The Bacchetta Giro 20 Bicycle, Arkel Panniers, and Stuff Sacks.

Rick-on-the-roadThis was my first long distance self-supported tour (3,600 miles @ 65 miles per day & 1 day per week rest) on a recumbent; I would never again do another long distance ride on an upright bicycle. There are a few reasons for my comment:

  • At the end of the day (sometimes 100+ mile days) my hands, wrists, shoulders, back, neck, and butt felt great.
  • My relaxed field of view tended to be straight out in front of me when riding a recumbent rather that down toward the ground. When going up hills I was more relaxed and comfortable looking around and enjoying the scenery.
  • Special biking clothing such as padded shorts/pants or bicycling shirts were not needed. I was able to wear my everyday summer or cool weather clothing.
  • When riding into the wind I felt it required less effort to overcome the wind resistance.
  • This bike was so comfortable that dosing off in the warm afternoon sun was a real concern, particularly after eating lunch. True fact!
  • Disclaimer: This isn’t a knock on how anybody else chooses to ride or what they choose to wear. For me, a recumbent solved all of the physical issues I had previously experienced doing long distance bicycle riding.

For anyone considering a similar bicycle, bicycle accesories, or panniers, here are a few thoughts:

Bacchetta Giro 20 Bicycle

  • The Giro 20 has a small, 20″, front wheel. When compared with the 26″ model I felt it was easier to put my foot down when stopping, easier to get my foot back on the pedal when starting, and didn’t seem so twitching when going slow.
  • Velogenesis seat support clamps; before the tour started one of the stock ring clips that hold the seat support tube in place came loose, so I installed these clamps for ‘preventative measures’.
  • Shimano Deore 26/36/48 front chain ring; I don’t think I would have made it up some of the hills, fully loaded, with the stock 30/42/52 gearing.
  • The chain showed excessive stretch at the 2,200 mile point. Soooo, the chain and cassette were replaced.
  • Bachetta accessory kick stand; good choice! There was no need to find a leaning post when stopping on the road. One thing to note: I used a Greenfield KS2 black kick stand, which was longer than the silver model. The longer stand kept the bicycle more upright and more stable when panniers were loaded on only one side.
  • Bacchetta accessory fenders; another good choice. They minimized muddy rooster tails up my back and on my equipment as well as eliminating rocks flying up and about.
  • Velocity AeroHeat Rims; I was concerned about carrying all of the weight on a 32 spoke rear rim so I built up a 36 spoke rim which performed as expected. Was this a good investment? I don’t know. It was probably a good preventive measure, and I would do it again.
  • Schwalbe Marathon Tires; I spent the extra money on these 1.5″ tires. I had two flats on the road. Where they worth the extra money? Again, I don’t know.
  • Topeak Turbo Mountain Morph pump; a great investment. This was used multiple times for flats and topping off. The included air pressure gauge was great.
  • Planet Bike Blinky 5 Tail Light; good purchase. At night it was visible for quite a distance and the batteries (AAA) last a long time.
  • Planet Bike 2 Watt Blaze Headlight; the light was sufficiently bright and the batteries (AA) lasted an adequate amount of time. But, the mounting bracket has a plastic ‘click stop’ size adjuster which would loosen up on rough roads. I had to wrap electrical tape around it to keep it in place.
  • Edge 800; this was a gift from my son. Wow, was this a nice addition. The battery would last about 10 hours, and I tended to leave it on from start to stop each day. On really long days I needed to supplement the power with a Goal Zero battery pack. One note about the mounting bracket, which uses O-Rings to hold it in place. My deteriorated and one broke about the second week of the trip. Sooooo, I took nylon cord and tied the bracket to the ‘T’ and all worked well. I would not travel with the O-Rings, again.
  • ADEM headrest; I didn’t always lean my head back against the head rest, but it sure was nice to do on long stretches of road or going up hills.

Arkel RT-40 & RT-60 Panniers

  • These panniers were very durable and the zippers worked flawlessly. I enjoyed the ‘many’ pockets and storage compartments. After a week on the rode ‘stuff’ was easy to find and put away.
  • I did not take the rain covers. Instead, I segmented my ‘stuff’ into lightweight color coded waterproof ‘stuff’ sacks from REI. This made it easy to find what I was after. The panniers seemed to be fairly waster resistant (not proof). The Arkel rain covers weighed about the same as the ‘stuff’ sacks.
  • The bags had sufficient room for everything, including tent, cooking equipment, and sleeping bag.
  • Note: Before the trip I used ‘ZipLoc bags’, or similar items, to segregate my ‘stuff’. Unfortunately, these bags were not zipper proof, thus my move to the more substantial ‘stuff’ sacks.

I used various sizes and colors of Sea To Summit Lightweight Dry Sacks to segregate all of my ‘stuff’. This kept everything dry, easy to find, and allowed me to quickly remove what I wanted. Unfortunately, you have to go to an REI store to select the colors, as online ordering does not offer that option. The dry sacks ended up weighing about what the pannier rain covers weighed, so that was a wash. I would definitely use these dry sacks again.

