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, 28 March 2014

Pico's Cycling - Tales of the Road April 2014 Vol. 2 No. 4

According to the calender spring is here. In these parts it looks like someone forgot to tell mother nature. Not to worry warmer weather is on the way. If you haven't been riding through the winter now is the time to start getting your equipment ready for another great cycling season. This month we're bringing you more cycling in print and are still going strong. Half way through our first year.

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

Touring With Small Children

Not as impossible as you might suspect. It can be done with proper planning and preparation.

Heading in a Vague Direction - With Dave Gill

Jack Hawkins brings us another interesting article originally posted on his own site. A very long tour indeed. Something to inspired your own tours this year.

Bicycle Touring Resources for Newbies Like Me

With a new bicycle touring season beginning here's another article from Jack Hawkins to get you some useful resources. 


While not an indispensable piece of equipment, cyclo-computers can be useful tools for any cyclist. There are a wide variety available.

Stop - Yes That Means You!

Rules of the road are there for everyone's safety. Neither cyclists or motorists should ignore them.

Enjoy our latest issue! Pedal on!

Pico Triano Editor

Touring With Small Children

By Pico Triano
Photos: Pico Triano, John Cain (Special to the St. Catharines Standard)

Yes, it is possible to go self-contained bicycle touring with young children, but it is a huge challenge. The picture above was taken on a four day tour, when our family was much younger. The visible children in the picture from left to right are seven year old Sheldon, and five year olds Andrew and Brandon. In the bicycle trailer with equipment piled up around her ears is three year old Mieke. That trip covered a grand total of about 83 kilometres. We travelled from St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada to Wellandport and back. In the process we ended up in the local newspaper. We learned a lot about touring along the way.

We learned that training wheels are a curse. I don't know that they have any redeeming qualities. On our trip both Andrew and Brandon were equipped with them. We never toured with training wheels again. They slowed down our progress. With uneven pavement and ruts in the road they caused falls, scrapes and bruises. The stupid things could also get broken, which led to time consuming repairs. Five year olds can learn to ride without them. Two summers later our daughter Mieke did exactly that.

The value of training and planning reinforced itself. We poured over detailed local maps not only for the trip itself but for our training. Selecting routes for training where the children would be safe in a city is no simple task. We tried to combine our training with other activities. Grocery shopping, trips to the library and day visits to almost every local park in riding range kept the training interesting and helped keep our budget in line. By the time we left the kids had more than a month of training under their belts and every important detail of our trip was covered. The were in shape and could be trusted to ride in a disciplined tight formation. Without that preparation the trip would have been impossible. With it we ended up with one of the most memorable and enjoyable family vacations ever.

If you are an impatient parent, don't even think about trying this. The speeds we travelled at were so slow that at times I had trouble balancing. Riding with these youngsters meant that a very experienced rider like myself had to be ready to take all day over distances I could do in an hour or less by myself. We made dozens of breaks and rests. Not only that, when things got tough the kids needed encouragement. Climbing a long hill is not an easy task when you're five years old. The validation of achievement for them though was worth every minute patience.

As the most experienced and strongest rider, I ended up being the mule. Get used to it, but be very insistent on giving the other riders what they can handle. No matter how strong you are you can't do it all by yourself. Our children carried what equipment they could.

Heading in a Vague Direction – with Dave Gill

By Jack Hawkins originally published on his site  http://jackonabike.ca/
Photos: Sourced by Jack Hawkins

We've all been there at one time or another in our lives - a little lost, seeking direction or inspiration. Some of us will look to loved ones to inspire and direct us, others will seek out life-coaches. And then there are those of us who will undertake some massive adventure in the hopes of finding ourselves, as well as enriching our lives by the people we meet.

Dave Gill of Vague Direction did just that - he headed off on an extraordinary 12,000-mile adventure, a loop around Canada and the United States, taking him from New York on to Florida, then on to California and up to Alaska. Before finally heading home for New York through the Canadian provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario. I caught up with Dave in mid-December of last year - 368 days later, he's back in New York and he's been nothing but busy since his journey ended.

"Why did you decide to take this bike tour? Was there a particular reason behind it?"

Dave: "Honestly, it's not a glamourous answer. I was pretty bored at work - being in the office most days and just looking out of windows a lot. I knew that for me to be happy, I couldn't go on like I was doing, it wasn't healthy for the body, or the soul, and I knew that adventures were calling." And so, Dave decided to do something new - something radical. "I'd never cycled long-distance and thought it could lead to some fun experiences. The first day setting off on the trip, was my first day of cycle-touring, so it was kind of a shock to the system!"

