Thursday, October 30, 2014

Tour of Idaho T1 2014: Preparation

I first came across the Tour of Idaho on the motorcyclejazz site back in the summer of 2013.  It's a 1,400+ mile dirt bike ride from the Utah border to (almost) Canada.  My first reaction after reading about it was "Wow! That's insane! I couldn't imagine doing that.". That's probably the first reaction most people have, even experienced riders. Most guys would consider a 50-75 mile dirt bike ride to be a nice, long day (if not too long). On the Tour, you're averaging over 200 miles a day for seven days straight! But the more I read about it and thought about the challenge, I decided that I had to do it. It's the closest I can come to the ultimate dirt bike ride and it would be a true measure of my riding skill, ability to prepare, and most of all, my mental toughness and determination to finish no matter how difficult the conditions.  I decided that nothing short of a severely broken bike or my broken bones would stop me from finishing.  Once I made that decision, everything else was easy. ;-)

My riding buddy Wralf on
Hoodoo Mountain in June
I spent the next several months absorbing everything "Tour of Idaho" that I could find online. I read every ride report I could find, and I think I read through every word on the entire mojazz site, which is no small task. I studied all the maps of the route I could find and learned a ton about how to convert, edit, import/export and use GPS waypoints, tracks and routes.  I decided to use my smartphone in a waterproof handlebar mount for navigation.  I settled on one navigation app that I liked the best, but I had tracks and offline maps ready to go in three other apps just in case.  I thought about purchasing a dedicated GPS navigation unit, but I really liked the flexibility of the phone, and I was going to have it with me anyway. I even brought along a backup phone, since I knew I was sunk without my navigation device. I went on several rides through the spring and early summer testing out all my navigation, gear and luggage.  The only thing I didn't test was using my touch screen phone in the rain, which would lead to some interesting times on the Tour. Rain just wasn't something I was expecting to see in mid-August.

Idaho Point in early July
Another thing that was a major part of my physical preparation was to finally get my weight down. Once I had resolved myself to doing the Tour, I was determined to do everything I could to physically be ready for the challenge. Through cutting calories and daily walking, I was 50 pounds lighter than I had been the previous summer. So not only did I have more energy and stamina and improved my overall health, my bike got a nice horsepower boost too. :-)

After reading Joe Smith's A Long Dance With the Devil ride report and getting a chuckle out of his Snoopy/Red Baron co-pilot idea, I was inspired to find a co-pilot for my ride. Kathy gave me an awesome Einstein bobblehead. Al was a perfect co-pilot and would constantly remind me to ride smart and to obey the laws of physics.  I really loved the look of concern and the folded hands, as if he's about to say a prayer.  I was sure he would at least lose his head during the Tour, but he made it the whole way and he'll continue being my co-pilot for snowbiking this winter.

If you're a dirt bike geek, you might be interested to see a partial list of gear and other improvements made to my bike in the months leading up to the Tour:
  • Acerbis 6.6 gallon gas tank
  • Wolfman Carry All number plate bag
  • Wolfman Day Tripper saddle bags
  • Wolfman Rollie small waterproof bag
  • Two Wolfman one liter bottle holsters, used for carrying extra water
  • A new set of el cheapo tires ($99 for the set... I'd learn my lesson later)
  • A set of ultra heavy duty tubes (4mm thick)
  • A pair of 3,000 lumen LED auxiliary lights (6,000 total lumens... these were awesome)
  • Trail Tech high-output stator
  • New Yuasa battery
  • Handlebar-mounted waterproof smartphone case straight from China (via eBay)... this actually held up pretty well and I'm still using it
  • I rigged up a cigarette-lighter socket for keeping my phone charged while riding
  • I already had this for snowbiking the previous season, but my Seat Concepts seat is awesome! I never had a sore butt the whole time, which is something that I thought would be impossible.
  • Klim Nac Pack backpack with two liter hydration bladder... I wanted to try and ride with nothing on my back during the Tour, but I knew that staying hydrated while riding was going to be a key factor in avoiding fatigue. I'm sure glad I had it.
  • 21" Sven Saw for those unexpected trail-clearing needs
  • Loads of other tools and spare parts for the bike
A lot of these items weren't included in early versions of my setup, but I learned a lot and adapted it during rides in the spring and early summer.

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