Reflections on the Eastern Oregon Tour

21340972679_7731fee087_oIt’s been almost three weeks since I returned from the Eastern Oregon tour, so a good time to think about what happened.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’ve give the tour a 3 or 3.5. “But wait,” you say, “the pictures were beautiful!” And they were. The scenery was great. If I was going to rate on scenery alone it’d be 4.5. But a bike tour is more than scenery, that’s why photos aren’t always the best way to know what’s happened.

The riding was decent for the most part. There was a bit more traffic on US 26 than I expected, more than when I was out there five years ago. But when we got off 26 traffic was almost non-existent. Eastern Oregon is great for that. And most of the places we stayed were good.

But other factors lowered the rating. The weather was a mixed bag, too hot in the beginning, too cool in the end (and that day of rain really sucked.) While the fires didn’t affect us on the ride, we did have to detour because of them.  I really wished that we could have gone around the south side of the Strawberry Mountains. Maybe next time? There were a few weird mechanical issues.

But honestly, I am not one for group tours. I hadn’t done a group tour longer than four days before this. All the other touring I’ve done was either solo or with one other person. Nothing really bad happened between any of us, but after a few days I realize I like doing my own thing, at my own pace. At times I felt like I was “holding back” the group, especially since I was the slowest one in climbs. (In descents, however, I was the fastest!) I don’t like that feeling.

Thankfully the Bantam Rambleneur treated me well. Besides the gashed tire at the start, and a cracked Salsa Anything cage (it was a prone-to-break Version One, and yes, I got it warrantied), the only other “mechanical” was a flat caused by a lone goathead. (And this goathead was on US 26, not on any of the more rough-and-tumble places I rode!) I found the carrying capacity was “just enough” for what I was doing. If I was going to be in more remote areas for longer, I might consider a front rack. But thankfully, everyone else had extra cargo capacity, so they had the room for the extra beer! 😉 The only bulky thing I wished I didn’t have to bring was my packable Primaloft jacket. It did come in useful for the cold mornings in camp, so I don’t regret bringing it, but it took up more space than I wanted in my bag. (I could be putting extra beer in there!) I’m looking for a compressible down jacket for the next touring season.

The biggest question beyond “Will a Carradice Camper Longflap, frame bag, two Anything cage bags, and a barrel handlebar bag hold everything I need?” was “Will a 1×8 gear system be sufficient for a tour?” And the answer is yes, yes it was! Sure, it would have been nice to have a low lower than 25 gear-inches, and I could only go so fast up hill. But guess what? You still don’t go fast uphill! Most importantly, I didn’t feel like a 1×8 drivetrain held me back. While I still have that Alfine 11 hub that needs to get built into a wheel, I’m not in any hurry. I may keep the 1×8 for a bit.

Really, the biggest challenge of the trip came from the ride itself. I hadn’t done a tour this extreme in two years, and in the two years since then, I hadn’t had a great “distance” riding bike. So I wasn’t that used to distance. It took a few days for my body to be “ready”. In retrospect, I should have designed a tour with less climbing, something that I could “ease myself” into. But I still made it. Now I just need to keep riding!

And there’s so much touring to be done out in Eastern Oregon! One week is just a taste. There were a few times where I went “If I had an extra few days, we could go further down this way…” I need to explore the Blue Mountains more, and the whole Columbia Plateau region. Man, if I had a full month to hit up all those spots in eastern Oregon, and Washington too…

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