Tuesday, April 27, 2010

America By Bicycle Rider Kit

My America By Bicycle Rider Kit arrived yesterday! I haven't smiled at something in my mailbox since the last time I received a hand-written love letter. And with the advent of email, it's been awhile ... or at least more sporadic than in my younger days. I mean ... I don't know how to put this, but I'm kind of a big deal.

And along with the rider kit comes more to-dos. ABB has already received my Registration Form, Waiver Form, Medical History Form and tour fee paid in full. Today, I returned the Information Form and began accessing my Bike Shop Checklist, which is a service check sheet for Maddy's tune-up before this summer's tour.

As I read through the kit, I heard more cash register cha-chings in my head. Some highlights ...

Bicycles: I already purchased an expensive road bike so I'd have to stick with what I've got despite any hypothetical opposition posed by ABB's Rider Kit. Other than the bicycle tune-up I need to schedule, I think I'm ok with the frame and components that I have.

Wheels: "Leave the racing stuff at home for the most part. We know competitive people love to bring their good stuff. Well, you paid good money for those wheels, why not use them? Spinergys, Bontragers and exotic spoke patterns are designed for triathlons and criteriums, not the day after day beating the will receive on the cross country ride. They will not hold up like a good set of standard 32 or 36 spoke triple crossed road wheels plus they are tough to fix on the road ... you'll have your hands full with flats let alone screaming downhill during squirrelly wind conditions, and you will ride in some high wind conditions. So bring something reliable and fixable."
My Trek Madone 5.0 came with Bontrager Race Wheels and Bongtrager Race X Lite, 700x23c tires. If I really wanted to splurge, I'd upgrade to a lighter wheel set, but I'm relieved that ABB is recommending a less flashy, more affordable, and seemingly more comfortable alternative for the cross country tour ("seemingly" because I am still new at this whole cycling thing and really have no idea).

Tires: "A trip like this is really tough on tires. You are not riding in your local riding area where you know every pothole and hazard. You will be riding on roads, especially out west, that have a fair amount of debris that will ruin racing tires. Those expensive tires are made to be light and fast for racing, not touring. They will wear out much faster than a medium- or low-priced Kevlar tire. Forget rolling resistance, you are looking for something that will keep rolling even on grungy road surfaces ... Tires that weight 300 grams are usually better/tougher than ones that weigh 170 grams. And you racing folks should run something bigger than 700x18s or 20s ... The wider tires give you more room to prevent pinch flats and a more comfortable ride than real skinny tires. Most people who ride touring bikes or sport frames run 700x25s to 38s. Some people even put in a Kevlar strip inside the tire to help prevent flats...not a bad idea, but leave the puncture seal at home. That stuff's a mess if it gets into your valve stem or leaks out."
"Low-priced" was a welcome word in that snippet.

Equipment: "Even though we provide mechanical support throughout the ride, you should carry enough tools to fix most common on-the-road problems you may encounter. On an average day, the group may spread out over 30 miles, therefore, mechanical support may not always be there when you need it. You can (and should) be able to handle many routine repairs and adjustments yourself, or with the help of your riding companions. Having the right tools will help keep you rolling ... As a rule of thumb, plan to bring any items you would normally have along on a day ride ..."
See the shopping list.

Other Equipment: "A great time to experiment with new equipment is during training. Try aero bars, clipless pedals, PowerBars, etc. Experiment now! Find out what you like, what works best for you and what doesn't. Fine-tune your riding style and equipment before the start of the tour, you'll cycle more efficiently and with less problems on the road ... if you are using a specific nutritional supplement training food, you will want to bring along an adequate supply for use on the road. If your additional equipment is too heavy to meet the luggage weight limits, you'll want to break it down into a weekly supply. Package it up and leave it with family/friend to mail to you along the route ... you must bring a helmet and wear it anytime you have your leg over the top tube on this tour ... SPD-type cleats on mountain bike or touring shoes are practical and will prevent you from having to carry sandals around all day when you want to get off somewhere and walk around ... ABB highly recommends a triple crank for non-competitive riders and at least a 26 or possibly a 30-rear cog. For you hammers that travel light, I suggest a minimum of a 39/26, but a 39/30 is better. On those long climbing days, you'll be glad to have an extra low gear or two ... Make sure you have and know how to use a cycle computer. It will help you track your mileage and improve your training. You will also need one on the tour to follow the daily cue sheets/directions."
I emailed ABB and they confirmed that the food at the SAG stops along the route will vary a little throughout the trip, but they will always have water, Gatorade and bananas. The rest of the fare will vary with selections of local fruit, peanut butter crackers, nuts and granola. SAG stops are designed to give cyclists a break, fill their bottles and have a snack. While breakfast and dinner are provided on ride days, lunch (and meals on rest days) is (are) the sole responsibility of each tour member. I'm really starting to like Clif Bar energy bars so I may have to consider mailing a bulk supply to a few hotels along the way. I have Shimano SH-M161G Shoes and a CATEYE V3 cycling computer, but I'm a little concerned about the gear set that came with my bicycle. I have a Shimano Ultegra double (53x39) crankset and my lowest gear on my rear cassette is 25.

Shipping Bikes: "For folks who are not local to the ride start, the most popular option is to UPS/FedEx the bike directly to our starting hotel. Many people bring the bike on the airplane as well ... We have lined up a bike shop in Portsmouth who will professionally pack and ship your bike home for a fee. We are stockpiling bike boxes for those who want to package the bicycle themselves for travel on the airplane when you finish."
I prefer to travel as light as possible; I'll be shipping my bicycle.

The rider kit includes a wealth of additional information to help the cyclists prepare, as well as a comprehensive listing of all the hotels along the route, complete with addresses, phone and fax numbers and notations for access to pools, whirlpools, saunas, laundry, WiFi at each hotel.

Additions to the to-do list:
  • Schedule a tune-up at R&A Cycles and have their mechanic sign-off on my Bike Shop Checklist; fax checklist to ABB after it is completed.
  • Replace my Bontrager wheels with 32- or 36-spoke triple-crossed road wheels.
  • Replace my Bontrager tires with medium- or low-priced Kevlar tire (or something "with rubber sidewalls and a Kevlar Belt as added protection from flats that is at least 700x23 or 25") and a Kevlar strip.
  • Talk to my cycling coach and R&A Cycles about my crankset.
  • Consider the supply of Clif Bar energy bars I'd need for the 50-day tour; it would be cheaper to buy them in bulk than purchase them separately at convenience stores along the way.
  • Order an K-9100 Compact AirCaddy container to ship my bicycle to Astoria, Oregon.
  • Expect to pay $35 for an ABB pre-determined bicycle shop in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to professional box my bicycle + shipping charges back to New York City.
  • Begin sorting the necessities to include in my one full-sized, 35-lb maximum suitcase and one small carry-on type bag; laptop computers count as a carry-on ... so, basically, just decide what will come with me in my suitcase ... or purchase a backpack like Helen's.
  • Make copies of the hotel itinerary for pertinent family members and friends. 


Helen Steussy said...

Hence my new backpack for the laptop. It can carry the laptop as well as clothes I shed along the way, extra food, etc....

I'm assuming the backpack will be in the van and we should see it during SAG stops.

I like your to-do list. It reminds me of the things I have have left to do. Thanks.

Katie said...

Helen, what kind of backpack do you have and where did you buy it?

Mark Koltz said...

Catching up on my blog reading ... you folks are so oragnized and prepared. I think the our two bags (including the laptop case or backpack) are not super accessible during the day. My understanding is we get to have a box/bucket to shed things and/or take from.