Thursday, June 13, 2019

EuroVelo #6 – Vienna to Budapest: Prep, Gear, & Schedule

Rental bikes parked in a Komárno courtyard.
Took me the full week to figure out how to keep my extra bag
from swinging off to one side six times an hour...

On an average week, I bike 20 miles total to-and-from work, with an odd mile ride to the grocery, pub, or on an errand (in addition to a mix of running and HIIT workouts during the week). Since pleasure rides in Indiana are usually out of the question from November-March, I only started accumulating miles about 6 weeks before leaving. Starting with a couple 10-mile rides, I quickly worked up to a max of 30 miles. My high total for 7 days was about a week out from the trip, where I rode ~90 miles in the span of 6 days. I tweaked my groin near the end of that, meaning I took most of the last 7 days before the trip off.

This amount of prep was sufficient, however, I probably could've done with a couple more back-to-back rides. After 3 consecutive 35-milers near the end of the trip (plus pulling a whole extra bag & a final day high of 85), I was pretty thrashed.

My resistance to "gear" goes way back to not knowing what the fuck I was doing joining a DIY/punk band at the age of 19. My "gear" was always second-hand, bootleg, soldered and duct-taped together, hand-painted, falling apart – it sounded "right" but definitely worked wrong. Despite my cheap Lutheranism encouraging me to wear ratty zip-ups and various free, leaky windbreakers I've accumulated over my 35 years...I actually bought some decent stuff, mixed in with cheap imitation gear. Knowing the forecast showed a 75-degree day and a 40-degree wind-and-rain combo, I was worried about overpacking and having to carry a bunch of stuff I wouldn't wear, but bike-wise, everything I took was utilized.
  • Columbia quick dry dad pants - yes, these zip into shorts, because I'm An American. They were invaluable, warm, windproof, and never got smelly. The material is very thin, so they pack down nicely. Later in my trip, temps hit 90, and these were my only shorts.
  • Cheapo Chinese padded shorts - one of the seams chewed my inner thigh, I got a saddle sore from chafing on my quad on day 7, and my assbones felt like they were on fire halfway through day 1 due to switching from my normal road bike to an upright-style touring bike. Still, without these, it would've doubtless been worse. The fit is nice and they did seem to wick when it was hot.
  • SmartWool Merino long-sleeve baselayer - definitely the most expensive piece of clothing I've ever purchased, and turns out the most comfortable. This was exactly as advertised, and the perfect baselayer to wear for a week straight, at which point it only smelled mildly. Merino sheep must be comfy as fuck all the time.
  • Pearl Izumi cold-weather wind/waterproof jacket with hood - almost didn't bring this, because it doesn't pack down and is very warm. But I wore it the whole first half of the week over the baselayer, and it was pretty perfect for the cold air, on-and-off rain, and wind (which was always way more intense when we were riding on river dikes). Note: the model I own is 3 years old and this is the closest current match...
  • Cotopaxi Sambaya stretch fleece - how the fuck did I never own a fleece before? This one was just ridiculously comfortable, and I was pretty much wearing it at all times off the bike until the temps hit 70. Was also my go-to walking around jacket through the rest of the chilly weather I encountered. Anyways, guess I'm a fleece guy now. I listen to alt-J and wear cargo shorts and drink Stella. 
  • Shoes - well, I wore some Puma flats I've had for awhile and got on clearance. They worked out and I may not have looked that stupid. They also don't smell after a day on the bike, and trust me...I breathed deep. 
  • Evenings - I had one pair of jeans and plenty of t-shirts, which combined with my fleece and an ultralightweight Cotopaxi zippable windbreaker/shell, kept me comfortable walking to dinner and around town each night.
I don't think I would've changed anything here for the weather, other than getting better padded shorts (lesson learned!). I had my trusty LUNA sockhat but never needed to wear it (except when summiting the Zugspitze) since I had a hood; though it did suffuse my bag with good vibes. In hindsight, I should've shipped my extra bag ahead to Budapest, but didn't arrange it ahead of time. I considered using NannyBag at the last minute, as I had a 60-minute layover on my train from Budapest to Nuremberg, but I'm glad I didn't as that would've been a pretty major hassle, and that time was better used eating falafel...scharf. That said, it's a cool service that I'd revisit when needing to stow luggage in a big city.

We picked up bikes from Pedal Power in Vienna on a Monday (109 for a week; included helmet, pannier, lock, pump, repair kit + spare tubes; another €65 to drop-off in Budapest). In hindsight, I would've picked up earlier so we could leave earlier. C'est la vie!

This is just what we ended up biking each day; more to come on the daily rides.
  • Day 1: Vienna -> Bratislava - 42 miles (we probably did closer to 46-50 due to a couple wrong turns...)
  • Day 2: off day in Bratislava (it was 38-degrees...& rainy...thus we decided to take an off day)
  • Day 3: Bratislava -> Mosonmagyaróvár - 24 miles (then we hopped a train to Győr as the temperature dropped sub-40 and it started raining quite hard at noon; this saved us ~20 miles of not very scenic riding...)
  • Day 4: Győr -> Komárno - 37 miles
  • Day 5: Komárno -> Esztergom - 36 miles
  • Day 6: Esztergom -> Szentendre - 38 miles (we probably did closer to 40 due to riding past a ferry we needed to take...)
  • Day 7: Szentendre -> Budapest - 12 miles
I didn't use Strava, but we logged close to 190 miles in 7 days (with 1 off day) – definitely lifetime highs for all of us. I do still have a pang of guilt for taking a train, but the entire train ride (and the mile walk to the hotel) was pouring cold rain, so the afternoon would've been miserable at the very least, or made us all ill at the worst. 

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