Yesterday I did a shakedown cruise on The Mule. I recently had it fixed up for my tour by the good folks at Bikes at Vienna. The bike rides fine, although it feels a little different now that it has Schwalbe Marathon Plus Tour tires on it. These tires weight 50 percent more than the Schwable Mondial tires I have been using since the pandemic hit. But the weight is worth it, because they have a beefy tread that is nearly puncture proof (knock wood).
I road The Mule to DC and back, about a 30-mile round trip. The gears and brakes work fine. I did notice that my front rack was a tad wobbly. This is not surprising as I haven’t tightened the bolts in a few years. I need to dig out my wee bottle of Loctite to make sure the bolts stay tight.
The beefier tread means that my bike computer needs to be recalibrated. I think I have it figured out but I want to do one more check before moving on to other things such as,
- Tent – I need to set up my tent and see if I want to use it on this trip. It’s a Big Agnes lightweight backpacking tent that is not freestanding. This is a pain. Also, the inside mesh sags. I miss my big old tent but had to abandon it when, despite, seam sealing, it leaked on me one too many times. I might buy a 2-person, freestanding tent and use that instead.
- Panniers – My Ortlieb roll top panniers are pretty beat up. They lost their waterproofing a long time ago. I need to go over them and cover any weak spots with duct tape. I’ll bring some plastic bags to use as liners just to be safe.
- Maps and Routing – I have to buy several maps from Adventure Cycling. I need maps for one segment of the Lewis and Clark Route (this will get me from the start to Nebraska). I need to do some research on how to ride across Nebraska to Colorado Springs where I will meet up with my 2019-tour friends Mark and Corey. The three of us will ride the remainder of the Trans America Route from Colorado to the Oregon coast. Mark has an extra set of six maps for this section that he’s offered me, but I’ll need to buy one map segment (from West Yellowstone to Missoula) because this was recently updated.
- Bike Transport – My wife and I are driving to Missouri for a wedding in May. I hope to use my Saris Bones rack on her Subaru Outback but she is resisting because she can see the marks on the paint of my Accord. An alternative would be to fold down the back seats and put the bike inside but I fear this will damage my fenders. We’ll figure something out. In any case I just bought new straps for the rack. The old ones are pretty worn out.
- Engine performance – Bless me father for I have slacked. It’s been three years since my last bike tour. During that time I have endured a disturbing number of cortisone shots. As of today, I can ride my bike pain free for hours. Walking, however, presents some problems. I’m scheduled for a few more shots to deal with this aspect. I have also experimented with edibles but they haven’t done a thing, except put me to sleep. Some recent experiments with yoga seem to be helping, although I have my doubts based on past experience.
- Engine weight – Do you know who Charles Taylor was? He built the light-weight aluminum engine used in the Wright Brothers’ planes. Without him, the Wright Brothers would be just another couple of geeky bike shop owners in Dayton OH. Let’s just say that my engine could use Taylor’s help. Every pound I don’t have to haul up into the Rockies, the better.
There are plenty of other things to worry about. Bison, elk, wolves, bears, wildfires, soul-sucking headwinds, brutal climbs, land whales (RVs), floods, withering heat, and overbooked campsites. Who’s idea was this anyway? Look on the bright side: at least I won’t have to contend with parachuting spiders.