Don's Bike Across America
Astoria, Oregon to Portsmouth, New Hampshire
June 19 to August 7, 2006

Don's Blog: June 16: Thoughts on Cycling Equipment and a Visit to the Rose City

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Thoughts on Equipment

In many ways, all endurance sports are similar. Whether it’s running, swimming, paddling, or cycling, it comes down to output and allocation of energy over a long period of time. There are some pretty major differences between the sports as well, however. Cycling, as opposed to most other endurance activities, is extremely equipment-oriented and dependent. After all, the sport requires that you employ a pretty sophisticated piece of machinery.

For some, that is a great appeal. There is no feeling quite like working in perfect harmony with your bike. When the fit and feel is just right, it is a thing of beauty. The problem, not surprisingly, is that the harmony can prove to be an elusive ideal. Equipment, such as it is, can get old, can break, or simply not work like you want it to. Thus, you need to repair or replace that equipment to get everything back in synch. Some folks immerse themselves in that aspect of cycling; they love to tinker and tweak. A new set of high performance wheels can bring unbridled joy to a cycling “geek,” the term used with the utmost respect.

Alas, I am not one of those people. Anyone who knows me also knows that I am less than mechanically inclined, something of liability when it comes to cycling. I can fix a flat (with a lot of effort and a little luck) and do some minor tweaks, but that is about it. Anything else means a trip to the bike shop. Of course, the more you ride, the more wear and tear you put on the equipment, which in turn results in more trips to the bike shop. Suffice to say, the good folks at Anderson Bicycle in Quincy, Massachusetts have seen a lot of me in 2006.

Bicycles nowadays are far more than just a frame and some gearing. There are specialized pedals, shoes, cleats, helmets, gloves, shorts, cyclometers, GPS devices, and god knows what else. It can all add up to a sizeable cash investment. Love it or hate it─it's an integral part of the sport of cycling. I have not met the good folks at the Bike Gallery yet, but will tomorrow. They are assembling my bike (it was disassembled and shipped in a case earlier in the week), as well as tinkering and tweaking. I’ll be happy to have my machine in tiptop shape, and will gladly part with the cash in exchange.

Portland: The Rose City

I had the chance to meet up with ultrarunning friend and Portland resident Steve Smucker today for a look around Portland. The Pacific Northwest lived up to its reputation for precipitation, but the rain was light and hardly a bother. In fact, the sun came out later in the day and promised to stick around for several days, including the start of the bike trek.

Steve, a very accomplished ultarunner, graciously took several hours from his day to provide a walking tour of the city, while we chatted about various subjects. Steve pointed out that Portland is a very cycling-friendly city, with bike lanes on nearly every street. In fact, there was a big article on page one of the Oregonian today that suggested Portland may be tops for cycling in the U.S.A. among major cities. Coming from very cycling-unfriendly Boston, it is a nice thing to see, and makes me a little envious.

While Steve and I sat in the city square, a noontime tradition took place. A pole with a stork at the top lit up and chimes began. Onlookers waited to see whether the fountain would erupt, indicating rain, or the ceramic sun would emerge, indicating pleasant conditions. Today, both emerged, indicating a weather mix. All in all, Portland seems a nice, friendly, laid back place to live.