Thursday, July 29, 2010

Making Preparations...

Today is the recovery portion of the Stress and Recovery cycle, so we’ll be taking care of trip planning.

I have some equipment to buy for my ride, most notably a new front rim (the current one has a kink in it that I can’t massage out, and it wobbles a little too much at high speeds). I’m also hoping to find some new cycling shorts. The ones I use now, while perfectly effective for local daily riding, are really old and I’m worried they’re not going to survive the trip. It would not do to have one’s (only) pair of bike shorts fail halfway on a long trip!

After that, I need to put together the maps and trip notes I need into a document I can print out and take with me. I use the AAA website to plan my trips. Their tool gives me good information on where I can get food and water en route, as well as where there might be construction or other road hazards. It also creates maps that are more easily converted to what I need, although Google or MapQuest can do much the same thing.

Once I know what roads I'm taking, I’ll input the route information into, which has an elevation calculator so I can see where the challenging parts of each day’s ride are. This is really helpful in terms of planning how to approach the ride on any given day. I’ll take all those notes, the maps, contact information for hotels, etc. and make a single PDF document out of it. Wifeness will get a copy for emergency purposes, and mine will live in a ziplock baggie that attaches to my aero bars, so I can get to it easily.

Then comes the packing. This trip doesn’t require camping out, so there’s no heavy gear like a tent to worry about. I can fit everything on this bag:

It really just holds the basics: glasses, compact street clothes and shoes, camera, phone, ointments (sunscreen, etc), basic toiletries -- including tp -- and pills (Ibuprofen, thyroid stuff, vitamins). I’ll carry the stuff I need to get at quickly (food, handkerchief, mp3 player) in the back pockets of my jersey, so I don’t have to stop the bike except to reapply ointments or take the occasional potty break. Trust me, the more often you get off the bike, the harder it is to get back on it.

Each trip is different, so the packing takes a little bit of experimenting to get just right. The trick is to get stuff positioned in just the right places so it’s comfortable. The pack should sit a little high on the waist as I ride, so it doesn’t pull on my lower back if I’m bent over on the drops of the handlebars. On my Lock Haven trip, this proved difficult to do because of the stuff I was carrying, so I developed a way to move the pack onto my aerobars when I need to give my body a rest from carrying it. It’s an interim sort of solution only because putting weight on the front of the bike like that changes the way it steers and gives it a sluggish feel that, when going down hills, can be unnerving. And it also takes away one of the four riding positions -- and the one that gives my body the most rest -- because I can’t lean on the aerobars while the pack is there.

I have a couple of repairs and adjustments to make before I leave. I’ll tweak the seat just a touch to accommodate for the pack, and my left shoe needs to be taken apart so I can refasten the cleat (it’s worked itself just a bit loose, so it moves when I use it to pull the pedal up from the bottom). I need to rewrap my handlebars because the tape has shifted and makes the tops all slippery now, and I need to adjust the tension on the rear derailleur cable. It sometimes shifts on its own, and that can be really annoying when you’re trying to get into a rhythm to climb a steep hill. After that, there’s some final cleaning and lubricating of parts, and then we’re ready to roll!

I have a 60-mile ride scheduled for this weekend to test everything out “on the road”. That’ll be the last real mileage I put on before I leave on Wednesday. Assuming there are no major issues, I should only have to pump the tires up on Wednesday morning before I’m ready to start off! My goal is to leave around 7:30. It's a much more pleasant thing to ride before it gets hellish hot!

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