April 13, 2016 § Leave a comment
The suitcase – a SwissGear SA6297 28″ Hardside Spinner – $80 from Target. It measures 27″ x 18.5″ x 11.5″. Probably any hardcase suitcase with these measurements will do. This guy is nice because it expands 1.5″ – I squished the bike in the suitcase with the expansion, then sat on it and was able to zip up the extension. It is a TIGHT fit with a 2 places where parts of the bike are stuffed against the suitcase. I cut a binder in half and used those as extra padding in those places.
The suitcase was 9.5 pounds, the MU P8 23ish.
(Note: Any suitcase over 62 linear inches (L+W+H) and/or 50 pounds can be checked, but will cost you an oversized baggage fee. $50 – $75 typically. This suitcase was checked successfully without any oversize fees.)
Tools – All you need is a basic hex key set!
What to fold and finagle –
1. Take the seat out.
2. Deflate tires, disengage the breaks with your hex key, and remove the wheels (the rear wheel cuts it real close on the derailleur, just wiggle it a bit).
3. Take the derailleur off – it’ll get smushed otherwise. I wrapped it in a cloth and left the chain on the front gear. Keep the bolt safe! It’s not something you can get a regular old hardware store.
4. Close up the bike
5. Fold up the pedals.
6. Take the handlebar off. It’ll still be attached via the break and shifter cables obvi, but much more maneuverable. Stuff the handlebars inbetween the bike.
7. Stuff the bike in the suitcase.
The photo above is a bit misleading as I could only get one wheel into the suitcase with the bike. I took the other one as a carry-on. I was able to also fit: a small pannier set, some bike tools, like 5 pairs of shoes, a small sleeping bag, rock climbing shoes and chalk, a towel, and a bunch of other random crap into the suitcase as well. Altogether it came out to 45 pounds!
June 15, 2015 § 2 Comments
Today was the hottest I’ve ever been.
43 miles round trip in what weather.com says “feels like 91,” bike -> hike -> boulder -> hike -> bike to Sourland Mountain. Sweaty sweaty bouldering, but there’s some really fun stuff up there. Definitely worth a day bouldering trip assuming I can figure out how to bike with a crash pad …
Spent about 10 minutes here Googling the symptoms of my three bug bites –
sharp pain transitioning into itchiness and a big bump, faded away in 5 minutes. Results inconclusive.
Boulder field heaven. You know, if heaven felt like hell.
Out of water and Gatorade, dripping sweat, 5 miles to go.
February 7, 2015 § Leave a comment
Another year, another winter. Did you know that February happens every year? And though technically only 28 days, it manages to stretch the time continuum in a way that all those experiencing it in the northeast will feel as if they’re stuck in a groundhog day type struggle for the rest of infinity.
I just got a little emotional at the thought that this will happen again in 12 months. I’m getting back in my sleeping bag.
November 16, 2014 § 2 Comments
I’ve been totally determined to figure out these “running” and “bouldering” things the last few months, and thus haven’t done a long bike ride since this summer. This week as I watched (and felt) the temperature drop precipitously I decided that it was about time to bring back the old hobby-horse.
I was also itching to put my kind-of new climbing shoes and chalk bag to use since getting them at Go Vertical for an incredible $20 used last weekend.
According to Google, Gravity Vault is only 24 miles away – 48 round trip, this seemed totally reasonable. So I stopped by my local bike shop and picked up a pair of winter cycling gloves which I’ve been neglecting to do for the last two winters, and geared up for a 35 – 44 degree ride and a few hours of rock-climbing inbetween.
A few reflections on today’s ride:
1. Pink tinted sunglasses: Third fall/winter outside of California and I still get a bit sad at how drab and dreary everything gets once the trees lose their brilliant fall hues. This ride just felt warmer and more jolly because everything was highlighted pink and red. Highly recommended.
2. There’s no winning at temperature regulation when it’s cold: No matter how well geared you are, you’ll still need to adjust between uphill, downhill, and flats. I was beginning to accept this on my ride to Boston in April, promptly forgot it about it when it was a steady really-fucking-hot degrees this summer, and fully accepted it today. Zip-unzip. Switch gloves. Bring Buff up over face, buff down, buff off… etc. It’s like eating and drinking water, just parts of a long ride.
3. Names: I really should pay attention to street and town names when I map out a route before jumping in the saddle. I forgot that inbetween me and rockclimbing was not just 24 miles, but 24 miles of towns called Berkeley Heights and Summit. Far more elevation than I anticipated (I didn’t really think about it truthfully). At least it was all downhill on the way back.
