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.

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Pico's Cycling - Tales of the Road January 2015 Vol. 3 No. 1

Getting this month's issue to our readers turned out to be an epic struggle. I was not even sure we would be able to publish on time. Early in December my wireless Internet connection crashed. There is only one provider in my area and because they have a monopoly they are not very helpful. A technician is coming out on January 2nd to restore our home Internet.

Nearest Internet service is twenty minutes away for us at the public library and they are not always open especially during the Christmas season. Where we live we can only get telephone service through the Internet as well. Effectively we've been cut off from the world for most of the past month. Being unable to communicate conveniently with our writers hasn't made any of this easier.

We're determined though. We managed to get the articles and pictures scraped together. We will publish as soon as we can. If things work at the local library today we will be on time. We won't be able to do hardly any promoting though. I just don't think they'll let me hog the computer that long.

I've learned a little about how much we rely on technology these days. Next month will be better.

In This Issue

(Click the links or just scroll down) Please note the library computer could not handle photos or adding links. Will be fixed within the week.

My Big Tour Preparation

This will be running as a serial over the next four or five issues. I did this tour a long time ago and I think most riders will enjoy the story. My intention was to ride from Pasadena, California up the coast part way and then come all the way across to the Niagara Falls area in Canada. An epic undertaking.

Knowing the Way

It isn't always a matter of just getting on your bike and pedalling. You have to know how to get where you're going. Getting lost on a bike tour is no fun best avoid it if possible.

A Cyclist's Christmas Wishlist

Maybe a few days late but we thought our readers would appreciate it anyway. Jack Hawkins brings us this article.

Not Mechanically Inclined

Being a younger sibling isn't always fun. Learning bike mechanics was a long road for me. I really didn't get that much help along the way. I survived and thrived though.

Shake Down Tour

This is a stand alone story but it does relate directly to the big tour I started preparing for in our first article this month. I've ridden very few solo tours that ran as smoothly as this one did. I wasn't fooled though into thinking, I was done learning.

With the Internet back, I'm looking forward to the coming month. I think we can make a lot of improvements and bring a lot of good content to our readers. Until then. Pedal on!


My Big Tour Preparation

By Pico Triano
Photos: Pico Triano

This isn't meant to try to tell other riders how to prepare for an epic trek. My intention is just to recount my own experience warts and all. If it inspires my readers in any way, I'm happy.

My inspiration came on a family camping trip in Northern Ontario. I believe we were camping at Pancake Bay Provincial Park on Lake Superior. A young couple fresh out of college also camped there that weekend on their way from California up the coast, across Western and Central Canada to their home in Montreal, Quebec. I was young and rather shy at the time so I don't think I annoyed them too much before everyone moved on. The two of them and what they were doing made quite an impression on me.

I was bitten by the bicycle touring bug and slowing started preparing for an opportunity. Before heading for college in California myself I purchased a couple of important items with my meagre earnings. First I bought a excessively inexpensive red sleeping bag and at the same time small two man pup tents were on sale so I bought one of those as well.

I was a last minute acceptee that semester and I bought my Nishiki Landau touring bike three days before they called me up and three weeks before I left. I'm glad it worked out the way it did because had I known I was going to college I would have saved my money and not had the bike when the opportunity did come up. I had to wait a year for Airwolf to catch up to me because shipping a bike isn't a simple thing for people who have never done it before.

I didn't start training physically until my junior year of college because the pieces needed to make the tour possible didn't seem to be falling into place until then. I started riding my bike everywhere I wanted to go. It was very liberating for a country boy that spent most of his time cooped up on campus. I also cut a deal with my supervisor I worked with on the landscaping department. He let me bank up hours so that I could take a week long tour without losing wages. Finally I did something totally useless and unnecessary. I went daily to the college pool and swum laps thinking that improving my overall stamina would make a big difference on the bike. I don't think it helped at all. I think I would have been better off just riding more.

My first semester my senior year was a bit of a nightmare. I was trying to do too much academically and it was catching up with me. Los Angeles' infamous smog was taking a lot out of this undiagnosed asthmatic and I just didn't have the energy to keep it all going. I finally broke down and dropped my computer programming class (swallowing a failing grade in the process). I went to the registrar and made arrangements to take a class during the summer to give me enough credits to graduate at the end of the summer instead of with my class. An exceptionally tough choice to make but I don't regret it. The slightly lighter load allowed me to bring my grades up. Working on campus for an extra summer would allow me to pay off all my student debts and have some cash left over to attempt my dream tour.

As soon as I thought riding home was possible, I started training in earnest. I set minimum daily and weekly riding goals. I'd learned one lesson and didn't bother going to the pool to swim. I probably learned more about the area surrounding the campus during my last semester than I did in all the rest of the time I was there.

I went on short tours, banking up the necessary hours to minimize any financial impact, to assess my progress. Early in the summer I found my hill climbing to be deficient. After that I went out of my way to ride up every little local mole hill repeatedly. It did help.

Physically I was well prepared for that tour. I was strong when I left and I got even stronger once I'd escaped the smog.

The route and the timing could have been better. I was on too tight of a schedule and too tight of a budget. In retrospect there was a way around those two issues and in solving those problems I would have had the means to deal with my breaking spoke problems.

If I had to do it again, I would have done the trip in two instalments. Instead of cutting across the Nevada desert, I would have rode the first leg straight up the coast to British Columbia. I would have been legally able to work there through the winter. Late the following spring I would have come across Canada. Financially and physically that would have worked.

I will chronicle the trip I did do in coming issues.

Knowing the Way

By Pico Triano
Photos: Pico Triano

Since that first wobbly ride down the sidewalk and then across our quiet residential street, hopping on my bike and riding holds a certain magic for me. It opened a whole new world of adventures and opportunities. If I wanted to go somewhere I had the means to get there.

