Category Archives: tour

Bike Packing: The gear I use to travel light and fast

Post 2 about my bike packing trip from Seattle to Minneapolis. My first post was mostly stories and photos from the 15-day, 2064-mile bike trip; today I want to share about the gear I used.

I’ve now logged over 12,000 miles of bike touring since 2001 and each trip is different in some way. I’ve used road bikes, touring bikes, mountain bikes; ridden off-road, on-road, in other countries; I’ve camped with a tent, without a tent, etc. But for every trip there are constants: you need to sleep, you need to eat, you need to be protected from the elements and you need to somehow carry your gear on your bike. I call these ‘systems’.  For example, riding SF to LA in 3 days I decided against carrying a cooking system and relied on snacks and burritos along the way. But for longer trips I want the option of cooking my own meals and making my own coffee when I wake up. Now what I’ve learned is you can have these comforts without carrying 40 pounds of gear. Below are the details for what I carried for a 15-day, 2000-mile trip.

Sleeping System

In bike touring and in real life, we spend about 1/3 of our time sleeping so doing so comfortably is extremely important.  When it’s dark and cold and you’ve a few more hours to ride it’s surprisingly helpful to know that you’ve a warm bag and soft pad to curl up with! 

From left to right

Mountain Hardware 35 degree synthetic bag- This Spring bag weighs in at 2lb 4oz. Synthetic, has a hood, zips tight and is affordable.

Titanium Goat Ptarmigan bivy sac- A bivy sac is like a glorified sleeping bag; it’ll protect you from the elements with as little material as possible. This super simple one weighs in at 7oz and is as minimal as it gets. It won’t protect you from a rain storm, but helps with wind and light rain. I have the bug net hood option which makes it more breathable.  My ‘normal’ bivy is an Outdoor Research Alpine that is super heavy-duty, but weighs 2 pounds.

Thermarest 3/4 sleeping pad- A pad is not only a soft surface to sleep on, it keeps you off the ground and much, much warmer. I made the mistake of not knowing this on my first big bike trip! This one is 8 years old and has been patched once. They make lighter, better ones now!

Tarp- keeps your stuff off the ground and helps it to last a bit longer. Worth its weight! This one is 11 yrs old, from my first bike trip, which I have cut down from tent size to bivy size.

Cooking System

Trangia West Wind stove- $30! Weighs about 3oz without the ‘windscreen’ which is really just a holder and not much of a screen. Runs on alcohol, which is cheap and easy to find. You just pour in and light! Unlike the DIY stoves you can store leftover fuel right in the stove. I carried additional fuel in a old 20-ounce soda bottle.

Wind screen from my MSR Dragonfly stove, cut down.

Snow Peak titanium spork- I carry this everywhere

Snowpeak 1L pot with pan/lid

Measuring cup- for coffee and when I had to separate foods

DIY pot holder- folded pieces of aluminum

lighter, waterproof matches, aluminum piece to put stove on, can opener

Gear

I rode in my Swarm! kit and had sleeves, knee warmers and a vest for cold weather.

Mountain Hardware goretex rain jacket. I prefer the non-cycling rain jackets as long as they have armpit zips. Also works as a regular, warm jacket!  A good rain jacket is worth the initial expense and not a place to skimp. I’ve gone through enough cheap crappy ones that this investment is worth it. I didn’t bring rain pants. I figured if I’m riding and it’s raining I’ll stay warm enough.

Change of clothes for chillin in small towns. I bring a button-up shirt to make up for the poor hygiene. Patagonia zip-off pants and light weight minimal running shoes.  Outside of my riding gear, rain jacket and one extra pair of socks this was my only clothing for 15 days.

Bag System

Rack-less bags are all the rage. Without racks you have fewer things to fail and much less weight. My original Jandd rack weighs more than all of these bags together! Jill Homer wrote a great article about the benefits of a rack-less system (warning: PDF!)  and the Adventure Cycling Association has started to carry these bags in their online store.

Two very small companies are leading the way in the progression to rack-less bags, Revelate and Carousel Design Works. The seat bag below is from Carousel Designs and the handlebar bag (along with the pocket and dry bag) are from Revelate.  Both are brilliantly designed and built to last. Though, as much as I hate to diss small companies, I have to say I had a very, very hard time getting either of these bags. Weeks to return emails, promised deadlines not reached, unanswered calls…super frustrating. If you are going to order from either of them make sure you have an unlimited amount of patience and time before you need your gear. Maybe they are improving, but from the sound of things on the Bike Packing forums they are not (maybe time to check out the DIY bag forum?).  My other two bags, the ones attached to the top tube were one-offs made by my good friend Chris. The top one was used to store snacks and the one that sits in the triangle stores tools, fuel, lights, etc. My friend Errin Vasquez has been making his own bags too.

