Thursday, September 30, 2010

We've Got A Winner!!

Thanks to Ed Kennedy, a regular reader of my blog who correctly identified the name of my silver mountain bike as "Furry Lewis" and has won the gift certificate to Hudson's. Ed found the answer in my blog "Mountain Tour Training" of September 7, 2010.

A lot of people name their bikes and it occured to me during last year's MS Mountain Tour to give my trusty bike a name.  At the time I also owned a Raleigh which I named "Barbeque Bob" because of its red colour.  Furry Lewis was an old bluesman who was rediscovered in the seventies when Playboy magazine did an article about him and his music.  My brother bought Playboy for the articles (sure!).  And since I'd had this silver bike for some time and even though I'd bought and rode other bikes, I kept coming back to this one.  I rediscovered this great bike.  Just as Furry Lewis was rediscovered.

Check this fine cycling blog and see how other people name their bikes.

Congrats again to Ed!!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


As a reward to my faithful followers, I'm having a little contest that should be a SLAM DUNK!

The prize is a $10.00 gift certificate to Huson's - good until October 30, 2010

So the first person to correctly answer this skill - testing question and email me the answer at: will win the prize.


I have mentioned 3 of my bikes in recent blogs - a red road bike, a blue mountain bike called "Big Blue" and a silver mountain bike.  What is the name of my silver mountain bike?

Note:  the deadline for the contest is Monday, October 4,2010

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Officially Fall Riding

The dull jackhammering of a woodpecker into a dead birch tree reminded me that there is an abundance of woodland creatures in our river valley.  Last week while riding, my friend Lyle inspected (not too closely) some scat on the trail and Lyle who is an experienced backcountry backpacker declared that they were bear droppings.  "That's not dog poo - dogs don't eat a diet of berries!" he exclaimed.  My own experience with bears on the Kettle Valley Railway made me agree with him.

Riding the Rollercoaster Trail on my way back from the Henday Bridge, my front wheel almost struck a blue, black and grey chickadee flitting about the many mud puddles on the trail.  I didn't recall any rain this week until I remembered that at work, two days of shooting were cancelled due to poor weather.

On this excursion, I brought along two maps from River Valley Cycle - the Perimeter Trail and the Rollercoaster.  I stopped frequently to refer to them as I was trying to find landmarks like "The stone bridge" or "Turn right at old mound of concrete" to no avail.  I can't fault the maps - it must be my unfamiliarity with Terwilligar Park.

The temperature must have been hotter than the 24 degrees forecast as I was sweating with only a short sleeved cycling shirt and cycling shorts.  To be more visible in the dense foliage, I wore a red shirt and to be heard, I unleashed my bear bell.

  By 2 o'clock, the upper trails had become crowded with MTBers.  The dog walkers tend to stay down on the flats and it is mostly bikers up in the hills.  On 3 occasions I had to stop while pumping uphill to allow descending cyclists to pass.  This meant that having stopped, I couldn't get going again and had to push my bike up the rest of the way.  Maybe it is my lack of experience that causes me to stop rather than continue up and pass the opposite rider.  Or is there a form of MTB etiquette I don't understand?

To my way of thinking, the people going downhill should make way for the person travelling uphill.  Going downhill, you can easily get going again, whereas going uphill, you can't necessarily.  Am I wrong or am I turning into one of those whiney, chip-on-the-shoulder grey hairs?  Help me here!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Peeps

Like anything we do in life, even the most memorable event, it is the people we do it with that makes the occasion special.  The MS tours are no exception.  Hundreds of people doing something for others and having a great time doing it.

I think of my friend Anna, who very kindly lent me two rechargeable batteries when mine pooped out on the first morning of the tour.  Or her husband Edmond who took this photo of me climbing the first hill of the day.  Or water-filtration Don who reads my blog and just kicks ass on the trail - I only saw him once or twice and then he was gone with the strong riders.

Then there is Brant who generously gave me a ride to my hotel after the first day's tour.  Tired, wet and covered in mud, I very much appreciated his kindness.  Or Al and Stew who, on behalf of the MS Society gave up their Wednesday evenings to coach us on mountain biking techniques and amazed us with stories of their many mountain biking experiences.

