Saturday, May 28, 2011

Day 6

Today was a rest day in Elma, WA today was supposed to be rainy and the next 2 days will be sunny. So I decided to spend the rainy day resting and the sunny days riding, just in time to get to Justin's house near Portland.

After climbing up several difficult climbs over the past week, I've realized that the 30 tooth chainring isn't enough. So I went down to Olympia via bus to buy a 24 tooth chainring. At noon, I hopped on the bus and headed towards Olympia with my bike on the front. A guy sitting near me asked me about my bike and we talked about biking and stuff. He was a really nice guy with a job cutting wood for guitars in Elma. He showed me where my stop was in Olympia and I got off the bus to head to the bike shop. In just about 15 minutes, the mechanic installed my new chainring and told me that my chain is on the verge of needing replacement :/ and that that was the reason my chain was slipping the other day. I'll probably replace the chain in Portland or somewhere soon after that.

Since the next bus going back to Elma wasn't till 5:20, I had an excuse to look around the city some.

I saw some boats.

And some lumber

And the capital building across the lake.

While sitting by the lake, enjoying the act of sitting without pedaling at the same time, a man with a loaded bike pulled up to the benches 100 feet away from me. I was hesitant to go over there and meet him, but then I thought back to a couple days before my departure date...I told my friend Rebecca what my daily agenda would be--Wake up, eat, ride my bike, meet crazy people, then go to sleep.  "How exactly do you plan on meeting crazy people?" she asked...I don't know.  So here was my chance! To meet someone who was potentially crazy and would definitely have some awesome stories.

I walked up to him and started talking to him. He was riding from Bellingham to Idaho and possibly Colorado. He was going there, looking for work and to get the heck away from the constant rain of Bellingham...boy could I feel his pain. He honestly really impressed me. He had no tent. All he had was a hammock and a rain fly for the hammock. Since he didn't have a job, I assume he was living cheaply, so he didn't have the luxury of crashing at a hotel whenever it rained and was probably "stealth camping," which means camping in the woods or in people's yards. His gear was all old and worn out because he has done several other "tours" in the past. I say "tours" because they're tours in that they are long distance bike rides, but this guy doesn't just tour for the sake of touring. He tours because he needs to get to another place and find a job. He actually has a real purpose to his ride aside from having fun. So I was pretty impressed because he was really roughing it. Walking up to him, I had no idea what he would be like, but he actually turned out to not be crazy and had some really good stories. Some of which can be found here. We exchanged websites and names and parted our ways.

I went back to the bus stop. <Sarcasm Rant>I was authentically impressed at the public transit security guard's acuteness when it took him only 0.5 seconds of me riding my bike "illegally" on their sidewalk to awkwardly point at the sign I never even had a chance to look at that says "Walk Bicycles." Not to mention the fact that I wasn't even in a position to see the sign he was pointing at and he nonetheless refused to say any words until I walked over there to look at the sign he was pointing at. "I was just getting off my bike." "Yeah, yeah, next time get off your bike earlier." </Sarcasm Rant>

Friday, May 27, 2011

Day 5

Today I went from Belfair, WA to Elma, WA. Another >60mile day with lots of pedaling and lots of rain. I left Belfair with lots of energy and happy since it was sunny. I went along highway 106, enjoying the view of beach homes and the Hood Canal that I apparently missed my 4 miles. I have no idea how I got that far without noticing, but there goes an extra 8 miles to the day. At least I got a picture out of it.

The view from Twanoh State Park

When I found the road I was supposed to turn on 5 miles back I started climbing up the very steep road. I was in my lowest gear and all of a sudden something in my transmission slipped and then crashed to a halt. My first guess was that my chain slipped from one cog to the next. Or maybe it was my freewheel failing. If it was the chain, that would be a simple fix. If it was the freewheel, that would be a complete pain to get fixed. It only slipped when I pushed really hard on the pedals in my first gear, so I just pushed my bike to the top of the hill and kept riding. Several miles later I was thinking about the transmission slipping and thought to check my rear derailleur to see if it was tensioning the chain like it should. In the first gear, the derailleur was no longer pulling on the chain, keeping it connected to the cassette! That meant that my chain was just too loose and it would be a simple fix. I could either shorten my chain or just slide my rear wheel back since there's an extra 3/4 in. for it to move backward. So I slid my wheel back 3/4 inch, readjusted my brakes and didn't have the slipping problem for the rest of the day. I was very relieved to fix that, because otherwise it meant I'd be walking up ever single steep hill I'd come across for another 35 days.

