Thursday, November 20, 2008

So far, so good

Well, it's been about 3-weeks since I got my trike, and I've been using it to commute to work every day, and try to get in a long or tough ride on the weekends, too. I've been out to Kensington a few times (approx 26 mi round trip with some fairly steep/challenging hill-climbing work), plus a trip up to the Chabot Space & Science Center, which is a *very* challenging hill climb up Castle Dr. (a steep, winding residential street) which required a dozen rest stops along the way. I found I couldn't ride on leaves or sand while going up steeps hills, as the drive tire would slip. My trike dealer, Steve, suggested a wider set of tires for the tour, and this now seems like good advice. I was worried about a slightly painful knee condition I had before I began training on the new cycle, but it thankfully seems to have disappeared rather than get worse, as I feared it might. I hope it stays that way. I had my first "almost-got-run-over" incident, where a woman coming out of a parking lot, yabbering on her cell phone, had to jam on her brakes stopping inches away before she finally noticed me. I'm really going to have to keep a close watch out for these situations, and take nothing for granted. My leg muscles still get a bit stressed after the longer rides, but are slowly getting stronger. I didn't have to stop to let them recover from failure, as I did on my first out-and-return to Kensington, so there's some progress happening here, I think. -- Well, here's an odd twist to my schedule: my office at the University of California's Office of the President has decided to postpone layoff notifications until February, but instead of having to then wait 60 days to the actual layoff, they will *give* those being released that time to do job searching, while still getting paid(!) So, the actual layoff date will be in early May, which is when I would then retire. Instead of job searching, I would do the final preps for the trip, and take off as scheduled (I hope) sometime in late Feb/early Mar. That is an exceedingly generous plan by UCOP - I've never heard the like. Thank you, UC!

I'll be adding more photos and video to this blog, soon, so keep a weather eye out...

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Helping the economy...

...but not my savings account! I'm on a total spending spree (whee!) I'm normally pretty conservative with my money unless it has to do with Lord of the Rings collectibles, or, for prepping for this BIG TRIP I'm planning. Here's what I've spent so far:

24.46OnGuard cable lock
46.94Ducharme bike alarm
255.32CC Radio/MP3 player/recorder
161.98Green laser pointer
215.00REI bivvy sack
61.90Bodylastics exercise bands
60.00Black Diamond headlamp
35.00MSR replacement fuel pump
50.00Rubber booties for biking shoes
3767.32Trice Qnt w/accessories
130.00Garmin Foretrex 101 GPS
65.00Convertible pants

Some of these items may not seem like they should go on a cycling tour: Bodylastics? Green laser pointer? Let me explain. I like to work out, to keep my upper-body physique toned. I have free-weights at home, but I absolutely REFUSE to bring them on tour. So, these rubber-bands-on-steroids are relatively lightweight, and I can use 'em to stay in shape no matter where I go - what a concept. I will use the green laser pointer for impromptu star parties for whoever I run into in my travels. (Chicks dig astronomers!) (I wish!)

And here's my wish-list of items I'd like to bring - I'll have to see if I can get it all to fit in my panniers, first, and how much it will all weigh.

Camping: Sleeping bag and pad, bivvy sack, hammock, rope, cord, rainfly, tent stakes, mosquito net, tarp, space blanket, strong headlamp, lighter, earplugs, camp stove/fuel bottle, utensils, Sierra cup, camping pot, dish soap, scrubby, medkit, mtn $$, 6' of duct tape.

Bicycle: Panniers, cooler packbag, cable lock, helmet, flag, cyclometer, water bottle cage (but no water bottles - just use soft drink bottles), front and rear bike lights, tire patch kit and levers, 2-pairs of latex gloves, waterproof rubber bike shoe booties, some paper towels, 3-spare tubes, CO2 tire inflators and pump, compact bike toolkit, cassette wrench, spare spokes and nipples (4 of ea), tire levers, chain lube, spare brake and derailleur cables, cycle alarm, chainmail pack-lock(?).

