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.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Pico's Cycling - Tales of the Road July 2014 Vol. 2 No. 7

The July issue of Pico's Cycling - Tales of the Road has a theme. Hot and dry weather riding. I felt with the coming of summer to the northern hemisphere it was important to talk about the dangers of dehydration and bring along a few related stories.

Jack continues his quest to gain experience as a touring cyclist and brings the rest of us along for the ride.

I have a cousin who created a cycling photo album on Facebook called We Bike. Pico's Cycling does have permission to use some of the pictures in the future. We will likely help ourselves.

In This Issue
Just click on the titles to read the stories

Dehydration and Cycling

For hot and dry weather cycling dehydration is an issue that is not wise to ignore. A quick article to help aim you in the right direction. Enjoy the summer and  cycling safe.

My first negative experience with dehydration while cycling. Fortunately the experience wasn't any worse than this. Experience can be a hard teacher. I did learn from this cycling embarrassment.

Certain lessons were learned well. More were learned along the way. This is the most extreme dry hot weather cycling I ever went through. Because I was willing to listen and learn from mistakes in the past this trip was a happy memory. It's amazing where you can go on your bike.

Jack get's to go tenting and brings you an article on his experience sleeping on the road. 

One last word from Jack in this issue. He went out and did his first fully loaded tour. The learning curve is still pretty steep. He hasn't given up though. We're looking forward to his next ride and next article.

That's it for another month. Hope to make some additional improvements in the future. Pedal on.

Dehydration and Cycling

By Pico Triano

Worried about getting run over by a truck? Flattened by an out of control recreational vehicle? Yes, cycling safety is an important issue but it involves more than other vehicles or crashes. In the hot days of summer dehydration is a real danger and because it can sneak up on a rider, it’s important to know the symptoms and take appropriate measures to protect yourself.

If you are cycling and you experience any of the following symptoms, you may well already be in trouble, depending on the severity.

1)      Increased thirst
2)      Dry mouth and swollen tongue
3)      Weakness
4)      Dizziness
5)      Palpitations (feeling that the heart is jumping or pounding)
6)      Confusion
7)      Sluggishness
8)      Fainting
9)      Inability to sweat
10)    Decreased urine output

If you are starting to have symptoms, stop riding and get some fluids into your body. Most important is to drink water. Sports beverages are useful in that they also provide electrolytes and other minerals that you might need. If unaddressed any of these symptoms can quickly lead to more serious problems including death.

It is better to avoid becoming dehydrated, than to try and deal with it in progress. That means drinking before, during and after riding especially in hot dry weather.

While riding you will not notice how much you are sweating because it evaporates in the wind. The amount you are sweating when you stop will give you an idea how much water you are losing. It is substantial and fast. In my experience there are two other symptoms that can show up long before dehydration is a problem. I monitor these warning signs whenever I am riding.

What colour is your urine? I’m not joking. If it is dark, you better starting drinking more water. Ideally you should have to urinate periodically. If you ride all day without having to go, you are making a mistake and on a hot dry day it could catch up with you. When you go, your urine should be clear and pale in colour. This is one of the best ways to keep yourself out of trouble.

As a group cycling leader, I do monitor something in the groups I lead, especially when the group includes young adults and children. For lack of a better term I call it the group level of irritability. I monitor the morale of the group. Any perceptible change for the worse will lead me to tell the group to take a breather and have something to drink. I’ve suffered minor dehydration on the road myself and that was one of the first signs that something wasn’t quite right. I’m very laid back. When minor things start irritating me, it’s time for me to drink some water.

Don’t be afraid to take a siesta in the hot weather. The concept of siesta didn’t come about because people are lazy. In some parts of the world, it is a necessity.

Some of the information provided was drawn from the WebMD and my own experience. Your safety is your responsibility. The purpose of this article is to make you more aware of the danger of dehydration. If you ride in hot dry conditions, I strongly recommend you study the subject further. Cold hard experience is an unforgiving teacher. Have a safe a enjoyable cycling summer.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Not Just Water

 By Pico Triano

Young, inexperienced, riding under different conditions than I was used to, not properly prepared, personal habits; there were a whole lot of things working against me that day. Learned a few things along the way – maybe should have learned a few more.

Before enrolling in college my bike was my transportation. If I wanted to go somewhere, that’s how I got there. I’d even been planning a long tour to visit my girlfriend of the time in Pennsylvania. I was a last minute acceptance for classes that year and I hopped onto a plane with my suitcase and went. My bike didn’t follow me for a year. I didn’t get to ride much. The need for training and preparation never really crossed my mind much to this point because I’d always been perpetually in touring shape anyway.

