Shakedown Bicycle Ride

Reader Contribution by Rick Stiles
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Tom and I just completed a 3 day 192 mile shakedown ride designed to test our bicycles, our equipment, our bodies, and our resolve. Well, it certainly accomplished all three. If we’re not ready for our cross country ride at this point we never will be.

Day 1: rain, sleet, 41 degrees, and 2,715 feet of climbing in 42 miles. Day 2: more rain, 40 degree temperatures, and 2,079 feet of climbing in 58 miles. Day 3: fabulous blue sky, 70 degree sunny weather, and 2,362 feet of climbing in 92 miles. Note to self: when the sun is out remember to put on suntan lotion before I turn beet red.

We were fortunate to have so much adverse weather and strenuous road conditions. You learn the most when things are difficult: will something break, did we forget something, are we mentally prepared. Yes, nothing could be finer . . . than pedaling 104 pounds of bike and gear up a 17 mile, 2% grade at 5 mph . . .  in the morning.

Dwight Eisenhower once said, ‘Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.’ I can certainly attest to the ‘planning is everything’ part. The internet is a wonderful research tool; we received many helpful ideas from other bicycle riders. Everyone has their own opinions and experiences, and you have to sift through them to see what fits you.

Probably the best suggestion I received had to do with gearing. Most ‘off the shelf’ bicycles are not geared low enough for pedaling heavy loads up hills, resulting in knee strain and muscle injury from pedaling too slow. Your local bicycle shop can install the proper set of gears for your specific needs.

There is no need to carry more than 2-3 days of food because most cross country routes go through many small towns each day. During warm weather take time to fill up the water bottles whenever possible. No need to carry duplicate things as a backup; just buy a replacement if needed. Keep repair tools and supplies to a minimum; you only have to get to the next city with a bicycle shop. Try everything out before you go; does it work, will it fit, is it really necessary. While riding eat frequently but in small amounts. These are just some of the suggestions that I found useful.

Just when the going was really getting us down wonderful people with warm smiles and great stories would enter our life. There was Sharon who was training a young seeing-eye dog. Lou gave us a free chocolate-chunk ice cream treat, and we ran into Judy just when our hands and feet were almost numb. Oh, let’s not forget Jerry. Jerry was so amazed that we had bicycled up one winding hill in the ice and rain that he asked three time if we were telling him the truth. At that point we felt like Superman.

In two weeks we dip our wheels in the Pacific and then head east. Talk at ya’ later.