Sunday, January 27, 2008

Pedal quickly. Savor the view. Ride slowly.

Another haiku-like title--How long will I be able to keep this up?

It seems a good mantra for bicycle touring. The "Pedal Quickly" part is about keeping up a fast cadence, which means that one uses lower gears and puts less strain on the joints, strain being something to avoid over the long term.

Savor the view. Ride slowly. These go together. One of the things I noticed during our travels through New Zealand when Ellen and I lived here was that there was a distinct difference in experience between touring by bile and touring by car or campervan. By car, you cover more distance and "see" more over a given time, but when traveling by bicycle it seems that you sense more. On the bike the environment is more noticed, you have the smells and the sounds that you miss in a car.

Traveling slowly you can look at the countryside and focus on what you are looking at without running off the road (most of the time). You can just stop easily to look at something that catches you attention. (On New Zealand chip-seal roads this happens automatically if you stop pedaling). You interact more directly with the surroundings, whether it is the herd of cows that takes an interest in you and follows as you ride by, the person working in his yards who greets you and you stop for a chat, or the shorn sheep coming out of a roadside shed, which leads you to stop and get invited to watch a shearing shed in action.

Ride Slowly.

Of course, traveling slowly can have a different meaning. The other day, I decided that I had put together pretty much all I needed for touring, except food, so it was time for a test ride.

It seemed that a good first test would be the short ride to Ostend from Rocky Bay as would mean two hills in each direction. So, I packed up the trailer, which seemed to have more stuff on it than I expected, and headed off.

All I can say is that if the ride was any indication of the speed I will be capable of on the my way south, it will take me two months to reach Wellington. It took 45 minutes to do 9 km round-trip, mostly in my lowest gear.

Based on my trailer-less riding in the last few days, I didn't think that I was in poor shape for Waiheke hills (I haven't tried Hill Road though). The bike was heavy going up and one had to be really careful going down as any wobbles were magnified and it felt like the tail was wagging the dog.

Just like last time, it seemed that some trimming was in order. I carefully went through all that I had and I think that I was able to drop at least 10 pounds. I removed the extra tools I'd brought along to assemble the bike that were above and beyond the normal tool kit. I also removed a few clothes and decided to leave my backpack behind. It was empty and just strapped on top. The bag was certainly smaller.

The next test will be the real thing--starting Monday

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