What do you bring to ride across the country?

What to carry depends on a few things. If you’re on a self-supported tour, you carry everything you think you’ll need and can’t get along the way. Tent, sleeping bag, pad, stove, staple foods, snacks, clothes. You’ll buy fresh foods every day. Parts, tools, supplies for foreseeable repairs. If you are on a deluxe tour with hotels and restaurants, you carry next to nothing. My friend Ken, who rode across the country when he finished law school, joked that he was going to have a fitting brazed onto his bike frame to carry a credit card and would carry nothing else. He would eat in restaurants, sleep in hotels, and pay for anything and everything he needed.

I was on a supported tour some years ago and at the end of the week we were told that we had been provided 7500 calories/day. Carrying and preparing that much food is a lot of work – one reason I’m doing this as a supported tour. They will carry and cook food.

I’ll bring a tent, sleeping bag and pad (we’ll be camping every night); but they’ll carry that stuff – I’ll ride my bike.  I would normally bring a pump. (I’m going to try CO2 inflators for emergencies on this trip, since the pump in my previous Davidson bike

Davidson1
The Davidson

picture won’t fit on this bike frame) I’ll carry a patch kit, tire levers, spare tubes, spare tire (though I’ll be riding on new tires), spare spokes (though I’ll be riding new wheels), spoke wrench, freehub removal tool to get at drive side spokes, a spare chain, connecting links, and chain tool, lubricant for chain and brakes (hubs, bottom bracket, and headset have ceramic sealed bearings and are fairly new so should not need any attention). Spare cables (though, again, I will have fairly new cables in place).

The company I’m riding with has mechanics available (for a fee) and the ability to order parts to be delivered along the way for anything I didn’t foresee.  I will only carry what I reasonably expect to need on a given day. The rest will be available to me in the evenings (including a pump for keeping tire pressures optimal, so I’ll bring the CO2 inflators for emergencies only).

I’m having second thoughts on the day I edit this. In my youth, Campagnolo parts were available at every quality bike shop. Now the evil empire (Shimano) has such a stranglehold on the market that Campagnolo parts can be hard to find in the US. Should I be riding a Shimano-equipped bike to make it easier to get spares? Stay tuned.

wilier1-e1516591644409.jpg
Campagnolo components – wise for a cross country trip?

I’ll also carry some favorite snacks, electrolyte replacement, multiple sets of riding clothes and mild detergent to wash them every night. The best prevention for saddle sores is to wear clean clothes every day and change as soon as the ride is over. After ride clothes will probably be pretty limited and basic.  I will bring rainwear for riding.

I plan to buy a cell phone for the trip (I don’t yet have one – update – now I do). I’ll carry it during the day to use as a camera so I can post photos (day one will include a picture of us dipping our wheels in the Pacific Ocean) and I plan to use it in the evenings to write this blog, rather than carry a computer.  I’m bringing a solar charging system that I bought on IndieGoGo. I understand we will have showers available every night. I haven’t decided what books to bring (or if I’ll read on my phone like modern people do).

death ride (cropped) - Version 2
Your blogger, Ebbetts Pass, 1992 Death Ride (jersey from the year before)

Most importantly, I will be bringing a nearly new and very light bike, with a wide gear range. I will be bringing a trained body.  While I have ridden 130 miles in a day, crossing 5 mountain passes and climbing 15,000 feet; and I have ridden (an average of) 85 miles/day for 6 days; this is an endeavor way beyond anything I have done. I know how to train. I have trained for riding. I have trained for martial arts and other sports.  This is quantitatively different, but qualitatively the same thing.  I am also 65 years old, which was not the case for those other endeavors.

P.S The Giro d’Italia (one of the three Grand Tours in bike racing) began yesterday in Jerusalem. There are three stages in Israel before the tour moves to Italy. Stage 6 (Thursday) will be the first mountain stage.

P.P.S. Those of you who have already ridden across the country, use the comments to tell me if you think I’m a fool for bringing something you found unnecessary, or a bigger fool for leaving out something essential. If you just think I’m a fool in general, please keep that to yourself.

P.P.P.S. Spring may be here. 80 degrees on Monday, so my first back-to-back days getting out of town on the bike. 25 mph wind so I had to work heading south out of town. I saw a magnolia in bloom – thought I’d stop for a photo on the way back, but I returned a different way.

On Sunday, nothing was green in the countryside except some winter wheat poking up through the ground. On Wednesday, grass was green, a few trees were blooming – and I saw a snowy owl at the top of the last climb of the evening. A thunderstorm arrived minutes after I stopped for a post-ride pizza.

bleeding heartThursday: Maples bloomed today, bleeding hearts bloomed today, buds on the apple tree. More rain. As soon as the sun comes back, more stuff will bloom.

