- Local time
- 9:36 PM
- May 5, 2009
- Laguna Woods, California
Right now, I'm so excited I can hardly stand it, and that's nice, because at age 67 it is difficult to get excited about much anymore.
The reason is because I'm about to begin my first power-assisted bike trip. The way I feel right now one would think it is Christmas Eve and that I was waiting for Santa Clause to make his way down my southern California chimney, which in itself is sort of a joke, because there must be at last a thousand kids all over the world who think I am Santa. I happen to bear a striking resemblance to the old boy, particularly when I carry a little extra weight, which I do most of the time, and which is why I try to ride bicycles a lot.
The riding, however, has started to decline because of age and the usual physical problems that accompany advancing years. I find that now, after 15 years of self-supported long-distance bicycle touring all over the world, that the hobby is seriously threatened by my declining physical abilities. My wife, Kristina, who is the same age as I, is doing quite nicely thank you. Although she has an engine on a bike too, she doesn't really need one. That's because she's a genetic freak. There are a lot of those types too. You know who I'm talking about . . . the 70-year-old who looks like Joe Studley and zips by on a go-fast bike in hot pursuit of some sweet young thing. Personally, I can't stand them.
On the other hand, I don't mind the women freaks at all.
It took me quite a while to gather the necessary courage to buy my first, and so far only, bike motor. Frankly, it was an embarrassing predicament. What would all my biking friends say? They would never talk to me again. They would snicker at me, perhaps even laugh out loud. That's what Kristina did when I told her of my plan.
"I would never be caught with one of those on my bike," she declared.
Then she saw me on mine, saw how I smoothly rode up the hills with the engine, with the load and all the while pedaling, if I wanted to, and how fresh I seemed after doing it in the blistering summer heat. That's when she demanded one of her own and that worried me. She has fallen so many times that the scars on her knees and elbows look like road maps. Still, she has been able to handle the motored bike just fine. Personally, I don't think she will fall.
My rig consists of a 15-year-old 21-speed Specialized mountain bike that I purchased in near new condition off craigslist. It is powered with a Staton friction drive kit and a Robins Subaru EHO35 four stroke engine and I have the smallest friction drive accessory so that I might have the most power possible going up hills. The top speed is only about 22 mph, however, 15 to 18 mph will be just fine for my needs.
I have owned the engine assisted bike for about 18 months, but family obligations have prevented me from making a major ride until now. Still, I have very successfully put it through several tests. The most demanding was in the High Sierras one day when I climbed 6,000 feet with a 50-pound load in about 30 minutes. Without the motor, the eight-mile climb would have taken me about three hours to complete. I did pedal, with the engine, which helped considerably but without exhausting me. Without the engine, I would have had to stop every few hundred yards to let my heart catch up to my body.
One of the really nice features about my present setup is the fact that I can shift gears while pedaling under power. Hence, I can select just the right amount of effort so as to not upset my cardiovascular applecart, yet give me the exercise I need.
My plan is to ride from my home at Laguna Woods, CA, to Mammoth Lakes in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, which is about 388 miles due north and at an altitude of about 8,000 feet. The ride will start near sea level, then will almost immediately gently climb to 2,500 feet before descending into the desert regions where the temperatures most likely will exceed 100 degrees. The temperature reached 107 today at Riverside, which is why I didn't start as originally planned. The route then will be up and down with a great deal of steep climbing on the last day.
It is my intention to push the engine hard, but not treat it badly. I expect to run it about four hours a day and possibly more. My engineer brother-in-law says the little Robins Subaru engine, and other similar makes like it, are used heavily by the gardening trade and are designed and built just for such demanding day-long use. He assures me I should do well and from what I have read on this site, he most likely is right.
The point of the ride is two-fold:
- To see if the motor can withstand the rigors of loaded touring; and
- To determine if I can withstand the rigors of loaded touring with aid of a small engine.
I will be making this ride with a safety net of sorts -- Kristina -- who will be within a few hours driving time with a bike rack just in case I have overstated my case and have some kind of mechanical failure. I seriously doubt she will be needed.
I have planned for the ride to take four days, but have budgeted six days . . . just in case I have been a little too ambitious. Again, it is my intention to push the engine and rig. I should be able to pedal 35 to 50 miles engine-free without a problem; the engine will make up the difference, I hope!
For those who may want to see the map the plan is:
Day 1 - Laguna Woods to Hesperia, CA -- 109 miles;
Day 2 - Hesperia to Ridgecrest -- 93 miles
Day 3 - Ridgecrest to Independence -- 98 miles
Day 4 - Independence to Mammoth Laks -- 88 miles
There are many spots at which to stay between those points, so I should have no problem if I don't make my particular goals.
The route the first day is a convoluted one, because most of it is through heavy population congestion. The balance of the trip is straight up US 395. I will meet up with Kristina and friends at Mammoth where we will spend six days camping and hiking . . . or perhaps they will and I will spend the days riding through the cool mountains on my bike, with motor of course.
I will make every attempt to post a synopsis of each day's ride on a daily basis . . . if an internet connection is available.
I am open to any suggestions!
PS -- Does anyone know how to embed photos in the text?