At the end of September, my friend Mary Ellen Coe sent me a pointer to the J&P Tucson Tour. I asked further about it and she simply told me it was a bunch of fun. 2008 was a strong cycling year for me, basically culminating in the El Tour de Tucson ride in late November. In early December, I rode in the Phoenix Metro Bicycle Club’s Free Ride. Mary Ellen and I pushed hard the last 25 miles or so, doing 22-24 mph the whole way, and as a result I strained my knees plenty. The pain lasted a week or so, and, with Christmas holidays, I ended up staying off the bike the rest of the year.
By early January, I made the decision to do the Tucson tour, scheduled for the second weekend in February. As a tour, it sounded like a perfect opportunity to get back on the bike, without too much concern for pace. As a warm up, I rode on 4 of the club’s Saturday morning rides beforehand, and rode surprisingly strong.
Two weeks before the tour, I decided to outfit my veteran Trek 1800c bike for light touring by adding a rack and small panniers, and also a large handlebar bag. The next day I loaded up the panniers with most of my stuff for a test run around the neighborhood and found that the bike rode surprisingly well. I couldn’t believe how heavy it was, though.
Rode the club ride Saturday February 7 with the rack attached, and I’m sure other riders were wondering about it. I met Jan Petersen, one of Mary Ellen’s friends, at breakfast, and learned she was going. I also met Michael Kirk, who stated that his dog Zach was going with him in a trailer behind his bike.
The tour coordinator, Tom Adams, had thoughtfully put each day’s route map and cue sheet on the web, so I grabbed this info and reformatted it into multiple 4.5” x 9” pages to fit the see-through window on top of my handlebar bag.
The tour starts at Jane and Paul’s house in Scottsdale. With parking there limited, I knew I could meet the group almost anywhere with the panniers. I chose a point in west Mesa along the planned route, and let Tom know my intentions. A couple days later, I saw that another rider, Bob Turner, was going to meet the group at a Circle K at Warner and Higley, basically 18 miles due south of me, and I decided this was a better meeting point. I emailed Bob, and then Tom, and soon had the meeting point all set.
On Monday, a week before the tour, the weather forecast predicted some serious rain for 3 out of the 4 days, so I headed back to Performance Cycling and also over to REI. Picked up a pair of rain pants, new thermal beanie, some water resistant shoe toe covers, and a set of fenders. Due to the heavy load, I also picked out a couple of 700×28 Vittori Cross-Randonneur tires.
Attached the front fender on Monday night, and had quite a bit of difficulty finding enough clearance, even with the 23mm tires I still had on. On Tuesday morning, I changed out my 23s for the 28s. Never in my life have I had tires so difficult to fit over the wheels. It took about 45 minutes of wrangling for each tire, and I started worrying about how difficult this would be on the road if needed. As I pumped them back up, the lever on my well-used Serfas floor pump head decided to fracture, and I was stuck.
Took both tires over to Landis on Southern Avenue. They didn’t have any replacement pump heads but got one on order for me. When they pumped up the tires, one had a pinch flat – with all my extended wrangling I can guess why. To be sure I wouldn’t be changing any flats on the tour, I asked him to replace both tubes with thorn resistant ones. Talk about heavy tires now! I also picked up a new set of tire levers, because I had basically destroyed my old ones trying to get those 28s on.
Back in my garage, I quickly determined that, while the rear fender would fit fine, the front fender would not fit with the 28s. The gap beneath the fork union was simply too little. Oh well. Anticipating rooster tails, I left both fenders off.
By Thursday, the weather forecast had pushed the rain out, now predicting a possibility of it on only our last day. I prepared a packing list and spent the day pushing to finish up some USM work items before devoting the evening to preparations. My packing list:
touring cycling shoes
8 pairs of socks
2 cycling jerseys
regular riding gloves
Full riding gloves
Shoe toe covers
Tools & Bicycle Gear
All items were stowed in ziplock or garbage bags, compressed and sealed to minimize volume. These were then distributed to the four bags I had, the 2 small rear panniers, one large handlebar bag, and one trunk velcro’d to the top of the rack. All my stuff fit easily. Placing the 4 bags onto my bathroom scale, I measured about 26 lb total.