It's less than a week until my next cycling trip. It'll be the tenth one, although I'm counting two trips that were only a few days long, so it's really only eight long trips. This will be a fully loaded one, with tent, sleeping bag and everything. And because it's the Xth trip in the series, in a country I've been to so many times, I have felt zero anxiety in the buildup to this trip. Until now.

Well, anxiety is a big word. I'm not worried about anything going wrong, because something always goes wrong, and I'm getting better at preparing for that every time. Last time my bike frame bent, so this time I've got a metal spacer for each wheel, screwed in place so it doesn't allow either side of the frame to bend in or out. It's still possible for both sides to bend together, but that'll require a lot more force and is much less likely to happen.

In my previous big trip I nearly had to abort early right after arrival because I couldn't get the chain on. It seemed to have twisted in such a peculiar way that I struggled with it for an hour until I gave up and called a taximan to drive me to wherever the nearest bike shop was. Fortunately for me the taximan gave it a try too and managed to untwist it somehow. It's since happened two more times and now I've figured out exactly how it happens and how to undo it. Every trip something new goes wrong. Every trip I learn more.

So there's not really any point in feeling anxious about that. There's things I can't prepare for because I don't know how they'll go wrong yet, so there's no point in worrying about that. And all the things that have already gone wrong, I know how to fix, so there's no need to worry about that either. But.. after so many trips you do have a very clear image in your mind of all the things that are the least fun of the whole trip.

For me the least fun part of the trip is the bit where I have to check my bike in to the airline, and the bit where I pick it back up again from the oversized luggage area and put it back together. That's the bit that's completely out of my control. Sometimes I get charged extra for oversized and/or overweight luggage. Sometimes they break stuff. Sometimes the bike doesn't quite come back together in the right way, eg. the brake spacing will be off, the gears are slightly wrong, the wheel suddenly doesn't quite fit in straight any more.. Plus there's the hassle of carrying the bike bag and all the bags loaded with tent, clothes, bike tools etc. All in all it's just a very tiring and demotivating experience.

But all of that is temporary. Inevitably there will be a point in the first or second day where all the ails have been cured and I'm fully ready to go. And that's what it's all about. All I can think about now is getting to that point.

I'm fairly fit. (for a fat guy..) I've been cycling on the exercise bike 4-5 times a week, since the beginning of the year, in a serious attempt to lose weight and get more fit. It's working.. but slowly. About a month ago I went out for a regular outdoor cycle with a friend and I realized that I was still quite unfit when it came to climbing actual real-life hills. I wasn't training hard enough on the exercise bike and increased the resistance since then. Today I rode outside again and it felt a lot better. I'm still nowhere near as fit as I was for the Hokkaido trip, but I'm getting there. I've definitely reached a point where cycling will be fun. (Unlike the last Kyushu trip, for which I just wasn't fit enough.) With less than a week left, all I need to do now is keep up the exercise, and pack.

I just hope it doesn't rain..

Posted in Spirit of Japan 3