Few logistics issues as we spent our first none ridding day in San Francisco: Julia, the niece of my cousin Jean-Philippe, brought me the box with my bike bag, so I can take it back on the plane: very cool of her. Jon's place was transformed in a shop floor so Gerry could figure how to box it in an obviously too small a box; and there it is shipped now back to Connecticut.
It's time to sit back and enjoy the area, my favorite town in the US. If ever you feel like taking a long trip on a bicycle, thru the US or elsewhere, here are some of my after trip thoughts:
Long distance on a bicycle? Tips, my humble experience...
* Trailer or panniers?
Crossing my experience with Gerry's, the trailer seems a good option:
- although panniers seem to be lighter, they require a stronger bike frame; and Gerry (tall and strong himself) experienced quite a few problems with his rear wheel: he had to change 3 times the rear rim along his trip.
- trailer is lower, more aerodynamic, can be easily detached, faster to pack and you then do not need to get a special bike
- still handling a trailer implies to adapt your riding a little as mentioned.
* Tires, tubes and wheels
I had my tires wrong. Gerry managed to make it with just three flat tires through out his trip whereas I got 25! Kevlar, tube protectors (such as Mr Tuffy)... there's a better way. The front tire does not wear as much as the rear and it can therefore be different. Plan for a set of spare tires before leaving as it can be a hassle to find the right one on the way. Also my "home-made" hybrid bicycle (a mountain bike with road tires) is based on 26 inches wheel and the choice of road tires is more limited than if I had had 700 mm wheels. Also plan that tubes wear in the long run: some of the flats I had were just the tube getting to old.
* Behind the stage...
Getting an ergonomic saddle can be wise in the long run. Gerry would also use Bag Balm for his sensitive skin. I used Nivea creme (for my face as well!) and Tiger balm. But don't think that ridding is just a pain in the butts! It's also a pain in your legs, hands, arms... ;)
* Practicing, before, after?
I did not train before leaving: it's not a race. Yet practicing with the whole setup usually helps to minimize its weigh: the rule is "you always pack too much". Once done, it is very important to carry on riding a little (30 to 50 km, twice a week) to prevent blood circulation issues in your legs. And Marin county is just great for that!
The flag behind my trailer makes the cyclist more visible. You can also get flags to put directly on a bicycle. Glowing colors of tee-shirts and jerseys are very useful as well. Eventually, 99% of drivers are careful and pay attention to cyclists: you still need to be very attentive to the 1% remaining.
'East to West' or 'West to East'?
One of the many comments that Gerry and I got on the way is that we should have ridden West to East; it would would have been easier. The dominant winds are blowing from the west and statistically we get more wind in the face riding towards the west.
First, if the point is to make it easier, I would not ride at all. The whole point of this trip is neither to make it hard for some kind of a pleasure. In my case, it was about taking a path that so much marked the history of this country. Traveling towards the west is meaningful and in those tough moments, battling against the wind on the way to Dubois I recall thinking that it must have a lot harder for these immigrants going after the frontier on trails, with wagons and horses, family and belongings.
Also as Gerry usually points it out, it good to train for a long while on the flat lands of the mid-west before getting to the Rockies. From his experience, he even had as much wind from the west as from the east. And you must feel twice betrayed when you get to ride into east wind!
Then, I enjoyed progressively riding into the wide open. You start from New York City and ride thru regular 'European' towns, a bit of countryside as well. Little by little as you get to the mid-west, you come across with these open fields of corn and wheat: your horizon already widens. And it really expands as you get to the west and far-west, riding in the desert: I guess I would have been thrilled to ride right away long distances into such wide open and deserted areas!
Eventually, it's great to end up in San Francisco and the bay area, especially Marin county.
"Ooo, I'm just sittin' on the dock of the bay