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Ask the Veterans

We’ve asked first-time pairs to tell us what they’d like to know, and then turned to a group of veteran duos for answers. We hope this will give you answers to some questions you might have – and some you might not have thought of.

Q: Cornelia and Rhonda Kromm

Cornelia (left) and Rhonda (below left) are sisters-in-law who are tackling Cycle Oregon for the first time, and Cornelia, at least, is beginner enough that she’s only recently bought a road bike (“So many things to learn!” is how she sums it up). Because the two women live “across the state” of Washington (Lynnwood and Pullman, respectively), they don’t get to ride together regularly – which will make a week of Cycle Oregon even more fun for them.

A: Kimball and Shelley Rasmussen

Kimball and Shelley, from South Jordan, Utah, have done all of their Cycle Os on a tandem. Their first was CO VI in 1993, from Baker to Oregon City. They did that one on two Burley tandems, with each of them (mom and dad) riding with a child. Must have been a good family memory – their son came back to do CO a few years ago as an adult.

What should I bring along in the way of spare parts for my bike?

You need to bring a basic flat repair system: A pump, plastic tire levers and a spare tube (and possibly a patch kit). I prefer CO2 “pumps” rather than a frame-mounted pump, and I bring a couple of spare CO2 cartridges. You should also carry a compact Allen wrench set for simple repairs and adjustments. Beyond that, Cycle Oregon is very well supported, so they can handle spare parts. Bring a little bit of cash for parts and tips to the mechanics.

What kind of riding clothes should I pack for the week? How many pairs of riding shorts? Will there be a way to wash things out after riding for the day?

CO has buckets for doing simple laundry. You might also spot a laundromat (but these can get crowded). And some towns sponsor laundry services. We have had good luck with four changes of cycling clothes, plus one or two changes of rain clothes. We pack a jersey, shorts and socks – one set for each day – in zip-lock baggies. Arm warmers and leg warmers work very well for cold mornings, and then can be peeled off on warm afternoons. You can layer a jacket on top of a lightweight vest, and then peel down to your jersey when the day gets warm. CO has a gear-drop station for excess clothing. You can drop items off at lunch and then retrieve them when you arrive in camp. For rainy days it is also nice to have foot protection (booties, or similar).

I have lots of yoga tops – are those good for riding, too?

The key is your personal comfort. If your yoga wear does an adequate job with moisture and performs in a variety of situations (wet, cold, hot, etc.) then go for it. One thing I like about Cycle Oregon is that you can dress however you want and nobody really cares. One guy showed up on CO VI in a Speedo! I wouldn’t be caught dead in his “outfit,” but to each his own. Be aware, however, that temperatures at the start of a ride can be in the 30s or 40s and can end up in the 90s or higher by the end of the ride. I suspect this year’s ride will be more moderate than the high desert. So dress accordingly.

Should I bring my own supply of energy bars and road food?

The general answer to this question is no. However, it can be a good thing to have a couple of snack items on hand for emergencies. But CO is well stocked with food and water stops. You should carry two water bottles, and try to drink BEFORE you feel thirsty, with a goal of refilling at every stop. One of the bottles can be dedicated to energy drink or Gatorade. The other should be for water.

What sorts of sports recovery drinks do riders prefer?

Sports drinks are available at rest stops and at Bike Gallery. But my favorite has been the chocolate milk that is often provided at the finish line. It is also nice to buy a “smoothie” from the Ben & Jerry’s stand at the end of a day’s ride.

What was the hardest thing the first time you (a veteran rider) did Cycle Oregon.

Our first experience was CO VI, which went from Baker City to Oregon City. There were no “rest days,” and the ride accumulated about 29,000 feet of climbing. My wife and I each rode as “captain” of a tandem, and our “stokers” were our children, ages 11 and 13. We didn’t realize how hard that was until we came back and did CO VII the next year as a couple (without children) and found ourselves getting into camp at 2 p.m. rather than 7 p.m. To me the hardest thing about CO is the climbs. At 6’3″ and 250 pounds, I probably belong in the Clydesdale division. So my advice: Grab a low gear and spin at a good cadence.

And if you find yourself grinding up a hill, remember to stand out of the saddle at least once every 10 minutes or so. As a tandem team my wife and I take turns standing (we avoid standing at the same time because it throws the bike around and can interfere with other riders). When I sense that my wife wants to stand, I click into a higher gear. When she is done I will typically take my turn standing. This really helps; it’s good to get out of the saddle periodically.

But whatever else, enjoy the ride and avoid getting caught up in pacelines. After all, you’re on vacation!

Exactly how scared should I be of the big climb on this ride?

You should not be scared, but you should be prepared. Some climbs can last for 20 miles or more, with sections of 12% grade (Editor’s note: Not this year. The hardest Day 6 climb is about five miles long, and generally more in the 6%-8% range.) So be patient and prepared to endure to the top. In your training you should do some sustained climbs, if possible, of at least 1,000 feet. You should also log at least one or two centuries before starting CO. On the downhill section, if necessary, pull off in a safe, open area to rest your hands and to cool your rims, tires and brakes. It is not worth it to ride past your skill level and then get hurt in an accident. Be safe and know that the most difficult climbs can also create the most amazing memories.

Can you tell me about chafing and chafing products I see advertised?

If you’re talking about chamois butter, then yes, go for it! And it is helpful to take a mini-tube for additional application at rest stops. My wife and I are big believers in chamois butter. You can also minimize chafing by having a good-fitting saddle. Go to your bike shop and get your “cheek bones” measured for width and then try out saddles until you find the perfect fit. Avoid the lure of the big cushy saddles – they actually add to the chafing problem. Find your best saddle and don’t be afraid to spend $100 or more on that item. It may be the single most important component on your bike. And then log the miles so that you can avoid soreness on Cycle Oregon. It would also be very helpful to be professionally fitted to your bike.

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