Author Topic: Longer distance biking  (Read 3416 times)

jo552006

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Longer distance biking
« on: September 20, 2017, 08:08:31 AM »
Promised a family member I'd get in shape to do a ~180mile 3 day bike trip next year.  I have plenty of time to prepare, but a little research shows me that I probably have no idea what I'm doing.

I always prefer soft seats, and can ride for 15 miles (on a mountain bike) with little trouble.  I just assumed it was a matter of *maybe* using a road bike, and being able to travel longer than I'm used to.  I think my original thoughts may be way off though.

From the looks of it I should be looking into cycle shorts, and a hard properly fitted seat at a minimum.

Does anybody have any advice on preparing for a long distance bike trip? (I'd rather use a mountain bike as I don't want to purchase another bicycle)

Also, what cycling shorts do people here use that are affordable and don't look like cycle shorts? (look like cargo pants or something less spandex-y)

nereo

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Re: Longer distance biking
« Reply #1 on: September 20, 2017, 08:26:30 AM »
Quote
From the looks of it I should be looking into cycle shorts, and a hard properly fitted seat at a minimum.

Yes and yes.  "hard" is not as critical as "properly fitted", but most saddles for long rides will not be pillow soft.  Here its crucial to get your butt used to your new saddle, as there's always an adjustment period.

Quote
Does anybody have any advice on preparing for a long distance bike trip? (I'd rather use a mountain bike as I don't want to purchase another bicycle)
Yes - get an actual road bike.  A mountain bike will be miserable on a 180mi trip.  You don't need something super-fancy, and if you like you can buy a great used road (or touring if you are carrying ots of gear) on Craigslist and then sell it in a few months for about waht you paid for it.
Trust me - this will make the greatest difference.

Quote
I have plenty of time to prepare, but a little research shows me that I probably have no idea what I'm doing.
If you're not interested in time-trial type speed all you really need to do is build up your riding.  Start with some 30 minute rides a few times a week and see how they go. Increase the length of your rides until you can go for a couple of hours in a single afternoon with short breaks every 30 minutes or so.

Quote
Also, what cycling shorts do people here use that are affordable and don't look like cycle shorts? (look like cargo pants or something less spandex-y)
Find what fits you and your 'hot spots' (the places that are still uncomfortable when you ride on your newly fitted saddle).  You can toss some cargo shorts/pants on over your biking shorts *after* you get off your bike if the look bothers you that much. Cycling shorts (the spandex-y style) are so universal because they i) wick away moisture while ii) not chaffing your legs and nether-regions. Most everything else out there will not serve those two functions over a multi-hour, multi-day ride.

jo552006

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Re: Longer distance biking
« Reply #2 on: September 20, 2017, 08:48:14 AM »
Any suggestions on specific road bike models that are good to find on Craigslist?  I'm TOTALLY okay with older and slower as long as they work well.  Cheaper is better as I hadn't planned on buying a road bike, though not sure what the big deal with a mountain bike would be, as long as I average 10+ mph.

W/regards to speed, it is definitely not a concerned.  Finishing is all I expect.

Is there something wrong with shorts like this:
http://www.aerotechdesigns.com/mtbshorts.html

GuitarStv

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Re: Longer distance biking
« Reply #3 on: September 20, 2017, 08:59:31 AM »
Basically, you have two concerns on long distance riding . . . physically being able to do it, and comfort.  Of the two, the second is much more important to worry about in my opinion.


1. If you have plenty of time to build up to it, it's just a matter of getting used to the time in the saddle.  Slowly ramp up your distances, time in the saddle, and near the end of your training try doing a couple multi day longer rides so that you get a feel for how your body handles it.

2. Saddles make a big difference to comfort and everyone has their own preferences.  My experience has been that just about any saddle will work fine for 20 miles or so.  Once you start going 80 miles in a day you'll get much pickier (and will probably prefer a saddle with minimal padding).  About half way through your training if you find that the saddle you currently use doesn't cut it then many bike shops will let you ride a saddle for a while before you buy it . .  . so try a few out.  A good saddle makes a very large difference in comfort.

Cycling shorts also make you much happier on a bike.  Just go around to cycling stores until you find a pair that fit you closely and aren't too expensive.  Personally, I find that bib shorts (the ones with suspenders) are much more comfortable although I find they're a bit harder to fit.  It's also worth getting some chamois cream for long rides.  It's like a lubricant/antibacterial thingie that you smear on your undercarriage and works very well to prevent saddle sores and minimize any rubbing/chafing.