4. Podcasts: Holy shit! What was I thinking not listening to Podcasts on long bike rides! Pop in a little Radiolab or TED Radio Hour, run Google bike maps in the background. It’s quiet enough to leave the sounds of the road relatively unimpaired, and so much more mentally engaging than hours of music. I do wish there was some way to switch between Podcasts and J-beibs for a little boost during climbs, but like temperature regulation, you can’t have everything.
5. Arms do things: I didn’t realize how much you use your upper body on longer rides. I don’t usually notice it, but it’s definitely just enough fatigue to already feel worn on the third bouldering problem I attempted today. I was pleasantly surprised enough at finding that they’d changed all the problems to not mind this disadvantage at all. It’s still a small sample size, but it’s been cool comparing the 4 gyms I’ve been to in arm strength required, hold diversity, and puzzilyness. The new layout has far more interesting holds on their V1-3 problems and a few solid body-weight-shifty-leverage problems. I feel like I’ve got a solid base of arm strength now from weeks of scrambling up V0-1’s and now need to work on my finger strength so I can tackle more difficult holds.
Final damage count –
Mileage: 50 on the nose (2 more than anticipated due to annoying Rutgers football game futzing with traffic)
Elevation gain: 1339 total
Approximately 2,500 calories consumed at a roadside diner from the “mighty meat meal”
Also, I seriously considered changing my body type from “fit” to “ripped” on my OkCupid profile as motivation to get to six-pack-city
October 26, 2014 § Leave a comment
Cycle commuting can be, depending on the day, a labor of love, a labor of convenience, a labor to minimize cost, a labor of necessity, and/or a labor of annoyance.
Whichever one it is, it’s a labor.
You rarely can just grab your keys and go wearing whatever your wearing. You can’t look at a maintenance problem and shrug and put it off until the weekend. You don’t forget your reusable bags because you can’t get your groceries home without them. To minimize labor, cycle commuters can be found with tried and true outfits for varied weather. Specific bike lock arrangements for maximum efficiency. Hitches and trailers, panniers and messenger bags. Travel tools on hand.
Like Camus’ take on Sisyphus, it the labor that makes it have any worth at all.
August 23, 2014 § 1 Comment
In the summer, I run citizen outreach offices that take about 100 hours of work a week – the last two years this has meant a pause from written reflection on the outdoors. I always loathe not having the time to write about my wanders in the summer (you can’t really capture the feeling or the colors of a moment three months later), but I suppose being too tired to write is a testament to how much you’re accomplishing and that is something worthwhile in itself. Thank god for iPhones I guess..
This summer –
I biked from New Jersey to Boston
I was in D.C., living about a mile from my office near Capitol South. D.C. is a weird place. Very nice in some parts, kind of crappy in others, all mostly along racial lines. A flat, fairly green city with many bike commuters and mediocre bike friendliness.
I rounded the summer off with a trip to naked desert hot springs and the Colorado River in California. Mostly this made me think that clothes are a terrible societal convention and that nudists really know what it’s all about…
Lesson reinforced: adventures are where you make them.
February 25, 2014 § 6 Comments
This post is dedicated to: all of the people who ride their bikes every once in awhile and have ever thought about touring, all of the people who haven’t ridden a bike in years and are afraid to get back in the saddle, and to all the people who never learned how to ride a bike, but wonder what it might be like.
Hey – yeah, you – I love you, man. And I believe in you.
Have you ever thought it might be cool to be out there on the open road with the world as your playground? Do you relish in personal feats of greatness, like the first time you chugged a beer or did a pull up? Do you believe in you like I believe in you?
If your answers weren’t yes-yes-and-yes than go back, fix it, and read on.
I’m not sure how it happened, but when I was in college I decided that it’d be a good idea to bike for hundreds of miles while carrying all of the stuff that I needed to live with me. I had biked 30 miles in the California Central Valley flat-lands at a maximum of 15 miles/hr and thought, “how hard could it be to go 50 a day with some stuff?”
At the time I had a heavy blue women’s road bike from the 80’s. I got it from a bike auction for $50. It barely shifted gears and weighed a ton, but I was proud of it. With the help of the internet and the nice people at Ken’s Bike and Ski, I changed the handlebar tape, got new tires, adjusted the break pads and pretty much thought that with enough mental fortitude, I could go anywhere with it.
I’d biked around the neighborhood in high school (both in Naperville, Il and in San Diego, CA) and even hit a trail or two when I was younger, but by no means was I particularly fit or well versed (hell, not even mediocrely versed) in bicycles. I struggled to change the tires with two butter knifes and was pretty sure the gears shifted by magic.
