Friday, November 23, 2018

Training Ride for Winter 2019 Tour

Lots of twists and turns in my life since my last post back in July.  We've decided to move to a different place across town, and the big plans for the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route are likely on permanent standby.  It seems Jodi has little enthusiasm for it, but perhaps a bigger factor is Patchy.  I haven't done a lot of training, but his temperament is SO different from Django, our previous touring dog.  Patchy is full-on ADHD cattle dog psycho.  I really don't know if he can reasonably tolerate having to sit in a trailer or trot/walk along side a slow moving trike.  Whenever we're out on a walk, he's moving constantly, usually at high speed, and in every direction at once!  So I don't know if he or we have what it takes to get him into trike touring. So...

Interim Plan B: Ride to Peter's house!

I've done this ride in a different and shorter configuration,  starting from our old home in Tehachapi. and, of course, I've pedaled through Death Valley on a number of tours.  This version takes in Death Valley and the Mojave National Preserve as a way of working south, thus avoiding some more developed, less attractive riding.  This is remote, dry, difficult riding with mega-grades that go on forever--not for the faint of heart.  It's critical, however, to do the ride in the cooler months: Late Nov. through early March is about right for me.  Some folks handle hot riding better, but this route puts you sometimes over 60 miles between services.  Cool weather is safer.  The ride can be done in the middle of winter without too much problem, although some of the nights will likely be below freezing in the early northern part.  My general plan is to ride when the highs in Death Valley and Needles are no more than low to mid 70's.  Because we are in the throes of moving, I likely won't launch until late January/early February.

Since I've damaged my finger rock climbing, I'm more motivated to train on the bike, and today's effort is a perfect outing to harden up my brain and legs for a big tour.

Buttermilk Training Ride 2.0

This gains a little over 2,100 ft. in 20 miles round trip.  I've taken to loading up the trailer with 30+ lbs. as a touring load, and setting off for the crank.  This is the medicine the doctor ordered.  The grade is relentless, long, and you can tack on as much gain as you want with sections of 9 to 10%.  No wonder it felt hard!  This version ends at a trail head with a good restroom, so it's a natural turn around.  I'll be tackling this beast regularly to toughen me up.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Quick Test Ride and Patchy Run

Took the retooled Phatty Trike out for a quick run on a dirt track along one of our several canals.  Patchy ran off leash like the lunatic he is.  I got to feel out the trike changes.  Flat, pretty smooth riding meant no challenges to speak of, but I noticed that when the going got rough, the chain would catch a little on the tire knobbies when in the lowest cassette gear--not bad, but noticeable.  I'll have to add a couple of washers, which will likely necessitate an even longer bolt through the idler.  Fortunately, I saw 1/2 in. longer bolts in the same style at the hardware store, so it's all doable. 

The ride was a little rough with no weight on the rear wheel, and I'm running somewhat higher PSI in front.  Gotta get out with a full load and trailer again--not to mention climbing--to really put the beast through its paces.


Monday, July 30, 2018

Mega Trike Mods -- Give Me Dirt

The main hardware finally arrived for the mega trike makeover extravaganza.  I've had the frame extensions for a while, but the new wheels, cassettes (11/36) only arrived recently.  Also, I've been dealing with some issues regarding tubes on my Expedition.  It turns out I've been running too-low pressure, and the tire/tubes have been slipping, pinching the valve stem.  I couldn't let out pressure, even after removing the valve!  Slime and severe pinch kept the air in the tube.  Eventually I wiggled it out and replaced it.  I'll have to watch the pressure in the future, and I'll probably be going with schreader tubes with steel threaded stems, which are superior on several levels.

The damage:

But these were the main event--New "Cliffhanger" 36 spoke wheels from Velocity care of Dana at Bent Up Cycles.

Patchy approves!

Here is my rear wheel with a fat 2.7" wide Kenda ready to go.

Next, it was off to disassemble and remake the Expedition and Road.  I spent a few hours on each trike to make the transition--removing parts, adding parts, measuring and fitting new chains, etc.  I find great enjoyment and satisfaction in such work, especially when the results are so dramatic.  The conversion was pretty straight forward.  Because the new tire was so PHAT, I had to bump out the idler under the seat so that the chain would not rub on the knobs when in lowest gear.  This necessitated a new, longer bolt and a little stack of washers.  It now clears nicely and shifts like a dream.

Fine machining for a tight fit--go Utah Trikes!