You can use any bike you want.  If you're going with a flat bar style mountain bike, I'd recommend getting some bar ends (or maybe even picking up and installing a butterfly bar) so that you have more hand positions . . . keeping your hands in the same place for four or five hours at a time is a recipe for pain.  If your mountain bike has knobby tires, it is worth swapping them out for slick tires (without any tread).  Slick tires just roll easier with less effort.

nereo

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Re: Longer distance biking
« Reply #4 on: September 20, 2017, 09:11:16 AM »
Any suggestions on specific road bike models that are good to find on Craigslist?  I'm TOTALLY okay with older and slower as long as they work well.  Cheaper is better as I hadn't planned on buying a road bike, though not sure what the big deal with a mountain bike would be, as long as I average 10+ mph.

W/regards to speed, it is definitely not a concerned.  Finishing is all I expect.

There's speed and there's efficiency. For your purposes, the reason to get a road bike is that they are much more efficient - i.e. you will go further with the same amount of effort.  No small matter when you're planning a multi-day trip with several hours in the saddle each day.

You can make your mountain bike more efficient by following GuitarStv's advice; switch nobby tires for narrower slick tires.
Still, a road bike beats a mountain bike (even equipped with skinny slicks) for efficiency on paved roads every time.

You don't need to break the bank - biggest priority is getting a bike that fits, since you'll be on it for many hours. There's a plethora of older models on Craigslist - bikes from the 90s and early 2000s that sell for $100-200 because the owner stopped riding years ago and just wants it out of his/her garage. Whatever you pay for it you'll likely be able to sell quickly if you knock 25% off your purchase price. Or you might be able to sell it for the same amount if you're lucky.

Aegishjalmur

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Re: Longer distance biking
« Reply #5 on: September 20, 2017, 09:14:12 AM »
I have a Bianchi Volpe, which is a steel framed 'touring' bike. So frame geometry is slightly different then a road bike, it's a bit longer, so you end up being less hunched over, which is nice on longer rides. The tires that come w/ it are more knobby then typical road tires(but less so than mountain bikes) but offer good grip for a wide variety of surfaces, and so far have held up against the goats head thorns that ripped the regular road bike tires to shreds, and the slightly bigger tires held dampen out some of the vibrations you would normally feel on a road bike.

It's a heavier bike due to being steel, but gives a wide range of gears so you can make it up some pretty steep hills(I live in CO)
it has frame mounting points to put panniers/rack on to hold gear if you need to be self supporting at all.

Not sure if it would work, but maybe you can get a good pair of road bike wheels and tires and mount those on your mountain bike to just reduce your rolling resistance(which will make it easier on the long run. I recommend Armadillo tires as they are pretty tough to avoid flats. Also get a road bike/butterfly handlebar to swap out as having the ability to change positions well riding is key on long rides to avoid breaking yourself.




GuitarStv

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Re: Longer distance biking
« Reply #6 on: September 20, 2017, 09:35:24 AM »
If you're planning on buying a bike specifically for this trip, look for an older steel frame touring bike.  Touring bikes are designed for long distance rides while carrying luggage.  You want one because:
- They'll have a little bit wider wheel base than most road bikes which makes them easier to control
- they'll have all the mounting points you want for fenders and racks
- they'll fit wider tires than road bikes (which make long rides significantly more comfortable)
- they'll have drop bars which means lots of hand positions to shift to if your fingers start getting uncomfy
- They'll put you in a lower, more aero position than a mountain bike but a more upright/comfy position than a road bike

honeybbq

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Re: Longer distance biking
« Reply #7 on: September 20, 2017, 09:45:00 AM »
Promised a family member I'd get in shape to do a ~180mile 3 day bike trip next year.  I have plenty of time to prepare, but a little research shows me that I probably have no idea what I'm doing.

I always prefer soft seats, and can ride for 15 miles (on a mountain bike) with little trouble.  I just assumed it was a matter of *maybe* using a road bike, and being able to travel longer than I'm used to.  I think my original thoughts may be way off though.

From the looks of it I should be looking into cycle shorts, and a hard properly fitted seat at a minimum.

Does anybody have any advice on preparing for a long distance bike trip? (I'd rather use a mountain bike as I don't want to purchase another bicycle)

Also, what cycling shorts do people here use that are affordable and don't look like cycle shorts? (look like cargo pants or something less spandex-y)

Are you doing ramrod? Or STP? Just curious if you were doing one of the PacNW rides.

