For me, BeachPress started 2 days early with travel.
If you’re less interested in the cycling and travel portions and just want what I thought of BeachPress - read this post instead
After a standard Friday morning involving my Mastermind Group and some extra family hang out time I loaded up my bike with my bags and tossed my leg over my faithful steed for a ride into Vancouver.
See catching a 6:40am Amtrak from Chilliwack just seemed silly so I stayed with my amazing friend Brian and rolled 4km to the Amtrak station.
Unfortunately I still left things a bit late and thus had to fill out my declaration card for the US while rolling my bike through the line. The good thing is that I have a flat seat so writing on it was easy. The bad thing is that I was trying to write legibly while rolling a bike with 40 lbs of weight clipped to the sides.
We’ll come back to the Amtrak…
Really, my prep for being my own transportation home from BeachPress started in January with a gear list prepared.
First up was a new crankset. My bike came with 54/39 cranks and a 11/26 cassette. I made due with both for a year then last year put on a 11/28 cassette to get some more spin out of my legs.
Even with the new 28 in the rear I needed a bit more spin to climb with the weight of panniers. Add to that my cranks were stripped (due to a bike shop I won’t go back to) and were still on square taper standard.
In March I upgraded to a 50/34 Tiagra crankset. I had been hoping for 105, but it wasn’t in stock and wasn’t going to be in stock any time soon and the next better parts were well outside my price range.
With ‘spin’ for the legs acquired it was time to move on to gear storage.
I left the racks and panniers till late in the game. These were purchased in early May but I didn’t put them on till a week before my expected travel. I got 300km of riding with panniers mounted before boarding the Amtrak.
My rear rack is nothing special (hence no link) it was just a $30 rack that was in stock at my local bike shop.
When looking at panniers I had a few things to balance. I wanted to carry around 50L max. I wanted them to be waterproof. I needed to find ones that didn’t create heal clearance issues.
See, I’m on a Trek 1.5 and it’s not really a ‘touring’ bike. It’s meant for racing and happens to have mounts for a rack. The chainstays aren’t particularly long.
I ended up with the Giant Waterproof pannier which are waterproof (of course given the name) and have a really easy way to release the clips. I’m not a touring genius, so I just made my best guess at what looked solid, given my previous experience buying loads of outdoor gear.
Now just because you have that ‘fancy’ gear doesn’t mean you can actually accomplish the ride or you can do it with any speed. I ride a bike that I bought for $600 used, on which I regularly drop others on bikes that were $15k new.
The speed is in the engine not in the ride.
So my goal for riding back was around 180km a day for 4 days. Day 2 is actually closer to 190km and day four is about 140km but you get the idea.
Way back in January I started training for this. Lots of long rides (in the pouring rain). Getting closer to BeachPress that meant lots of 6 hour rides.
Like I said above, I didn’t actually have racks till just before the planned trip, so in May I loaded up and rode to Vancouver.
In theory I was going to ride in/home again but a weekend of kids and rain (while my awesome wife ran a 1/2 marathon and killed it) meant some sickness for me and missing the final 2 rides in/home from Vancouver.
So I was probably a little under trained for the big ride home.
Like I said I was ‘just on time’ for my train which meant I was rushed and meant that when I was given a seat in coach I didn’t realize that I was in coach and not business class (which I had paid for) and sat in coach till Seattle.
Seattle is where I was greeted by a cranky older couple that informed me I was sitting in their seat for which they produced a ticket, which had the same seat number as my ticket.
Ejected from my seat I found someone in an Amtrak uniform and found out that:
Eventually I got a seat, then was asked to move to another seat in Tacoma. Then again in Olympia I was offered a seat by myself at the end of another car.
The takeaway is business class seats are nice and that the business class car creaks around most turns in a way that sounds like a fart and makes even adults laugh.
Oh, and the Amtrak staff were very nice and I got a bunch of free meal vouchers for the day because I was willing to work with them and got seated improperly at the beginning.
Oh, and I’d pay for business class again and make sure I got it from the beginning.
A short aside here for those technical people that figure they can work on the train. You can, but the WIFI is slow and you’ll hit spots that just don’t have coverage.
If you have a big download or upload do it before you get on the train. Leaving it till you’re on the train will mean it takes for ever and it will stop a few times as you drop connection.
After getting off the train I had to load up the bike again and ride 37km to my hotel for the evening.
Portland is a great city and I met and talked to no less than 5 cyclists. All of them asked about my load and my planned trip.
One set even offered to lead me along some better side roads for cycling to get me to my main highway of travel for the day.
They were very nice.
