The end of the trip went from a relaxed ride to something that resembled a team time trial. The border closes at 4:00pm, and my dad and I successfully finished the GDMBR together at 3:43pm.Read More
For all the men who asked me if I was carrying a gun, for all the women who think they can't do something alone, and for anyone who has trouble sleeping in a tent by themselves in the woods, this post is for you.Read More
As usual, I'm sure this post is not going to be news for many experienced bikepackers, but for those of you who are looking for clues, I hope this can contribute to your personal solutions to staying clean in the backcountry.
Good hygiene is especially important for cyclists... And even more so for cyclists who don't have regular access to showers.
For one, saddle sores can break a trip, and your best defense against saddle sores is a good saddle and good hygiene. (If you don't know what I mean by saddle sores, I'll let you Google t yourself.)
Bikepacking presents its unique set of challenges and opportunities. On one hand, you often don't have access to showers... Or they are overpriced at campsites. On the other hand, you are more likely to be in a remote place off of a trail and close to a natural body of water.
I'm not a doctor or a professional bikepacker (no such thing), but I've been on the trail for a month and found the following things to be successful and important to staying somewhat clean and saddle sore free.
- Bring two pairs of bike shorts. You want to be able to clean one pair after riding and have a fresh pair to put on the next day while the other pair dries.
- Clean your bike shorts after every day of riding, no matter what. Use a gentle soap like Dr. Bronner's to suds up the chamois and upper leg area. If you don't have soap, at least rinse it in water. The point is that your trying to clean off the sweat and bacteria that may have formed in your shorts over the day. I suggest mechanical agitation as well to get rid of bacteria.
- Clean yourself with soap and water. What's the point of cleaning your bike shorts if you don't clean yourself? If I'm at a place with a sink, I'll use a camp towel or even just paper towels in a system of damp towel, suds-y towel, and then damp towel to "spot clean". As base as this sounds, this can be done discretely in the bathroom of any lodge or restaurant. If you're near a water source in the backcountry, do the same using the free available water. I'm sure some of you will want to suggest individual disposable wipes (like baby wipes or special backpacking wipes). This may be all fine and good, but I opted to not carry the extra weight because I didn't like the idea of a film or residue being left by a wipe. I've never not been able to "freshen up" at the end of the day so far. You need water to drink or cook every night... So you usually have enough water to clean. If water is scarce, alcohol based hand sanitizer works on other parts of your body than just your hands.
- Put your toothbrush/ toothpaste somewhere convenient. There's nothing more annoying than getting ready for bed and realizing your toothbrush is buried somewhere in your pack. You're more likely to skip it that night than unpack. Leave it in an handy spot. Eating a lot of candy, dried fruits, sticky granola bars, etc. on the road probably wreaks havoc on ones teeth, and so it's even more important to brush.
- Bring dental floss. Not only should you be flossing more because you're eating more sticky sugars everyday, but dental floss is a great medium to repair a blown sidewall. Check out this IG photo from Justin Kline on tour with Beth Puliti in Tajikistan: https://instagram.com/p/29EKlGM86N/
- Neosporine and Tea Tree Oil will help mend saddle sores. Tea tree oil is a good anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and astringent. Apply after washing with soap and water followed by some neo or poly-sporine. They should improve noticeably overnight and really improve over a rest day.
- Bring wool clothing. Lightweight wool really goes a long way to staying odor free (or less odorous than most clothing), which is partially due to the natural anti-bacterial properties of wool. Sweat only has an odor after it sits and collects bacteria. Wool is very good at wicking away sweat, which helps right away. Secondly, the fibers of wool are not as smooth as those in synthetic fibers, which is a less bacteria-friendly environment. Icebreaker has a decent video about how wool works:
Alright. That about wraps it up on the hygiene front. It's off to bike Colorado! I'll be posting about Wyoming and the Wyoming basin soon enough.
I've been an athlete for a long time... long enough to know that one of the easiest ways to injure yourself is to do too much too quickly. However, I'm also an unreasonably optimistic person. I figured averaging 50 miles a day would be alright, knowing that I'd get about 1.5 rest days after the first 6 days and another rest day every other week or so.
In the last two days of the Canada to Whitefish, Montana segment, my knee started to give me some warning pains.
If I had to do it over again, I would change some things:
- Plan for a less-than-average pace for the first week - Between pack adjustments, last minute sight-seeing, and getting used to biking with a 50-60 lb. bike, you will want to plan for some shorter days. If you've been training for this (with weight), obviously you know what you're getting into. But if you're like me and spend most of your pre-ride time figuring out how to do the damn trip, you probably weren't training too much.
- Be more diligent about stretching/strengthening every day - The best way to avoid injury is to diversify your workouts and make sure all your muscle groups are getting activated. It's REALLY hard to do at the end of a long day of biking, especially in inclement weather, but there's no excuse for prevention.
- Ride without a schedule - Don't get me wrong, I'm super grateful for all my riding buddies along the way, but I know that it would be easier to adjust for on-the-trail changes if there were no deadlines. Even simple things like "hey this lake is really cool; let's hang out here for the rest of the day" become more attainable if you don't have anywhere to be in 5 days. Maybe this sounds obvious as well, but coming from a fast-paced, hard-working, deadline-riddled life on the East Coast, this is a new concept for me.
- Start with flat-clipless pedals - It's a fairly common fix for people with knee pain to ride with flat pedals. It allows for the foot to go wherever it wishes to allievate knee pain. I wish I would've started with the pair I had laying at home instead of paying to switch later.
Fortunately, while in Whitefish, I was able to see an awesome Physical Therapist, Jay Schraver. He helped diagnose me with a standard case of over use and a slightly errant patella. So far, my stretched and taped knee is feeling better.
I also visited Glacier Cyclery and got some flat-clipless hybrid pedals so that my foot could go wherever it wished to alleviate pain.
With another day of rest and making some adjustments to make my ride more efficient, I'll hopefully be back on it.
In the meantime, I ate way too much in Whitefish and soaked up the comforts of civilization with some warm showers, big breakfasts, I've-cream, non-camp coffee, and beers with friends. In the realm of bikepacking, taking just 48 hours off from biking feels like an eternity and a supreme luxury.
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.