The Practical Side of a Bike Vacation

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What is more awesome to an avid cyclist than taking a bike vacation??

You get to experience the freedom of the road and the scenery like never before. There’s nothing quite like it really. Bike vacations are amazing and I highly recommend them, even though there is a bit more logistics involved. Hauling a bike around, shipping your two-wheeled baby (or handing it over to the dubious care of airline cargo handlers), and possibly renting your steed can be a stress source. There’s the practical side of a bike vacation to consider … After all, you don’t want something to happen to your bike!

Driving 

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Grand Staircase Escalante NP
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buggy bike

The easiest method to take your bike with you on vacation is by vehicle of course. If you plan to take your own bike, it’s easier to manage how you are going to get it where you need to go, your stuff, and yourself. You are the master of your own destiny! Everything is in your control…. Except traffic, the weather, random bird poop, and bugs. Lots and lots of bugs. However – this means you may need to spend hours behind the wheel so allow extra time to get where you are going. You might also want to travel somewhere you can drive to. France probably isn’t drivable – just saying.

 

Top Tip Part I: If you are driving, take a partner that you don’t mind sharing the drive with. Even if their main job is to keep you awake, taking turns driving can save mental and physical exhaustion.

Part II: If you are traveling long distance and have time, break up the endless miles by planning to cycle at destinations along the way.  Or, avoid interstates if you can and enjoy state by-ways that have higher speed limits. Chances are, you won’t loose significant time and you will enjoy the journey much more.

Bonus tip on safety: if you are driving and your bike is mounted outside of your vehicle, take a sturdy bike lock or two. It’s peace of mind if you are traveling alone and extra caution if you aren’t.

♦ Shipping ♦

The second easiest way to make sure your bike gets where it needs to go is to ship it to your destination. This works great if you have more than one two-wheeled steed and can plan a little in advance. The best option is to ship to a friend (that has lots of room for a very big box) or to a friendly bike shop that will hold it and perhaps even build it up for you upon its arrival so you can be ready to ride!

Here’s a couple of helpful websites: ShipBikes.com and BikeFlights.com

TriBike Transport is also an option and has several services available within the US.

air_caddy-pic-aI’ve had good experiences with Air Caddy bike boxes. There is minimal work to be done to get your back packed down and even the mechanically inept can figure it out. The boxes are super sturdy but I recommend padding your bike with large foam pipe insulation for its journey at any place where it could rub against the sides of the box. If you are shipping overseas, you might want to consider where the box (and packing material) will live while you are out testing your legs on foreign soil.

Flying 

plane-picThe fastest way to get most places is flying of course. No long hours behind the wheel and good for someone on a time-budget. However, if you aren’t able to ship your bike in advance, the bike must fly with you, which can be costly. Unfortunately most US airlines do not treat bikes as luggage and there can be size restrictions as well. Size restrictions means that you will most likely have to take your bike apart to get it into a shipping case. Unless you are a reasonably competent wrench – you might want to arrange to have your bike dismantled for shipping at your local bike shop and rebuild by a shop at the destination.

Here are a few articles on the subject:

Some potential good news that I have not personally tested… Southwest Airlines seems to allow bikes to be flown as luggage with a nominal fee for over-sized containers under a certain size. This is great for the adventurous cyclist!

Top Tip: If you are traveling overseas, many foreign airlines (like British Airways) may allow you to bring your bike along as luggage if it is under a certain size limit without additional fees at all! Check out the airline luggage parameters before booking your overseas flight.

Renting 

I have rented bikes at vacation destinations with mixed reviews. Sometimes you end up with a decent steed that will get you where you need to go. You must, however, give up all notions of having it ‘dialed in’ perfectly for your fit. Typically the bike will not be the light-weight speed demon machine you are used to either. Most rental fleet bikes are mid-range aluminum, durable, and hopefully mechanically sound. Be prepared that the bike may need a minor tune up or some basic maintenance before you set off on your journeys.

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At other times, I have rented the most uncomfortable piece of junk on the planet so a little research may save you some dissapointment.

