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About Zach Wasielewski
Do you have any pieces of general advice for new cyclists?
This trip is hard to prepare for and a major accomplishment to complete, but the toughest part by far is saying goodbye. Saying goodbye to the friends who live in various places across the country and goodbye to the lifestyle you grew accustomed to will make you emotional. Enjoy every moment of this trip while you have it and those last few nights of the trip, you'll know what I mean when I say that your life will never be the same again.
What is your age?
What made you want to ride your bike across the country?
I wanted to see the sights from the US and I was looking for a way to give back to others at the same time.
Where do you live?
I live in Princeton, NJ.
What is your profession?
I am a financial data analyst
What route(s)/year(s) did you ride with Bike the US for MS?
I rode the Northern Tier in 2015.
How many miles did you clock in before the trip?
I think I rode 600 miles before the trip, but most were on flat terrain.
What was your cycling experience before signing up?
I biked as my main form of transportation for four years in college, so i rode it a few miles a day to my classes and friend's houses.
Where did you find the most success fundraising?
I had a bake sale with members of my community that raised the most money for me. As a tactic, I didn't put prices on goods. I, instead, had people pay what they thought it deserved while knowing that all the money was going to charity.
What was your biggest worry before the trip, and how did you handle it?
I was worried about being away from family and friends for an entire summer. It was easy once the trip started because your teammates become your closest friends.
What surprised you most about the fundraising process?
It's exhausting to raise money. It takes a lot of work, so be prepared.
What’s your favorite memory from your trip?
My favorite memory from the trip was from Minneapolis. We spent time as a team bonding, riding around the city, and meeting people at the MS Achievement Center.
What type of bike did you ride? Where did you get it?
It's actually a funny story. On my drive up to the starting location, I got into a car accident and the bike that I trained on was totaled. The day of orientation, I needed to also go find a bike that I could take across the country. I ended up with a Fuji cyclocross bike.
What is something you wish you had brought which you didn’t?
Having a portable phone charger would have been something nice to have, but I think it is more important spending time with your teammates than being on your phone.
What’s one ancillary thing you couldn’t have lived without on the road?
I could not have lived without headphones. One of the reasons my phone died so much was because we listened to podcasts or music all the time. This is something that helps you take some of the boredom out of riding through corn fields for the 2nd week in a row. There are many times where you need something to occupy your attention while riding and headphones help you do just that. Look into investing in books on tape to listen to. Some of my teammates made it through several Harry Potter books during the last half of the trip.
What’s one thing you brought that you wish you hadn’t?
It's tough to bring something you wish you hadn't, because your cubby isn't that large. Anything that takes up a lot of room which you don't use often is something you should consider leaving at home unless it's vital to your safety or comfort.
Is there anything you spent a bit more money on that you were glad you did?
I spent more money on food, which was by far the best thing I could imagine spending my money on.
How much casual clothes (t-shirts, shorts, etc) did you bring?
I wore a lot of casual shirts and shorts while riding, but I brought 2 pairs of nicer clothes for times where I had a chance to look presentable in public.
How many pairs of cycling shorts/bibs did you bring?
I believe I brought 4 pairs of chami shorts and 3 jerseys.
What type of sleeping pad did you use?
I didnt bring a sleeping pad. Instead I just had a comfortable sleeping bag that I didn't need the additional padding.
Has the trip changed you as a person, or the way you see life?
In many ways, this trip has changed me. I am even going to ride again this summer because this organization has changed my life and made me into a better person.
What was your favorite trailer snack?
Beef Jerky or trail mix is the move.
How often would you go out to eat?
I went out to eat quite often. I did not have the camp cooking skills or patience to eat a good meal at camp.
Would you cook at camp often? If so, what was your favorite recipe?
When I made food at camp, it was never food that needed to be cooked. Canned chef boyardee, peanut butter sandwiches, or cold oatmeal was the meal of choice.
Did you prefer to ride alone or in a group?
I would say it was 50/50 alone and with a group for me. Everyone finds someone who rides at their pace, but I liked not needing to worry about other people while riding from time to time.
Would you rather be riding through steady rain or extreme heat?
Steady rain isn't so bad if you're not verging on hypothermic conditions.
What would you keep in your bike jersey pockets?
Pockets are for food. A pocket banana and some pocket
Did you use a rack/saddle bag/handlebar bag?
I had a waterproof handlebar bag. It was great to store a wadded up rain jacket and some additional items for emergency.
What type of tires did you ride?
I had the tires that came with my bike, but many people rode gatorskin tires. Mine luckily only had a flat once because it was a thick, big tire.
Did you use a cyclocomputer? What was your normal pace?
I did not use one, but my normally pace was close to 12-13mph. Enjoy the trip and don't worry about rushing unless it's going to be a long mile day.
How long did it take to learn to read the maps?
I would say that it took a week to get adjusted to reading the maps if you don't just follow others all the time.
Riding on a flat terrain with a headwind, or climbing a mountain pass for miles. Which do you prefer?
The first week when you're climbing that first mountain, you wouldn't think biking can get harder, but 25mph headwinds are a bikers nightmare. Pedaling as hard as you can just to go 10 miles per hour is worse than climbing a hill.
What was the most difficult part/aspect/state of the ride?
Eastern Montana with the heavy headwinds was hardest part of the trip.
Were you an early riser? Did you sleep in?
I am an early riser, but I would say most of my team left camp by about 8am.
When you got to camp, the first thing you did was….
Set up my tent and showered if that was available.
How often would you do laundry?
Laundry is a luxury. It was something I think we did once a week if we were lucky enough to find a laundromat.
It’s the evening and you’re out of your bike clothes, fed, and your tent is pitched. What are you doing to pass the time until you fell asleep?
Reading a book, talking to family (assuring you're still alive), or hanging out with teammates.
How many sink/hose showers did you take?
I don't think I can count them on my fingers, but you definitely need to get used to makeshift showers or just not showering at all.
How many loads of sink/hose laundry did you do?
I didn't do any laundry in the sink or under a hose. I used a laundromat anytime I could.
On rest days, did you prefer to go out and see what the town has to offer, or did you hang out, rest up, and relax?
I liked going out and spending time in the town.
Do you keep in touch with many of your teammates?
Yes. This trip helps you make many great friends with such amazing people. I still talk to them and even have mini reunions with some of them.