Thursday, October 28, 2010

Hornless Bike Seat

While this is an unusual looking bike seat, it has been for me, after 10,000 kilometers, the most comfortable seat I've ever owned.  It never fails to elicit comments from cyclists and passers-by.

Especially for those of the male persuasion, the fact that this seat has no "horn" can make riding a bike a much more pleasant and comfortable endeavor.  I like the fact that these seats are made in Manitoba - maybe because my twin brother lives in Winnipeg maybe because I used to work with a reporter from that province and I always got a kick out of the fact that he pronounced it as Manitubba.  To this day when I think of him, I hear "Hubba Hubba Manitubba" in my mind.

This seat is hefty.  But perhaps that is why I've put so many miles on this baby and it is still going strong.  The other thing is that it is not too well suited to mountain biking where the bike's seat is so important for cornering, ascending and descending.

Do check out the Spiderflex website and consider one for yourself if most of your biking is not mountain biking!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Emergency Repair

On this year's tour of the Kettle Valley Railway, my friend Roy developed a leak in his rear tire as we pulled into Princeton Castle Resort.  Being hungry and tired with a camp to set up, we decided to repair the tire the next day.

The next morning when we inspected the tire, it was discovered that the leak was caused by a gash in the sidewall of the tire itself.  Our next step was to pull the tube out and repair the puncture and then look for a suitable "boot" - something tough, thin and having no sharp edges to place between the tube and the sidewall of the tire at the gash. 

The problem with the incision in the sidewall is that the cut exposed the steel belts in the tire and that causes the tube to rub against their sharp edges creating a puncture.  Given that we were nowhere near a bike shop, we needed to fix the problem right then and there.

We dug around in the recycle bin at the camp and found two possible repair materials - a plastic milk jug and a Tetra Pak.  After cutting one rectangular piece from each container (larger than the gash in the sidewall), we decided to use the Tetra Pak as its edges were smoother than those of the milk carton.

So we inserted the tube into the tire which was already half mounted on the rim and then it was a matter of putting the Tetra Pak rectangle between the tube and the sidewall (at the gash).  Using our small hand pump, it was no problem pumping it up to the recommended pressure and Roy rode around the camp to test out the repair.

It is important to remember that this is an emergency repair.  As soon as possible, a new tire (and for that matter a new tube) should be purchased and used to replace the damaged tire and tube.

As a post script, the repair lasted until we got to Cawston where a new patch had to be put on the tube and the Tetra Pak repositioned.

As a post post script, that repair lasted until we reached Vaseux Lake on the last day of our trip where Roy and I pulled off the highway and put a new tube onto his wheel and that repair got us to our starting/finishing point in Penticton.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Ride the KVR Before it is Too Late

The Kettle Valley Railway is an old railbed where the tracks have been removed and is an excellent cycling route as it winds its way through the Thompson/Okanagan region of B.C.  When combined with the three other regional abandoned railbeds, the trail extends over 900 kilometers in length.

The trail runs through sparsely populated mountain valleys and because of its remoteness, is left open to abuse.  For example, while it is strictly speaking a cycling or hiking trail, along one short section near Chute Lake, my friend Roy and I counted 28 vehicles ripping down the trail.  When I stopped one of the cars and said to the woman driving "This is not some backwoods expressway!", she replied "Yes it is!" and drove off in a cloud of dust.

There are so many motorized vehicles on the trail now that I encourage you to ride the KVR before the trail is completely ruined for cycling.  All the traffic chews up the trail and turns it into a sandy track which makes for heavy pedalling.  We decided this year not to go back to Penticton from Princeton via the trail because of its poor condition and the uphill profile of the trail.  Instead we rode highways to get back to our starting point.

We had a conversation with an ATV'er about the trail and I laughed when I heard him complain about the trail being ruined in the winter by snowmobilers!  Poor baby!  Those mean snowmobile people!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Breakfast of Champions?

Our trip on the Kettle Valley Railway in August seemed like a good time to try "carb loading" which I had recently seen mentioned in a book about the Tour de France.  The first opportunity came when we chowed down at an Italian restaurant in Princeton that my cycling friend Richard had recommended.  After a couple of cold ones, my spaghetti and meatballs arrived at the table and I heartily scooped spoonfuls into my hungry face.