In those carefree days of youth one thing I loved to do was just get on my bike and follow my nose. As long as my chores were done, the only thing I had to be concerned about was getting home before supper. I still like to go exploring but rarely have time. Now when I ride I have specific objectives and schedule. Most of the time now I need to know where I'm going, how I'm going to get there and how much time I have to do it. That doesn't have to take the fun out of it.

There are three major sources on information to draw on, when planning or even during a tour. Your own experience is easily the most reliable. The experience and knowledge of people you come into contact with and last but not least maps. None of them are foolproof.

I learn a great deal about potential cycling routes while I'm driving the family van. Knowing the lay of the land can make a big difference. Things do change though and sometimes quickly. The road you loved to ride on a decade ago might have been changed. My favourite example of a change occurred on my first one week tour. I had personally scouted out parts of the route the summer before. In my absence someone built a road on top of my planned first night campsite and there weren't any good nearby alternatives. That first night on the road wasn't one I'll forget.

Talking to the locals while on tour has gifted me with some of the most incredible shortcuts imaginable. Once my map told me I had to loop all the way around a certain area and I was behind schedule. I stopped at a church bazaar and asked the ladies if there was a better way. There was and it meant arriving at my destination before supper instead of after dark. On a more major tour, the locals helped me through a complicated back road route that I would have never managed without their help.

Unfortunately the information you get is only as good as the person you talk to. If you have the choice between asking a young person or asking an old timer, you're better off talking to the old timer. It's amazing how many people don't know anything beyond the main road or the freeway. The pitfall with the old timer though is that your directions might include landmarks that no longer exist the way they remember them. Old highway 66 for example might not be labelled that anymore and you might not recognize Foothill Boulevard as being the same thing.

Maps are a lot like talking to the locals, but you first need to learn how to read a map. Lessons on how to read a map are beyond the scope of this article but here is a quick tip. Usually north is at the top of the map. If it isn't, find north and hold your map so that it is. If you are turning your map left then right twisting it this way and that, you're going to get lost or you already are lost.

Take your map with you on longer trips. That way you are prepared to deal with unexpected changes to your route. Make sure you get a quality map, with sufficient detail from a trusted source. Like asking people for directions, you directions are only as good as the source.

Maps are not foolproof either. I don't know why some map makers arbitrarily connect roads that don't. I spent most of a day on an alternate route hoping to cut some significant mileage in Southern California on a major tour. Standing atop an overpass peering at the road I wanted to ride on in the distance with a mile of impassable cornfield between me and there is a moment that still sticks with me. I ended up backtracking a little and then hooking back up with the original more scenic route, losing everything I thought I'd gained. I doubt, if I'm the only long distance bicycle tourist that finds that kind of thing disheartening. This has happened to me on several occasions.

In North America I have found state and provincial maps to be my best sources especially the ones offered by auto clubs. Google can give you a lot of detail but I don't trust their directions entirely. I live in a rather remote location and the recommended routes Google gives me through this neck of the woods are often impassable. Bike routes that it gives me are often down roads or snowmobile trails that you wouldn't want to take a good road bike down.

A Cyclist's Christmas Wishlist

By Jack Hawkins
Pictures: Pico Triano

It’s Christmas, and many of us cyclists are by now, firmly set up in our living rooms or bedrooms with a set of rollers, or exercise bikes, or are gallantly braving the frigid temperatures on increasingly-popular fatbikes.

So, what does one get a cyclist for Christmas? Well, I’ve polled a group of cyclists from a local bike shop, here’s what they had to say. I also asked them what their favourite cycling-related Christmas gift that they have ever received.

Jim Goguen, a Manager at Consolvo Bikes, was the first to chime in, with his own suggestions.

“Some great gift ideas that are not expensive include: seat bags, tyre levers, pumps, even an indoor trainer, so that you’re ready once the snow is gone!” He reflected on his own favourite cycling-related, although not a Christmas gift, a very special one from his childhood.

“My favorite cycling gift for me goes way back to when I was a 11 or12 year boy. As a paperboy saving my money for a new bicycle. So I had saved up about half towards the cost of the bicycle, then My dad and I are in BF Goodrich downtown Moncton and I'm dreaming of this Yellow Road BIke with a cool BFG logo, my dad saw me just eyeing it, Dad comes over, “Is this what you've been saving for?” And without even a chance to say yes, “Happy birthday Jimmy. That was a very cool present.”

Other cyclists’ shared their views on the subject of Christmas gifts. Satish Punna had this to say: “For me the greatest cycling gift I have ever gotten from my wife and family is the gift of time; of being allowed to go out and ride pretty much whenever I want.”

Mark Oulton, of Moncton, described some of the more material items that a cyclist could receive at Christmas. “Headlight/tail lights are always a great gift, grips, pedals, component upgrades, chains, tools, clothing, anything for cycling really. I would say the best gift I got was my Joe Blow tire pump. Dual head for presta and Schrader valves, accurate PSI gauge. Excellent all around!”

Mark even shared a photo with me of last year’s Christmas presents from his wife - the only thing that wasn’t cycling-related: the box of Cadbury’s chocolate fingers (although one could argue that those are for post-or-during-ride-nutrition), and the zombie DVD.

From a personal perspective, there are plenty of cycling-related items on my Christmas list, but one must prioritise and ask oneself, “What do I need right now?” Well, in my case that makes the list a lot shorter, I would like a whole bunch of things for my cross-country trip, but there aren’t many that I need right now. I would say my most pressing concerns are logistical, and okay, maybe I’d like a new helmet, or a pair of decent cycling shorts. 

What’s on your Christmas list that’s cycling-related? What is your favourite cycling-related gift that you’ve received? And how, do you find the time, at the busiest time of year, to get out there and ride?

