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.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Pico's Cycling - Tales of the Road October 2014 Vol. 2 No. 10

The fall has begun in the part of the world and we have a full roster of articles for our readers once again. We're only one issue away from completing a full year as an online bicycle touring magazine. Hoping to get after a few potential authors to make our anniversary issue something special.

In This Issue
(Click on the titles to view)

In my view this wasn't a real long distance self-contained tour. It was a great start for me. I arrived at my destination with almost no problems. Just one disappointment when I got there...

Jack Hawkins fills us in on his latest cycling read. A solid book with a solid review. Tempted to run out and get a copy myself.

Off road trail cycling can be a lot of fun. I reminisce about some of the riding I did growing up. The Shorthills of the Niagara Peninsula was one of my favourite destinations when I just wanted to explore. I cover my other close range choices.

In my experience even solo riding is not necessarily an antisocial activity. Jack Hawkins who meets all kinds of cyclist tell us how it happens.

Opening your eyes to your own local commute. It might be more interesting that you think. I admit this commute had a lot to see but I've had others that had a lot to see as well. Take a look around you wherever you ride.

That's it for another month. We still have the ambition of continuing to develop and improve what we have here. Keep on reading and keep on riding.


First Foray

By Pico Triano
Photos Pico Triano and Shawn Whitelaw

After graduating from high school, the job market wasn't very good and I cycled a lot of miles looking for work. It was great training for someone wanting to go travelling by bike but opportunities to do so were few and far between. Lean on funds and short of equipment doesn't make for a lot of touring.

Good things come to those who wait. Just the chance I was waiting for came along. My parents didn't see it as the ideal trip but it was perfect for my purposes. Church singles weekend in Toronto. I lived near Niagara Falls. I group of friends living in an apartment there invited me to stay with them and eat their grub. That meant I didn't need camping gear. I only needed to bring clothes and some food to keep me fuelled along the way.

Funny thing about people who don't see the dream like a future bicycle tourist. My parents didn't really believe I was actually going to go through with the trip until the evening before, when I was packing for it. They did their best to talk me out of riding. After all Cleason one of the other local men was driving up anyway. I refused to be swayed promising that I would give them a quick call when I had safely arrived.

I started off making one minor mistake that Friday morning. I dressing in short and a t shirt. This was still spring and I about froze to death before the sun warmed things up enough. I followed what is now known as Regional Road 20 through to Hamilton. I was on the other side of Smithville before I stopped shivering. In Hamilton I descended the Niagara Escarpment crossed the lift bridge beside the Burlington Skyway and followed Highway 2 all the way to Toronto. If I remember correctly, my destination was an apartment on Kipling which was easy enough to find.

I ran into one mechanical issue on my route. One of the fasteners holding my rear rack worked its way loose. I stopped at a garage along the way where I was able to borrow a screwdriver to set it right. I only had a really small suitcase strapped to containing all my gear. Not well equipped but good enough for this trip.

My bike was a recovered Canadian Tire ten speed I called the beast. I had one of those peg driven odometers attached to the front fork. When I arrived, I'd travelled 72 miles. I was disappointed. Early in the week on Monday I'd revisited all the local employment centres. First stop was Welland, then Niagara Falls, then St. Catharines and I made a final stop to apply for a job in Jordan. After that job hunting run I'd travelled 73 miles. Doing less mileage on my first trip didn't sit well with me. To rectify that I visited High Park. I'd arrived early in the afternoon so I had plenty of time. My new one day cycling record finished at 80 miles. That was easier for me to digest.

This was a modest start touring but it was just a beginning. I was given a ride home after the weekend. Not because I couldn't do it but because there was a certain young lady I wanted to spend more time with at the time.

Book Review - The Road Headed West

By Jack Hawkins
Photos Leon McCarron

Leon McCarron’s “The Road Headed West” was a gift to me from a friend, as I mentioned that I was looking for some literature to take with me on my Cross-Canada tour. But, I decided that I couldn’t really wait to get reading it while on the road, so I started early!

Since the nights are getting shorter and cooler here in Eastern Canada, I’ve been retiring earlier and reading a lot more. I was eager to start reading Leon’s book, it was to be my first
‘adventure cycling’ read (although there are now many others on my list!)

