Monday, July 30, 2012

The BETA Ride

I finally loaded the bike with all or nearly all my gear and went for a ride. The anxiety I felt about handling a fully loaded bike disappeared quickly. The obvious handling differences relate to slower steering as expected. The feeling is like automobile oversteer. I adjusted in a few miles. The remarkable thing was how different the overall ride felt. I was able to understand what has been said about the the flexibility of steel frames. Where the lightly loaded bike has been stiff, sending the shock of bumps to my hands, fully loaded it does not. Guess that's part of what makes it a touring bike.

I packed food, cooking supplies, maintenance and repair items and first aid items in the front panniers. Right rear holds a few civilian clothes and one very large non-cycling shoes. The need for clothes to accommodate a few days off the road and possibly chilly mornings made this part of preparation difficult and shoes were the toughest decision. One of my Nike old man mall walker shoes (sans Velcro) fit in the bottom of the rear bags as if custom made for the purpose. Two light T-shirts, one one pants, some socks and underwear comprise the basics. A mixed fiber outdoorsy long (roll-up) sleeve shirt will serve multiple purposes. Never a fashion plate, my civilian wardrobe is probably adequate. Atop the civilian clothes are campsite accessories; rope, gossamer plastic sheet, deck of cards, book, extension cord and a few other relevant items.

On the other shoe in the left rear pannier is daily clothes, toilet items, and my netbook. The clothing and microfibre towels should provide excellent support and crush protection. Both rear panniers can hold a bit more. I hope there are not too many tings I haven't thought of, though I suspect that one of the things the first tour teaches is the difference between wants and needs and how to distinguish the two.

I bungee cord a dry bag holding tent, ground cloth, sleeping bag and sleeping pad too the rear rack and will probably add a used but usable original equipment Continental touring tire.

The handlebar bag holds my rain cape, spare gloves, multi-tool, batteries, camera and other miscellaneous items. I'll carry a day supply of Lara Bars and other food items. My cell phone, wallet and such will ride there along with the maps.I didn't purchase the Ortlieb map case so I will carry the maps in waterproof zip bags along with a small notebook and pen. This, too, is going to be a catch-all and it not overfull, yet.

One of the obvious things to carry in open pannier space is spare water. I don't think I can carry too much water since temperatures are going to moderate very little until my return. Most people question my timing for the trip because of the 90 degree plus temperature. It's all about hydration and pacing. I didn't decide to do this a week ago, I've been riding in heat for years and have learned the value of water. Experience counts.

It gets more exciting each day. The remaining thing to do is be as certain as possible of "Where" and "How far." Motels are sparse in Coastal Georgia and South Carolina. It is also that way between the Outer Banks and Richmond. Then there is the return route. I will depending a lot on Google Maps and all the other online mapping options. I guess if I didn't want to face challenges I could stay home.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

When is it actually special?

Big day at my FNBS; new wheel, chain, brakes, pedals. This happens with more than 6200 miles (since April, 2011) and seems like good timing. As usual Bikes and More completed the job in time for me to pick-up the bike and ride home. I have always appreciated the special treatment the people there provide, but stellar guy that I am it seemed reasonable that I should get special treatment. In a brief moment of clarity as I rode home, I understood that what I have felt was “special treatment” is actually “usual treatment.” They listen to everyone’s boring stories, chuckle at weak humor and tolerate questions with obvious answers. They treat everyone the same way. How quaint.

I printed cards to give to people with the blogs URL. It’ll be a lot harder to quit somewhere if I know people I know know, ya know? Guess I could do it for a cause instead of because I want to. Or because I can. There’s a sense of release to have the opportunity and the ability. Whether simultaneous merging or brief tangent, the result is the same . . . too damn cool.

Concerned about it being hot? Uh huh, but I ride in Florida’s heat daily. Start early and drink a lot. Take what the day and the terrain gives you. It matters little where I am or what is happening. It is all time well spent.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

So Much Is About Timing

Brooks saddles are supposed to give a  lifetime of satisfaction. When mine broke I was disappointed. Now, after a second spoke broke on my OE rear wheel (Novara Long Haul Touring) I am more than disappointed. Paul of Bikes and More said it was very likely a second one would break soon after. He gave it about 300 miles, saying that distortion of the rim added unwanted tension. If the breakage was the result of a bad spoke the repaired wheel might not fail. It took 800 miles for another spoke to break.