After that hill, there was really only 4 or 5 hills for the rest of the day and they were all pretty easy. It was nice to have the break. I stopped in Shelton for a Pizza Hut lunch and just cruised the rest of the way to Elma. It was raining off and on the entire day except for the last 25 miles, which was 85% rain, 1% hail, and 14% sun. The rain has been a pain, but I'm getting used to it. I just keep my rain jacket under a bungy cord for quick access and I can put in on in just about 10 seconds. It's probably pretty funny to see me riding in the rain. My hood is on my head with my helmet on top and I always wear my sunglasses to keep the water out of my eyes. In Washington, lots of the roads have a thin layer of gravel tarred to the surface so the road is more rough. Before today I thought it was annoying because it makes the bike ride slightly bumpy, but I realized that the roughness keeps water from pooling up and flying up whenever you ride across it. It's safer and more pleasant to ride on in the rain.

I arrived in Elma, bought some dinner at the store, and stopped at the library to Facebook my life away. Afterwards I headed over to the Grays Harbor Hostel, which is a pretty awesome hostel. It's just part of an old couple's house with a kitchen and a bedroom with 3 beds in it. I got to use the kitchen and have a nice warm bed for only $20. With the bonus of having the hosts to talk to and a real kitchen, it's way better than a hotel room. The coolest part about this hostel is that it has its own 18 hole disc golf course. I played 9 of the holes with Jay, the host, and it is one of the coolest courses I've ever played on. The holes are all pretty short, but very interesting with all kinds of hazards and hills. Jay told me that his full time job now is taking care of the hostel and the disc golf course. I wish Josh, David, and Sean were here to try it out with me. Here's some pictures of the bedroom and kitchen.

Day 4

Yesterday I went from Port Townsend, WA to Belfair, WA. It was a pretty uneventful day. I left my hotel at 8:30-a good, early start since I knew the day would be around 60 miles. I waved good bye to the Indian man who worked at the hotel and was on my way. Pedal pedal pedal...listen to music...pedal some more...put on rain coat...take off rain coat...pedal some more. That's pretty much how the day went. It was sunny for most of the day with some off and on rain. There were lots of small hills, which were a pain, but I know they are nothing compared to the hills I'll face in Oregon and northern California.

Most of the ride wasn't really photo worthy, so I took no photos. Port Ludlow was a very pretty town though. There's lots of homes right on the beach in a secluded inlet. Some of the homes were ridiculously cool. I should have taken pictures.

I crossed over the Hood Canal onto the peninsula. There was a sign at the beginning of the bridge that said, "Severe Cross Winds When Flashing" and next to the sign were two lights that were not flashing. I figured I'd be good. Sure didn't want to get caught on that bridge during a severe cross wind. Turns out the wind is horrible all the time and "severe" just means it's extra horrible. The wind was blowing north, pushing me toward the traffic. The shoulder was a good 8 feet wide, but it didn't feel like enough with how strong the wind was. I made it across the 2 mile bridge safely though.

