The desert scenery swept into my view like the opening scenes of a good old fashion Cowboy Movie.
The subtle pastel colors of sand and towering Saguaro cactus against a brilliant, nearly cloudless blue sky felt as comforting as an old pair of jeans.
As my tires left the hum of pavement behind and dug into the sandy gravel with a confident crunch, all my senses spiked, like coming home again. Sights. Sounds. Smells.
I’ve been lucky enough to pedal the Haul-a-Day up the hellish grades of Seattle down at Pike Place Market, zip along with traffic through San Francisco’s busy Market Street, and enjoy Eugene’s Willamette River Bike Path.
While the bike certainly appears perfectly suited for those typical urban challenges, those trials don’t necessarily mesh with my true dreams.
No, my idea for a Haul-a-Day is out and away from the places most people would envision for a Cargo Bike.
So during my week-long stay in Arizona for El Tour de Tucson in November, I got the opportunity to take a Haul-a-Day for a spin on my terms.
That meant four hours of riding the bike path until it ends and hitting the open roads to head out of town, away from humanity, heading for the hills.
Since people often ask about how far you can ride any of our Bike Fridays, I wanted to give it a real test. The endurance test.
Any bike can feel good for a block or two. Or a mile or two.
Once minutes turn to hours, I feel the true test of a bike begins.
Let me toss in right here that I spend most my riding hours on a Bike Friday Llama, previously donned with 2-inch Schwalbe Big Apple tires that have been replaced by 2.2-inch Maxxis Holy Rollers with knobbies. To summarize, light bikes with low friction don’t appear on my radar screen. Results may vary for others.
Aside from the fact I was riding on flat pedals instead of my usual clipless pedals and shoes, the ride was as good as any. As Bike Friday dealer Mike Jacoubowsky said when he returned from a short test ride with the Haul-a-Day, “It has that smooth Bike Friday ride.”
When the road began to rise, I thought, like many, it would be a chore to lug this much bike uphill (the Haul-a-Day starts around 32 pounds, and with everything on my version including my load, it was probably pushing 40 pounds). It didn’t feel that way. That my tires were a slick 1.75 (thin for me) might have had a lot to do with that. Still, it felt sweet. Smooth.
Bouncing on and off the gravel on the side of the road proved to be a breeze (one of the reasons I like wider tires — giving me the ability to make a quick dive if necessary, and yes, I did have to do that way out in the desert). The longer wheelbase took away the chaotic sensation of hitting gravel. I felt totally in control.
By the time I rolled back into town, I had a new goal. Get way out, and way away.
On my drive back to Phoenix, the Saguaro National Park offered the perfect opportunity.
I parked at the Visitor’s Center (I’ll insert here that a Haul-a-Day fits perfectly in the back of minivan without having to take off wheels or shorten the handlebars or saddle) and pedaled back down the road to the dirt Bajada Loop.
As soon as I hit the dirt, my regard for the Haul-a-Day launched into the sky like a rocket.
Although the 1.75 tires weren’t quite wide enough for the deepest gravel and sand sections, the bike performed better than I expected.
Riding down the roller-coaster hills felt more like being on a toboggan as a kid back in Wisconsin. Charging up the hills felt normal, although I mistakenly expected the weight on the back rack would help give me a little more traction than a typical mo9untain bike would.
As I rode I could imagine my camping gear strapped to the back, and my black lab running alongside. That’s my Haul-a-Day vision.