 

 

 

From years and years of carrying a messenger bag, I don’t mind wearing a bag on my back. They key is to carry bulky- but light- items in it, like your sleeping pad and shoes. I like this Deuter Bag because it has a light internal frame and space which keeps it off your back- and therefore less sweaty. I rarely carried water in it, but it was nice for those few 100 degree days I had.  I’d link to it but mine is super old and it looks much different now…

Other- tools, med kit, hygiene, lights

I carry the same stuff as I do on a day ride: multi-tool, pump, tire levers, patch kit; and for touring I include a few ‘just in case’ bits like a tire patch, spare chain links and a few spare bolts. You medical kit and hygiene needs are more individual and items that are figured out as you go on more and longer trips. Mine are pretty basic- I do cut my toothbrush and brush my teeth with Dr. Bronner’s, which also doubles as a cleaning agent when your pot needs it.

For lights I used my commuter blinkies and the Princeton EOS bike light which can be mounted on your helmet or handlebar and be used as a headlamp.

New on this trip, I carried a lock. It’s not much, but this lightweight Knog lock could be the difference between someone riding off with your bike or not.

 

Handlebar bag and pocket, recently filled with vegan chocolates.

Breakfast time. Often I’d sleep one place and then roll to somewhere with a table to make breakfast. I usually only carried one day of food at a time. If you are traveling lighter you can go faster and get to stores more often.

   Another view of my fully-loaded bike.

Bike

My bike is a custom steel frame from Seven with close to 50,000 miles on it. I’ve a mix of Dura Ace and Ultegra along with Ksyrium SL wheels- weighs in at about 18 pounds. What if I broke a spoke? Well, that would have been bad. Faith in Vagueness!

I didn’t actually weigh everything, but my guess is that my gear comes in under 15 pounds. It’s traveling light, but still comfortable without spending an insane amount of money.  You could easily go lighter, if that’s your goal. But for me this trip was about having fun and traveling light in order for it to be easier. When you go too light it starts to get hard again. And to me bike touring is all about fun!

I hope this list is helpful and if you are thinking about a bike trip in 2012, you should do it! Nothing beats bike touring.

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Bike Packing: Seattle to Minneapolis, 2064 miles, 15 days

[I'm breaking this trip into 3 different posts: 1) the story, 2) my bike packing gear, 3) nutrition for bike packing]

Logan Pass in Glacier National Park, Montana- I made it to the top before the road is closed to cyclists. All down hill from here!

 

I had arrived at the campground late- probably close to 1am. I had taken a few hours off earlier in the day to hangout at a farmers market and it was now super dark. I wasn’t even positive that I was in the hiker/biker camp. But it was still somewhat familiar.  I was in Glacier National Park and had just ridden 151 miles on the 6th day of my Seattle to Minneapolis bike tour on the Adventure Cycling Association Northern Tier Bike Route.  The Lake McDonald campground is the same one I had stayed at 5 years earlier, the night before Steevo and I started the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route at the Canadian border. Five years already? Earlier in the day, in Whitefish, Montana, I took my time eating snacks, drinking coffee, people watching… I knew it’d get me to camp late, but I didn’t care. That’s the wonder of bike touring. Sure, I missed the beauty of approaching the park in the daylight, but riding along the nearly empty road, under the trees, with a chilling wind coming off the lake has its own merit.  The only issue? The next day was the only morning on my entire trip where I had to wake up early. In Glacier National Park they limit the times you can ride Going to the Sun Road and I had to be over Logan Pass in the morning if I was going to get in 125+ miles.

But I was too elated to be bike touring to care. When I rode from California to Pennsylvania in 2001 it triggered something in me about self-reliance, exploration and physical effort that has greatly impacted my path in life. All of these double centuries, brevets, 24-hour mountain bike races, probably wouldn’t be happening if it wasn’t for bike touring. And here I was years after my last big tour, crossing Montana again, this time East-West, instead of North-South. I’m positive that I fell asleep smiling that night.