Or the marshall who complemented me, just before the above picture was taken, on how well I climbed that hill.  I thought he was just flattering me, but when I ran into him at the first checkstop, he assured me that his comments were sincere.  No wonder I look so happy in the photo.

Mirko comes to mind as a memorable personage.  He went out of his way  to remember my name as he felt sure he'd see me on the tour.  What a nice thing to do.  My daughter Jackie made Cosmic Power Cookies that tasted scrumptuous and warmed me up when I was chilled and wet.

What about those volunteers who were cheering and clapping whenever a cyclist pulled into a rest stop?  Their actions always made me feel special and while I often think that what we are doing is no big deal, their appreciation makes me realise that all of us are doing something out of the ordinary.

Then there's my wife Janet who spends a good part of her year as a cycling widow and especially during the Hinton tour, has to amuse herself for hours and yet be ready to pick us up at the drop off point while not knowing when we'll finish the day's tour.

And I mustn't forget Barb who came so many months ago to our MS garage sale and whose smiling face always brightens the trail.  Or Peter who is such a strong rider and has completed what is it?  Twelve tours?  Three or four of them Mountain Tours.  And he's an awesome fundraiser to boot.

I salute you all!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Greasfest Continued

Even though the route on the second day trends downhill, there are some sections of the trail that defy belief that anyone could ride up or down them.  Not far down the path from the moguls, there is a steep drop into a deep ravine.  Of the three women ahead of me, two of them wiped out and then three men came booming down the track and smashed into them and they all fell over as though they were a string of dominoes.  One guy was thrown from his bike and plummeted into a stand of young trees and wet bushes and it was only by "The grace of God" that no one was seriously injured.

Just a way down the course as you round a curve, there was a sight that caused all of us to stop in amazed dismay.  The route up ahead was so vertical that it gave the illusion of being a wall made of mud.  I could hear groans behind me as weary and soaked cyclists came upon the sight.  There was nothing for it but to hoist our bikes onto our shoulders and start climbing.  The trick to making it up the sheer incline was to make like you were cross country skiing and use the edges of your cycling shoes to cut into the muck and grunt your way to the top.

After another brief stop at the next checkpoint it was a long slog through the mire to the finish line in Hinton.  Twice, just before completing the tour, I lost all braking power and I had no choice but hang on and hope that I could successfully scream down the greasy slopes and not wipe out and either injure myself or damage "Furry Lewis" and have to take a flaggin' wagon to the finish line.  After eighty five soggy clicks, that would suck!

Joel, one of the organizers, drove up on the wet double track and stopped to ask me to guesstimate how many riders were behind me on the route.  Making a quick judgement, I told him that there were thirty riders behind me.  Compared to last year when Jackie and I came in last,  moving up thirty spots was an improvement.  Especially considering that this year was the Greasefest!

Friday, September 17, 2010

"Greasefest" (MS Mountain Tour Day Two)

As the shuttlebus wound its way up to Blue Lake, the clouds got heavier and the fine drizzle we had woken up to turned into rain.  Being on the first shuttlebus meant that there was no lineup at the United Cycle repair tent and I managed to get Mirko (an awesome bike mechanic) to have a look at my brakes as they were losing their gripping power.  After regailing me with tales of the amount of mud the mechanics had to deal with on the first day of the tour and the modest amount of beer they drank at the banquet last night, he made some adjustments.  His fine work gave me the confidence to ride again on what I knew would be very wet trails. 

The garden hose was available and I was able to recognize my bike after washing off the accumulated grime.  A lineup began to form of people like myself who couldn't be bothered waiting in the long lineup at the close of yesterday's tour.

I ran into Al, one of the Mountain Tour instructors and he described the trails up ahead and suggested that he may only ride to the first checkpoint at the Nordic Center.  He also mentioned that he had run into (figuratively) Ashley, one of our "classmates" on the trail the day before and how impressed he was with her riding abilities.  I had to wonder about my riding abilities when an experienced instructor was only going to the first checkpoint!

The pull to the Nordic Center was stiffer than I remembered and I did my best to ride the whole way.  Many cyclists pushed their bikes up and twice I did the same - the slick muck and steep grade pretty much made it mandatory.  My friend Peter was having quite a lot of trouble with chain suck and he had to keep pulling off the trail to make adjustments.  I first met Peter on last year's tour when we stopped to see if he needed help because one of his pedals had fallen off.