Not Mechanically Inclined

By Pico Triano
Photos Shawn Whitelaw

This was a label I picked up as a young boy growing up. I'm sure the fact that I was interested in so many other things contributed to the label but the fact that I had two older brothers who occupied the family garage most of the time had a lot more to do with it. They had no need for me in there. Besides if I had to do dishes and stuff like that inside not only was I out of their hair but they wouldn't have to do those kind of chores.

Most of the bikes we had at home were second hand or cobbled together from parts. I was not the mechanic that put them together or fixed them when they broke. The two of them at times seemed to take great pleasure in chewing me out for riding with something that had come loose. I remember being told off, when it was discovered that the headset on my bike was loose. I remember being told off for a damaged rear hub because the cones had loosened and I hadn't noticed. I was capable of figuring these things out, if someone had taken the time to tell me what to look for first.

I was teased about being wobbly as well. Can't you ride in a straight line? That didn't bother me though, my ability avoid crashing when important parts of the bike broke was impressive.

At eleven years old I delivered newspapers on my bike like both my older brothers had done. There was a shortcut between two customer, a path with a short stairway. Someone parked a picnic table at the bottom and my evasive manoeuvre was too much for my rusty handlebars. One side broke off at the stem. I did not fall.

My unsympathetic older brother replaced them with another junk pair that were lying around. The nut where you could adjust the angle of the handlebars was not quite tight and if you hit a bump or jerked on them they would change position. I'd taken enough abuse over things so I didn't ask them to fix it. I didn't think they would anyway.

One of them discovered the issue while taking a spin on my bike while I wasn't around. Instead of fixing the issue they decided to further torture me with it by oiling it. I could literally twirl the handlebars on the stem. I wiped away most of the oil but they moved very easily. Not wanting to give them satisfaction of having me whine to have it repaired, I rode it the way it was. My younger brother finally crashed it and broke those handlebars. My brothers got to explain the whole incident to my parents who ordered my older brother to fix it right.

I had one last handlebar clash. My regular ride broke down and I had to borrow a regular bike that my older brother had converted to a ten-speed. We are tall folk and my mechanically gifted brother made one mistake adjusting this bike. He put an extended seat post on it and adjusted the handlebars as high as they could possibly go – too high as it turned out. The wedge piece was right near the top edge of the fork tube. That broke while I was riding it. Fortunately I was on flat ground because all of a sudden the handlebars were no longer attached to the bike and using the calliper brakes was a suicidal proposition. I managed to coast to a stop. A temporary fix got me home. That particular brother was not very happy with me but he didn't want to give me credit for being able to twist that part of the bike apart with my bare hands.

 I got my comeuppance with the local cycling skills competition while I was a teenager. My brothers entered every year the fair came to town. I followed suit. I did one thing they never managed though. I won it.

Shake Down Tour

By Pico Triano

My big goal was to ride from the Los Angeles area where I was attending college back home to the Niagara Falls area. I'd spent most of the previous six months heavy in preparations. During that time, I had trained by riding almost daily, taken short tours to make sure I could handle the mileage and sort out any deficiencies in my equipment and scrounged cash to pay my expenses on the way. I was just about ready to go, but I had time for one weekend run to check to make sure I'd put it all together.

The objective was to cover more than the first day of my future tour with a full load and then head back. The goal was to ride from Pasadena, California to Carpenteria on the Pacific coast between Ventura and Santa Barbara. I would camp out two nights there and then come racing back again.

This ride would accomplish several things for me. It would finalize my route through that area. There were a few spots I wasn't sure about around Ventura. I would test my conditioning. The route would be a fully loaded century ride with a low mountain pass. If I could handle that with flying colours, I felt I was ready for just about anything. Finally it was an excuse to go out and ride.

My bike was fully loaded the evening before, so bright and early Friday morning, all I had to do was eat some breakfast and hit the road. The training, equipment improvements and planning clearly paid off. The year before I struggled up the grade through La Crescenta. I made horrible navigational errors. My vinyl paddingless saddle gave me unspeakable pain. This time my gel seat pad kept me comfortable and physically I didn't even feel tested till I came to the Santa Susanna Pass.

I actually looked forward to climbing the pass. The year before I walked my bike up most of it. On big tours this kind of climb is one I would partially walk just to conserve my strength. This time though I wanted to see what I had and I churned all the way up it fully loaded without so much as taking a break. That success was exhilarating because it spoke volumes about my preparations.

In Ventura I made a small navigational error, I found myself on a residential loop. Oops. That was the only mistake I made. It came back to haunt me in a funny way.

Shortly after passing Ventura my one day personal one day mileage record fell. I stopped at a convenience store bought an ice cold can of cheap beer and sucked it down alongside the road in celebration.

I continued on to Carpenteria and located the address where there would be a church service the next day with the group I was affiliated with at the time. The day as expected went almost without a hitch. I was pleased with myself. I'd finalized my route and even decided on a campsite for the future trek. I camped in the bushes near Carpenteria tired but not exhausted.

View Larger Map

This map is an approximation of the route I took Taking into consideration that the roads and all have changed considerably in the mean time.

The following day at services one of the local members recognized me as the cyclist they saw the day before (riding on his residential loop). That particular church group had an annual church convention and for parking and other purposes everyone was issued a small bright green rectangular bumper sticker. I'd managed to get one of those and stuck it to the baby cooler that I strapped onto my rear rack. He'd seen that while he was repairing his roof. That was the reason I put it there. Anyone from that church group in Canada or the United States would have recognized that little sticker.

The hall custodian gave me permission to camp in back of the hall for the second night. He lived in a trailer back there himself. This allowed me to attend a church social that evening. Church people especially have this way of making sure cyclists are properly fed.

The following day I raced back to college. Mission accomplished.


Sunday, 30 November 2014

Pico's Cycling - Tales of the Road December 2014 Vol. 2 No. 12

Happy birthday to us! Pico's Cycling - Tales of the Road is officially a year old. We make enough of a big deal about it in this issue.

