Category Archives: Preparation

Get this, do that, build a bike.

We’re getting close to actually leaving on this trip and there is a lot left to do. For starters I have to build myself a touring bike. I know in my head exactly how it will be down to every millimeter and every part, but it doesn’t exist yet, which two months out isn’t the most reassuring thing. But now that this will be my second frame I have a lot more confidence in the fact that I can get it done. After all, I have done it all before. We’ve finally got most of our stuff together for the trip which is good, just a few odds and ends to pick up. It’s still a good bit of work to get done in under 60 days but I think we will both manage.

It’s only now that I’ve really started to grasp how big of an undertaking it is to go from having never done any touring before to trekking through all of Europe in one go. There’s a lot to research and learning just on the touring side of things, but there’s also so much that goes into planning any trip of this length. Where do we go? How do we get there? What will it cost? Will we have enough time? There are a lot of question we’ve figured out and still more piling up yet to be answered.

So far our two biggest aspects of planning have been the route and legal stuff. Early in our planning we found out that our time in most of Europe is limited to just 90 days so we had to adjust our plan accordingly. At the time it seemed like a big problem, but it’s actually ended up being a pretty good thing. Having the limit to our time in Europe is letting us add a lot of other cool stuff to the trip by starting in Turkey and ending in Morocco. As soon as I started looking at what to see in Istanbul I realized that spending some of our time outside of Western Europe is going to be awesome. The more I look into it the more excited I get about the first leg of our trip. However, the time limit does make the planning bit more complex. Autumn has done an amazing job of figuring out how to get us through 12 countries stopping in 20 cities all in 90 days. You can check out the plan here. Leave us a comment or shoot us an email if you have any tips or know anyone along the way! It’s going to be a whirlwind of riding and trains but it looks like we’re going to make it.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about how different this trip is going to be from anything we’ve ever done. It’s a kind of abrupt transition from high school seniors to fending for ourselves in Europe. Moving out of your parents house is kind of a big deal, and moving into a tent in Europe isn’t going to make that transition much easier, but it will make it more exciting! I’m a little nervous about taking on full responsibility for my life but its going to happen sooner or later so why not all at once, right?

Note from Autumn:

We both knew it would happen, and we were right. Once we rung in the New Year (on opposite coasts), this trip suddenly became very close, and very tangible. I can’t say enough how excited I am, and now a little anxious too. A few weeks ago I spent an entire afternoon finalizing our tentative plans through the Schengen Zone. There’s a lot less biking than what would be ideal, but we both want to see as much of Europe as we can and still be alive when we reach Morocco.

As we start to really get into the planning we’ll posting more about training, preparation, packing lists, and thoughts on everything leading up until the trip.


Slowly Getting Faster

Unlike Haegan, I’m very new to cycling. That being said, it’s kind of crazy I agreed to do this trip mostly by bike. It’s only after riding more regularly that I have realized this. I used to have blind confidence that I could a bike through Europe for 5 months with 20 pounds of stuff attached to my bike. My confidence is no longer so blind, and although it has been a challenge, I am starting to see myself getting stronger and more comfortable on the bike.

Starting in October I’ve been following a training schedule that Haegan came up with for me. It’s taken me a little bit to get used to riding every day, but I’ve adjusted to it and am really starting to enjoy it. We kicked off my training by spending a week in Tennessee riding every day. Riding in Tennessee was great because the roads are long and open and much more scenic than Atlanta, a nice change. I hit some of my highest and lowest points on the bike during that week. At times I felt so exhausted I didn’t think I would finish the ride. At other times I was so elated I couldn’t stop laughing. My biggest accomplishment though was riding 63 miles in one day. I have never felt less human than I did after that ride, but it was inspiring to realize that I can ride that far, and that it will only get easier. The week in Tennessee made the trip feel real. I now have a sense of what I’m working towards, and that is perhaps the biggest motivator.

While in Tennessee I discovered that while being able to ride long distances is important, it is equally important to be comfortable and confident on my bike. I also discovered that of the two, I struggle more with the latter. A few weeks before we went to Tennessee we had gone on a trail ride the morning after it had rained. I slipped and fell three times, each time becoming less confident in my ability to handle my bike. It wasn’t until Haegan set up a mini cross course that I realized how scared of my bike I’d become. Going down small hills and seeing inconsistencies in the ground caused me to panic. I knew I had nothing to fear, I’d fallen in the grass plenty of times. I was still convinced that any loss of balance would cause my bike to hurl me into the ground. Eventually, I got it. Haegan helped me rediscover my ability to put my foot on the ground, an act that magically stopped me from falling. He also showed me that if I lost my balance for a second, I could easily shift my weight to regain control. This all may sound silly, but in my panic I had forgotten the simple stuff. At the end of that day, I rode the cross course for 30 minutes, each lap faster than the last, and on my last lap I finally conquered the narrow, steep hill I had been running up before. I couldn’t stop smiling after that, especially thinking of how the day had started. I found my confidence again, and although riding off road still intimidates me, I have a better sense of the control I have.