The people at my FNBS are aware of the impending trip. (How can they not know? It's about all I can talk about sometimes) They also know the Safari is my primary transportation. Keith (what's a Canadian doing managing sales in a bike shop in Florida, eh?) suggested a double wall rim from Salsa would be a good replacement. The total cost using my Deore hub and discounting because of membership in the local bicycle society brought the total cost to less than $110. I might have to eat only every other day on my trip, but better that than breaking down! Brian, (one of three full-time mechanics) agreed to replace the broken spoke, despite a heavy workload, so I could pick the bike up at the end of my work day. How can you ask for more than that? Well, one more surprise was waiting. When I picked the bike up later, Lisa said there was no charge. Treatment like that is why Bikes and More is just one more reason why it is the shop of choice in G'ville.

As the title suggests, timing is critical in planning and execution. Being as well prepared as possible is the best way to handle bad timing and misfortune. What can fail? Obviously, saddles. Even the best. Wheels. Brakes. (being replaced before the trip with the variety allowing easy pad change) Chain. Tires? Probably not since even 2600 miles on them the Marathons show little rear wear. Pedal? Uh huh, with similar, but upgraded model. One unknown element is the route; campgrounds, water, food . . . The other unknown, as I have addressed previously, is my physical ability. Won't know about the route or my ability until I try it. Ad it is almost time.

Monday, July 2, 2012

More Miscellaneous Stuff

About the B-17
After almost 11 months the unthinkable happened; my Brooks saddle broke. The friendly people at Bikes and More said they’d never seen a Brooks break quite like it did. One of the rails snapped while clamped in place. Since my FNBS sells more Brooks saddles than anyone else in Florida it wasn’t surprising that they had a replacement. It also wasn’t a surprise when Paul handed me a replacement. They know their customers and asking for a proof of purchase would have been redundant. It is my misfortune to have to break in another saddle before leaving in a month. The saddle had performed as advertised, conforming to me in all the right places. While using a more modern saddle for a day I realized how much hotter other seats can be. The Brooks simply felt right.

Preparing a Brooks saddle is a lengthy ritual involving applying special dressing (oils) to the saddle to soften it so your hard parts can stretch and form little refuges for your sit bones. Stuff on. Stuff off. Repeat. It had worked well for the first one, but I wanted to hasten the process after a 50 mile ride proved that initially they’re awfully damn hard. It had occurred to me that heating the dressing might hasten it’s absorption, but heating a metal can of the stuff seemed equally tedious or messy or both. With ambient temperatures in the low 90s and a blazing sun about to appear over the trees I realized modern technology (like using a microwave) would not do the entire job as efficiently as the sun. With the dressing, the saddle and the application rag all hot, the dressing went from being a greasy surface slick to gone without a trace. Multiple applications took moments. Now, it’s all about getting miles on it.

The Brooks had about 4500 miles on it when it began squeaking. Leather squeaks as I learned years ago when I drove MGBs. The squeaking started about a week before I finally began tugging at the saddle to replicate the sound. The sound I produced was a soft ping when the broken end slipped out of the seat mounting bracket. Brooks provides a 2 year warranty, but I doubt I will ever have to invoke the warranty again.

About Body Glide
My verdict is in. It works and to ride without Body Glide became unlikely. No mess and no irritation. What more can someone say about a product after saying “it works.” Do I talk about how, when and how often to apply? Read directions and follow manufacturer’s advice.

It’s a lot like finding a tire that works well and reduces flats to almost nonexistent. Why would you not use them if you wanted to avoid flats? Any "Cons"? Their website is Flash. Tedious.

About Tent Sites in an RV World
I telephoned several campgrounds listed on the Adventure Cycling maps. Most expect to fewer guests in August, except “don’t show up on Labor Day.” One offers “no hook ups” for $10 and $15 with. Another is $19 and has water and electricity. They only have one tent site. One state park said it was best to avoid weekends. They charge $17.93. I didn’t ask whether the fee had some numerological significance. Another state park cost $20 and there were no amenities other than a bath house. The most expensive was $25 and $27.50. It was private and the person on the phone was not the kind of campground keeper I wanted. In the alternative, the man who answered the phone for Hughes Family Campground near Calabash, NC, said they’d make room for a tent and that water and electricity were available at all the sites. He also said if he wasn’t around to get comfortable and he’d be “around eventually.”