 

 

This trip materialized after some changes in my personal life freed up a few weeks of my summer.  I had  ‘rack-free’ touring bags from my attempt at the Arizona Trail Race that fit my road bike, so why not? I had friends in both the Northwest and Midwest I was dying to see and there are still a few states I have never ridden in that I could hit by riding between the two regions: North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota.

First I had to link up to the Northern Tier Route from Seattle so I contacted the Seattle Randonneurs who were insanely helpful. A few days later and I had a turn-by-turn 137-mile route to Newhaven, Washington, which sits on the route at the base of the Northern Cascades.  Here I’d have my first night of camping. Finding tofu and veggies at the tiny store in Marblemount only added to the excitement. Bike touring again, finally! There’s something special about riding all day, watching the light change as the sun sets behind you and topping it off with a quiet dinner in the woods. Really, is there anything better in the world?

 

Looking east from Logan Pass- all downhill from here.

 

I knew from the elevation on the maps I had that there was going to be some serious climbing over the next few days. I was extra stoked to have my race bike and to be traveling super light- my bags and gear were down to about 15 pounds. This includes stuff for cooking, sleeping and even rain gear. What I wasn’t expecting was the heat! It was nearly 100 degrees and super sunny on Rainy Pass!  Even though I averaged 138 miles a day, I wasn’t pushing super hard or riding all night, but I did have to limit my breaks and keep a healthy pace. This was tough through the mountains but became increasingly easier as I headed East.

By the time I hit Montana the weather was less hot, all but one of the big climbs was behind me and my legs were getting used to my daily effort. I was in a routine and had gotten my re-supplies timed so that I only had to carry, at most, one full day of meals. Often I’d time a store so I could pick up food for dinner and breakfast just a few hours before dinner time. And did you know that tiny towns all over NW Washington and Montana have co-ops? I scored seriously great vegan food almost every day.

In Montana I crossed Logan Pass and then cut through the Blackfeet Indian Reservation to cut out the Northern Tier section through Canada. From here: flat and open plains. Tiny, dirt-road towns situated around train stops, not the highway. One could see the next town from 20 miles away. I’d count the number of cars on the trains to pass the time. So few vehicles would pass me on the road that when they did, I’d be startled. It was joyous. And the people of Montana! I took a half day in Shelby to do email/internet and grab my box at the Post Office and it took way longer than expected because so many friendly folks wanted to chat. Love it.

 

Northern Cascades in Washington State

 

In North Dakota apparently I missed a re-route because I was, for the first time, on a busy highway with trucks and no shoulder. In Minot I picked up another package, hung out at a friendly bike shop and enjoyed the big city. I pushed on to Fargo, camping in small town parks along the way, where I sat down to eat a meal out that wasn’t just breakfast potatoes. Fargo felt like Los Angeles compared to where I had been for the past week!

Fargo is also where I veered off of the Northern Tier for the sole reason of riding through a new state- South Dakota. And let me tell you, having great maps to read with a plethora of information really is comforting when you are traveling in unfamiliar territory, alone. Once I was off those maps I was reliant on my notes and getting reception on my phone. I think it was just getting dark when a county road I was assured was paved turned to gravel…I needed to detour. That made for a long day toward the end of a long-ish trip where I was getting tired. Funny what expectations will do- as I neared the end I wanted to be at the end. My limits of traveling or just something that happens when you reach the near end of any endeavor? My guess is the latter…

 

One of the huge passes in the Cascades.

 

But South Dakota came and went and before long I was in the final state of the trip- Minnesota. Still ‘off-route’ I was guessing my way across and searching for a 60-mile rail-to-trail a bike mechanic back in Minot had told me about. A bike shop (yet again!) set me on the right path, despite their apprehension due to its perceived banality.  I was excited t not have to navigate for 60 miles! That path came and went and before too long it was dark and I had to accept the fact that Minneapolis would have to wait till morning.  I camped behind some trees on a farmer’s driveway and thought, ‘it’s late, no one will come down here’ and for the second night in a row I was caught sleeping somewhere I wasn’t suppose to be! The night before someone had called the police on me, which is a first, as I was setting up camp next to a barn on what I thought was public property (the police kindly directed me to a park ‘with picnic tables and a better place to sleep’).

 

I slept under this half pipe one night- some things never change. Somewhere in Eastern Washington.