"What lessons have you learned from being on the road? What have you learned about yourself?"

Dave: "I learnt so much, the obvious side is learning about North American culture, but more importantly I learnt a lot about myself, about mentality, motivation, clarity, loneliness, intimidation, joy.

One of the big takeaways was that we have these pre-conceptions in our heads, about how people are probably really intimidating, or dangerous, or rude, and the reality is that they're not. Almost everyone, whether ultra-successful or still 'figuring it out' is welcoming and fun to be around.

The other big thing is dealing with anxiety. It's easy, especially on a solo trip, to kind of step into a cocoon and let everything pass by. I intentionally wanted to use this trip to get over my anxieties when it came to meeting with people I'd always dreamt of meeting, and being put in high-pressure, or uncomfortable situations and dealing with them. That all came from the bike trip - by being self-supporting and making it work for yourself, you learn that there's not a lot you can't do, and that intimidation is generally a load of BS."

"Tell me about Vague Direction, how did you come up with the idea to document your journey?"

Dave: "Vague Direction is my own doing. When you visit the site it's fairly obvious there's some sponsors involved, and those were companies who helped out with part-funding and gear.

I knew I wanted to keep a blog - one as a record, one as I'm a film-maker and wanted to try a new way of storytelling, and one because I'd never done a regular blog before but I read loads and thought - why not? And also, in hindsight, it's by far the most effective way (Twitter and Facebook pale in comparison) to build a following of people who are interested in what you're doing."

 "Now that it's all over, what are your plans? How are you re-adjusting to "real life" as you've termed it, and do you have any future tours planned?"

Dave: "I'm writing a book at the moment. It should be out in the Summer 2014, and it's something that I'm really, really excited about. The wall I'm sat in front of right now has about 200 post-it notes scattered about and I'm currently piecing the stories together and sequencing them.

Real life was definitely a bit of an adjustment. In hindsight, of course it was going to be, I'd just spent a year on the road alone! When you're on the road you get used to making decisions for yourself, in a kind of selfish way, so coming back it took a while to settle down again. Apparently 're-entry culture shock' is quite a common thing, but day by day I become more settled.

As for future projects, I have some plans in the work - it's just a case of which one happens first. There are bikes involved in some of them but it depends on which comes off. I'm currently toying with the idea of turning Vague Direction into the ultimate triathlon, which could be fun, but, for a while I need to get everything at home sorted and am happy concentrating on writing for a few months."

That was all a couple of months ago, I was able to catch up with Dave once more, he's still writing away furiously and says, “The book is going to be new content, mainly centred around the epic stories that took place that weren't published on the blog and what went on mentally during the trip. The highs and the lows. ”

To find out more about Dave’s epic journey and what his plans are for the future, visit his website.

Bicycle Touring Resources for Newbies Like Me!

By Jack Hawkins
Photos: Pico Triano or sourced by Jack Hawkins

It’s Spring time in New Brunswick, and that means that most of us are by now dusting off our touring bikes!

And for those of you who are just getting into bicycle touring, like me, then you’ll be looking for all the assistance you can get! Like me, before I started spending hours and hours researching bicycle touring, I was pretty clueless. All I knew is that I had a dream - to ride across Canada, and maybe keep going around-the-world. Who knows?

Well, I suppose the first thing you need, is a bike! When they tell you that you need to buy a touring bike, they’re wrong. As thousands of bicycle tourists travelled without these ultra-expensive touring machines like the Surly’s Long Haul Trucker ($1000), or Koga’s Miyata ($2500). However, were you ask me whether I’d say that having something purpose-built is better? Of course. However, you don’t need a touring bike, it’s the journey that really matters. Right?

Once you’ve got the bike - then you only need a tent, some pannier bags (or a trailer), and a destination! And you’re all set to go off and cycle around the world… Or across town, or across a country - wherever you want to go.

If you’re like me, and do your research before heading off on these tours, then you’re in luck! There are so many resources available to you, in every facet of bicycle touring. I will cover just a few of these in the next few paragraphs.


CrazyGuyOnABike is Neil Gunton’s baby. Neil conducted a cross-country tour across America in 1998, why, he says: “Motivation? It was a cool thing to do, I thought. Cycling from coast to coast, seeing America for the first time. An adventure. Seemed like it would make a good story.”

