Whether you're riding around Washington, climbing a mountain pass, or planning an epic bike packing trip through the Rockies, here are a few tricks that have made my big mountain and multi-day adventures more enjoyable.
The weather: when riding in the mountains, prepare for any kind of weather. I’ll never forget my first ride to Montana—battling temps over 100-degrees through Eastern Washington, then days later descending Glacier's Going to the Sun Road in pelting rain and 30-degree temps. Mother Nature has a mind of her own. Check the weather before you start each day, and plan for the unexpected.
The *off* day: if you’re riding for more than 3 days, don’t be surprised if you have an off day. When you're not feeling at your best, but still able to ride, settle into a manageable pace; stay on top of fueling and hydrating; take breaks in the shade every hour, or more if needed. If heat is an issue, cold water on your head or ice down your shirt is helpful. And, a trusted wheel to follow, when available, can be a godsend on rough days!
Earplugs: camping with a group? Pack ‘em.
Give your muscles a break: take every opportunity to stretch and relax the muscles that will be overworked on multi-day rides. Stretch when you can; lie down and relax your back for a few minutes after lunch; vary your body position on the bike. Just a few pedal strokes out of the saddle on a long climb can relax some of the tension in your back, and any bit of reprieve can help when you’re spending hours in the saddle.
Sense of time: rather than counting down the miles or the minutes, plan to be in the saddle all day. This will free you up to breathe in the world around you. Multi-day rides are one of the few opportunities we have in life to experience the passing of time differently—without deadlines and demands.
Skincare: sunscreen; chamois cream; lip balm with SPF; antibiotic for saddle sores; Cortizone cream. These are just a few of the helpful remedies for a multi-day trip when your skin is taking a beating.
Saddle and shoes: these two contact points absolutely must be comfortable and set up to fit you perfectly.
Salt and electrolytes: hydration is important, but equally important is keeping your electrolytes in balance so your muscles can fire properly. Depending on how salty of a sweater you are, you might benefit from an electrolyte supplement such as Saltstick on long, hot days. If you can feel salt collecting on your face or kit while you’re riding, you need to replenish that sodium along with your fluids. Sodium and potassium are a must during long rides. For those prone to cramping, magnesium and calcium can also help.
Data: think ahead about how you want to use (or not use) data for your long rides. Most Garmins and other devices can be silenced, or set to run continuously so they’re not beeping at you each time you stop, lose satellite reception, or slow below a certain pace while climbing (especially helpful on long mountain bike rides with hike-a-bike sections).
My favorite: Cold dips! Cold river dips or jumps in the lake are incredibly rejuvenating after a long, hot day in the saddle (or even mid-ride!). Take advantage of the healing powers of cold, mountain water.
Mountain sights and sounds: if you’re tackling RAW or another mountainous route, you’re in for a treat. You’ll be working hard on the long climbs, but remember to pick your head up and look around you. Take in the stillness that we don't have in the city; listen for the birds; the wind in the trees; the marmots squeaking from the hillsides… you never know what you’ll see and hear while riding in the mountains.
And remember to take photos at the top. You’ll cherish the memories.