05 September 2011

Learn by doing

I have been wondering if the gearing—straight up SRAM Apex, 50/32, 11/34, which gives, with 180mm cranks, gain ratios between 8.6 and 2.0—on the Experiment is really suitable for loaded touring.  It's obviously suitable for axial-bag-only riding about, but it wasn't at all clear I'd want to go anywhere the least bit hilly with panniers.  Since there are a number of nice multi-day touristy sorts of rides up near Peterborough and in diverse other places in Ontario where, lo, there are hills, I though this would be a good question to resolve.

Since the question didn't appear to be especially amenable to theory, I figured that since I needed to take some panniers with me on the Niagara weekend with the long-suffering zingerella, (since, however long-suffering, putting up with me in the same cycling clothes for four days would be Rather Much) I might as well err on the side of stuff and resolve the question.

So on Thursday morning, when I weighed the bags, I got:

4.71trunktools and spares
6.28XM45walking-around clothes
7.40Bugcomputer, power bricks, cables
6.98GT18Pentax DSLR and lenses
6.42GT18cycling clothes, rain gear, more food

The Experiment, with racks, lights, and GPS, is 17.04 kg; three full water bottles at 0.87 kg each would be another 2.61 kg if I counted them as full, but let's count that as 1.05 as an average value, giving me 56 kg total non-me rolling mass. (123.45 lbs.) This is half my body weight, near as makes no never-mind.

And it turns out I can do that, somewhat to my surprise.

Day 1 was Burlington GO to Port Colborne, via the truly excellent, bike-friendly Pan Cafe in St. Catharines; Day 4 was Port Colborne to the St. Catharine's train station, to pick up the end-of-the-summer GO bike train back to Toronto.  Days 2 and 3 were indolent, with minor sidelines in traipsing about Port Colborne but mostly taking advantage of the glorious hospitality of the Talwood Manor B&B to revel in the knowledge that no one at work had the slightest idea where I was.

Day 1 was 110.45 km, counting the ~4.6 km riding to the Exhibition GO station along with the ride from Burlington to Port Colborne; Day 2 was 103.3 km.  (No in-Toronto distance; I took the subway home from Union Station, as rain and pitch dark and tired were adjudged a bad combination.)

So, things I have learned:

  1. The Escarpment notwithstanding, the Niagara peninsula really is pretty much flat, but it has a peculiar wind field where, no matter your heading nor how frequent your changes of heading, there will be a headwind.
  2. I can do loaded touring with Apex gearing when it's flat; the Lock 5/Lock 7 part of the Welland Canal trail is a pretty good indication that I ought not to do any loaded touring with Apex gearing where it's not flat, even if there are no people attempting to teach their tiny dog to sit in the middle of the trail at the peak of the hill road crossing.
  3. Seat height is everything; the difference between 110 km on a loaded bike with some tiredness but no real pain and the screaming leg cramps starting right around 60km is about 1cm of seat height.  The current replacement seat post clamp might be as close as a quarter turn to snapping the bolt; it's certainly not less than 1 turn from that point.  It is, however, holding. (Al seatpost, Ti seat tube, anti-seize compound not optional; result is a seat post that wants to creep down.  Thompson seat post clamps on order (1 to use, 1 to carry spare) and apparently unknown to ever go ping!, per the LBS. I shall see.)
  4. there's a lot of wobble in a crosswind on a loaded bike below about 15 kph; after awhile, my hands really notice this.
  5. lowrider panniers interfere with curbs readily; the reflexive foot-on-curb thing becomes a Bad Plan.
  6. The regular GO train is a much better way to convey one's bicycle than the GO bicycle excursion train; you get to sit with the bike and don't have to unload it.  Must fill out survey.

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