I see why running is so appealing. You lace up your shoes, ‘connect’ your watch with the satellite gods, and off you go.
Training for a bicycle tour is a different beast. It begins by training with your favorite fast and lightweight bicycle that you’ve used for years, only to discover that your triathlon-machine is not so good with potholes, gravel, dirt, flooding and carrying anything more than a human with a skin suit. A few flat tires later, you decide that your bike gear needs a touring-specific makeover.
Fast forward during the two months of bicycle training – and my new aluminum (a.k.a. “slow”) bicycle frame has sprouted extra-wide heavy duty puncture resistant tires, a whole different set of gears, disc brakes that manage your descent without locking up your tires and a suite of electronic devices that ensure you don’t miss your next turn. The comfort of riding your bicycle without having to worry about flat tires, braking on wet terrain and knowing where you are at all times comes at a cost. Weight. The touring bicycle with all it’s gear is nearing 35 pounds, and I can barely lift her into the car.
The Fourth of July 3 day weekend – a mere 2 weeks before our Bar Harbor Maine to Baltimore Maryland self-guided bicycle tour – was packed with shakeout goals. It would be a test drive to make sure our legs were ready for 3 days in a row of long 50+ mile days. We would bicycle rain or shine. We would climb some of the steepest hills in our local area (8%) with our heavy bicycles.
The reality of our shakeout ride went something like this:
- Day 1: Ride was to start at 5:15AM, but didn’t get cycling until 5:45AM. Spent 30 minutes trying to get our RideWithGPS.com route synchronized on our phones – to no avail. Opted to ride without the GPS and finished with 47 miles.
- Day 2: We had big hills scheduled for this day. Then the rains appeared and we concluded during our 4AM wake up call – that getting a little more rest might be a good thing. By 7AM – the rains had NOT appeared. Opted to start the ride late. Within the first 2 miles of our ride, the rains became torrential. All of the technology was tucked away so that it wouldn’t get drenched, and decided to test drive riding in torrential rain on a heavy bicycle with a soggy human on top. Yep, it turns out you can climb an 8% grade despite the rain, and the disc brakes were amazing in controlling the decent.
- Day 3: On the road at 5:15AM. A long ride on tired legs was the plan. Still haven’t resolved synchronizing the route with the ride. Beginning to think that paper maps might be better than the frustration of getting blue tooth to synch up up with other equipment. We also had a few blonde moments. Forgot to pump of the fat tires before we departed and after 30 miles wondered why the cycling was so hard. The tire gauge showed 20 pounds of pressure. Bringing the PSI up to 85 pounds did wonders for our level of effort! It also helped being joined at mile 30 by Emma and Tami – who brought fresh legs and conversation to the ride! I also learned never to try to answer a phone call by fumbling with your device and trying to hold the bicycle steady. Nearly became one with the road. Ended the day with 58 miles.
Shakeout weekend #1 turned out to be a fabulous learning experience and ride series. While our confidence in fitness is high and technology is low….in the end it is all about just doing it. And with that – we are ready for new adventures!