Monday, February 4, 2013

The Bike

My first bike was a Miss Marple hybrid bike, complete with wicker basket.  That bike was perfect for how I had planned to ride - running errands, going to the library, visiting the yarn shop to knit with friends and cruising along the bike path.

new bike

A couple of months later I signed up for this mega-tour and it was quite obvious that my beloved toodling bike wouldn't be appropriate.  While women have done this tour on pretty much every kind of bike imaginable, including a folder, some bikes make it easier than others.  So as I learned to ride the bike of my English Countryside fantasies, the search was on for one that would be more appropriate.

I had LOTS of help in the search, and since the tour was two years away, there was lots of time.     I sopped up information like a sponge.  I got recommendations from WomanTours, from women who had been on the tour, from touring blogs, from my cycling friends on Ravelry and Daily Mile and anywhere else that had anything to say about cross country touring.  I pondered, and learned and developed my appreciation for all things mechanical.  

The consensus was that either a road bike or touring bike with straight top tube would be the best choice.  I followed every lead, checked out every suggestion but couldn't find one with a top tube low enough for my short legs to stand over.  Since a custom made bike was out of the question, it looked like I would have to look at a different type of bike.  I had almost decided to do a build up on a mixte frame when I took another look at a bike that had been in the showroom the whole time I had been using the local bike shop.  Voila, the right bike.
2010 7.5 FX
Of course, it was only potentially the right bike, for me to be able to ride it in comfort, a few changes had to be made.  Some were made just to make it rideable for me, some to rig it for the tour. 

First I swapped saddles, lengthened the stem and put on trekking/butterfly handlebars - that made it a bike I was comfortable riding.  Then came the fine tuning.  It was really hard for me to shift into the big chain ring because I evidently have some arthritis in my thumb from an old injury.  When it got to the point where I was avoiding shifting, I found a thumb shifter which made things better.  I played with the positioning of brake levers, shifters, computer, bell and a variety of handlebar and saddle/rack bags as I began to ride longer and longer distances.

As the tour got closer, I started really focusing on what would be required for long days on the road.  I would be riding on pavement, including the infamous Texas chipseal, the climate could be hot or cold or anywhere in between.  All kinds of weather were possible in 3,000 miles.  And, oh yes, there would be hills, lots of hills.

This is a fully supported tour with a SAG wagon stopping about every 20 miles.  But.  If the SAG had a flat tire, or had to take someone to the hospital, or I got off the marked route somehow, I might have to go longer than 20 miles with what I had on the bike.  Tough tires, check.  Tire liners (after a run through a patch of goatheads), check. Tire repair kit and extra tube, check. .  Snacks, check. Gloves, sunscreen, tissues, got it.  

Water?  Oh my, what about water?  Because of neck/shoulder issues I wanted to avoid a Camelbak if at all possible.  I was raised in the Southwest, so I know that water can be literally a matter of life or death.  Under normal conditions I drink 1-2 oz/per mile, so if I had to go 40 miles and it was hot.......I needed more than the one bottle cage I had.  After some trial and error I found a BIG saddle bag and collapsible water bottles.  Now I can carry almost 4 liters of water on any day that I think there is any risk of needing it.  Watering holes, even in this day and age, can be few and far between in the desert so I'd rather be coming in at the end of the ride with water in the bottles than struggling on empty.

That took care of the basics and now I had over 3,000 miles on this bike - what else could I do to make this a better trip.  I learned to ride clipless.  We changed the cassette to get 1:1 gearing, went down two tire sizes, added fenders just in case I had to ride in the rain.  We also added flashing tail light and some "see me" lights on the front.  

So - I guess the bike is ready.  Am I?


Janice in GA said...

You need pics of your current setup on the blog here too! You know, for posterity. :)

Judi said...

I'll do that - I was having a little trouble with pictures last night.

Ken said...

Of course you are ready! OK....maybe 2 more days of riding in circles for old times sake:)

Judi said...

I'll do a couple of laps just for you.

Rita Rowe said...

Don't worry about hauling too much water - two bottles are plenty since there will be a Sag waiting for you with ice water at least every 20 miles. If it is cool, one will be enough, two if it is hot. I am looking forward to following your blog!

Judi said...

Thanks Rita. Your ride blog and the email were invaluable in helping me prepare for this.