For those of you that don’t know Leon, he’s a Northern Irishman who cycled coast-to-coast, from East to West, across America, and then continued his journey down the Pacific Coast, before crossing into South America. He’s also cycled in New Zealand, and a whole bunch of other countries, and he’s walked across the Empty Quarter Desert with fellow adventurer, Alastair Humphreys. The two made a film out of it called, “Into The Empty Quarter”.

But, back to his maiden adventure, a ride across America from East to West. Filled with blood, sweat, tears, gun-toting rednecks, incredible human kindness, friendships made and love tested. All on the road headed West...

Leon’s book begins with an explanation as to certain name changes that he makes to protect the individuals anonymity, then, it’s right into a prologue explaining how Leon got to the point of leaving his New York City apartment, and a relatively mundane desk-job, to begin an adventure around North America, and one that has changed his life.

Leon tells numerous tales as the book rolls forward. He keeps the chapters short, so as to avoid boring the reader with long, tedious chapters, and does this to great effect. I was never bored, or found myself getting tired from staring at the page as I read the book. Note-to-self for my future book(s): short chapters.

The book follows Leon’s journey from East to West - and then South, but it isn’t your typical “I went here and did this and then this and then this” journal-type account of an adventure. Leon’s anecdotal tone and style of writing that helps the book ebb and flow from chapter to chapter. There are moments of misery and monotony through the cornfields of the mid-West, to nearly being deported back to Ireland after re-entering the USA from Canada, having crossed over to the Canadian side of the Niagara Falls. There are also however, moments of terrific joy and beauty, which Leon describes immaculately, leaving me with a wanderlust for such places.

Each and every chapter make me want to get on my bike and go - just go out there and have an adventure and change my life. He details (with a fabulous humour) getting gloriously drunk in an Irish bar that had never had a real Irish customer before (you can well imagine what happened next). He also tells of his chance-meetings on the road with a woman named Susie, who was on her own quest to find adventure, and riding most of the last portion of his journey in the company of three - and then four riders and the adventures they had together, and the friendships that formed.

He also finds the time to delve deeper into the emotional side of his journey. When he left Ireland to travel to the United States for an internship at a film company, he left behind his family and his beloved girlfriend, Clare. Leon retraces his own thoughts onto the paper with a brutal honesty, which is what I imagine would be quite akin to my own feelings when faced with a similar situation.

As Leon’s ride advances across the USA, the book turns from shorter anecdotal chapters, to some longer ones. But Leon does his best to fill the bigger chapters with more - more of everything. Something that’s quite impressive is how deep he delves into the history of places such as Mt. Rushmore, or when he talks about the two Native American tribes of the Lakota and the Dakota - following a discussion with an elder.

Leon’s history lessons give the reader a greater appreciation for the journey and provide an educational aspect to the book, something which I found to be a wonderful addition and add something different to the tale.

Leon’s journey across America ends at the Pacific Ocean, but a new journey begins. After spending a few days wrestling with whether or not he should continue South, Leon and Clare finally get to see each other for the first time in months, they spent a few days together in Los Angeles where Clare helped and positively encouraged him to continue his journey - South, and onwards, towards South America.

Leon’s book winds down with an epilogue, giving thanks to all that helped him along in his journey, from family and friends to the makers of his bike and those at his local bike shop. He reflects on a life-changing journey, and the adventures he has had since. But ultimately leaves one last piece of advice for those looking for a bicycle-powered adventure. And that is to just begin!

The last few pages include his kit list - which make my own list for my upcoming trip seem like I have packed far, far too much! I’ve learned a lot from Leon’s “get-up-and-go” book, and I learned another lesson as I flipped the last page… That lesson is that adventure is out there to be had. One must simply go and seek it. I congratulate Mr. McCarron on an excellently written book and a tale of adventure which has me yearning to get out and ride.

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/.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Off the Beaten Path

By Pico Triano
Photos by Pico Triano

Living on an undesignated road that is in places little more than a dirt track brings back some fond childhood cycling memories. One thing I liked to do on my old beat up one speed bicycle was to go exploring. Unopened road allowances, motorcycle trails and virtually any other cyclable path would satisfy that urge. You would not believe the number of hidden little places like that are often just around the corner from where you live right now.

I had several places I liked to go growing up. Number one was easily the Shorthills located just outside of the nearby town of Fonthill, Ontario. There were an endless number of trails and non-maintained roads all through there. Closer to home there were a few unopened road allowances which were great nearby getaways. For an occasion change of pace I would visit “The Pit” which was an unapproved dirt bike paradise in an old unused sand quarry.

