Friday, September 9, 2016

Jurassic Park Revisited

"Bears seen in campground". "Be bear aware". These are just two of the signs we saw while bikepacking in the Slocan Valley a few weeks ago.

In fact, one morning while walking through the camp at Springer Creek to visit the washroom, there were three bears blocking my path. A mother and two cubs. I slowly backtracked and then advised our neighbours of the problem. They had children scattered amongst the camp sites and a dog wandering around. Quickly the parents gathered the children around them and the dog was tied to a tree.

On our first day of bikepacking, we were stopped by an elderly couple standing beside their bikes off to the side of the trail. They pointed down the path about twenty metres where two bears were shuffling along. Once the bears scooted into the woods, the couple were more than happy to let my son Chris and I lead the way, ringing our bike bells, cans of bear spray in our hands.

It was on the second day of bicycle camping that we spied a large black animal ahead of us. Peering through my binoculars, I determined that what we were seeing was a black cow with three calves behind her. Not knowing what to do, we decided to turn our bikes around and find a way past this small herd.

Just as we began to turn around, another cyclist approached from behind the cow and calves. Shouting "Shoo!" and waving one arm in a dismissive manner, he easily got the cow to move ahead of him and toward us. We got off our bikes and placed them between us and the cow (to act as shields). The cow didn't pay us the slightest attention as she waddled past our position. As he approached, the cyclist commented "I can tell you aren't locals!".

Filled with confidence, we mounted our bikes and started pedaling toward the three calves ahead of us. It was only as the mother began to bellow that we realized we were in the predicament of being between her and her offspring. Chris was in the lead and as he looked over his shoulder he shouted "Dad! That cow is right behind you!".

In my mirror, the cow was framed perfectly by the inscription "Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear". "Holy shit!" I screamed as I bore down on my pedals. I was quickly closing in on Chris whose way was blocked by the nervous calves.

In a scene reminiscent of Jurassic Park where the T Rex is chasing the jeep, I have an angry cow on my heels, my two hundred and forty pound son blocking my way and three calves bucking and squirming all over the trail ahead of us.

We cycled full speed for half a kilometre before the calves discovered a path that led back to their pasture. They raised a cloud of dust as they skidded around the corner to safety. As I ran out of steam, my only hope of salvation was that the pissed off mother would follow them. Being able to write this is proof that she did.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Those crazy guys!

In the next two weeks I'm taking two very different bikepacking trips. One with my long-time friend Roy and the other with my son Chris.
Roy focused
As serious as Chris gets
Bicycle camping can be a sobering experience in that you must always have your wits about you. There are any number of hazards to contend with - wild animals, rocks falling onto you from tall cliffs, poisonous snakes, ticks etc. We have yet to take a bike trip in the woods when we haven't seen bears.

The above paragraph might lead you to think that our trips are hazardous and not all that much fun. Not so. After riding our bikes all day we set up camp and start sipping some hooch. The thing is, our bodies are still revved up from cycling and the drink doesn't seem to have any effect. So we drink more. That's when things change. For example:


You'll notice there are no silly pictures of me because I am the sensible one of our two different pairs. NOT!

Thursday, July 7, 2016


We are pretty serious about bike camping at our house. Several hours were spent on Tuesday night preparing a friend's bike for a bikepacking trip next week. Some people would just take any old bike into the woods but for us it is all about convenience and comfort.
Loaded for bear
A number of modifications needed to be made before we felt that our friend would like the bike. For example, I own many handlebar bags and I selected a couple for her to choose from. She chose a smaller one that I had bought to do the MS Mountain Tour in Hinton. At that time I felt that a bag was still necessary, but I wanted a lower - profile one so that I could easily thread my way through thick trees.
MS Mountain Tour
When riding for several hours every day, day after day, having a comfortable grip on the handlebars can help avoid fatigue in your hands. So on this bike the aim was to swap out the current grips and replace them with specially designed grips that widen out a the palm. As well, we wanted to add handlebar extensions so that the hands would have numerous positions to choose from.

Wide palm grips and handlebar extensions

One of the things we wanted to be sure of was if the panniers would fit her saddlebag rack. Experience had taught us that you can't assume anything. Luckily, the pair I was lending her fit perfectly on the rear rack.

The positioning of the saddlebags on the rack was important as well. It was important to be sure the bags fitted to the rear of the rack to avoid an annoying condition called "heel strike" when the heel of your shoe knocks into the bag with every pedal stroke. Very annoying.

Our friend took the bike out for a spin and very much appreciated the changes. Just watching her, you could tell that the improvements were going to ensure that next week she has an enjoyable bike camping trip.

