About ready…

I said I was going to tell you about how we determined our route… Unfortunately we changed our route about every day over the last two weeks, so there wasn’t a story to tell. I started with Kamoot – the routing software we use when riding in Europe. It is great, for Europe. Once I had my route figured out, I’d export it to a GPX file and then load it into google earth and do a fly-through in 3D of the entire route. It was a bit boring, but better than figuring out on our ride that we’ve made a bad selection. Each time I’d do this I’d find something majorly wrong with the route – like it would take us on a path that Komoot thought was asphalt and google earth/maps thought was a handcart trail. Komoot may be right, but it is hard to trust it.

So next I started routing with google maps. It seemed to give me good results, but now I was comparing google maps to google earth, which unsurprisingly had a consistent view of the roads and bike paths. I needed another data source.

My last step was to start using Strava. It has a global heatmap showing where people are actually riding. Using the heatmap I was able to see the places along my route that had very little traffic – which was a good warning sign. Additionally, Stava itself has a route generating function, which had the ability to avoid hills (something that is important to us) and incorporate the heatmap into path selection. This has seemed to be our best option for this ride.

Our current plan is to ride from Hamilton Montana north to Missoula and then ride as far to the west as we can get by Saturday. We’ll take a rest day, then turn around and ride east to Coeur d’Alene where we’ll meet Page and Vance midweek. We’ll ride a big 3-day loop with them and end up in Coeur d’Alene again for our Sunday rest day. If we are feeling strong we’ll finish our ride on Monday with a loop to Spokane and back, then head home on Tuesday.

One important rule for bike touring is to dial in your bike months in advance, and then resist the urge to change it. Being far from home and far from bike shops is a bad place to figure out your new parts don’t work as expected (or aren’t installed correctly.) Perhaps you can push the limits of this rule a bit by having a professional do the install and no matter what, don’t try new parts on your most critical components – things that impact your braking and steering.

In other news, this week I replaced my front fork, headset (thing that connects your front fork to your frame) and my brakes (twice.) This morning at about 4 AM I woke up thinking about the headset and how it wasn’t feeling right. I did a bit of searching and found someone else who had a similar problem to what I felt I was experiencing and he said he ended up flipping the bearing cage for the bottom bearings upside down – with the exposed part facing the crown race instead of the headset cup. Everyone in the forum was mocking him, but in the end his local bike shop told him that is how to set up an FSA Pig (the headset I am using). I did some more searching on FSA’s website and found a diagram which showed the open part of the cage facing down, so I went to the garage and reworked it. To do this you have to take off the fork (and to take off the fork you have to take off the brake caliper) so I basically did everything twice in the last week. The bearing cage was deformed – perhaps from being compressed wrong side up – and so upon removal my garage floor filled with loose bearings. After crawling around on my knees for a while I rounded them up, bent the cage enough to hold them, kept everything in place with some grease, and reinstalled. That ought to work. …

The thing circled in red is upside down from how one would normally install this….

We are going out this morning on a ride close to home, fully loaded, to make sure nothing comes flying off…

Getting ready

After a year off, we are getting ready for our next adventure.

We had planned to ride from Munich to Budapest during the summer of 2020, but COVID kind of messed things up… We considered doing a ride in the Northwest, but in an effort to reduce the likelihood we could be the source of spreading it, we stayed at home and rode the trails near us. This year we are vaccinated and situation is looking much better. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to re-plan our European trip, so we are going to go explore the beauty of the American Northwest.

This year we will be sporting a new addition… Natalie’s brother Vance and his wife Page will join us for part of the ride. This will require us to plan a bit differently, as we’ll need to meet them at a specific time and place part way through our ride, but it is going to be great to have extra company for a few days.

We did a short two-day ride with Page and Vance last weekend. One of the cool logistical challenges we faced was fitting both of these crazy bikes in on vehicle. Luckily Harbor Freight (hitch rack) and the classifieds (wheel trays) came through and we were able to rig something up.

The ride was great, although one bike had a flat at the end of the ride and instead of fighting the rear wheel on the side of the road Vance and I paired up for a ride back to the truck and we used it to retrieve the other bike so we could repair it in the comfort of our garage. (Removing the rear wheel on a fully loaded tandem recumbent with a Rohloff hub is actually a bit of work relative to fixing a flat on a road or mountain bike.)

Now we are neck deep in route planning. It is looking like Natalie and I will leave from Helena and ride toward Spokane. We will try to get about 260 miles in the first 3 days, camping as we go. We’ll stay two days in a small town near our route to rest and go to church. For the next 4 days we’ll wander to the west, ending somewhere southwest of Spokane prior to heading back toward Harrison where we’ll meet Page and Vance on day 7. We’ll do a three-day circle to the east, retracing some of the trails Natalie and I will have already ridden at the beginning of our ride. We hope to ride on each of the following:

https://www.traillink.com/trail/milwaukee-road-rail-trail-(pearson-to-calder)/

https://www.traillink.com/trail/route-of-the-hiawatha/

https://www.traillink.com/trail/route-of-the-olympian/

https://www.traillink.com/trail/norpac-trail/

https://www.traillink.com/trail/trail-of-the-coeur-dalenes/

We’ll spend the weekend in Harrison and finish with a big single-day out-and-back from Harrison. On Tuesday the four of us will pile into Page and Vance’s truck and drive to Helena to pick up the truck we left there and then head home.

In my next post I’ll talk about how we are gearing up a bit differently for this ride.