It’s been about a month since the Tennessee trip, and training has been good. At times difficult to start, and sometimes it’s just boring. Sometimes though, I can really tell it has paid off. Last Friday, Haegan and I rode 47 miles. The last 10 or so miles were cold with light rain, weather we were not dressed for. I didn’t feel exhausted, I had enough energy to go longer, and it was my fastest ride to date. This was a huge accomplishment for me. The first time I rode 45 miles I could barely move by the end. Everything hurt and I rode only fast enough to keep balanced. During the training week in Tennessee I rode 45 miles for the second time, and although it was better than the first, I definitely hit the wall a few times. So last Friday, I finally started feeling like I was really making progress, like biking 45 miles three days in a row won’t kill me. That’s a pretty good feeling. That ride also allowed me to admit that the previous 45 mile rides were hard, painful, and not all that fun. In an effort to keep myself motivated, I didn’t want to think negatively at the time. This is not all to say that I’ve reached my goal, but that it’s starting to get easier and whole lot more fun.

So, on my ride today, I was thinking about what I’ve learned in my not so literally fast paced three months of riding. There are a lot, but here are a few:

Going on rides without food is always a bad idea.                                              I like hills alright, but I hate wind.                                                                     Yelling is fun and helps pushing through a tough bit.                        Singing out loud (and loudly) while riding is surprisingly difficult and so satisfying.

I think the most important thing I’ve learned so far though is that progress is slow. I’m not a patient person by nature, which is probably why I’ve never been very successful at any other sports until cycling. Having someone to ride with is more helpful than any equipment or weather or route. I probably wouldn’t have starting riding without Haegan, at least not this early, and I probably wouldn’t have gotten this far without him. Sometimes I just need someone to tell me that I am in fact making progress, or someone to tell how miserable I am, or how fantastic I feel. Most all it’s nice to have company. With someone to talk to, the hard parts are easier and the easy parts are more fun.

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Note from Haegan:

I know that going from hardly riding a bike to touring across Europe in less than a year sounds like a lot, but Autumn’s going to have no problems. She’s made so much progress in just the past 3 months that I have no doubts that she’ll be ready to go come March. For me, it’s awesome to be able to share something that I enjoy doing so much with someone who I enjoy being around so much. It’s pretty ideal. Since I won’t be racing next year and don’t have the structured training that I’ve been so used to for the past 3 years. Instead of doing workouts, I’m planning them, but seeing the progress Autumn is making is almost as rewarding as making it myself. It’s cool to watch someone go through basically the same process I went through when I started riding and it’s amazing to see, from the outside, how quickly the “slow progress” really happens. I’m excited to have someone to ride with me all winter and I can tell that Autumn will be ready in no time.

Autumn’s Bike

As you might guess, in order to ride your bike across Europe you need to have a bike. You could probably do it on any old bike, but being the bike nerd that I am, that was out of the question for us.

We’re going to be spending a lot of time using these bikes so I wanted to make sure everything was just right. For the past 2 years I’ve been an apprentice to Seth Snyder of Snyder Cycles and I decided to build Autumn a bike from scratch rather than get a stock touring bike. Over the past eight months or so I went from a bunch of pieces of metal to this.

IMG_1949.JPG It was unpainted for a while before I powder coated it the color Autumn picked, Winter Mint.

This is the first frame I have built and I learned a ton in the process. I went into my apprenticeship with no real metalworking knowledge and now have built an entire bike, and helped to build a bunch of others. Being my first, it has its quirks and it isn’t perfect, but it rides nicely and does what it’s supposed to so I can’t complain. If I were going to do it again it would have room for bigger tires, possibly 650b wheels and no toe overlap, but you live and learn. It’s incredibly satisfying to design and build something from scratch that is useful and will last for a lifetime. This winter I will be working on another similar frame for myself to take on tour.

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Here’s some info about the build for those of you who care to know.
The frame is fillet brazed True Temper steel tubing with a 51.5cm top tube, tall head tube, clearance for 35mm tires or 32’s with fenders and internal routing for the chainstay mounted disc brake.The fork is an All City painted to match.

The bike is built with SRAM Apex and TRP Spyre mechanical disc brakes. The cranks are Sugino OX601s geared at 26/40 with an 11-32 cassette for a nice low-end range. The wheels are CR18s with Shimano SLX hubs and 32 spokes laced 3 cross rear and 2 cross front.

Autumn has already logged over 500 miles on the bike since September getting ready for the trip (and it hasn’t fallen apart yet…) There have been and probably still will be a few small changes before we leave (racks, bags, fenders, Brooks saddle, etc), but for the most part this is the bike that will carry her across Europe.

Note from Autumn:

It’s so pretty. I can’t tell you about the technical stuff, but I love this bike. I love that with this bike Haegan has taught me more about bikes than I ever thought I would need to know. I love that he’s showed me how to be a cyclist on this bike, and I think I’m getting better at it. I love that I got see the process of how it was made, every step from the sketches to the final product. I love knowing that this is the bike I’ll be seeing Europe on. What I really love though, is that Haegan made it. The act itself is incredibly flattering and I’m still in a bit of disbelief. I really don’t have words to describe my gratitude, awe, and admiration. He’s a pretty cool guy, with a pretty cool skill. I guess he’s worth keeping around 🙂