November has set a new record for readership. Twitter has given us a big boost in that regard. We've kind of hit a ceiling there because my followers have to catch up with my following before I can follow more users. No complaints I understand. I would very much like to follow anything and anyone having something to do with cycling. I'm happy with the growth. I just hope it is sustainable. Both Jack and I have lives outside of this and we can't push promoting too hard because we just plain don't have the time.

I think our articles are improving and I hope our readers really enjoy what we have to offer this month.

In This Issue
(Click on the titles to view)

Our First Year

Just a quick look at where we've been and talk a little about what we are trying to accomplish for the future. Looking forward to another bigger and better year.

A different kind of mile high club. Climbing mountains with a full touring load was a new experience for this flatlander. Terrific experience.

Jack Hawkins shares another book review with us. If you're looking for cycling reading, this would be good story to pick up.

The twang of a spoke breaking while on tour is not one of my favourite sounds. I can fix it if need be but it ain't any fun. We offer some experience and some recommendations.

Jack Hawkins joined us a year ago with some freelance articles. He's become an appreciated fixture here at Pico's Cycling. Here's his take on the past year.

Next issue will be our January 2015 edition. Hoping to make some significant improvements to the look of the site. Until then, have a happy and safe holiday season. 

Pedal on!


Our First Year

By Pico Triano http://frompicospen.blogspot.ca
Photos: Pico Triano and Shawn Whitelaw

Pico's Cycling – Tales of the Road is officially one year old with this issue and I think it is a great time to take a look at where were and where we are trying to go. This issue is offering more of the usual. Some stories, a book review and a little self congratulatory celebration.

A whole year of Pico's Cycling – Tales of the Road. There were times in past year where I really didn't think we were going to get this far. A big thanks to all our readers and another to Jack Hawkins who has made a huge difference here. He jumped on board almost from the start. Two articles from him each month elevated this above being just another solo effort cycling blog. He's helped round up other possible contributors. Hoping we will see more writing from other riders in the coming year. I'm not much of an arm twister, so gentle persuasion is all we've got.

From the beginning the primary focus was to tell cycling stories and I think we've stayed true to that. Articles on equipment, repairs, training, book and site reviews have their place here but the focus will stay the same. We want to be inspiring but we want to be useful and relevant as well.

Starting a project like this and keeping it going is hard work especially with some of the limitations we are working with. We started at the beginning of the winter. Probably not the best time to launch a webzine on cycling. We have no budget not even a shoestring one. I wish we had the means to pay for stories and pictures but at this point in time we don't. I assemble every issue on a blogger account with an old well worn IBM ThinkPad which was donated to me by a friend. We have a printer/scanner but rarely have any ink for it. Our Internet connection is through Xplornet and is at times little better than dial up (they will be upgrading the network in the area in the near future). I'm proud that a year later we're still here.

Behind the scenes we've been working to get useful advertising placed on our pages. Those efforts haven't met with the kind of success I'd hoped. Several of the larger advertisers don't seem to be interested because at this point we are still too small. We're growing though so that isn't hopeless. I'd love for our readers to be able to access bicycle and component websites directly through us. I have made progress toward links that would allow readers to buy books that we review in our pages. In the background I'm building a page where select books will be offered.

In the coming year, I will continue to work on improving the site. The whole right hand column needs to be redone. My ugly mug has to go. The about us can be moved to another page with just a link in a table of contents. My novel, which is related to the site through my name only, has to get moved to another page as well. This will give more space for advertising, links to additional pages and possibly a cycling news feed. We've got a year under our belt. Let's take this to a new level.

Most of our own advertising has been done on social media sites. I'm a total novice at that. I've been learning though. I think our month and a half long efforts on Twitter have been just amazing. Our pageviews have more that doubled since beginning of that. Best part is that what I'm doing is sustainable. We've hit roadblocks for sure but I see steady improvement on a weekly basis at this point. If you aren't following us there just look up @PicosCycling and hit follow. Except for end of month publishing time, I only tweet once or twice a day. We will continue with our efforts.

I do go to cycling forums to chat and to draw some attention. I do that infrequently due to time constraints. I don't want to be regarded as spamming the sites. You might see me on bikeforum.net, twospokes.com, cyclechat.net and a new one at bikeforum.com. The last one is brand new, still in development. The owner is looking for suggestions to make it a great site. He responds quickly, if he thinks you have a good idea. If you're looking to make a mark in a cycling forum, it's a great place to go. He needs members and content to get this rolling. Tough road and I'm pleased to be helping him along the way.

Still learning as we go, trying to make things better and better, looking forward to another year. Happy anniversary to us!

The Vertical Mile

By Pico Triano
Photos: Pico Triano

“C'mon get on your bike and pedal!” he shouted as he whipped past me as if I were some sort of wimp. I don't care much what other people think so the comment stung only a little. Besides the man was built like a jockey, riding an ultralight racing bike, with only his water bottle for cargo. I'm a Clydesdale (200 lbs+) carrying a full touring load, camping gear, food and water for several days, stove, fuel and clothing. This was also my first mountain ascent. Training on little bitty hills only prepares a rider so much. This ride was to see what I had in me and how much more intense I needed to train. My goal was to cross the west coast mountains before the end of the summer and a flat lander like myself was intimidated by the task.

I found myself passed by dozens of racers that day climbing up through the Angeles National Forest Highway. I conquered Mount Wilson my own way. My touring bike wasn't equipped with a cheater gear so there were steep stretches that were too difficult for me once I'd tired some. I did accomplish what I set out to do though. My training was not far off the mark. Through the pain, I knew I was just about ready. Climbing a mile of elevation in one day with a full touring load is no easy feat. Screaming back down at the end of it all was its own kind of reward.