 

And the next morning, I woke up just like the previous 14 mornings, packed up my stuff, made some coffee and breakfast and pedaled toward my next destination. But this day would be the last of my trip and would end very special- with vegan pizza! I rolled into Minneapolis in the late morning and quickly found the bar with the great vegan food I had heard so much about. I ordered, changed out of my kit and suddenly I was just another guy with a bike eating an entire large pizza. I did like most people would do- I posted to twitter and sat back and thought about the previous 15 days. How quickly they passed! I already missed them. Sure bike touring can be physically difficult and things can go wrong, but there’s something so peaceful about it. You wake up, you eat, you ride, you look around and you think. It’s easy, in a lot of ways.  I’ve come to so many life conclusions while bike touring. I’ve come to peace with many internal conflicts. I’ve ridden myself to tears even! And I love it so.

This story is very late and my photos are out of order, but I hope you get a feeling for what it is like to travel by bike for a few weeks over a couple thousand miles. When I look back on my life over the previous ten years I often smile biggest when I think about the times I’ve spent on one of these trips.  But don’t take it from me, start planning your next bike tour whether it is your first, or your hundredth!

Lastly, too many people to thank! You know who you are. And I can’t thank you enough.  Especially the local bike shops. Remember next time you want to order online to save some money- Amazon won’t give you directions when you’re lost on a bike tour.

More photos below, enjoy!

 

Control panel

 

River at campground in northwest Montana. This photo does no justice....

 

Glacier National Park

 

This was my view for a number of days in Eastern Montana

 

 

The Baker Massacre. Props to Montana for educating people about history and not trying to hide this.

 

Eastern Montana clouds

 

It's a privilege to be outside for the sunset every night.

 

Minot North Dakota road out from flooding! Had to find a new way out of town.

 

North Dakota lake

 

I cut the tiniest route through South Dakota ever- and at night. Still counts, right?

 

60 mile rail to trail in Minnesota

 

End point. The last city sign sprint of the trip!

 

 

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‘Tortillas and Me, Grocery Store in North Dakota at Dusk’

Going through trip photos and I love this one. Solo bike touring puts you very much in your head. You adapt to your new life as a transient so quickly and a giant mirror in a grocery store gives you a rare glimpse of yourself from the outside.
This is 11 or 12 days in. My kit is filthy. I had been looking for tortillas obsessively in every store I stopped in for two days and finally found them. When you’ve stripped your life down to the basics something as simple as finding them is like winning the lottery. I smiled for hours. In my mind this photo captures these feelings.
I already miss being on the road.

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Looking East from Logan Pass. Going-To-The-Sun Rd, Montana

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Bike + gear = 32 pounds. Then lots of food!

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What makes a race a race? – The Arizona Trail 750

You can follow my progress for the Arizona Trail 750 at http://trackleaders.com/azt -I’ll be wearing a SPOT tracking device so you can see exactly where I am on the trail at all times. The forum on bikepacking.net will also have information throughout the race.  My good friend Mike Szerszunowicz has been my partner in planning all of this madness and is racing the 300 mile version, so look out for him too!

 

It’s 2am and I’m still not packed to leave for the race tomorrow, but I’m not too tired yet and am itching to get some of my thoughts about this race on paper. Er, on the internets. There’s so much to this race that I can barely keep track of it myself, so attempting to explain it may be futile, but I’m gonna give it a go.

As I alluded to in my first post about this race, is it is self-supported. What does that mean exactly? I have to carry all of my own stuff. I can get water, food and even bike parts, if needed, along the route. I just cannot have any outside help, ie someone meeting me and handing me clif bars. Why? To level the playing the field. It’s a stark contrast to something like the BC Stage Race where you pay thousands of dollars for support along the course and food and a place to sleep when you are done with each day. Even the famous Leadville 100, which is no doubt a hard race, has support from race staff and personal crews to give you food and water and anything you might need. All you have to do is pedal your bike. In self-supported racing you have to find your own food and your own place to sleep.  It’s only you! If you have a mechanical that is unfixable you have to find your way back to civilization to get it taken care of.

