It Ain’t Heavy, It’s My Bike

The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.   ― Albert Einstein

After six BRAT adventures, we thought that something different might be fun.  It could be different, but still had to include the core elements of complexity, planning, problem solving, and teamwork.  Given that we now had a trailer capable of hauling bikes and gear for as many as eight people, we didn’t feel constrained to hang around close to home (all of our previous rides went through Abilene).  We decided to do the Katy Trail across most of Missouri.  And after doing some research and looking at roads and routes, we decided to add an additional 55 miles and make it a pure ride across Missouri.

MUSIC VIDEO: Bike Ride Across Missouri – Katy Trail

I (half) jokingly call my Specialized Roubaix road bike my fourth (and favorite) child.  Since acquiring it in the weeks following BRAT1, I have ridden it thousands of miles on rides of all types.  I am very comfortable with my Roubaix—with a 61 cm frame, it only weighs about 22 lbs. when loaded with a water bottle and saddlebag packed with tubes and tools.  We get along very well.

The Katy Trail is a Missouri State Park and a rails-to-trails conversion that follows the corridor of the former Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad.  Except for a three-mile detour through Sedalia, Missouri, the Katy Trail is a path of crushed limestone and sections of hard-packed dirt.  Occasional rocks, gravel, and loose dirt is common on the trail.  Hard bumps in transitions from the trail to bridges and the trail to road crossings are also fairly common.  In combination, the Katy Trail required us to leave our road bikes on campus and head to Missouri on hard-tail trail bikes.

As I write this post, I am sitting in our place in Angel Fire, New Mexico.  The Angel Fire Bike Park touts itself as the largest bike park in the Rocky Mountains.  Full-suspension mountain bikes are required for serious riding in the bike park, but as beginners coming up from Texas, we began our family’s fleet of mountain bikes with three Specialized Rockhopper hard-tail bikes.  While not ideal for the pounding and jarring that comes from riding down the mountain in Angel Fire, they fit the bill for the Katy Trail very well.

As the time for the Bike Ride Across Missouri approached, I began spending less time on my Roubaix and more time on the Rockhopper.  Fully loaded with a water bottle and a supply of tubes and basic tools, the “Battle Bike” weighed in at 45 pounds—slightly more than double my Roubaix.  With the tires inflated to 60 psi, the wide and knobby trail tires made a distinct sound when rolling on the road, but didn’t seem to slow things down too much.  I kept the front suspension intact with a little bounce for the bumps and obstacles that were to come.  Customized with SPD pedals and more comfortable handlebar grips, which allowed for changes in hand position, the Rockhopper was a comfortable ride for our six-day ride.

While switching between my Roubaix and the Rockhopper during training rides, I was really dreading having to spend a week on the slow and heavy bike.  The years of riding my road bike had me accustomed to being quick and nimble while riding.  Everything about a road bike is designed for speed and efficiency.  Knowing that I was giving up an average of 2-5 mph in speed and doubling the weight of my bike had me anxious about the ordeal to come.

Contrary to the initial fears, the Bike Ride Across Missouri on trail bikes turned out to be a wonderful adventure.  Covering only 50 miles per day, our distances were much shorter than on previous BRAT rides.  With large sections of the trail covered in shade, pleasant morning temperatures, and beautiful scenery along much of the route, the slower pace of the trail bikes was not a problem at all.  The bikes made the ride comfortable and enjoyable.  We are already thinking about other rails-to-trails adventures in the future.

The lesson learned from the road, or hard-packed limestone path in this case, is that the favorite and fast way of doing things is not necessarily the best way.  In fact, if we had been committed to only riding road bikes, we would not have been able to experience the Katy Trail—it required that we change bikes and slow down for the ride.  The Battle Bike and I are now buddies.  We will undoubtedly spend many more hours and miles together in the future.

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