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, 30 November 2014

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

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

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

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

In This Issue
(Click on the titles to view)

Our First Year

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pedal on!


Our First Year

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Vertical Mile

By Pico Triano
Photos: Pico Triano

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Book Review - Going Somewhere

By Jack Hawkins http://jackonabike.ca/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spoke Woes

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writing with Pico’s Cycling: A Year On.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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