To answer your question, IME a softer seat will turn your ass into ground beef after 50 miles. You'll need to train your butt to tolerate the distance as well as your muscles. I'd look into at the very minimum getting a nice seat as you are thinking. A good bike shop should let you 'demo' a seat for a week (basically you buy it but if it doesn't suit you, you can return it and try a different one).

I strongly suggest finding a road bike or touring bike as opposed to a mountain bike. What is the elevation change in your ride? You don't want to be pushing your bike up the hills. Also, depending on the elevation change, you may want to look into new pedals and bike cleats (clipless shoes) to help you up the hills. I'd look for a used Trek or Cannondale with shimano components.

Get a bike fit. You don't need a fancy laser projection one. But you should ask at the bike shop about a cheap bike fit that can be had for $100.

Not sure if you are into this sort of thing, but you can get very good deals on bike shorts from the flash sale sites like theclymb, etc. Or rei garage. You should bite the bullet and for that sort of ride get real bike shorts. The cargo ones are good for goofing off around town, not for serious mileage.

Also, as a lady, my girly parts need lube. Not sure how much boys need (or what gender you are).
« Last Edit: September 20, 2017, 09:46:41 AM by honeybbq »

GuitarStv

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Re: Longer distance biking
« Reply #8 on: September 20, 2017, 09:49:34 AM »
Wait, is this a supported event or an unsupported bike tour?

itchyfeet

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Re: Longer distance biking
« Reply #9 on: September 20, 2017, 11:12:26 AM »
DW and I just rode 500 miles across Central Europe over 12 days. Our longest day was about 60 miles. Most were 40 miles.

We didn't prepare much (DW was a complete newbie to cycling) and our legs were a little (or even quite) stiff and tired every day, but it was still fine to get up and ride the each new day. Easier than hiking really, as your weight is supported a little.

By the second week our pace was quite a bit quicker than at the start, our legs hurt less, and we weren't so tired at the end of the day. We had an awesome time and both Can't wait to do more cycle touring.

We used rental touring bikes which weighed a tonne and were slow, but being so upright was comfortable on the arms and shoulders and back.

I had a minor problem with the big wide saddle. The back of my legs rubbed a little on the saddle, but some chamois cream allowed me to slide smoothly. I got the cream a week into the ride when I became slightly worried that if the abrasion got worse it might stop me riding. I have a narrow saddle on my road bike and it has never caused me problems. I agree with others that using a saddle you are used to would greatly reduce the risk of discomfort.

I started off just riding in casual shorts, but on around day 3 the shorts I wore had some stitching in just the wrong place and after 50 miles of cycling it was very sore to sit on the saddle. From that day on I wore Lycra cycling shorts, and didn't have any more issues. The chamois cream helped the healing too. I'd strongly recommend that you go with the Lycra. Yes they look stupid, but they are perfectly fit for purpose. It's surprising how much damage a small seam can do to delicate skin when rubbed back and forth about 20,000 times over the course of a ride. If you choose not to go with Lycra make sure the shorts don't have thick stitching right at the point of contact with the saddle.

kendallf

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Re: Longer distance biking
« Reply #10 on: September 20, 2017, 11:42:37 AM »
You've gotten some good advice already.  On the subject of training, if you're not in a hurry, you can probably finish it with minimal training.  Notice I didn't say "comfortably finish".. 

If you want it to actually be fun I suggest you get used to your bike/saddle/shorts and ride regularly at least 2-3 times a week, building up to a longest ride of at least ~60 miles at some point before your trip.  If you can do the distance for one day and you haven't chafed yourself into pain and discomfort, you can get up and do it again, maybe slower, but you'll get there and it won't be miserable.

I rode the 5 day, ~400 mile DALMAC a couple of weeks ago for the third time; I'm always amazed by the people who finish this ride who are in their 60s and 70s, or heavy, or riding a bike that looks like a refugee from the trash heap.  A bit of preparation and you'll do fine.

jo552006

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Re: Longer distance biking
« Reply #11 on: September 20, 2017, 12:11:19 PM »
I'd strongly recommend that you go with the Lycra. Yes they look stupid, but they are perfectly fit for purpose.

This and the other's suggestions are by far the worst news of my day.  (Clearly I'm not having a bad day)

It's the Trek across Maine I'm looking to do.  I have a cousin who has been wanting to go for years, told him I'd train and do it with him.  Getting fitter is one of my goals anyway, and I do enjoy bicycling.  For now, I'll be looking into seat + shorts.  I am thinking that clipless pedals and road bike will just make my ride easier if I end up getting them.  (Current mountain bike does have semi-slicks though)

FINate

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Re: Longer distance biking
« Reply #12 on: September 20, 2017, 12:17:26 PM »
Wait, is this a supported event or an unsupported bike tour?

