First, unloading a few photos:
|Dirty Kanza Dust on the supportwagen. I am your athletic supporter.
|Wildflowers along the roadside; Orange Butterfly Milkweed, I believe
|Common milkweed. It's butterfly season, indeed
Now, some of the combined digestive distress and hydration issues from Iowa can likely be linked to "too much" in the bottles. In short, keeping calories and hydration separate is a good thing. Despite what I considered a light dose of maltodextrin in each bottle, the associated calories - as with any food - require water to process and digest. By ingesting water and calories at the same time, a lot of the water becomes earmarked for whatever it runs into in the gut. This pulls it away from muscles and cells which need it to remain hydrated. The result is some digestive discomfort, and cramping - despite feeling as if I'd been drinking enough. This gets filed under lessons I needed to re-learn; I've been here before. On-bike nutrition should probably only involve foodstuffs I've bought at the control, should I choose to eat them while rolling, instead of while lollygaggin' around.
So, what really should be happening, instead of one baggie per bottle at each stop, is similar to what Josh has been doing. Skratch Labs hydration mix has a small caloric value of its own, and it's plenty for me - enough to feel like I'm adding something but light enough to avoid the issues I experienced with too much maltodextrin powder while riding. That same maltodextrin won't go to waste, however: one baggie for each control will help augment the real-food calories I often hove trouble choking down in enough quantity. This will increase my caloric intake to a sustainable level, but only at the controls - accompanied by additional liquids. On the bike, however, the bottles will be dedicated to hydration alone. Overall gains should involve less struggle in the saddle and better hydration and digestion overall = better performance, more consistent speed and push. Logistically, this also presents far less baggage, as the individual Skratch servings take up very little space compared to the maltodextrin powder. I can carry more than enough without much concern for baggage and hassle - and as the day unfolds, the load only lightens.
As a consequence of a mechanical failure which has prevented me from having the ideal front-bag experience, I have since removed the front rack and handlebar bag altogether (read: p-clamps and heavier front loads don't always play well together). This revealed a sudden increase in perceived stability on the road, though any previous sketchiness with the front-end handling under load was very, very minor to begin with and barely notable; however, the bike does feel a tiny bit more nimble and willing now... maybe this is a mental perception anomaly, too... the "freeing" sensation that often accompanies simplification. I won't get into a whole fork rake & trail discussion, but, I'll just say there may be something to it... not enough to get me pulling the bike apart to have front rack braze-ons added, though. Ideally, that would be the rock-solid approach to having a good front bag installed, as this is really no fault of the rack or the bag, but is instead the compromise of using clamps on tapers fork blades. While the clamps worked, they didn't remain static enough to work for me over time. Stopping every 100 miles to shim and tighten the slowly slipping clamps isn't a huge deal, but it's something I'd rather not have in the back of my mind during a long ride. I prefer setting and forgetting - so, until I have the right fork these parts are shelved. But... did I need them to begin with?
This minimalist approach I'd run in the past comes back to mind - the original run on the Oak Grove 300k route, and other, faster brevets before it had all been run without very much storage overhead, if any at all. A toe strap for the rear rack, a modest seat pack, and maybe a tiny pocket up front for the phone and cue sheet - and I was happy as a clam under a seaside dock. Adding layers of complexity, it seems, doesn't make for a happier "me" during rides. One might think I have a penchant for suffering, but far from it; I simply have re-discovered that I don't need that much "stuff" with me to have a great ride. While it'd been fun customizing and adding things to the bike, there hadn't really been a genuine need to do so. So, for the moment anyways, I've returned to a far simpler 200+km set-up, wherein the rear Carradice bag remains in use for days when extra layers might need storage. Compared to the toe-strap and rear-rack solution, the Carradice bag simply promotes quicker stowage and offers the chance to dry items when they're attached to the outer lid. It makes for faster controls, with wallet and route card safely pocketed and quickly extracted. Any powdered drink mixes have enjoyed plenty of room inside this, Carradice's smallest saddlebag offering, and the nutrition/hydration mods mentioned above will require even less space going forward. During summertime rides, when I'm already wearing clothes which will last all day, a normal seatbag with the usual repair kit will work fine and will still offer enough room for the day's hydration needs. Both solutions attach easily to the GB Aspin saddle, which is now firmly mounted back on the seatpost.