Top Tip: Rental fees aren’t cheap and unless you are only going out for a couple hours – a couple of days rental for a quality road bike can cost as much as shipping your bike. If renting is really what you need to do, then check out the reviews on the place you are renting from first. Google or Yelp can be a good resource for reviews.

> Which Bike to Bring? <

20160826_131019Well, this question is really for those that have a serious N+1 issue. If you have several bikes: you might ask yourself which bike would fit the trip the best? This decision is very personal and also depends on what type of riding you will be doing. It can also be a critical decision that may make the difference between fully enjoying your trip. Consider your options wisely and don’t be afraid to splurge on a new component or two to make the trip a great experience vs. being under-prepared.

For example: you might not want to take your compact cassette on a trip to the Rockies, but you want to be sure to have your stiffest and lightest bike for the climbs. Wheels make a difference as well. If you will be doing a bit of long descents, maybe you pick the disc brake road bike over the rim-brake one… and so on.

Maybe you can’t make up your mind and toss a coin… But, whatever bike you take, get it maintained before you go!

Top Tip: a basic overhaul before you travel with your bike could save your rear later – literally. Carry a spare set of cables, brake pads, a basic mobile tool set, lube, chain, tubes, and at least one spare tire. Don’t forget a couple of nitro cartridges. Might sound like a lot, but handy bike shops are not always available during travels.

Don’t have time to get your bike to a bike shop for a maintenance check? Have the bike shop come to you! The www.BikeMinded.guru is a great mobile mechanic that will travel to your location.justin-bike-guru-2

Wherever you go and however you get there – enjoy yourself! Remember that plans are really just guidelines and a little flexibility can guarantee a great time!

Please don’t hesitate to post any helpful suggestions or questions about your bike travels.

Cheers and Ride On!

Random Road Trip Revelations

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After almost 3 weeks of being either in a campsite with limited (or absent) services or being on the road in the middle of proverbial nowhere and experiencing almost no connectivity to the world at large; I’ve had a few self-discoveries, revelations, and words of wisdom to those that are considering road-trip/camping to the far reaches of this Great Country.

  1. I try to get to know people – absolute strangers even! Random folks have stories to tell too…
  2. I’ve become used to ‘no service’ and remember when I used to travel without a cellphone at all.
  3. People are nicer than one might think.
  4. The world isn’t really that big. You can travel over four thousand miles and meet someone that lives less than 5 miles away in your home town.
  5. Chipmunks are evil food ninjas!

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    Bryce Canyon NP
  6. I’ve become more tolerant of silly ignorant campers because either they or you will be leaving in a day or so anyway.
  7. The best night’s sleep is when your nose is freezing and you don’t want to leave your sleeping bag.
  8. Plans are really just a guideline and the best thing you can do is live in the moment if you truly want to enjoy yourself.
  9. Washing clothes in a bucket of cold water isn’t that bad.
  10. I don’t actually need to eat as much as I thought I did.
  11. One really can wear the same outfit for a week straight.
  12. Sponge baths or Baby-Wipe baths can become absolutely normal.
  13. Clean feet is a wonderful thing and hard to come by when camping…(dirty feet in a sleeping bag is unpleasant).
  14. Glacier-fed lake water isn’t that cold really (you go numb anyway so you can’t feel it).
  15. I’m not as much of a princess about sleeping on a perfect mattress with a special pillow anymore.
  16. I’ve learned to calculate exactly how long a bag of ice will last in a cooler at ‘X’ temperature…
  17. I’ve also learned how to ride my bike while holding a bag of ice.
  18. You amaze yourself by just how long you can hold your pee so you don’t have to struggle out of your sleeping bag and stumble around in the cold in the middle of the night.
  19. Hanging camping hammocks correctly is a fine art – be careful the first time you sit in one or your arse might be sore later.
  20. Arid air is really only good for drying clothes. Humidity is your friend! (Especially for your skin and sinuses) Stop complaining about how humid it is!
  21. The best lotion defense against excessively dry skin is 100% coconut oil. Problem is: bears like it too.
  22. I’ve met more people from other countries in southern Utah alone than ever before in my life.
  23. Warm coffee in the morning is a must.
  24. Interstates are soul-sucking constructs from hell – avoid them at all costs. Plan extra time in your travels and drive the state by-ways, see things, and enjoy yourself.
  25. Yellowjackets can smell food before you thought about getting it out of the cooler.
  26. There really are places called “Food Deserts”. Nothing around except fast food or chain restaurants. A Foodie’s worse nightmare.
  27. You can actually forget how to type or use a mouse after a month on the road.
  28. I don’t mind going to bed at dark.
  29. Lysol wipes are a campers best friend! They remove food, disinfect, and clean up pine sap!
  30. You want to make friends while camping? Don’t be that guy that shows up late and bangs around or gets up early and slams all the car doors a dozen times. Just saying.
  31. That tuna fish that you thought would be a good idea to bring on your camping trip? It is actually a bear magnet.
  32. The STARS. Photos don’t do the night sky justice.
  33. There is NO substitute for experiencing the amazing places of the world in person. No amount of ‘Google Earth’ will replace BEING THERE.

