BRAG 2016 Prep

Well, I’ve aborted my Nawlins-Natchez-Nashville tour for the second Spring running and I’m tentatively planning it for Fall of this year. In its place, I decided, a bit last-minute, to join the Bicycle Ride Across Georgia with a group from my local cycle club. I don’t know the exact numbers we’ll have, but I think it is going to be about a dozen. I’m not really sure what to expect from this group since I don’t know most of them, but I can imagine there will be a wide variety of abilities and preferences. I mention preferences because that’s what determines whether you fit or not with someone on tour. I’m an early riser and have a lot of energy in the mornings so I like to get going very early and I’m a bit worried that I’m going to be torn between the desire to ride with the group and my impatience watching the mornings tick away while the group slowly forms up. I just won’t know until we get there and get started. But despite that small worry, I’m really looking forward to this ride.

BRAG is a supported tour so I don’t need to count grams when choosing what to take or leave behind. Our gear will be transported from stop to stop via a truck and the only limitations are two, 50-pound duffel bags. That allows quite some luxury when compared to 28 pounds (including panniers) spread around your bicycle. That and the fact that we’ll have access to warm-weather or indoor camping (our choice) means deciding what to take is pretty easy. But being a planner by nature, I have prepared my list, checked it once, and will check it twice before I begin to pack.

There are two decisions that have taken some thought cycles, however. The first is what computer or tablet I’ll take and the second, related question is whether or not I ride with some form of bag (either handlebar bag, seat bag, or backpack).

I have three reasons for wanting a computer or tablet on tour. First, I want to blog daily. I really like to be able to write about and post photos of my experiences every day. On our Emerald Coast Bike Tour, I did exactly that and I could tell that family and friends were following along. I love the fact that I have people following shortly behind me even if in thought only. I do the same when others post trips on Facebook. Second, I plan to include geocaching in this tour and I’m not sure I want to load my GPS with all the caches for the entire, 470-mile route. Third, I may want entertainment for the evenings. Since this is a large and mature organization, they appear to have a lot of entertainment scheduled, but I can’t imagine they’ll be able to fill up all of the downtime. Even if they’ve arranged enough activities and entertainment to fill the downtime, I occasionally wake up in the middle of the night and I’m quite sure there will be nothing to do then. See my previous post titled Bicycle Touring with iPad.

For these reasons, I will take a tablet or a computer, but the question is exactly what tablet or computer. My choices currently are a Macbook Air, an iPad Mini, or a Dell Venue 8 Pro (Windows 10). The most capable of the devices is the Macbook Air, of course, but there is no special provisions for laptops so I would need to pack it in the bag with the rest of my gear and try to make sure it gets on the top of the pile every day. That or I need to strap it to my back. Erg. So, just take the iPad. I can blog on the iPad, although having the keyboard on the Macbook means I write about 3 times faster, but the iPad cannot interface with my GPS unit to manage the GPX files with cache locations. Well, then. Can you interface with the GPS device from the Windows 10 table? Why, yes. Yes, I can. But there is just a small problem with that. Windows 8 and 10 are simply terrible on tablets. TBH, I consider them terrible on laptops and that is reason I switched to a Macbook this year. But as much as Windows frustrates me on a computer, it is pretty much unbearable on a tablet. So, I’m now flip-flopping between figuring out how to pack the Macbook safely in my bag to prevent damage, simply taking the iPad and pre-loading the GPS before I leave, or taking the iPad and the Dell tablet. I pretty much change my mind on that daily. Check back on my final decision.