The storm that had struck the mountain yesterday knocked down trees and one of them was the first obstacle to be negotiated for the day.  A small traffic jam developed as each rider had to shoulder their bike and clamber over the fallen timber.  And it was here that we noticed snow on the side of the trail - so far we had seen it all - rain,snow,sun,hail.

The organizers have learned a few lessons from previous mountain tours - recording bib numbers so that no one gets left behind on the mountain and having volunteers stand on the trail at the most dangerous spots and give out a warning.   After the Nordic Center, there are a series of moguls that if not hit at the right speed can cause a serious wipeout.  On the tour last year, my daughter Jackie and I rode over a mogul and came across a crowd of people standing over an unconscious rider who had to be transported out of the woods and to the hospital.  This year, a volunteer watched how riders handled the first set of moguls and if they were having trouble or travelling too fast, she would stop them and urge them to proceed with caution.

With hundreds of riders on the trail, the narrow track became a greasy trough with the consistency of what one rider described as "Play Dough".  Another rider exclaimed at a rest stop that the mud "Sucks the life out of you!".  My transmission was beginning to act up from the mud jamming the front and rear derailleurs and the the rust forming on my chain didn't help either.

As the mileage increased, I found myself stopping more frequently to have short rests.  Erin - one of the "classmates" mentioned that she became a little anxious when she found herself in the middle of nowhere, soaking wet, tired and all alone.  Not a soul around her.  Not a sound except for the patter of rain on the yellow and green leaves.  Then, suddenly, down the trail behind her the excited whoops of some more bikers negotiating the slimy trail through the woods.  Yeah!  There is life out there!

To be continued....

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

MS Mountain Tour 2010

It was raining when the tour began.  The organizers tried hard to whip up some enthusiasm from the 300 odd cyclists assembled at the start line.  It took repeated calls of "How's everybody doing today?" to finally elicit any kind of heart-felt "Woo Hoo!" from the crowd.  Because of the rain, only a few brave souls risked removing their helmets during the singing of the national anthem thereby exposing their unprotected heads to the wet skies.

By the time we reached the first checkpoint, the skies had turned blue and the sun began to shine on a forest with the first tinges of fall colours dappling the deciduous trees.  That is not to say that everything was sudddenly wonderful.  Following a pretty river, the trail became a slick mud bog and gave us a taste of what riding in slippery conditions could be like.  At the crossing of a small brook, one rider decided to place his bike in the middle of the stream and wash off the accumulated gumbo.

With blue skies and a climb of some altitude, there were plenty of photo ops and I'm sure most participants were like me and relishing being in the mountains on such a beautiful afternoon.  My newly found dryness ended less than one klick from the lunch stop at the Black Cat Ranch when we had to navigate a stream by crossing a log whose top had been milled, creating a narrow bridge.  I was feeling cocky by this time and decided to pedal over the bridge rather than walk the bike across as the riders ahead of me had done.  In a flash, my front wheel rode off and I gracelessly tumbled into the stream and got soaked from head to toe.  It did wash my bike off though.

Rocks and branches and roots and trees were not the only obstacles to be negotiated.  There were man - made barriers placed at irregular intervals alond the 45k route.  Maybe it was a homemade cattle guard but when we came across a gate made from a number of hanging plastic road posts, it was best to dismount and walk through this eccentric opening.

Pumping up a gravel road to the first checkpoint after lunch, I could hear the booming artillery of thunder from the wall of dark clouds up ahead.  I paused only long enough to eat a couple of pieces of watermelon and decided to skip whacking a golf ball from on top of a cliff behind the checkpoint.  When asked, I was told that hitting golf balls from the ridge had become a tradition and when the practise had been discontinued, the chorus of grumbling from riders had gotten the odd diversion reinstated.

It was a torturous pull from the next checkpoint to the finish line at Blue Lake as we came across the results of the thunder we had heard earlier.  The uphill trail became a slippery trough with many, many puddles dotting the center line and I followed the advice that our instructors had given us on a wet training night - go through the puddle instead of trying to go to the side where the risk of sliding and toppling into the puddle was likely.

