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Friday, 27 December 2013

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.

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