750 miles and almost as many concerns

The Arizona Trail Race differs from other self-supported mountain bike races in a few ways. One is it has way more single-track, which is actually mountain biking. This is more fun, no doubt, but almost always slower. And because it is a multi-use trail there is a lot of hike-a-bike, sections that are unridable. I’ve heard stories of racers bringing extra shoes for the long hiking sections…
Speaking of hiking, the 750 version includes traversing the Grand Canyon on foot. While carrying your bike on your back. 23 miles. Why? National Parks do not allow bikes to be ridden off-road. And the giant hole that is the Grand Canyon is too big to ride around reasonably. Since the official Arizona Trail goes down and up, so does the race. I just got back from Chris’ house where he sewed up a waist band contraption to hold the bike up and against my hydration pack.

GPS- I’ve never used one. I’m nervous about following a red line for a week. I’ve some maps and a general idea of where I’ll be, but the GPS is the key.

Tubeless tires- I’ve some new tubeless tires which are nearly impervious to punctures, as long as they don’t fail. Awesome, right? But if they fail, that’s it. Outside of a bike shop you have to then resort to tubes. And in Arizona that means slime tubes. So, even though I’m running light tubeless tires, I’ve got to carry a pair of slime tubes.

Water!- The most important nutrient. There are waypoints on the gps files with water sources, but I’m still nervous about having enough and getting it when I need it. Having never been out there is a huge disadvantage.

Rack-less bag system- Racks are so 00′s.  Lighter and faster are bags that attach to your seatpost, handlebars and just about anywhere else on your bike you can strap some stuff down.

My set up

I’m riding a steel 29er hard tail with 2.2 tires. The biggest tires I’ve ever ridden! I’ve H-bars and a dynamo hub, and the SuperNova E3 Triple light. With the GPS mounted to the stem the front of my bike looks more like a space ship than a race bike.

Weight- Every extra thing you need to carry adds up. The winners of races like this go insanely light- all gear, tools, etc under 12 pounds or so. Bike touring folks probably have 30 pounds. I’m toward the light end, but not doing anything silly/ultra light.

Food- I’m bringing a tiny Trangia stove and hope to cook to 2 quick meals a day- oatmeal in the morning and ramen noodles with peanut butter for dinner. My cooking setup probably comes in at under a pound- but is still a luxury many racers go without. I will get food at towns on the few occasions I pass through them, but veganism definitely gives me more limitations than other racers.

And here I’m going to have to cut this post short! I’m running out of time and have a few other things to do- like file for an extension for my taxes and find my sunglasses in the explosion that is my room. But I have to address one thing, albeit inadequately: the why. Why do this? Here’s the simple answer: Being out in the world, moving forward, on your own is one of the most pure experiences one could have. Without getting too hippy or John Zarzan on you, it really shows you what being human is about. Emotionally and physically. And why race? Not just go out and ride? The pressure/eustress of a race lights a fire in me that pushes me more than I would otherwise. I love it! Which also explains only sleeping 2.5 hours two nights out. Owell!

I’ll try to post a photo of my bike set-up before I roll out. And updates to my twitter the few time I’m in cell reception, and I’ll ask my crew here who is receiving my SPOT updates to post to the Swarm! twitter, but that is not guaranteed. You can always follow the race in real-time at http://trackleaders.com/azt. And lastly, thank you to all of my GREAT friends who have come through and helped me in some way. HUGE efforts with my bike, my gear and well, me. It’s so appreciated and I’ll be thinking about each and everyone of you while I’m riding over the next 7-10 days!

 

 

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By The Time I Get to Arizona- again.

You can’t see anything from a car; you’ve got to get out of the goddamn contraption and walk, better yet crawl, on hands and knees, over the sandstone and through the thornbrush and cactus. When traces of blood begin to mark your trail, you’ll see something, maybe. -Edward Abbey

 

Here I sit, the day before I leave for a huge adventure, as I have many times, thinking, preparing and balancing stokedness and nervousness. One past trip in particular stands out, and with reason. Ten years ago this month I left for my first bike tour- 3300 miles from Huntington Beach, California to Easton, Pennsylvania. I had finished college in December and spent some time living in Central America with my then girlfriend who was a Peace Corps volunteer in Belize. I brought my bike and did a weekend out-and-back across Belize, went to Chiapas for the first time and was even arrested in Cancun at the IMF/World Bank protests (spending a night in jail is good training for bike touring – and vice versa).

