Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Adventuring By Bike- Chelsea Hartmann

Chelsea contacted me via Wheelwomen Switchboard to see if I would post about her bike riding adventure! This will be a 2-part series, a before trip/after.

"It will be a 60 day 3,600ish mile trip from Portland Oregon to Schenectady New York. I am going alone, and I have never done anything like this before."

Chelsea is embarking on this trip as a commuter who bikes 12.5 miles a day and it's her main form of transportation.

I am 24, with a house, two dogs, rabbits and a boyfriend. I have a love of travel and of all things requiring yarn (knitting, crochet, spinning, weaving etc.). 


For the last three years, since graduating college, I have worked in the energy efficiency sector working on programs that reduce demand for electricity. 
I am very close with my family, who are all both excited and worried for me, and I have a few close friends that I enjoy spending time with.

When did you first start riding a bike?
I have been riding a bike on and off for my whole life. I remember learning how to ride without training wheels on my street when I was five or six and crashing my bike in the park because of some sand on the path (it was a bright green GIANT boys bike). I road through middle school, but stopped for a few years when I was in high school and college. When I moved back to Portland after college and saved up some money from my first office job, the first thing I got myself was a really nice bike. I have been riding consistently since then.

What motivated you to ride as much as you have over the years?
I have always been rather environmentally conscious and I think that has something to do with it, but mostly I just enjoy seeing the world at 10 to 20 miles per hour. Usually I can get where I need to go faster on my bike than by bus, and driving is expensive, so I tend not to unless it’s a long trip or I need to take my dogs.

You are a commuter, what are some of the challenges you face and how do you overcome them?
As a commuter, there are three general groups of challenges: the health/maintenance of myself and my bike, the weather and other road users. When I am feeling lazy or no so hot, I usually just make myself ride anyway because it usually helps me feel better. When my bike is having issues is usually when I have a harder time. I am learning a lot about bike mechanics as I prep for my trip, but often, I stop by my local shop to get their input before doing much fiddling. Regarding the weather, I am pretty lucky living in Oregon. The weather is usually pretty mild in the valley, sometimes you get some high speed winds coming from the Gorge or some really heavy rain, but a hot shower and a cup of vanilla chai usually solve that at the end of the trip. I always carry my rain gear with me though just in case and I slow down when it’s wet for safety. 

Other road users tend to be the most challenging to negotiate. We have some pretty good bike infrastructure here, but we still have a number of drivers that don’t respect cyclists’ right to the road and a number of pedestrians who are unaware of their surroundings. I try my best to ride in a very predictable manner, stick to roads that have bike lanes or are designated as low speed shared roadways and keep an eye out for pedestrians or drivers acting erratically.

What do you love about riding your bike?
For me, riding is a time to think and observe. I love the quiet hum of the pavement under my wheels and the simplicity of riding that allows me to think about life and the state of the world. I get to see a lot more of what is around me when I am riding than I do in a car and I love that too. I enjoy the diversity of biking (fun, transportation, exploration, exercise, community interaction). Biking makes me feel connected to my community and the world around me.

Tell us about your bike(s), what they are like and why did you choose them?
I have two bikes currently, a Focus Cayo Evo carbon fiber road bike and a Liv Alight aluminum commuter.

My Focus is super light-weight black and gray with blue accents, paired down to the minimum of water bottle cages and an under seat bag for tubes and patches. This was my big pot college splurge and it has seen me over many miles of road riding. Because of my 5’4” stature, I was able to get the extra small frame for a steal and the bike just feels like an extension of me when I get on it. I couldn’t ask for a better fit when it comes to frame geometry without getting something custom made.

I used to commute on my Focus, but when I bought my house last year and my commute stretched to 6 miles each way, I invested in the Liv Alight for comfort and hauling. I did some research on affordable commuters and found the Alight at my local shop. After a test ride, it was just asking to come home with me. The Alight is white with teal accents and has been modified almost beyond recognition for the tour. The wheels have been replaced with a dynamo hub in the front and a Velo Orange grand cru freewheel touring hub in the back to make changing spokes a breeze. I have racks on the front and back plus a Portland Design Works basket on the handle bars. I have added GP5 grips for multiple hand positions and a Brooks B-17s saddle for comfort.

