Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Things I learned on this Trip

In no particular order and in addition to this previous blog:
  1. Nescafe instant cappuccino and mocha are great camp fare but only seem to be available in Canada.  Wish I could get it here in the US too.
  2. Talk with your riding companions about the route every day before you ride.  What will the lead person do if he/she decides to deviate?  How do you communicate stops?  What to do if separated (cell phones are not completely reliable)?  
  3. Decide if you can ride alone or not BEFORE the trip.  Understand what your companions want before the trip.  You may not be a good match, for instance, if you want someone within sight all the time and your companion is much faster and does not want to wait all the time.  This is the most important dynamic to talk about especially if you are not comfortable route finding alone and are potentially slower than others and in a small 2 - 5 person group where it is very easy to get separated during long days and in cities.  Those with lots of experience of touring alone will not even think about this - the less experienced touring riders will want to think long and hard before the trip.
  4. Do you really like the schedule of mileage, rest days, planned overnights, etc?  If you have not camped very much and want a motel every third night this can cause problems during the tour.  
  5. Shared equipment and tools are great if everyone stays together.  If the multitool is with the fastest person and they are no where to be found, you get the picture.  See #2 above.
  6. Don't run out of water!  My companions almost insisted I bring a camelback and it was a good thing.  High temps in Utah and Idaho cooked my goose one day when not using the camelback.  Have a wide-mouthed camelback and put ice in it.  You will drink more and stay hydrated.  In dry climates it is hard to maintain proper hydration when cycling over 4 hours per day.  You have to work at it.  A extra Nalgene can work in place of a camelback, it is just not as convenient.  The camelback is a lot of weight - there are lots of opinions on this - understand the temp extremes and distances between water sources and make your own decision.
  7. Be honest about your physical condition without whining.  There is a fine line here and whining gets old quickly.  However, hiding a potential trip-ending problem is bad form too.  
  8. Do your touring companions consider themselves and you as part of a team or is it every man for himself and just sharing the road together?  It is important to discuss this and understand how the others view the trip especially once the decision to share resources is made.  This is related to 2, 3 and 5 and if not resolved and understood can lead to conflict.
  9. Planned bailout points are good.
  10. Beef jerky rocks.
  11. Special diets are almost impossible to maintain.  Primal, low-carb, high protein, low fat, etc - forget about it.  Take advantage of good food when it presents itself and don't be picky.
  12. Bike maintenance - do it before and during the trip.  On a layover day take it to a local shop for chain cleaning and quick look-see by an experienced mechanic if you are not a top-notch mechanic yourself.  Another set of eyes can sometimes spot things and it is worth the $15 - 25 you spend for that alone, not to mention, the info you will get on local roads, food and goings-on from the shop.
  13. Jet boil camp stoves are great except the gas canisters can be problematic for leaking.  
  14. Vermont bag balm works to prevent and cure saddle sores - bring a little in a small container.
  15. Bodily cleanliness is important.  You must at least get dipped in a stream or lake every other day.  On days there is no water for bathing a wipe down with witch hazel or baby wipes is mandatory.  Don't let saddle sores get started!
  16. I did not lose weight on this trip.  Planning a trip to do that seems ludicrous to me.  Get in shape before and if you are overweight already plan to stay that way.  If you do lose weight that is great but don't plan on it.
  17. Though I subscribe to a diet of whole foods (eggs, meat, nuts, veggies, fruit) at home this will not work while cycle touring.  Embrace the really good bakeries!  They will keep you going along happily and with energy.
  18. The distances between towns and stores in much of Alberta and BC Canada is much greater than in the USA.  If you are from the US, you will be amazed and confounded about this fact and not believe your own eyes.  Plan for it everyday.
  19. Trail mix is my friend.
  20. I can live on trail mix, beef jerky and Nescafe mocha or cappuccino mix for days.  
  21. If something does not have a price on it - ask!  This goes for restaurants, bakeries, stores, etc.  You will be unpleasantly surprised sooner of later.
  22. DQ cones are great recovery food.
  23. This is a great pump and I have no regrets buying it and hauling my other one around as ballast.
  24. Wild blueberries in Blue River, BC are a good enough reason to plan a trip there in August.
  25. Brew Pubs are wonderful places.
  26. Why do hamburgers (not the fast-food variety) taste so good when cycle touring?  
  27. Blueberry pie at Mike Wiegele's restaurant in Valemount was the best pie of the trip.  Their prices for heli-skiing in the winter or summer heli-touring are as high as the altitude they fly.  Guess it will not happen for me in this lifetime.
  28. My equipment was all tested before the trip on numerous occasions and all worked fine:
  • Tent: Ray-way tarp and net tent.   Some people would not like needing to find two trees or two sticks every night to string this from but it was light, tough, and kept me dry from rain and dew.
  • Ground cloth - Ace Hardware 4 mil poly
  • Panniers - Ortleib front and Vaude rear.  The Vaude are not waterproof but the rain cover worked fine and you can always keep things that must be dry in a waterproof oven bag or stuff sack or other waterproof bag - be creative.
  • Bike - Rivendell Bleriot with 650b wheels/tire.  The odd size was a bit of a handicap but I could use 26" tubes and carried an extra tire.
  • Handlebar bag was Ortleib.  These are easy to overstuff and cause shimmy problems.  They are nice though for keeping your valuables in and pulling off the bike quickly and taking with you when eating and shopping.
  • Sleeping bag was Ray-way quilt.
  • Shoes - I used Ascics running shoes primarily on platform pedals with powergrip straps.  I also had my Chako river sandals which I used about 20% of the time for pedaling and everytime I took a shower at a campground.  They are heavy but I did not want to buy another pair of sandals just for this trip.
  • Riding shorts - Castelli Velocissimo  These were comfortable and stood up to lots of abuse at laundromats.  
  • Rain gear:  Showers Pass jacket and Rivendell Rain Pants.
  • Gloves - Riv
I am not going to list other clothes, tools and gear.  Write a comment if you have any questions.