I was wondering the same. Makes a big difference. If it's a supported event then most any road bike will work, if touring unsupported then you need a touring bike plus racks and panniers, and such.

As others have stated, bike fit is the most important thing to start with. On long rides you're repeating the same motion thousands of times from the same seated position, an ill fitting bike quickly becomes miserable. There's a lot more than just the size of the bike and seat height, there are tons of little adjustments that make a huge difference (pedal spacers, adjusting the drop bars and/or angle of the hoods). As someone else mentioned, pay for a basic bike fit.

I understand the aversion to the silly looking bike outfits - I resisted for a long time but eventually gave in. On long rides you really want spandex-y - excellent at wicking moisture which helps keep you cool and helps prevent chafing. For guys it also helps keep junk in the right place.

bognish

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Re: Longer distance biking
« Reply #13 on: September 20, 2017, 12:30:42 PM »
Now is a great time to buy biking shorts & tights. End of season sales. Check out Performance Bike or Sierra Outlet. You can get a pair of tight shorts and looser overshorts that look normal, but don't have seams in high friction spots.

For a 3 day ride I would probably get a pair of slick tires or even wheel set for my mountain bike instead of shopping for a road/touring bike. Not ideal, but should be good enough for Maine.

Aegishjalmur

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Re: Longer distance biking
« Reply #14 on: September 20, 2017, 01:19:24 PM »
I would try to get the equipment asap. You are likely can find end of season sales, and the sooner you can get them and start getting the training mileage using the equipment you plan to use, the better. This will also  will allow you to tweak things and try different configurations.

Have you done long bike rides like this before? If not, one thing to watch is your nutrition. Track what you eat  the day before, day of long rides and see how you feel. I have heard a lot of people swear by carb loading the night before, some do better cutting the carbs and doing a more 'paleo' diet. Last thing you want to do is bonk on a long ride.

Do you live anywhere near the area where the ride will be taking place? if you do and it's feasible, you may want to look at doing a training ride on the route of the actual event.
« Last Edit: September 20, 2017, 02:50:16 PM by Aegishjalmur »

FLBiker

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Re: Longer distance biking
« Reply #15 on: September 20, 2017, 02:14:17 PM »
I fully acknowledge that you've got lots of great advice here.  However, just by way of counterpoint...

I've done some significant bike touring w/ less specialized gear.  I've biked around / over the island of Oah'u multiple times, and also spent 30 days biking up to and around on the Tibetan Plateau.  All of this was done with a basic aluminum frame mountain bike (with a rack -- something like a Gary Fisher Mako) with semi slick / slick tires.  And it was also done in regular clothes.  That said, I did train a fair bit (in the sense that I've biked commuted for years), but I wasn't really prepared for Tibetan mountains.  I just went slow. :)

And when I was ~17, I did a week long (supported) bike trip with my dad and brother across Minnesota.  We were the only folks on mountain bikes.  Again, it was slow, but fun and totally doable.

I say this only to suggest that gear isn't all that necessary.  But I'm pretty stubborn. :)  If your cousin is going to be on a road bike, though, you'll never keep up on a mountain bike.

nereo

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Re: Longer distance biking
« Reply #16 on: September 20, 2017, 02:45:59 PM »
I fully acknowledge that you've got lots of great advice here.  However, just by way of counterpoint...

I've done some significant bike touring w/ less specialized gear.  I've biked around / over the island of Oah'u multiple times, and also spent 30 days biking up to and around on the Tibetan Plateau.  All of this was done with a basic aluminum frame mountain bike (with a rack -- something like a Gary Fisher Mako) with semi slick / slick tires.  And it was also done in regular clothes.  That said, I did train a fair bit (in the sense that I've biked commuted for years), but I wasn't really prepared for Tibetan mountains.  I just went slow. :)

And when I was ~17, I did a week long (supported) bike trip with my dad and brother across Minnesota.  We were the only folks on mountain bikes.  Again, it was slow, but fun and totally doable.