Did some more pedaling and rain coat swapping for another 23 miles and arrived in Bremerton, pop. 37,259. My trip odometer told me that I may have missed my turn onto Harlow Dr. but I wanted to go a bit further, just to make sure. I went down a fast hill and was probably going about 20-25 mph when I heard something start rattling my front spokes. I looked down and saw that my front rack had partially fallen off and was bumping up against my spokes. I slammed on my breaks and pulled over. No damaged spokes, thank God. The screw that holds the rack in place was completely broken. Half was in the rack, half was in the bike. Great. Luckily I had just arrived in Bremerton, so I figured it would be at least possible to get a new screw. But would I have to hitch hike? How would I find a screw? I went across the street to a flooring company to ask if they knew where the nearest hardware store was. (There was a funeral home on the side of the street I was already on, but figured that'd be a bad call). The man inside the store told me, "Well what exactly do you need?" "Just a machine screw for my bike" "Well you're in luck. There's a screw shop, just a quarter mile from here." Awesome. I walked my bike up to the shop and the friendly man gave me the screw and a washer for free and also directed me back to my route, since I had in fact missed my turn a while back.

Back on track, I did some more pedaling. I realized that I hate cities that are built on hills. If Golden was on my bike route, I would hate it. Anyways, after an uneventful 13 miles I made it to Belfair. Right next to a car mechanic's shop I got a flat tire. Something sharp on the road punctured the tire, so I just patched it real quick and went down the street to my hotel since it was supposed to be rainy that night. I'm such a wimp when it comes to rain.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Day 3

Day 3 was quite the day. I went from Bay View State Park to Port Townsend. I started out riding through some farms and crossed a bridge to an island and discovered that islands are hilly. I made it to Deception Pass and the area was very pretty:

As you can see, my bike gained several pounds since the last time you saw it. So I went across a cool bridge and took a break at the state park.

Before I left, I wanted to check my map for when I needed to turn next. The map wasn't in my pocket. It wasn't in my bags. I must have forgotten to zip my pocket and the map fell out of my pocket. @#$%.

Well I need my maps, so I turned back and made the decision to go back 5 miles before giving up. That would add 10 miles to the day. I churned up the hills I had already cruised down and after 4.3 miles, I encountered a hill that I remembered being long and fast. I decided I would climb up the hill, hoping that it was where the map had fallen out of my pocket. Keeping my eyes glued to the opposing shoulder, I saw a green paper sitting in the ditch. It was my maps, located at 4.7 miles. If I had dropped them 0.3 miles earlier, I would have given up and had no maps.

So after adding 10 miles to the day, it was starting to feel like a long day. Of course, it had started raining when I started looking for the maps, so the continual rain was starting to wear on me. Not only was the rain being mean, I got a flat tire on a side street. I couldn't find the thorn that made it, so I just put in a new tube in the rain and continued. I made it to Oak Harbor and I was very tired and mentally worn out because of the non-stop rain. I needed a pick me up, so I decided to splurge and went to the Pizza Factory for a buffet. It was good.

I kept riding forward and was lucky enough to encounter the most difficult hill yet, 5 minutes after eating 5 pieces of pizza and a salad. Oh and it was one-way construction traffic, so everyone was waiting on me to finish. It sucked, but I made it and stopped at the top gasping for air.

Several miles later it was still raining so I pulled to the side under a sheltered bus stop to check my maps. I heard air leaking out of my back tire again. I listened closely to the leak and found it. It was bubbling with all the water that was on the tire. I looked for a thorn, but didn't see any. I stretched out the tire and looked deep in the rubber and found a rock. A rock... How the heck could a rock give me a flat tire! It was a tiny arrowhead shaped rock that was the same reason I got the flat several miles back.

Stupid rock

I patched the tube and moved onward. I finally reached Coupeville, which was where I wanted to catch the ferry to Port Townsend. The ferry left at 4:30 and at 6:00. It was 4:20. I tried my darndest to make it to the dock in time for the 4:30 ferry but arrived 10 minutes late. So I waited at the ferry office for the time. I plugged my phone into the wall and read my book. After lending my can opener to a lady with a diabetic cat, 6:00 arrived. I got on the ferry and found my seat. We made it a half mile and I heard something over the intercom, "If you left your cell phone in the ferry office in Coupeville, we may know where it is." That was my cell phone. I left it in the wall. I talked to the ferry employees and they agreed to bring it with them on their next trip which would arrive at 8:00. I figured I could go to a coffee shop until then.

