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, 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.
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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/.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Collateral Damage

By Pico Triano
Photos: Pixabay

I cut through the crisp autumn air on my way to work. Just outside of Lunenburg, Ontario a compact sedan passed me. No big deal, I churn along at a pretty sedate pace. Even in a residential zone I'm unlikely to be challenging the speed limit. The car drifted across the yellow line marking the paved shoulder I was riding on. The driver corrected with a sudden jerk, started to skid and then lost control. The car sliding sideways crossed the centre line and disappeared into the brush growing on the other side of the road. After a dull whumpf there was silence.

A tractor trailer rig approached from the opposite direction. He got to the scene before I did. The car rested on its roof, a big clod of dirt and weeds hanging from one of the front tires. The truck driver knew what he was doing. Good thing to because I didn't. The young woman who was driving was unhurt but getting her out of the car was a challenge. The trucker retrieved a blanket from his truck and we laid it over the broken glass from the car's rear window so we could pull her out that way. Unhurt but more than a little shaken up.

Getting to play “hero” was an interesting enough experience but I could have easily been a casualty of that accident. What if she lost control before she passed me? There was no apparent reason for the accident at all. The pavement was quite new. It was dry and there was very little traffic. A bit scary when you think of all the people who break the law by using their cell phone while driving. Not sure whether she was distracted or not.

In another incident a friend of mine was riding on Dixie Road near Toronto, Ontario. We were cycling buddies but I had warned him that if he valued his life he would stay off Dixie. I rode it once and had several close calls before I arrived at my destination. Enough for me. I'll ride a little extra and take a lesser road.

Two cars collided with each other. After bouncing off each other, one of the cars hit him. His bike was good for the scrap pile and he was badly scraped and bruised. He was lucky, it could have been a lot worse. Incidentally he listened to me more after that.

When I ride, especially when there is a lot of traffic around, I try to be hyper alert. It is important to know what is going on around you. I recommend getting a mirror so you can see what is going on behind you. My preference for a mirror is one that attaches to your helmet or eye wear. It might be a challenge to focus on it but with time I got used to it. It's also incognito enough that motorists don't assume that you are watching their every move (and will get out of their way).

Accidents do happen, it pays to do everything you can to make sure you aren't a part of it even as collateral damage. Stay alert and choose your routes carefully.

The Mill in Spain

By Bernard Genge
Photos: Bernard Genge

The Mill in Spain – a retreat for runners, cyclists, triathletes & outdoor enthusiasts. Situated at the foot of the Sierra de los Filabres mountain range it is accommodation for groups who want adventure. With the mill oozing character, in a secluded spot with spectacular scenery all around, securing your own adventure is a must, whether you seek that yourself or use our local English guide to help you.

The mill has 5 bedrooms (we have additional accommodation nearby) with twin beds (doubles can be supplied on request), an inside and outside lounge area, dining area, sun terraces and away from the noise, hustle and bustle of regular life! Come to us if you are looking for accommodation in a relaxed atmosphere with countryside waiting to be explored on foot, bike or vehicle, but not if you are looking for the crowded costa resorts. 

We have mountain bikes on site. Personal friends nearby have additional apartment accommodation and their own swimming pool and Jacuzzi so after a day of exertion and fun you could relax by their pool or go back to the Mill for one of the outside ‘chill out’ areas!

You could either book the accommodation for your own exclusive use, or you can let us know the sort of things you’d like to do and we can sort it out for you.

We all want good stories to tell the grandchildren, but we need to make them happen. We want to help you create your own ‘edge of the seat’ story by providing you with exclusive accommodation to your group, self-contained or with meals provided at a very, very affordable price. The best experiences in life don’t need to cost a lot of hard earned cash, we don’t spend money advertising, our intention is to give you such an experience you tell all your friends! You’ll be greeted by friendly ‘real’ people who are focused on your experience and you’ll be in a part of Spain with never ending mountain ranges to explore by foot, bike or motor vehicle, a huge lake nearby, the Sierra Nevada and Europe’s only desert (at the moment!!) within a couple of hours by vehicle.

Many idyllic Spanish villages are within striking distance so you can experience traditional Spanish culture and relaxed pace of life. Our website will be launched soon, but in the meantime, if you ‘like’ our facebook page we will keep you informed of progress: https://www.facebook.com/.../The.../743249422393747... 

Any feedback, comments or suggestions would be most welcome. Thanks Bernie Genge

Share the Road

By Pico Triano
Photos: Pixabay

I know this article is going to be a case of preaching to the choir but a sight I've seen here in New Brunswick has set me off. I appreciate government efforts to promote bicycle safety and make motorists and bicycles more aware of each other. Unfortunately there are misguided motorist souls who aren't quite getting it and they are making decisions for everyone.

What I'm starting to see is signs showing the standard “share the road” message with a silhouette of a car and a cyclist only there is something additional added. The gap between the two is labelled three feet. Are they freaking insane? Any rational person should cringe at signs like that. I've had idiots blow by me between three and four feet away. Somebody with a heart condition would die on the spot.

My response to people who think these signs are rational is this. Bicycles are legitimate transportation. Most laws regard us a vehicles. We have the right to the lane and you are not allowed to pass until it is safe to do so. It isn't talking just about your safety. The cyclist's safety is just as important.

I've heard this little tidbit from several people who think cycling is a dangerous recreational sport, cyclists are allowed 18 inches of the edge of the pavement. Where on earth did they come up with this number? I'm 21 inches wide at the shoulders and I'm not a very beefy man. The attitude though is the same as the people who make the signs that allow a three feet gap between cyclists and motorists.

Now don't get me wrong. I don't want any part of a motorist/cyclist war. I think we should all be making life as pleasant as possible for each other on our roadways. As a cyclist, I try to be visible, although at 196 cm tall, I think the only way you can not see me is by not paying attention. I squeeze to the right and give as much room as possible for motorists to pass. I obey traffic signage.

All I'm asking of motorists is to think of the safety of cyclists.

I've been on the wrong end of a lot of unprovoked dangerous behaviour by motorists. I've had things thrown at me. I've had someone lay on the horn to deliberately scare my twin boys at five years old to crash. I've slid on my face through an intersection because someone cut me off. I've also t-boned someone who pulled out in front of me from a driveway. That's just the tip of the iceberg. None of those things should have ever happened.

I'll balance that though. I've also been the recipient of some genuine acts of courtesy that I appreciated. There was a broken fire hydrant in Riverview, New Brunswick on my route home from work. Six inches of water at least covered the road for about the length of a city block. A car passed through ahead of me and sent a curtain of water at least six feet high over the sidewalk. I am grateful to the guy riding that huge black 4X4 pickup, who blocked rush hour traffic so I could get through without getting wet.

I don't like cycling scofflaws either. Let's understand that we are all trying to go about our business safely. Driving safely is everyone's responsibility.