In part one of Bike Touring the Gila Mountains, John and I had arrived in Western New Mexico and we were preparing to start an epic weekend of bicycle touring in the Gila Mountains. I wanted to take the time, to not only talk about how awesome our trip was, but to discuss the details and finer points that need to be taken into consideration when preparing and executing a bike touring trip. This time we are going to talk about route planning.
Where are we going to go? So you want to do a bike tour. Maybe you have some vacation time or a long weekend to take a trip. Having a successful and fun bike tour starts with route planning. You can’t decide what to bring, what not to bring, how long you’ll be gone or anything else until you know where your going. Whether your planning to go on or off road studying your route carefully is very important.
A classic mistake is to look at a map and say “well that doesn’t look to far or too steep, I think it will only take a few hours” Wrong! Its seems no matter how prepared you are or how fit you are, your route ultimately takes you longer then you think it will. Maybe not by much, maybe by a lot. I’m not saying that every time you go bike touring this will happen but I would wager 70% of the time it will. Unforeseen mechanical issues, course changes, Sasquatch sightings, who knows, something unplanned is always just around the corner. So when estimating your travel times always give your self flexibility.
Research your route. With all the information on the web finding resources about were you want to go shouldn’t be to hard. There’s a good chance someone has already done the ride your planning or at least part of it, and people love to talk about them selves. One resource that is key to any bike tourist is Adventure Cycling, they have a multitudes of helpful tips, maps of different touring routes around the country and local contact information such as local bike shops. Crazy Guy On a Bike is another useful website as well as Bike Touring Tips. A great site that has recently popped up that is a great all around resource for riding is MountainBikeRiding.com. I personally do a lot of off road touring, I have found that the local Forest Service office is always very helpfully in providing information about the area in question. It is good to get an idea of the roads you will be traveling on, what is their condition? And what type of travel time will you be able to make based on those conditions?
Things to consider when planning your potential route are, where are the water stops, this should be with out question. Where are the food stops? Am I going to carry everything I need or will I need to stop and by supplies. If I am going to camp, where are the potential camp spots along the way? Or if you’re doing the hotel/motel thing, what towns will have places to stay. If I need help where are the nearest bike shops or hardware stores? These are all things you need to know ahead of time, enabling you to make good decisions if something unexpected was to arise, and to make your trip stress free and fun.
Back to the actual trip. So John and I were at the real start of our tour, even though we had ridden 12 mi from the car to Alma, NM we were now at the base of the Mogollon climb, a 5000 ft vertical gain in 17 mi, with 60 lbs of gear each in our bike panniers, a large task for even ex-elite bike racers. So we hit it, the first part of the climb was on pavement, but not nice blacktop, it was more like a poorly maintained golf cart path. About half way up the climb we passed through the semi-ghost town of Mogollon, an old mining community, an interesting place to say the least. On the other side of the town the dirt started. Which took us from about 6000 ft up to 9000+. It was a beautiful climb up through Oak and Juniper forests then through the large pine zones up to the Spruce and Aspen.
It took us most of the day to complete the climb with a couple of pit stops along the way. We reached the top mid-afternoon and even though it was cold and drizzly we were treated to some spectacular views.
This is a perfect example of knowing your route. John and I knew the climb was going to be long, epic and at times hard, so we were prepared physically and mentally. We had quick access with our handleber bags to different kinds of clothing as the weather changed while gaining altitude but still working hard climbing. We made sure to constantly snack on small amounts of food to keep the energy levels up.
Eating a big lunch only puts a strain on your gastric system and requires blood to digest which could other wise be in your legs, stopping and eating lunch is fine but not when your still have another two or three thousand feet to climb.
At the top we stopped for a moment to take it all in and out on some warmer cloths. It was all down hill for the rest of the day, so stay tuned as we continue to talk about bike touring techniques and the Gila Mountain bike tour.