So what was the difference between me and the folks who don’t up end up bike touring?
Definitely not experience or the right gear. Not money or physical aptitude. Not training or extensive research. Not friends who knew what they were doing or backup from a supported touring company.
The difference comes down to two things: Hardheadedness and Wanderlust.
Wanderlust: At a base level, if you can take all of the imagined barriers that would stop you from bike touring and pull them out of your head (“I’m not fit enough,” “It seems dangerous!,” “What if I get lost!” … etc.) and imagine instead coasting on a downhill of an empty road – feeling like you’re flying, no cars in sight, the smell of sweet summer all around and a warm sun keeping you company, a rolling landscape of greenery all around you … And then ask yourself, does that seem like a totally awesome place to be?
If the answer “yes,” than congratulations, you qualify for having wanderlust! Step one towards bike touring, check.
At the base level, potential difficulties and bumps in the road aside, you have to want to be out there. You have to be able to imagine navigating the world around you like it belongs to you, like it’s yours for exploring.
Hardheadedness: Of course, that imagined world isn’t the full reality of bike touring (or anything for that matter). You’ll crest hills just to see another hill and wonder why in the hell you ever thought this was a good idea. Your butt will hurt. You’ll chaff. You’ll wake up and be sore and have to get on a bike again. You’ll be smelly and maybe have a sunburn too.
Inevitably, someone’s bike will break, or you’ll get lost. If you’re going 300+ miles, you’ll definitely get in your own head. It’s not like a marathon or climbing a mountain. If those things get hard, you can just turn back. If you’re in the backcountry 200 miles from where you started, you’ve pretty much got to power through it, pain and hardness aside.
Even with a lot of wanderlust, many people think of or hear these challenges and think, “Man, that doesn’t seem worth the idyllic scene I dreamt up,” or “it seems worth it, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to overcome it.”
These did not seem like fun parts bike touring, but my hardheadedness meant that overcoming these parts were totally a challenge I wanted to face. I read bike blogs where people got so far down the rabbit hole in their posts that I could only imagine the terrible place they were in real life. Testimonies of strained muscles, dog attacks, and walking bikes for half the day … they all sounded like a mental challenges that I wanted to win at. They all sounded like things I wanted to test my resolve against. I thought, “Fuck the hard things! I’m awesome. I’ll make them my bitch!”
Call it hardheadedness, tenacity, stubbornness, or ego – I was convinced I could take on the challenges of going long distances carrying all of my shit.
But here’s the secret…
It doesn’t actually take that much mental fortitude to tour. I had read the worst blogs and imagined the hardest situations, and then put myself there. I’d acquiesced to the fact that I would be the one in the worst shape and that I’d be the one to fall over and get injured. I’d acquiesced to the fact that these things would be terrible, BUT that I’d surely overcome them. Hardheadedness.
That’s how I got over the “Well that’d be nice, but …” hump and onto the “Alright, win or lose, I’m doing this thing” side of the fence.
And really, like most things, that was most of the battle.
The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.
– Mark Twain
If you’re looking to break down a tour into victory, the first think you absolutely have to do is actually decide. This seems silly to say, but going on a long bike tour is not like deciding to do your laundry or go to law school or run a marathon or even go backpacking in Europe. These are all things that are within people’s experience and understanding of what is possible, things they’ve heard of, things people they know have done. So trust me when I say that you can do it and decide. Post it on your blog, tell your mom .. twitter it, tumblr it, snapchat it, whatever-else-kids-do-these-days it.
Deciding is over half the battle and the internet (and maybe your doctor?) is full of advice and how to on the rest. Figuring out which bike is best to how much you need to train are more issues of personal preference than I expected when I went on my first tour. I met people on the road with one change of clothing and single gear bikes. I met others with fancy GPS’s and the latest lightweight backpacking gear. One of my friends did his tour on a mountain bike with three gears and some $5 canvass bags zip tied to his Rite Aid bike rack.
I read blogs on Crazy Guy on a Bike, pulled various people’s route maps, read their testimonials, and mostly wandered into bike stores in town and bought gear that looked like it wouldn’t fall apart, which really meant the cheapest gear (the nice thing about a niche hobby is that there really isn’t enough of a market for low end gear to have infiltrated the market). I didn’t do any loaded rides. I didn’t even think to bring spare tubes (maybe don’t follow my lead on this one…).
And I made it.
450 miles down the coast of California, drinkin’ and lounging and watching the world in the light of endless possibilities.
I hope this was inspiration enough, because bro, I believe in you. I look forward to totally awesome pictures and reports from your trip.