I should be grateful that the Tour Divide is three months away. Even after switching over to daylight savings last weekend, it still isn’t feeling very ‘spring like’ here in New England. In the meantime there’s plenty of activity both inside and out that has me feeling like I have far too many ‘to do’s’ still on my list. If I didn’t know better, it feels like my math isn’t exactly working… Crossing one off, add three? Is that how it’s supposed to work? Time to get busy.
Anyone venturing outdoors yesterday likely shared my less than enthusiastic response to the dusting of snow and gale force arctic winds. I was relieved that my plans didn’t include me on the bike today. At least not outdoors. When it’s this cold and windy the bite latches on the minute you step outside. There’s really no escape either no matter how hard you pedal. Pain is along for the ride from start to finish.
Luckily I’d already scheduled spending yesterday with Fit Werx in Peabody going over my bike setup and mechanicals. Fit Werx uses a combination of computerized software and video much the way you’d have your swing analyzed in golf. It’s fascinating to watch your own positioning on the bike. The prospect of sitting on a bike and pedaling for twelve hours is intimidating enough but there’s also a healthy fear that if your positioning/alignment is way off then your body could easily breakdown somewhere in the middle of Grizzly Adams country. Not my idea of fun.
It was a couple of well spent hours. Sitting pedaling on a mechanical instrument that adjusts a dozen different ways and watching your image on a screen was a first for me. Having spent many decades working with athletes trying to correct unrelated but similar mechanical deficiencies, I can relate to the process. Technology can do some amazing things these days. After spending a life time on the instructional side, I’d like to think I’m a receptive student! Still even with all this technical analysis and equipment, the end game is always the same: feel. If it feels right then it likely is right. Today’s session exposed a number of things that I hadn’t given much thought to when trying to discover that intersection between performance and feel. Some of the time was spent simply better understanding ‘why’ certain positions feel awkward or comfortable or in between. I enjoy learning the ‘why’ as much as I do discovering what works best. No surprise, I’ve still got some work to do before finishing the setup on this bike. Hopefully I can transition from my cross bike that I’ve been training outdoors on this winter, to this mountain bike which I’m counting on transporting my butt from Banff, Alberta to Antelope Wells, New Mexico. That’s a lot of ‘butt’ time.
I’m slowly but surely picking away at the assembling the bike gear I’ll be carrying. I’ve discussed this in previous posts so I won’t belabor the point, but holy cow the options and choices are endless! Self supporting over a distance like this changes everything you ever thought you knew about cycling and outdoor gear. I never considered myself a ‘weight weenie’ in my former life, but it’s nearly impossible not to morph into one in this situation. Every decision comes down to weight, functionality, durability and of course cost. The lower the weight, the higher the functionality/durability = Apparently this is the formula no matter what you’re buying. Fueling it of course is an entire subculture of fanatics who anguish over this tradeoff year round trying to shave ounces from their bikes and gear. I’m looking forward to finalizing the “stuff” that’ll be joining me for the ride. Enough already.
Today was every bit as interesting as yesterday. You don’t need to know anything about biking to understand that if something other than your body is going to break down, it’ll likely be your: a) drivetrain/gears OR b) your wheels. Fortunately there are some pretty talented professionals in New England that try and minimize this possibility. Peter White is one of those people. I always enjoy ‘meeting’ real people who are much more than the sum of their parts. I’ve come across Peter’s website many times over the years, always thinking that someday I’d perhaps have a reason or excuse to make use of his talent and experience. I just didn’t realize it was going to happen today.
Checking my to do list this morning there were two big holes staring back at me: night lighting and wheels.. I also realized that the solution was very likely right in Peter White’s wheelhouse. I called. Peter answered. (How many business owners offer that experience?) A few hours later I was standing in Peter’s shop in Hillsborough NH. That alone would have made the trip worthwhile. Surrounded by raftered wheel sets, workstations and some classic touring bikes, I quickly realized I’d struck gold. Peter patiently walked me through how he could take the Schmidt dynamo front hub, build it into a much stronger front wheel, but most importantly – power everything from a head light, my gps, my iPhone, my IPad and any other electrical devices I wanted to schlepp along…..all while pedaling. This was a no brainer: done. If each of the dozens of bike challenges I’ve encountered thus far had been resolved this quickly and easily, I might already be in the Rockies! Thank you Peter!!
Looking ahead to the next few weeks I’m actually hoping for a series of rainy days where the temperature isn’t sub zero and I can slog my way around some of the local riding routes. I’ve assembled most of my foul weather gear but I need to experience some trial and error rides where certain things work and others not so much. I’d rather discover something I was counting on to battle the elements isn’t going to win that fight here on my home turf, not in the middle of nowhere. Hardly the time or place to have a V8 moment!
No matter the forecast, I’ll be heading up, or should I say ‘down’, the coast of Maine in the coming weeks to spend a few of days riding the Downeast Sunrise Trail with my Tour Divide riding partner, Brad Crossley. Newly opened in 2010 the Sunrise Trail was the brain child of some forward thinking Mainers who realized the demise of the rail line linking Ellsworth and Calais offered a unique recreational opportunity for the area. It’s a familiar story across the USA: automobile replaces train; train service shuts down and the rail bed sits waiting for local government and recreationalists to push it back into life as a natural outdoor corridor for hikers, cyclers, snowshoers, cross country skiers, etc. I’m excited to get on some extended bike time on gravel surfaces like those we’ll be traveling on the Divide and the Sunrise Trail promises to be a nice way to get some mileage under our belts. I’ll be sure to share some of the highlights.