My next opportunity came at the hotel in historic Hedley (for some reason locals refer to it as "Hapless Hedley").While quaffing ice cold lemonade and sitting under the air conditioning vent, a heaping mound of pasta was placed before me and I tucked into it with relish (not the pickle kind).  My cycling partners chose salads and smaller main courses.  Each to their own.

At breafast on the last day of our trip while we were camped at Tuc 'l Nuit Lake, I got the bright idea to carb load again except that it was too early for the grocery stores to open. We still had freeze - dried dinners in our saddlebags but none of them were pasta.   Roy (my other cycling buddy) suggested I try the store down the street from the campground.  In Western Canada we call them Convenience stores but in Eastern Canada they are referred to as Variety stores.  Did you know that?

So I hopped onto Big Blue and took the short jaunt to the Convenience store where I was looking for Kraft dinner which my children call Mac 'n' Cheese.  I was lucky on two counts - the store was open and I found a box of KD/M'n'C on a shelf near the back of the store.  Carrying it under my arm as I rode back to camp, it did seem like an odd thing to eat at b'fast.

Richard and Roy are too nice of guys to say anything, but I could tell that thay thought this was a little eccentric.  And once I had the hot macaroni in my origami bowl and had my first spoonful, I remembered that years ago I stopped eating the stuff because it just did not have the same taste that I recalled from my youth.  Being the cheap guy that I am, I continued filling my gaping maw until the last crescent of pasta was devoured.  Right away it felt like a lump of clay in my stomach and as I lurched to the sink to wash the pot and my origami bowl, I realised once again that "Prospect is often better than possession".

A few klicks down the road on our way to Richard's place on the outskirts of Penticton, the lump in my stomach began to dissolve and convert itself into energy for my legs.  Maybe there was something to be said for carb loading - I had noticed better performance cycling from Princeton to Keremeos and the uphill ride from Oliver to Okanagan Falls seemed easier than in the past.  The hotel where we stopped in OK Falls for lunch had spaghetti and meatballs on the menu.  When the waitress came over to take our order, I ......

Friday, October 15, 2010

Bearly Make It

Our big plan was to take a shortcut between Cawston and Oliver that would take us over a mountain and save us a long ride on the highway.  We had spent the night at Roy's sister - in - law's peach orchard and after a lovely summer meal of cold beer, BBQ'd smokies, local corn on the cob, delicious tomatoes and coleslaw, we retired to our beds where it was warm enough for me not to bother putting the fly on my tent.

Andrea, our kind hostess served up a hearty breakfast of crispy bacon and stacks of pancakes.  After helping with the dishes (for the first time in a week), we saddled up and hit the highway to Cawston - the organic center of B.C.  We made a sharp left hand turn in Cawston that eventually took us to the dirt road that would lead us over the mountain and into Oliver.

It was shortly after hitting the dirt road that Roy's rear tire went flat.  It seems that the temporary repair we had effected in Princeton had run its course.  The high speeds we had attained in travelling downhill on the highway from Princeton had caused the Tetra pack "boot" to move out of position and cause the inner tube to pop out of the gash in the sidewall of the tire and begin to leak.  While Richard and Roy fiddled with the tire, I went in search of water to cool myself off with and to soak my bandana which would help cool my neck.  Twenty feet away from the makeshift repair spot, I found a clear brook babbling amongst the rocks and bushes.

Almost at this same spot is where the dirt road began its climb.  Since I was the slowest rider of the three of us, I pushed off while they finished the tire and it was then revealed to us that the road was so steep that we would have to push our bikes up.  For how long and how far was anybody's guess.  I noted that my cyclometer failed to register distance when I pushed although it did record wheels turning.  Roy and Richard soon caught up to me and I had to laugh as they tried to negoiate the incline, only to get off their bikes and begin pushing to the summit.

