Route and final kit updates

I am moderately concerned about my tire width, as I may be riding on sand or very poor roads.  Wider tires help in sandy conditions by “floating” on the sand instead of digging in.  They also help with poor roads as the pneumatic volume is larger as the width of the tire increases – cross-sectional area goes with radius squared, so a small increase in tire width can make a significant increase in pneumatic volume making for smoother riding.  I’ve tried three tires:  the stock Vittora Cross XL Pro (33×622), Vittora Cross XG Pro (33×622, had these laying around), and the Schwalbe Smart Sam (37-622, purchased for this trip).  The tire measurements are the “European” style and are considered more representative of actual width.  I tried all three and they all seem about the same width, eyeballing my chainstay clearance.  This highlights the fact that tire measurements, even when standardized, still vary quite a bit.  I decided on the stock XL pro on the front and a Smart Sam for the rear.  I also noticed a small out-of-trueness on my rear wheel, but tire clearance is fine and since I’m using disc brakes it shouldn’t have much effect.  I’ve tried to true wheels before and it ended up a mess, you really need serious patience and diligence for that task!

As far as the route goes, I go with minimal planning and maximum flexibility.  A good analog water resistant road map is indispensable for my style of touring – I’ll plan the exact route a day or two in advance.  The map I purchased off Amazon (by seems pretty good; marks the small roads and trails, points of interest, and a zoom area of the big cities.  I combine this with pre-planned legs based on my touring time (14 days in-country).  My route is below, it leaves a few slack days.  It will be a challenging tour.

The plan is to unbox/assemble bike in a hostel (already booked) and store the box there for the duration of the tour.  I will take a bus to Puntarenas where I’ll take the ferry to Paquera to start the tour.  I’m taking the “clockwise” route so if I end up short on time, I can take a bus in a more populated area to San Jose.

Leg 1:Paquera to Tamarindo

Distance: 170 miles (est); 5 days.  Inspiration from this blog: A dirty adventure around the nicoya peninsula

Following the road may be difficult here, the guys in the link above did some beach riding to cut some miles off.

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Leg 2: Tamarindo to La Fortuna

Distance: 120 miles (est); 3 days

Undecided which direction to take around Lake Arenal.  Get to Las Canas vis Liberia (North) or Nicoya (South).  Unfortunate the amount of highway riding, but it should go fast.

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Leg 3: La Fortuna to San Jose 

Distance: 100 miles (est); 3 days

Alternate route: 126 between Juan Castro Blanco and Volcan Poas. More highway riding.

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Costa Rica Planning


It’s been a while since I wrote on this blog; I figure a two week bikepacking trip in Costa Rica will be a good place to pick back up.

Why Costa Rica?  It seems like a perfect storm this year.  My new job has a great vacation policy (5 weeks PTO, yeah!), I got to see most of my extended family on Thanksgiving, and I was getting a travel itch.  I carved out a little over two weeks at the end of the year for a vacation – now where to?

I considered the South-Western US low desert, Baja, Morocco, Ecuador, and Costa Rica.  Novelty, expense, beauty/climate, and logistics were the biggest factors.  Most of these places have been on my hit list for a while, especially Morocco and Ecuador.  Since this is my first bikepacking trip: light, fast, hopefully offroad, I wanted an easy introduction and Costa Rica fits the bill this year.

The setup will be a Felt F65x aluminium frame cyclocross bike w/ carbon frame.  I have some 33mm tires with nice knobs on the front and back.  I’d like to go a bit wider for sandier riding though I couldn’t find anything thicker (will look harder in the next few days) and am somewhat concerned about the narrow rims not clinching properly on thicker tires.  I had a larger 10-speed cassette (32t) installed in order to reduce my gearing (I did a test run a few weeks back up to the Crystal Cove campgrounds and I was in low gear pretty much the entire time with my stock cassette, not recommended).  The cassette switch required a new rear derailler which came in very expensive from the bike shop – I had them purchase and install it.  Next time, I will purchase separately and learn to install myself.  I don’t want to check how much they marked up the components but I probably should just have spent the extra $ and got a hardtail 29er for the trip.

Bags are purchased from Revelate Designs; excellent design and craftsmanship.  A “small” frame bag for the triangle, a medium seatpost bag, a handlebar bag, a small bag on the top bar, and a small multi-sport backpack.  Really, this is a lot of space and I think I went overboard based on my first test run.



Freediving and Bali Goodbye

I completed my Freediving course today. The most recent dives I completed were to 25 meters (82 feet) and they were spectacular. I tried all sorts of permutations on different descents: pulling down on the rope, finning down, eyes closed, hands only ascent.

It’s a eerie feeling as the same breath which swelled your chest on the surface feels like a full exhale at depth. I had to keep reminding myself that yes, I did have the full breath of air in me, it was simply compressed. I feel contractions in my diaphragm as my body alerts me to CO2 buildup, which are initially jarring but I learn to accommodate the movements, as these also trigger the body to lower the heart rate and restrict blood flow to the non vital extremities.