The Shorthills is a geographical feature left by the glaciers. Most of the roads on the Niagara Peninsula are laid out on some kind of grid. Because of the terrain that doesn't work in the Shorthills. The roads squiggle all over the place. The regular roads in there are fun to drive on but that isn't all that is there. For example Sixteen Road appeared to dead end on Effingham Road. A trail used to continue on through and it was a terrific fun ride. Hogsback Road and St. John's Conservation area were other great adventures. I haven't been in those places for several decades so I imagine things have changed a lot. There is probably still a lot of places in there where you can get away from everything on your bike.

The unopened road allowances were a lot easier and closer to find. Since most of the roads in the area were constructed on a grid, just look for a place the grid says there should be a road and the map say there isn't one. Cream Street and Foss Road both had missing sections according to the map. In both instances there was a road allowance and a rough trail going down it.

Riding off road as it were doesn't work too well with a racing or touring bike. In those cases I would stick to the paths more travelled. A mountain bike or anything with fat enough tires is great for exploring these places off the beaten path.

How Do You Meet People

By Jack Hawkins
Photos Pico Triano

Is a question that I'm often asked by friends whenever I talk to them about the weird (we're all a little strange, we enjoy riding bikes for dozens of miles a day!) and wonderful people that I'm meeting through bicycle touring. Recently, I've been meeting these people seemingly on a daily basis - twelve in the last two weeks! From those on short trips around the province (as was my encounter yesterday with two lovely people who I had breakfast with!) to those who have been around the world - people like Ed Wrigley, whose very  well traveled indeed! He was on a tour from Oregon to Vancouver, across Canada then down to New York.

Often, I meet these people at places like Tim Hortons (it's everyone's favourite place in my small town!) I, too frequent it - they serve great French Vanilla latte's and their muffins are delectable. I'll often spot a touring bike parked outside as I'm pulling into the car park (it's like I have a special glasses-implanted radar for them) Racks? Check. Panniers? Check. General dis-organisation? Check. I'll go in and play 'Spot the Cyclist' - it's easy, really. They're either wearing a jersey, are typing furiously at a laptop or tablet, or are the most tired looking of everyone there!

I'll go up and say, "Hi, are you the cyclist?" And the conversation flows from there...We chat for a while mostly about their current tour, where they've been previously, where they're going next, distances-per-day food, budget - really anything I can think of to ask! They're always pleasant and, since this is a frequent thing for them, most cyclists are happy to answer my questions. Then we'll exchange email addresses, and I'll either ride out with them for a few kilometres, or bid them adieu with a handshake and "Happy trails!".

The internet, I must say, has made my job as a freelance writer one million times easier. I have met so many amazing and inspiring people because of it. Those that I don't meet in Tim Hortons, I've met online. People such as Shirine Taylor (of A Wandering Nomad), or Derek Boocock (of Derek's Bike Trip), or my crazy-insane-first-ever-interviewee, Iohan Gueorguiev (the Bike Wanderer). It's simply a case of me finding them, as was the case with Shirine and Iohan, or them seeking me out - in Derek's case. Although the number of people who tour by bicycle, as I've recently discovered is quite large - as one community, we're a minority. Remember, "Sometimes those who wander, really are lost".

But we all share a common goal, I think anyway - to see the world from the saddle. Or maybe it's simply the love of riding a bike, or perhaps just travel - who knows. What matters is that we are able to connect with one another, and that's the subject of this post - the interconnectivty of bicycle tourists, no matter how far apart we may be.

I gave a mention earlier to Iohan Gueorguiev, He's a Bulgarian man who was my first ever interviewee. I found out that Iohan was going to cycle half-way across Canada - from Hamilton, Ontario to Halifax, Nova Scotia - IN THE WINTER. And I was ecstatic to see that his route would take him through my town of Richibucto. I had to meet this crazy guy on a bike! (How apt that I found him via a website of the same name!) I opened up the communicative channel - all thanks to GMail, and we conversed for about a month before we met on a cold February morning last year. Once again in (you guessed it), good ol' Tim Hortons. We had coffee and chatted about his insane journey, and then I wished him well and waved him on his way! 'This guy's going places' - I thought. And I was right, he's currently cycling to Argentina from Alaska!

