” Much of the route is closed to vehicle traffic and most of it is only accessible by 4-wheel drive. There is no cell service anywhere on the route. If something goes wrong, you’re fucked. Any accident or injury even remotely serious will likely require a helicopter rescue. That’s the reality of riding in the Coast Range. If you have any doubts about whether you can do this ride, then you probably shouldn’t.” From velodirt.com description of The Rapture.
The Logging Road Cyclist spends a lot of time riding his bike, usually alone, out in Oregon’s Spectacular Coast Range. While he is convinced that one 80 mile road ride is more dangerous than about ten years of riding logging roads, over those years various events, minor and major have lead him to become pretty cautious out there doing that. Along with the caution, the load he carries has grown as each event has lead him to “prepare for the last war”, as the saying goes. For example, after the major bee attack, he added bee sting mitigation to his slim first aid kit that he first added after a minor slice on a finger bled for so long that it took him an hour to clean the sticky blood out of his shifter. While doing the hike up to Grass Mtn on an icy, snowy December day, it occurred to TLRC that it wasn’t beyond belief that he could trip and twist or break an ankle and freeze to death before the Long Suffering Girlfriend sent in the troops. Perhaps, he realized, he should see if in fact he could build a fire with the stuff he had. He couldn’t, which started a whole ‘nother thing.
Anyway, TLRC from time to time starts to feel that he is overdoing this caution thing. To quote his buddy D.: “It’s just a bike ride.” But alone and out there, it’s a bit different, or so TLRC thinks. Thus the top quote from velodirt.com. TLRC loves it, because it makes him feel as if perhaps he is not overstating things too much. This is how TLRC sees the reality of riding in the Coast Range.
Following are some tips that TLRC has for those venturing out there who haven’t before. A lot of what follows is more pertinent when riding alone and/or in the winter, either of which ups the stakes considerably. Anyone with much outdoor experience at all will see these as too obvious to write about, perhaps, but as said elsewhere, it’s TLRC’s website, so he gets to write what he wants, n’est pas?
Be Able To Fix Your Bike
TLRC carries a wrench for everything on his bike, save the cranks, cassette, bottom bracket and hubs. A small multi-tool with pliers. A chain breaker, spare links and master links. Spoke wrench. Spare nuts and bolts for the fenders, some wire and a couple of cable ties just in case. A spare pair of disk pads. Three inner tubes and a patch kit (with a never-opened tube of glue). Wrap the tubes in packcloth to protect them. A spare tire from time to time. A pump he checks once in a while. A small bottle of lube that comes in handy, a lot. TLRC has used most of this at one time or another. Except for two of the tubes, this all fits in a small undersea bag.
Know how to fix your bike. Start doing your own repairs at home, including wheel truing, so when it matters, you won’t be intimidated or flummoxed. When something breaks or stops working, stay calm. Getting mad at your bike won’t help, nor will worrying. Figure it out, find a solution with what you have in hand.
Be Able to Take Care of You
Face it, if something really bad happens, there’s not much you can do about it until the help that you know is coming arrives (cf. Have A Plan, below). Short of that you’ll be walking out, maybe limping home slowly. But there is a middle ground. Like the bee attack. Like getting a bad cut or scrape that will hinder your riding. Like getting stuck until help arrives and getting really cold. It’s not too hard to take care of some of this. TLRC has an emergency kit that he carries between the seat post and top tube in a Revelate Designs Jerrycan. The Check List:
From the Jerrycan (lower left), clockwise: space blanket (for rain protection and maybe some warmth?), a variety of first aid stuff, mostly cleaning wipes, gauze and bandaids. Black duct tape (for fixing a lot of things) on top of a waterproof zip bag to hold it and the previous items. Beneath that a very expensive folding knife with a 4″ blade. A waterproof zip bag with lighter, striker, tinder, and a small headlamp and spare battery. A small hank of rope for maybe building a quick shelter.
Have A Plan
What one carries depends on what one expects to encounter. Here is TLRC’s main disaster scenario: Something happens along the ride so that he can’t get back (duh). What might that be? TLRC has had two bad crashes. The first was when a stick he didn’t notice got jammed up in his front wheel, locked up against the fender and sent TLRC straight over the handlebars before he knew what had happened. The result was a broken helmet and a shoulder hit so hard it was nearly useless for several days (bad enough to MRI). Absent the helmet (which TLRC used to take off for climbing before this), TLRC probably wouldn’t have made it. As it was, he was lucky it was only a couple of miles back and downhill to the car. The second was The Unfortunate Events of 1/1/12 Minus One, those involving the patch of ice and the cracked pelvis. This happened just 1/4 mile down the hill from TLRC’s Forest Estate. Using his bike for support, TLRC managed the 12% hill back to the Estate, but upon reaching home, he was reduced to crawling.
