If you are here it might be that you like to nerd out with some details of the ride like I do. First let me say that the above map is not entirely accurate. Google maps goes with what forms of transportation are available at the moment. Therefore, it would not allow me to take a ferry across Lake Michigan, which I intend to do to skip riding through most of Chicagoland (no offense Chi folks, like my sister). I will be setting out around the 12-13 of June and have a return ticket booked from Minneapolis on July 8.
Luckily this route is not very hilly. Almost all of the serious elevation disparities happen in the first 3 days getting out of Massachusetts and entering New York. 20,000ft of climbing over a 3 weeks is a not much. I remember going on a ride sponsored by a local bike club where the masochistic leader had mapped a 35 mile route that climbed close to 5,000ft just for fun!
One and a Half Gallons of Gas
The pure efficiency of bicycles as machines has always fascinated me. I will never forget a small side-bar in a Bicycling Magazine from the late 80’s. It explained that if we could perfectly convert all of the calories of energy in one gallon of gas into food to power us on a bike it would be enough to push us over 1000 miles. I’ll skip the drinking gasoline bit, but it really is a fascinating fact.
Of course much of that is due to the terrible efficiency of an internal combustion engine, which wastes 70-85% of every gallon in the form of heat and partial combustion.
Basically I will be riding the equivalent of one hour of driving (maybe the equivalent of 2 gallons of gas in a decently efficient vehicle) per day. Depending on terrain, accommodation and other factors, the mileage ranges from 50-85 miles, averaging out at about 65 miles a day. In theory it is very doable at 5-6 hours per day in the saddle at a pretty moderate pace.
The Ride: Rocinante
Over the course of the winter I have been slowly converting a 29 inch ‘mountain’ bike I had for commuting into more of a touring machine. I have affectionately christened it ‘Rocinante,’ after Don Quijote’s steed (also a word play in Spanish as Rocin is the word for a young horse and ante is before). I don’t plan on fighting imaginary monsters or jousting with windmills, but the adventure does have some quixotic elements. Dayglo orange for safety sake! At first I was tempted by investing in a purpose build touring bike, but I got off of that cliff quickly and decided it made more sense to modify what I already had. In the end I will have a more efficient commuting bike and something that tours decently well, plus it would give me a project that would re-sharped my bike mechanic skills. Fun fact: my first job was as a bike mechanic. So far I have done the following:
Replaced the wide, energy sucking tires with narrower tourers
Replaced the heavy (6.5lbs), flexy suspension fork with a rigid steel fork
Installed more ergonomic grips for my handsies and clipless pedals for feetsies
Put on fenders and a rack
Ideally I want to spend as little money as possible on accommodation (and everything else). I pledge not to use any of the donated money for accomodation and I have already spent a good deal of my own moolah getting the rig ready for a long ride. So free is what I am mostly looking for but I also want a communal aspect as long days in the saddle all by one’s lonesome can grow wearisome and lonely. Fortunately there is a perfect way to find accomodation with like-minded long-distance bikers for free. It is a marvelously conceived but creepily named service called “Warm Showers”. What it is, essentially, is a network of touring bikers and kind souls who sign up on the website to volunteer as hosts to folks who are passing their way. You find them through the app, then coordinate stays directly with them. I am now a member of the club, have made a donation to the platform, and am now open to hosting others as well to pay it forward. In larger population centers there are plenty of listings, but there are almost always a few in between as well. I am really looking forward to the camaraderie and stories of hosts along the way. Fair warning: of course I will be mooching off some family and friends along the way, too. My last option will be rough camping in my one-person tent. Originally I was thinking that I wouldn’t take it to save on weight, but it will be nice to have as an option in a pinch.