Friday Group Ride #484

Friday Group Ride #484

Maybe it’s that I lack in imagination or ambition or both. I get emails from cyclists all the time talking about the amazing rides they’ve done or the ones they want to do. Lots of multi-month, cross country rambles. Some circumnavigation of the Alps. New Zealand north to south. So many riders seem to have so much appetite for the big, broad adventure.

I mostly don’t think about trips like that. I could guess that my job and family make the odds of finding the time so slim that I don’t dare crack the door of possibility, at least until the kids are gone and the calendar opens.

A long time ago I set out on a cross-country trip, LA to Boston, with a group of cyclists who were brain tumor survivors. I drove the van. It was instructive. Some days offered up America’s dramatic beauty. Others were cold and rainy and not much fun. The daily challenge of finding beds and showers for the riders kept me on tenterhooks, and in the end we had to bail on the attempt on the West Texas border. Sitting in the van, watching what the riders were going through, how they were reacting to rapidly evolving conditions of the ride, sucked the romance right out of the trip for me.

Don’t get me wrong. It didn’t kill my interest in a ride like that, but it did re-level my expectations for such an endeavor, and it colored my view of the logistical and emotional effort necessary to pull one off.

Now, when I think about the ambitious riding I want to do, it’s all around Wales, up and down the valleys of the middle and north of the country, spidering out from the old family home. Or I think about long trail adventures. Less and less about road rides and cheap hotels.

This week’s Group Ride asks, what is the horizon of your cycling ambition? Have you done something epic? What? Or do you daydream about days and days of riding piling up in front of you? If so, where?

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22 comments

  1. Neil Winkelmann

    Multi-day cycle touring is a transformative experience. I’ve not done too much, but I just loved it.

    This year, my friend and I are planning a 10-day (or possibly more) big loop here in BC and Washington State, right out our front doors. 95% will be gravel. Bike-packing and a simple bivyy for the night for the most part. We contemplated going further afield, but this trip has zero driving and zero flying. I like that.

    I really do dream of endless months on the bike. Not sure it’ll ever happen, though.

    1. Chris Cochrane

      Hi Neil,

      I’d love to hear how your trip goes. I’ve done some sort of multi day (3-5 days) each of the last 4 years and I’m planning this summer’s trip right now. Three of four have been in BC and one in Montana. Some road, some gravel. Two years we stayed in hotels, two we camped. Each has been the absolute highlight of my cycling year. There is something about have no commitments except getting further down the road – to a beer, a meal, and a bed. The final ingredient for me is great friends to share it with.

      My kids are 6 and 9 and longer tours are out of reach for now but there is so much in our backyard to explore that I don’t feel like I need to spend the money and the carbon emissions to ride further afield – not yet anyway.

    2. Neil Winkelmann

      Will do. Our planned loop is roughly as follows:

      Early morning start to get out to Harrison HS, then up the forestry road through Port Douglas and Skookumchuck to Mt Currie. Through Pemberton Meadows and onto the Hurley FSR to Bralorne and Goldbridge. Back around past the hydro scheme to Lillooet. Make our way across to Merritt and pick up the KVR to Grand Forks or thereabouts. Cross into the US, and back through the Cascades towards the coast. Once we exit the mountains, turn north and back to Vancouver. Rough routing has 1,800km total distance. We think 10-days riding, but that might end up crazy ambitious. We’re allowing 2 weeks.

    3. Chris

      Hi Neil,

      Wow, that is some big daily mileage for a mixed surface tour – at least for my legs. I always find those mixed surface rides go slower and are tougher than I expect. For instance, the section of the KVR west of Bankier was closed due to a landslide last time I was there, requiring a detour. The section west of that was deep, soft sand but was adjacent to the road so there was a path of less resistance available, for that section, at least.

      Anyway, it looks awesome. I may steal pieces of it to plan my future trips 😉

      Chris

  2. Scott M.

    This July, I’m road tripping to a wedding in Colorado just south of 14K’ Mount Evans. I hear the paved road to the top is bucket-list certified. After the nuptials, we’re moving up to Estes Park for a few days. There, one can climb ~20 miles to the Continental Divide in Rocky Mountain National Park (and descend the same).