The second decision is whether to ride with some form of bag or not. I’ve pretty much ruled out riding with the Macbook on my back so you might wonder why I think I need a bag. Can’t I just stuff my jersey pockets with whatever I need to carry? Yep, but I just don’t enjoy filling those pockets to have my jersey sagging down over my ass and I don’t care what rules the Velominati may have about it. I really don’t carry that much stuff with me. In addition to the tool bag under the seat, I’ll carry iPhone, ID/CC/cash, glasses, cleat covers, and gels/snacks. And it’s nice to be able to carry a real camera, but I don’t normally. Adding geocaching into the picture adds a dedicated GPS unit, a pen, and a small, telescoping mirror although I can use the iPhone instead of the GPS and the telescoping mirror. So, I can pare it down to fit in my jersey pockets plus top-tube bag, but I still might mount the handlebar bag for this ride. Having the cue sheet (augmented with geocache cues, of course) on top of the handlebar bag is quite nice. I rode AMBA in 2012 with the handlebar bag on. So, I guess I’m flip-flopping between just the top-tube bag and the handlebar bag right now. Check back on that decision as well.

AMBA 2012

Coming into a rest stop during the AMBA 2012 ride

I have a little bit of bike maintenance to do as well. It hasn’t been that many miles since the Surly was in the shop for a major tune-up, but it needs new tires and the aftermarket brake hood from Hudz need to go. They’ve just never fit as well as the  factory hoods and I’m tired of the despite living the look of the white. I’ll put the original black SRAM hoods back on.

And I’m sorry to say that the white tires are going the way of the DoDo. I have loved the look and those tires have been very consistent through about four paint since 2013. I consistently got around 1500 miles with no flats. But they are no longer available at a reasonable price. I used to be able to find them at around $28 each, but can only find the now for around $40. At the moment, I don’t wish to pay an extra $24 per pair just for the look, cool as it is. I caught a pair of Michelin Protek Urban tires on sale for cheap so I’ll see how those go.

And finally, I need to identify the geocaches I want to search for along the route. In the towns in which we stay, I can just pull up the list of local caches and go find. But if I want to find a few along the route, I need to know when to look because I’m not going to ride with my nose in my GPS unit the whole time. Im going to experiment with location-based reminders on the iPhone to see my f I can get warning when one or more a coming up. If not, it will have to be a low tech solution. I.e. Notes.

So, that’s my prep…

  • Packing list and packing
  • Tires and brake hoods
  • Tablet or computer
  • Bag, backpack, or no
  • Geocaches and location-based reminders

Looking forward to it.

Posted in Uncategorized, Touring, Cycling, Bicycle Touring, Cyclecaching, BRAG2016 | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Finding Geocaches Along a Route

Of course, cycling involves a lot of routing unless you’re the sort that strictly wanders wherever the mood may take you. I’m a planner so I always make a plan before setting out of my bike and that plan is usually decided upon based on several factors. Of course, geocaching can involve a lot of mapping and sometimes routing, as well. To that end, Geocaching.com has a great feature to find caches along a route, but it has a few user experience (UX) quirks that took me a bit to get used to so this post will serve to document a proven process for those few who may stumble upon it.

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Posted in Cyclecaching, Cycling, Routes, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cyclecaching

Cyclecaching

My wife and daughter introduced me to geocaching during a recent vacation. We took a short vacation in the Appalachian Mountains and had planned an agenda that left one day free so my daughter suggested that we do some geocaching. Now, none of us was totally new to this. My wife had taken the kids caching several times when they were much younger and they all enjoyed that, but that was many years ago. I don’t think I was ever included in those sessions, but I seem to remember giving it a try by myself with zero success. So, my first encounter with the game was negative and I never really thought about it again.

Well, during our day of caching in the mountains, we searched for and found eleven caches with no DNFs. Now that I have more experience under my belt (~100 finds), I know this to be an unusually good result. I’m sure that was partly due to the fact that we had three people (three brains and six eyes) searching rather than one, but I also suspect a bit of luck. But not only did we find almost a dozen caches, we found a good variety of caches in size, difficulty, and design. Some we liked, some we liked a lot, and some we didn’t like so much. We even found a travel bug (of sorts). All in all, it was a great introduction into caching for me.

At the end of that day, I logged onto Geocaching.com, created an account, and logged all of our finds. To be honest, I’m not sure why I did that in hindsight, but I’m going to go with two reasons. First, I was curious about the entire enterprise and I wanted to know more about it. And, second, I’m an information management (or data warehousing) specialist and I’ve just got this weird thing that I never, ever toss out information. It’s really funny some of the data that I’ve kept over the years, but I can just hardly stand to throw out data as it goes against my every instinct.

