Pico's Cycling - Tales of the Road is an online cycling magazine. It is intended for writers and riders who want to share their on the road cycling stories and pictures. Submissions that follow our guideline are gratefully appreciated. See the appropriate page in the site menu. Will publish the best of the best each month. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter @PicosCycling.

Friday, 27 December 2013

Pico’s Cycling – Tales of the Road January 2014 Vol. 2 No. 1

Wow! I am so pleased with how far this webzine has come in just one month. I am proud of this second issue. We're already working hard on the February issue as this one hits cyberspace. Still hoping to attract more writers/cyclists, who want to share their stories. Biggest news for us is that we have effectively doubled the readership this month and there is still time for more.

In This Issue
(To view articles just click on the links)

Dressing Up the Moncton Maniac

It's winter and this article gives tips on dressing for the season. No professional models were used in the making of this article, in case that wasn't obvious. Photo credits go to Shawn Whitelaw who has taken most of the pictures that include yours truly.

Day Trip to Bouctouche

Introducing Jack Hawkins who has joined on here as a writer. He's pretty new to bicycle touring but his articles are just what the doctor ordered. I can't help but notice one thing from my own early riding. There are a lot of pictures of his bicycle in different places. This is a day trip he's sharing for the enjoyment of our readers. Welcome aboard Jack!

Hills...Bloody Hills!

A second helping from Jack. All pictures are courtesy Jack Hawkins as well. His training in journalism should contrast nicely with my country bumpkin storyteller style. This is another of his day trips.

Scouting the Route

This is a serial story about planning, training and executing a group cycling tour with complete novices. This installment is about planning the route and laying the ground work for something quite ambitious. Because the initial scouting was done during the winter I thought it would fit into our January issue nicely. More to come on this story.

Building an All Weather Commuter

We started this issue with how to dress for the winter. This article discussing creating a bicycle built for those out of the ordinary cycling conditions.

If you really enjoyed this issue, have a look through our previous issue here: http://picoscycling.blogspot.ca/2013/11/picos-cycling-tales-of-road-december.html
This webzine is a new learning experience. Any suggestions or ideas are welcome. Time for us to get to work on the third issue. Pedal power is awesome. Expect to have the next issue ready in the first week of February 2014. See you all again next month.

Pico Triano editor.

More Links (Please click on the photos or the titles to visit these websites)

From Pico's Pen

May official author's blog. I write lots of different things. This is where you can got to find access to everything. Visits and followers are always appreciated.

Francine's Art

Francine Heykoop produces beautiful paintings and drawings which she displays on this site here. Fine Arts America will allow you to purchase these images in various formats and on different products. Have a look even if only to browse.

Dressing Up the Moncton Maniac

By Pico Triano
Photos: Shawn Whitelaw

This is the time of year when the ranks of active cyclists is thinned out considerably. Winter in Canada and yet cycling is still possible. I have commuted right through several winters. I have a cycling motto: All season, all weather, all the time. For me cycling is not just a great way to stay in shape, it is transportation.

To answer a couple of questions: Yes, it is more difficult and it is potentially more hazardous. It is not approaching impossible though. With the right equipment, it is even enjoyable.

A regular bike can fit the bill for most of your winter riding. As long as the road or path is clear your only real concern is dressing properly. There are specialized winter trail bikes that will allow you to ride in just about anything but I have no real experience with them. The one I saw was cool though. Too bad one of those balloon tires was flat and the rider had to hike out with it.

Last winter on a Walmart mountain bike I only missed one day of commuting because of the weather. The problem had more to do with the ploughs not having gone through than anything else. I’m not going to exhaust myself floundering through ten kilometres of deep snow trying to get somewhere.

How you dress is key. I have included some very ugly pictures of myself dressing in my layers for a run out in winter weather. I modestly omitted the underwear layer. That’s pretty standard anyway.

The between layers all are optional depending on how cold it is. Try to wear clothes that breathe. Even riding in subzero weather, you will perspire. If your clothes breathe and wicks the moisture away from your skin, you will stay warmer.