An Overview Map of the Ride

cross-country-map

Our planning started with a set of Northern Tier Maps from ACA. We modified the routes based on things we wanted to do or see. We also modified the route during the ride based on road conditions or suggestions from the ‘locals’.

We traveled all different types of roads: interstates, 2 & 4 lane highways, and county roads. The only place we might do it differently would be in western and central Oregon/Washington because of the significant amount of logging chips on the road and the constant parade of semi-trucks on the secondary roads.

Only 1 of the 4 flats occurred on the interstate; the other 3 were on secondary roads. Debris seemed to be on all roads that were heavily traveled by semis, regardless of whether it was a two or four lane highway.

By far the worst road conditions we encountered were within city limits. It seemed to follow a pattern: Welcome to . . . and the poor roads started, Thank You for visiting . . . . . and the roads improved. At least you can quickly make it through small towns, but the larger towns? Oh, my goodness.

Planning and Thoughts on Safety

Planning The Ride

  • We started our planning with American Cycling Association maps for the Northern Tier. These maps are well thought out and have a lot of detail information in them.
  • We quickly realized that there were some deviations that we wanted to make, so I picked up AAA maps for each state and province, mapped out our ride, then cut the maps down so that they contained only our biking route.
  • At this point I found a website, Ride With GPS Mapping, where I could lay out our ride for each day. We were looking to average about 65 miles a day so this provided a starting point. From there I could look at the amount of climbing, towns along the way, scenic attractions, and overnight locations. Then I finalized each day on the mapping program. We changed the route several time while on the ride, and I was able to go into Ride With GPS, map the changes, and see the impact on our ride. I am using this same method to plan the North to Alaska ride for next summer. The website is super/duper.
  • We used the GPS on our cellphones to find specific locations when we were in a given town. This worked very well.
  • I kept track of the specifics for each day on my Garmin Edge 800, and uploaded the data as frequently as possible.
  • Frequently people made suggestions about different roads to take. We learned quickly that a short detour over good road to a car driver can be an out of the way route with roller coaster hills. We also learned that a Tuesday evening bicyclist may consider his route through the country to be a nice ‘scenic’ way to go, but again, it may not be the best way for a tired loaded biker trying to reach the next town to pedal. Let the listener beware.

Thoughts On Safety

  • We rode on all types of roads: interstates, US 2 & 4 lane highways, state 2 & 4 lane highways, county roads, and through cities. Some roads had nice wide margins, some had narrow or no margins, and a few had rumble strips in the middle of the margin making it difficult to avoid debris.
  • Regarding entrance/exit ramps on interstates: When riding interstates or limited access highways we would ride up the exit ramp until we could quickly cut directly across, or ride as far beside the entrance ramp as necessary to ensure good visibility before cutting across. We rode on some very busy highways but always felt comfortable navigating the ramps.
  • When riding on roads with very narrow margins I tended to ride to the left of the edge markings, rather than try to stay on the small edge to the right which might be broken and crumbling. I felt that a car had a better chance of ‘noticing’ me and not side swiping me.
  • Overall, I considered my bike a moving vehicle and preferred to operate it as such.
  • I always made sure to use hand signals when making turns, and made left and right hand turns from the appropriate lanes of traffic.
  • I never rode up beside a line of traffic stopped at a stop sign/light, rather I always stopped behind the last car in line and moved forward as appropriate. I felt this would minimize the chance of someone making an unexpected right turn into me after I had ridden up beside them.
  • I always accelerated as quickly as possible through intersections to minimize becoming an obstacle.
  • I always made wide sweeping turns at an intersection, rather than short cutting the corner. This allowed cars to easily make a turn on my left side. Early in my riding career I short cut a corner and a car went around me on the right then almost side swiped me; no accident, but a learning opportunity.
  • I stayed off of sidewalks.
  • I was the most nervous riding bike paths through large cities and tended to avoid them when ever possible. Cars go one direction and most moves can be anticipated. On the bike paths there were runners, skaters, and bikers going all different speeds and directions, getting on the path and turning off the path without warning, cutting in and out from sidewalks, and running stops signs and lights. In my case, I felt far safer riding my bicycle through Toronto, Montreal, or other large city on the streets rather than on the bike paths.
  • I also tended to be nervous in bike lanes because of cars pulling into traffic or making right turns to a side street. Drivers tend to look for movement in the lane of traffic where cars are moving, not a small lane next to the curb where their vision may be blocked by parked cars.
  • I personally believe that no one will hit me on purpose. That being said, an accident will happen in the blink of an eye through someone’s inattentiveness: mine or someone else’s. I want to be obvious to automobile drivers not obnoxious to them.
  • Note: Everyone has their own comfort level when riding on the road in traffic. What is my comfort level may be terrifying for someone else. Each person needs to find their own stride when out on the road.