I say this only to suggest that gear isn't all that necessary.  But I'm pretty stubborn. :)  If your cousin is going to be on a road bike, though, you'll never keep up on a mountain bike.
Oh, you can absolutely do this on a mountain bike.  It will just be harder and take more effort and exertion.
Given that you can re-sell a touring bike for about what you buy it for on Craigslist, that's the direction I'd go.  But if you are in shape and you love your mountain bike and you don't care if it takes you more time each day... hey, more power to ya!  The one with the least efficient bike is the one burning the most calories!

...but just buy some real biking tights, ok?  looking a bit silly is a small price to pay for not having blisters and rashes all over your neither-regions.

GuitarStv

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Re: Longer distance biking
« Reply #17 on: September 20, 2017, 02:46:52 PM »
Have you done long bike rides like this before? If not, one thing to watch is your nutrition.

This is a great point.  Get used to eating a little of something every hour or so, and drinking regularly before you start to feel thirsty.  By the time you feel thirsty and hungry you can be getting into dangerously cranky territory, and it can make you feel crappy even the next day.

The Guru

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Re: Longer distance biking
« Reply #18 on: September 20, 2017, 05:39:47 PM »
just to add- I didn't see this mentioned, but- does the the mountain bike you're contemplating using have suspension at either or both ends? If not, the alterations of saddle and tires should be sufficient (many long-distance tourers convert 80s vintage MTBs due to  their  longer wheelbase and ample gearing) . If it does, strongly consider the road bike option, as suspension will decrease your efficiency drastically.

Also, though it's a bad idea to ride such a distance w/o training, it's also not essential to ride the distances or the frequency before the event. About 8years ago, my wife and I did a multi-day tour of the Finger Lakes; max daily distance approx. 50 miles. The extent of my "training", over and above what i normally ride was to bike commute 2 or 3 consecutive days- round-trip 16 miles- to get used to being in the saddle. No problems. YMMV.

katscratch

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Re: Longer distance biking
« Reply #19 on: September 20, 2017, 06:42:49 PM »
I went from not riding a bike at all in six years to riding 327 miles unsupported over six days (with side trips we didn't count in mileage) in 2016 two months after buying a bike. So it's totally doable!

I'm repeating things, but here are my biggest takeaways:

Bike fit, bike fit, bike fit. The silliest things can cause pain after a few hours in the saddle.

A saddle that fits properly! I'm female and found most saddles to be REALLY uncomfortable after 20 minutes - a lot of my female friends do not have this level of sensitivity, so it's really all about your anatomy and your riding position. A lot of bike shops have trial saddles as was mentioned - I bought two different styles at REI knowing I could return them if they started hurting.

Chamois cream - for myself, I use it if I'm riding over 20 miles. With tight fitting bike shorts.  Wear clean shorts daily (I rotated two pairs, washing them in water, spritzed with iso alcohol and hanging to dry while camping).

It looks like your ride is fully supported, so you don't have to worry as much about nutrition as you'll have rest stops (I didn't look to see how far apart they are) - but I would make sure you have snacks and always drink water consistently. For myself, I normally don't eat grains but will totally grab gas station sandwiches and chocolate milk on long rides. Gummy bears are my bonk-proof magic bullet.  One thing I've heard from other long-distance riders is that you need to make sure you ARE eating and drinking consistently - I try to eat something small every 20 minutes while I'm moving and I think I still would on a supported ride.

The biggest thing, though, is that I think you'll have so much fun!! There's something magical about spending a whole weekend with good people on bikes! I am actually riding with a friend on her first 100km organized ride next month so we've been discussing a lot of this stuff.

moof

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Re: Longer distance biking
« Reply #20 on: September 21, 2017, 10:55:38 AM »
My personal experience going from a commuter bike, to a mountian bike, then to a road'ish bike  (low end "cyclocross" bike) for my regular work commute is as follows:

Mountain bike (front suspension 29'er) was right about 10% slower than my commuter.  I got about half that back when I switched from 2.1" knobby tires to 1.9" semi-slicks.

After 6 years of thrashing the mountain bike along with adding on on fenders, racks, and other excess weight/drag I picked up the lightly used road'ish bike.  It is about 10-15% faster on the same commute compared to my mountain bike.  I have now added fenders, cargo rack, and seem to have lost about half my gains (though on wet roads with warmer clothes on).

My personal suggestion is that for a single 3 day trip you best bang for your buck is to get some skinny'ish slick tires and keep them fully inflated.  Make sure the chain, chain rings, and rear cassette are in good shape (i.e. been replaced in the last 2000 miles or so and well lubed).  I went for years on commute distances before breaking down and getting some "Santic" brand cheap bike shorts off amazon, and have been glad I did so.  Keep your load of "stuff" you bring to a minimum, extra weight in your panniers can easily erase the gains of fancy lightweight bike.