The additional training did pay off. My next run through the Santa Susanna Pass saw me stay on the bike right to the top with a full touring load. Before leaving I felt strong.

My plan was to follow the California coast up to the San Francisco area and then cut across the mountains. I wish I'd had the time to ride the Pacific coast all the way into Canada before crossing but that was not a luxury I had. If I had to do it again, I would have followed a more direct route. Mountains and deserts don't scare me like they used to.

The week riding up the coast was excellent preparation for the mountains anyway. The Pacific Coast Highway rides like a roller coaster. I did a lot of walking up steep hills to avoid wearing myself down but I did have the strength and endurance to keep to my planned schedule.

The initial ascent began as I left Sacramento. The road climbed steadily all the way to Donner Summit. One disadvantage of riding solo is that there are very few pictures of me in action. I did photograph a lot of scenery and especially those elevation signs. Those signs, because of the difficulty, meant a great deal to me.

From Donner Summit to Reno had me feeling like a cruise missile. I had several more mountain ranges to climb but after that first climb they were no big deal any more. Crossing the Continental Divide was a bit of an anticlimax.

The highest elevation I reached was 8640 ft. Impressive to my family, because as my dad remembers it, that was nearly the same elevation my parent's DC-3 flew over the Atlantic when they came to Canada as newly weds. Yeah mom and dad, I rode my bike up there.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Book Review - Going Somewhere

By Jack Hawkins http://jackonabike.ca/

“Brian has a million vague life plans, but zero sense of direction.”

That’s what’s written at the top of the back cover of Brian Benson’s memoir of the summer he spent cycling across America with the woman he loved. Brian’s journey began, really, when he met Rachel in South America. He was captivated by her, and as the two grew closer together, Brian began to ferment a plan in his head for a big adventure.

Brian and Rachel set off from Brian’s parent’s cabin in northern Wisconsin, to ride to somewhere West. They’re both not exactly sure where they’ll end up, but they’re doing it together, and that - in the beginning, is all that matters.

Life on the road begins pleasantly enough for Brian and Rachel, sure there’s the odd puncture, odd argument, and odd moment of wanting to turn back for Wisconsin. But, overall, the journey begins with all the grandeur, splendour and excitement one might expect of a memoir of an epic adventure across America.

As they wind their way West, they come across more friendly people. People like Jeff, who, when Brian needed his wheel re-truing after popping several spokes in the space of a couple of days, offered to help them - and then point-blank refused Brian’s offer of payment. He had a story of his own which Brian admired. Or people like Kim., who took them in and gave them food, and a place to stay while they waited out a tornado.

However that excitement, grandeur and splendour doesn’t last very long. One thing that is evident after the first few chapters is the effects of long-term travel on a relationship between two people. Especially when that long-term travel is both active and physically and mentally taxing. Brian is brutally honest in his accounts of how his and Rachel’s relationship begins to deteriorate, which is something that I give him credit for. It makes the story all the more real and leaves the reader wondering how they would react under those circumstances.

It starts off small, just little mentions about how Rachel was slowing Brian down, but the situation is constantly weighing on Brian’s mind as they weave their way ever Westward. There are fleeting moments that everything might be okay in the end, good times, fun times. But, as they reach nearer to the West Coast, things go from bad to worse and they bicker and fight - as one might expect, couples fight.

But it leaves Brian (and probably Rachel - the book doesn’t say), whether he wants to carry on, whether he still loves Rachel, and what will become of them after the journey is over. Rachel keeps talking about Portland, Brian’s not sure about settling there… The differences between the two become evident as the ride trundles along.

Despite much of the negativity expressed in the dialogue, there is much hilarity to be found in some of Brian’s descriptions and usage of his vernacular, Brian also does a really good job expressing the scenery that surrounds him, within in-depth detail and expressive adjectives.

The book winds down with Brian discussing what happened once they reached Portland - he and Rachel, perhaps inevitably, split up. And Brian rode back East, as explained in his epilogue where he reflects on the journey.

Overall, I really enjoyed the book, despite it’s somewhat-annoying descent into constant complaining. It’s packed with description and, because it’s a memoir - it gets right into the nitty-gritty of Brian’s feelings and his relationship with Rachel. If you’re looking for a good recount of an adventure - then look no further. It does that with roaring success.

Spoke Woes

By Pico Triano http://frompicospen.blogspot.ca/
Photos: Pico Triano and Simon Shirley

If your bicycle wheels are perfectly true, your spokes are tuned to perfection, you weigh 160 lbs or less and you never carry a load of equipment on your bike, you will probably never suffer from spoke woes. I'm not so lucky. I weigh 210 lbs and often carry additional gear on the bike. What that means is that regular spokes for me are good for maybe five thousand miles at best. Regular spokes are just not engineered to handle the kind of load I routinely subject them to. I didn't know!

Most of my cycling friends were substantially smaller than me. I was told that I could resolve my spoke breaking problem by taking better care of them. They advised me to get a spoke wrench and after a couple weeks on a new or newly laced wheel, to tighten all the spokes a quarter or half turn. Another instruction was to take the new wheel and manually squeeze the parallel pairs to pre-stress the spokes because machine laced wheels needed that. None of these precautions are bad ideas, in fact, I would recommend following them. Problem is that it didn't solve the problem for me.

Not understanding the engineering, I learned to replace spokes as they broke and true up my wheels on the road. If you carry spare spokes and a spoke wrench while you ride it isn't that difficult - unless you break a spoke on the rear wheel on the gear cluster side. The hard part isn't changing the spoke, it's removing the %$#@! gear cluster. Bike shop told me it was easy. Just put the removal tool in a workbench vice and use the whole wheel for leverage. I don't carry a workbench with a vice while I'm touring – too heavy. I watched a demonstration video on YouTube where the cyclist used a 24 inch adjustable wrench and a lot of muscle to take it off. How many bicycle repair kits come with a weapon like that? Again that's a lot of steel for someone trying to save weight on a tour. Granted it could double for self defence purposes. I use an eight inch adjustable wrench. I grunt and groan looking for all the leverage I can get. Usually I end up getting my heel on the wrench and put a full body flex on the thing hoping that nothing slips and leads me to bruising and skinning some part of my anatomy. I'm not completely stupid though. I put clean grease on the hub threads before I put the gear cluster back on. Doing that makes it easier to remove next time I have to repeat that little bit of bicycle repair hell.

