To come later today, I hope, will be a Google Earth tour of our journey from start-to-finish with pictures along the route. Stay tuned…
I am glad I decided to do this tour. I thought last year as I listened to Mark discuss his tour from Fayetteville to Jupiter, Florida that I’d want to do that. This year he said he would go from Fayetteville to Key West, Florida. I was interested. Since four C4 members [Mark, Tom, Chris and I] did the post-Thanksgiving tour to Oak Island, North Carolina last year, I felt we [Mark and I] would enjoy the ride together—more on this later.
Anyway, given that I rode my Trek Project One to Oak Island, with a wider seat containing a gel-pad, I felt it was not the best “tool” for a tour to Florida. I made the decision I would go on this tour and thereby decided to purchase the best tool for me for the tour—The RANS Stratus XP. You are not supposed to buy a recumbent unless you have test ridden it. This is my second recumbent purchase without first test riding. There’s no recumbent dealer in Fayetteville or surrounding city. Some perspective buyers fly to a location where they can ride. That was not an option for me. I bought both of my recumbents from Dana Lieberman, owner, Bent Up Cycles in Van Nuys, California. Dana and I discussed in detail what I wanted to do and the bike that would likely be the best bike for me. I do not regret the decision on either bike. For me it is a matter of the right tool for the job. I love having the flexibility of choosing.
Back to touring: After getting the RANS, I knew I needed to test ride for some distance—why not Richmond, Virginia. My son and family live there and it is only about 200 miles—a double century (321.9 kms) [actually 218 miles (350.8 kms)and 20 hours later]. So what if I just bought the bike. I need “bent” legs [they are different—quads, gluts, and some other muscles that you do not know you have]. Bent riding is supposed to be good cross-training for DF [diamond frame] riding. So I head out early on Saturday morning [below in the blog, you can read about it] and 3 days later I’m back in Fayetteville. WOW!
I set goals. I know they are achievable, particularly when one sets tasks that support goal accomplishment. Some of you may know I am an Army Ranger. I know from that experience, I can do anything. The question becomes how. I strongly believe you JUST DO IT! Along the way, friends and their support make the tasks at hand easier. That was certainly the case on this ride.
That being said, what did I experience?
Bike – no mechanical problems [I love my RANS Stratus] I resolved a seat issue based on the Richmond, VA ride. I had three flats [I took 4 tubes]. I did not have to patch a tube. I used CO2 cartages. They were fine. I wore out a tire and replaced both. An experienced tourer, for the distance, would have carried a spare tire. I took one on the Oak Island tour. I thought I’d get more that 1,000 miles [1,609.3 kms] on the tire that came with the bike. I’ll tell you, coming off of some of these bridges at 35+ mph [56.3 kms]; you do not want a blowout. Going that speed is a real rush. The pain to get to the top is worth it. I’m lying. My generator cap that makes contact with the wheel needed to be replaced. I should have brought the spare—next time.
Safety: Lighting was adequate. Plan to ride in the dark, although you do not want to. I have a 2-system backup. I will install 3-system lighting. What do you do when you are on backup and it goes out 30 miles [48.3 kms]from your destination? That did not happen, but it could. Horn OK. Safety flags—I strongly recommend for all tours. Braking—more than adequate. I use disc brakes. We had several hours in down-pouring rain. Fayetteville, remember Alberto.
Cautions: If you are not comfortable or are easily intimidated by traffic, do not tour alone. Numbers help here. You will get blown at, yelled at; drivers will seem to force you off the road. I had a driver ask me if I knew I was in Georgia, meaning drivers don’t care about a cyclist right to the road. The most pleasant state to ride in happened to be North Carolina. I might say because of the roads there versus US17 or US 1, but I rode US 301 from Fay. To Richmond and return. In some instances, there will be no shoulder to ride on. In others you will have plenty, and in some states—GA & FL there will be some bike paths. There is one biker’s rule that works as best I know—TAKE THE LANE. If a driver behind you just blares his/her horn, wanting you to get off the road, take the lane and go slower. It forces them to use the passing lane to go around you. Mark uses this technique. I know it works. It would be nice if there were separate paths for cyclist away from cars and trucks—not the case for touring.
Fitness: If your tour includes bridges, you MUST have bridge-legs. Charleston, South Carolina Savannah and Brunswick, Georgia have bridges. Then there’s the multiple crossing on intercostals waterway bridges. There’re railroad bridges, there are river bridges. There are bumps in the road. When you legs have been working, they do not want another grade. I have strong climbing legs. I got to the point that I did not want to see another bridge; but, with adrenalin flowing, I attacked those *#%@ at a fast rpm and flew down the other side. Look at the GPS data. Condition yourself for the ride you are about to take. As a matter of practice, it is a good idea to included lots of hills in your riding regimen. Our cycling club, C4, gives you this opportunity on its Tuesday & Thursday ride on Ft. Bragg—attack those hills. Bents, by the way, are not known for their hill climbing ability. RPM is the way to get a bent up a hill fast. The Four Oaks area of NC along Highway 301 has some practice hills for you.
Hydration: I did not bonk or experience cramping. Ensure you remain hydrated. I may have over consumed—NOT. You can never drink too many fluids. Find the sports drink that works for you and use it. I drank lots of chocolate milk during the ride. I noted on my Bent Riders’ Forum, chocolate milk is an excellent recovery drink. I just did not wait until the end of the ride to drink it. I think it made a difference for me. You’ve got to ride long distance to know what works best for you. The tour is not the best place to learn what’s best for you.
