Friday, August 31, 2012

Mountain Biking Fever

On Friday, the MS Mountain Tour begins in Hinton and following that two day cycling event it's off to the Kettle Valley Railway for a week of bike-packing with my daughter Jackie
The MS Mountain Tour
What is complicating things is doing two different events but only bringing one bike.  The MS Mountain Tour requires a stripped down bike - handlebar bag gone, handlebar extensions removed, a different seat, headlight and tail light removed, rear pannier rack dismounted and handlebars lowered.  A lower handlebar offers more control on a trail in the woods and items like a rear pannier rack are weight you don't need to lug around.  A narrow, horned seat is necessay not only for steering but also for different body positions (right on the horn when going uphill and right off the back of the seat when going downhill).
A stripped down Furry Lewis
The Kettle Valley Railway excursion requires a different setup - mostly to provide comfort while spending up to six hours in the saddle every day.  So a comfortable handlebar height, my Spiderflex seat and handlebar extensions are all very important for maximum enjoyment while bike-packing.
The Spiderflex hornless bike seat
The Arkel handlebar bag is a useful addition in that it can hold frequently used items like a camera, sunscreen, earplugs (if there's any highway riding), gum etc.  Not to mention the easy to see map pocket on top of the bag.  With this being Jackie's first bike-packing trip, I'll be doing most of the navigating having done the KVR five times in the past, so I'll be referring to my cyclometer and map often.
The Arkel bag
I still have to decide on which bike to take with me - Furry Lewis or the MOAB and luckily I still have the time to try both bikes in the woods before making my final decision.  Furry has been a faithful bike and has joined me on several MS Mountain Tours and KVR trips.  The MOAB has just come back from bike-packing in Idaho where it performed beautifully (especially after a tune-up at the Excelsior Bike Shop in Kellogg Idaho - more on that later).
The MS Mountain Tour

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Paving Our Way

It would seem that cycling on a paved trail versus an undeveloped trail would call for loading the bike in a different fashion.  The bright idea occured to me that the space underneath my handlebar bag was wasted space so why not sling something beneath the bag?  Last night we'd had a campfire and the wood came in a mesh bag and with a small amount of work, I was able to convert the bag into a carrier for my Thermarest mattress.
Very clever - no?
On the Trail of the Couer D'Alenes, bike is king and it was with great pleasure to see just how sophisticated a "Rail to Trail"  could be.  Every five miles there is a rest stop with toilets and a specially designed picnic table that allows for bikes to be leaned against.
A typical rest stop

Being a paved trail means that as you cycle, you will come across all types of cycling enthusiasts like the "Kid" in my previous blog or a couple we passed that were having fun pedalling a bike made for two!

Since the Trail of the Couer D'Alenes is well developed, it can mean that all types of conveniences are available to the cyclist.  We saw a short branch of the trail that led to a Walmart and for coffee lovers, there was even a cycle-through coffee stand!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Kid

Cycling on a paved trail was a new experience for my biking friend Roy and I.  This year marked the 6th time that we had taken off into the wilds for a week to ten days of bike-packing - usually on the rough gravel trails of the Kettle Valley Railway.

Almost immediately we could sense that this fine, flat and well maintained trail would allow us to make record mileage in record time.  The descent from the trailhead at Plummer led us to crossing an old railroad bridge with a terrific view of Chatcolet Lake and the many boaters enjoying the hot summer weather.
The captain is on the bridge
After two and a half hours of skirting the lake, passing summer cottages and sunbathers relaxing on wooden docks, we rode into Harrison - a sleepy resort town with tree lined streets and old brick buildings.  At the marina Roy managed to find a strange combination of birthday cake and cookie dough ice cream -  it was lunchtime after all!

At the same time that we pulled back onto the trail, a young lad was passing the marina and when I caught up to him, I recognized him from a large group of boy scouts we had seen gathering at the foot of the bridge.  It wasn't long before we began to race and I'd like to think that he was surprised that a grey hair like me could and would race him.  When I got bored with shouting over to him "You're doing 26 miles per hour!", I dropped back to let Roy take over with his ice cream fueled legs.

