Challenges along the trail.

So I’ve been asked about some of the challenges that confronted me on my short KATY tour. Well, as I’ve already mentioned, I forgot my frame pump but that was, of course, pure negligence on my part. I was able to pedal back twenty-two miles and procure a high pressure mini pump from a bike shop in Sedalia. This held me in good stead for the remainder of the tour – and there were more flats in the days to come.

My biggest issue with mini pumps is the sheer quantity of “throws” it takes to pump up a tire. And, without any pressure gauge (like on my floor pump), I’m just relying upon the “feel” of the tire as I inflate it. Once I returned home and checked my tire pressure, I quickly realized that I was absolutely no where near the optimal tire pressure necessary for a smooth ride. Over the last couple days, with a couple more flats, I kept thinking I was running soft … well, the fact is that I probably was running soft! It was really tough to take a visual read because the ground, too, was soft and I was unsure if the tire was flattening out or sinking into the ground.

So not having a way to check tire pressure proved to be a problem I’d like to avoid in the future. As it turned out, I was probably running around 40 psi – which would explain the sluggishness of the ride over the last two days.

Or at least partly explain it.

The ground was pretty soft in many places and there were frequent patches to the trail – repairs of very fine chat that had an almost sand-like consistency. Hitting one of these trail repairs at speed resulted in a ride that was a lot like skiing in fresh, deep powder. I immediately slowed – sometimes hazardously so and nearly fell over – and I had to maintain an intense focus on the front wheel to maintain my line. Generally there wasn’t much advance warning about a change in trail conditions … in fact, on several occasions I found myself thirty feet into the trail repair before seeing a sign warning of “Rough Trail.”

Somewhere along the way my seat post slipped. Although I noticed a difference in ride quality, for some reason I didn’t put two and two together and it was a couple of days before I adjusted the post height.  Because I didn’t identify what had changed, I chalked the difference up to trail conditions, and the difference between riding a soft trail (which I’m unused to) and the hard tarmac of a road. Once adjusted – and it had slipped at least 2cm – pedaling torque improved dramatically and I was much more comfortable.

I’m not certain at what point on the route this slippage took place, but I suspect it took place sometime late in the second day. At this time I began to notice that my left hand was tingling and numb. This was partly a sign that I had modified my riding position for some reason (lower seat = change in body/weight distribution.) I feel that the issue was further compounded by the slight slope in the trail: It “humps” in the center and slopes away toward the shoulder on either side. Because of this slope, I believe I overcompensated with my left hand grip to maintain the slight shift in balance toward the right. Since there was no one else on the trail, I began to ride on the left hand side to counterbalance the effect, more or less successfully. But because of the lowered seat position, I was perched in an uncharacteristic way for my leg and torso length and must have leaned on the bars in an unfamiliar manner, placing undue pressure on my hands. From the end of the second day forward I was constantly adjusting my hand position – literally every several seconds which in and of itself was tiring.

My bike, fully loaded in the rear. The front panniers were already off for the evening.

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