I started reading Gypsy by Trade a couple of months ago. At the time, they (they being Nick and Lael) were mid-bike tour and hanging out in Ukraine. Knowing nothing about them, I sort of thought it was cool, as I’ve pondered a Euro bike tour in the past, but have been far too entranced by the landscape in my immediate vicinity to really do anything about it. Then they flew back to Denver and started working their way west, by bike and by hitchhiking, to ride the Kokopelli and then tour across southern Utah into Arizona where they did some amazing looking riding in the Sedona/Flagstaff area. I started following more closely.
They mentioned Scott in their blog as a source of AZT info, so I mentioned them to Scott. Apparently in the past, they’d exchanged emails, and I said how cool it would be to meet them if they made it all the way down to Tucson on the AZT.
As it turned out, Lael wanted to run the Tucson Marathon and they had plans to hang out in Tucson for a few days, so we invited them over.
It’s always fun to see different bike touring set ups. With my history, I’m used to checking out the lightweight setups, saddle bags made of cuban-fiber, sleeping pads made of Reflectix…minimalist. Even on our luxury overnight tours, lighter is always better (as I learned by taking both my heavy bag and heavy pad on the Gila Thanksgiving trip and discovering that I really could make my bike weigh a metric ton and still pretty much run out of food).
But I’ve never taken a close look at a bike that has everything for a six-month adventure spanning the world where racing isn’t involved. I can understand living off the bike for three weeks in a Tour Divide situation, so I can extrapolate that to a 30-day tour like Kurt’s across the Colorado Plateau, but I’ve never really tried to wrap my head around a tour that lasted half a year. A tour that had a start point of wherever the cheapest ticket to Europe could be found, and an endpoint of wherever they ended up when they decided to come back to the States.
It’s pretty cool.
They had to ride up to the Hilton to register for the race in the afternoon, so we spent the morning putting fat bikes together in honor of Global Fat Bike Day. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that not only was mine still in the car from when we pulled up to our home in Tucson, but it still hadn’t been put back together after it flew back from AK after the ITI. But I guess it makes sense, I had AZ trips to take part in during March last year, and AZT race to do in April, and then the bike didn’t make the cut for traveling bikes for the summer. Still, I felt guilty.
I felt even worse after I discovered that not only did it lack a cassette, it also lacked rear brake pads. I’m not really sure which bike benefited from those parts…
Luckily, we were able to piece together a cassette from Scott’s random parts bin and Nick had a spare pair of brakes pads, so we went out in celebration of Fat Bikes…and really, just bikes in general. What started as a 20 minute spin on the Pima trails on a variety of bikes behind the house turned into a loop of the little mountain which turned into a mini-loop on Starr Pass. No one had a pump, no one had water. It all turned out brilliantly.
With low enough tire pressure, even Starr Pass doesn’t seem that rough.
I went out for my prescribed tempo ride after we got back and Nick and Lael headed off to register and camp for the night. It gave me a good, solid 90 minutes of riding to think about what sort of things involving bikes excited me, what didn’t, and what sort of things I could do while paying the proper respect to my body.
Should I step away from racing completely and start riding south to Peru, like, tomorrow? Should I go ‘tour’ the Triple Crown? Should I buy an Airstream and make the summer a six-month road trip going from mountain bike destination to mountain bike destination? Should I suck it up and stick to the ‘goals’ I had laid out a month before as a ‘real’ bike racer?
Clearly, 90 minutes of riding isn’t really enough time to process all the options, but the beauty of the situation is that regardless of what I decide to do, here and now, there’s no better place to be than Tucson…except for maybe Peru. Or Australia. Or New Zealand.