To Bike… Perhaps to Dream

Yesterday I responded to a survey put out by “Strava,” a fitness app that I use to track my running and biking activities. The questionnaire drilled down into my “active” lifestyle and two questions, in particular, stuck out to me (paraphrased):

1. Do you like to run/bike in most of your free time?

2. Do you take vacations that are built around biking?

These were surprising questions, and ones I never really thought about, but my answer to both were “strongly agree” (they used a Likert scale for all questions). So… yes, I like to stay active, and if given the chance I will spend a weekend biking here or there and I run 4-6 days per week. I guess that makes me active.

So I thought I would write about three things that have made my biking/running possible no matter where I am. I am not into product endorsement so I apologize if it comes across that way but I am going to mention a few. I find that I want a few things when I am out for a ride:

First, I want to plan my ride before I go with some sense of how much climbing I will do, how far I might go, where I can start and where I can end. I need help planning my outings.

Second, I want to arrive in a place, arrange for a bike, and then benefit from the great rides that local cyclists, who know the area, consider to be the best ones.

Third, I want to find quiet places to run or ride when I get to a new location. And, per number one above, I want to plan some runs/rides that are low stress and use off road facilities.

Fourth, I am NOT a speed guy, but rather a “touring” guy. As a result, I don’t mind taking a few pounds of stuff with me (change of shirt, lock, snacks, pump, tube, multi-tool, etc.). I can’t put all that stuff on my person so I have always been interested about how to outfit a fast road bike with a simple kit that I don’t have to wear on my back (back packs are sweaty and uncomfortable

That’s about it…

Over the past few years I have found two apps and one piece of gear that help me do all those things.

“Ride with GPS” is the best bike trip planning app I have come across. It is mostly free but to use all its tools you can pay a small annual fee. I like it because it is quick and easy to use. It allows me to quickly plan rides and then provides decent (though not perfect) turn by turn directions for the ride. It does not do a good job correcting you if you get off course, but it is fine. But the best thing about it is that it lets you search rides within any distance of where you are. This is a great tool that opens up a world of local rides based on local riders actual rides. Even if you don’t choose the exact route they recommend, you can use their routes as a starting point to create your own.

Trail Link is the second app that has been a boon for my active lifestyle. It provides a comprehensive list of “rails to trails” and other trails in communities all across the US. It is an amazing app. You can download it for free and pay a small fee to download specific maps. When I say “comprehensive” I mean it. It includes trails as short as nine tenths of a mile and all the big long ones. If you log in to its online site it gives you updates on trail closures and other important things to know. If you blow into town and need a place to run, check out “Trail Link” first. It might have some great suggestions nearby.

These are my two, “go-to” apps, but what about gear? Having played with a lot of bags, backpacks, panniers, etc, over the past decade, I am ready to say that a decent seat bag it THE BEST option for day rides, and should be part of your kit for longer distance touring too. I am a big fan of Arkel (une entreprise Quebecois!) and their seat bags (in two sizes) are THE best I have found. The minimalist “hardware,” lightweight design, and waterproof feature (tested in a monsoon from Union Station in DC to Silver Spring, MD), make them the best bag I have ever had. I have a large one for touring and a smaller one for day rides.

So… that’s it. I would love to work with anyone interested in using these tools to enhance their vacations, trips, day rides, runs… Whatever. Let me know.

One thought on “To Bike… Perhaps to Dream

  1. Thanks for the advice. I use Map My Ride instead of Ride with GPS. Did you find the latter worked better? I would also add to your post that after an unfortunate amount of trial and error and pain, getting well fitted bike pants that have some, but not a huge amount of padding is also important. What we learned the hard way that reducing friction is more important than padding. And I wish someone had told me that…

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