Monday, June 13, 2016

China

This is the first of a group of posts about my preparations for a cycling trip to China in August 2016


4 months before I am slated to arrive, I started working on:

  • Looking up the visa requirements
  • Looking for ways to get an invitation letter, required for the visa
  • Booking the flights
  • Studying Mandarin Chinese: not sure this will be helpful. Most people tell me I should be able to say hello, thank you, please and excuse me.  I would add "where is the bathroom".


2 months before:
  • I booked a hostel in Beijing and requested a letter of invitation from them.  They sent it immediately.  The hostel staff often speak the best English, better than many upscale hotels. I know you can cancel the hostel booking, but I think it is so cheap, I will leave it as an emergency shelter, in case something goes wrong and I end up never leaving Beijing. It is about $240 for 28 days. I will definitely be staying there for the first and last nights.
  • I contacted Travisa to apply for a visa for me- otherwise I need to go to the Chinese consulate in NYC.
  • Got visa photos 2"x2" (though that size requirement is different depending on where you look- this is what Travisa told me I needed)
  • Inquired into whether my bank can get me Chinese currency (yuan)
  • Started on inoculations: Hepatitis A&B, typhoid, rabies (not yellow fever or a polio booster for this area of China); the last 2 were quite difficult to get.  My doctor did not have them and the typhoid is not widely available.  My health insurer suggested the next county over (a much smaller county) and that worked.
  • Filled out visa application- leave no blanks
  • Tracked down my hostel receipt and struggled to get Travelocity to print a receipt with a basic itinerary (inc outbound and return flights), along with the required "Paid in Full" note. 
  • Photocopied by passport ID page

Sunday, June 12, 2016

RAGBRAI

Thousands of cyclists passing through a small Iowa town.
RAGBRAI XL 2012 by Channone Arif on Flickr


Well, my partner's dream is coming true.  We are going to ride RAGBRAI. This is the ginormous supported party on bicycle wheels. 10,000 people converge on Iowa to ride about 470 miles from the Missouri River on the west side of the state to the Mississippi on the east. Added bonus, we formed a team with another couple and their grandson, who will be almost 2 years old.

I will blog the adventure, so people looking for a feasibility study on taking small children in trailers on RAGBRAI will have some well grounded research.  Now I know small children have done epic road trips with their parents, because I see references to those journeys online and in Adventure Cycling's magazine. It is quite difficult to find references to small children on RAGBRAI events, however.

So many questions revolve around this.  How often do playgrounds or fields to play in occur? I am hoping there will be one per hour in the small towns set up to receive us. Can we tire him out enough? Will he be able to sleep surrounded by 10,000 potentially noisy people in the campground? What kinds of entertainment will engage him for 5 hours a day in a trailer?

And a few solutions. We will have a SAG vehicle, in case he needs to escape. We will cycle (hahahahaha, sniff, sniff) his toys out of the SAG vehicle daily.  We have an older iPhone with audio books and hardcover book accompaniments.  The audio will be recorded by his parents.  His trailer has a full sun shade and netting to keep him from burning and from throwing his toys and books out :)  We are also rigging a hydration bladder above and behind his seat and he has mastered the bite valve (smart boy).

Stay tuned: This will be awesome.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

I really want one of these.

Do you suppose my bike would come apart enough to make this into a pack raft?

REI Half Dome Repair strategies

If you read earlier posts, you might know I melted my tent trying out a new stove.  Note to self: try new stoves on the concrete pad behind your house.  I have tried once to repair it using A)Tenacious tape and B) Tear Aid (type A).  The Tear Aid worked well on the smaller holes, using a patch on each side of the fabric.  The Tenacious Tape did not work well by itself when placed under pressure, such as on the edges of a large silicon impregnated fabric patch. Because you can remove/ move the tape, it would not hold well enough to cure.  I will try to rectify this by maybe stitching the new repair fabric to the tent, then applying Tenacious Tape or seam sealer to the edges. I may also try out Sil-Net, which is more of an adhesive. 
So what you see are several different attempts. The black material is a silicone impregnated fabric from Seattle Fabrics.  The holes in this area were so big, there was really no other good way to attach the problem.  I merely laminated the fabric over the damaged areas.  Were it was necessary/appropriate,  I cut out the melted fly fabric, because it was stiff. I made the laminate in 2 pieces to accommodate the roundiness of the fly. I am unsure of which was the outside of the fabric and which was the inside, so I guessed based on the looks of the fly material.
Where the 2 pieces met was a seam on the fly, so I stitched one piece down face up and stitched it down the fly seam, then placed the second on face down and stitched it down the seam. Then I folded it back on itself to protect the raw edges and stitched it again down the seam.