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    Scenic Drive, Capitol Reef NP
  34. State Park bathrooms make you appreciate just how clean and wonderful our National Parks facilities are.
  35. You might find the best coffee shops literally in the middle of absolute nowhere.
  36. I’ve learned that I don’t need as much ‘stuff’ around me to be content and well.
  37. I missed hot sandwiches… but a burger cooked on the grill while camping could be the best thing ever.
  38. I found out a lot about our Country and Texas that I didn’t know.
  39. One of the most valuable things you can bring camping is a good book.
  40. The hardest thing about being gone 3 weeks on a road trip is coming back.

This Country has some amazing, stunning, and wonderful places to visit. We are genuinely blessed to have such unique national treasures. You can say that you’ll go ‘some day’ or when you can ‘afford’ it… Trust me, don’t make excuses – just GO. It’s more affordable than you think and the last thing you want to say when you are older is “I wish I had …”

Get Out There.

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Grand Teton NP, Wyoming @ Jackson Lake

A Summer Solo Ride: Climbing Day

Then And Now

Dawn. That ethereal state of awakening when the earth is bathed in a bluish-green glow which sneaks through the curtains to land on my sleepy eyes. That time just before day-break when the roosters begin to echo their calls through the countryside and the birds chip curiously as if they, like me, aren’t quite sure if they want to be awake yet. It’s this time of morning when I have a stern conversation with myself…

summer morningBrain: “Wakey, wakey!”

Self: “I’m comfy and the bed is cozy, stop bugging me.”

Brain: “It’s almost dawn and you know it’ll be hot soon! Get up if you want to ride.”

Self: “Oh… but I’m comfy.”

Brain: “You could lay here, but you’ll be sorry later…”

Self: “Right. Ok. FINE. I’m getting up.”

Sleepily, I stagger out of bed and throw back the curtains and allow the twilight glow of dawn to fill the room. Pulling on some shorts (so I don’t shock the neighbors), I open the heavy wooden door to the porch and wander outside. It’s nice to feel the morning on my skin before I do anything else. Almost as if to say “Hi” to the earth first. There’s nothing quite like greeting the day in person. It’s almost better than coffee.

Almost.

While I go about my morning routine the sun pops over the trees, highlights the mist that still hangs in the valleys, and shimmers on the millions of spider webs between the grasses that have somehow sprung up overnight. Very busy, those spiders. Fed, hydrated, cleaned, sunscreen on, kit on, food stashed, bottles prepared, helmet, gloves, sunglasses, shoes, and air in the tires – those same tires are set down on pavement around forty minutes after I had that grumpy conversation with Self. Somewhere in all that I decided where I wanted to ride. All roads leave from my front door here. It’s just a matter of which direction I want to go.

Today is Climbing Day.

The click of cleats engaging the pedals, the first hum of tires on pavement, and the soft swish of the chain is heard by no one in particular as I roll out. Not yet sweaty and not yet warmed up I focus on a slow pedaling rhythm as I cross the bridge on the edge of my tiny town and climb. Climbing starts immediately so I set my gaze out across the yellow-tinted softly lit fields and breathe in the early morning. The first few full lungful’s of coolish air complete my awakening.