New beastie installed: 

New, longer bolt:

Washer stack to realign chain run.  With so much chain, it's pretty easy to move and not affect shifting in any way:

The original rack fits, too, although we may get new, beefier models for the actual tour.  Our current racks are aluminum, and cro-moly might be recommended for the remote, tough riding we'll be facing.  New racks will run about $140 each, however.  Ugh.

The Road got the same treatment, although with narrower tire.  I think we can go 2.1" or 2.3".  The tire installed was on my Expedition and measures 1.95".  One wrinkle in the Road conversion was the different frame design.  To accept the larger wheel and avoid the chain rubbing on the stay, a floating idler had to be installed.  This was a total "plug-and-play" kit that you can purchase from Utah Trikes at the time you get the frame extension.  Remember, this is ONLY needed if you are converting a Catrike Road.  The Expedition works without it.  What a slick kit!

Here are the rigs--phat and ready to ride:

Current conditions are not great where we live--really hot, like 100 deg. F. every day--and very smoky from fires, well, everywhere--so I haven't taken the Expedition out for much but up and down the street to check shifting.  I'll have to do an uber-dawn patrol to test drive the new configuration, but bumping through some potholes gave me great anticipation for the future.  Jodi is quite happy with her conversion, too.  One step closer to the Great Divide.

Oh, and the maps came, too!  It turns out Adventure Cycling has mapped the Divide starting in Jasper, Alberta, the starting point for our own, mostly paved Rockies tour in 2012.  I don't think we'll ride this, but I am leaning towards starting in Banff.  Canada is just so bitchin', albeit expensive.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

BOB Mods for Poochie

What you see above are some tests I ran to see how I might connect some closed cell foam sections to serve as a liner for the BOB trailer.  Patchy will need some protection from the steel mesh of the base, not to mention debris, dirt and dust from the road.  I researched having a custom liner built, but the $400 tag was too rich for this hound--and Patchy can't earn any scratch on his own.  So I suspected some Gorilla Tape might be useful.  With only the adhesive to hold the two pieces, I pulled until failure.  Impressive grip.  But I needed to engineer a right angle connection where the sides would meet the base. Enter a man's two favorite things:  Duct tape AND zip ties.  Ah, the possibilities.  With a layer of Gorilla Tape, a punch, and some ties, I figured I could make a pretty tough connection.  I was right.  Below are some pics of the process.  Jodi had the idea of clips to hold the sides on, although I might go with zip ties there, too.  We'll see how it holds up during the training runs.

Torn connection is with zip tie alone.  Add the tape = bomber.

The finished product.  Two zippered pockets will be attached on either side of the wheel to fully enclose "the chariot."  I'll need to configure some tie-downs for Patchy.  We're fairly certain he's too ADHD to simply sit on his own as we go flying down the road.

In other news, I've received the frame extensions from Utah Trikes and ordered a new wheel for Jodi's Catrike Road.  On considering the width of the tire I've purchased for my Expedition (2.7 in.), I realized that my existing rim would not do the trick.  So I added an extra wheel to that order from the awesome recumbent shop Bent Up Cycles.  Dana, the owner, has been my main drug--er--bike dealer since I first got into recumbents.  He also builds top-notch, high performance carbon fiber recumbents, too.  Thanks, Dana!  I'm gonna need cassettes and, almost certainly, new racks for both trikes.  Prep for this trek is not coming cheap.  Thank goodness Jodi is working.  These will be some killer off-road Catrikes when we're done.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Extended Training Ride

Took the hound and the Expedition back up to the training area, determined this time to gain some more altitude.  I was encouraged.  We hit the road early and were riding by about 6:30AM, 30+ pounds in the panniers, a couple of tents lashed to the BOB.  I climbed steadily and pulled through one extended patch of soft sand, but only for a hundred yards or so, then it was back in the saddle and cranking.  This is a generally rough track and so provides a steady challenge.  I knew from my previous outing that the climbing was steep, but that gentle graph above doesn't do the riding justice.  Except for a few early patches, most of the riding is 9% or better, the last mile about 10% or better.  Ugh!  Ugh!  However, with the ultra-low gearing of the Schlumpf Mtn. Drive, I was able to keep cranking and make steady progress.  I made it to the turn-around point in an hour and fifteen minutes with what amounted to a touring load--or at least pretty close to it.  I could see having another ten pounds or so, especially when hauling extra water.  If I can gain over 1,000 ft. in just over an hour, the Continental Divide is in trouble, that's all I'm saying. 

