Shakedown Cruise: Success!

Posted 05/23 by Ruthie BenDor

On Saturday morning, I hauled Peg and Bob (the bike and trailer, respectively) down three flights of stairs and hit the road. Fifty-three miles and seven hours later, I rolled into my destination: the Myles Standish State Forest campground, where I spent the night before heading back to Boston on Sunday. The goal? To give my legs and my gear a full test run prior to setting out west. Mission accomplished.

The Good

I’m super-pleased to report that Peg and Bob performed admirably. I didn’t need to open my toolbag even once, and my tires held air so well that I didn’t bother to reinflate them at all this weekend. Bob tracked Peg really well, didn’t affect my steering at all, and only when I hit 30+ miles per hour, on an awesome descent through the Blue Hills, did I feel any sort of iffy handling. Note to self: try not to exceed 30 miles per hour while towing 45+ pounds.

The rest of my gear performed really well, too—I was warm and dry all night despite the cool mist that rolled in, cooking dinner was a snap, I was able to surf the ‘net from my tent thanks to my mobile broadband setup, and I had the right clothes and shoes to be comfortable in every weather condition encountered this weekend: from 80F and sunny down to 48F and raining. Oh, New England spring.

The Not-So-Bad

Even though everything went mostly great, there’s always room for improvement. So for the next few weeks, I’ll be fine-tuning my equipment based on the notes I took this weekend. In no particular order, here’s the list:

Sleeping Adjustments
  • My old Thermarest has served me well, but I’m swapping it out for a lighter-weight and thicker Exped sleeping pad, to make sure I get a good night’s sleep and save myself half a pound.
  • Turns out the loops in my tent guylines were designed for different (thinner) stakes, so I need to re-tie a bunch of knots. This also means I need to re-learn how to tie knots.
Clothing Adjustments
  • I’ve decided to bring an extra pair of underwear and an extra pair of warm socks specifically for off-bike shenanigans, a.k.a. sleeping. It’s nice to not wear stinky clothes to bed, and if the day is cool enough to need warm socks on the bike, it’s good to have a spare set designated for staying warm at night.
  • I’m still going back and forth on this, but I’ll probably end up bringing the hood for my raincoat. It’s not necessary in light rain or on the bike—my baseball cap does a good enough job of keeping water off my face—but off the bike or in a sustained downpour, it’d be good to have.
  • Why did I think I needed to bring a clothesline? Even a travel-sized one? That’s definitely staying at home.
Food Adjustments
  • The biggest critters at the Myles Standish State Forest are squirrels, but on my journey I’ll be passing through bear country, so I’ll need to take better precautions. I’m grabbing a few more odor-proof plastic bags to store everything with a scent, and repurposing one of my stuff sacks to make a good bear bag for hanging. Again, gotta work on the knot-tying skills.
  • For lack of a storage container, I had to throw away dinner leftovers that I would rather have kept. I’ll be looking into collapsible, odor-proof food containers.
Health & Hygiene Adjustments
  • After two 50+ mile days, I had zero chafing but was starting to develop hotspots on the, er, undercarriage. A little baby powder would have gone a long way, so I’ll bring a small container of it with me.
  • After two 50+ mile days, my knees ached a bit. Still pondering whether to go and have a professional bike fitting done, but I’ve also ordered two lightweight knee braces to carry with me, just in case.
  • I grabbed the only container of sunscreen we had at home, which was about the size of my water bottle—way too big. Next time I’ll pick up a smaller container before hitting the road.
  • Water is wet, and so is a camp towel after drying yourself off. I’ll bring an extra ziplock bag to throw it in when it needs to get packed up before drying.
Other Tweaks and Repairs
  • When I replaced one of the buckles on Bob’s waterproof bag, I managed to install it backwards, because I’m talented that way. No biggie, but it makes it hard to cinch the bag down. I need to remove the buckle and reinstall it the right way around.
  • Every so often I’d notice a squeak coming from either the saddle or the seatpost; I should figure out which one it is, and see about repairing it.
  • Bob’s arm—the part of the trailer that connects with the bike—would creak every so often. The joint probably needs some lubricant, so I’ll WD-40 that thing and see if it makes a difference.
  • The rear derailleur came out of alignment again, which means that every so often the chain would unexpectedly skip between rings in the back ... not something you want happening on a long uphill. I swapped the shifter to be friction rather than indexed, and that fixed the problem. Indexed shifting is super-convenient, though, so I’ll take a crack at fixing the alignment before I go.
  • The roads were only wet for a few hours on Sunday, and it was pretty flat riding, so my brakes didn’t get a big workout in the rain. Still, I should swap the brake pads to the fancy Kool Stop ones, if only for peace of mind.

The Ugly

Apart from being a good name for a band, “The Ugly” is also an accurate depiction of the roads in and around Boston. Anyone following @cyclingcoder on Twitter (Are you? You should!) has already seen my choice words on the subject, but suffice it to say that printed Google Map directions are useless.

::rant:: That bomber descent through the Blue Hills? The only reason I went up in the first place was lousy directions from Google Maps. Because I had to keep re-checking my directions all day long on Saturday, I burned my iPhone’s battery down to 20% by the end of the day. The final straw was when they put me on an potholed, unpaved stretch of backcountry road for over a mile… when there was a newly-paved state route WITH A BIKE LANE not 300 feet away! Sunday I threw out the directions and picked my own way north, and my cell phone battery was only half-drained by the time I arrived even without using the solar charger. Ruthie: 1, Google Maps: 0. ::end rant::

Boston is a special case, I’d say, so I’m still going to use my iPhone for navigation rather than carrying a separate GPS. But I’ll also carry a good road map AND a topographical map for backup. Both would have saved me a lot of aggravation and backtracking.

Weekend Highlights

This weekend’s all-stars were a woman in Abington who let me use her bathroom and offered me an ice-cold bottle of water, a sub shop with awesome old-school ads (think Graham Cracker ads from, like, 1910) where I bought lunch, and the yurt brothers Dale and Russ for the snacks, campfire, cellphone charging, and conversation.

Come to think of it, Yurt Brothers would be a good name for a band, too.

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Comments

You might consider getting a real GPS app for your iPhone, instead of relying upon Google Maps. Aside from the option for spoken directions, there are a number of benefits. The biggest are that the app keeps all maps on board… no cellular data requirements, no caching worries: they’re just *there*.

I bought Navigon, and am very happy with it. It’s also quite affordable (currently only $45 for North America). It has a setting to specify that you’re traveling by bike, too. Excellent app.

By Brian on 2011 06 10