Well we arrived at Port Townsend and it was still raining. The rain had been non-stop ever since Deception Pass. I was cold and miserable, so I decided to get a room for the night. I biked 2.5 miles to the Olympic Hostel and was turned down because a school group was there for the night and there wasn't a single bed open. I biked back to town and checked with 3 different hotels, looking for the cheapest. The cheapest was $70 at the Aladdin hotel, so after picking my phone up at the ferry office, I went to the hotel and got a room. I could finally dry off and it was 8:30. What a long day. I was upset to have to pay so much for the hotel room, but I was so glad to have a room for the night and to not be out in the rain. 

Day 2

On day 2 I went from Birch Bay State Park to Bay View State Park. The ride to Bellingham is pretty uneventful. There are several farms and houses, but nothing incredibly interesting. As I approached Bellingham I felt a great feeling of reminiscence when I saw a Fred Meyer, which is the northwest's version of Target. I was guaranteed to forget something back in Denver and the things I forgot were my cell phone cable, camera cable, and mp3 cable. So I spent a ridiculous $30 on a cell phone charger.

The ride through Bellingham was nice, because cities are a lot of fun to ride through and Bellingham is small enough to not be intimidating. I stopped at the library to use their internet. I asked the librarian about the internet and she started making conversation about my bike tour. For some reason I felt like I was in a huge hurry so I had to catch myself and just take the time to talk to her, which was nice.

The ride south of Bellingham is nice because you're traversing along a steep slope with lots of moss covered trees on both sides. Some sections were clear enough to the west that I could see out to the sound and see all the islands. I had to pay for the good views by going up and down several climbs, which allowed me to use my brand new 30 tooth granny gear...I'm gonna need a smaller gear. I stopped at a park with a pavilion and stole their electricity:
A sight that will be very common over the next month

After passing through some flat farmland, I arrived at Bay View State Park and chose my spot.

I went down to the beach because I had lots of time before sunset and did some reading in my book "Eldest." The beach was pretty.

Day 1

The first few days of my tour have been awesome and not so awesome. I flew up to Bellingham after sleeping in the Seattle airport and took off as soon as I assembled my bike. I was thinking about my tour on the plane rides and it was really hard for me to really understand that I was about to ride my bike across the country. It just didn't seem real. Reality finally set in when I had assembled my bike and walked out the airport door.

That's a "0.0mi" on the odometer at the bottom

Following my directions I started riding north so I could go touch the border. I don't have a really good reason for going to the border, but what the heck, why not? The ride was pretty easy and there were only a few hills. I rode almost non-stop to the border, which was about 23 miles. When I got there, it was just like Google street view portrayed it. A field with nice green grass and houses on the other side. I was just dying to go and stick my finger over the border, so I went across the field. Noticing several signs along the opposite side of the field, I took a picture.

Then I crossed the border, illegally, and took a picture of the other side of the sign...just to get a Canadian's view of crossing the border.

I think that accurately describes Canadians' fears about crossing the border.

My bike, feeling American

 I ate my lunch at the park and a man told me about the "spit" that I should visit on my way to my campground. I attempted to visit this spit that he gave directions to, but I was lazy and didn't go all the way...and I made a wrong turn. Then I made another wrong turn and then realized where I needed to go. After that satisfying detour I found myself along the beach with lots of beach homes, which were part of the Birch Bay community. Soon after, I arrived at the campground in Birch Bay state park. It was a very pretty campground and I had the privilege of meeting some Canadians who confirmed for me that Canadians do in fact say the word "Eh."

I also visited the beach

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Day -5

A self-supported bike tour takes a lot of stuff. For the edification of the bike touring aspirants (which I technically still am) reading this blog, I've included an approximate inventory of everything I'm bringing plus or minus a few things.

