Bike touring & Design

Nauiscaä and Baron Von Munchausen, respectively.

A few weeks ago I went upstate to bike for the weekend with my family. While doing so, the thought of comparing bike touring and design came into my mind — it made a lot of sense to me.

But before going to far, I’ll begin my story with a brief time line:

  • Circa 1994: learned to ride without training wheels.
  • Stopped riding for years.
  • Circa 2009: Ecobici happened in Mexico City (a share program similar to citibike), signed up and started to bike again.
  • Got a Cruiser bike for Christmas 2011.
  • August 2012: met my husband while he was bike touring (L.A.-Mexico-Guatemala).
  • April 2013 : came to Brooklyn and started riding a Swobo Del Norte.
  • Got a Surly Long Haul trucker.
  • August 2015: first bike touring experience — Albany to Buffalo — with a small detour to Niagara Falls.
  • June 2016: Beaver Pond to Storm King Art Center, and back to Stony Point.

As you can see, there’s nothing extreme about my bike life for the past 25 years. I’d never bike for more than 10 miles (maybe), and I din’t own a bike for a long time.


So, what did I learn from bike touring?

I can do it!

Sadly, I thought I didn’t have what it takes to go on a bike trip. Some thoughts I had included — I’m not in shape, I don’t know how to change gears, I’ve never done it before, and so on. In short, I was doubting myself.

Unless you want to dedicate to bike touring, you might consider start training, change your habits, and go pro,but in my case, I do it for the adventure, the challenge, and the time spent together as a family.

You can f*ing do it. You just need to be willing to embrace the new experience.

Let go

At times, it is really hard to let go of something you invested your time and efforts in. Ideas, that you believe are the one and only. Designs, you worked on for days. People you love, or hate. We all have experience something like this, and it is darn difficult to let go.

When biking, you have to keep in mind that your plan is not set in stone. A change is going to happen, sometimes good, sometimes bad, it will happen you like it or not. As an example I’ll use a passage from the Albany-Buffalo trip:

It was getting late, the sunset was rushing us to stop, but we didn’t. We were lost. Finally there was no more sunlight, and no place to stay nearby. What to do? Knocked on the first door, no response. Knocked the next. Knocked again. We ended up staying at someone’s backyard….

Our hosts turn out to be really nice people, and we had delicious fresh scrambled eggs for breakfast.

If you can’t adapt and change routes, you’ll get stuck.

Solving problems

The constant buzz you hear in the street about designers relies on how awesome they are at solving problems, with unicorn powers, and extraterrestrial capacities. Ok, maybe no.

At the end of the day, we all solve problems;

You have to get creative when you are bike touring.

As you can imagine you get pretty dirty between the sweat and the dirt, unless you want to bring more than 2 change of clothes — and carry more weight on your bike, you will have to hand wash dirty laundry. With the summer heat, wet clothes can dry fast, and that’s how we came up with one of my favorite solutions: a laundry line between the rear rack and the Chariot handlebar.

We would have nice clean clothes for the next day.

Happiness after eating delicious -not expected- tacos.

Take a break

We have 3 water bottles on our bikes, but I still got dehydrated. I don’t know how to bike, reach for the bottle, and put it back in the cage. I’ll get better with time and practice, but for the moment it’s hard for me to do.

The solution, stop often and drink up.

It is important to keep moving, but it is also very important to take a break.

You might encounter lakes to go swimming, restaurants with interesting food, or just beautiful sights worth looking at.

We have to acknowledge our strengths and weaknesses, we are human beings and taking a break could mean not get dehydrated. Literally or figuratively.

Silence

Going up hill is the most challenging while touring, it is exhausting, and can be upsetting. These 4 steps helped me, they might help you too.

  1. Breathe: inhale, exhale, repeat.
  2. Patience: it is a slow…slow ride. You’ll get to the top, I promise.
  3. Concentrate: track the inhales with the left foot, and the exhales with the right foot, focus, listen.
  4. Enjoy the view. Steep hills usually means beautiful sights. Stop at a viewpoint if possible.

So there you have it, the connection I made from design and bike touring comes from my own experiences and skills, I can relate and transfer the knowledge to one or the other, but I’m sure you can do it too.

The bike is a tool that seamlessly works with you. Ultimately you are the power source.

Share your thoughts, and leave me a message. Let’s keep the conversation alive.

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