That really should have been the end of that, but I didn’t drop it because I was immediately struck how this activity dovetailed with two other aspects of my life: business travel and cycling.

Over the last 17 years, I’ve spent hundreds of days on my own in cities around the world and, unbeknownst to me, probably passing right by thousands of caches. Because I’ve spent so much time alone in strange cities, I’ve developed a real aversion to sitting in a hotel room and to compensate, I’ll read or explore the city (either walking or running). I’ll even combine the two by going for a long walk carrying an iPad and end up in a pub to have a few beers and read. It’s easy to see how geocaching fits into the downtimes while on business travel.

When I’m at home, I spent a lot of hours on my bicycle. I’m a full-time bike commuter, but I also spend a lot of time cycling for fitness and recreation. When the weather is good, I’m usually logging about 150 miles per week. I love riding with the local cycle club and I try to join the group rides whenever I can, but it doesn’t always fit into my schedule nor lifestyle and so I spend many hours each week riding out on back roads on my bike. Just pulling up Geocaching.com and looking at the default search around my home shows over 650 caches within 10 miles. Over the last seven years of cycling, I’ve pretty much ridden every one of those roads passing by hundreds of caches.

And then there is my interest in bicycle touring, which for various reasons I haven’t really been able to realize yet. Bike touring takes you to new locations, with time to spare. (Figure 14 hours of daylight with just five hours of riding if you’re riding 70 miles per day at a relaxed pace. Maybe six hours if you figure in a coffee stop, a lunch stop, and a grocery stop.)

So, I’m a couple of months into this new hobby and I’ve had a chance to try out it out during business travel in Stockholm (Sweden), Oslo (Norway), Bellevue (Washington), Denver (Colorado) and to mix it into my solo bike rides and, so far, I’m really enjoying it.

I’ve had a few questions regarding caching in general and these are easily answered via resources on the Internet, but I’ve not really found much in the way of resources for the combination of cycling and caching. To be honest, I’m not even sure what we might call this combination as I’ve seen reference to “cyclecaching”, “cyclocaching”, and “velocaching”, although the last one might refer to something different. I think I prefer cyclecaching at the moment. My immediate reaction was to start a blog to fill that hole, but I’m not really sure how deep that subject goes so, for now, I’m just going to consider this a new category on BikeLaneEnds and see how deep the rabbit hole goes.

I’ve got a couple of post in mind specific to cyclecaching. The first will be a step by step tutorial on how to use RideWithGPS (or other route-mapping tools) along with Geocaching.com’s “Find Caches Along a Route” feature. I’ve also signed up for the Bicycle Ride Across Georgia (BRAG), which will take me through 7 different cities in Georgia on a bike and I’ll most certainly be blogging day by day if only to keep my family updated as to my health and progress. But I also plan to pick up caches in each of the cities and along the way. I’ll be riding with a group so it will be interesting how I might be able to stop to log a cache and then catch back up to the group. (I was planning to ride the B&W Truckster, but when I think about having to chase down the group alone six or seven times a day after a solo stop, I may want to ride the Orange Crush instead. Maybe I can talk another strong rider into stopping with me to share the load when chasing down the group.)

I guess that’s it for now. This is just an introduction to the new category of posts of my blog and only time will tell how much I post on the subject. But if anyone happens upon this blog who has similar interests, I’d love to hear from you and share experiences and techniques.

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Portable Power Revisited

I decided to revisit my post from a little over a year ago on portable power to see if there were any significant changes in the market. For my methodology, I simply took four of the manufacturers that seemed to score the best in my first post and then pulled models from their web sites. Many of them have specialized models having various features, but I tried to stay with the models that we simply portable power packs without bells and whistles. I then searched for a street price using Google Shopping.

Notes

  • I wasn’t able to find weights for the EasyAcc devices.
  • This methodology is bounded by my first search so there is the distinct possiblity of another manufacturer that I missed in my first or who has appeared on the market since them.

