For the First Time. Again.
We spent this past weekend with the great group at Cycle Wild, a non-profit organization in Portland whose mission is to reconnect people with nature through bicycle touring. One of the great things about Cycle Wild is that it has become a great organization for getting first timers to tour; people who are a little daunted by the logistics and routing, people who don’t necessarily want to carry camping equipment (there was a yurt option on this last trip), and those that want to tour with a fun group of people. This weekend, we couldn’t help but feel like newbies again taking our Bromptons on their first bike camping trip!
As Laura wrote on her last post, we’re still figuring things out. This is simultaneously fun and exciting as a challenge, but also a little nerve wracking as we try to optimize everything we’re carrying. Our last trip is beginning to look a lot like a Carnival Cruise in retrospect, when comparing it to our more streamlined setup. I’m trying to vastly cut down on the electronics, carrying my most used bits of camera gear from the last time around. My clothing packing list is under constant scrutiny, as I try to figure out what little permutation of clothes I can bring to account for the the big temperature variations we’ll face. Of course, a lot of this is familiar territory, so it is a little funny to get butterflies in the stomach.
In that spirit, it was wonderful to join some newcomers to touring this weekend and have that same sort of I’m-still-figuring-it-out feeling too. We got to respond to lots of questions and quizzical looks during the weekend. One of the first questions that people ask us when they see the Bromptons are if we have to pedal any faster or are we much slower than with our other bikes? We’ve been telling people, “No.” It was good to finally confirm this on our weekend trip. We were able to keep up without a problem and even found ourselves at one point in a funny looking pace line of bikes, bags and Bromptons to Champoeg State Park at a good (for us) 15mph clip.
The 6 widely spaced gears covered most of the bases. It gave us a reasonable high gear of about 88 gear inches and a reasonably low gear of 29 gear inches. What this means in practice is that for 90% of the time you will not have a problem even with a light touring load, though there will 5% of the time where you’ll be grunting up a hill cursing for another gear and another 5% where you may have to walk. We’re still playing with gearing and may try a few mods before we settle on our final setup. But for those that are demanding the specs now, we have 6spd Bromptons with the wide range rear hub and the -12% reduced gearing option. The only other modifications we’ve done so far are replacing the bikes with our old Brooks saddles from the Surlys and changing the grips (Laura is using some Ergon BioKork grips and I’m using Ergon Magnesium race grips – both of them hacksawed down a little).
Aside from the riding, we also were trying out our new tent, a Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2. Many will recall that we traveled with an REI Quarterdome T3, the last time around. We decided to find a tent that was smaller and lighter and would pack well with the Bromptons for our next trip. The Copper Spur UL2 is fairly roomy for a two person tent. It was long enough that we could keep our Brompton front touring bags at our feet, allowing us to park our folded bikes in the vestibule! We can’t speak for its durability yet, but our initial impressions are really positive.
This past weekend was a trip of some firsts. It was good to finally do a real ride with a real touring load over some very real hills. It was both encouraging and sobering. We were constantly amazed at how well the Bromptons handled, but also became more aware of their weight and gearing limitations. We’re still really excited to take them out on tour, but it means we’ve got a bit of fine tuning to do before we push off in a few months!