Arizona played a significant role in that cross country trip.  After flying back to Texas and taking the GRE’s I took a bus to Tucson to see my close friend Boaz and get ready for my ride. We caught a ride from the bus station with a pedicab- the dude was stoked to be hauling a boxed bike. I also bought my first spandex and jersey (which I still have!) at a huge bike swap. For training I’d ride out of town to the biggest pass as fast I could- then cruise back to Boaz’ house. I had to rent a car to get to California but was broke so I had to work two days as a day laborer to pay for the rental.  I spent over a week in Tucson and it was the last friendly comforts I’d have before hitting the California coast, loading up my bike and heading east.

After leaving the pacific ocean and riding the width of California, Arizona would play a role again, but in a less positive way. One day I was leaving Sedona after lunch climbing toward Flagstaff and it started to snow, in mid-April! I was nervous because there was no shoulder and the snow was decreasing visibility. I had lights and the drivers were being cautious so I pushed on toward Flagstaff, just 5 miles away. I had a phone number for a friend of a friend so was thinking about being able to sleep inside that night- which would be the first time of the trip.  That’s when I looked up in time to see an oncoming car sideways, crossing the double yellow. I had enough time to think, ‘Wow, I’m dead’, but not enough to do anything about it. I blacked out on impact, but regained consciousness when I hit the ground, in time to see the car roll off the road.  Amazingly I only had a broken wrist and black and blue thighs. Not bad considering the police estimated the car’s speed at 55 mph.

I spent the next 10 days recovering in Flagstaff with the brother of a woman who stopped after I was hit.  Insurance paid for the ‘replacement value’ of my $100 bike, which was more than 10x what I had paid, so I’d leave Flagstaff with a much more appropriate bike.  I made it all the way to Pennsylvania without another major incident. It gave me confidence like nothing else had. After all of that time alone (with the exception of 800 or so miles my close friend Christian joined me for), depending on only myself to find food, water and shelter I was more prepared for the world. I understood myself better. I had a blissful clarity that people could sense.

It’s an interesting coincidence that almost exactly 10 years later I’m returning to Arizona for a similar, yet different adventure. My life is different-I’ve ten years of experience I didn’t have last time-but also very similar-I’ve still an incredible desire to be out in the world for extended periods of time.  The bike is merely my medium to do it. The Arizona Trail Race 750 is much more challenging than riding cross-country, but it’s probably pushing my ability about as much as riding across the US did 10 years ago. Or at least that is what I’m telling myself as I make my final preparations. Risk is real, I’ve said before.

If time allows, I hope to get one more post up with some of the details for the race. I’ve been getting questions on how I’ll eat and my plans for riding, sleeping, etc. I want to get a good night sleep tonight since Thursday night will definitely be crazy- I’ve got to be at the border by 630am on Friday- but I’ll do my best to get it posted.  Thanks for reading!

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Transportation as training: riding from SLO to LA in one day

Just showing that it was cold enough to wear gloves!

Last Tuesday evening, as I sat in a coffee shop in San Luis Obispo (SLO) and wrote about my train ride and upcoming bike ride from SLO to LA, I could feel the sickness I had been fighting for days creeping up. I was in denial, but by the time I met up with Mike at the train station I knew it was upon me.  As mentioned, I ate vegan Thai and even though I brought him some, we were still hungry enough for post-dinner burritos. Carb loading? Not that it did any good because at 5am I awoke with a very unhappy stomach. Let’s just say there was no carb loading happening. Yeah. And my throat hurt! When the alarm went off at 6am I didn’t want to go anywhere! Lacy’s sister Taylor awesomely had let us crash on her couches and was up doing work while Mike and I hid under the covers talking about how cold it was out.

Back at my favorite coffee shop by 7am, we discussed Egypt and what to call the pumpkin chocolate chip baked good we were both eating (muffin? cupcake? does it matter?) while time passed.  How’s that saying go? A journey of a thousand miles begins with a questionable baked good and procrastination? Cool.

 

Mike 'Grip it and Rip it' Szerszunowicz stoked on dirt

 

We rolled out of SLO in sub-40 temps, under a clear sky. Mike’s longest ride to date was our 12-hour hangout fest, the OC 200k. He’s signed up for the Death Valley double century at the end of the month and thought a 210-mile ride would be good training. Outside of Oceano (aren’t we at war with them?) we were turned away from the normal route due to construction and instead of back-tracking (I hate back-tracking!!) we cut through a farm, pictured above. Fun.  The area is somewhat familiar to me because I rode SF-LA in Sept and also rode the Solvang double century out here six years ago (Matt Provost on fixed and naked mile!!).

 

Every town should have a mural of its place in the world. I wonder how many miss that the negative space is California!

