P3: Trans Am Bike Race 2018 complete!

Trans America Bike Race 2018 is complete!

Part 3:

  • Wonderful people
  • Mechanical Issues
  • Kit
  • Overall Data

"It's all downhill from here" just after Hoosier pass, Colorado. Ha, you jokers.

Thanks y'all for sticking with me so far! Here is the final instalment of post race themes; I've put the more cyclist-specific topics at the bottom, so normal folk aren't dulled dry with the details.

People

How wonderful are American people? (& no, I'm not just sucking bottoms to get more readers!)
I'd be hard pushed to think of another country I've been where I've experienced such warmth & friendliness. You could meet almost anyone here, & guarantee yourself a lovely chat, joke or deep conversation. Particularly in the small towns upon leaving the coast: at one convenience store, every single person who saw Steve & I with our bikes immediately wanted to know about us/ to share their own adventures.
The incredible cyclist's haven 'Spoke n' hostel', Mitchell, Oregon


A cyclist in need...

God forbid, but if/when you have issues on the road, most of us will have needed or relied on help from strangers. Despite the staunch 'self-supported' race principles, this is allowed, as long as it would've been possible for any other racer to have gotten the same help. Hitch-hiking is a major need sometimes (you're allowed to hitch anywhere as long as you return back to the spot where you left the race route): thankfully the US is full of giant pickups, made for carrying extras...like troubled cyclists! I know fellow riders relied on this when on remote stretches, sometimes hundreds of miles from bike shops. I also hitched twice during my race, again meeting the kindest of folk. Ahh, it just warms my cockles!
Adopted into a new family for the day - sharing rhymes in the backseat with Alana


Churches & fire stations

En route there are a number of public buildings which have been left open by sweet people to house cyclists for free/by donation.

I definitely benefited from this, staying in the House of God on numerous occasions: often on my mat on the floor, but sometimes even on a mattress. Even better, frequently there was COFFEE available - praise ye the Lord!
Jefferson City's cyclist hostel church!


'Dot Watchers' & 'Trail Angels'

As you may know, the racers have trackers which can be followed live on transambikerace.com: this has lead to the creation of a new hobby for hundreds of lost souls...dot watching!

It can be a bit disturbing knowing your exact whereabouts is tracked 24h, & mapped to the minutiae, "I saw you slept in a toilet block last night, Alaina". 😐
Warm, dry & secure! Got kicked out at 0530 by the angry owner though...


Anyway, this excited new wave of supporters may come find you on the road for a chat! This is cool, however even cooler, & a serious life-saver in dark moments, is if the dot watcher is in fact a TRAIL ANGEL.
Maureeeen!

Dripping wet, feeling like you're covered in bugs you try to swot (but it's in fact your own perspiration), struggling up one of many 'rollers' the humid east throws at you, you notice a hazy figure up ahead, next to a large vehicle. Could it be, a trail angel? Could we be blessed with the ice cold sugary liquid we have been fantasizing about for the past few hours?!
& there she was, Maureen, with water, coke, & gatorade in an ice box. Oh, but not only that guys, she'd also made PEANUT BUTTER & JELLY SANDWICHES. This was delicately topped with a sprinkling of insider info on the route & weather ahead.

The same thoughtful & caring acts were performed by Wendy in Kansas, Mark in Virginia, Prince purple, Linda & Dave in the final 50 miles. Thank you so much guys.
Final angels of the trail: Linda, Dave & PP

A final category needs to be the 'Monument Angels': John & Tom await our arrival at the Victory Monument, 24/7 (yes John will even sleep there), to greet, congratulate & offer logistical support to anyone who finishes. They won't accept financial gratitude, but want to give up over a month of their free time to helping us. I will always be grateful, thank you both.
Celebrations in Yorktown: Monument Angel Tom in the white T-shirt

The sad part

Hopefully not now a permanent personality feature, but this race had turned me into a blunt, impatient meanie!
As you've gathered from parts 1 & 2, time can be very constrained, & from the minute you wake up (tired, always), you are chasing: the miles & the time...or even other racers if you're near the front or that's part of your goal. The time to speak to every lovely person who strikes up a conversation isn't going to help with your time = miles + eating + sleep equation. This is the sad part about riding a bike cross-continent in a race as opposed to on a 'tour': you will miss out on certain experiences & meeting amazing characters. I would try to be as brief but polite as possible in any instance, which had my later ride bud Steve in creases as i apparently cut people right off! 😮😓
"How lovely to meet you, thank you but we must go. Bye!"
Another incredible lady: 94yr old Jenny, Damascus, Virginia

Mechanical Issues

The dark lurking anxiety in every rider...please, God, let my bike last!