1 Surly Crosscheck Bike-To get from point A to point B
2 Ortlieb Rear Panniers-Hold stuff
2 Arkel Front Panniers-Hold more stuff
1 Cycling Gloves-Keep hands comfy
2 Bike Racks-I need something to mount my moose antlers on
3 Sport Water Bottles-Because I need water
2 Nalgene Water Bottles-California is hot
1 Spare Tube-Flat tires happen
1 Patch kit-I'm too cheap to buy new tubes
1 Bike Computer-Tells me how fast I can go down hills
1 Chain Lube-Keeps my chain from squeaking
1 Pump-Turns out, tires don't work well without air
1 Helmet-I feel irresponsible without one

1 Tent-(Thanks dad!)-I don't like being rained on when I sleep
1 Jetboil Stove w/ Pot & Fuel-To make coffee...oh and food.
1 Sleeping Pad-Slightly more comfortable than a carpeted floor
1 Coffee Cup-Helpful for maintaining my addiction
2 Bowls-Gotta balance the calories
1 Sleeping Bag-Stay warm at night
1 Flashlight-I'm afraid of the dark
1 Tent Footprint-Pools are for the day time when you feel like swimming, not for when you're sleeping.
3 Sacks for Tent and stuff-I will drive myself crazy if I'm not organized
1 Pillow-Because the gluteus maximus is not behind the head.
1 Lighter-The best part about camping is campfires.
1 Coffee Filter-Because coffee is better in liquid form
1 Waterproof Bag for Pad-It's Washington...and Oregon...and I don't have room in my panniers for my pad.

1 Bike Tool Kit-In case I accidentally rip my chain in half with my bare hands
1 Allen Wrench-Because I'm paranoid that I'll need it for tightening my crank.
1 Crescent Wrench-Stupid little bolts on the racks
1 Gerber Multitool-I needed a bottle opener for beer, a knife for peanut butter and a saw in case I have to cut my arm off.

1 Long-sleeve shirt-I like staying warm
4 T-Shirts-Except on hot days when I don't feel like going shirt-less
2 Cycling Shorts-They're padded :)
1 Cycling Pants-They're not padded :( but they're warm!
1 Beanie-Cold ears are no fun
1 Warm Gloves-Cold fingers are the worst
7 Underwear-It's nice to have underwear
7 Cotton/Polyester Socks-Socks are the most wonderful clothing piece
1 Wool Socks-Wool socks are even better
1 Sunglasses-Trying to keep my 20/20 vision
1 Sandals-Cycling shoes aren't very comfortable
1 Cycling Shoes-Sandals don't work very well for riding a bike
1 Rain Jacket-Oregon and Washington...It's inevitable
1 Cycling Cap-Gotsta represent with my Alaska cap
1 Polyester Hiking Pants-They're my church pants
1 Polyester Shorts-They're my church shorts
1 Swimming Trunks-I should probably jump in at some point
1 Polypro Shirt-More keeping warm
1 Polypro Pants-ditto

5 Adventure Cycling Maps-In case this map isn't good enough:

3 Chapsticks-Burning lips are no fun
1 Sunblock-When I was a sophomore in high school I got blisters in California
1 First Aid Kit-Bandaids make everything feel better
1 Toothpaste-To counteract the coffee
1 Toothbrush-It works better than a finger
1 Floss-It works better than a bungee cord
1 Deodorant-In case I encounter any humans along the way
1 Shaving Razor-Because attempting to grow a beard would just be ugly
1 Shaving Cream-It's nice
1 Harmonica-I would drive myself crazy without an instrument to play
1 Route Book-So I know what the pacific coast was like in 1994
1 MP3 Player-My screen quit working so I need to learn how to use it without seeing anything
1 Camera-To take pictures of the hipsters in Portland
1 Journal-For writing stuff
1 Toilet Paper-Because nature is my outhouse.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Day -6

If it wasn't already blatantly obvious to you, I'm doing a bike tour this summer from Bellingham, WA to San Diego, CA. I'll be following the adventure cycling route for most of the tour, which follows highway 1 and highway 101 (and other roads) all the way along the coast. I leave in 6 days.

