Training progresses, and bike modifications

Over the last few weeks I've stepped up my training by following up Chilly Hilly with some in-the-week rides up Queen Anne a few times, and Saturday a ride up the Burke-Gilman Trail to Woodinville. By Seattle standards it's been cold here: mid-30s to low 40s, and there has been intermittent rain so it takes some umph to put on the Goretex mitts and leave the warm house. I've learned that I need the training. My legs took a week to feel back to normal after Chilly Hilly; that wasn't the case a decade ago. But gradually mileage is easier so I'm confident I can get ready.
On one ride I had some neck pain after looking up from a position where my hands were in the drop position so I wondered if elevating my handlebars might help. I checked the web and learned you can add spacers to the headset to elevated the handlebar stem, so I asked Carolyn at MBS if I could to this. Turns out I was nearly maxed out on the number of spacers that could be added, but we could add a stem that angled up which had the same effect. That brought up the question of whether my handlebars should be changed, since they had a bigger drop than modern handlebars. Also a little more flare—spread to the side of the lower portion of the handlebar might also be handy for a loaded touring bike. So I had Gary swap my handlebars for newer ones and I'm very happy with the results: my position is more upright, even when in the drop position.
This may seems like minutia but body position for 4300 miles I suspect is important. I should feel comfortable for 30 mile rides on bumpy terrain.
I also replaced the pedals with reversible clip-in and flat grippy surface so I can bike with bike shoes or street shoes.
Gary gave me a bracket to attach a front headlight so that it is below my bike back but above my tire.
Lastly (for now) I got a clickstand that lets me park the bike with bags on, and the best bike lock I can find: litelok which is far from light but rated as the hardest to cut through with an angle grinder. After all this effort I don't want my bike stolen in Seattle?
I figured out the route for the first few days and made some hotel reservations. I'll start from home, bike to the Seattle ferry terminal and take a ferry to Bremerton. From there I'll bike to Port Townsend, next day to Anacortes to start the official route, then bike to Rasar State Park (Rockport is now closed to camping), then to Colonial Creek, and from there to our cabin in Mazama.

Training

I started training about 4 months before my planned start. My idea is to continue bike commuting and add some longer rides on the weekends. Yesterday I rode the north end of Lake Washington.

President's Day I biked from Bremerton to Bainbridge Island via Poulsbo, about 42 miles including home to and from the ferry terminal. In the week I have bike rides to clinic and my office near Harborview that are 5 and 7 miles roundtrip, respectively, and various meetings and errands. My training isn't very scientific, but my intent is to increase mileage to around 50 to 70 miles per week and then to add trips with full panniers to simulate what I'll be carrying on my trip. The culmination will be biking from our cabin in Mazama up to Washington Pass, down and up to Rainy Pass, then down the other side, and then returning to the cabin. That will be 4 passes with full panniers, harder than any day on my trip. *If* I can do that I should be in pretty good shape for the tour.

Next weekend I'll ride Chilly Hilly on Bainbridge Island. The forecast is for temperatures in the 30s and 40s with rain likely. I've participated in this ride many times times and so far I've avoided rain. It always turns out the weather is better than forecast. We'll see if my luck holds.

My luck held and I rode Chilly Hilly with hardly any rain. It was a great training ride because of all the hills, and let me test out the higher handlebar stem Carolyn at MBS suggested. Much more comfortable.

Getting started

This is the blog I'll use to keep anyone interested in my bike ride across the United States. I selected a route called the Northern Tier. This is a route put together by Adventure Cycling, the group that arose from the Bike Centennial trip across the US to celebrate the Bicentennial. They have several routes, each of which is crowdsourced over decades of suggestions of people who have ridden the route. Gradually a route becomes the consensus best way to go and the Adventure Cycling Association publishes maps that show it.

The Northern Tier starts in Anacortes, Washington, passes through Mazama where our cabin is, and ends in Bar Harbor, Maine. So it is the logical choice for me. It is also the route that Jenny, our oldest daughter, took in 2016.

I'll start June 10 2024, a few days after my teaching commitments for the last spring quarter I will teach are completed. It will take me between 2 and 3 months to finish. How long depends on the number of miles I bike each day, how many rest days I take, and any side trips I fit in.

Can I do it? We'll see. Many people older than I am (69 as I write this, turning 70 during the trip) have done this. It will take me longer, but I'm not in a hurry.

The big picture

This is the first post and the first step. But things have happened before this:

  1. I bought a bike
  2. I've told friends and family I'm going to do this
  3. I bought the Adventure Cycle maps

1. My new bike is a Surly Disk Trucker. I bought it because it has a granny gear and is designed for long tours. It is heavy—32 lbs with racks, heavy Schwalbe Marathon tires, fenders and other hardware—but it is steel and considered a great long-distance touring bike. I had a Salsa Vaya but it didn't have a granny gear and I need one, so I looked on craigslist and found a 52 cm Surly for sale in Portland so took Amtrak down and bought it. I had my local Montlake Bicycle Shop service it and on the other end of this have the perfect bike for me for this tour. $850 + $500 for replacing rear cluster, brake pads and rotors, and front small gear. With advice from from MBS (see below) I changed the stem to raise the handlebars and put on new handlebars and tape. The newer bars have a more horizontal platform when resting my hands on the brake levers, are a little broader and have less drop.

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But more important than buying a bike is finding a bike shop. I am very lucky: One of the best bike stores ever is just down the block from our home: Montlake Bicycle Shop. We've been customers and friends for over 30 years. Their advice is worth far more than what I spend there, but then we've bought many bikes starting with little bikes with training wheels and now our children are loyal customers. It makes a strong argument for businesses to do the right thing and benefit in the long run. At least I hope they benefit.

2. I've told lots of people I'm going to make this trip, and that means I am more likely to do it. If I don't, people will ask me how it went for years to come. So in a sense this serves as support for my plans.

3. For me, preparing for any trip starts with buying a book or a guide. For the PCT this is a Mountaineers book on the Southern California or Washington sections. For travel with Amy, almost always I get the Lonely Planet guide for the destination. For a cross-country bike trip, the standard is the Adventure Cycling Association map set—11 maps that provide direction and suggestions for the entire trip. I bought this set last year to peruse and stimulate thinking. They are folding waterproof maps that I'll use along with digital guides to find not only the route, but crowdsourced recommendations for food, hotels, campgrounds and other essentials.


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