  1. Mike, You have obviously just completed the trip of a lifetime. What an experience, congratulations. I think you were well prepared both physically and mentally which was essential to your success. I still cannot see how you could go day after day without having to layoff a day after every two days. You are obviously in great shape. How do you follow that up? How do you taper down from all that daily infusion of endorphins? And the country you have seen from a completely different viewpoint. Very closeup an personal, almost microscopic relative to our racing by at 60+mph in our hurry to get to our next mini-destination. Clearly we enjoyed your daily updates and the photos were a highlight. Nice trip diary.

    Regarding your "learnings":

    On the cappucino/mocha you might try Costco. The have a cap/mocha in a can that is pretty good. There is a lot of sugar however, but your burning that pretty rapidly on the bike. I am not sure it is Nescafe however.

    Regarding communication between riders. You might want to try RF radios or walkie talkies. We use them on our field surveys to maintain communication, in fact require them. Again Costco or Best Buy is a good source. We use Motorola and are pretty happy with the 18 mi 'line of site' range. Though they do best with line of site, they do wrap the signal a bit. They are pretty rugged too so if you drop one they don't break easily. We wear them on our camel back so with one hand you can easily press to talk. Check them out they might work for you. They are great in crowd situation also if you get separated. I recommend that you get a three-pack if they are available. That way if you lose one you still have two. I stumbled making my way along a cliff and mine popped off the clipholder and off it went 200' down into a canyon. Oh yeah and it doesn't matter what brand your riding partners have, they can all be tuned to any frequency. Ours were $79 for the 3. You shouldn't have to pay more than $25 to $28 each. They should also include a charger. But that may be a problem if you don't have an available electrical outlet for charging at night.

  2. Nice reading. Thank you for sharing.