But it isn't just through CGOAB that I've met and interviewed people. I've simply Google'd "bike tourists", and that's how I came across Shirine Taylor and was able to interview her via Skype. She, in a small guest house in Nepal, I - freezing my arse off in Richibucto, New Brunswick. That has since spawned an article, we're now friends on Facebook and I am inspired every day by her thoughtful, concise and engaging blog posts - she takes some fantastic pictures, too! Bicycle touring also has it's own Facebook group, and that has spawned a spin-off group called, "Bicycle Touring Websites" - which is a group that allows users to share posts from their sites and blogs, with the aim of increasing traffic to cyclists' blogs/websites, and once again - connecting people.

The internet is full of fantastic communities where cyclists gather - nay, flock to - in many cases. There's WarmShowers, CrazyGuyonaBike, the Facebook groups, Google Plus communities... The Twittersphere is ripe with everyone from recreational tourers to people who are doing rides for causes, to people doing fully-supported rides with bicycle touring organisations. The internet has provided me with the opportunity to meet up with and/or Skype with some of the most unique and interesting people. My most recent interviewee - Sophie Stirl, is a young woman from Germany, who is unicycling (yes, you read that right!) across Canada. The other week, I met a group of five riders who were on an end-of-University, last-hurrah, cross-country tour. I even got the opportunity to share a meal with them, and ride out with them the following morning. It was an amazing night - and not one that I'll forget! The conversation was exciting, interesting and variety was the spice of it! We exchanged email addresses and friendships on Facebook and I've made a promise to visit every one of them next year - all except one, who will be in California. :( I guess where I'm off to after crossing Canada!

But it isn’t just the Internet… Sometimes it’s just pure inquisitiveness on my part, and willingness to open up, on theirs. Remember those two cyclists that I shared breakfast with? Well, I met them at Jardine Park, a local municipal campground. That same campground in fact, that I met Paul Newman – a fellow Englishman and cyclist who had crossed Canada in the summer of 2012. I simply recognised the English accent and thought – ‘Aha! One of my people – I must go and speak with that fellow!’ We remain friends and in communication today. He’s the one who started my whole interest in riding my bike across Canada. And now, here we are...

It’s quite remarkable, really… How we are all connected, despite the distances between us – whether they be hundreds of miles or thousands of miles. All of us, connected either by the internet, or by pure human inquisitiveness. All for the love of riding a bike from one destination to the next, from one town to the next. From one country to the next. What drives us all? Personally, it’s the people that I meet, the places I'll go and the experiences I'll have.

Please share with me your experiences of meeting people! How has the internet played a role in how you connect with fellow cycle tourists? Leave a comment below, or reach out to me on Facebook, Twitter or G+ - I won't bite, honest!

As always, thanks for reading and happy trails! :)

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/.

Uncommon Commute

By Pico Triano

Sometimes when I think of all the exotic tours I'd like to do on my bike, I risk failing to appreciate what is right nearby. When I lived close enough to my job in the Moncton area, I had a beautiful commute each and every day. I had to open my eyes to see it and appreciate it though.

I left for my work in a Riverview, New Brunswick call centre early in the morning. My ride almost immediately left the back streets where I lived and continued on the Humphrey's Brook Trail. This recreation trail travels along Humphrey's Brook through a small green space that cuts through the northeast end of Moncton. No traffic to battle and usually not even that many pedestrians or other riders. Along the way I would occasionally scare up a group of Ring-necked Pheasants or a flock of Mallards.

Exiting the trail I had a section of real city riding. Along the way I passed several city landmarks. A few old churches, City Hall and the Bell Aliant Tower. Main Street has a number of sidewalk cafes. Not all the unpleasant when traffic was light.

I cut away from Main Street past the courthouse in short order. That's where I would pick up the recreation trail along the Petitcodiac River. This trail passes quite a number of historic markers. On the way to work, I'm usually in too much of a hurry to look closer but I did take the time to see what they were all about when I had more time. Flashing by those sites I sometimes had a chance to race the tidal bore. The Petitcodiac has one of the biggest tidal bores in the world. Everyday that wave would race up river with the tide temporarily reversing the flow. This trail would take me across the river and bring me all the way into Riverview.

In Riverview I had to get on the main road for a short distance and before long I would be at work. In the evening I got to reverse the trip. During the greater part of the year the return trip was done after dark.

There were variations of the trip which were just as scenic. It would depend on my time and whether I had any side errands to run. All in all I have to admit that my daily commute would bring me to enough sights to compare to a day trip tour. Don't ignore what might be right in your own backyard.