Food: Your cells need to be feed. Read all you can on ultra cycling and then find what works for you. I generally eat something hourly. As this ride went on, I stretched the frequency that I ate something more and more as the ride went on. It seemed if I ate a meal, I was sleepy thereafter—the blood is at the stomach to facilitate the digestion of what you ate. You should eat breakfast early enough before your ride starts for the cells to receive the nutrients from what you ate.
Sleep: I did not get enough. I think you should get at least 6-8 hours sleep. Many nights, I did not go to sleep until after 2:00 a.m. [blog and all] and was awaked [by something—I’m staying positive here] at 5:30 or so. During the day’s ride at some point I drifted on the bike—not safe. I made more frequent stops trying to wake myself up. One half of the ride or the other seemed bad. Most times it was the second 50 miles [80.5 kms]. I remember one day, it took until 2:30 p.m. or so just to get to 50 miles [80.5 kms]. You just know you will complete the day’s task and hopefully exceed it. Life is short. Life is fun. Live it to the fullest.
Stretching: Dr. Tom tells me. I do as much as I can. I did have knee discomfort—so did Mark. I stretched my quads at all stops and did other general stretching. This is an important aspect of all the things we do. Maybe one day I can do Pilates or yoga. Tom, in the meantime, I stretch sir! I took along Naproxen Sodium and Ben Gay for the knees. They seemed to work for me.
Unexpected occurrences: On day 2 my riding glasses broke. I had backup glasses. They just did not look as cool; my kickstand broke in Charleston, South Carolina; I also lost my safety flag—no backup; and, my iPod stopped working properly–lots of skipping–for the remainder of the trip I listened to the noise of the wind. In Palm Beach, Florida, I lost my Bluetooth headset and my telephone stopped transmitting as a result of the many rains we had that day.
Wednesday afternoon on after checking into Holiday Inn at Key Largo, I rode several miles to complete the century, when I returned, I had my helmet and gloves. I placed the bike in the manager’s office, as I have been allowed to do. If the room is not on the ground floor, the bike does not make it to the room. Anyway, time to go and I cannot locate my helmet. I do not recall taking it to the room. I checked again, and it is not there. Hopefully on return to pick up my bags, I’ll have helmet and gloves. I do not ride without either of them. Yesterday I did. I fit right in. I did not see any other cyclist with helmet or gloves. This place is laid back.
Yesterday, on arrival at Key West, I bought a Nokia Tracfone to allow me to talk to individuals who dial my cell phone.
Essential for me: GPS—Garmin Edge 305; Digital Camera, Digital voice recorder; AirZound horn; & laptop computer.
Expectations: I look to have fun at most things I do. I expected this ride to fit in that category. In many ways it was one of the greater thrills of my life. I’d do it again in terms of setting goals that not too many of my peers would set for themselves and then accomplishing those goals.
My disappointment was the ridding “together” with my tour partner—Mark. I try to stay positive in my outlook and actions in life. To be honest with myself I have to express this. Mark knows I have concerns and disappointment. From my perspective, we had a contract as to ride speed, lodging, return, etc. On day one, on occasion, Mark and Chris would ride ahead and then wait.
Riding a bent is different than a road bike. I had suggested early on that Mark and I test ride together so that we know what to expect from each other and the bikes. That did not happen. I said to Mark that I felt I was holding him back, so he would just ride ahead. I will not be a burden on anyone. I will always finish and many times faster that one may think. I even offered that I should depart an hour or so before Mark so he could catch up pass and be happy. I was not getting sufficient rest as it was. Doing so would have made matters worst.
I heard him mention his ride rate to Chris on the phone. The rate he achieved were not consistent with the 12-13 mph [19.3-20.9 kms]stated when I considered this ride. As I see it, if you partner together and you are on a “tour.” You ride together.
It seemed there was to race to nowhere. I, seemed to be enriching my day with experinces along the way and still make reasonable time. I wondered why Mark would leave minutes before I did; or, if I rode into an area where he has stopped, he would ride off. He did not do this on day one. When asked, Mark said he was minimizing the amount on time on his Brooks Saddle because of discomfort riding for extended periods of time.
The upside to this is he arrived at the destination [which was sometimes beyond what I expected for that day]. Found lodging and checked in. I only had to get there. A key was waiting at the desk. Mark was kind enough to pay for lodging through our arrival in Key West and allow me to reimburse him with one check on our return to Fayetteville. I trust there are lessons to be learned here.
Depending on personal and team goals, you really need to know what to expect during the ride execution. I leave this ride happy that I met my personal goals, but saddened that it was not quite the team experience I expected—given our post Thanksgiving tour.
The important thing is we both arrive safely in Key West, Florida and now have to journey back to Fayetteville. Sometimes in life we are asked to do what may seem impossible. Sometimes we have to find a way in spite of what may seem to be an obstacle.
We both met some interesting people along the route, the trio from New York, people who would just come up and say, “you are doing WHAT“? On our first day of flats, 2 each, Mark help repair the flats of two other individuals.
I recommend a road tour for all cyclists. I want to organize and direct a tour for my cycling club. Given my 435 miler [700.1 kms] to Richmond, Virginia and now this 1,054 mile [1,696.2 kms] tour, I’d love to experience the joy that a group of riders with a common purpose share in the enrichment that cycling brings. Getting there is but one component of the event. What you do along the way I think is where the fun is to be had.
I hope to be with you along the road somewhere sometime.
Thanks for indulging in my reflections.