Sunday, 29 August 2010

Cycling and the Beach

If you live in a beach town, it is easy to hop on a cruiser and pedal to the shore, have a swim, more or less dry off, and pedal home. But what about incorporating the beach into long, strenuous and hilly touring style-rides? This has been our dilemma when taking trips to Maine this summer. In the absence of folding bikes (and frankly, I don't think folding bikes would be appropriate for the terrain here), we strap our roadbikes to the car, and get around entirely by bike once we arrive to our "base" location. In rural Maine, everything is far away from everything else - at least by Boston standards - and it is normal for us to cycle 5-10 hilly miles from one destination to another, multiple times in a day. We often pass our favourite beach in the area, but swimming can seem like such a project when your bicycle bags are already stuffed with photo equipment and other things, and the beach has no changing rooms. 

Plus, when a 10 mile ride with plenty of uphill lies between the beach and the nearest town where you could freshen up, believe me that you don't want any sand to be stuck in your body's crevices, and neither do you want to pedal in a bathing suit. The Co-Habitant has tried wearing his swim trunks on the bike, and regretted it. 

So here is my solution: I bring a bathing suit and a thin Pashmina or wrap instead of a towel. These take up almost no extra space in my saddle bag. Once at the beach, I remove my shoes and socks, wrap myself in the pashmina, and change into my bathing suit underneath it. If you don't have a pashmina or wrap, a long oversized t-shirt can work as a "changing tent" as well. After swimming, I "air dry" while either walking around or sitting on rocks (rather than sitting on sand); then I reverse the "changing tent" process. After this, the bathing suit can be wrung out, placed on a rock to dry off a bit, then placed in a plastic bag and packed away into the saddle bag together with the pashmina. After de-sanding my feet and putting my socks and shoes back on, I am ready to keep cycling. All this is a surprisingly low-hassle process. 

Of course, one thing to make sure of before you stop at a beach like this, is that your water bottles are full. Also, never try to prop up your bike on the sand using a kickstand; carefully lay it down instead (drivetrain side up). Even if it seems as if the bike is stable on the kickstand, the sand's consistency changes with the wind and the tide, and the bike can easily fall. Oh, and if you go swimming, leave your bike as far from the water as possible - the tide can come in faster than you think!

Swimming in the ocean and cycling are two of my favourite activities, and it feels wonderful to combine them. Interestingly, the ocean water seems to be a great complement to high-intensity cycling - relaxing the muscles and giving me extra energy to go on. Anybody else have this experience?  

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