If you're a Clydesdale like me and you want to do lots of riding, you've got a couple options. Replacing broken spokes as they break is probably the poorest in the lot. The reason I say that is because once they start breaking they keep breaking. They'll keep breaking until you break down and either gut the wheel and re-lace it or you just replace the whole wheel.

The best option is to get a heavy duty wheel with spokes engineered to handle the stress you intend to put them through. If you intend to ride your bike a lot, it's a worthwhile investment.

Writing with Pico’s Cycling: A Year On.

By Jack Hawkins http://jackonabike.ca
Photos: Jack Hawkins

I have been writing for this publication for a year now, as this is our anniversary edition! Previously, I was only publishing articles on my own website, and was having difficulty regularly updating it, I have a horrible memory - and was trying to find somewhere that would take my articles and publish them elsewhere.

That’s when I found a call for writers on BikeForums.net, it was exactly the opportunity I’d been looking for. I sent an email to Pico Triano, Editor of a brand new cycling webzine, Tales of the Road. It was even local, being located about an hour from me. ‘Perfect!’ I thought.

I was to begin to write two articles per-month for this publication. I was delighted, my first opportunity to get my writing out there to more people! My first ever articles published on this webzine were two recounts of recent day-trips that I’d been on that year…These, along with picture were graciously accepted by the Editor and I was so happy when they were published at the end of the month.

And, as the winter of that year trundled on very slowly, I came up with new and exciting article ideas - as I don’t ride during the winter, I had to find other ways to tell cycle-touring stories to our ever-growing contingent of readers. I wrote pieces on an epic Fatbiking race in Moncton, New Brunswick, interviewed an intrepid and quite frankly mad explorer - Iohan Gueorguiev, and wrote wishful-thinking pieces, pining for Spring.

Once Spring hit, I was on the road almost immediately, destination pieces and new bikes followed, as Spring merged into Summer. Although I didn’t get the opportunities to get much travelling-by-bicycle done this past Summer, I did get the opportunity to meet and connect with so many new and wonderful people via Bicycle Touring Facebook Groups, online Forums and chance-meetings in local coffee shops. I’ve posted a couple of these interviews to the webzine, and as that was the bulk of my summer, that remained a bit of a staple in my pieces that appeared on here.

Overall, my year of freelance writing has culminated with the publication of my newest interview piece, by a major North American canoeing magazine, CanoeRoots, and while this doesn’t pertain to bicycle touring in anyway, it just goes to show that months of hard work, really do pay off.

I am immensely grateful to Pico Triano for giving me an opportunity to connect my articles with a wider audience, were it not for him, perhaps I would still be struggling along, not regularly publishing to my own site, and perhaps my freelance writing career would never have gotten off the ground.

It is my hope that my contributions to this project will continue into the New Year, as the webzine grows in readership and garners more publicity. Who knows what 2015 will bring for this publication? I’m off on a big trip across the country, though, so you can expect plenty of tales from the road, with a very different slant from usual, interview/review/miscellaneous article pieces. Ride on, everyone.

Friday, 31 October 2014

Pico's Cycling - Tales of the Road November 2013 Vol. 2 No. 11

Next month Pico's Cycling - Tales of the Road celebrates its first anniversary. Looking forward to that issue but before we get there we have a fine issue for all our readers right here.

In This Issue
(Click on the titles to view)

Fall Cycling

Fall can be a beautiful time to ride your bike. With the colours this time of year, what was an very ordinary tour can be spectacular.

I Knew I Wanted To Do Something Different

Jack Hawkins interviews round the world bicycle adventurer Shirine Taylor. For a bicycle tourist this is not to be missed.

Collateral Damage

Accidents can be scary even when you aren't in them. I just missed participating in one and then got to help out the person who was in it. All the more reason to ride defensively.

The Mill In Spain

Bernard Genge dreamed of creating a retreat for cyclists and other in Spain. He isn't far from realizing that dream. Here he tells us about it.

Share the Road

A new road sign sets me off, I hope the whole world understands my rant. Bicycles are legitimate vehicles for transportation. Could we all be on the same page with that?

Don't miss next months anniversary issue. We hope to add a few elements to the site and make this magazine better than ever. Our audience has increased significantly. The efforts that made that happen are ongoing. We'll see how far that takes us. Until next month enjoy the road and pedal on safely.

Fall Cycling

By Pico Triano
Photos: Pico Triano

When school starts in this part of the world for most people the cycling season is winding down. Personally I think they are locking the bike in the garage a little too soon... maybe a lot too soon. I have done a one week tour in the fall and it was probably one of the most scenic I have ever been on and the time of year had a great deal to do with it.

This time of year the leaves on the trees in this part of the world change colours. They go from various shades of green to bright colours ranging from deep red to bright yellow and everything in between. If you appreciate the outdoors even a little bit from the comfort of a car you are missing out. The view from your bicycle is much better. On a bicycle there is nothing blocking any part of the scenery and you can hear the rustle of the wind in the leaves. I always feel more a part of the environment when I am on my bike rather than insulated from it just passing through when I am in a car or truck.

