It’s somewhat about the bike

I realized that I’ve written little about my actual riding. That is because it has been less than impressive. I mean, it has sucked.

You see, it takes a few weeks to get touring fitness. Don’t mistake me. If you want a sagged ride, or if you plan to stay in motels and eat at restaurants, you are ready for that now.

But if you are camping and making your own meals it is a whole different deal. First there is tent fitness. This involves putting up your tent at day’s end when you are completely done. And it involves the countless times you have to get up from the ground as you pitch the tent, break it down, go in and out, and cook if there is no table. Tent fitness involves getting used to sleeping on the ground. Have neck-back-joint issues? Yes? They will be magnified a thousandfold until you adapt, if ever. No issues? You will!

There is mental exhaustion from continually scouting and securing a site for the night, too. It takes time to adapt.

And the riding has been hard. I underestimated the difficulty of the stretch from San Diego to Phoenix. There’s a reason so many tourists start their west-to-east trip in eastern Arizona.

The backpack hasn’t translated into greater speed. If anything, I’m slower. It may be ongoing exhaustion or I may have simply been flat fucking wrong. I’ll give it a few thousand more miles before deciding, but for now it seems to be greatly adding to my exhaustion. The positive? The bike handles beautifully.

Today was a day that should have been easy. It was not. 57 miles total, total elapsed time right at five hours. The first 30 miles took three hours with no wind and a gradual uphill to Aguila. I lunched on chocolate milk, pb, and Oreos, and when I restarted I decided to beat the pedals. To my suprise I went faster and it lessened the relentless pressure on my taint. I’m continually regrettng no bibs, but then at the start of each day it feels great. Adapting? I am not sure yet. Ask me in Houston.

It still took two hours to go 27 miles, but most of those were uphill. It’s easy to fall into fuckoff mode when you tour, and if you don’t force yourself to push it, as in life … YOU WON’T.

When I got to Wickenburg the net effect of this effort was to leave me drained. All of the camper-friendly RV parks listed on my map were not, so I had to choose between a wash/gully/ditch along US 60 or a luscious hotel with shower, bed, and crisp sheets. I flinched at the $99 pricetag but took it, reasoning that I am old, slow, weak, and addicted to luxury.

Plus, tomorrow I have a hundred miles to get from here to the other side of Phoenix where my camp hosts live.

This is a great time of year to cross Arizona. It’s cool and there is little traffic. But the ramrod-straight roads that go for miles wear you down mentally. No change of scenery, only cactus, desert scrub, and asphalt.

All along the way were funeral flowers for people killed in cars. They were all freshly mantained, even though the deaths had occurred as long as 12-13 years ago. The price we gladly pay for the “convenience” of cars, until it’s our loved one. Then the sadness lasts a lifetime.

In my hotel room I had instant noodles, coffee, and cookies. So much for cooking. The ring I left around the bathtub?

Epic.

END

8 thoughts on “It’s somewhat about the bike”

  1. Here’s a hybrid solution to your pants sans bibs, but not quite yet leather butt to go with your leather saddle (they will become one and the same, probably in Houston). Purchase some cycling liner shorts. A number of companies make them, they are super lightweight almost sheer legs with a lighter liner chamois. Will fit nicely under your pants w/o lots of extra bulking which mean more chafing. These little friends are made in both bib or shorts. My favs are from Patagonia (I know – very chi chi, but so is your tent/stove/Filson), and so worth every dollar you may put towards a slightly more comfortable section of riding from PHX to IAH. And while you are at it – take the weight off of your shoulders, and replace with good touring bags.

  2. Heads up! Cycling shorts, bike racks, and panniers are all readily available in bike shops or from internet retailers. There is a reprieve available. Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.

    1. Please consider Paul’s suggestions. He’s been persistent and very sensible. You will be happier, and I fully expect you’d go further each day (if that matters).

      1. I would hesitate to tell anyone how they will be happier on a bike. One thing I have observed, in looking at other touring cyclists’ rigs, both while I’ve been touring and as an active Warm Showers host, is how diverse setups different cyclists choose — and *not* just out of ignorance of other possibilities. I cringe when I hear people speak definiteively about the “right” shape for handlebars, which are so obviously a matter of personal taste, or whether other riders “should” use front or rear panniers or a bakpack or soem combination. They “should” use what, after experimentation and experience, they find works for them.

        Some people choose to ride in sandals, some in mountain bike shoes. I rode coss-country in “road shoes” with 1st-gen Look cleats. Unwalkable without cleat covers, but much lighter than MTB shoes and hold my feet in the most efficient position on the pedals, with no play. Some people prefer cleats with play; some don’t. That doesn’t mean any of us are right or wrong, or would necessarily be happier if we set up our bike and gear the way someone else prefers.

        FWIW, another source of padded cycling underwear is Aero Tech Designs. They make several models with different thichnesses and types of pad. I’ve been very pleased with their thin-pad shorts, but havnn’t tried their underwear.

  3. “it seems to be greatly adding to my exhaustion. The positive? The bike handles beautifully.”

    On this I agree with you! But of course that’s not what was being discussed earlier….

    It takes a big man to admit that I’m right. I should know, because I’m HUGE. 🙂

  4. Arkansas Traveler

    These things:
    1. Once you go Bob YAK, you never go back.
    2. Comfort is heavy.
    3. Cars are like COVID in that nobody takes how bad they are seriously until it kills one of you or yours.

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