 

We rolled into Guadalupe, a tiny little town that I love. I must really love it because I took 60% of my photos here and only one afterward. Ha. It’s at this point in the trip we are definitely having fun, but getting nervous about the time. See, we had hoped to leave at 7am. We left at 8am. I thought it would take about 14 hours and it took over 16. Three hours is a big deal because it’s the difference between home at 10pm and home at 1am. The latter ended up not being that bad.

 

Tortilla room in Guadalupe!

 

Most of the time we spent just chatting away about riding, life and some upcoming events we both have. We set tiny goals. A quick break in Lompoc at the Fresh and Easy (free coffee!) and then a meal in Santa Barbara.  In SB we swung by our friend Jim’s new shop, Cranky’s, which may be the first time I have seen FBM bikes next to Colnagos. Then we ate burritos. Then it got colder and we were getting a little worried. It was after 5pm and we were a hundred miles from home. My sickness wasn’t killing me, but it had me feeling colder than usual. Luckily Mike was on it! He took some big pulls and really kept us moving quickly.

 

I think this is the climb out of Lompoc.

 

The sun set and we rolled south. Ventura, Oxnard, Port Hueneme, familiar, but far-from-home places. I’ve ridden out here plenty, including the LA-SB-LA back-to-back ride I did a few summers ago. How does one ride all day? It’s not much different than existing. You are just on your bike and in someways it is comforting because with every passing minute you are closer to your goal. It’s more tangible than many goals in life! It’s not a secret that 9-5 work in an office is scary to me. When I’m asked, what do you think about on these long rides I respond with the same question about what people think about all week at work.

 

'Red? Where the fuck did you get that banana?' RIP, Mitch Hedberg. Chart from the store in Guadalupe.

 

There’s this part of the PCH in Ventura County where you are back on the coast after some inland riding. It’s so beautiful. By now it’s late at night and the pressure to get home has been replaced with a feeling of privilege to be out where we are.  The sky was full of stars, the waves were crashing against the beach and there wasn’t a car on the road to ruin it. Stoked.

The route down the PCH past Mulholland Drive, Leo Carillo, Decker Canyon and other familiar, often-ridden spots is usually accompanied by a southerly wind. Not this night. We had a slight headwind most of the time, but it wasn’t a killer. We just couldn’t stop too long because we’d get cold! Before too long we had turned inland and were on the 15-mile home stretch through urban Los Angeles.  Sasha had just gotten home from Pure Luck and made us burritos which were quickly devoured. I was too cold and tired to shower and fell asleep shivering. Apparently I was also too tired to realize that the window next to my bed was wide open.

I spent the next few days full-on sick, but am so glad this trip happened. I can’t recommend riding the California coast enough! Do it while you can. Before that California super storm comes and obliterates the whole state.

 

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SF to LA bike tour

I like to do a trip on the last weekend of summer before the semester starts. Last year we slayed Mammoth on mountain bikes. This year logistically it worked out to bike tour from SF to LA. I rode this same trip solo a few years ago. Bike touring goes back to 2001. Love it. I think I’m over 10,000 total miles in these 10 (!!) years.

Obligatory pre-ride photo with Jeff. Notice what’s missing: the sun.

The plan was ride fast and most of the day, camp and eat out. Mileage ended up as:

SF-Big Sur 150 miles
Big Sur-Lompac 170 miles
Lompac-Los Angeles 155 miles
I will try every vegan cinnamon bun thing once, even if it’s whole-wheat and doesn’t have icing. This is at the Co-op in Santa Cruz on the way out of town where Water St hits Soquel. I always stop here.

The seatbag I borrowed had a built-in burrito pocket. Very thoughtful. This was the first night. We did the massive descent into Carmel, picked up burritos then raced darkness to the Big Sur campground.