Eventually the grade lessened and we were able to hop in the saddle and ride once more.  By this time, we were in a forest and the odd bits of shade provided welcome relief from the blazing sun.  I turned a corner to find my two friends stopped in the middle of the road and looking at the display screens of their cameras.  When I rode up to them, they excitedly showed me pictures of three bears crossing the dusty road.  I didn't believe that they had just seen the furry creatures and I thought that they were trying to pull a fast one on me by showing me an old picture and pretending it was one they had just taken.  It took some convincing and then we decided to ride together and talk loudly and ring our bike bells to scare off the bears.  We were concerned that we would anger the mother bear or come between the mother and the cubs.  We had only ridden for a few minutes when to our right a large tree began to shake and we knew that the three bears were not far away.  Despite the heat flagging our energy, spying the bears put new adrenaline into systems and we began to pedal with renewed interest toward our goal - Oliver.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Big Blaze

After our enjoyable stay in Hedley, we strapped on our bikes once again and rode towards the smoke that choked the valley up ahead.  Roy wanted to stop at some famous rock in the middle of a river and even though he explained how a person could climb it and dive off, all Richard and I saw was a big rock in the middle of a river.  The B.C. government likes this rock in the middle of a river so much that they have posted official signs pointing it out to passing motorists.

It wasn't much farther on that we pulled over to the side of the road to witness a drama unfolding on top of a mountain up ahead and to our right.  A helicopter buzzed overhead carrying a Bambi bucket and a bomber was strafing the fire with retardant.  Circling high overhead, a fire official in the birddog plane was acting as Forward Fire Control and directing the fight.  We straddled our bikes transfixed as the wind fed the flames and caused them to create a flare hundreds of feet high.  Motorists pulled off the highway to watch.

Knowing there was nothing for us to do and since the fire was too remote for the forest service to come and recruit any of us to join the fight, we saddled up and kept one eye on the dramatic scene as we rode into Keremeos.  I remembered a picture I had seen in the Globe and Mail before leaving of a mountainous fire just outside of Keremeos but I had no idea at the time that our trip would take us right there.

All those fancy forest fire fighting terms I used above to impress you come from having spent summers hanging out of helicopters with the Alberta Forest Service back in the late eighties when I was a freelance cameraman.  My experience there was a real eye - opener and while the work was risky, I loved every minute of it and still to this day would choose a rotary wing aircraft to a fixed wing any day of the week (more impressive terms).

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Real Gem

Several years ago adventure cycling with my long time friend Roy, we camped at Lakeside Resort on Tuc 'el Nuit Lake in Oliver, B.C.  A wonderful family-run resort that has been packed to overflowing every time we have camped there (4 or 5 times).

In the camp office, hanging on the wall is a beautiful poster that evoked in me a nostalgic longing to want to visit that exotic and rustic locale.  The title  "Historic Mascot Mine" meant nothing to me and gave me no clue as to the location of the interesting place.  The lighting on the sides of the dilapitated buildings and the craggy mountains surrounding the mine excited my imagination.  I hoped to go there some day.

The three amigos, Roy, Richard and I left our campsite south of Princeton after a fitful sleep because of the close proximity of the camp to a busy highway and the logging trucks and other heavy vehicles roaring up and down the pavement all night long.  Our journey to Keremeos would be entirely by highway and luckily for us the route tended downhill and given the forecast of another 30 degree plus day, Richard and I were thankful that we wouldn't have to struggle uphill for hours on end in the heat.  Roy on the other hand becomes even more of a machine the hotter it gets.

Ahead of us in the distance, the valley that the highway followed was choked with smoke from the many forest fires in this neck of the woods.  Not long down the highway, I could see Roy crossing the highway to reach a stopped vehicle with two elderly gals by its side.  Richard dutifully followed while I wondered what was up and why Roy was riding his bike across the highway?

What none of us noticed was an older gent bent down on the other side of the vehicle and fixing a flat.  Turns out that the gent was the husband of one of the gals. They were in the process of moving furniture to Chilliwack one load at a time so that the other gal could come and live with them.  The man appreciated Roy's offer of assistance and the ladies appreciated three younger men togged out in Spandex!

It was well after noon when the three of us, hot, thirsty and tired pulled into a town named Hedley which turned out to be the very place where the poster I had so admired had been photographed.  I figured that my mission after finding lunch would be to procure one of those posters.  On the way to lunch, riding through town, we passed a museum and two curio shops and I began to hope that I would find that coveted image.

Exiting the air conditioned hotel where we had enjoyed the cool air and a wonderful pasta meal (doesn't everything taste better when you've been outdoors?), we divided up and went in three different directions, Roy and Richard to take photos and me to try out the museum and the touristy stores.

