Gearing up

I’ve started my “get back in condition” process I codified last year with Wayne and Charlotte. 10 km the first week, 20 km the next–generally increasing by 10 km per week working my way to 100 km. It’s my laid-back training process that clearly worked last year with Wayne and Charlotte. My goal then was to try to be sure we were all on roughly the same page. It actually worked a little too well, since both of them were in better shape than I was! This time also I’m starting off with an extra 12 pounds or so of weight on the bicycle (instead of adding it later in the process ) to decrease the initial gear shock of all the touring gear on the bicycle.

In thinking about it, the conditioning is not just a physical process. Part of it is making the mental transition to spending time on the bicycle. When cycle-touring, life moves at a different speed. In addition to getting in (at least the neighborhood of) physical shape, spending more time cycling is adapting to that time of no other distractions.

I’ve continued reviewing my other gear. My old cycle shoes are great, but they’re in tatters. The shoes from the Istanbul to Ireland trip start hurting my feet at about 80 km. They’re great for working my way up to distances, but not so good once I get there. Time to break in a new pair of shoes. I ordered new shoes from REI. The three different pairs (same shoe, different sizes) are now on the living room floor waiting for me to figure out which size is the “correct” size, so I can take the other two pairs back to REI.

I was considering replacing my tried-and-true Western Mountaineering down sleeping bag. I’ve gotten my mileage (kilometerage?) out of it, and most of the loft was gone, decreasing its warmth (and it’s already a light-weight bag). I spoke with the manufacturer and they reminded me I should wash it. Washing a down bag is a real pain. I hand-washed it in the bathtub, and then had to rinse it over and over to be certain I’d gotten all of the soap out (special soap for washing down from the same REI order). That took hours, but it was only the beginning. The drying of a down bag is an even longer process. You carefully roll it up (not wringing it out) to remove as much water as you can before you can dry it. But you can’t just place it in the dryer until it’s dry. On very low heat, you take the sleeping bag back out of the dryer every 30 minutes. Before you do that, you have to check your drying to make sure there are no rough edges to tear up the bag. In my case that meant pounding on and sanding down a couple of edges in the dryer. Each time you take the bag out of the dryer, you have to carefully tease apart all matted clumps of down that have formed a sodden mass in each of the separate “cells” (all 48 of them) of the sleeping bag. Then back in the dryer for another 30 minutes, only to repeat the process. Over and over. You have to repeat this until there’s absolutely no question there’s any moisture left in the sleeping bag. I had to work on it for a day and a half, but it’s back to its earlier feathery fluffiness.

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