I’m starting to amass some new stuff for my bike trip. Two new Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires to replace the two I’ve been riding for a year and nearly 5,000 miles. (The old ones are still usable but won’t survive a long tour.)
A new Ottolock will replace my heavy U-lock. I’ll be mostly in rural areas so this should provide ample security. It’s a combination lock so I don’t have to worry about losing my key.
Spray on sunscreen for the ever growing solar panel on the top of my head.
And a pile of Adventure Cycling maps to keep me from getting lost.
I’ve also bought new Koolstop brake pads for my front and back wheels.
I’m going to buy a water filter and maybe a merino wool t-shirt before I leave.
My body has had a tough winter. For a few weeks I was really falling apart. I couldn’t stand up straight. I walked with a pronounced limp with pain in my left knee and hip.
Setting Aside Little Nellie
It occurred to me that my back pain was probably caused by the impact shocks I get while riding Little Nellie. Those little wheels don’t absorb much of the hit from countless tree roots on the Mount Vernon Trail. (The National Park Service is starved for money and their maintenance has really gone south in the last two or three years.)
I switched first to The Mule, then to my Cross Check, both of which have normal sized wheels (700c x 35 for the bike nerds). My back responded almost instantly to the softer ride on The Mule. When I switched the Cross Check some new back and knee problems cropped up. I re-measured the seat height and the distance from the saddle to the handlebars. The seat was about 1/2 inch higher than The Mule’s. After I adjusted it, I took off. The Cross Check’s bigger gears were just what my legs needed. I feel like my old self again.
I rode it to Friday Coffee Club today. The strong, persistent tailwind made me feel like a bike god. The ride home was a bit challenging but I actually enjoyed fighting the wind. I am back to my old commuting mileages. My last 8 days were: 30, 23.5, 45.5, 28, 31, 32, 32, and 30 miles (252 total). A couple more weeks like that should put me in decent touring shape.
Working Out Off the Bike
I am also doing on alternate days: yoga, weight lifting, and physical therapy exercises including some with a foam roller. I don’t much care for any of these but you gotta do what you gotta do.
My pre-tour shopping spree has begun. I’ve bought mountain bike shorts, glasses (clear and polarized, both progressive for map reading while on the bike), Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires, Croakies, Koolstop brake pads, and a combination lock. (I am trading off weight for some security but I can’t recall ever having someone try to steal The Mule while on tour.)
The other night I attended a presentation by Jim Sayer, the Executive Director of Adventure Cycling. Adventure Cycling makes the maps that I use. Jim’s presentation really helped get my head back in the game. Jim talked up La Route Verte, the bike touring network in Quebec. This is definitely going on my to do list. The website is amazing. (And it’s in both English and French, of course.) I need to do a key word search for “black flies” though.
And just to add to the preparations, spring arrived in DC. It may be temporary but two 70 degree days are just the tonic. I rode in shorts and a t-shirt today and it was bliss.
The Mule and I are shocked. Stunned. Today, after well over 5,000 miles we had a flat tire. I use Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires. They are advertised as “flatless.” I have to say that 5,000 miles, much of it carrying a load, is crazy good.
I only know how many miles because I thought it would be unwise to keep riding the tires I had on last year. They took me several thousand flat free miles too. The only problem I had was a slow leak on my last day in Florida. I put the bike on Amtrak and pumped the tire up when I got to DC and rode it home.
The culprit of this year’s flat was a nasty piece of green glass, quite thick and jagged. Today was recycling day so I am guessing that I was the victim of a dead Rolling Rock or gin bottle.
I am pretty sure I heard the glass contact the tire. I even scraped off my front tire while riding just to be careful but forgot to stop and clean off the rear tire. That green monster ate through the casing for several miles before I noticed the bike start swaying as I rode.
I walked the last two miles home not wanting to change the tire on the wet side of the road. It was given a proper burial. Come spring time I will buy a new pair of Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires for my next adventure.