I wear a wind proof shell on the outside. Winter wind can be murderously cold. That protection from the wind can make a huge difference.

Of special note is how you take care of your extremities. Mittens are warmer than gloves. Good boots are as important as winter socks. On my head I have a fleece cap that fits between my head and helmet, ski tube and throat protector all specially made by my wife. You can spend a lot of money for similar equipment.

I find ski goggles fog up and do better without. I don’t like baklavas because I find it difficult to adjust everything back in place if I have to blow my nose. Trust me. You will have to blow your nose.

Winter cycling is your own choice. You are responsible for your own safety. This isn’t intended to convince you to go out and ride. It is meant to offer some practical advice on how to make it easier if you’ve already made that decision. Make sure you can be seen and don’t try to ride in heavy traffic. In the winter you especially need to be alert because most drivers are not expecting to see you out there.

More Articles from Pico's Cycling (Please click photos or titles to access full articles)

Not Everything Costs an Arm and a Leg - Bike Clothing on a Budget

Jack Hawkins discussing building up your cycling wardrobe without breaking the bank. Cycling doesn't have to be too expensive.

Essential Gear for Adventure Cycle Touring - Book Review

We don't do a lot of book reviews but if it's about cycling we're more than happy to do it. This book thoroughly discusses equipment needs and Jack Hawkins reviews it for us.

Day Trip To Bouctouche

by Jack Hawkins
Photos: Jack Hawkins

An early start for me, 8:30AM. I woke up, showered and then packed everything I'd need for the day into my two rear panniers, this was to be my new touring bike's first real road test – a forty-seven mile, out-and-back ride. The plan was to ride out to Cap Lumiere for lunch, and then up to Bouctouche and back home.

I packed a rather bulky camping stove and an extra butane canister in the left-hand pannier. Occupying the right-hand one was my lunch: a packet of chicken-flavoured Mr. Noodles, a waterproof jacket and a long-sleeved top, I also wore a bum-bag which handily had two water-bottle holders on each side. I filled both, as well as a water-bottle cage.
I set off an hour later after a breakfast of oatmeal sans tea, a lack of teabags at home was to blame. The riding conditions were perfect – a slight breeze, but otherwise pretty warm.
The road conditions through Richibucto and Rexton had been smooth and paved, however, they worsened slightly when I eventually turned onto Bells Mills Road – having previously taken a wrong turn, you'd swear that I hadn't lived in the area for the last seven years! There were often small inclines and the road was unpaved and bumpy in places, this made for difficult riding.
Not far from my lunchtime stop, I hit Richibucto-Village and a two-minute stop for some water and to admire the scenery, which had previously been a blur. I realised that I was riding too fast, and so I slowed the pace a little. I was now twenty kilometres from home, rolling into Cap Lumiere (Cape of Light), and my lunchtime stop.

Mr. Noodles had never tasted so good, after a gruelling twenty kilometres – let's not forget that this was my first tour. And, as per-usual, I made the mistake of not bringing enough water. I was out. Thankfully, I approached a local couple, who allowed me to fill up with refreshingly ice-cold water, at their cottage's outdoor tap.

Getting back on the road, I cycled up Highway 505, which hugged a quite stunning coastline. This route brought me up past a Fisheries and up to a fork in the road. I turned left and cycled through Saint-Anne, this was my first taste of a proper hill. I then had a choice to make – I could either stick with Highway 134, which would take the back-way into Bouctouche, or I could cycle up Highway 11, following the most direct route into Bouctouche.
The “back-way” would mean cycling an extra ten kilometres and looping into Bouctouche, but I was out for the day and so, why not take the scenic route?

Arriving in Bouctouche, I stopped again for a couple of photo opportunities and then finally a rest-stop at the Tim Hortons, water and a banana were my mid-afternoon nourishment. I waited in the Tim Hortons for a full twenty minutes, fully intending to connect up to their Wireless network and update my Facebook status, telling the world of my thus-far thoroughly enjoyable day. Unfortunately, their wireless wasn't working and so the world of Facebook would have to remain in the dark about my exploits – at least until I was sitting in my chair at home.