Misc Gear/Tech: Strong headlamp, cell phone, radio/MP3 player, earphones, AA/AAA fast battery recharger, AA/AAA batteries, POV video cam, digital still cam w/charger, mini-tripod, extra SD cards, software on laptop (Starry Night Pro, MS Office Suite, Adobe Premier Elements, etc.), Leatherman, small binoculars, green laser pointer, multi-color flashlight, bird book, tree book, reading book (digital books?), mask/snorkel/fins, backpack (to carry expensive items), Garmin Fortrext 101 GPS, Bodylastics bands.

Toilet: Battery powered shaver and toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, toothpick, wash cloth, towel, soap, shampoo, DEET, sunblock, moisturizing cream, toilet paper, comb, signal mirror.

Clothes: 2-pairs of cycling socks, 1-pair regular, 3-underwear, 1-t-shirt, 1-longsleeve shirt, 1-long bike pants, 2-longsleeve bike shirts (one heavier), 1-"Cyclist needs ride" longsleeve shirt, 1-pair reg lightweight convertible pants, 1-windbreaker, 1-lightweight waterproof jacket/pants, 1-fleece jacket, 1-set long underwear, 1-pair regular shoes, 1-pair bike shoes and waterproof rubber shoe booties, 1-pair foam sandals, 1-pair water shoes, swimsuit, 1-pair fingerless biking gloves, 1-pair full biking gloves, warm hat, cap w/neck skirt, sunglasses.

Monday, November 3, 2008

First tryout of new trike

Took delivery of Trice QNT on Halloween, but the weather was rainy. On Sunday, Nov 2, it finally cleared enough to take out new trike; rode it over to see my trike dealer, Steve (thanks for the picture, Steve!) Baytrail Trikes in Albany to get the flag for it, and to tweak a few adjustments on it. Boy, riding 26 miles (round-trip) on my trike was practically falling-over easy, but my leg muscles started to give out near the end. Stopping for a few minutes let them return back to usability, enough to make it the rest of the way home. They're slightly different muscles that get used, to be sure, but with a little work, I'll get 'em up to speed within a week or two. After leaving Baytrail Trikes, I went up the hill into Kensington (altitude gain of approx 450') to show the new machine off to a friend. (I never used to like the taste of Gatorade, but it sure tasted fine when I got some at the small market up there - I think I'm going to have to make it a staple on my tour). Going uphill is definitely slower in a trike as opposed to a bike, but not so much that it made that big a difference. Coming back down, I was following a bicycle, and though she had a substantial lead, I caught her up easily, and had to coast a lot to keep from getting too close the rest of the way down; indicative that I had significantly less wind resistance; cool! Traffic on the main thoroughfares seemed fine; drivers would slow down behind me, sometimes, but it would usually be for just a few moments, until I could move out of the way, more, or they could pass on the left. Folks seemed to be quite patient and decent about it, but the SF Bay Area has *lots* of cyclists, so motorists are pretty used to us. Also, I'm very used to city riding, and being close to both moving and parked cars.

Preparations: Bikes or Trikes?

October 8, 2008: Today, I took half a day off from work and rode my bike 6.4 mi from the office in Oakland to Baytrail Trikes in Albany, owned and operated out of his residence by Steve Schwartz. He dealt mostly with English made ICE brand recumbents. I had seen many different brands in my research, and the Trice line seemed to me to be one of the nicer ones. Steve had also researched many brands, a lot more intimately than I had, and settled on the brand he thought was the best engineered. This saved me a lot of wasted time and effort; I'm no expert in trikes, and wouldn't know what to look for. The ability to adjust and configure the ICE designs to the needs of individual riders was a big selling point for him (and me). He had several trikes available for demoing, and a recumbent bicycle, too. I told Steve of my concern regarding the head-on profile (wider/narrower) and was leaning toward getting the bicycle. After talking a bit, and seeing the profile of the Trice 'Q' nt (narrow track) tricycle he had (it wasn't much wider than my shoulders), I decided to go with a trike, and to skip even looking at the bike.