Hopefully, those are as bad as it will get. What if one had happened 20 miles out with a 2000′ climb back? This is not an unreasonable state for some of the rides described here. One must assume that, outside of a satellite signaling device (like a SPOT; more on this elsewhere), there will be no communication. This is a fundamental reality of Coast Range riding. The obvious thing to do is also the simplest: Leave a map of your route with someone you trust, with a specified “late” time, after which they will come and find you, or better, call the appropriate authorities who have experience navigating out there. With a route map, on logging roads, you should be easy to find, assuming you haven’t strayed. You might keep this in mind when doing any off route exploring.
If you know someone will come looking for you, and you make it easy for them, all you need to do is stay put and make it through for a few hours. This has yet to happen to TLRC (knock wood), but his intention is to have enough food and drink to stoke the internal fires, more clothing than you might think necessary for the ride in itself (hence the big pack), and a few doodads to try to stay dry and maybe get a fire going (more on this elsewhere, hah!).
Be Aware of Your Surroundings
TLRC will admit upfront that he heavily uses his iPod while grinding along the Mac Forest roads he has ridden 1000 times. On most of the more remote rides described here, however he thinks that is not good practice, and it is both safer and more esthetically satisfying to be more in touch with the surroundings, to wit:
Pay attention to what your bike is telling you, especially with regard to sticks. Sticks in the front wheel are an obvious hazard and usually seen. Sticks in the back wheel and drivetrain don’t become apparent as quickly but can still cause problems. A jammed up and bent derailleur can cut a ride short and cost money. When you hear a noise, STOP.
Similarly, rough roads shake things off bikes. By 2/3 of the way around the Rapture, TLRC had to stop to bolt his bottle cages back on and it sounded like everything else was coming off too. Listen to your bike so you can fix things before they cause a problem.
Critters, four legs:
Oregon’s Spectacular Coast Range is not known for harboring dangerous animals, mostly because there really aren’t any. Having said that, TLRC has had two unnerving encounters with cougars, and two with a bear.
The first cat encounter happened as TLRC was cruising down some pavement near Five Rivers. He came around a corner and found himself face to face with a cougar mother and 4 kittens. TLRC saw her first, and in fact, he was off his bike and starting to back up before she saw him. She snarled and started to approach, and repeated this before TLRC convinced her he was really bugging out. The point here is that had TLRC been spacing out, even to the point of looking to see what gear he was in, or at something else, he would have been in the midst of la familia, and, he reckons, dire consequences for him. Once TLRC backed around the corner, mom got her kittens away and everyone went about their business.
Cat encounter two was similar. TLRC was sliding down a gravel road, came around a hairpin and saw three cats sitting in the next bend near some bushes. He stopped (it was 100 yds away or so) and watched, and a fourth cat appeared. They sauntered off after about 15 minutes. Again, the point is, had TLRC not been paying attention, he might have wound up uncomfortably close to cats.
Now TLRC is not of the opinion that cats, in general, pose any threat to him, i.e. they are not sitting above the road waiting to pounce and have a tasty TLRC snack. Nor does he think that a cat encountered with room to shove off will do anything other than shove off. On the other hand a cat (or cats) pounced upon by TLRC may well not respond in a peaceful manner. Thus the theme: Be Aware of Your Surroundings.
Most Coast Range bears are small (like a Newfoundand) and do their level best to get away at the first sight of humans. TLRC usually sees them as dark flashes in the woods, or as brown ball-shaped things skittering away down a road. TLRC did, however, encounter what he thinks is the same bear in nearly the same place on successive weekends out near the Siuslaw 58 Road. This bear was way bigger and had no fear of TLRC. When yelled at him (Mr. Bear) stopped and looked rather insolently at TLRC and then slowly paced away until he (Mr. Bear) decided to leave the road and head into the bush. This same behavior occurred with both encounters, which happened within 1/2 mile of each other. Once again, TLRC thinks Coast Range bears are not much of a threat, but he was glad he saw this one 50-100 yds out. Again: Be Aware of Your Surroundings.
Critters, two legs:
TLRC meets people out in the Coast Range and has yet to have even a neutral experience: everyone is friendly and conversable. He has spent a lot of time chatting up the locals and come away better for it; indeed it is one of the great pleasures of Coast Range riding. Having said that, he has also seen the odd car- or truckload of guys that he was glad didn’t stop. You are too far away for help, but not so far away that people aren’t around, so it’s best to know what’s going on around you.
Also be aware that that lonely road you are riding up the left-hand side of all by yourself will also seem empty to the oncoming truck until the driver sees you. TLRC was nearly crushed by someone cutting a corner up on the North Alsea one day, probably the closest to a car-bike collision he has ever been.