Only about 400 ft. or so of gain beyond my turnaround point is a very nice camping spot next to a creek, and the road along that stretch is good, unlike the initial climb.  On the menu then is an overnight, although I may wait until it cools off so I can start later in the day.  I could make it pretty easily now, but that would mean arriving in camp at about 8AM, so an afternoon start, camp, and morning run back down makes more sense.  Lovely country up there.

Patchy, of course, was a maniac, covering more than twice my distance and twice my speed.  What a hound.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

BOB Mods

After catching a glimpse of this on the net somewhere, I decided to give it a try--a DIY kick-stand for the BOB.  When BOB is off the bike/trike, it tilts and waggles on its single wheel.  This will help with loading/unloading and training Patchy.  We've already had him jump in and out a couple of times.  Let's just say he's VERY food motivated.  This may not stay on for the tour, but for now, it seems handy.  Construction and installation couldn't be easier.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Gear Testing: Riding with BOB

Today was a real test of the gear.  I'd been reading about using the BOB trailer for hauling poochie,  and I found many examples online, the best of which was from Dog Packing.  Here's photo from the article:

I know.  Deadly cute, right?  Anyway, that's a 45 lb. border collie, and the author takes that pup everywhere, including Euro-adventure rides.  Patchy is pretty much ADHD, so I think we'll probably have to tie him in because he'd rather run than breathe, but I think we could make this work.  The bucket is a padded, custom-made job by pro bike pack gear fabricators Porcelain Rocket in Canada, eh.  I've go an inquiry to them about cost, but I think I could put one together with blue closed-cell foam and zip ties.  I'm a-thinkin' on it.

So I took the trailer and checked out how I could lash gear to the sides.  With our other trailer, a Cycletote of great utility, we'd always strap stuff in the back, and sometimes throw in a bag of water or a sixer of Adult Malt Beverage Recovery Drink. 

Patchy in the Cycletote:

With the BOB, we'd have to leave virtually all of the floor space open to Patchy, but the sides have perfect lashing points.  Voila!

Those bags didn't budge during the whole test ride, which included some pretty bouncy downhill action.  I just have to make sure the load is balanced, and I'm golden.  There are some big benefits if we can make the BOB work.  First, it can save me over TEN lbs.  No small thing.  Second, and maybe just as important, the BOB follows directly behind the drive wheel so I can pick the smoothest track.  Third, there is only one wheel--fewer chances to go flat and less drag on the road, especially rocky terrain.  

On the ride, I put a little over 30 lbs. in the panniers, hooked up the trailer and hit the road, the same rough, sandy track in my previous post.  I was MOST gratified at the greater traction and climbing ability of the trike, even with the added drag of the trailer.  Certainly, I was in my lowest range, but I only had to pull the trike once rather than push two or three times on my previous run.  This time around, I attached a long couple of slings to the front and tried pulling--brilliant!  Quite easy and much better for my back.  I think to keep the steering in line, I'll try a couple of bungee cords from the steering controls to the frame to hold everything straight.  Patchy was running down bunnies like a maniac, so I stopped once to give him water before turning around.  About 40 minutes of moderately hard effort gained me over 530 ft. on a this steep dirt and sandy track.  That may not sound like a lot, but it makes me very excited.  I could easily envision an 2,000 to 3,000 ft. climb at the walking pace I was averaging without killing myself, and that's what's going to be required on the GDMBR.  This is a milestone day, if you ask me.  Booyah.  More tests and training to come.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Another Road Less Traveled--Especially by Trike

In my quest to find suitable dirt roads for training to tackle the Great Divide Mtn. Bike Route in the Bishop area, I left the house before 6AM today and drove west into the Sierra foothills and massive bajadas.  I had a feeling about a particular road being less sandy while offering a good climb.  I was not disappointed.  Patchy wasn't either.  It took a few minutes to get up and rolling once we got to the start.

Patchy wears the astro-goggles to save his eyes.  One sticker in the eye ball from chasing lizards is enough, thank you.  We set off into the cool morning of a day forecast to break 100 deg. F. in the valley, but this is high desert country so there is a window of a few hours in the AM when aerobic exercise can be quite pleasant.  As I should have known, even this high, there was sand, but I only had to push briefly a couple of times.  In the back of my mind was the nagging truth that I was not towing the trailer and I only had twenty pounds of weights, some doggie water, a wind breaker, a cell phone, car keys, and a cliff bar as baggage beyond the standard minimal tire repair gear.  Still, I was climbing!