We took two trikes out to an empty parking lot behind the Golden Gate Fields horseracing arena for a demo ride (the Trice T, and a Trice QNT). Both of them fit in his medium-sized van, which surprised me. The 'T' has a 7" ground clearance, while the 'Q' has 3.2" ground clearance. The experience was remarkable, fun, and damn near fatal for Steve! We had climbed a short but steep hill from the lower-lot to the upper one, and had turned around to go back down. I wanted to see how it would handle going fast, and we were side-by-side going down that hill, heading out onto the wide flat area, below, when this BIG freakin' Parks Department truck came barrelling out toward us. The driver saw me, and swerved left while I turned away to the right, which I was concentrating on, but he didn't see Steve(!), and he was heading straight at him, *accelerating* (I could hear the engine rev-up like the driver stomped on the gas)! I looked back and saw the last part of Steve's roll-over as he must have turned very sharply to the left to avoid a head-on with the truck - the truck was past Steve's position, and stopped. Steve immediately got up from the ground, but had to wait several moments for his pains to ease off - he received small patches of road rash on his arm, shoulder, and chest, and he whacked but didn't quite break his right-pinky finger. A couple other bikers rode up to offer assistance, and the truck driver was appropriately contrite for his part in the incident. No names or driver licenses were exchanged - the fault was mutual - we should have all been more alert, and, thank the stars, no one was seriously injured. After a few more minutes, we both got back in our respective vehicles, and continued on with our respective tasks.

Amazingly, Steve's trike sustained very little damage; a bit of abraison to the plastic flange at the base of one handlebar gear-shift grip, and an abraided quick release lever. Everything else seemed still true, aligned, and working perfectly. Even the rear-view mirror had only folded in, and just needed to be folded back out, again. I rode around a bit more in the 'Q,' going fast, testing to see how stable a trike was at high speed turns (not too bad, but did bring a wheel up a bit). The one bad thing I noticed about trikes was the bumps; you feel them more than you do on a bike, because you can't stand up and let your legs act as shock absorbers. Maybe there's a way to do that in a trike, too. Despite all that, I was satisfied with the demo, and definitely wanted to get one of these puppies. I was torn between getting a 'T' or a 'Q' Trice, but Steve convinced me that after watching how I rode and handled the Q, that it was the one for me. Being lower, it was faster and more stable, and that's what I should get.

Back at the shop, we went over the specifics of configuration and accessories, and he said he'd email me the price and downpayment amount by tomorrow. Poor guy: he had a migraine headache when I first arrived, was nearly run down by a truck, had to check into the hospital to make sure his pinky wasn't broken, but, at least he made a sale! He emailed me the initial price quote later that day, and I said I'd send him the downpayment the next day.

Change can be bad or good... just depends on how you look at it. I'm getting laid off after 10+ years working in IT at the University of California's Office of the President, Office of Technology Transfer. The actual date of exit is predicted to be sometime in January of 2009. I've always wanted to do a bicycle tour across America, so I thought I'd take this opportunity to do it. In researching the subject, I discovered recumbent bicyles and tricycles, which for long tours makes a lot of sense. When I ride my current (hybrid) two-wheel, diamond-frame bicycle, my hands become numb and my wrists and neck hurt after only riding around about 10 miles(!), so trying to ride *thousands* of miles probably would have ended in failure. At this writing, I'm 52 years old, and my body can't take the kind of stresses that my younger self could tolerate. However, even if I were younger, I'm not sure I'd want to subject my body to the accelerated degradation a long-distance bike ride would impose. In a recumbent, the rider's hands don't support the upper body's weight, and the head is in a neutral position, taking strain off the neck. The 'laid-back' position of the rider is way more comfortable than being 'hunched-over,' and it's a much more aerodynamic profile, which takes out a significant amount of effort to move forward. Bikes (two-wheel) have a narrower profile, and can slip through or along with traffic better, but trikes (three-wheel, duh!) are more stable, especially at slow speeds, in startups, and on slippery surfaces, so there is no energy spent balancing.