You know when one slaps one's face through sheer exasperation & frustration at a rubbish situation? Well, I introduce to you the term facepalm day, but here in relation to bike mechanical issues. I had two of these.

SO glad i left at 5am, just to start my day with punctures

Mechanical/ Facepalm day 1:

Messy situation, but 2 days pre-race I had easier gears put on my bike to give the knee a better chance of not re-tearing. So, a larger cassette was put on (11-36t), which was incompatible with the other bike components: this meant these mechanics spent 4-5 HOURS tampering with other parts (derraileur) to make this work. I don't know how they ended up making it work, & neither do they, but importantly (at the time) the chain would now slot onto every gear! The only downside was sloppy shifting: sometimes it would not shift gears, or it would take a few clicks to do so. "That's fine!" I thought, "lower gears for the knee are the most important thing!".

End of day 2, the chain wouldn't move to the three hardest gears... "ok, that's fine, I can deal with that"; start of day 3, I had bivvied then woke at 0430 to get an early start & some bigger miles in. As I coasted down the huge hills towards Prineville, Oregon, one-by-one I was losing gears, until I was left with two (the easiest two, only good for uphills!), "hmmm this may be unworkable now"!
McKenzie Pass: a long slog to a cool lava field

I made it to Prineville, which indeed has a bike shop: closed on Mondays, of course. *facepalm*
I will detail the ensuing events in the proceeding race blog, but to summarise, the right shifter had eaten the gear cable, and even once replaced, the shifter would only intermittently change gears. Obviously the cassette was incompatible, & the derraileur had been mutated a lot, so the only way to ensure a fully safe & functioning system would be to REPLACE THE WHOLE LOT. *facepalm* honestly, this was the 4th cassette I'd paid for that month. If you want to haemorrhage money, get into cycling!
I hate shifters.

Hmm 6th chewed cable in my 2 years of cycling...

So, it could have been a lot worse, but 1.5 days later I was able to return to the road. I'm also exceedingly lucky this didn't happen in a more remote stretch. Finally let me add that I couldn't have been sorted so quickly if it weren't for the help of some amazing people, details to follow, but thank you to The Sandwich Factory, Good Bike Co, & lovely Alan & family in Prineville.
Other poor Prineville souls: Rich & Kenny had accidents so had to scratch 😔

Oh yes, to top off the facepalm day of you're now stranded here waiting for a shifter & have to get to another city to find the other parts you need; when I checked into a motel, the check-in person caught me off guard & keeping the card machine on their side of the desk, asked me directly for my PIN. I confusingly ended up delivering this sensitive information, & later realising... I watched her do it to other people, & read it out loud. Either a stupid, or very clever lady. Right, I can no longer put money in this account. Wonderful! 
Thank you, I needed that!


Mechanical/ Facepalm day 2:

My dynamo lights & charger would regularly stop working, & I noticed the connector on the front axle would have spun around: pulling the cables off. That's simple to sort.
Later I realised the front axle (the little tube & handle which keeps your wheel on) was loose, & wouldn't tighten. The handle would start to detach itself if you spun it to tighten it. "Oh God, if I get a puncture I won't be able to get the wheel off...". So, you can guess what then happened.
Eh ohh...we have a problem.

Horrific conditions near Hazard, Kentucky, & a not-so-cheery Steve, exclaiming how everything goes wrong in the wet (well, I guess you were right, dude), ended in a tear to my front tyre & the inability to repair it because the wheel couldn't come off. Hmm. Practically less than 4 days from the finish, to be unable to fix a simple flat tyre because of a broken handle was really something which grated on me.

Exasperated stressful thoughts & eventualities filled my exhausted drenched head, "Now what? Hitch God knows how far to find a bike shop? What if they can't sort the handle, this is such a specific type of axle, so they may say I need a whole new fork!! That could be hundreds of $!"
Doing anything possible to finish this race can become a black hole of never-endingness: effort, time & money; for a split second, I just couldn't be bothered going down another potential road. Steve, who amazingly stuck with me in this incident, exclaimed "Alaina, of all people!"
Thankfully the good moments always outweighed the bad 💖

We got out of that one, but had to stay at Hazard after just 90 miles: full details will be in the last week summary blogpost (see how I'm trying to reel you in? Muwahaha).

