Getting Ready: Training

In early May, my new Surly arrived, and I spent the next few weeks riding it with tools in hand, adjusting as best I could for optimal comfort.  The horizontal tube distance on these Long Haul Truckers is unusually long for a given frame size, and I found it a bit difficult to strike a proper balance.  In the end, my handlebar stem looked like the neck of an African tribal wife, but was comfortable for me.

Met Jesse repeatedly for weekly breakfast rides, and also started doing all my errands on the Surly.  I began to notice that the miles seemed to roll by very easily.  It was not unusual for me to arrive back at my garage, and check my cyclometer with surprise to find out I’d ridden some 40 or 50 miles.  I even calibrated the odometer because I started doubting it.  Difficult to describe – LHT miles are easy miles.  Unloaded anyway.

In mid-May, on a PMBC Saturday ride, I had breakfast with my friend Roger, and discussed my Dakota touring plans.  Roger is a nationally known touring cyclist who has logged more than 20,000 miles a year for many years.  He told me that if I visited Yankton, South Dakota, I absolutely HAD to visit a bar called the Ice House there.  Noted.

At the end of May, my friend Mary Ellen and I teamed up for the 2010 Luna Lakes Tour, a supported tour of eastern AZ and western NM, sponsored by the GABA club in Tucson.  We’d done this ride in 2008 and loved it.  This year was no exception – I found it to be a blissful soul-replenishing experience coupled with scenic beauty.   The Surly, equipped with empty racks only, rode beautifully, and the mountain climbs gave me an opportunity to explore its wide gearing.

Randy shipped his bike and then took off for Eugene, OR, then started his ride up the coast around June 1.  He continued making entries in his touring blog – – and I began following each of his entries with growing excitement.

In early June I took my first fully loaded ride, about 10 miles around the neighborhood.  With relief I found the bike fairly easy to handle and continued to be a comfortable ride.  The starts were a little slower, the up-hills a little slower, and the down-hills a little faster.   Standing up on the pedals took an altered balance, but with practice it was no problem.

I received my Nemo tent and set it up once in the living room, without stakes of course.  One afternoon, Johnny and I went to the neighborhood park and did a trial set up.  Seemed pretty simple.  It came with a little pump to inflate the air tubes.

Bike shipment day came upon me too fast, but I managed to get in 2 more fully loaded trial rides.  One was around Usery Mountain, which I did in the middle of a hot day simply for the test of it.  The other was a hilly loop with Jesse up around Saguaro Lake for breakfast in Fountain hills, some 58 miles total.  In both cases the Surly was quite comfortable to ride, adding to my confidence that I might actually be able to do this tour.  Fully loaded bike weighed about 80 lb.

I had Landis Cyclery pack up my bike on June 24.   They did an expert job tying and padding every surface of the frame, and I requested that they leave the box open.   Once home, I staged all my gear and then started adding every possible item that would fit inside the bike box.  Seems my box exceeded FedEx’s “dimensional weight” limits, and adding weight to it, up to around 120lb, was not going to affect the shipping price.  Still, I ended up with one additional box of items, things like my tent and handlebar bag that did not fit well into the narrow bike box.

It took a spreadsheet (of course) to figure out what to ship and what to hold back as carry-on for the flight.  In the end, I decided to carry only one front pannier with me on the plane.  Bike box shipping, around $115.  Additional box around $20.

On July 2, I called the bike shop in Williston where I’d shipped the bike.  They told me they’d received it and would “try to have it ready” for me by the 6th.  I was a little concerned about the July 4th holiday getting in the way.

Since early May, I’d ridden my Surly about 715 miles, and the Brooks saddle was feeling pretty good.  I had to switch wholly to my Trek for the final 10 days leading up to the tour, and rode another 160 miles or so.  I felt my excitement edging into anxiety – a classic fear of the unknown.  By email, Randy reminded me that we were just riding bikes.