Then came the long ride home. I had no idea just how much cycling I'd done that day, nor I'd put my body through. It wasn't that I was unfit – far from it, it's that I'd not really done much – or any preparatory rides in the build-up to my sixty-seven miler, I simply rode. I found out after the first ten kilometres home just how tired I was... Crawling along at a speed of about 9km/h, according to my cycling computer, and the feeling of actual physical pain in my legs, it was a terrible twenty kilometres back home. Thankfully, and now retrospectively slightly embarrassingly, I stopped off at a anti-hydraulic-fracturing camp that was situated just as I rode into Rexton. They gave me several slices of bread and some fruit to see me through.

Arriving home, I put my bike away, unpacked my panniers, reheated some leftover chili – and then collapsed on the couch. Moving only to wash the dishes and hit the hay, several hours later. Exhausted though I was, I reflected on what had been an otherwise unforgettable experience, I just cycled almost fifty miles, seventy-five kilometres and I had learned a lot in just one eight-hour day out on the bike by myself.

I'd learned that I cannot possibly expect myself to do 80km days immediately, that I should definitely pack more food and bring some money along. But more importantly, I learned that I absolutely loved cycle-touring, I loved the freedom, the feeling of it being just me, my thoughts and the bicycle. It had been an amazing experience, and I began to plan my next one the very next day.

More Stories (Photos and titles are clickable links)

This is the story of my first solo self-contained tour warts and all. I learned a great deal that first time all by myself. Great experience with some entertaining moments.

This story is about another first. This was my first tour bringing along the family. My wife had never gone on a multi day self-contained tour of any kind before. Sheldon of course was just an infant.

Hills... Bloody hills!

By Jack Hawkins
Photo: Jack Hawkins

It was time for another day-trip, on the weekend of October 5th. This time, I was headed thirty-five miles west, and into Bass River and the Upriver Country Market. It was again an early morning start, up at 8AM however I took the morning slowly – having worked a twelve-hour shift the night before.

Up and showered and had another oatmeal-tea breakfast combination before packing just the one pannier for today's trip, since I was only planning to be out for a few hours and therefore there was no need to pack a lunch. After a quick trip to the shops for my food for the day – I stocked up on granola bars and bananas, I was not making that mistake again!

I headed out of Richibucto and into Rexton, turning right at the Irving gas station, this put on Highway 116, headed west to Bass River. It was mid-morning and there was a glorious sun climbing into the sky,  I was beginning to get into the swing of the ride, and although it wasn't too warm – roughly between ten and fifteen degrees, I was enjoying it. Although I did stop to unpack a long-sleeved top from my pannier and put that on.

Riding along the 116, I found many places of opportunity to stop, snap a photo and have a granola bar. I was surrounded by glorious autumn colours, red, yellow, gold – the views across the many creeks that dotted the route were simply sensational.

I was about halfway there when the inclines began to get steeper. Ever so slowly rising and while I was in better condition than on my previous trip, and better nourished – they were still difficult, as I hadn't quite gotten the hang of the touring bike's gearing yet. According to my cycling app – MapMyRide, the highest incline was 121 feet!

Tackling hills – at least for me, goes a little something like this: See the hill, approach the hill, then curse at the realisation that the hill is monstrous. Then, shift down through the gears at a great rate of knots as you ascend. All the while wondering why, oh why, there is a damn great hill breaking up this flat and pristine landscape. And then, as you crest the hill and you see the serenity of what's below, the sun glistening off the water in the river... Then you can truly appreciate the climb you've just made.

And so, forever cursing the hills, I chugged on – past the next couple of churches before I saw a sign that pointed me in the right direction. I began a steep descent of the last proper hill before reaching my destination. I hit a whopping 47km/h (27mph) on the way down. Too much speed, coming about from the adrenaline rush of the day I managed to get control of my bike, almost losing my balance.