From what I can tell from obsessive reading, the surface of this road was a bit rough compared to most of the GDMBR standards, and by lowering the PSI in the rear tire, I seemed to get a little more traction.  It was slow going, for sure, although it wouldn't have been fast on a bike, either.  The ascent was steady and, in some places, steep.  Patch was mostly not to be seen as he ran crazily back and forth punishing the local lizard and chipmunk population.  On serious days and big rides, Patchy will be tethered to slow him down.  Practice runs at home are starting to show promise.  He doesn't seem to mind the tether, and we got him to ride in the trailer a little.  We now have the trailer parked in the living room and feed Patch treats in it.  Remember, Pup.  The trailer means FUN!  He's a wilful, ADHD doggie, however, so it's going to take some time.

As I struggled with the dirt surfaces at times, I realized that while the physical demands of the GDMBR will be extreme, perhaps the greatest challenge will be emotional and spiritual.  I'll have to find this happy place that deals with the struggle in a balanced way.  Jodi wondered if we should bring a marriage counselor along with us!  Meditating on what this extended effort will require helped me shift perspectives as I cranked up the grade.  While slow, there was no denying the benefits.  Total quiet save for the crunch of tires, mountains raising about me and breath taking grandeur, and virtually no traffic.  Only one slow-moving V-dub camper puttered by.

I did not have a specific destination in mind for today, but when I decided it was time to turn around, I found we had gained quite a bit of altitude, and I could not make out the truck in the hazy distance below.  I watered up Patchy, turned the Expedition around, let a little air out of the front fatties, and pushed off.  Because of the chunky nature of the most of the road, the descent was not fast, but it was far more enjoyable than I'd imagined, navigating the rocks and ruts.  When the path smoothed out, I eased off the brakes and flew down the mountain, the last bit in wooping joy as Patchy chased a rabbit and sprinted along my side in wild happiness.  I did a little power slide through the last corner and climbed the easy though sandy grade back to the truck.  Success!  Today's ride was valuable in its own right, and I'll continue to do these wee cranks for what they have to offer, but I finished with some cautious optimism for the bigger project.  Maybe we can do this....

I've ordered the frame extensions and some phat tires and tubes.  Installation and commentary on those will come soon.  Keep the faith, the pedals, and the pups turning.

Some more pics and a vid from today:


Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Into the House of the Devil

I tackled another dirt road not far from our house--Casa Diablo.  In the somewhat enhanced photo above, Casa Diablo Mtn. is in the backgound, thousands of feet above.  This was a test run, about an hour out to my turn-around point.  I haven't recalibrated  the cyclometer, so no mileage or elevation numbers.  I wanted to do 1,000 ft. of gain but left the altimeter at home--doh.  I definitely climbed less than that, probably around 300 ft. or so.  In my online mapping, I envision this as one part of a big training loop:

Heading clockwise, after an initial ramp up to about 8%, the angle backs way off.  This would an an ideal training ground but for one issue:  Sand.  Again.  On the plus side, it's definitely not as deep as I encounter on the west side of the valley, but it was a clear and present drag on the proceedings.  I need to explore a counter-clockwise version, which would allow descending of the sandy stretches.  In the estimated couple of miles of gentle climbing I encountered a big range of surfaces.

This sandy stretch was deceiving.  It appeared flat, but I was climbing gently.  Once I turned around, the going was MUCH easier.  The idea of hauling a trailer up this surface was daunting.  I still need some bigger tires for the trailer, so I'll get a chance to check it out. 

Here's a short video from the turn-around point:

So the journey continues.  I really need to find more representative road surfaces.  I think full-on sand as I keep encountering in the Bishop area is quite rare on the GDMBR.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Back into the sand

Took the Expedition out to the sandy track but this time added 20 lbs. to the panniers to see what difference it would make.  Not much.  Sand is and will remain a killer.  When the road was normal, reasonably hard dirt?  Enjoyable, easy climbing.  But with the least bit of sand, I would start to struggle.  Add a little more sand or a slight grade or steepening?  Doom.    It was super fun coming down hill, however.  With a trailer and heavier loads? Fugetaboutit. So I'll need to research more east side roads to find suitable training opportunities.  They're out there.  Temps are set to climb here for a bit, so things will be heating up.  Ugh.  Me no like summer.  Except evenings by the creek with a beer.  Those are really nice.  Heh.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Internet Info and Inspiration

I need to back off a little on my obsessive reading and viewing regarding the GDMBR.  It's still a long way off.  I'll be purchasing the updated book, and the maps will wait until sometime next year.  Mostly what I need to do is update Jodi's trike, the trailer, and do more training rides.  But I did come across a couple of resources that may help other folks considering the route.  Mostly I've been learning about what to avoid--New Mexico dirt roads after the rain!  We'll have to be weather hawks to keep a very tight perspective on what is coming our way.  With the trikes and a trailer, we'd be absolutely stopped dead by the mud featured in the film by the wonderful English woman on her "megamoon," a cute term for an "extreme" honeymoon.  The Crazy Guy on a Bike journal gave me a good look at road surfaces et al.  It seems clear to me now that the route with proper workarounds and planning and a willingness to suffer can be done on trikes with a dog.  We'll see how the training progresses.