I was able to speak to Neil and ask him some questions about his baby!

When I did my original trip back in 1998, I wasn't planning a website, I was actually thinking about maybe writing the journey up as a book. But when I got home, it seemed that getting a book published was a lot more hassle than I realised, so then I started thinking about maybe just putting it up as a personal website.”

Since 2000, the website has grown massively. And - for me, it remains one of the first things I look at in the morning when I log on to my computer. Not only is CGOAB a wealth of information and knowledge - but perhaps most importantly, it’s all “crowd-funded”.

Not necessarily monetarily-funded by the users, but the site is built upon the community who visit it - they are the main contributors. There is a “Journals” section, where anyone can join up for free - although, Neil asks for a small donation if it is possible. These Journals offer all of the “newbies” to bicycle touring, literally hours of interesting reading and exciting material, often times complemented by breathtaking photography. There is also a Forum section. Where users can post any questions they may have about bicycle touring. It’s well thought out, well-structured, and it offers dozens of categories for the user to choose from which cover almost every aspect of bicycle touring.

There is a “Classifieds” section, this offers users the ability to buy and sell things through the website, but it’s more than just a simple transaction platform, the “Classifieds” also allows users to post “Companion” ads, for those users seeking riding partners for their own bicycle tours.

Personally, the site has been an incredible resource, one where I have felt incredibly welcomed, despite my limited experience - it has also been invaluable in offering me avenues into the bicycle touring world - for example, I met my winter-cycling interviewee - Iohan Gueorgiuev, on CrazyGuyonaBike. And I hope to meet many others on the road, using CGOAB as a gateway.

I tip my hat to Neil Gunton on creating such an incredible platform for bicycle tourists to gather upon - people from all over the world, coming together and uniting to spread their passion to others. Well done, Sir.


Have you been trapped in a rainstorm, and had to put your tent up in a hurry? You do it in record-time. However, you get a terrible night’s sleep due to the rain, you awake the next morning, sore back, stiffness, miserable…

Well, there’s a neat little service called WarmShowers that offers touring cyclists’ just that - a warm shower and a bed for the night.

The concept of WarmShowers is fairly simple, it’s a community-based service that’s built upon the kindness of strangers and the reciprocation of goodwill. WarmShowers was founded first in 1993, it began with a list - a list that went unkept for three years before a man by the name of Roger Gravel undertook the upkeeping of the list. In 2005, Randy Fay turned that list into a database and map-enabled website, and has assumed the role of Registrar from 2009 to present. The community is currently kept running by a small group of volunteers.

WarmShowers is now very much an international community, with hosts on every continent, the largest numbers emanating from North America and Europe. However, it has members from over 150 countries. The community experienced a huge spike in 2013, when there were 15,787 new registered users.

In the organisation’s future, Randy Fay has largely opened up the site to suggestions from the community. However, he says, “We hope to make the organisation self-sustaining and get more people thoroughly invested in it so it doesn't depend on just one or two people.”

It truly is a proper community-experience. WarmShowers also has a Facebook group, where you can connect with even more people.

So, if you’re planning a trip - I wholly encourage you to join WarmShowers (it’s totally free!), and meet new people all over the world!

Bicycle Touring Pro

Darren Alff from BicycleTouringPro, was one of the first people I went to when I first started to research bicycle touring. He was my first “resource” if you will in my hunt for more knowledge and wisdom about the bike touring scene. I wrote a quick article on my website about him, and his website back in early October of 2013.

Darren’s website is impressive in it’s design. Sleek, slender, and easy-to-navigate. Darren’s site launched in 2007, after his eagerness to help a friend on his first long-distance bicycle tour. Darren’s readership took off, after he created BicycleTouringPro to help that friend. Since then, Darren’s travelled all over the world. From multiple cross-Country tours of the United States, to a European tour - including living in Poland for a few months!

As a further way to help others with their first bicycle tours, Darren started - in co-operation with Axiom, the BicycleTouring Pro Travel Scholarship, Darren’s way of giving support to those just starting out in the bicycle touring world. People such as I, and, if you’re reading this article, you!

Individual Inspirations!

We’ll move on now - from sites and communities - to the individuals that can inspire, and assist you on your bicycle tours.

Alastair Humphreys

I first discovered Alastair Humphreys in November of last year, while I was browsing the interwebs for cyclists’ who have gone on epic journeys. His jumped out at me. Here was this ordinary guy, fresh out of University with a passion for adventure. So, what did he decide to do?