There are some things to consider if you want to ride this time of year. Number one the temperature especially early in the morning can be a little chilly. I would recommend adding a layer of clothing. Mittens are warmer than gloves if you need something for your hands. For my face and throat I use a thin fleece hat under my helmet and a throat warmer. The throat warmer is a triangle of cloth that fastens in back. If things get really chilly I add a ski tube that can be pulled up so only my eyes will show. Whatever you use be careful if you are riding a racing configuration bike to make sure there isn't too much cloth bunched up at the back of the neck. It will make it tiring to keep your head up looking forward.

Another thing to consider is that the days get shorter this time of year in this part of the world. I commute back and forth to work and I have had to add lighting to my bike. I like the the taillights that can flash or pulse. Quality equipment is a must. Battery powered lights is better and cheaper than dynamo powered equipment. Be careful though, some batteries perform poorly when the temperature goes below freezing. This might cause your lights to dim.

Riding in the fall is well worth the extra clothes. I'm still riding and still enjoying it.

I Knew I Wanted To Do Something Different

By Jack Hawkins
Photos: Shirine Taylor

At the time of our interview, Shirine Taylor was cycling in the far Western reaches of Nepal, Now, after sixteen months on the road, Shirine and her boyfriend Kevin, are now cycling in Georgia, in Eastern Europe, and will be leaving Europe to cycle the Andes in South America very soon! Follow her journey on her website. She takes some pretty amazing photographs and publishes thought-provoking and interesting blog posts.
*                    *                    *

I first became interested in Shirine’s story several months ago, as I was searching for-round-the-world cyclists, and her blog came up. I was intrigued and amazed at how a young woman of just twenty - when most would be sat in classrooms or university lecture halls, decides to up and begin an epic cycling journey around the world.

Shirine has been cycling between the Indian Himalayans and Nepal since July of 2013. She sought to escape from the ‘ordinary’ path that one follows in one’s life - graduation from high school, go to college/university, graduate - get a job, buy a house, get married, etc… And so, she bought a bicycle and set off to cycle around the world.

Shirine spent much of her early life travelling back and forth from Sudbury, Ontario, to Europe, New Zealand and Israel, as her father often travelled overseas for work. Then, at age sixteen, Shirine was given the opportunity to go on a year-long school exchange trip to Belgium. That year away from home, in a whole other country, speaking a whole other language was all it took to light the fire within her for travel and a yearning to see the world.

Immediately after she graduated, Shirine purchased a one-way ticket to South America, and spent a year backpacking around South America, working with monkeys in jungles, and experiencing new cultures, countries and languages.
Shirine and her guide 6000 metres up a snowy peak in Peru.
But Shirine was far from done with seeing the world…

“This time, I knew I wanted to do something different, something with more purpose and more independence, more of a way to see the locals. Not just tourist attractions, as I’d done the touristy-thing a lot in Belgium.” She knew she wanted to do something different, now all Shirine needed was a mode of transport…

“The cycling just came up from reading other people’s blogs, and I figured if they can do it, then so can I!”

Shirine says that she drew inspiration from people like Friedel and Andrew Grant - “The Travelling Two” - two round-the-world cyclists from Canada, and Alastair Humphreys, an English round-the-world cyclist, adventurer and author. She did her research, too.

“I would just type in, ‘cycling around the world’ into Google, and I wouldn’t even read their stories, I would just read the “Trip” and “About” sections, and I just kinda figured that people actually do cycle around the world.” On top of her research about bike touring, Shirine spent hours researching what type of touring bicycle to buy, and eventually settled on the world-famous touring bicycle - the Surly Long Haul Trucker.
Shirine's steed - a Surly Long Haul Trucker.
Shirine had no previous experience with bike touring, and so she set off from Canada to cycle to Mexico down the Pacific Coast of the United States, a journey of 2900 kilometers, as a “warm up” for her round-the-world ride. Other than her Pacific Coast bike tour, Shirine didn’t really plan much of her round-the-world ride at all.

“You don’t need to plan. Like, even now, starting out again, I wouldn’t plan anything more. You really don’t need to at all. It is better unplanned.” And so, sans-plan, Shirine left her home in Bend, Oregon, in July of 2013, and flew to India, where she would begin her remarkable journey.

In order to fund her round-the-world bike trip, Shirine worked as a babysitter. “So, I wasn’t making much, I was making you know - ten bucks an hour. But I was living really cheap, living in a cheap apartment, only cooking for myself, I don’t go out, I don’t drink - all of my money was going towards saving for this trip.” She was going through a Nursing programme at the time to get her degree in that field, but has now put that on hold indefinitely, in favour of a life of constant adventure and a constantly changing environment. She’s been living on-the-cheap constantly, even as she cycles around the world. Living on an average budget of around five dollars a day...

“Five dollars a day looks like cheap guesthouses - like the one I’m in now, with leaky-plumbing bathrooms. A lot of camping in your tent. In third-world countries like this, you can often afford guesthouses, because they’re often only a dollar or two per-night. It’s a lot of cooking for yourself, or eating at cheap, local restaurants - which are also only a dollar, a dollar-fifty for an all-you-can-eat meal. I don’t go to touristy restaurants, I’m not buying special coffee or anything. But once I get into Europe, it’s going to be tent-camping only. Unless I stay with families.”

Shirine’s budget will increase as she goes West, but for now, she’s living on an average of five dollars a day in Nepal. And, with only living on such a small amount a day, being brought into homes by welcoming families in the area, comes some very strange meals..

“All they have in Nepal is rice and dahl, which are like lentils. And I eat that - every single meal. Like, I’ve gone months without eating anything else besides that. The weirdest thing I’ve eaten - and it wasn’t something I liked, but it’s something that they drink a lot of in India. It’s what they have up in the mountains, and it’s a tea. Kinda like what they call a chai tea - so it’s a milk tea. But up there they call it “ghee”. It’s made from a special kind of butter - it’s very strong, it doesn’t taste like our butter. And then they put it in your drink, and then you have this buttery, salted sweet tea. It’s really weird, and it’s really strong and it’s really heavy. It’s supposed to keep you warm, and it definitely does, and it adds fat to you, but it’s definitely not my favourite food.”