It’s a good day to be alive.

cows watchingCows watch me curiously, slowly blinking as I pedal past. I blink back as I warm up to the second hill and the third. I haven’t met a car yet. I haven’t really thought about it. It’s quiet with only the birds chirping and the cows grazing. A hawk is startled from its perch as I go past. It looks at me sideways as it slowly flaps overhead. I notice how pretty the clouds are and smile. The initial longer climb greets me familiarly and I settle into my hill-training goal of the day. I concentrate on my breathing, the rhythm of the legs. Not too fast, not too hard, sit back, breathe evenly, focus right in front of you, feel the air, feel your sit-bones supporting you as you climb. There is nothing else. Just your breath, just the climb.

Heartrate steady I reach the top and happily push on without needing to recover. That is my goal: endurance. Climbing in control of my heartrate. It takes concentration. Enormous amounts of it when I get tired or distracted, but climbing this way means I can ride all day long.

… And I sometimes do.

I’m happy. My heart is singing inside as I turn and “Wheeeee” down a little decent. Shifting into the large chain ring – the legs make the most out of the higher gear. Then… I get to practice climbing out of the saddle. Just a little, not too much yet. It’s still early and there are many, many more miles to go. It’s only a little bump and I’m too lazy to shift down. I admire the view. Every climb has a view. Most make you wish you could take pictures with your eyes and send them to everyone.

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Looks flat? It’s not, trust me – that’s all downhill!

Rolling green hills, a big blue sky that goes on forever, and huge puffy white clouds that are thankfully providing welcome shade this morning. Twenty miles tick by quickly as wheels hum over pavement – up hills, down, and back up again. I’m keeping in my zone and sticking to my goal. This ride isn’t about fast. Fast will come with practice in this style. I’m climbing not quite as quickly as I could if I ‘sprinted’ the hill (as my norm), but I’m climbing more efficiently. I am gaining strength and endurance.

These are my content thoughts as I strip off my embarrassingly sweaty gloves at the country store. Sweat splashes onto the pavement, wrung from the same gloves. A couple of Harleys are pulled up in front. One of the Bikers eyes my gloves and says to me: “Nice day, don’t expire out there, now”. We exchange a few pleasantries about the heat and which roads are nice to ride. I walk inside – into the freezer. It feels good, but not for long. Just long enough to grab some fluids. Face wiped, sunglasses cleaned, a few gels, and water bottles filled I click into my pedals and spin away. More climbing, more views, more concentration.

More peace.

I know every road, every pebble, every crack, and the exact line to take on that bumpy decent after the hardest climb of the day. It never gets old. At least; not on mornings like this. I am grateful. I am grateful that I can be active. I am grateful to have a bike to ride, good food to eat, and a nice bed to sleep in. It’s the little things that we forget to be thankful for… I silently thank every single cloud that hovers above and shelters me from the sun that hasn’t quite gotten worked up to a good burn yet. It’s still early. The summertime is the only time I pray for clouds and I’m thankful for a stiff breeze.

The miles roll by and the hills arch their backs up to meet my wheels like a cat – anxious to be petted.

I’m less sweaty now and the air is getting hot. My internal clock is telling me that the sun is working up to the ‘Burn’ and it’s time to go home. I rest a minute in the shade. I can see the air dancing above the pavement as I rub out the sting from the bottom of my feet. My legs tell me I can do many miles more, my stomach wants a popsicle, and my feet want to go home.

20150822_131623I head home.

I can count them exactly. Precisely two hills between me, my front porch, and a cold popsicle. A car drives slowly by as if the owner is concerned that a lone crazed cyclist might not make it into town. I smile as the last few miles march grimly by, faster than before. I’m like a horse that has been pointed towards the barn, the closer I get, the faster I go. There’s no shade now although it’s over an hour before noon. It’s summer time in Texas – even the clouds have given up and scampered away. The sun has turned into a laser beam on the very last hill as I focus on my goal, sit up, and concentrate on breathing … and a popsicle.

It’s been a good day.

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Cycology Gear

Rubber Side Down – Bike Crashes & Lessons Learned

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Keep it Rubber Side Down!