Beyond that, get out and do regular rides with a couple 30+ mile trips every month and you'll be fine.  Building up some endurance takes time, so use the months you have and don't wait till the last minute.

jo552006

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Re: Longer distance biking
« Reply #21 on: November 25, 2017, 09:08:03 AM »
So great news, some family members chipped in and gave me money towards gearing up for training and the trip.  I'm in a position to go out and buy stuff to train with.

With regards to bicycle shorts, where would one normally go?  Are they something I need to try on before I buy, or can I order the appropriate size off amazon?  If I decide to ride outside and do a long ride in winter (cold), should I forego the shorts all together and use normal winter clothes?

I'm hoping to put one of my bicycles on an indoor trainer.  Any recommendations on style of trainer that will work.  Getting me in shape for long biking is going to take time, so I think the cardio will do me good.  It doesn't need to be a smart trainer or anything.  I figure I'll put a speed sensor on my tire to figure out how far i'm simulating riding.  Any recommendations for type of indoor trainer?  (Wind/magnetic/fluid/other?)  I will probably be looking towards craigslist to find one people aren't using anymore.

These aren't near me but for instance:
https://harrisburg.craigslist.org/bdp/d/bicycle-indoor-trainer-fluid/6397927954.html
https://newyork.craigslist.org/fct/bop/d/kurt-kinetic-fluid-indoor/6391752459.html

Of course I would look up reviews before purchase.  Maybe even post here if I find one I am really thinking of.

frompa

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Re: Longer distance biking
« Reply #22 on: November 25, 2017, 09:47:37 AM »
Hey Jo552006, first of all, how exciting for you to be taking on this challenge, and with plenty of time to get you and your gear in shape, so you can really enjoy the ride.  I've done tons of long distance cycling, and I agree with those who suggest that fit of your bike is REALLY important.  I also suggest a second hand Cannondale or Trek touring bike - probably a couple hundred, at most.  I still happily ride my 25+ year old Cannondale tourer for long and mountainous several day rides (I'm in Pa).  As for saddle, less big and less cushy is best -- I suggest a Brooks leather saddle, I have a B19 on a couple of my bikes, and I love them.  Finally, don't be put off by riding in the cold -- it gets cold in my part of Pennsylvania, too, but I love winter riding.  And I'm bored to tears by indoor trainer riding, so I end up skipping it all together.  Layer up, pay special attention to keeping your hands and feet warm, consider a spiked front tire for snowy, icy roads (you can find on line instructions for making one of your own, cheap and reliable), and go at it.  Enjoy!!

GuitarStv

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Re: Longer distance biking
« Reply #23 on: November 25, 2017, 10:03:00 AM »
You'll get all the regular chafing problems in the winter - plus a few extras because you're wearing more layers.  Ride with your shorts under some heavy tights if you're going to cycle outside, it works reasonably well.  I'll regularly do 70-80 km rides in the cold . . . you just have to make sure that you're prepared for a problem (don't want to be stuck somewhere alone sweaty and cold in the middle of nowhere, you do want to be aware that temperature swings and wind are a bigger problem in the winter - so bring extra clothing, remember to drink even though you're cold and don't feel like you have to, and always carry some food with you if you're riding for a couple hours or more).

Noise is my big peeve with most indoor trainers.  I picked up a STAC Zero trainer for my wife this year, and she really likes it.  It's dead silent, which is important because we use it mostly while my son is sleeping.  It doesn't contact your tire at all, so there's pretty much no wear on your bike.  Riding indoors isn't the same as riding outside at all . . . you use slightly different muscles, and I find that my hands/ass get more sore indoors for some reason.  GCN on youtube has some short training videos that you can watch while using an indoor trainer:  https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLUdAMlZtaV13e3-rJq1W0O1kf2DVlslmC

If you have a flat bar road bike that you like but aren't happy with the limited hand positions, I'd suggest maybe installing some Trekking bars.  You can use all the same brake levers and shifters, but get a whole bunch of hand position options.  Nashbar is selling some for cheaper than buying a set of bar ends:http://www.nashbar.com/bikes/Product_10053_10052_175533_-1 .  This gives you most of the benefit of a drop bar setup, but without needing to change all the shifters and levers (which you would have to do when converting to drops).  I just put some of these on my wife's hybrid bike in preparation for some bike touring next year.