On the opposite side of the same coin, Shirine reflected on what her best culinary experience has been thus far. This culinary delight came from Western Nepal, as she was staying with a family.

“It always had a base of rice and dahl, and it always had different curried vegetables, and it always had a different sauce. My favourite dish they ever served me was actually a dessert. It was rice, with brown sugar and ghee, and it was all melted together in this amazing dessert. That was, by far, the best thing I’ve ever eaten here.”

It’s not just the food that Shirine has found both challenging and delightful. She’s learned a lot about herself and the world around her, too. Shirine now has a greater appreciation of where she comes from, and - although she has only seen two of the world’s many countries, Shirine has learned quite a lot - both the good, and the bad.

“It goes kinda two ways for me. So, like, in the States when I was cycling, within the first day, I was like, ‘Oh my God, the world is an amazing place!' People would help me, people would take me in, I had someone buy bike tyres for me, buy bike gear for me, take me out to lunch… I mean, everyone wants to help you, and it was crazy! It was unusual a bit - how differently people treat you. But then, in India, I saw a different side of the world. Although I did have a lot of amazing homestays, and I did have people help me, there’s also a very male-oriented culture there. So I think I’ve seen the best of the world, and the worst of the world in terms of people. And I think the thing I’ve learnt most is just how different our world is. And not just the cultures, or traditions, or, you know - food. But also, the literal moral being of humans seems so different in these different parts of the World.” She says that while being half a world away from the experience that she had in the United States, India was by far the most unique culture that she’s experienced on her journey.
Shirine in traditional dress in India
“Everyone says that it’s crazy - and it is. There’s really no way to describe it, it’s so loud and there’s just so many people! The overpopulation is just scary. You never have a moment alone. As I was cycling, I’d go through a Buddhist area that was super nice in the mountains - totally calm and the people were amazing. And then you’d hit a Hindu area that was vicious and hard, and then a Muslim area, and then you’d go through a Sikh area, it was just how the religions and cultures changed so quickly throughout the place makes it pretty chaotic.” In a similar vein, Shirine reflected on her encounters with men in India. “In India, the men were the most challenging part - I kept getting harassed by men, I was throwing rocks at them constantly, just to get them to stop grabbing me.”

Despite the challenges throughout India, the northern part of the country has been her favourite thus far, particularly the northern region of Ladakh, which has been tough hiking - with passes over 5,000 meters high! “Northern India was really diverse, but particularly the Himalayan region - that was favourite so far.”
The Himalayan Mountains in Nepal.
Throughout her travels, Shirine has never had a moment alone in some countries, she’s had everyone from the village staring at her from their mud-hut rooftops - because they’ve never seen a white person before, much less a cyclist! The approach-ability of people in these remote regions came as a surprise, and their openness and kindness allowed Shirine the opportunity to bond really well with the families that she encountered - in both India and Nepal, as they often welcomed her to stay in their homes for a few days. Her best homestay, she says, was in far Western Nepal.

“My best homestay was in far Western Nepal, which is a totally undeveloped region, they'd never seen tourists before. It’s not at all like the rest of Nepal, and I ended up kinda hiking out there just to see what was out there, and the people would run away from me, because they’d never seen such white skin before. It was like a totally alien experience. But then I ended up sitting down near some people making sugar out of this big huge steaming cauldron, and they gave me some in a leaf. And then they gradually kind of invited me in, and then I ended up staying a few nights with them. And that village was probably the coolest one I've seen, ‘cause it was totally rural, there was no plastic, there was nothing man-made. It was little mud huts for housing, they didn't have electricity or water. It was very different lifestyle than where I come from and where a lot of the world comes from.”
Shirine and Kevin slogging up a mountain!
In her ten months on the road - as with anything in life - there comes various lessons that you learn. Shirine’s biggest lesson, she says was that plans always change. Her original plan had been to set out from Nepal and head East, travelling through Asia and eventually reaching Australia. But, now, she plans to head West, back through Europe, all the way back to the US. She says it’s best to “keep an open mind, and see where it goes. Don’t buy your plane ticket too far in advance!”

So, what is next for this cherry-blonde Canadian, after all of her triumphs, trials and tribulations and undoubtedly an experience that she will never forget - what is next?

“I plan to go back through India, actually. And then keep going West through Georgia and Turkey, and Eastern Europe and the Alps through Western Europe and then down through part of Africa, from Spain and Portugal. And down a bit, before I run out of money, ha, and then across the US, then cycling home.”
She has one last piece of advice for anyone aspiring to travel the world…

“Just do it! There’s no planning you need, there’s nothing you need - you’ll learn everything on the road… People will always be there to help you. Just do it, and you know, it’s one of those things that you’ll never regret doing but you’ll always regret it if you don’t start now. So, yeah - anyone who has the idea should just do it! Go buy that bike and start pedaling.”
Not a bad view, eh?

About the Author

Jack Hawkins is a freelance travel writer and touring cyclist. Originally from the UK, he swapped one seaside town for another in 2006, and has been living in Canada for eight years. Jack has always had a fondness for writing and after graduating from Bonar Law Memorial High School in Rexton, Jack decided to pursue a freelance writing career, and implemented his love of cycling into his work shortly after a chance-meeting in 2013 with a fellow Englishman who had cycled across Canada.

Jack currently writes for this webzine, but is also a monthly contributor Mike's Bike Shop's E-Magazine, "The Rider's Edge". He recently worked on and published a series of thirty-one articles for revered bicycle touring guru, Darren Alff, for his website: http://gobicycletouring.com/. Jack also writes articles, journals, gear reviews, and interview pieces for his own website - http://jackonabike.ca/.