As I’m recovering from my 4th concussion (3rd bike-related) and have suddenly found myself with a bit of free time thanks to doctor’s orders: I thought I’d share a few cycling-related accident insights – both past and present, as well as a few lessons learned. There’s a saying, if you ride a bike, you’ll crash, it’s just a matter of when. Sounds morbid, but it’s reality. Very few avid cyclists get through life without hitting the deck at least once, especially if you happen to ride frequently in urban areas or race. Most of those I ride with have at least one scar that comes along with a story.

Some are working on a collection.

Continue reading Rubber Side Down – Bike Crashes & Lessons Learned

Sweaty Betty: Cycling in Summer

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Oh boy, can I sweat in the summer! Not the delicate dew and occasional lady-like bead of sweat…. Nope. I’m a dripping soaked mess. My jersey weighs at least 8 lbs when I take it off. I can wring sweat out of my gloves after about 25 miles in 87+ degree heat. I’m constantly redirecting sweat out of my eyes and there’s a steady drip off of my chin. At least my feet don’t sweat, but it’s a good thing that I wear tall socks to prevent my feet from being soaked from the small stream that develops on my shins….

In short: it’s gross.

FB_IMG_1439074828449Regardless of your feelings about excessive sweatiness – there’s a plus side to it (especially if you live where it’s hot)! In my home state of Texas, in particular: it gets CRAZY hot. Silly hot. So hot you can fry eggs on the hood of your car. It’ll have you hunting for shelter at about 11:00 am and the sun feels like it’s drilling holes in your skin through your jersey. It’s the only time of year that I am praying for a breeze and the heat from the pavement almost melts the soles of your shoes. BUT, because I’m a Sweaty Betty – I stay relatively cool as long as I’m sweating.

That gross sweat is the key to survival in summer heat.

Continue reading Sweaty Betty: Cycling in Summer

Tips from a Road Trip

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A mysterious thing happens after about a week and a half on vacation… you finally begin to truly relax! Since I was extremely fortunate to squeeze two whole weeks of bike vacation fun into a family road trip – it has afforded me some insights into traveling and touring with a bike, plus a few bits of wisdom about everyday life. Some are particularly important if you happen to be touring with someone else, as I did (with my hubby). A few can help you after you get back to the rat-race…

In no particular order, are a few Tips from my Road Trip:

Continue reading Tips from a Road Trip

Why Competition is Good for You

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Competition is good for you and the sport of bike racing. Why? Well, imagine how boring it would all be if we showed up on the same team? It also helps promote more events, sponsors, and bike-related activities. There is only so much one team can cover. Most local amateur bike racing teams are not owned and operated by someone that focuses solely on bike racing all day. Typically they are either bike-shop sponsored or company sponsored teams with a very few that are individually owned. In other words: most team owners and managers have a day job.

Continue reading Why Competition is Good for You

Biking with your Beloved

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If you are one of those folks that has a cycling enthusiast for a significant other; this article is for you! As my husband and I met through our mutual love of cycling. Of course we ride as often as we can, when not doing stuff to pay bills and afford more bikes (N+1×2).

Cycling can get expensive when there is two of you – just FYI.

2 bikes in bedAnother consideration when you bike with your beloved is your cycling compatibility. This can be crucial to a harmonious relationship. Some seriously nasty fights have begun because of a partner’s insensitivity or obliviousness to the other’s needs on a ride. Cycling can be a dangerous sport and especially when I’m low on sugar and high in miles when my Hubby decides to up the tempo. So, it’s important to understand one another’s needs so that you can be there to support one another.

There are Pro’s and Con’s to cycling with your Hunny.

Continue reading Biking with your Beloved

Why Teams are Terrific

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What makes being a part of a team so great and why shouldn’t a person just race as an independent? I hadn’t really given it much thought before – but a couple months ago I was given clarity.

Continue reading Why Teams are Terrific

So: You Think You Suck

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We’ve all been there… You are riding strong, feeling great, racing well, and then: BAM! Something happens, life gets in the way, or whatever – and you feel like you have to fight your way back. I get it. Unfortunately, I understand all too well. You might say to yourself: “I’m not good enough” – or you think you suck. It’s hard and we are our own worst critics! You want to be back where you were, but that doesn’t happen overnight. Or worse yet, you are really struggling and you don’t know why.

Continue reading So: You Think You Suck