From Crazy Guy:

A great short film, this is notable in that the couple not only started from the south, but finished in Banff in October!  Burrrrr....:

Keep the adventure cookin'.

Monday, June 4, 2018

A Triker's Quest for the Great Divide

This is my first post in a series about experimentation and testing in hopes of riding the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route (GDMBR) on Catrikes--with our new dog, Patch.  Below is a rough map of the route.  Since back in 2012 we pedaled with trikes from Jasper, Alberta, to the Mexico border, we'll probably start from the US border and likely end the tour in Silver City, New Mexico.  The ride from there to the border is not interesting, and there's an added expense of getting picked up and carted back to Silver City for the U Haul drive home.

The mighty Heidi Domeisen led the way over a dozen years ago and showed us all that it could be done on a trike: Eat, Sleep, and Ride the Divide.  That first step, the first attempt and success are huge.  We know it can be done.  Of course, our plan would be to increase the difficulty.  A long trip without our new dog would never happen, so I need to do  A LOT of experimenting and practice to see what's possible.  Can we pull this off?  I'd be responsible for pulling the trailer.  Over 2,000 miles of dirt and gravel, up and over the Divide multiple times?  Here's the mutt who will add to our challenge:

He's just over a year old and crazy as a loon, just nutz about running and chasing EVERYTHING.  He's got huge energy, so the main problem with Patchy will be holding him back.  The mileage will be no problem for him.  Of course, we'll have to carry food and water to keep him fit and happy, and I'll have to haul him at times--30 lbs. more.  But that will be on flats and downhills.  More stuff to haul.

In 2012, our route was going to be all paved, but we ended up crossing a couple of passes on dirt/gravel roads, one of which is actually on the GDMBR.  These were pretty good surfaces, and we very much enjoyed the experience--quiet, remote, virtually no traffic.

Here's a photo from Montana on the stretch that carried us from Bozeman to the Yellowstone River.  The hound was our beloved Django.  We lost him Feb. 2017.  Oh, did we love that dog:

Would it be possible to do the whole thing with trikes and a pup?  I've already started working on trike modifications to make dirt travel more reasonable.  Here's a pic of the Catrike Expedition with phat tires--2.25" on front, a 1.95" knobby on the rear:

When I add some weight to the rear wheel and keep the PSI on the low side, I can climb and roll with pleasant results.  I've found that--of course--sand is brutal.  Around our new home in Bishop, CA, many of the tracks have lots of granite sand, which makes progress almost impossible without balloon tires.  Here's a typical example:

Progress on this kind of surface can be brutal.  Fortunately, there doesn't seem to be much sand on the GDMBR.  The big risk will be mud on the route through New Mexico, and that can make progress almost impossible for everyone.  Trikes absolutely wouldn't make it, but there are paved workarounds.

Today, I drove to the east side of the valley where I knew there would be some roads without the sand.  I put 20 lbs. of weights in the panniers and set of to see what was what:

I was pleasantly surprised by how comfortable the riding was.  I tried one up hill that was too loose and steep, and it shut me down completely.  Pushing the trike was not appealing, and that is something I need to work on.  On the GDMBR we will no doubt face such moments.  How do I push/pull a loaded trike AND a trailer?  If the sections are short, I could de-couple the rig and handle each one separately.  On longer stretches?  My heart withers at the prospect.  I'm thinking that if we get on this tour, it will be the most difficult adventure of my life, not least because I'll be 57, and my wife, Jodi, will be 66.  It will be a true "sufferfest"--credit to the great Cedar Wright and Alex Honnold.

Patchy found a doggie heaven on the ride--jack rabbits everywhere!  He really worried me because of how hard he was running, sprinting like mad time and again.  We were out for less than an hour, which was plenty.  Get a load of this water break:

So Patchy and I dipped our toes into the dirty, dusty world of off-pavement trike touring today.  He needs to be trained to trot alongside while tethered.  There's no way he can go off leash except in limited doses and in the right locales.  He has little concept of pacing, and we think he's one of those dogs who would run himself to death.  Not on our watch.  Stay tuned for more training runs, gear modifications, and other updates!