Once I was back in the saddle, word got out that I was into cycling. I got a shout from Mark Dixon an Aussie. He wanted to participate in a big tour organized by Kangaroo Bags and he wanted a riding partner.  Of course, I was game.

Mark had a car so we drove down to Ventura the day before the tour and camped out on behind some bushes just off the beach. We weren’t sure it was legal but there were several dozen more people doing the same thing. Either way, no one came to bother us and we got a fairly decent night’s sleep.

This was my first organized public bicycle tour of any kind. I have never seen so many cyclists in one place at the same time before. There were well over a thousand cyclists there. I’m not exaggerating either. When I registered and got my number, it was in the seven hundreds and there were just as many people behind me.

The ride started on the Pacific Bike Way and our huge peloton like mass of riders funnelled their way onto that. I’m sure the scenery was terrific but I was more interested in not colliding with anyone. I didn’t want to fall and become an obstacle in the road for that thunder herd.

As we went though, the riders strung out and there was more room to manoeuvre. Mark and I pretty much stuck together because we didn’t know anyone else there. At that point things were going quite nicely. The sun was blazing hot though and the air was very dry. I was chewing gum in rhythm to my riding, something I have never ever done again. Then I blew a tire.

I told Mark to just go on ahead. The route was well marked and there would be a big picnic for lunch when the group got to Santa Barbara. I pulled off to the side as the rest of the riders trundled on past. Never takes me that long to fix a flat but by the time I was back on the road only a few stragglers were still behind me.

I decided I would try to catch up with the main pack before lunch. Not a bright decision but had I been conditioned like I was used to, I would have got away with it. Under that blazing sun I pushed hard and just before lunch I was back up with the main group of riders. Didn’t find Mark until after we stopped for lunch but I had accomplished that little goal. Felt a few twinges in my quadriceps but didn’t think much of it.

After lunch Mark and I were back in the “peloton” heading back to Ventura. About halfway back is when my quads cramped up. Those had to be the worst leg cramps I’ve ever gotten in my life. I barely pulled over to the side of the road and dismounting without falling. I tried walking them off and it helped but I couldn’t get back on and ride. I finally threw in the towel. Mark rode to the end and came back with the car to pick me up. I walked what I could but I just couldn’t make much progress. I felt really bad. I expected more out of myself than that.

What did I do wrong? A whole lot of things. The result was that I allowed myself to get a little dehydrated and I let my electrolytes get too low.

  1. The lack of training wouldn’t have been so bad had I not pushed myself. I’m a slow rider. The pace of the main group was slightly faster than I was used to even without me playing catch up.
  2. Lose the gum. Chewing gum keeps your saliva flowing. Had I not been chewing gum I would have taken in more fluids because my mouth would have gotten dry faster.
  3. Drink lots of water but - if you are sweating a lot, you’re losing salt and other important minerals. They need to be replaced. I’m not a big proponent of sports beverages but they do help. There are other ways to replace those salts and nutrients.
  4. Ignoring what you body is telling you is a big mistake. Those first twinges should have raised a red flag. At that point I could have replaced some of the missing electrolytes and gone through some stretches. That might have been enough for me to finish the day.

This story might have made me look a little stupid but keep in mind I’d never ridden under those conditions before. I learned a lot from that experience. I like to think that this old guy is still learning.

Desert Crossing

By Pico Triano

The week on the road from Reno, Nevada to Salt Lake City Utah back in 1986 was the driest tour ever for me. If not for the experience gained while going to college in Southern California and some helpful information from friends familiar with the route I followed, I’m not sure I would have been successful.

I spent the weekend prior to departure staying with Leroy and Yong Abolinas in Reno. They were another great example of the hospitality I have found travelling. They made sure that I saw the sights and was refuelled for the next leg of my journey. I’d been introduced to them through friends I had met a week earlier. Nice meeting all these people but hard to say goodbye. They made me promise to contact other friends when I got to Salt Lake City so that I’d have a place to stay when I got there. I made the promise even though by myself I’m good with just wilderness camping as I go.

The first day out of Reno had to be the toughest even though I was well rested. It was hot and dry and the cistern for public drinking water at the Forty-Mile Desert rest area was dry as a bone. I’m grateful that I had been warned about that by some acquaintances from church that weekend. All my water bottles were full and I had bought several very large cans of fruit juice. There was a convenience store at the next interchange and I managed to get there without running low on fluids. That could have been a very serious situation.