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Posted in Backpacking, Bicycle Touring, Hiking Equipment | Leave a comment

2015 Bike Tour Leg 2 Route – Baton Rouge to Natchez

Click on the snapshot to open this route in RideWithGPS

Click on the snapshot to open this route in RideWithGPS

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2015 Bike Tour Leg 1 Route – New Orleans to Baton Rouge

To get started on this route, I located some advice on BikeForums.net here and here and solicited additional advice herehere, here, and here. Based on that information, I created the first version of my route.

Click on the snapshot to open this route in RideWithGPS

Click on the snapshot to open this route in RideWithGPS

Being an SEC Football fan, I can’t go into Baton Rouge without visiting LSU’s Tiger Stadium so, if you’ll zoom into Baton Rouge, you’ll see that this route is designed to drop me at the front gate.

But then I found this post on Crazy Guy on a Bike (CGAB) authored by someone who sounds very knowledgeable about the area and it caused me to change my route  to track west at Gonzales onto Highway 30, which is more of a straight shot into LSU anyway.

Click on the snapshot to open this route in RideWithGPS

Click on the snapshot to open this route in RideWithGPS

I gave some consideration to taking the Mississippi River Trail all the way from New Orleans to Baton Rouge, but it adds 40 miles and the post on CGAB cinched it for me. I’ll get about 30 miles of it leaving New Orleans.

While I’ve labeled this “Leg 1” this may not be the equal to “Day 1” as I’ve not yet decided where I want to stop. This route is 95 miles and, looking ahead, the next leg to Natchez looks to be about 125-135 miles. I just don’t know if I want to try to hammer out 230 miles in two days fully loaded. Besides, the post on CGAB suggests that there is no camping to be found in Baton Rouge so it might be better to stop in Gonzales on Day 1 and turn this into three days of 75 miles somehow. I guess I’ve got more studying to do to see what camping locations I can find.

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Losing Momentum

I’m not talking about momentum in any physical sense as I would expect any cyclist to be intimately familiar with rolling characteristics of his bike and hardly need any blog post to discuss it. I’m talking about figurative momentum: in this case, the momentum I currently have in getting back in shape and shedding my Winter hibernation weight.

I’ve begun this cycling season in particularly poor shape after having spent last year focused on hiking and training for a marathon in which I ultimately failed. Following that came an ugly Winter and early Spring (with respect to weather), which means I haven’t done any serious training on the bike in around 15 months. It’s only in the past two weeks that the weather had broken enough for me to get in some decent training miles even though I’m still dodging rain showers. And I’m already seeing results after only those two weeks. It’s encouraging. But it’s about to stop for almost three weeks solid; enough time to lose most of my momentum.

At the moment, I’m three days into almost three weeks of travel. I’ll spend a solid week in Hyderabad, India followed by a three day stop-over in Swindon, UK. If you add in days flying, that’s 10 days off the bike. I’ll then have four days at home and then fly out for a week in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Four days out of the next 26 at home.

I normally don’t worry too much about this because I train very hard leading up to a trip and the time off the bike serves as well-needed recovery time. But it will be 13 days until my four days back at home and that too much time for recovery, which means I’ll be rolling back down the hill I was previously climbing. And while I’m at it, allow me to submit my order for good riding weather on the four days I’m back at home because on them rests my hopes that my legs won’t turn back into Jello. I’ll take running gear for Hyderabad as it’s always warm and dry and Necklace Road near my hotel is a good place to run early in the mornings. And most certainly, I’ll take the running gear to KL since KLCC Park is one of my favorite places to run early morning (assuming the Indonesians aren’t shipping over too much smoke from their seasonal forest fires). HyderabadIf I can get in four good rides in between those two trips, maybe I can keep most of my momentum. But, if not, what can you do? You just have to pull up your lycras, put your head down, and start it all over again. Que Sera, Sera.

 

Posted in Cycling, Recovery, Training | Tagged , , | Leave a comment