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About Octavia Mullhern
What is your age?
20, but I was 19 when I did the trip.
What made you want to ride your bike across the country?
I love riding my bike, I love travelling and exploring new places, and when I found out that I could do it for a good cause, then I saw no reason for me not to do it.
Where do you live?
New York City
What is your profession?
What route(s)/year(s) did you ride with Bike the US for MS?
How many miles did you clock in before the trip?
What was your cycling experience before signing up?
I was on my university’s cycling team, and I commuted around the city by bike, so when I wasn’t in class or studying, I was on my bike.
Where did you find the most success fundraising?
I found the most success in contacting family friends.
What was your biggest worry before the trip, and how did you handle it?
I was worried that I would give up after two weeks. I think I overcame this fear pretty easily because I was with a group of such amazing people, that no matter how difficult the riding was, I never wanted to leave.
How many fundraising letters/emails do you think you sent?
What surprised you most about the fundraising process?
It wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be.
What type of bike did you ride? Where did you get it?
Trek Lexa. I got it from my local bike shop, Bicycle Habitat
What is something you wish you had brought which you didn’t?
an external battery for my phone, because my battery runs out very quickly and there were sometimes no outlets at camp. I also wish I had brought more pairs of socks. They’re very easy too loose in the trailer and/or into other people’s cubbies.
What’s one ancillary thing you couldn’t have lived without on the road?
My Birkenstocks. There’s nothing like the feeling of kicking off your stiff cycling shoes and slipping your aching feet into comfortable, airy sandals. My day always became exponentially better when I put them on.
What’s one thing you brought that you wish you hadn’t?
Nothing that I can think of.
Is there anything you spent a bit more money on that you were glad you did?
There are three things that I will never regret having spent too much money on:
- food: When you’re riding your bike for five hours every day, you want food all the time.
- stickers: I collected stickers from every town/national park we went to. They’re not cheap
but they look awesome and they’re a great souvenir.
- cycling jerseys: When I started the trip, I had three jerseys. Now I have too many. But it
was nice to have more things to wear, because I didn’t have to do laundry or wear a stinky jersey too often. And, like the stickers, they’re great souvenirs.
How much casual clothes (tshirts, shorts, etc) did you bring?
I brought one sweater and one sweatshirts, two pairs of shorts, six tshirts/ tank tops, and one pair of leggings. I wish I had brought a pair of jeans and another sweater.
How many pairs of cycling shorts/bibs did you bring?
What type of sleeping pad did you use?
REI Air Rail. It’s the best sleeping pad out there.
What was your favorite trailer snack?
Oatmeal or a banana wrapped in a tortilla with peanut butter.
How often would you go out to eat?
At least once a day. At first it was mostly for lunch, but then I transitioned to breakfast. There was always a diner or restaurant close to camp that would serve enormous breakfasts that prepared us for the day ahead.
Would you cook at camp often? If so, what was your favorite recipe?
I would always make oatmeal at some point during the day because it probably takes a total of 1.5 minutes to make and it’s delicious. However, most people don’t like oatmeal as much as I do, so the other thing I liked to make was quesadillas. All it took was took was two tortillas, cheese, and any other filling you liked. When we were in our quesadilla phase, a group of us would set up a little cooking station and we would all make quesadillas for each other. It was always a blast.
On the bike
Did you prefer to ride alone or in a group?
It really depends. Sometimes, when I was up and ready to go but that nobody else was, I would just leave and wait for the others at rest stops. There were also days when some feel tired and other feel energized, and in those cases, it’s good to be able to just do what you feel like doing. However, riding alone can get pretty boring unless you’re listening to an awesome podcast or audiobook. In a group, even if no one is speaking (which didn’t happen very often), it just feels
nice to be in other people’s company. Also, because we rode through so many gorgeous places, we would stop a lot on the way to camp to visit a town we were riding through, to swim in rivers, or just to hang out on a nice patch of grass. When you ride with a group of people, it’s also much harder to get lost.
