Here’s the story behind my bicycle, Aretha, and what’s been happening inside my mind for the last few years…
During my junior year of college, I was introduced into biking from a girlfriend of mine. I had only ever ridden mountain bikes (even though I lived in suburbia!) and the first time I got on the road bike, I was amazed. The speed that you could go, the distance… it was incredible for me! I feel like the bug hit me a little late in my youth, but it bit me hard.
She searched for a nice used bicycle for me at garage sales across Ann Arbor, and finally gave me a nice 1980’s Japanese 18speed, an Azuki. The bike was made out of lugged steel, silver, and had pretty wide tires (about 1.5inches). I rode that bike HARD for a full year at Michigan State University. I rode it to work, to class… it was the greatest thing I had owned up to that point. Then, on the last day of my last semester of my junior year, I rode down to drop off a take-home exam. I had forgotten my lock, but I knew I was only going inside for a few minutes, so I knew I’d be fine.
When I got back out, my bike was stolen.
Fast-forward 2 months later and it was July. I was heavy into biking, useing any bike I could find or borrow to play on. I decided to upgrade to a proper road bike with the ability to take it touring, because that was the next logical step. I searched online, in the stores, and ultimatly decided between 2 different models – the Trek Pilot 1.2 and the Specialized Sequoia. They were both race/tour bikes, and fit well. The prices were the same ($1200, marked down to $800 because they were last years model!), so I had to pick based on color. I went with a red and black Trek Pilot 1.2 and fell in love.
In the rest of that summer, I went from 205lbs down to 175lbs. The only thing I was doing was distance… no intervals, no actual training regemin. I purchased just about every book by Chris Carmichael on his plan with Lance Armstrong, and I started going through the sequences, the One-Leg drills, the recovery rides, nutrition, everything.
By the time I went back to college, I was healthier than I had ever been in the last 8 years, and I was in great cariovascular shape.
During my senior year of college, I tried to figure out what I was going to do with myself after graduation. One mantra that I repeated was “bike tour … bike tour…”. My best friend had moved to Gainesville, FL earlier that year, and I clocked the distance at 2500 miles or so. I could ride to see him in about 30 days.
Then I started aquiring all the gear I needed. I started with a Hennessy Hammock (Backpacker Ultralite Asym), then moved to the panniers (Ortleib Backpacker Plus). My rack was a Blackburn, and my fenders were stock from another bike I had owned. Then, I discovered CrazyGuyOnABike.com, where people all over the world record their bike journies. I remember reading one guy who was traveling around the Ring of Fire — SW most point of South America, up through Mexico, out Alaska, down the east coast of Russia, the islands, and ending up in Austrailia. The catch was — he was going ALONE!
Then I caught wind of a trip from Istanbul to Ireland (http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/?o=3Tzut&doc_id=3070&v=x8) 15 countries in 45 days. I got ahold of Gearoid and we chatted for months about the trip. How expensive would it be? Where would I sleep if I didn’t want to stay at B&B’s? Could I swing it?
After long debate, I realized that the only thing holding me back was a lack of money. The trip was set out to cost a mere $2500, the trip of a lifetime, but I couldn’t afford it after returning from college.
At that point, I picked up work mowing lawns, and kept the idea in my head about touring.
About the time I started mowing lawns, Kristen and our relationship started to take off. To spare you the details, we started seeing more and more of each other – even though we live about 180 miles apart. Our relationship turned into one of adventure and a bike tour is the next step.
I continued to pick out gear for my tour, although I had no dates, and kept in shape. My goal was to postpone the trip a year, so that I would go in Fall, 2009.
I pitched the idea to Kristen months ago and she was instantly interested. After figuring out financial issues, we have decided to go in mid-September, 2009 and return in January 2010.
I will go into detail later about what our plans our, the other equiptment we share on our bikes (saddles, lights, etc. ) and try to provide a real cost analysis of what to expect if you’re planning your own 4-month European Bike Tour.