The first 5 days on the bike have been amazing, but getting used to life on a mountain bike is no walk in the park. I'm as psyched as the next person to rip down washed out, barely-maintained roads after laboring up 2,000 feet in 5 miles with everything I need to eat, sleep, and survive in the wilderness... But, it takes an adjustment... Or many.
Here are some of the trials and tribulations I wasn't necessarily thinking about pre-trip:
- Packing everything by weight so it fits nicely and hangs tight on rugged terrain (read: creek crossings, rocky wash outs, steep and fast pass descents);
- Packing everything by frequency and order of use to avoid unpacking a whole bag just for one item (sounds obvious, but it takes a few days to figure out when you will need what items at what time of day);
- Thinking ahead to pack non-ritualistic items on top (e.g., don't bury your passport the day you will cross a border);
- Finding the ideal mix of the above mentioned items for optimal efficiency and minimal frustration;
- Remembering to eat according to output energy and time (I can forget to eat an appropriate amount during hard efforts, especially in jaw-droppings mountain ranges, which is never good 2 hours later); and
- Remembering to have a good attitude in rainy conditions. Nothing rains harder on a good day that an afternoon/evening shower that soaks you and everything around you such that setting up camp becomes a delicate operation of segregation between wet and dry items. A joke and a some old fashioned sarcasm go a long way in these cases. And I'm super thankful for a riding partner that can help me with that. :)
Some me things that have been working out really well so far:
- Reading the elevation profile enough to know roughly what to expect that day, but not tracking the feet left in a mountain pass. It might just be me, but sometimes I find that ignorance is bliss before a hard days bike ride.
- Really taking a good hard look at the landscape, and not just to take a picture. I want to be able to communicate my journey, but I also know that the experience is totally different without a lens between myself and the world.
- Wool, wool, wool - what they say about wicking, quick-dry, and odor-resistant is all true. Of course, it won't smell like clean laundry, but both my Giro cycling jersey and my Inji toe socks have kept me feeling somewhat civilized.
- Blackburn Outpost Handlebar Roll - it may look like an awkward log when it's stuffed with my 20 degree bag, Klymit sleeping pad (rolls up to the size of a soda can!), inflatable pillow, Platypus water filter, and bike repair kit, but it holds firmly in place during the bumpiest descents. I found that tightening the cinch strap that encompasses the whole roll is key to keeping things in place.
- Relevate Designs Feedbag - so this thing makes me blissfully happy, mostly because it is the like the kangaroo pouch I never had. I mix up a bunch of different snack foods like dried cranberries, mangos, nuts, unwrapped starbursts, sweet sesame treats I found at a market in Chinatown, and whatever else... Then I have a grab bag of pick me ups between meals.