After that I tried cutting Tenacious Tape into strips and using that to stick down the remaining raw edges on the other sides.  FAIL.  That stuff does not work well under tension. You can see the tape at the upper edge of the left piece, where the repair meets up with the fly fabric (cream colored). When I tried to stitch on the repair material over the tape, it gummed up the needle and frayed the thread, so I stitched just to the side of the tape. This seemed to work pretty well, though the tape didn't even hold while the fly was in the sewing machine and so the bottom is messed up and uneven.  I may remove the stitching and redo it. Finally, I used regular seam sealer on the stitching and Seam Grip on the main seam.

Other smaller holes were patched using Tear Aid Type A on both sides of each hole.
*** UPDATE- ultimately these repair were inadequate and the tent could no longer be trusted.  Additionally, this tent has seen extensive use, under difficult circumstances (occasionally packed damp or wet while on extended tours) and the waterproofing had become tacky.  When this happens, you run the risk of peeling when you roll out the tent the next time. Time for a new tent. As a guess, this tent lasted for over 150 nights.

Review: Osprey Manta 25

Osprey returned my Manta 25 (22L) pack, after re-inserting the bladder support panel the eBay seller had pulled out. With the support in, I conclude there is no way the pack will hold a 3 liter water bladder, 7 days of food and a small stove. This is difficult to conceive, since my cycling pal has a 28L and it holds vastly more. Back to the drawing board on that one.  I think I will need to actually go to a store to buy one, taking 7 days of food and the stove with me.  I did carry it around while day hiking and it is really comfy and holds day hike stuff fine.  The bladder and bite valve are really nice, far nicer than my life partner's basic Camelback.

IHSMBR Idaho Hot Spring Bicycle Route Update

We postponed our trek due to physical and financial reasons, but hope to go next summer.  In the meantime, here is some info people might find interesting:

I bought a book called "Another Fork in the Trail", which is a collection of backpacking recipes to be prepared and dehydrated ahead of time.  The recipes were fun to cook and dehydrate with my cycling buddy, but for the most part they are really time consuming. My family recently tried one of the resulting meals on a camping trip and rated it only a 3 out of 4 stars. The rating is not high enough to warrant the prep time.  Some of the recipes could be made more quickly by using canned ingredients, such as canned sweet potatoes.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Basic tool list for beginners

If you have a bike and are beginning to think about acquiring tools, here is a list of things for a start, in order of practical use:

On the RoadAt Home
pump, set of hex wrenches, adj wrench, 
tire levers, patch kit
floor pump, screwdrivers,
chain breaker tool
travel pump, patch kit, tire levers, hex wrenches, adj wrench


floor pump, screwdrivers, chain breaker

  1. pump- A travel pump and a floor pump if you can afford both - checking your tires often will decrease the time/money you spend on flats and damaged wheels
  2. tire levers- the most basic of repairs is fixing a flat (and get an adjustable wrench, if you need one to get the wheel off
  3. patch kit for tube punctures
  4. screwdrivers- one phillips head, one straight (maybe the multi-tipped kind with the magnetic bits)
  5. Allen/hex wrenches- a set sized for bikes
  6. chain breaker tool (allows you to remove or resize your chain)

A tiny bit more advanced:
  1. spoke wrench
  2. bike stand or wall mount to get your bike up to a height you can work on it
Intermediate skills with a big pay off:

Watch the garbage and pull a bike wheel out of the trash.
  • Truing a wheel: You can set the wheel in between two work surfaces, so it spins freely.  Play with tightening and loosening spokes so you can get the feel of it.  If you break a spoke while riding, being able to adjust the tension of the ones around the broken spoke may enable you to get home under your own power.

Ask your bike shop for an old chain.

  • There is an art to removing a link and it is easiest to practice when you aren't stressed on the side of a road with traffic right next to you. Practice pushing a pin (rivet) almost all the way out, then pressing it back in, then pressing it out again ever so slightly to relieve the pressure and make it swivel on the pin (rivet) easily.
When I provide SAG on a bike ride, the two most common problems people face are flats and chains falling off. With the tools listed at the top, you can help yourself get going again.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Osprey Radial pack 34 Review

                
Osprey Radial 34 review/reflections
Overall, this gets 3 out of 4 stars


Elements I really like/love:

  • The zipper pull tabs are the best I have ever seen
  • Bright green color is very visible and seems to make an impact on drivers
  • Blinky clip strip is excellent and should be found on every pack everywhere
  • There is a sleeve under the blinky clip to clip back the waist strap when you aren't using it
  • The double pocket in the far back (when accessing the pack) has two compartments- great since I carry both a laptop and ipad
  • Second pocket has a diagonal topped slot in which I keep my glasses- they don’t fall out, but come easily when fetched
  • Hidden rain cover. Brilliant.