I decided to go on the ride back in October of 2010. I was toying around with interesting looking routes on Google Maps and happened to draw one along the pacific coast. I wrote a blog post about the awesome route and attempted to recruit people through the post. After a few people showed interest in coming, they realized they just couldn't do the ride with me, so I'll be doing the tour alone. It was just a random idea. I wasn't incredibly confident that it would happen, but didn't count out the possibility that it would. Of all the times in my life that I could have chosen, now was the perfect time. So it didn't seem that far-fetched for me to actually do it.

Not long before I wrote that blog post, I was reading stories a guy I knew in high school wrote on Facebook about his time in South America. After going to an English school he spent several months just going around the continent, exploring the land and meeting the people. He had stories where he was in great danger to be arrested in a foreign country, he spent the night in a jail one night (because it was the nicest place the cop could offer), he sneaked into Machu Picchu, and met several people along the way who helped him and his friend. It sounded like a real adventure. I wanted an adventure of my own. An adventure with hardship that I would have to press through, with fun times, and boring times. To put it simply, I wanted a real adventure and whatever comes along with it.

I started reading books and everyone knows that once you start reading, you're unstoppable (which is why we should never teach apes to read). I read the story about the first winter ascent of Mt. McKinley. The hardship that they went through was unbelievable. A man on the team died, but they pressed on. They ran out of food while being stuck just below the summit for several days. They all had frostbite and lost several fingers and toes. It really amazed me that they would go through so much trouble for this, but the adventure kept pulling me in.

So I really wanted an adventure and I decided a bike tour would be an appropriate adventure for me. I'm not sure exactly what I want to get out of the experience, but I was challenged by a friend to have a goal for the ride. So I'm working on realizing what I want to get out of the ride.

I have spent a lot of time and money preparing for this ride. Sometime I'll list off all the stuff I'm bringing and 85% of that stuff I have bought recently. Aside from Mines, this is the biggest monetary investment I've ever made. I've gotten so used to buying stuff that I hardly think about it anymore. So at the very least, something I will have gained through my bike trip will be the ability to sympathize with shopaholics.

Training was something I was determined to do because I absolutely did not want to start riding 50-60 miles a day cold turkey. So I've loosely followed a training plan that went from 13 mile rides 5 days a week on flat ground up to 30-40 mile rides 3-4 days a week on flat to mountainous ground. I definitely strayed from the training plan I found on the internet, but I at least can say with confidence that I can ride 40 miles in a day, and another 10-20 miles should be doable. And if you didn't realize, 30-40 miles actually takes a while to ride, so I have logged many hours on the saddle that could have been used to watch TV. So you can understand how difficult the time commitment has been for me since I can't miss my favorite shows, Glee and Desperate Housewives. I've also had to make the sacrifice of stuffing large quantities of delicious food into my belly so that my calories burned equal my calories eaten.

So I leave in 6 days on Sunday, May 22 at 9:40pm. I plan to write blog posts along the way, approximately once a week. If you're stuck in the stone ages of the internet and don't use Google Reader, rest assured that I will be reminding you via Facebook whenever I write a post. If you don't have Facebook, you should subscribe via email on the right hand side of this page and you'll get an email whenever I write a post. If you don't have an email, go to once a week to see my new post. If you don't have the internet, I'll happily use my typewriter to re-write the post and mail it to you via the Pony Express.

Of course, all this is dependent on whether or not Jesus comes back on May 21.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Things Jon Hates: Swarms of Flies

The thing about city bike trails is that they're only built where they are convenient to build. In Denver, 90% of the bike trails are along rivers or along major roads. Rivers are handy because whenever a road has to cross the river a bridge is built. If you just send a bike trail underneath that bridge, then you've hit 2 birds with one stone. Same thing for bike trails along highways.

I typically don't have a problem with the placement of bike trails. I shy away from the ones next to highways just because they aren't that interesting and it's loud, but the ones next to creeks are very nice trails with pretty trees and water 'n' stuff. So, I like the bike trails in Denver.

