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Wednesday, 31 December 2014

My Big Tour Preparation

By Pico Triano
Photos: Pico Triano

This isn't meant to try to tell other riders how to prepare for an epic trek. My intention is just to recount my own experience warts and all. If it inspires my readers in any way, I'm happy.

My inspiration came on a family camping trip in Northern Ontario. I believe we were camping at Pancake Bay Provincial Park on Lake Superior. A young couple fresh out of college also camped there that weekend on their way from California up the coast, across Western and Central Canada to their home in Montreal, Quebec. I was young and rather shy at the time so I don't think I annoyed them too much before everyone moved on. The two of them and what they were doing made quite an impression on me.

I was bitten by the bicycle touring bug and slowing started preparing for an opportunity. Before heading for college in California myself I purchased a couple of important items with my meagre earnings. First I bought a excessively inexpensive red sleeping bag and at the same time small two man pup tents were on sale so I bought one of those as well.

I was a last minute acceptee that semester and I bought my Nishiki Landau touring bike three days before they called me up and three weeks before I left. I'm glad it worked out the way it did because had I known I was going to college I would have saved my money and not had the bike when the opportunity did come up. I had to wait a year for Airwolf to catch up to me because shipping a bike isn't a simple thing for people who have never done it before.

I didn't start training physically until my junior year of college because the pieces needed to make the tour possible didn't seem to be falling into place until then. I started riding my bike everywhere I wanted to go. It was very liberating for a country boy that spent most of his time cooped up on campus. I also cut a deal with my supervisor I worked with on the landscaping department. He let me bank up hours so that I could take a week long tour without losing wages. Finally I did something totally useless and unnecessary. I went daily to the college pool and swum laps thinking that improving my overall stamina would make a big difference on the bike. I don't think it helped at all. I think I would have been better off just riding more.

My first semester my senior year was a bit of a nightmare. I was trying to do too much academically and it was catching up with me. Los Angeles' infamous smog was taking a lot out of this undiagnosed asthmatic and I just didn't have the energy to keep it all going. I finally broke down and dropped my computer programming class (swallowing a failing grade in the process). I went to the registrar and made arrangements to take a class during the summer to give me enough credits to graduate at the end of the summer instead of with my class. An exceptionally tough choice to make but I don't regret it. The slightly lighter load allowed me to bring my grades up. Working on campus for an extra summer would allow me to pay off all my student debts and have some cash left over to attempt my dream tour.

As soon as I thought riding home was possible, I started training in earnest. I set minimum daily and weekly riding goals. I'd learned one lesson and didn't bother going to the pool to swim. I probably learned more about the area surrounding the campus during my last semester than I did in all the rest of the time I was there.

I went on short tours, banking up the necessary hours to minimize any financial impact, to assess my progress. Early in the summer I found my hill climbing to be deficient. After that I went out of my way to ride up every little local mole hill repeatedly. It did help.

Physically I was well prepared for that tour. I was strong when I left and I got even stronger once I'd escaped the smog.

The route and the timing could have been better. I was on too tight of a schedule and too tight of a budget. In retrospect there was a way around those two issues and in solving those problems I would have had the means to deal with my breaking spoke problems.

If I had to do it again, I would have done the trip in two instalments. Instead of cutting across the Nevada desert, I would have rode the first leg straight up the coast to British Columbia. I would have been legally able to work there through the winter. Late the following spring I would have come across Canada. Financially and physically that would have worked.

I will chronicle the trip I did do in coming issues.

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