But, I recovered and rode the next few kilometres before reaching my destination. I reached the Bass River Country Market in about two hours, went in and parked my bike. I was immediately greeted by my former Journalism teacher, who I had no idea I would be there, so it was a nice surprise all round! We chatted for a few minutes and it felt good to speak so frankly, outside of the school environment. She had a stall of her own where she sold coffee, tea, and had even set up a couple of “Fender-Blender Bicycles”. Pedal away for a few seconds, and you've got yourself a smoothie – how cool is that?!

The market had about ten stalls in total, each selling something different, from coffee and tea to decorated glassware and crockery. There was also a nutritionist at the market and we spoke for a while as I had questions related to healthier and more organic eating. I also met an editor from the Halifax Media Co-op and we spoke in depth about my touring plans for the next year. All in all, the atmosphere in the small barn was warm and welcoming, and although I was by no means a market regular, I shall certainly be taking trips up next summer.

Unfortunately for me, I arrived with only half an hour to spare before the market was due to pack up and everyone headed for home. So, I didn't get much time to hang around, and so, I'd originally planned to go and see a friend in Bass River – which I thought was only about ten, fifteen kilometres from the market... No trouble, I thought.

However, as I've discovered with my day-trips thus far – things rarely go according to plan. The journey to see my friend began brightly and I was excited to get there and relax a bit. Then, disastrously, the weather took a turn for the worst. Thick, dark, rain-filled clouds began to appear, and not wanting to get drenched – I reluctantly turned for home. Apologizing to my friend, I began the journey home.

The route home was the same one as the route up – although it was much easier. I'm not sure whether I was prepared for the hills this time, or whether it was just my body wanting to get home before the rain hit, it seemed to fly by. I reached home in an hour and fifteen minutes – where had that forty-five minutes gone?

I was grateful to be home and warm, the colder weather served as a reminder that any further trips out on my bike for the day, would have to wait until the Spring of 2014.

More Articles (Photos and titles are clickable links)

Training for the Touring Season

Another article from writer Jack Hawkins. In this one he is writing about getting back on the bike after the 2013/14 winter. Always nice to get back on the bike in the spring.

Off the Beaten Path

Trails, unopened road allowances and tractor paths might just be the ticket if you wanting to get away from it all. I liked the occasional off road venture when I was younger.

Scouting the Route

By Pico Triano
Photos: Pico Triano

My long distance touring dysfunction has never been much of a secret. Some people think I’m insane and others wish they could do the same thing. Back in the late eighties I attended a church group with a rather large young adult contingent and the idea of putting together a church bicycle-touring club was hatched.

First thing we did was put up a list for people to sign if they were interested. I wanted to know if it would be worth the effort. Support was overwhelming. I think we had around thirty people sign up.

Most of them attended the subsequent meeting that was called to try and nail down what the group wanted to do. The core of the group wanted to do something epic, something they could crow about when it was all over. We decided on a self-contained four-day tour from Brampton, Ontario to Niagara Falls, Ontario and back. It included time to see the sights along the way.

Since I was the only rider with that kind of experience most of the planning fell to me. Several of my friends acted as sounding boards but in reality this whole project was my baby.

I learned a great deal about planning and managing this type of tour for a group of complete novices. Since there would be no support vehicle, we had to sweat the details beforehand.

To avoid the need to have a support vehicle, I established minimum equipment and training requirements. It paid off. We didn’t have any breakdowns we couldn’t handle by ourselves. It made for some interesting experiences leading up to the main tour as well.

I spent a day with one of our prospective riders rebuilding a fleet of derelict bikes for her family. Thankfully I’m a pretty decent bike mechanic and she was good herself. Not a single one of those bikes had any major problems that year.

The training came with an admonition to ride daily if possible but in addition anyone hoping to ride in the main tour had to participate in some planned training runs. They were short day tours in their own right. The first was a twenty-five mile run to Georgetown and back and the other was a fifty mile round trip to Rattlesnake Point. The later run was a very successful tour in its own right and will be covered in a future article here on Pico’s Cycling – Tales of the Road.

