Freewheeling in the City of Angels

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Any punter of the peloton worth his or her weight in duty free shopping cannot plan an overseas trip without at least contemplating the prospect of taking the whole kit and caboodle and turning it into one big velo-venture. Really folks, why bother gracing the shores of some distant land if you’re not prepared to put the rubber to the road in search of the perfect Century? Directeur Sportif and I were headed to the City of Angels to catch-up with the daughter and her hubby, Sammy “The Bike Whisperer”. It seemed like a no-brainer: pack-up the Hillbrick, lay-out the lycra and start plotting my own personal Tour of California.

Now, your regular randonneur might be lured by the challenge of crunching the cranks in the Santa Monica Mountains or head further north to Santa Barbara County for a more leisurely pedal in wine country.

But I was a kid who grew-up on CHiPs. I wanted the whole Erik Estrada experience and set my sights on the Californian state highway system. With those endless miles of stacked and sweeping interchanges, there was a fair chance I could knock-up a solid century without leaving the Los Angeles city limits.

To be sure, the idea of a ‘protected shoulder’ loses some of its meaning when you are being monstered by six lanes of traffic in the city that invented ‘road rage’, but you could rest assured that any mishap would be recorded on a smartphone and promptly broadcast on Fox 11 or featured in a later version of COPs.

Of course, the first real challenge in any attempt to take your bicicleta overseas is to delay revealing your intentions to your non-cycling partner for as long as possible. Pushing the pedals around Pasadena means less time hobnobbing in Hollywood or mooching in Malibu.

With too much notice, your bici will be viewed as a ‘third wheel’.

I once managed to get all of the way to Sydney International Airport with the BikeBoxAlan concealed under the luggage before my Directeur Sportif worked out that I was defying strict instructions to have a spell off the bike.

For future reference, I recommend that you padlock your bike box before leaving home. With only a handful of latches and Velcro straps to release, it took two-tenths-of-bugger-all time for parts of the Hillbrick to start flying around the long term carpark.

My preference for the box is atypical in my bunch, the Old Cranks. Miguelito “El Dingo Loco” de Pared likes to purchase an additional seat for the Orbea. The frameset gets the window and the wheelset masquerades as carry-on.

Tezza is a bit more hands on. He likes to cut-up the Giant with a grinder, pack it in his check through baggage and then weld it back together at the other end. It makes sense. The guy is a maestro on the tools and he already rides with safety goggles.

On the down side, he loses about one quarter of an inch of the bicycle in cuts with every trip.

Getting your bike from A to B is someone else’s problem if you’re a pro.

This year’s Tour traversed three countries and covered 2,100 miles. With almost 200 riders travelling with 1400 bikes, it took a fleet of 50 Norbert Dentressangle trucks and 11,000 cars to keep the whole show on the road.

Even the manager of a pro team heading Down Under for a one week race has his hands full. He needs to rock-up with 14 bikes, 25 spare tyres, 13 wheelsets, 10 bottom brackets, 4 seat posts, 14 sets of bar tape, 4 sets of pedals, 5 groupsets, 8 sets of chainrings, 25 chains, 6 handlebars, 5 stems, a bucket full of brake pads, 55 pounds of bars and gels, and 22 pounds of Gatorade.

Throw in 11 gallons of Chamois Butt’r and you’ve got yourself a big week on the rivet.

Not wanting to leave things to chance, I figured that I would need all of that inventory for my own Tour of California. In my experience you can never have too many bottom brackets. Unfortunately, the shipping container I organised ended up in Bahía de los Ángeles, Mexico. With the Aussie dollar plummeting, the best I could do was to buy myself a Dahon folding bicycle from Helen’s at Santa Monica. It was less than ideal for negotiating the six lanes of traffic on the dreaded 101, but it folded-up into the size of a boom box and counted as carry-on luggage for the trip home.

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