Elements which could use improvements:
  • Water bottle/side pockets- don’t hold tall bottle at all, secondary internal pocket in one of the side pockets interferes with the pocket’s usability, zippers require two hands to close, making it unlikely I will store my wallet or phone there. If there was a loop or something to hold onto while zipping, two handed closing would be easier. 
  • Small front pocket is too small- would like it to hold my phone and wallet, key clasp is not purposeful, since it doesn’t keep keys from falling to the bottom of this tiny pocket
  • Second pocket back- too deep, items fall to bottom, which takes up space in the next pocket back- suggest it is shallower
  • Not enough pen slots (which I use for other things, like a spoon, sharpie, mat knife)


  • Third pocket back-Document pouch- the reinforcing tape for the mesh pockets on the other side of the divider obstruct documents from sliding easily down. I solved this by inserting a piece of cardstock, so documents now slide in easily.  This really should not be necessary.
  • The handle on the top- should be black, because my hands are often dirty and this shows clearly on the bright green-
  • The helmet clasp- the idea is great, but the shock cord is too short and rather cumbersome. ***UPDATE- I have gotten used to this and can make it work well for me.
  • Make it lighter in weight

IHSMBR Bike Prep

I have decided to be a lemming and get frame bags for my mountain bike.  I did the GDMBR with panniers, and they worked fine, but there is little singletrack on the Great Divide Route.  Idaho Hot Springs Route, however, has a lot of single track, offered as options.  It is pretty significant, so hence the frame bags.
Revelate is the brand I am familiar with, so I bought a frame bag, the harness, a gas tank and the Terrapin seat bag with a detachable Terrapin dry bag. I got a second Terrapin dry bag to put my tent in on the handlebar harness (Revelate states that dry bag will serve very well there).  My bicycling partner bought the SweetRoll and the Viscacha seat bag, which has a dry bag as its main component. This is kind of cool, since we will be able to compare the two systems.
In addition, due to the high elevations, I bought a Big Agnes Q-core air mattress, which offers some insulation, unlike my old thermarest. We shall see how fast I get tired of blowing the thing up.
I have decided to buy a lighter, smaller raincoat, since I think we will see little rain.  Going with the Novara Stratos 2.0 Bike jacket. REI was unable to give me a weight on it, so I will have to weigh it when it arrives.
And I bought an Osprey Manta 25 backpack off of eBay. Fool of a seller took out the hydration pack's stabalizing stay, which I tried unsuccessfully to re-install. I am pretty sure the stay's purpose it to keep the bladder from sagging, keeping the weight of the water evenly distributed from to top to bottom. Calling Osprey resulted in an invitation to send them the pack.  I pay shipping there, they fix and return to me on their bill. Lifetime warrantee. The pack seems really nice, with enough room for stove, kitchen and food.  I plan on hanging the entire pack (from bears). The hydration bladder seems really well thought out.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Idaho Hot Springs Prep

Adventure Cycling announced a new mountain biking route, and this one is a doozy.  The climbs on the main route and the singletrack options are both tougher than the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route.
Washington Peak by wsiegmund cc by
Washington Peak by Wsiegmund CC BY
The main route has 4 climbs of close to or over 3,000 feet in 10 miles, the highest point being at 8,719 ft altitude, when traveling in the direction AC suggests. Of the singletrack options, Secesh has one ascent of this caliber and Willow Creek and White Cloud each have one,  and in both those last cases you lose 500ft, which need to be regained.
In comparison, looking at the GDMBR, north of Breckenridge and including the Canada section, I could only find one section with that kind of gain/loss (Galton Pass) and if you take the route in the southerly direction AC recommends, it is a downhill.
My cycling partner looked at many blog posts of people who did it in its first year of available maps and came to the conclusion that you can probably only do 20 miles a day, at least on the singletrack, and not much more on the main route.
The main route is a 517.6 mile loop out from Idaho City and includes a singletrack option from Boise, allowing easy airline access.  There is a shortcut across the middle back east, in case you need to bail. The singletrack options, by their very nature, are long and remote.

Thank you DC for the Winter Cycling Challenge

It is difficult to motivate yourself to ride in the winter, when the temperatures dip into the single digits, remain in the teens and there is ice on the road and a kick butt wind chill.  A shout out to DC for starting and managing the Winter Cycling Challenge.  It was open to anyone, from anywhere, but mostly it was people from the Buffalo area.

Because of this challenge setup, which pits teams against each other, the inner competitor in me rode 450 miles starting from November 14th. The challenge used the GreenLightRide website. Although it was probably a good place to run a competition, it doesn't seem to be a very good general way to track your mileage, for there is no mobile app and it makes you log on too often.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Sigh. A little lack of progress on this front

I have had numerous conversations with FedEx, UPS, other delivery and Wheelchair van drivers about not parking in the bike lane. I explain it is illegal. I explain that they force me into traffic approaching from the rear. 
They ask what I want them to do instead. I tell them to park illegally in front of someone's driveway (though often there is a space they can pull into 10 feet ahead or behind them).  But ultimately my response should be, "what would you do if there was no bike lane"? Because they would all admit that they would block the traffic lane.