About Kaylyn Messenger
Do you have any pieces of general advice for new cyclists?
Signing up for a tour with Bike the US for MS is probably the best decision you will ever make. It's definitely mine. You won't regret it. The miles fly by though, so don't be in such a rush. Hike the extra mile to the waterfall, take in the view from the top of the mountain, stop and take some pictures. You'll be glad that you did
What is your age?
What made you want to ride your bike across the country?
Maybe it was a quarter-life crisis? All I know is all of a sudden I started craving a real adventure, and Bike the US for MS fit the bill. I wanted to do something challenging and new, and also wanted to raise money for a cause that meant a lot to me. Biking across the country felt like the best (and definitely the coolest) way to do that.
Where do you live?
My hometown is Marietta, OH but I currently live in Bowling Green, OH, where I attend Bowling Green State University.
What is your profession?
I'm a senior at BGSU studying Psychology and will be graduating in May! After that I plan on going to graduate school to earn a Master of Social Work degree.
What route/year did you ride with Bike the US for MS?
I rode the Northern Tier route in 2015 and will be Route Leading the TransAm in 2016!
What was your cycling experience before signing up?
Before signing up I didn't have much experience at all really, and I even bought my bike specifically for the trip. Before that I didn't have a road bike, and I had borrowed a friend's to do a 180 mile bike ride across Ohio with an organization at my school.
Where did you find the most success fundraising?
I actually had a lot of success posting my link on Facebook! After talking to some other riders, I found that it wasn't the case for everyone though. My Aunt passed away from complications of MS, which is why I am so passionate about the cause, and she was very active on Facebook and had a lot of friends she stayed in touch with that way. I shared the link with those people, and raised about half of my goal that way. Other than that, letter writing really helped a lot. There's something about receiving a personalized letter that people really like.
What was your biggest worry before the trip, and how did you handle it?
My biggest worry was that I wouldn't have anyone to ride with during the day, and that since I was a rookie cyclist, everyone would be way faster than me and I'd be the last one to camp every day. Like any fear or worry, you handle it by facing it. I found that I wasn't the only one who was worrying about the same thing, and there were about 5 people riding at my pace from Day 1. Also, it's not a race- I actually found myself taking longer and longer to get to camp by the end of the trip because I was just taking in the views.
How many fundraising letters/emails do you think you sent?
I probably sent about 30! (Not counting reminder emails and letters, which helped a lot!)
What surprised you most about the fundraising process?
I was totally and completely taken aback by the outpouring of support while I was fundraising. Even if people couldn't donate, they were sharing my information with their friends and I was even approached by a writer for the local newspaper in my hometown. So, I guess the amount of people who were willing to help out was what surprised me the most.
What type of bike did you ride? Where did you get it?
I ride a Cannondale Synapse named Daisy! I got her at a local bike shop in Bowling Green, OH (CycleWerks, for any of you Northern Tier riders!)
What is something you wish you had brought which you didn’t?
I am a chronic over-packer, so there isn't much I didn't bring...but, I was also super envious of the people who had hammocks. So, as soon as I found out I'd be route-leading for TransAm 2016, I bought a hammock.
What’s one ancillary thing you couldn’t have lived without on the road?
Chamois Butt'r, hands down. If you don't know what it is, look it up because it will save your life.
What’s one thing you brought that you wish you hadn’t?
I brought way too many clothes, and I wish I didn't because I ended up wearing the same stuff most of the time.
Is there anything you spent a bit more money on that you were glad you did?
A bike computer. It's not a necessary item, but it's super nice to have. It's fun to see how fast you're going, how far you've gone, and it helps with judging distance, especially when you're navigating.
How much casual clothes (t-shirts, shorts, etc) did you bring?
Again, more than I needed. I really could have gotten by with like two of everything probably. But there's also not a ton of chances to wash clothes at times, so that just comes down to personal preference.
How many pairs of cycling shorts/bibs did you bring?
I only brought two because that's all I had, but I ended up picking up another pair along the route.