What 26 mph looks like
While we never learned the boy's name, we did discover that he had many brothers and sisters.  I thought I'd misheard when he told me that he had 17 siblings and when Roy rode side by side with him the boy related to Roy that he had 16 siblings.  Either way, that is one big family.
The kid with a large family
It was while we stopped to photograph a large raptor that the boy continued pedaling and while I thought we might never see the kid again it was only 20 minutes later that coming toward us was an adult with a very unhappy looking 11 - 12 year old riding beside him.  I speculated that one of the scout leaders had finally caught up to him and chastised him for not staying with the group.  Who can blame a kid on a decent bike, in fine weather, on a smooth trail and the chance to beat a couple of adults at a fun game?
Enraptured with a raptor

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Can't Miss It Curse

We knew that our trip to cycle the "Rails to Trails" in Idaho would be by the seat of our pants.  It seemed that we could not get enough information about the trails and their environs.  Perhaps my friend Roy and I have been spoilt by the excellent book "Cycling the Kettle Valley Railway" which describes in minute detail every twist, turn and bump on the KVR.

Since we were travelling somewhat unprepared, it's only natural that we would have to ask for directions (imagine a man asking for directions!).  We wanted to reconnoiter the trail at it's end in St. Maries and our first foray into asking for help began at what appeared to us to be a sporting goods store but turned out to be a gun shop.  The owner while friendly enough, seemed to want us out of his store pronto.  Even though we were considering purchasing some Clif bars.
A little of the give and get

The gun guy sent us over to the hardware store which has a bike shop in the basement.  Two helpful staff there told us how to find the trail.  "Just go up the road and on the other side of the bridge, turn left and make your first left into the sawmill.  Go past the sawmill and you'll see the trail.  Can't miss it."  We did.

While trying to find the trail just past the sawmill we stopped to ask an older lady picking raspberries in her backyard.  "Haven't a clue." is all she managed to mumble to us.  Not far along the same road we pulled to a halt to ask a fellow loading the bed of a small truck.  He got quite enthusiastic and went so far as to pull a pen from his shirt and scrawl arrows and lines across the map in Roy's lap.  I got the impression that Roy wasn't enjoying the action in his lap.  "Turn right at the end of this road and go until you see the baseball diamond.  Mind you there's quite a dip in the road at that spot.  You guys look like you can handle it.  Follow the road past the ball diamond and that curve you come across becomes the trail.  You can't miss it!"

Once again we did.
The Outlaw Bar and Grill - Mullan Idaho

A few days later after cycling the trail from its trailhead at Plummer, we made it to the end of the paved trail in Mullan where we pulled the bikes over in front of the "Outlaw Bar" to ask a portly, bearded dude where we could find camping in the area.  After a series of complicated and seemingly contradictory directions, Tony ended his shpiel with what was becoming a common Idaho phrase - "You can't miss it."  Roy and I looked at each other and knew we were screwed.  We'd have to find a campsite on our own.  We'd been hexed with the dreaded "Can't Miss It Curse".

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Picture Erasure

Dear Readers:

In all, I took 233 pictures on our four day bike-packing trip of the 330k Bitteroot Loop in Northern Idaho last week.  A friend of mine says that Mercury is in retrograde this year and that electronics will not be operating properly until that celestial phenom is over.  Maybe that would explain how I lost all of my pictures from the SD memory card of the camera I stowed in my handlebar bag.

My cycling partner Roy, clever guy that he is, transferred all of my pictures onto his hard drive at the end of the trip and is sending a copy of them to me as we speak.  So dear reader, I would like to wait until I can post those pictures before I tell you about:
The paved trail

Hot hot weather
The sections without paving
How we found pie!
My best tunnel picture to date
The dozens of trestles we rode across
How we didn't attach a camera to a bike
Barely any animals were spotted
So stayed tuned dear reader and your patience will be rewarded!

Friday, August 3, 2012


See our lovely campsites
Bikewriter'sblog will return in the very near future...

You'll read about trail food

You'll hear all about asking for directions
You'll see wild creatures
Enjoy colourful scenery

And I'll blog about pie!