In the Spring, a young man’s fancy…

My first longish ride of spring. 33 degrees when I left the house. 57 when I finished, but the sun (and lack of wind) when I relaxed with a post-ride Maibock at Capitol Brewery (since that’s where the ride started and ended) madedaffodil it seem warmer. Since it was lunchtime and I was still far from home, I ate at a nearby diner. The flowers may not have figured out that it’s spring (but they’re coming along), but the spring peepers were out in force. Hard to believe that much sound comes from such tiny frogs.

I rode ~60 miles, which seemed like a lot until I remembered that on this day the year I odo-e1525033944566.jpgrode the Death Ride, I was riding the Chico Wildflower Century. Of course, it wasn’t snowing mid-April that year (and I was 26 years younger).

snow?
The last dregs of snow

Also this week, I went to two choral concerts. Saturday night was “Free Wheeling: A Tribute to the Bicycle”, which featured “Song Cycle: Vive la vélorution!” by Alexander and Joanna Forbes L’Estrange. Also on the program were six bicycling poems set to music, five of which were world

premieres, commissioned for this event.

Cycling the Rosenthal

Some of the singers were dressed in bike clothes and a couple of songs featured bike trikebells and tire pumps as percussion instruments. The choirs were accompanied by a sextet of piano, trumpet (and flugelhorn), trombone, bass, drums, and percussion. I will link to the whole piece, but among my favorites were: “Freewheeling” (featuring trumpet), “The men who ride for fun” (featuring male voices) and “A woman (wearing bloomers) on a wheel” (featuring female voices).

On Friday night I heard the Choral Arts Society Chorale performing “Would You Harbor Me? music of longing and belonging” with songs of the diaspora and the immigrant experience, featuring the song cycle “The Golden Door” by Ronald Perera, with the choir accompanied by violin, viola, cello, bass, flute, clarinets, and percussion. The piece included the words of immigrants at Ellis Island and an ad for passage to the US juxtaposed with the experience of riding in steerage from Europe. (The first seven songs at the above link are the piece, though not in the same order as performed Friday night).

The performance included a talk by the Artistic Director with information on local opportunities to get involved in supporting immigrants.

 

get outta town!

Most of my riding for fun is on back roads. When I lived in California I tended to ride up narrow, poorly-paved, switchback-laden roads that cars tended to avoid. At climbing speed, poor pavement wasn’t a big issue. I rode down well-paved highways with broad, sweeping turns.

Sanchez St
Dead end of Sanchez Street, one of the ways you can’t get to Cumberland Street.

In Santa Clara I could ride a very short distance from home and be climbing in the Santa Cruz mountains. I just tried to get a photo of one of those roads on Google Street View –  there are no photos available, so I guess they couldn’t get their car up or down it. The other images on this page are from Google Maps. In San Francisco I discovered urban riding. I lived at the top of a hill that was steep enough that, on three sides, the streets dead-ended in steep stairways (left). There was only one street that made it up the hill to my house. I didn’t ride my bike when I first moved there, thinking it was too steep.

Vermont St
Vermont Street, less famous than Lombard Street, but no straighter

One day I couldn’t take it anymore, so I rode to work. Coming back up that hill was fun and easier than anticipated, so I started riding a lot more. I found streets in the neighborhood where you had to park perpendicular to traffic (bottom) due to the steep grade. I discovered the not-so-famous second crookedest street in the world (right). I had to be on call for work some weekends, so didn’t want to leave town, but still wanted to ride my bike. I realized that I could ride the “49 mile Scenic Drive” (below) and get in a 50 mile bike ride without ever straying more than about 10 miles from work or home.

34d30235-c738-453c-bc92-63d2fc901e70_l
The 49 mile scenic drive

I later tried venturing farther afield on weekends, as I wasn’t getting many calls. I had a great ride out on Point Reyes before I found there was a paging dead area out there. Had I been paged I would have ridden blissfully unaware all day. (Since I headed this “get outta town” I thought I’d better put in a word about riding out of town. Really, I guess the point of this post is that you don’t have to get outta town to have a good time on a bike.)

