Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Bike California, day 0: Assembling Grando and a first shakedown ride

What you don't want your route map to look like a week before your departure (Photo: Big Sur Information)

Wisconsin winters are long and cold. I tolerate but certainly don't like them. So this year I decided to find reprieve on a week-long bike trip in sunny California. Inspired by Hunter's wonderful ride report, the plan was to ride down the coast from San Francisco to LA. Well, sunny California turned out to be rainy California this winter, upending my plans. Landslides had interrupted much of my planned route. I kept being hopeful that everything would be cleaned up by the time of my trip. But that hope proved elusive, and by the time of my departure I didn't really know where I would end up touring. Generally I'm a person who likes to have a firm plan. But somehow in this case the idea of making things up on the go appealed to me.

Boxing up my SOMA Grand Rando
Dropping off the bike at FedEx

Packed and ready to leave for the airport
California, where oranges just grow in your garden...
My flight got me into San Francisco at 9 pm. My hosts, Julie and David, fortunately live very close to SFO, and they greeted me with a wonderful vegan pizza for dinner. My bike, shipped a couple days previously via BikeFlights had not arrived yet (note: If you insure your bike over $500, a signature is required at delivery, and apparently the signed note that my hosts left on the door does not fulfill that requirement). Not a problem, as I had planned to hang out with Julie and David for another night anyway.

The bike has arrived!
And indeed, the next morning my SOMA Grand Randonneur arrived, mostly unscathed: The rear fender was bent a little, and the nut of the front quick release skewer got lost. No big deal. Reassembly was also unproblematic and quick, courtesy of David's well-stocked garage, including a brand new repair stand. Once assembled, it was time for a test ride. Yes, I had not previously tried the exact set-up of bags. In Madison it had been too cold and snowy for a shakedown ride. I wasn't too worried, given that I had done overnight camping trips with a similar setup. Nonetheless, an actual test before starting on the tour seemed like a good idea. After all, I had much bigger panniers, was carrying more weight than ever before on Grando, and had just switched to a new cassette. My hosts had recommended Crystal Springs Reservoir as a scenic destination not too far away. The route there would also include a good amount of climbing/descending, making for an excellent test course. Conclusion: The ride was pretty, and the bike felt great! The handling was intuitive, despite having all the weight in the front, and on the descents there was not a hint of shimmy or speed wobble. The only adjustment I made after the shakedown ride was to nudge up the tire pressure in the front.

Climbing up to the reservoir
Grando, fully loaded, on the Sawyer Camp Recreation Trail
Fancy houses and fancy cars on the way back
At this point I had also made a decision on my route: The weather forecast north of San Francisco looked relatively promising, with only a small chance of rain and high temperatures of around 12-15°C (55-60F). So I would start out on the Orr Springs 600k route, a brevet route that promised a “course [that] challenges even strong riders, but it rewards with fantastic scenery and uncommon isolation.” In best case, I thought I may be able to do the whole route in six days. This would then give me a few days to take the train further south and do a bit of riding near LA. And if that would prove too challenging, I could always spend more time on the route or cut it short. As I said: Improvisation!

I concluded the day with Julie and David, having strong beers at Grape and Grain and a truly amazing "Hella Vegan" samosa at Curry Up Now.

No comments:

Post a Comment