What type of sleeping pad did you use?
It was big and bulky and took up a lot of space. I'm not even sure what brand it was but it definitely wasn't compact. It worked, but I'll most likely get a new one.
What was your favorite trailer snack?
Peanut butter filled pretzel nuggets!
How often would you go out to eat?
I went out to eat for breakfast almost every morning and maybe 2-3 times a week for dinner. I could have cooked at camp a lot more though!
Would you cook at camp often? If so, what was your favorite recipe?
I didn't cook at lot at camp because my stove didn't work very well. But when I did cook, I normally made spaghetti. Quick and easy!
Did you prefer to ride alone or in a group?
It depended on the day. At the beginning of the trip I always wanted to ride with a group. but once I got more comfortable and confident in my navigation skills I would take off alone sometimes. I think it was like that for most cyclists.
Would you rather be riding through steady rain or extreme heat?
Ugh, tough question... I'm having flashbacks. I'd say steady rain. It messes with your visibility a bit, but at least you can escape it if you need to. Extreme heat is exhausting.
What would you keep in your bike jersey pockets?
My map, sometimes my phone, and some of those pretzel nuggets I was talking about.
Did you use a rack/saddle bag/handlebar bag?
I used a saddle bag so that I could carry tools to fix a flat and an extra snack just in case.
What type of tires did you ride?
I rode my factory tires for the first 1,000 miles, and then picked up a set of tires that were technically for racing, but worked out well for me!
Did you use a cyclocomputer? What was your normal pace?
I did! A normal pace for me was around 13-14 mph.
How long did it take to learn to read the maps?
However long it takes for you to ride several miles in the wrong direction...so, maybe 6 days? After that I paid better attention to detail...they're pretty easy!
Riding on a flat terrain with a headwind, or climbing a mountain pass for miles. Which do you prefer?
Climbing a mountain pass, of course! Sure the climb is tough, but the decent makes it all so worth it. Headwinds are the enemy.
What was the most difficult part/aspect/state of the ride?
Eastern Montana was the most difficult for me because the headwinds were relentless during my ride, but each state presents it's own challenges.
Were you an early riser? Did you sleep in?
I was somewhere in between. I woke up with an alarm, so earlier than I would have liked on most days, but I almost always left around 8am. There were a few days I tried to get up at 5am and other days I slept until 10.
When you got to camp, the first thing you did was….
lay on the ground. Then I'd set up my tent so I could relax for the rest of the night.
How often would you do laundry?
I probably should have done it more often, but maybe once every couple weeks? I did a lot of sink washing my clothes in between.
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?
Hanging out with the team! Some of my favorite memories are spending the evenings passing the time with stories and jokes. Man, I miss them.
How many sink/hose showers did you take?
A better question is how many real showers did I take. Just kidding, probably a little over half of my showers were sink/hose showers, but it wasn't a big deal.
How many loads of sink/hose laundry did you do?
Even when there were laundry facilities close, I usually opted sink laundry because I was too lazy to carry my clothes around.
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 love to explore, so I almost always tried to see as much of the town as I could, but there are definitely days when I just needed to sleep.
What’s your favorite memory from your trip?
Ah, there are so many amazing memories. One of my favorites is from the second day. A few of us woke up early to watch the sunrise over the lake, and we mentioned how we had only known each other for two days and we already felt like best friends. Those people stayed my closest friends during the whole trip, and people who are amazing enough to ride their bikes across the country to raise money for such a great cause are pretty fantastic friends to have.
Do you keep in touch with many of your teammates?
Yes, I do! There are 3 or 4 friends that I talk to weekly, and some others that I talk to on occasion as well.
Has the trip changed you as a person, or the way you see life?
My trip was the most amazing thing I have ever done, and it absolutely changed me as a person. I learned so much about myself, my limits, and what I can accomplish. I met incredible people, and had the opportunity to do service for MS patients who were so grateful and deserving. This is the kind of trip that can and will restore your faith in humanity.