Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A Pleasant Surprise

My FNBS (Friendly Neighborhood Bike Shop) is my friendly neighborhood bike shop for two reason. One, they do quality work (and sell quality products) and, two, their customer service is impeccable. I suppose a third reason would be that they put up with my endless questions. Not only do they put up with the questions, they answer them. Bikes and More, the aforementioned FNBS, is my standard for measuring retailers and service in the world of bicycles.This brief preface brings me to the reason why I am not writing about my recent longer-than-usual rides.

I like crotchet back gloves and try to have at least two alternating pair in service. My favorite for fit are Taurus sold by Planet Bike. Unfortunately, the two pair I have purchased have come apart long before the less expensive variety from Nashbar. Planet Bike's advocacy program appeal to me and when I can, I buy their stuff. That their Taurus gloves surrendered long before I felt they should have bothered me. I'd been alternating a pair of each brand for several months when I noticed the Taurus were coming apart where crotchet met leather, just as had happened with my previous pair. Frustration motivated me enough to photograph the two pairs before sending the Taurus back to Planet Bike. I included a description and graphic indication showing the location of the bad seams.

In the note I also said I wasn't asking for a replacement (since I had just received two new pairs of Nashbars), nor did I expect a replacement, but wanted to express my dissatisfaction with their product in light of their espoused desire to design durable products. A week and a half later a package arrived with a pair of Taurus and a note saying they hoped a new pair would last longer.

The important thing about customer service is that it doesn't cost, it pays. Will I buy more Planet Bike products? Will I tell anyone about the gloves? Yes and yes. So, Planet Biker scores positively against the Bikes and More standard of service. Whether they meet the standard depends upon whether the new gloves fail too soon.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Goals and Reality

I have cycled more than 5000 miles since acquiring my Safari in April 2011. None of it has been in touring mode and the longest distance I have covered was 55 miles. There’s no doubt the Safari can make the tour. I am the weakest element.

A week ago I loaded front and rear panniers with about 25 pounds worth of 24 ounce water bottles, all of it unsprung weight. This part of Florida lacks significant hills, but the few short, moderate climbs hinted at the effort that will be required on the Skyline Drive. I was easily able to keep pace with the road bike riders I accompanied on rolling terrain at 15 to 20 mph. For the whole trip or 45 miles I averaged 14+ which is better than I anticipated.

While studying individual segments of the Adventure Cycling East Coast Route I began to accept that 100 miles per day might be unreasonable. Mileage is going to be dependent upon the logistics of finding food, water and shelter. It’s probably more logical to aim at smaller chunks of distance during the first week then increasing the mileage as I become more physically able. Highly relevant in this reasoning is Coastal Georgia’s lack of towns and the towns I will encounter are usually small and lacking significant resources. This changes as the route eases into South Carolina.

Estimates of my ability to handle 75 to 100 mile days may change as I work at extending my range locally. Cedar Key is 55 miles away. If I’m unable to make it a one day round trip at least I’ll be in a place I enjoy.

Loading my front panniers reminded me that I won’t be on a grocery run when they’re loaded for touring. Steering response is slower, but I soon adapted to it, in part, I’m sure, because of the Safari’s geometry. It’s further evidence that the bike can handle the trip. The rest is up to me.