Matt O'Donnell
Pacific Coast


Pre-Ride Vancouver to Mexico One week ago I went back to the doctor who had sent me to physical therapy for my knee back in March. The knee had recently developed a clicking when ascending steps and my paranoid mind had started to play with me. What if it didn’t hold up? What if the pain came back? What if I destroyed the joint and the knee exploded while I’m climbing Grant’s Pass and the knee shrapnel takes out  some endangered Oregon fauna? My doctor looked at the knee, listened to the clicking, and told me without any hesitation, “go do your ride.” With that my overactive imagination was laid to rest.

The anticipation has built to almost an unbearable point. I found out I’d been selected to be a Ranger at the end of February and now it’s the end of August. That’s 26 weeks of thinking and prepping and double checking things to make sure I’m ready to go on the biggest adventure of my life thus far. That’s months and months of answering the same questions over and over again as your family and friends want to know what you’re getting up to. The next time I do this, I definitely want to share the plans with folks much closer to the departure date.

All that time hasn’t been wasted though. I’ve really been able to dial in my ride. The folks at WTB helped me out by letting me try a few different saddles till I found the perfect one. SRAM hooked me up with a cassette that allows a greater range of gears (and easier climbs). Listening to feedback from other Rangers and John Watson at The Radavist, I decided to switch to flat pedals, allowing a little more range of motion for my troublesome knee. I’ve even stolen some ideas for favorite pieces of touring clothing, like the perfect lightweight long sleeve shirt that Tommy Hurl Everstone swears by. All of these little bits of information from these great riders that have gone before me have allowed me to really dial in my setup.

So the time has come to disengage from the planning and the second guessing and just get on with it. It’s time to get out there. It’s time to pedal, dammit.

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Matt O'Donnell

Gear List

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- My Blackburn Gear -

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Matt O'Donnell's profile picture
Matt O'Donnell
  • FROM: San Francisco
  • DOB: 1999-11-30
  • OCCUPATION: Adventurer
  • Genesis moment? A year ago I started a new company with a friend here in San Francisco. It’s been successful and I feel blessed because of that, but the hours were long at times, the stress high and I found that my fitness and riding is what took the biggest hit. I went from regularly riding 200+ miles/week to being lucky if I got in 40. When the holiday season came around I found myself with a week off and a huge amount of excitement to get back on the bike. I went for broke and rode over 300 miles in the six days I was visiting family out in Tucson, AZ. What did I get for my effort? A knee injury, seemingly caused from overuse; meaning I jumped back into the deep end too fast. I should have waded into the kiddy pool, I guess.
    I’ve spent some time in physical therapy and the knee is feeling good. This trip is going to be a great opportunity for me to get reconnected to my functioning body and to allow my head some time and space away from work, to reevaluate priorities, tell some stories, and to just ride bikes and sleep in tents.
  • Have you traveled in the past? My previous experience traveling distance by bike is pretty limited. I’ve done a few overnighters, but this will be my biggest trip BY FAR. I look forward to learning primarily by making mistakes and then trying not to repeat them.
  • Goal for the route? My biggest goal is to find some great characters and stories to share along the way. So much of the fundamental basis of American cycling culture spawned from the West Coast and I know there are going to be great examples of it along the way. In addition to that I hope to keep all my fingers and toes attached to my body.
  • What do you hope to get out of the journey? It sounds hippy-ish, but I’m hoping to come away from this with a bit of perspective. The sort of insight and calm that only many miles, the open road, and no cell phone reception can bring you. I’m also aiming for some real nice, crisp, tan-lines.
  • What's in your bag? #1 my Fallkniven F1 survival knife is my favorite camping knife. Seeing as how it is a fixed blade, I (for legal reasons) don’t want to “conceal” it. I tend to actually mount it right on the bike with zip ties holding the plastic sheath in place. Getting it through customs will be interesting.

    #2 My Coffee & Tea Collective tin mug. This was given to me by a good friend who hails from San Diego for my 30th birthday. I’ve never spent any time in San Diego, but since this route is going to take me right through I figure I should swing by and fill this baby up straight from the source. I will then immediately begin an epic burrito sampling to settle once and for all who has the best, San Diego, or San Francisco.

    #3 my GoPro Hero 4 Black. I have a variety of accessories from mounts, to filters, to nifty time lapse doodads that will allow this camera to do some heavy lifting for the mini documentaries I intend to produce while out on the tour.