Scenery not withstanding, today was seemingly a cursed day, where the universe appeared to conspire to stop our progress.
The road was rough and accordingly, the riding was hard. The loose dirt, rock and inclines worked against us. The altitude took its toll on Thomas who decided to take a nap at the side of the road at one point.
After a laborious climb to the pass everyone was looking forward to the descent into the town of Yanama and a hot lunch. Initially in good spirits, the town name had me humming on the way down.
The descent was Thomas’ and my undoing. Thomas managed to get a flat tire first, and a short while later, his front rack broke again, for the second time since riding with us. At some point he also lost his machete¹.
I’ve determined that Thomas is my kryptonite². For only the second time on this tour, I’ve crashed. Suspiciously, both occurrences happened while riding with Thomas. The damage this time included a reopening of the gash on my forearm, a new loss of flesh on my scabbed up knee and chunk of skin gone from my right cheek (butt cheek, that is).
An Incan hill-top fortress
The pyramid shaped peak is almost too perfect
We limped into Yanama, had lunch and resupplied while Thomas looked for parts to fix his rack in a hardware store. We were also treated to more great examples of woodwork from the Artesanos Don Bosco. They were responsible for the woodwork, stained glass, and sculptures in the local church.
By the time we found a camping spot, everyone was glad to call it a day.
Even with our temporary lighter loads, the roads are beating Sarah and I up. With only the rear bags, the bikes still feel unwieldy, a bit more so now because all the weight is in the rear. Our bikes do not have a front shock so the front wheels don’t keep contact with the ground and bounce around, and therefore we lack needed traction (control) on descents.
I understand the appeal of getting off the pavement — we’re surrounded by amazing scenery and richer interactions with people we meet. But with our current biking setup, I don’t particularly like being off-road³.
Constantly scanning up and down the trail for the best line while wrestling the bike takes a lot more concentration which leaves less time for enjoying the scenery. The sustained jarring and pounding our bodies take make it feel like we were worked over by a practitioner of the Sweet Science.
¹Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings. A little known corollary is that every time someone loses a machete, Danny Trejo gets a sequel. Though not greenlit, Machete Kills Againerer in 3D with Smell-O-Rama is rumored to be in the works. Sadly, sheering a sheep does not have the same effect.
²Maybe I’m being delusional, or maybe it’s his ring with the silver kryptonite.
³In retrospect, for all the off-road riding we’ve done, I would have configured the current bikes differently. First, I would change the tires from 1.75 inch wide tires to 2.0 inch width with different tread patterns. We each have a Schwalbe Marathon Plus Tour and a Continental TravelContact on our bikes. The Conti tires are great tires but with their smooth center tread portion, they are not made for full-time off-road travel. I would get slightly more aggressive tread pattern like the Schwalbe Marathon Plus Tour.
Additionally, a wider 2.0 inch tire would allow us to run at lower pressures, making a more comfortable ride. Our 1.75 inch tires have a minimum tire pressure of 45 psi (~3.1 bars), a wider tire would give us the ability to run lower pressures (about 30 psi).
More importantly, I’d carry less crap, especially electronics. Lighter loads make riding more enjoyable.
Another modification for off-road use I might make while we’re in fantasyland, is swap out the drop bars for a straight bar or variant of a pretzel bar. Why? More leverage for wrangling the front wheel.
Is a North to South America (or reverse) continental divide route in the future? Who knows. If that were the case, maybe I’d go with a Surly Pugsly, ECR, Troll, Instigator or Karate Monkey Ops bicycle. Perhaps even going with a fully suspended bike.
Even with all these games of what-ifs, if I knew what I know now, etc., our Surly Long Haul Truckers are great bikes. Look ma, we’re off road and doing mostly fine!