A properly fitted out bike

Monday, June 20, 2016


After many months absence, our writing group got back together on Friday night to write short stories and then read them aloud to each other. Most of us are cycling enthusiasts and never seem to run out of ideas.
It begins
Each participant is welcome to suggest topics and that night they ranged far and wide. For example, the subjects included: "Sex and Bikes", "Why steal a watch when you can steal a bike?", "Bike Advice" and my favourite - "Do bike racks get lonely in the winter?"
When I was a salesman I learned to answer a question with a question so it seemed obvious to me that this subject needed to be written in the form of questions:

 "Do bike racks get lonely in the winter?"

How do handlebars handle things?
Are pedals selling anything when they pedal?
Is a down tube really down? Or just having a bad day?
If a bike has a fork, where are the knife and spoon?
Do handgrips really have a grip on things?
Do kickstands like to be kicked?
What are saddles saddled with?
Why all the hubbub about hubs?
If your bike is female, is it inappropriate saying she has a nice rack?

The bike I use daily was sitting on my repair stand, transmission pieces scattered about my work area, so I did the sinful act of driving a car to our cycling group! However, after a couple of hours of writing it was gratifying to see two of my friends ride for home on the bikes they had ridden to the event.
Writers riding home

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Mosquito-less Tour

With the recent rains in our area, I have to wonder if the "Mosquito-Less Tour" will actually be mosquito-less? Our campsites were chosen because they have a creek running behind them. Admittedly, they were chosen in very early spring when the creek was just a trickle. On the weekend, I rode over to the camp and discovered that the creek is quite a lot wider and deeper than my last visit.
The creek is behind the bushes
I'm worried for my friend and long-time cycling partner Roy. He grew up in Manitoba and absolutely hates mosquitos! However, I saw a posting on Face Book that included a sure-fire recipe to discourage the pests. The recipe calls for green mouthwash, Epsom salts and some stale beer. Supposedly by spraying this liquid around your outdoor space will eliminate the biting bug. Plus the area will smell of mint.
I don't believe it!

Monday, May 9, 2016


Whole new area to explore
Have you heard of dirtbagging? I always thought that a dirtbag was some slimy character but apparently it is a whole genre of bicycle camping. The idea being that bikepacking is not about the gear but about the experience and a recent issue of Adventure Cycling magazine contained an article promoting this new-to-me genre.

I have been interested in saving weight on my trips and this winter my wife and I sewed a Ray Jardine tarp that will offer shelter at a fraction of the cost of a tent and a fraction of the weight. The warm weather this weekend offered an opportunity to set up the tarp and get a good look at it.
First attempt at setting up
The article mentioned Tyvek as an outdoor material and I like the idea of making equipment from it. The easiest item would be a Tyvek groundsheet and maybe this winter we will sew frame bags from the material. If it is good enough to wrap your house in, then it must be good enough in the wilds.

Hot enough to melt a coin
Penny stoves were featured in the article and it took me only minutes to fashion my own from two beer cans and a jar lid. The thing is light as air and the alcohol fuel burned hot enough to melt the coin that covers the filling holes.

One of the authors of the article wrote about using an automobile sunshade as a sleeping mat - extolling its cheapness and light weight. Mine only cost a buck at a discount store but I worry that it may not be very comfortable.

I would like to try out dirtbagging. I could use my fifteen dollar winter bike, my eighty dollar tarp, the one dollar sleeping pad and the stove which cost nothing to make. By choosing my campsite carefully, I bet I could have a swell time at little expense.

Monday, April 4, 2016

It is about the bike

The bike

That disappointing man Lance Armstrong wrote a book entitled "It's Not About the Bike" but I would disagree. When it comes to bikepacking, it is all about the bike. It is your only source of transportation when bicycle camping.

I have used three different mountain bikes on my numerous trips and each one offered something different to the experience. The first couple of years I rode a bike I called "Furry Lewis" after an obscure bluesman. It had front shocks and disc brakes but it weighed over thirty pounds.
A few years later, I bought my daughter's TREK which was a very fine mountain bike. It weighed sub thirty and had hydraulic disc brakes. I would have kept it but she really wanted it back so I had to find another MTB.
The nameless TREK
My cycling buddy Roy has a Schwinn MOAB that I admired for years and when one my size was donated to BikeWorks, I waited patiently for my chance to buy it.  The bike was being used by a summer student and I would see it around town at different cycling events and inspect it lovingly - hoping it would some day be mine.
Two weeks before I was to leave on another trip, I bought this bike of my dreams. I have ridden the MOAB for years and it still gives me great pleasure when Roy and I bikepack with the very same bikes (although his has a larger frame).