So I think prefer to ride in a group. But for me, being able to ride by myself sometimes was absolutely necessary because those rides were the only times when I was truly alone, and it was always very relaxing.
Would you rather be riding through steady rain or extreme heat?
This is a very hard question. The rain can be horrible because it’s cold and soaks you to the bone, and it makes the roads slippery. But the heat it so draining that if you don’t drink a liter of water every ten minutes, you will feel like you’re going to die. So I think I would rather ride through extreme heat because it’s just a little bit less worse than riding in the rain.
What would you keep in your bike jersey pockets?
Map, sunglasses, phone and earphones, sunscreen, snack
Did you use a rack/saddle bag/handlebar bag?
Yes, but I removed it halfway through the trip because I could just put all the things that I was carrying in it into jersey pockets.
What type of tires did you ride?
Bontrager, the ones that my bike came with.
Did you use a cyclocomputer? What was your normal pace?
I did, but it stopped working about halfway through the trip. I don’t remember exactly what my normal pace was, but I do know that, along with everyone else’s, it was getting faster by the day.
How long did it take to learn to read the maps?
A week at most.
Riding on a flat terrain with a headwind, or climbing a mountain pass for miles. Which do you prefer?
Climbing a mountain pass for miles. I love climbing and I hate headwinds. Once you find your rhythm, climbing is very enjoyable. Headwinds, on the other hand, are always a struggle.
What was the most difficult part/aspect/state of the ride?
The most difficult state of the ride was Nevada, because we had the mountain passes and the wind. The hardest moment of the trip was an afternoon in Kansas, when it took me and four other people two hours to do the last twenty miles of the day because the headwinds were so strong. I had never felt so exhausted, dehydrated, and frustrated. But then we went and had some pizza and it was all worth it.
Were you an early riser? Did you sleep in?
In normal life, I’m an early riser. But in Bike the US for MS terms, I slept in. I would usually wake up between 7:30 and 8am, by which time the early risers had already left.
When you got to camp, the first thing you did was....
Take off my choose and set up my tent. It’s very frustrating trying to set up a tent in the dark, when all you want to do is go to bed.
How often would you do laundry?
I washed my bibs/shorts every day, but I would do a full load of laundry twice a week (on average).
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?
Hang out with everyone in the camping chairs or around our tents. We would talk/joke about our day, tell stories, listen to music, and laugh a lot.
How many sink/hose showers did you take?
I took two sink showers and countless hose showers. Whenever it was a hot day, all we wanted was a hose shower!
How many loads of sink/hose laundry did you do?
I washed my cycling clothes in the sink nearly everyday. I wouldn’t do it if I knew that they wouldn’t have time to dry overnight.
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?
The night before a rest day, we alway said that we would do nothing, but we always ended up running around. I love being active on my rest days, and I actually found it hard to not do anything. In Telluride we spent the afternoon mountain biking, and in Cedar city we rode through the rain to go bowling. Even though our rest days were quite active, they were always relaxing because they didn’t involve wearing spandex and cycling for five hours.
What’s your favorite memory from your trip?
I have so many memories of the trip and they are all so special that I can’t choose a favorite. I loved laying in my tent when we camped by lake powell and staring at the stars, laughing so hard that I couldn’t even ride my bike, swimming in community pools every night in Kansas, meeting people who hosted and fed us and who made the trip even more amazing....the list goes on.
Do you keep in touch with many of your teammates?
I talk to five of them on a regular basis, but I wish I had kep in touch with more teammates. It’s hard to do though because we all live so far away from each other and it’s hard to keep talking to people that you never see.
Has the trip changed you as a person, or the way you see life?
The trip has definitely changed me. I think that I am more patient with people, that I am not as shy as I used to be, and that I can live very comfortably out of my hiking backpack.
Do you have any pieces of general advice for new cyclists?
Check the tweets!