Hill St
Hill Street, one of the steeper streets in the neighborhood

I’m not sure why I’m writing about San Francisco this week – maybe it’s because the temperature has been below zero for most of the last two weeks as I write this in early January. San Francisco, by comparison, is fairly warm this time of year. (Though not so much in the summer. You have probably heard the line misattributed to Mark Twain: “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” While there is no evidence Twain said it, and it was apparently initially a reference to Duluth, I can attest that it can get pretty cold in the summer in San Francisco. I made note of the date one evening when I went for a walk in the neighborhood. It was July 29. I was wearing my winter coat, hat, scarf, and gloves, and was chilled to the bone. A cold ocean fog was blowing in and a wind tunnel had formed down my street. I knew what Twain, or someone, meant.)

P.S. Signs that it might actually be spring: the loons have headed north, replaced by coots;

terrace chairs
John Hart, Wisconsin State Journal

hyacinths, daffodils, and irises finally blooming, a dozen hammocks hanging behind Kronshage Hall; tables and chairs are back on the Union Terrace!

I think I’m done with this topic.

One last thing about safety and etiquette. This may seem obvious, but traffic laws are intended to make traffic flow more smoothly by getting us to follow some basic principles.

Stop signs are there to tell people going one direction to stop. The clear implication is that people going the other direction don’t stop. It makes things nice and orderly. We don’t hit each other. That’s pretty much the way most traffic regulations work.

Sometimes, someone tries to be polite and stops when s/he doesn’t have to. Let’s say I’m proceeeding north on my bike and you’re proceeding east in your car. I’m stopped at the stop sign with my foot on the ground. You don’t have a stop sign. Convention says you keep going, but you want to be polite to the bicyclist and you stop and wave me through. Now what? I can accept your generous offer and go, or I can point to my stop sign and wave you through.

intersection 1

Let’s say I (bike is the white car) take you (you are the blue car) up on your offer and I  start to cross the intersection. A car behind you (red car), wondering why you stopped for no reason, pulls around and hits me. Oops.

intersection 2

Or maybe there are two lanes and the car in the next lane over doesn’t know why you stopped and continues through, since he has the right of way. Oops. (Sorry about the white arrow indicating the bike turning the wrong way in this instance. I “borrowed” these diagrams and added to them. Think of the bike going straight.)

intersection 3

Or maybe the traffic going your way stops but traffic going the other way doesn’t. Oops.

Or maybe you change your mind and decide to go again; maybe you remember you’re in a hurry, maybe you didn’t think I took you up on your offer soon enough, maybe you just have it in for bicyclists and decide to run me down.

In all of these scenarios, the bicyclist loses. In all of these scenarios, the bicyclist is at fault in the crash, for failing to yield the right of way. Maybe in the last paragraph’s choices, where the very car that waved me through hits me, I have an argument. But that supposes that: 1) I’m alive; 2) I don’t have a head injury resulting in amnesia for the time surrounding the crash (common in even mild traumatic brain injury or concussion); 3) the motorist admits fault; 4) the police/judge/jury believe the bicyclist over the motorist. We all know that bicyclists can’t be trusted. In the post “Better Safe than Sorry”, I alluded to the “otherness” ascribed to bicyclists in our car-centric culture. My daughter reminded me that this experience is common to all “other” groups. We are seen as representative of a class and not as credible as the dominant class. The bicyclist in this scenario may be considered an unreliable witness because he might have a head injury and thus remember it wrong (ironic, if this is actually someone who does remember), or just unreliable for his “otherness”.

Regardless of the question of fault (actual or ascribed), it is always the bicyclist who comes out of this scenario with the physical injuries. That’s why, if you try to wave me through a stop sign out of politeness or solidarity or for any other reason, I probably won’t take you up on the offer. I risk being seen as rude or unappreciative, but I don’t risk being dead.

P.S. I will admit that I accepted a “wave through” this winter. I was stopped at a stop sign, foot down, waiting for traffic to clear. The next car that approached on the through street was a police car. The officer stopped and waved me through. The temperature was -5° Fahrenheit. There were no other cars approaching from either direction. Rather than “argue” (even if only with hand signals and pointing, as his window was closed) with a police officer on a cold day, I went through the intersection.

P.P.S. I can’t end this topic without acknowledging John Forester, a bicycle transportation engineer, originator of the “Effective Cycling” program, advocate of “vehicular cycling”, and one of the prime thinkers in the area of bike safety. I also want to acknowledge Bob Mionske, former professional bike racer and now attorney working in the field of bicycle safety and rights. He writes a regular column for VeloNews. Some of the ideas in the last three posts certainly came from them.

P.P.P.S. A Dude Abikes posted on safety this week, about a campaign in Austin – “Please be kind to cyclists” – check it out.

Next week: urban cycling, San Francisco