I rode very well after that putting together my first ever back-to-back century rides. Travelling the same road day after day had other advantages as well. I had lunch in a truck stop, where the local truckers gave me much appreciated weather reports. A lot of those drivers ride regularly between those two cities and I think they’d pretty much adopted me by the time my second day was complete. I remember one honking and waving early in the morning as I stretched right after getting out of my tent. Those honks and waves would come periodically throughout the day. Nice to know the big boys are on your side.

I stayed a night in a roadside rest that allowed overnighters past Battle Mountain. The RVers who also overnighted there let me know that I wouldn’t be disturbed. That was another moment where I didn’t feel quite so alone out there.

In Carlin, NV Olympic silver medallist Rebecca Twigg’s mother checked my groceries at the store. We had a good chat. She invited me to stay the night in her backyard but I declined because I had to be in Salt Lake City for the weekend. That would have knocked me too far behind schedule. I grew up around the block from Canadian cyclist Steve Bauer who won silver at the same Olympics. That had met - small world.

Carlin also featured a dreaded obstacle though; a tunnel in the freeway through a mountain. I hate those. I wait until I can’t see any traffic coming for as far as I can see and then make a break for it. Pedalling like a madman I hope to be out the other side before traffic reaches me. There is less room to ride inside and right near the entrance drivers will be temporarily blinded. I don’t want to be road kill before their eyes adjust.

Entering Utah and seeing the Bonneville Salt Flats for the first time was a sight worth seeing. The salt is as white as snow and it is as flat as can be. After pedalling over a lot of mountains that was welcome.

My last challenge though was getting to Salt Lake City. Great Salt Lake in 1986 was way over its banks. My beloved Interstate 80 had turned into a causeway. I wasn’t sure I was going to get to dry land to camp before dark. I did but it was a near thing.

The following day I got in touch with the people who were supposed to put me up for the weekend. They actually drove out to give me directions. Alex was house sitting for someone and I got to stay with him. They told me I lost five years in the shower. I guess I was a bit gamy when I got there.

In retrospect, I would have bought lighting for my bike and done a lot of my desert riding at night. The sun and heat took a lot out of me. Interstate 80 had very wide paved shoulders and I think I could have night toured safely. A headlamp would have allowed me to avoid running over rattlesnakes in the dark. I had to take precautions concerning them anyway. When I set up my tent I would always make sure something jammed all the holes so nothing could join me in my sleeping bag. I also slept on top of picnic tables when I could. I don’t know whether that really was a good idea but I’d heard tell it was a safer way to sleep.

After completing that ride, I don’t have many worries about natural obstacles. I know how to plan with them in mind and most of them I can ride through.

Friday, 27 June 2014

Camping out in my Micro-Swift One-Man Tent!

By Jack Hawkins

Late June, and I decided to try out camping for the first time this year, and while we have several tents here at home, I was looking for one in particular. My father had an ultra-light Walrus Micro Swift one-man tent somewhere - the model was from 1999!

We managed to dig it out, and since the day's weather had improved, I set about setting it up.
The set-up was simple enough, and took about ten minutes - but I'm sure you could put it up in five if you had enough practice. This is the end product:
Walrus MicroSwift One Man Tent
This one-man measures 96" (224cm) long x 35.5" (90cm) wide, and has a peak height of 28" (71cm). It covers a square footage of just 20 square feet, and a generous amount of floor space inside. There's room for panniers at the foot of the tent, although how many is unclear.

Due to it's small size, it packs down pretty well - here's a picture of it in it's sack.
walrus tent
Here's the view from the inside!
Inside the 1 Man
It's quite spacious, and the mesh that keeps the bugs out worked a treat. Not a single mosquito disturbed my night's sleep - and that's a rarity indeed. But now for the verdict...

How did I sleep?

Roughly, I suppose would be the word for it. Despite having my Woods sleeping pad underneath me, I woke up with a stiff, painful back. Mind you, the cars going past at 2, 3, and 4AM with massive engines didn't help.

All in all, it's a great little shelter, and would be perfect for bicycle touring. But, I'm still not sold on the whole 'tent' idea. Stiffness and soreness, night-after-night isn’t my idea of fun, and would no doubt be hellish on long tours.

Perhaps I'll go with a hammock instead. Canada has plenty of trees to string one up in, and you wouldn't get the sore, stiff back in the morning from sleeping on hard ground… Now, do I go with a Hennessey, or ENO?

There are benefits to both… ENO’s, from what I gather (my friend has an ENO hammock, and he loves it!), are cheaper than Hennessey’s, but Hennessey’s are made to go the distance and last a very long time, whereas ENO’s - are made for more leisurely use.

Decisions, decisions!

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/.