Tough part for me was finalizing a route. Looking at maps is great and should always be a part of planning. In this case I wanted a first hand look at areas where I wasn’t familiar. I’d made the trip many times but we wanted to avoid backtracking as much as possible. That meant travelling places I hadn’t. I’m just a little paranoid because while maps are great I have found that they sometimes contain error and omissions. Unexpected detours cost a lot of time on a bike.
This biggest challenge was scheduling a time to do this. Even when I was single I had a life outside of planning bicycle tours. I did my scouting run in April when there was still snow on the ground. I covered the entire route and a few possible alternates. I tried to squeeze in as many sights along the way as possible. It was very important to me that anyone who went through all the training and preparations brought away more than memories of a sore butt or sore legs.

Niagara Falls is worth seeing all by itself, but there is more to the area than that. There is a great deal of history tied up in the place. There are other scenic sights along the way. Touring is a great way to see things that other tourists would probably miss. If you’ve toured by bicycle you know what I mean. If you haven’t, it’s one of the best parts that you’re missing.

Next month I’ll write about the Rattlesnake Point tour. Probably the best training run, I’ve ever been on. It could have been the goal of the season; it was that successful.

Related Stories (Photos and titles are clickable links)

Rattlesnake Point

Now that the scouting for the tour is done. I take the group out for some real training. We did a day trip to Rattlesnake Point on the Niagara Escarpment. The remaining riders all did very well and had fun.

Niagara Falls 1989

The big tour for the group. Four riders, four days, three riding days with one rest day. The tour turned out to be very successful and got rave reviews from all the riders.

Building An All Weather Commuter

All season, all weather, all the time. That was a new motto for me. The goal was to turn my inexpensive ride into an all weather commuter to take me to work and back each day.

You can research and buy yourself an expensive commuter bicycle but I think you can modify a basic mountain bike into a machine that will fill the bill nicely. You just have to add the right accessories.

First item to add is a rear rack. Yes, you can wear a backpack, but it is better to attach your load directly to the bike. Big reason is that it gives you a lower centre of gravity. It will be easier to balance and easier to manoeuvre.  I also find that a backpack will restrict your ability to move freely. A big one may even interfere with your ability to check traffic behind you.

Visibility is always important and since this article is about riding under all conditions, lighting is needed. The reflectors on most bikes are not enough. A proper bicycle taillight is a must. I put mine on strobe or flash mode. There are riders who disagree with doing this, but I find motorists tune it out if it isn’t flashing. The headlight isn’t as important. You can purchase headlights but I go cheap and just use a small led flashlight from the local dollar store attached to the handlebars. If you can see where you’re going and you’re alert to vehicles pulling out of driveways and parking lots or making left turns you’ll be just fine with that. If there is any doubt whether a motorist sees you, stop and wait. Stick to battery power for the lights. I haven’t seen a generator-powered model that impresses me yet. In my experience, they are expensive and don’t last. Even though this is a discussion about commuter bikes, it’s important to remember to dress with being visible in mind as well.

Last recommended add on is fenders. Some riders don’t like them. If you ride ten kilometres per hour or slower or you don’t care whether you wear what’s on the road, do without. I can’t afford to look like I’ve fallen into a mud puddle and then dragged through a hedge backwards when I get to work. I bought some inexpensive ABS quick release finders for my commuter and I love them. 

As always the decision to ride under these conditions is your own responsibility. This article is meant to offer my own experiences on the subject and hope that it is helpful. Before deciding to do this type of riding, I would strongly recommend seeking other informed opinions before making your decision. 

Related Articles (Photos and titles are clickable links)

Year Round Cycling

A little first hand experience riding year round in Canada. Dealing with winter isn't easy but it can be done.

Thunderstorm Rescue

There is weather that you should try to avoid on a bicycle. In this case my wife came to the rescue.