It seemed we would never reach the end and it was a welcome relief to reach an unmarked checkpoint where two volunteers were recording bib numbers (I suspect that in the past someone may have been left behind on the mountain) and they informed us that there was only half a klick to go to the finish line.

I'm sure most riders feel gratified when they are cheered into the finish line and this goal we had reached was no exception as we were cheered in.  The grounds of the lodge at Blue Lake were strewn with filthy bikes and exhausted riders.  There was a long line-up at the bike washing stand and wanting to get back down to Hinton as soon as possible, I figured that if it rained in the night, the washing my bike would receive would be good enough since th bike was going to get scuzzed up again on day two.

Since beer was for sale at the finish line, the chatter on the bus was full of laughter and the excited exclamations of bikers who had done something difficult - and as one sage put it "No matter what we faced on the trail, it was better than having MS."


Monday, September 13, 2010


The MS Mountain Tour has been completed for 2010 and check back soon for blogs that include:

 Opening Ceremony!

Swimming in the creek before lunch!

Hitting golf balls!

Washing bikes!

Sliding on trails!

Crossing bridges!

Dodging hail!


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Mountain Tour Training

Furry Lewis is back on the trails, having picked him up at United Cycle the other day.  Try as I might, I could not seem to get the shifting right after changing the front crankset, putting on a new chain and a new rear cassette.  Having received gift certificates to United Cycle from the MS Society, I thought it was time to let a pro mechanic have a go at the gears.   And what a great job they did setting up both sets of gears. During the last training session, my chain had been wanting to pop off the 5th and 6th gear and I knew that that would not be cool during the tour, where you are constantly shifting as the terrain coming at you changes quickly,rapidly and frequently.

Never having ridden the trails at Terwilligar by myself, I was pleased to have a colour map from River Valley Cycle to refer to if needed.  I chose the perimeter trail to start off and because I have a tendency to lope along when I'm alone, I decided to hit the trail as fast as I possible could - if only to mimic the speed that one of our instructors, Stew Hutchins would ride at. I turned a sharp corner and nearly got my head chopped off by a newly downed poplar - judging from the fresh teeth marks on the trunk.  It took sliding the bike nearly horizontal to clear that obstacle.

I was a little nervous about other riders on the trail but after some reflection, I came to the conclusion that at 10 o'clock on a Saturday morning of a long weekend, there were not going to be any traffic jams on the trails.  I moved my bear bell from underneath my seat to the handlebars so that it would ring louder and warn other cyclists of my approach.

There is a hill, bald of growth that we tried a few weeks ago in training which only two people managed to conquer (one of them being Al, our instructor that night).  I thought to myself  "I'm here, my main Saturday obligations are done, I've got all day - what the hey?"  It took several tries and on my third attempt I made it - Oh there was a bit of fishtailing of my front wheel, but I made it!  I was so proud of myself and learned something about how far forward I needed to shift my butt on my seat to climb a steep hill.

My confidence was so bolstered that I decided to try the Rollercoaster Trail towards the Anthony Henday bridge.  Now this is a trail that defeated a few of the riders on last week's training - mind you it was the mud that defeated them.  Their tires were so clogged with mud that their wheels wouldn't turn.  So it was not a lack of skill that stopped them.

I figured the trail would be dry but if I did come across a puddle, I knew from listening to advice from Al that I should ride through it and not try to skirt around it which would probably cause my tires to slip and put me right in the puddle.  After a somewhat technical jaunt, I now know why they named it the Rollercoaster -but I made it to the Henday without any spills.  It was at the Henday that I discovered the pedestrian bridge underneath that the River Valley Cycle map had mentioned.In all the times I've driven a vehicle over the bridge, I never knew of its existence.

Down the short paved section leading to the Henday bridge, a skateboarding time trial was taking place and after some wild gesturing from a guy down the trail holding a walkie-talkie I got the idea that they wanted me to stay off the trail while one of the skateboarders whizzed down the slope.  Impressive stuff.  Graceful too considering the speeds and the small piece of wood holding everything together.

By the time I had paused to snap a picture of one of the racers, the park was beginning to fill up and the skies were threatening imminent rain so I decided that it was better to quit while I was ahead and I knew that I could probably handle myself better during next week's training session - the last one before the tour itself.