    I started by researching routes on RideWithGPS. Aside from the obvious climbs, I found a route that follows paved roads to obscure trailheads around Estes Park. I would never have discovered this on my own. My Google search for “best rides” however resulted in bike rental companies and tour groups.

    Training for altitude is another matter; there’s no hiding from oxygen deprivation. I’m cool with 20-mile climbs and long days, but my training rides in Northern California max out at about 8,700’. In Estes Park, that’s the base elevation.

  3. scottg.

    Wales is much simpler than across the USA, many of the pubs are Inns,
    so you can drink then stumble upstairs to your room, just don’t knock your head on
    the 18th century size doorways. 1st breakfast in a pub is fun too.
    Make sure you have some French, the Welsh and English speak
    an incomprehensible tongue.

  4. TominAlbany

    I’m fantasizing about a ride to Cooperstown and camping. I don’t have the bike or the gear for it yet. And,it’s only a day ride from my house. The reality is how I’m going to take a weekend of me time and do it, means I’ve got purchases to make and a route to plan that does NOT include U.S. 20, mostly due to the fact that I want to spice it up a touch – and ride by Ommegang brewery for a liquid refreshment or two.

    I’ve done some epic, all-dayers but, have never gone away. It’s getting time.

  5. Peter Rhodes

    2 things mainly:
    1. More 2-4 day bikepacking trips. Stuff that allows me to work, spend time with my wife, etc. But also unwind away from it all while enjoying both cycling and camping.
    2. Bike across the country when I retire in 2034. Probably the northern tier

  6. Michael

    I spent months on my bike touring around when I was young. These days, I am lucky to get a week, but I love those trips. Now I am getting a bike, I guess my retirement bike, that will tour road and dirt. I have plans for mixed routes around the western US and in South America. I am sure I’ll head for Yurp on it too. There is nothing like that feeling in the morning where you are in shape and ready to go and it just seems so natural to head off for another day.

  7. Stephen Barner

    I did a few treks when I was young,, with the longest being a 1,500-mile jaunt that started in a foot of snow and ended on the white sand beaches of the panhandle. It was on that trip that I came to the conclusion that I really didn’t like living alone. Luckily, I was so svelte when I got back home, I was lucky enough to strike up a romantic reltionship with an attractive girl before returning to my normal, dumpy self, and hooked her before the prince returned to his true froglike form.

    The best, and sadly only vacation we’ve taken since was a 1,000-mile tour of New York state on a tandem, back in 1982. We had been together four years, and it proved to be a bonding experience unparalled by any organized and choreographed adventure vacation. We experienced all manner of weather except snow, though there was a day that was mostly below freezing that had us shopping for extra warmth. Without any navigation aids beyond a road map and compass, there was a daily challenge in making the destination for the night, or a workable alternative. Decades later we reminisce about the state park that was at the end of such a rough, steep road that it must have been named for an early horse thief who was hung from a tree at the top of the hill (but the showers there felt like heaven). There was the lesson in topography that we learned the hard way, by riding west to east across the Souther Tier, and the last day, putting the Suntour freewheel back together with a rock and a screwdriver in the dwindling twilight, 30 miles from home, after riding another hundred. You wouldn’t plan a trip to be like that, but it was a memorable mix of type 1 and type 2 fun.

    Sincd then, we’ve been largely content enjoyjng the cyclists’ paradise that is Vermont. We’ll do some more trips on the tandem in a few years, but they will likely involve less gear and fewer nights outside. I really like the idea of checking out new places without lugging around all the camping gear, but not enough to want someone leapfrogging me in a van. I wouldn’t enjoy an experience that left such a large environmental footprint.

  8. Jeff vdD

    While in grad school in the late 80s, a friend and I rode from Cambridge MA down to Falmouth, ferried out to Martha’s Vineyard (and rode), ferried to Nantucket (and rode), ferried to Hyannis, then rode to Truro and finally Provincetown before ferrying back to Cambridge.

    Hmm, maybe it was a ferry trip, not a bike trip!

    Four days, three nights, with two of the nights in youth hostels (MV and Truro), one at the home of friends (Nantucket).

    No record of the total mileage, but playing around with Google Maps and my memory suggests something like this:
    DAY 1: 85 miles to Falmouth, 10 miles from Oak Bluffs to the hostel
    DAY 2: 10 miles back to Oak Bluffs, 4 miles to the house
    DAY 3: 4 miles to the ferry, 40 miles to Truro
    DAY 4: 10 miles to Provincetown, 3 miles back to Cambridge

    Maybe we rode some more miles out on Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, but I’ve got no memory of doing so. For sure, 163 or so miles.