The descent is very different from scuba. It’s fast – for me very fast. Luckily I don’t have a problem with equalization, so I kick down fast and efficiently. Initially, there is resistance to the downward motion, but you quickly build momentum. I’m going faster and faster until I stop kicking – realizing at around 18 meters that I am very negatively buoyant. The lungs have compressed enough that I continue down the line at an amazing one meter per second, unaided! The world gets darker and darker, the lungs get more compressed. Closing my eyes at this point is a very zen period: coasting into the dark abyss with one breath of air, which feels like an empty chest now. Finally, I reach the bottom if the line. I don’t spend much time here, just enough for a forward roll to reposition myself for the ascent. I must fin hard to raise myself, feeling lactic acid burn in my quads. Finally the ascent gets easier and I pop up to the buoy, breathe deep, and prepare for the next dive. It’s very addicting.

Now, a few pictures of me with Mira back in Ubud prior to my departure to my next adventure: Australia.


Our campsite on the black sand beach. Some trash was cleared away…


Mira and me enjoying Es Champur (Mixed Ice) in a market


Babi Guling


Painting in a strange building that Mira and I found.  The Dutch invaders fighting a properly dressed and armed Balinese woman.


Everything is so ornate here:



Classic Mira


Magical; classic Bali




Sunset illuminating a cloud over Amed


Cafe near the Ubud river


Don’t I look great with Mira’s glasses?

North Coast

Day three of the tour is complete! I’m a little East of Bondalem on the North coast of Bali. The ride was almost all downhill today and the sky was clear on my descent from 1300 meters.

The island is so populated it’s actually difficult to feel like you’re in nature. All along the roads there are warungs, small markets, and small shops. There’s usually no definition of a city, they all blend together in a way that is strangely reminiscent of Los Angeles. In contrast, Europe had well defined cities with a partition of farmland or forest. I know the roads near Ubud are nicer so I’m planning on getting back to that area and exploring more.

People are super friendly, nearly everybody yelling hello as I bike by. The few who have push bikes usually follow me. About half of the time I kindly ignore, but the other half I’m playful and coax the to go faster to catch me and ride along. I need to learn “you ride like a grandma!” In bahasa for added effect (sorry grandma, I bet you could a bike pretty quick!)


Oh, bats and chameleons on the side of the road. Normal. I almost ran into these guys.


One of the lakes in central Bali


Kitty took interest in my mie goreing (fried noodle)


Today’s ride was tough. I now know why Balinese call bicycles “push bikes” trudging up ridiculous grades to a mountain pass. Luckily I have time and my backpack isn’t very heavy. Add rain, a sore throat, and a feeling of low energy and this day was pretty short!

The first order of business today was to watch the launch of SES8 on the Falcon 9. I woke up around t-minus 30 minutes. Amazingly, I watched a live broadcast of a rocket going to space from a handheld device on an island across the world. The future is now! I got on my bike to visit the Uluandu Balinese temple perched on the coast of a mountain lake. I have to say it was fairly unremarkable, but I’ve certainly been desensitized after seeing so many beautiful temples all around the island. I slowly see the demographic change to more Muslim as I head into the north.

I ascended to about 1300 meters, only slightly below a thick cloud layer. I suspect this cloud layer is permanent in this rainy reason. Although it shielded me from the sun a bit, it made views less spectacular. On the descent, I passed many shops selling civet coffee, I’ll let you google that. I ended up rolling into an all-in-one homestay restaurant tour agency and tattoo parlor (why not?….) around 5:30. The price was better than I expected, about $11, and has a really nice view of the mountains and western accommodation (hot shower, electricity, towels, toilet paper)

The prices of massages here are awesome, so I’m going to get a Balinese massage in an hour. If only I had this luxury in Europe! Touring in Bali is pretty different than Europe in many ways: first, the roads are steep and unsigned. I use an awesome application, pocket earth, which caches offline map data from OSM and OCM so I can see where I’m going without asking people at every intersection.

Second, there’s not really any stealth camping spots. Roads are pretty busy everywhere, and I think I’d have a tough time camping most nights. Accommodation is everywhere, though, and because a tour of Bali is so short the accommodation doesn’t add up to be super expensive.

Third, it would be silly to carry any cooking gear. Food is everywhere, delicious, and very inexpensive, $1-$3 for a good meal at a warung.

The locals drivers accommodate bicycles much better than any European county I biked through!

This guy is cooking my sate with a fan.


Cool temple


Rice, Rice, Baby! The flags are attached together with string, so when the guy pulls on the string, all the flags move and birds are scared off!


After riding my way up a ridiculously steep hill, I passed a bunch of men and (gorgeous!) women. Turns out I was at the end of a big ceremony!