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.