The ride was uneventful otherwise. Just a nice ride along a sort of busy road.
Finishing my trip to BeachPress was the first real test of my fitness and gear. 117km of riding with 633 meters of climbing.
The day started cloudy (which I’d find out later is common for the area) and cool so I geared up with a wind vest and full arm/leg warmers. Since we couldn’t check in till 5pm at the house I was in no rush to get going and stayed in bed till 8am.
Any parent of little kids will think of that statement as something to be totally envied. I loved it.
Finally getting started at 10am I rolled down the road and quickly got in to the mountains. Now, I live in BC and have mountains so I’m used to them, but each mountain range is just a bit different and a different type of beautiful.
On top of new beautiful mountains I found a bunch of awesome airplanes on the side of the road.
The most interesting part is that one sat on top of a building and had a waterslide on top of it. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t tempted to take myself to the water park and ride the slide out of a plane.
The second interesting thing was stopping at a random gas station and encountering US ‘hick’ accents thick enough that I had to ask twice what they were saying.
During discussions at BeachPress all my US friends said that ‘hick’ is an accent on it’s own and it’s the same accent in any part of the country. It’s got to be a wonder of science how that works.
Ultimately I turned a corner and saw the beach and pulled over to just drink in the site.
After 10 minutes looking at the beach, I found a coffee shop to sit at and wait 2 hours till the house opened.
It was a glorious 2 hours sitting and relaxing, with the wind to keep me company and my own thoughts.
After a week hanging with awesome people at a beach house I had to get going on my 700km trip back to Canada and my family.
My first day was the most ambitious elevation wise and I found out, had the most headwind.
As you can see I went directly up the coast on day one and the coast has a North -> South headwind all day. So, not only was I carrying around 40lbs, I was riding up hill.
I was also riding uphill with 40lbs in to a headwind.
Despite the headwind, the scenery was beautiful all day. Lots of awesome coast to see and the wind took the edge off the heat of the day.
My second day was the ambitious one distance wise.
I still had a decent chunk of the day heading up the coast, but it wasn’t all day so I didn’t spend all day in the headwind. In fact, I got the last 50km in a tailwind.
This chunk held lots of other touring cyclists. The biggest group I passed was in the beginning of the day with a group of 8 people riding fully loaded up.
Today my legs started to tire and they just got tired all day. I find it funny that despite starting tired, my average speed was about the same as day one by the time I finished.
Looking at my heart rate I really wasn’t able to push hard at all. Each day my heart rate was lower overall, with little change in average speed.
The second day brought the first real problem around the 170km mark. Some pretty intense heel pain. I had no idea at the time, but I had strained my Achilles tendon and it needed a rest.
It got a rest, just not for another almost 400km.
This was the day I was most nervous about. See the Garmin Edge 500 has some ‘navigation’ features in that it puts a black line on the screen (sometimes) and a triangle that represents you.
It will tell you if you’re off course (though sometimes it says your off course and there has been no road to turn on for hours in the mountains) but with no street names and the line disappearing you have no idea which of the 3 roads you just passed was the correct one.
This is where I kept pulling out my iPhone and was glad I paid for US data.
I created my routes in Strava, which let me pull out my phone open the Strava app and then see where I was on the route.
The downside to Strava routes is that the ‘route rider’ that is your pace bunny, is obviously a pro rider that feels no pain and that ‘pro’ was in theory finishing 2 or 3 hours before me.
So shortly after lunch each day I’d be starting out and cruising well, only to have my Edge 500 tell me that the other rider was already finished and drinking cool beverages.
Motivation was the hard part on day 4. Getting out of bed was hard.
Getting going on the bike was hard.
Having a sore ass didn’t help things, but I wasn’t lagging because of a sore butt.
I was lagging because my body was just complaining at me for continuing the punishment.
Seriously, I’ve ridden the section from Arlington to home before and it’s a fast, fun, beautiful section.
But on this day it was just miles that had to be ridden so I could say I did the whole thing under my own power.
It wasn’t that fun.
Sure I still got a great picture and I love my bike, but rest was needed.
In the future I’d probably plan 2 long days, then a short day (like 160km max) then a day off to enjoy sleeping in and coffee shops. Then keep going for another few days.
That sounds like a pace that would work.
I even stopped 3 times for a good 20 minute sit on the side of the road after I crossed the US/Canadian border. That’s only 40km from my house, but I just couldn’t keep going.
So would I do it again? Yeah I would.
I’d plan to enjoy the coast more (since the real beauty in this was on the coast) and then fast track it through the city to home.
I’m already thinking of a better paced, longer tour for next summer.