What clothing/bike accessories do you love? What would you recommend to your friends?
I love my Icebreaker mid layers and socks. I have a 200 weight half zip and a 260 weight hooded full zip sweater that get me through any weather. I also cannot say enough good things about their socks. I have had my two pairs for years now and they are still going strong and keeping my toes warm.  I am not too picky about my gear as long as it works, but I have to say that the PDW handlebar basket with the roll top dry bag is a huge convenience. I put all of my essentials in the roll top and clip it to the bag, add a net and you have space to hold your rain gear and a spare water bottle plus the built in U-Lock holder. It makes things super easy to access.

You are planning a 60 day trip that will be around 3,600 miles (Portland, Oregon to Schenectady, NY) what inspired your decision and destination?
It was a bit of a perfect storm of events that lead to me deciding to take this trip. The first thing was I had to miss the two week family vacation to Bolivia because I didn’t have time off of work. The second was that I outgrew my job. The third was reading “The Happiness of Pursuit” and days after finishing reading that, I got the invitation to my cousins wedding in Schenectady in June of this year and the next thing I knew, I was starting to imagine quitting my job and riding across the country. I contemplated talking myself out of it, but I finally came to the decision that if I didn’t take this trip, I would regret it for the rest of my life. So I told a few people, and then I told everyone and I started getting things ready.

What are your initial feelings when you think about your solo touring ride? Exited? Nervous?
When I started planning I was much more excited than I was nervous. Maybe because the reality of it all hadn’t sunk in yet or because I was yet to endure months of people telling me how worried they were for me and bringing up all of the obstacles I would face along the way. Now that I am less than two months away from departure, I am much more confident in my success and the nervousness is much more real but there is a determination to succeed now that I didn’t have before and that is what I cultivate and focus on.

For the initial planning stages, what are you doing to ensure you are prepared as much as possible?
I have had two people who have really helped me get my bike ready, a friend, Justin, that works at a local bike shop helped me sort out a lot of the modifications I would want to make and taught me bike maintenance in his off hours in exchange for food and beer. Lead, my local shop owner, has helped me with implementation, maintenance issues on the weekends, and generally just being very excited for me. As for the camping gear and packing lists, there has been a lot of online research, lots of questions to REI staff, and just questions to everyone who might have some input or insight. I have two short overnights planned to test all my gear and to determine what gear I really need and what I can probably leave at home.

Do you have any goals for your trip?
The big goal is to make it to Schenectady with a few days to spare so I can find a dress for the wedding and get cleaned up and rested. Ideally this will be done without taking a greyhound bus or Amtrak train. Other than that, I want to figure out what is next in life for me and just enjoy the views.

How will you spend your overnights?
Most nights will be spent camping. I have a whole tent set up with an inflatable backpacking pad and sleeping bag. But there will be some nights spent with friends, family, or friends of friends/family. I am also looking at using the website Warmshowers.com to find a place or two to stay as I cross states where I don’t have any connections.

Any parting words/thoughts/suggestions for those looking to do a long-distance touring ride?
Go for it! Take the trip. Talking to people as I prepare for this ride, I have heard a lot of “That’s on our list” and “I wish I had done that before having kids”, life happens when you aren’t looking so make sure to make time to take the trips you want, be that a bike tour or a trip to Europe. When you start crunching the numbers, it’s not as expensive as you might imagine, especially if you are willing to make a few small sacrifices both day to day and on the trip.

For me, the biggest thing is/was keeping the mental fortitude to not quit. 

As the departure date gets closer, I doubt my ability to do it more and more, but April 14th will dawn, and I will get on my bike and I will ride some number of miles be it the idealized 70 or merely 40. And then I will do it again the next day, and the next. It’s my adventure, so if I make it a week in and decide it isn’t the trip for me, that’s ok, but if it is, and I make it, awesome.

2 comments:

  1. Will she be giving updates along the way?

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  2. I believe she may have a blog at some point- but there will be a second interview posted after her trip :)

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