Packing list (all fit in the seatbag and hydration pack)
Thermarest 3/4 mat
Mountain Hardware 35 degree sleeping bag
Mountain Hardware longsleeve wind-proof shirt thing
1 bib
1 jersey
1 vest
1 pair sleeves
1 pants
1 technical t-shirt
1 button-up short sleeve (I’m obsessed with it- prob should have mailed it)
2 pair socks
1 10-inch mini laptop (oops, should have mailed)
1 pair gloves (they were old as shit and I left them in a garbage can in Pismo beach)
1 toolbag with multi-tool, tube, levers, 2 CO2 cartridges
1 pump
1 hydration pack (to carry laptop)
1 coffee mug
1 spork
1 foldable plastic plate


Food I left with

1 lara bar
1 granola mix with brazil nuts, cranberries added
1 bag chocolate-covered espresso beans aka magic beans
20 scoops Maxodextrin- homemade Sustained Energy type stuff
2 bananas

Bike
I rode my ‘race’ bike which is a steel Seven. Shimano parts. Ksyrium rims. The ones with the red spoke, don’t know what they’re called. I think it weighs in at 18 pounds, which I was told is not light. Borrowed giant seatbag.

What a fun trip! Too many tiny stories to share. Jeff is an awesome touring partner! Who else will hang out drinking coffee till 930am when you have a 170-mile day ahead of you?

I’m aching for a long bike tour….

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Mt. Laguna Bicycle Classic

In April I rode the Mt. Laguna Bicycle Classic in East SD County. Back in January I was part of the pre-ride so I was really looking forward to this! It just so happened that the Rosarita-Ensenada party ride was happening the same weekend and my good friend Matthew was heading down there from LA on his fancy Rivendell.
I had to work till 5pm and then I loaded up my two-shoulder messenger bag with my bivy sac, sleeping bag and pad and everything I’d need for the weekend. Made my way to coastal Orange County in time to watch the sun set and was near the SD border by 10pm.

The awesome bike path before the military base or freeway dilemma

Our Swarm! jerseys say ‘Can’t Stop Won’t Stop’ which I took straight from Hip Hop slang as applied to long-distance cycling. Matthew likes to say, ‘Can stop, will stop!’ when riding. I had hustled to do the first 77 miles miles in 5 hours, which is fun in my own way, but the next day we were leisurely. To say the least. I asked if we should stop and get some bars or bananas and he replied, ‘If we get hungry we’ll just find a taco truck.’ Awesome.

Done.

We chilled all through SD County, taking the beach options whenever possible. We arrived at a friend’s house in Ocean Beach, which is the exact stereotype of everything you think about Southern California- in the good way. We had been texting and when I asked about food he said, ‘There’s a liquor store near me that has great vegan food.’ Whaaaaa? Ends up Liticker’s Liquor has a full-on vegan menu with carne asada and seitan burritos. One of each, please.

We ate our tacos on his roof and watched the sun set. California, bro.

My friend Jeff had driven down after work and met up with us and after some dessert from the local co-op we set our alarm for 4am to head out to Pine Valley (Matthew and Craig were riding to the border a few hours later to meet the start of their ride). We had some disagreement over what time to leave. I wanted to sleep as late as possible and get there right as the last wave was ready to go, but Jeff, being older and wiser, suggested we not do that. Okay, okay.
Ends up I was right! We flew out there with no traffic and then sat in the car, in the dark, waiting for it to warm up. Went with the last wave…

 

Jeff killing it. Fourth fastest time of the day.

We rode in a good pack till the first climb picked up and then Jeff and some Cat-1 guy were off. I settled in with a triathlete who I spent most of the time trying to convince that iron-distance is the only way to go (you get your money’s worth!). Paced with a quiet guy from Arizona for awhile who really pushed me on the climbs. the course is three loops, all with the same aid station at the top of Mt Laguna and the same fast, awesome descent. Ran into a friend I had met at the AdventureCORPS Shasta cycling/yoga camp last summer. We rode together for awhile on the insanely steep last climb discussing art, girls, work and making it all fit. He said something that really stood out: ‘Work expands to fit the time allotted.’ That aids my procrastination tendency and I love it.

I pushed on the steep stuff just to keep the pedals turning and passed about a half dozen folks walking. It was that steep! Keep in mind I’m still near the front third…

Post-ride meal included Filipino food again and vegan pizza!


Results and photos are up and worth perusing. Please note the 11 and 13 year old girls that did the same ride. For real. I also met Errin Vasquez, who I had chatted with on the internet previously. Also awesome.

We drove back to Ocean Beach in time for another Organic Athlete vegan potluck and decided to spend the night so I could go to the co-op for the 100th time on this trip. Breakfast!

When I was searching for something funny to link from Rivendell, I searched ‘Cult Bikes’ and it ends up that Robbie Morales, an old BMX friend, has a new company with this name. Here’s a great sampler video!

(maybe I should end all posts with a BMX or Hip Hop video?)

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