb over two 'mountains' with 3,200' and 2,800' elevation gain. We did this ride in four days. We figured if we averaged 10 mph we'd be doing great and get there in five days. The 2nd day we rode 95-miles which included our highest climb. The final day we rode about 80 miles with our 2nd highest climb with a hell of descent to sea level that made it all worth it.

    If you are having issues with your back I would first get a professional bike fitting. Then, I would work on your core muscles. It could just be that your core muscles aren't fit enough yet to deal with the position but a properly fitting bike is key.

    I damaged the nerves in my palm, rendering my thumb, pinky and ring finger useless after day two and for almost two months after the ride. Don't use a handlebar bag, wear new padded gloves and change the position of your hands often.

    Regarding food, I make my own muesli and took that for breakfast. It can be eaten dry, hot like oatmeal, with dehydrated milk like cereal, etc. Oats along with nuts and dried fruit are a good way to start the day. We managed to eat at least one meal in a restaurant, somehow, as there are stretches without anything for miles in Alaska. I did take dehydrated meals for dinner. They are light weight and do the job. I prefer the lower sodium meals with more vegetables. You should be able to replace electrolytes/sodium with the dehydrated meals. I just learned from a friend who is a trainer, she recommends using Emergen-C rather than Gatorade (yuck) or the more expensive but good Cytomax.

    Understanding how your body uses energy will help you fuel the ride. Carbs are digested quickly but don't last long, complex carbs a little longer and last a bit longer. Protein takes longer to get into the system but will also last longer. I would recommend constantly fueling but mixing up your carbs and protein so you don't bonk. Always drink plenty of liquid.

    Trying an overnight first is a good indicator of how prepared you are you. We had someone join last minute and had the wrong tires on his bike. Two flats in the first 40-miles wasn't good for anyone.

    Good luck on your ride and have fun!
    Thanks for all the good info. We've actually settled on a. 300 mi ride. Wether we make it through or not is a completely different story. We really aren't prepared but both just dumb enough to do it anyway. One of those things where real life got in the way of planning.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  16. #16
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    Take a short test ride first -- just an overnighter or S24. Then you can fine tune your gear arrangement.
    Stretch each day before and after the ride.

    As for food -- on a 4 day trip do not get overly concerned about vitamins, etc. Calories are the biggy. Overkill on calories. There is nothing worse than bonking out in the middle of nowhere. You can bring a daily multivitamin if you want.
    So many trails... so little time...

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