    Turns out, I’ve ridden that distance in a single day three times. Still, the Cape (Cod) Epic was almost 2 decades before I’d come to call myself a cyclist.

    When I started as a roadie in the late 2000s, the call of a cross-country trip appealed to me. Now, I’d only do it if the route was mostly gravel.

    In the spirit of Robot’s original question, a current bucket-list ride is the Oregon Trail Gravel Grinder. While the idea of bike-packing is attractive, I think I’m a lot more partial to someone else carrying my gear from point to point.

    1. Stephen Barner

      Jeff, it will be great to have you back in the ride, even as a driver! I’m no purist when it comes to environmentalism, and a ride like a tough, double-century can go a lot better with support, but I do try to use the bike instead of a car, whenever I can. My approach is, whenever it’s reasonbly possible to do so, I ride the bike. Over time, my definition of “reasonably” has expanded beyond that of most people, but I strive to make traveling by bicycle a practice, not a religion.

  9. ward

    riding long distances is something ive been drawn to several times over the years. in 1977 i got on my bike in paris and eventually
    found my way to the jordon-israel border. a few years later, with my girl friend ,we experienced a lovely few months wandering from
    london to venice. 2018 was marked by riding across the usa, a remarkable journey that i think of and yearn for daily.
    im turning 67 this year and know ill cross this country again.

  10. Aar

    I have two cycling bucket list items. A double century and to ride each mile of the Blue Ridge Parkway. I just need a good 4-6 month training phase to get fit for the double century. Riding from point-to-point for day after day is not my bag, I won’t use paniers or a backpack and I’m past my days of roughing it. So, my BRP goal is a lifetime thing. I’ve already got the easy to access portions and am working on ways to go ride the more distant sections and those that are further from decent hotels. Whatever our goals, I hope we all have a wonderful time achieving them.

    1. Parker

      If you’re not already aware, _Bicycling the Blue Ridge_ by Elizabeth & Charlie Skinner is invaluable for thru riders.

  11. Parker

    I’ve bikepacked 11,000 miles, 8,000 of which were on highways. The three longest tours averaged 2,400 miles apiece. During the first, 1965, I gratefully accepted three rides in vehicles for some of the more challenging 500 miles of an east-west cross-country tour. No vehicular help during the second, 1973, a roundtrip Virginia to Prince Edward Island; or during the third, 1991, a meandering route from Minot, North Dakota to Muncie, Indiana. My wife and I used a tandem for our honeymoon roundtrip on the Erie Canal Trail/Road, 2011.

    Traffic bothers me more now, even that on many parts of the Natchez Trace, 2016. So semi-wilderness, hardpacked railtrails have become more attractive. The most recent tour was 450 miles last June on two such, traveling between them in my car.

    I’m unpleasantly aware of physical tiredness, temperature challenges, and rain more now than when younger. And am generally less enthusiastic than then. Besides the ailments of aging, I expect that’s because the aspect of meeting a challenge is less relevant now. And because the joy of riding is more important, something more easily found in the almost deserted rural roads close to where I live. To borrow an idea from Stephen Barner, I try to make bikepacking a practice, not a religion.

    That said, the last tour was enjoyable overall. On balance, I like the narrow focus on pedaling and then on camping; and generally on that relatively spartan way of living for a limited period of time. I’ll do more tours. Most likely, none longer than two weeks.

  12. Matt C

    My new gravel bike is equipped with all the mounts for panniers/racks, so I’m stoked to FINALLY uncork that bucket list and start doing some road touring THIS YEAR. I’ll start with a short 3 day trip south to San Diego (I live in the CA Central coast) and use that to refine my gear. Then Next year I will load my bike and gear on a bus or train and go north to the border and ride Hwy 1 south to Mexico. THEN (after I retire in 3 years) I want the full Monty: Across the USA. This is the stuff of dreams!

  13. Nathan

    Robot, you should definitely come to Wales. There’s a route called the Llon Las Cymru (Length of Wales) from Cardiff to Holyhead that I’m hoping to do sometime. The scenery looks stunning.

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