Alastair cycled out of his front door, turned left, and headed for Cape Town. His journey took him four years, 46,000 miles and cost him just £7000. Since his incredible adventure of cycling around the World, Alastair has been on many, many adventures - he’s walked across India, rowed the Atlantic, he’s pioneered the “microadventure” and has written several books.

Two of his published books are about his round-the-world trip - “Moods of Future Joys: Around the World by Bike: Part 1, and “Thunder and Sunshine(About the second part of his journey). Both are books that are on my to-read list, and both have received several glowing reviews from Amazon.

Tom Allen

Tom Allen is another round-the-world cyclist, and another Englishman!

Tom’s adventures by bicycle began in 2006, in Scotland, riding off-road… From there, he decided to set off around-the-world. The following year, setting off from his back door in England, throughout Europe and the Near East, before moving on in 2008 to the Caucasus, and Iran. In 2009, Tom cycled throughout the Middle East and Africa, before moving onto Mongolia in 2010. He then braved Scandinavian winters in Norway and Sweden the following year, and then he and his brother - Ben, cycled down the West Coast of the United States (and parts of Canada), from Vancouver to San Francisco.

In fact, Tom Allen met the woman he would later marry on his round-the-world journey. An Armenian woman. This love found on a bicycle inspired a film - an award winning film, titled “Janapar”.

What do these two have to say about their around-the-world trips? And adventure in general?

Tom and Alastair have both reiterated the same thing to me, when I contacted them initially regarding my own cycle-touring plans. They both told me to just do it. Just get out there on the bike, and BEGIN. (So, too did Darren Alff of BicycleTouringPro).

Alastair says, “Adventure will change your life.”

And, I’m beginning to feel it. I’m beginning to think he’s right. And, hopefully you too can find the inspiration, information and inner-strength (hopefully drawing some inspiration from this article), to do just that. Begin your own adventure. Feet on pedals, and turn.    


By Pico Triano
Photo: Pico Triano, Free Use Image

This article is inspired by another article I read on why cyclo-computers are evil. I don’t agree with that sentiment. Their objection was based on people getting obsessed with it and paying too much attention to it while cycling. These obsessed individuals are not paying enough attention to the road. They also miss the great scenery along the way. My response to this is don’t get obsessed.

Cyclo-computers are tools and if used properly can be very beneficial. If you are a racer you will likely make excellent use of most of the features they offer. Even for the novice they are not hard to use and benefit from.

For the purposes of long distance self-contained family cycling it is little more than a glorified odometer. I don’t say that to disparage them. I wish I could afford to set up every one of my family members with one. Just giving them a scoreboard would have them out training more than they do now. Even for me. I’ve never been what I would consider fast as a cyclist. I’m way too big to be much of a racer. I am however proud of the sheer distances I've covered.

So what I’m saying is by all means get one. Read the instructions and learn to use it. Just remember you don’t have to have one eye on it all the time. Enjoy the ride and pay attention to the road. If you put it on right it is unlikely to just fall off. Check it before and after each ride to make sure the sensors line up properly if you need to. It is a great little tool but don’t forget you can still happily ride without one too.

Stop - Yes That Means You!

By Pico Triano
Photo: Free Use Image, Pico Triano

One of the biggest beefs motor vehicle operators hold against cyclist, is the scofflaws who ride through stops signs or worse traffic lights. They have other beefs as well but this one is at least based on reality. I have been places where it seemed like every cyclist I saw simply ignored any and all traffic signs and signals.

I do not condone breaking traffic laws when riding a bicycle. They were created for the safety of the public. I think all cyclists should be supportive of the laws that were design to keep everyone safe. If you come across a stop sign, please stop like you're supposed to.

That being said, I don't believe the problem is nearly as bad as a lot of motorists make it out to be. A lot of them believe that a bicycle cannot really be stopped unless the rider puts his feet on the ground. That is false. A lot riders will balance at a stop sign or light until it is safe to go. It is a skill that is worth learning.  I do it sometimes.

Cars and trucks come to rolling stops as well. That doesn't make it right, but the fact is, it isn't just cyclists misbehaving. A lot of people I hear complaining about cyclists not stopping don't stop themselves. A clear case of the pot calling the kettle black. The roads would be a safer place for everyone if we followed the rules.

I don't feel sorry for cyclists that get a ticket for ignoring the rules of the road any more than I feel sorry for motorists doing the same thing.