We have signed up for a guided cycle tour of the Bryce and Zion National parks with Trek Travel to take place this September. When I booked last year, I asked for an e-bike so that I would be able to keep up with the pack of more serious riders, especially my husband, Chris. On that basis I was reasonably comfortable with the length of each day’s ride and being able to cope with the hills involved.
Lesson one: don’t get comfortable.
Early this year, I received an email from the Trek team informing me that the ‘powers that be’ in the US National Parks dept had decreed that e-bikes were not allowed in the National Parks. I’m unclear on the reason for this as I understand almost all of our riding is done on roads, not tracks – but, whatever, no e-bike for me! this meant that I had to get serious about doing some training, especially hills.
Lesson two: get prepared.
I have a hybrid cycle, and this is what I’m going to ride in the USA as well, so I needed to get out on it to toughen up the glutes and strengthen the thighs. But, I’m a great procrastinator – the weather needs to be good; the day needs to be just right; I need to be in the right frame of mind; plus, it’s winter here in NZ at the moment…. and so, it takes a while for me to get on my bike and start those pedals moving. I am however trying to get out as much as I can. On a morning, we always go to our favourite cafe for coffee, and I sometimes suggest that I can cycle there, have coffee and cycle home – about 12 km round trip… with a couple of ‘minor hills’ involved.
Lesson three: make adjustments
Early on this year, our favourite airline (Air New Zealand) had a sale on fares to Australia, and my wonderful husband made a suggestion I couldn’t refuse. We should go to Noosa for a long weekend to do our own cycle training camp. He has hired a bike there previously and found the roads exceptionally good for biking, with wide shoulders/bike lanes and smooth blacktop roads. I took no convincing and so we booked the trip to warmer climate and smoother roads for a 3 day cycle (and relax) weekend. We stayed beachfront in a studio apartment and hired cycles from Bike On, who deliver the cycles to your accommodation with everything you need – helmet, locks, repair kit etc.
We got out for 3 rides, leaving early each morning when it was the best part of the day and our body clocks told us it was time to get up and out. The roads were very good for riding on with clearly marked cycle lanes, undulating and a couple of reasonable climbs, but I’m still worried that the grades I’ll be facing in Utah will be a lot worse than anything I’ve done so far…
Lesson four: know where you’re going
Cycling hills can be hard work – no, it IS hard work if you’re not fit. But knowing what’s ahead helps you prepare. Because I’ve cycled a bit, I’m getting better at preparing in advance for hills by changing gears before it gets too hard. But with a new bike this year, its taken a bit of adjustment as I’m sure the gear movements on my last bike worked the other way around. I often found myself changing the wrong way which can throw you off your stride somewhat. I think I’ve got it sorted now, but knowing what is ahead is very important so as to be prepared. But…
Lesson five: don’t get caught up on the destination, ‘enjoy’ the moment you are in….
Some of the hills were long grinds (those of you who are serious riders will be laughing at me by now, but for this novice, they were!) and although I could see the top, I preferred to focus on the road in front of me. If I can get to the next sign, or the next driveway, I know I can then go on to the next one, and the next one and oh look, I’ve made it to the top! When we do our cycle tour, I know there will be times I need to stop and enjoy what’s around me – to take in the scenery rather than focusing on the end of the ride. It’s sometimes more about the journey rather than the destination. If all I want to do is finish, then I’ll miss what’s the purpose of the trip. It’s not a challenge or a race to finish, it’s about a mode of transport that allows me to be closer to the environment I’m in.
Lesson six: don’t panic
I’m still training, and preparing for the worst that Utah can throw at me… I’ve downloaded the route information, Chris has talked to his mate that did this same trip last year, I’m looking at other people’s photos and videos of the trip…. but I know that if all else fails, the tour van can pick me up and transport me onwards if I need it. I haven’t failed, I’ve just taken another option! Watch this space for a final trip report sometime in late September!