A curious sight greeted me when I stepped onto the veranda of the museum - a telescope pointing upwards at a nearby mountain.  When I peaked into the eyepiece, I was dumbfounded to discover the old mine buildings situated on the spine of the mountain - the very ones from the poster.  With my naked eye, I could not see the buildings as they were too far above the hamlet to be discerned.  I found out from the museum director that the mine is situated one mile directly above town and that when the mine was operating, there were two "chair lifts"; one to take people to and from town to work and another to bring ore down from the mine.  The waitress in the hotel restaurant told us that the trip up to the mine would only take eighteen minutes which is really moving when you consider that the mine is 5,800 or so feet up!

The gent in the museum was happy to sell me a poster and was kind enough to roll it into a sturdy tube which I could add to the already bulging load on my rear panniers.  His thoughtfulness was motivated in part because he is a long distance cyclist himself and he pointed out a fading, brittle yellow newspaper clipping tacked to the wall near the cash register.  The headline read "HEDLEY TO  HALIFAX" and detailed a four thousand kilometer trip that Bill, the poster seller had made when he retired a number of years back.  After expressing my amazement, he told me that the most difficult part of the whole trip was climbing and crossing ANARCHIST MOUNTAIN.  "I nearly quit right then and there!" he told me and I could certainly sympathise with him having done it twice myself.  Before you go thinking I'm some sort of cycling masochist, I have to point out to you that only one time was on a bike.  The other climb was in the cab of a pickup with our bikes in the back and with a driver who was only too glad to take us to the summit for $40.00!

Bill's epic journey made ours seem rather lame but once I stepped into the blast- furnace like heat and searing sun, I became very proud of our adventure and the numerous miles we had already cycled and the many miles yet ahead to be conquered.  And when I rode off to join my bicycle buddies with an extra 6 inches of cardboard tube protruding from my bike, I was very pleased to have met someone else who found ANARCHIST challenging and to have found that person in the most unlikeliest of spots - an old but famous mining town.

Friday, October 8, 2010


With temperatures soaring to above 30 degrees and having ridden 70 kilometers, it was a welcome relief to stand underneath the fine mist provided by a roadside fruit stand.  We had a debate about the purpose of the spray - was it to cool customers or cool the fruits and vegetables?  Since we were using it to cool ourselves, I agrued that it was there for the customers.  Roy and Richard argued that it was there to protect the produce.  When I examine the photo now, I have to agree with my cycling compadres that the purpose of the cooling mist is to keep the produce fresh in the high heat.  Whatchoo think?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

KVR 2010 Continued

Let's review the "Adventure Cycling" event again - there are the three intrepid cyclists - my friend Roy who I've known for 30 years and my new friend Richard who has known Roy for many years as well.  Our starting point was Richard's place near Naramata, British California and the idea was to cycle outward for 3 days and then cycle back for 3 more.

The very first day was a 70 kilometer pull uphill to Thirsk Lake in 30 degree+ temperatures.  We did find solace in the odd bit of shade and by doing pushups into Trout Creek which flowed beside the trail.  We had the pleasure of meeting a young couple who were riding the Trans Canada Trail from Banff to Vancouver Island.  When we met them, it was day 23 for them on the trail.

Our second day started off with the bonus of finding a country store at a place called Bankier where Roy and Richard gobbled many slices of Bumbleberry pie ala mode and I contented myself with finding cold bottled water.  We continued on to Princeton where we found the young couple already camped since they had taken the highway and gotten to the resort 2 hours in advance of us.  The owners of the camp were thoughtful enough to go into Princeton and get us a six pack of cold, bottled Stellas.

On leaving Princeton the next morning, we had the pleasure of meeting a group of mounted horseback riders out on a ride in the mountains.  Just outside of Princeton, we had been told that we would discover "Shangrila". The scenery was tranquil and the Tulameen River looked very inviting with this being another scorching hot day.  We rode as far as Tulameen where we had a lunch of "Fish and Chips" without the fish.  Shangrila indeed!

Richard is a strong rider (very fit) and after a lovely, refreshing swim in a bend of the Tulameen River, he rode at post haste into Princeton where he did a location scout and found us an air-conditioned Italian restaurant and also learned of a campground south of town where we could pitch our tents and get a head start the next morning toward our next objective - Keremeos.

So far, we had pedalled 191.269 kilometers and spent 21 and 3/4 hours actually in the saddle (wheels turning).

Next.....Dramatic forest fires!  Stranded motorists!  An historic abandoned mine!  Camping in a peach orchard!