Sunday, 20 September 2009

Second half of May 2009 – California warm up trip

The 14th May saw the seven of us doing the tour of California gather at Heathrow for the long flight to San Francisco. Without writing a long piece about what happened on this trip, here is a list setting out some tips and hints about the California trip that I found to be useful and I will certainly take forward in my main tour of the USA........

• Some airlines do not allow you to take crash helmets in hand-luggage (carry-on luggage). Put them in your main checked luggage
• When you are on your trip, where will you leave your suitcase? We stayed at the same hotel on the first and last night’s of the trip, so were able to leave these with the hotel
• Clearly carrying enough clothes for two changes a day is un-realistic. Each afternoon, when I arrived at that nights hotel, I showered and changed meaning I had fresh clothes for that evening. I then put the same clothes the next morning.
• I did take enough clothes for 14 days – a change of clothes for each day. This was bulky and I could have taken half that amount and simply washed them half way through the trip.
• We stayed in good but quite expensive hotels. This is a very much a personal issue, but booking ahead (before we left the UK) gave us almost no flexibility to change what type of place we stayed at. We could easily have stayed at cheaper places, but we liked our comforts.
• We bought really cheap waterproof saddlebag liners so all we had to do was to lift these out when we arrived at the hotel for that night.
• Booking ahead took away lots of hassle, but it also took away some sense of freedom to do what we wanted.
• Due to the heat, I couldn’t ride in my thick protective riding trousers or my thick FXRG leather jacket. I wore a lightweight leather jacket and Kevlar jeans.
• Due to riding in that lightweight gear, I chose to ride relatively slowly and defensively. I generally do this anyway, so no problem.
• I did however had to carry my main thicker bike gear on the bike which took up a huge amount of space – a real mistake
• In the intense sun, protect your neck! A small bottle of sun-tan lotion solved this.
• We used bike-to-bike radios to communicate with each other. These were great but the batteries generally only lasted about a day or so. It would have been much better to hard wire these into the bike.
• I took quite a few tools. I didn’t really need to carry quite so many.
• In the USA put the items you might need during the day in your right hand saddlebag – then when you need to access this you won’t be standing next to the moving traffic.
• In a larger group, agree what time you will leave each morning and stick to it. Try not to keep each other waiting!
• If riding as a group (we did) and you get split up by heavy traffic, red lights or similar, don’t stop every time. The others will soon catch up. But, make sure you all know the route you will be taking so you can wait somewhere and re-group knowing that everyone is on the right road.
• Try to get like minded people as fellow riders. Some might want to just ride all day. Some might want to stop a great deal to take photos etc. This can be difficult to achieve though, so try to agree how your group will ride each day.
• We did 168 miles a day average, including days with almost no riding. Highest mileage day was 369 miles which for our group was about the limit we could do. Even that was probably too much.
• We tried to keep away from cities, which was a good thing. Riding in a group in a big city is a pain.

I will write more about these sorts of issues later in the part of this blog about preparing for the main USA tour, so this list is just a taster.

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