Five Lessons Learned From my First Fully-Loaded Ride

By Jack Hawkins

Tuesday afternoon, I loaded up my bike with fully-packed panniers (save for my newly-purchased sleeping bag, which is currently en-route, a sleeping pad, and my fourth pannier which will be mainly stocked with food.) and decided to head for Bouctouche again, I wanted to find out just what it was like to ride fully-loaded with all of my gear.

It was... different, that's for sure. Here are the five major lessons (in no particular order) that I learned from the ride.

Lesson 1: Always bring more water and food - always.
I learned this the hard way. I did a rather idiotic thing and bought only my CamelBak hydration pack with me, this sits on my back in a backpack. Which, now that I reflect was an incredibly stupid move. I have three water bottle cages on my bike - why didn't I just fill those up with water bottles?!

The last few kilometres home were hell. I was dehydrated, malnourished and running on the reserves of my reserves. I made it home, up-chucked, and then slept for twelve hours. Heat stroke sucks, so, always bring more than enough water and food - even if you're only going out for a few hours. Oh, and when you have the means to let your bike take all that water weight for you - use it! My CamelBak, love it though I do - will now only be used when I go mountain biking, because with every pedal stroke on Tuesday, I was carrying that weight on my back and thereby expending more energy... Never again.

Lesson 2: It's okay to slow down...

I had ridden this same stretch - the 36.6 mile, shoulder-of-the-highway ride a week prior, on my touring bike, unloaded. My average speed was 20 km/h, I made it there in an hour and a half. This time, it was a whole different animal. My average speed this time around - according to the Cyclemeter app was 13.6 km/h, and it took me just over two hours. I'll admit I was slightly disappointed that I couldn't maintain a quicker pace. But, perhaps that has something to do with the fact that it was all uphill, and my legs aren't used to riding with a full load. This is no doubt something that my body will adjust to over time. But in a way, it was nice to stop and smell the roses (or the dead roadkill that I had to weave around). But this isn't a race - it's perfectly okay to take your time and enjoy your lack of Lance Armstrong-esque, PED-induced speed. The sooner I accepted that, the sooner I began to enjoy it.

Lesson 3: Hills are made by an evil, evil being with a total lack of moral compass and/or no soul.

Did I mention that it was mostly uphill? Yeah, it was mostly uphill. Actually, it was all uphill.
And I don't mean those short hills that you can climb with short bursts of speed - I mean loooooooooong, towering beasts that make your heart sink when you see them in front of you. It was endless... No sooner had I dragged myself, using plenty of swearing words of encouragement, up one and crested it... I was faced with another... And another, and another... Oh, and the transport trucks that go zooming by in the opposite direction when you're climbing one - further adding to your climb with a blast of headwind - I hate you all. (Only joking, thanks for the tailwinds, they were a great help!)

Lesson 4: Know where you're going!

Because going left and zooming down a big hill, only to stop at the bottom and go -- "Hang on, this isn't where the Dollar Store is..." *Sigh*, as the realisation dawns on you that you've just gone the wrong way - down a hill... And so, I turned around and headed back up the hill. 'Bloody stupid place to put a hill!' I thought, but finally I arrived at my destination, without having to climb another ruddy hill!

I swear, Dollar Stores are going to be my blessing when I cross the country next year - everything you could ever need in a touring cyclists' diet! Four packets of chicken noodles for a dollar, and everything else you'd need to refuel, chocolate (most of which I can't have - dairy allergies be damned!), granola bars, cookies, the odd bottle of pop, utensils, plus other nick-nacks which will come in handy at some point, I'm sure! Oh, and a GIANT Canadian flag - which I'm thinking of strapping to the bike next year!

Lesson 5: I need to lighten my load! (But I have more than enough space for everything)

Fully loaded clothes pannier

That is the pannier in which almost all of my clothing fits into! There are a few things that I'm missing out on - but, still, I think that I'll need to lighten my compliment of clothes, especially since next year, I'l mainly be riding in the Spring and Summer, and parts of early fall - but hopefully not winter!
So, with some careful thinking ahead, hopefully I can squeeze that particular pannier down to size. Plus, I will be making more space in my other panniers, as I have decided to use a Hennessy Hammock instead of my one-man tent, so, that will add more space - since the Hennessy will take up less room that my Walrus Micro-Swift One Man tent does. Just waiting to get paid so that I can order one.

You're also probably wondering how the added weight affected the bike, (given that this bike has crossed the country once already, and admittedly, I haven't had to do much maintenance/repair on it...) well, I didn't notice a significant difference as I was riding - except for perhaps slightly sharper turning and handling, and obviously it was heavier - other than that, it still rides just as well as it did the day that I got it.

It was a great test ride nonetheless, and I learned a lot from it. Here's to many more!

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/.