The one thing I really don't like about the creek trails is the swarms of flies. You'll be riding along at 15 mph and all of a sudden you see a swarm of flies heading straight for you. If you're going 15mph and you happen to have a head wind of 10mph, then those flies smack into your face at a relative 25 mph. Ouch. Occasionally this will happen with the bigger loner flies that run into your face and those hurt. It's like somebody walked up and just flicked you right in the cheek.

But the swarms are much worse than the loner flies. There's got to be at least a hundred flies per swarm and they're tiny little things. You have to be careful that they don't get into any of your openings (mouth, nose, eyes, ears). If you have a fast reaction time you can think to hold your breath and close your eyes right before you run into the flies. If you fail to do so, you find yourself spitting constantly, trying to get all the flies out of your mouth and blinking like there's no tomorrow, trying to get the flies out of your eyes. Sometimes you have to come to a stop and use your fingernails to pry the flies out of your eyes. And there is nothing that freaks you out more than having a little fly, stuck in your ear, buzzing loudly as it tries to get out. All this is horribly unpleasant.

Thank God we have brains and can plan ahead of time and I'll do my best to relay some good advice. I noticed that flies tend to get in my mouth more often than they get in my nose. This made sense. I was breathing through my mouth and it was just acting like a big ole fishing net in a salmon fishery. I won't get into the details, but the nose is designed to not let little things get into your lungs. There are lots of "obstacles" in the way and it's typically pointed downward. So I resolved to breathe through my nose as much as possible to help with this. It helped some.

I also realized that sunglasses work well as eye shields. Although they are not quite as cool as the Red-Eyed Tree Frog's eye shields. Those things are legit! No wonder they're so happy when they find themselves in swarms of flies.

Ear-trapping of flies happens so rarely, I have not found the motivation to find a way to prevent that. I'm sure ear-muffs would do the trick.

The flies also like getting in your hair, even when it's as short as mine, so don't forget your Alaska cycling cap.

I have yet to try this, but I've seen seen several people wearing bandannas over their mouth to keep the files out of their mouth and nose.

Once you have followed every bit of advice I've given, you should look like this:

Swarm of Flies: Afraid I was gonna leave without giving you a goodbye kiss?
Prepared Cyclist: I'd just as soon kiss a Wookiee. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A Review of Blackburn Lowriders (boring post, FYI)

A Note from Jon: Warning, this is a boring post. I am just trying to do a good deed by spreading useful information to the internet. I bought a Blackburn lowrider front bike rack for my tour on and submitted a review since it was not compatible with my panniers. This is the review. I'm blogging it just to make sure it gets out there to the internets, hoping that it will prevent other cyclists from making the same mistake I made. Here it is:

Product: Blackburn FL-1 Front Lowrider Front Bike Rack by Blackburn
Submitted at: Bike Wagon

Doesn't work with decent panniers

by Jon the Dissappointed from Denver, CO on 5/4/2011
Annoying to assemble, Not compatible
Describe Yourself:
Casual/ Recreational
Cycling Style:
Comfort Oriented
Was this a gift?:
I bought this rack because it was cheap, it was a lowrider, and it had a stabilizing bar. All good things in my book. I installed the rack with a good amount of effort. It's pretty annoying that the stabilizing bar isn't already connected to the side racks. In the long run, that wouldn't be that big of a deal though.

I tried out my Ortlieb panniers on the rack to see if they fit. They didn't. There's a stupid metal plate under the top bar that prevents the Ortlieb panniers from clipping onto the bar. I went to go buy my Arkel panniers that I was actually going to use for the front, hoping that they would work with the rack. They didn't. The Arkel attachment system is similar to the Ortlieb one, so it also had a hard time grasping onto the bottom side of the bar.

In conclusion, the rack is incompatible with two of the top names in panniers, Ortlieb and Arkel. If you're using some other random pannier that has a very different attachment system, then this rack would probably work great for someone on a budget. But if you want some nice panniers, do not buy this rack.

I am returning the rack, but I believe I won't get refunded the shipping cost (which is probably fair since there's nothing wrong with the rack itself). So I am at a loss because I bought this rack, expecting it to be compatible with decent panniers.