Kit

It may be of interest, especially for future riders, as to what I took/packed for this trip of torture a lifetime 😁
Pretty magical hill formations in Oregon

Bike:

Vaaru Cycles MPA
  • A custom built 3Al/2.5V titanium beast, with custom paintwork from Fat Bike Creations
    • My name, British flag, the 10 US States & a motivational quote were all painted on it!
    • N.B. the colours were to match my Assos kit, which never reached me... thanks US post
  • Fork: Vaaru F:140 carbon
  • Wheels: Hunt SuperDura Dynamo Disc with Son Delux Dynamo
  • Groupset: Shimano Ultegra R8000 mechanical (11-32t Cassette)
  • Brakes: Shimano Dura Ace 9120 hydraulic
  • Chainrings: Absolute Black oval
  • Bottom Bracket: C-Bear ceramic bearings, BSA
  • Handlebars: Syncros Creston 1.5 compact
  • Stem: Syncros FL 1.5
  • Seatpost: Syncros FL 1.0 carbon
  • Aero Bars: Syntace C3
  • Saddle: Brooks Cambium (vegan)
  • Tyres: Schwalbe Durano 28in
  • Lights: Luxos U dynamo-powered headlight & BM rear dynamo light
  • 3 bottle cages: rear fork, top tube, & frame


Handlebar bag:

Apidura 'Expedition'
  • Rab Alpine Bivy
  • Food e.g. jar of PB, extra sandwiches
  • Lock: OTTO ottolock (amazing piece of kit!)
  • Petzl headtorch & spare batteries
  • Battery pack & spare micro-USB

Fuel tank & two 'feed pouches'

Topeak Fuel tank:
  • Massive bag of nuts
  • Painkillers & emergency caffeine pills
  • A few Cliff/Builders bars
  • Micro-usb cable to charge Garmin
Apidura feed pouches:
  • Spare inner tube, insect repellent, suncream
  • More bars, oreos

Framebag

Half-bag by Altura (enables at least one bottle cage to be used still):
  • Bike tools: sz 6 allen key, multi-tool, 2x inner tubes, spoke wrench, chain-checker, puncture repair kit, pump, spare gear cable
  • Misc tools: leatherman, zip ties, gorilla tape, rubber gloves
  • Electricals: spare phone, spare Garmin satnav, spare earphones, spare micro-usb cable, wall charger
  • Saddle-sore kit: Zinc oxide (Sudocrem), Local anaesthetic cream, 'Liquid Bandage' varnish
  • Spork

Saddlebag

Large Apidura 'Expedition' pack (17L):
  • Toiletries/First aid kit
  • Baselayers: top & bottoms
  • Socks
  • Thermarest half size sleeping mat
  • Sea-to-summit sleeping bag (down to 2°C)
  • Shorts
  • Jersey
  • Waterproof winter gloves
  • Waterproof overshoes
  • Arcteryx warm jacket
  • GORE waterproof

The numbers

Beautiful start to the day: heading out of Prairie City, Oregon

Total distance: 4,180 miles
/ 6,727 Km
Total ascent: 52,186.4m / 173,840ft

Total time: 27 days
Time lost to mechanicals: 2 days

Daily distance: 
155 miles mean average
- 167 miles average excluding days lost to mechanicals

Daily ascent: 1,962.5m
(2,119.4m excluding days lost)

Highest point: Hoosier Pass, Colorado. 3,518m / 11,542ft


Punctures: 2
New chains: 1

States crossed: 10

Songs/ parodies written: 9

Good:bad day ratio: 22:5

Roadkill smelled: ew, far too many
Tried to save this lil guy, but twas too late 😓


Jars of PB consumed: at least 10

Mountain Dews consumed: 2/ day from the exhausting Kansas heat onwards

Favourite descent: into Ennis, MT

Favourite states: Oregon & Montana

Dog bites: zero baby, woo!
Dogs fought verbally: ...over 20? How do you think I lost my voice?😅
& the friendliest dog chase award goes to...this sweet white Alsation!


Summary: in-fricking-credible ! But probably, never again.

Simone & I welcoming in more finishers 




Thank you for your interest & support. 
Please help me in my campaign to raise funds to feed, clothe & integrate local asylum seekers & refugees into the community: I am supporting Asylum Link Merseyside & would be over the moon if you could help: www.justgiving.com/alainastransam

STAY TUNED for the race write up, starting with week 1 in the next post!

Comments

  1. Very well thought out and beautifully written. Any dot watcher/trail angle worth their salt know that this is a race, and the comment, "So very nice to meet you, but I have to get back into the race." is not only acceptable, but expected. You do have a tendency to be very focused, but this is one of your greatest strengths and nothing to apologize about. Charm and that sunny smile of yours is what people remember. Loved the bike pictures it is nice to appreciate the paint job when your bike is actually clean. Oh, and thanks for the mechanical and kit details; it is great to know what gear has been tested over nearly 4200 miles in all conditions.

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  2. How many days did you sleep under the stars? what about bears? How would you decide on where to sleep? Did you stop at camp grounds to sleep? What about cost , Can you give us a break down of costs?


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  3. GREAT JOB!!!!

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