Boston to Hartford

Discussion in 'Touring and recreational cycling' started by NuCommuter, Aug 17, 2006.

  1. NuCommuter

    NuCommuter New Member

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    Reading the posts on this forum makes me feel that my "big" planned adventure--commuting to and from my biweekly job in Hartford--isn't really very big!

    Still, for me, it will be the first time I ever pedaled 100 miles in a day, and my first time bicycle camping--so I guess officially it's my first "tour." Something I've wanted to do for years!

    So far, I've gotten the Adventure Cycling maps, have a Connecticut D.O.T. map on order, have assembled my lightest camping gear, and am working on adding some lights for visibility (I'm deaf, and worry especially about being seen on narrow roads).

    I had two questions--First, any particular advice on Adventure Cycling's suggested Boston to Hartford route? Second, am I crazy to attempt this? I'm 43 and in pretty good shape (kayak marathon racing), but I only started commuting in March, and prior to that hadn't ridden a bicycle seriously for 15 years. My longest ride since March was 40 miles, and I felt sore but good--I wanted to go farther. I'm on a Surly Cross-Check outfitted for city commuting with fenders and 700/32 tires.

    Thanks for any thoughts/advice. My plan so far was to leave early the first day and try to arrive by the afternoon. The following day I'd come halfway back, camp, and do the final half the third morning.

    NuCommuter
     
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  2. blackbird05

    blackbird05 New Member

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    Hey Nucommuter, congrats on taking the first step in touring! It's a great feeling to finally do something you've dreamed about - no matter if it's an overnighter or a year-long trip, it's still a blast.
    You're not crazy to do this:) You've got a nice realistic plan for you trip, which is good becaus many people overestimate their abilities when they start out. As for fitness, my main concern (I harp on it every time) is always my knees and my hydration/nutrition state. As a marathoner, you probably know all about hydration/nutrition. As for the knees, just keep paying attention to them - if you've been feeling tiny twinges during cycling and ignoring them because they're not that painful, be especially careful now that you're adding longer distances and weight to your bike trips. Spin at higher cadence if need be, and check out advice on managing knee pain from someone more qualified than myself.
    If you're worried about cars on smaller roads, I would definitely advise rearview mirrors for your safety and peace of mind. They're inexpensive and come in many forms, some mounted on your bike and some on your helmet. I tried one on my tour and swear by it.
    Have a great trip!
     
  3. NuCommuter

    NuCommuter New Member

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    Blackbird--thanks. I did get a rear view mirror--and like it. How did you happen to know about those twinges in my knees? Very mild, but I do want to keep an eye on them. I was a good runner through my later thirties, but have essentially stopped due to osteoarthritis and an ACL tear. I've noticed I tend to pedal somewhat inwards with my right knee, so I put a fat water jug on the bike that reminds me to keep going pretty much up and down. I know from kayaking that tiny oddities of movement can result in major injury after a few thousand repetitions. I had the bike built with ultra-low gears so I could spin lightly at all times--and I've been very pleased with the results.

    I continue to be irrationally excited about this trip, for a middle-aged guy. Perhaps it's the accummulated guilt from years of burning fossil fuels commuting to Hartford by car, via the very boring highway. Also, the kids at the school where I work there are going to be rather amazed when (if!) I show up by bike.

    Sanjay
     
  4. blackbird05

    blackbird05 New Member

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    That's awesome Nucommuter, I can well remember the exhileration of counting the days down to my big trip. I don't think I slept for the 72 hours before departure...
    I just had a random thought (completely unscientific) that might help you. We met a bicycle tourist in the Netherlands who wore thick knee protectors that looked like flat volleyball knee-pads. He said that keeping his knees warm had made a difference with his recurring knee pain. Perhaps that might apply to you as well.
    Good luck!
     
  5. NuCommuter

    NuCommuter New Member

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    I did it!

    ... and it was just as wonderful as I had hoped. The Adventure Cycling map nicely linked together beautiful back roads that wound through gorgeous countryside. There were fewer potholes on the entire 100 mile route than on any mile of Boston-area roads. On the way down, I made it a point to stop at "real" diners and coffee shops, rather than the ubiquitous Dunkin' Donuts and chain restaurants that congregate around car routes. I discovered that small-town America still exists. People would ask me questions, poke fun at my clothes and gear, eat, and sip their coffee--all at about 1/3 the speed I'm used to here in the city.

    My biggest lesson learned was: it's not the miles, it's the hills. I slowly got used to the rhythm of marching up a hill and cruising down the other side. I apparently tore some cartilage at one point when a gear slipped, dropping my bad knee down hard on the pedal. It locked me knee so I couldn't extend it. After I stopped pulling back and up, and stopped trying to bend it, the piece apparently slipped back into place, and my knee lost its "something's in the door hinge" feeling. I'd thought the trip was over, but I had no further problems with it.

    As planned, I worked in Hartford on Weds night and Thursday morning, rode again for 30 miles through tobacco fields (which smell good, though I'm not a smoker), to a campground, where I saw another side of America: people who stay up all night drinking and want to chat with the guy on the bicycle--whether he wants to or not, and whether or not he can hear one word they're saying!

    Woke up this morning, said bye to my now-hungover new friends, and cruised the last 70 miles home. My legs burned a bit on the hills, but by the last flat section, I was cruising at exactly the same speed as when I started, 200 miles and two days previously. Got off the bike, and almost wished there were more miles to go.

    My Brooks saddle was perfect--no pain at all. Same for chamois, which I was using for the first time. My quads and glutes are a bit sore, but otherwise I feel great. The trip accomplished exactly what I wanted; it tested my anxieties and judgement against the real world, drained my body happily (after a summer of overwork that will now lead to a very nice fall season), and fulfilled my longstanding desires to bike 100 miles and camp from a bicycle. I always wondered how those long-distance bicyclists, with laden panniers, felt. Now I know.

    It's time to plan the next trip!

    NuCommuter
     
  6. teigeman

    teigeman New Member

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    NuCommuter,

    You should check out a gem right in your own back yard - I just finished an eight day tour of Cape Cod, Nantucket, and Martha's Vineyard. It was a trip of a lifetime! Excellent road conditions, the Cape Cod Rail Trail (CCRT) and all the sun, sand, surf, and seafood you could dream for. Absolutely killer weather, I stayed at hostels and campgrounds, and spent my money where it should have been spent - in the shops and restaurants! I'll post another thread entitled Cape Cod Bike Tour with photos and stuff, and feel free to ask any questions about the route or gear or whatever. Once touring is in your blood, everything else is just a time waster until the next time you can get out there!!!

    teigeman


     
  7. NuCommuter

    NuCommuter New Member

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    I'm really looking forward to pedaling the Cape. I go there often to sea kayak around the Monomoys (which have a large seal population and some fantastic tide rips). I'm lucky that my wife's family has a vacation home there.

    I think you're right about touring getting into the blood, I've been plotting and plotting where my next trip should be : )

    Glad you had a great time here in Massachusetts!

    NuCommuter
     
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