While I wanted to sell, chuck, burn and sacrifice the GB Aspin saddle after the Oak Grove ride in April of this year, I instead (despite a hasty social media swap-n-shop post less than 24-hours later) elected to exercise some patience and not jump to conclusions without at least a week to consider things. Normally one to stare at webpages until the wee hours, fingers hovering over the "order" button on the solution du jour, this time I thought about the variables, weighed the options, and messed with homebrew saddle-bag mounts for saddles without bag loops before making a decision. Patience won the day, and the leather saddle is back in use: and for the Iowa 400k I'm thrilled to report total comfort without saddle sores, bumps, or any other issues whatsoever. What could have been a romance-lost and another cycling-parts-gone-by regret has been solved with a few turns of the wrenches in favor of precisely the right angle and position. It's beautiful.
It remains possible, though, the GB front bag and rack will eventually meet their new owners, but for now I've pulled them both from the market, and they'll remain comfortably and carefully stored until I happen upon the right bike for them. Should that bike ever come, whether custom, 2nd-hand, or off-the-shelf, it will likely spell out the replacement for the Kogswell. My ideal rando bike is 95% the Kogswell anyways, but would probably need the other "5%" to be at least a few of these things: Titanium: in my mind, it's simply worth it. No other material will work for me, and I am referring to the "retirement bike" after all, so, it will indeed be the last frameset I ever buy. To that end it will need to have a low-trail and appropriately raked front fork - with a main triangle geometry to match. Finally, the requisite custom front rack and decaleur (also titanium), built to match the fork perfectly. It will at least have the correct braze-ons in the correct places for the design intent: randonneuring and commuting, disc brakes, completely integrated wiring runs for head and taillights, front generator hub, deralleur shifting (2x11 compact), with geometry designed around a lightly loaded GB25 front bag and 700x28mm Grand Bois Cerfs, with fenders. ...but I digress....
This all portends that I will ultimately spend the requisite cash for such project, and it also assumes that - had everything been perfect and solid - I would have continued to ride with a front bag at all. I'm aware that I may again be manufacturing justification for not being able to mount it (the way that I want to), so it should be noted how much I appreciate the front bag idea. For its dimensions, it has more useful space than a saddlebag, yes. It has more pockets, also, yes. The map case/cue sheet sleeve built into the lid is a stroke of genius.... but, while the utility of it all is amazing, little things like having the headlight essentially held at arms-length out in front of the bike while attached to the front rack was just ... I don't know... "odd". Functionally, it worked... aesthetically, it was fine... but, I don't know. It just didn't seem like "me," after all; and much of my recent "awakening" has a lot to do with me being me, and not sheepish conformity to someone else's rando ideal overshadowing that which is not broken.
The "me" that worked in the past is much more easily obtained. I'm thinking along the lines of a handlebar-mounted quick-release sort of product, or, a simple, small "pouch" like I've had in the past. Either way, something far smaller than a true front bag. The QR isn't 100% essential, but it keeps the handlebars open for all hand positions. This keeps the phone (camera, really) close at hand, and the cue sheet as well: I simply don't enjoy twisting and reaching into my back jersey pocket things if I can help it. The location of the cue sheet is more important than my ability to read it at all times, so I can live without the map case. The added anti-stress benefit: it won't be too big of a bag.. just big enough. On the Iowa 400k, for example, a couple situations played out to where I would have much preferred a front bag to complement the Carradice, so the right bag needs to be large enough to carry some of these items: Calcium Carbonate chewables (Tums). Lip Balm. Sunscreen. Maybe the iPod or radio. Maybe. Aside from the phone and the cue sheet in a ziptop baggie, I don't need room for much else ... maybe a Clif Bar or other bonk ration, and the ability to stash a pair of gloves or arm warmers. The Acorn handlebar bag I had was nearly spot-on... except that it occupied all of the top handlebar real-estate. There's a compromise in here somewhere for me.
The weird thing, I saw the perfect bag on someone else's bike just yesterday on the ride home, and I really should have stopped to ask him about it. Before I thought to react, we likely had already put 1/2 a mile between us, as he'd been headed in the opposite direction. Maybe I'll happen across him again, before I click "order" on something else.
It feels good to be back on a solid track now. I know what I want, I know how to get it, and I - for some possibly related reason - am suddenly riding a lot more confidently and quickly of late. No numbers - that doesn't matter, really - but, I feel stronger. All of this stuff is goodness... no lamentations here. As long as I keep looking forward, and truly only look at what works for me, the sky is the limit once again.
Thanks for reading, as always!