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.

Monday, 30 March 2015

Pico's Cycling - Tales of the Road April 2015 Vol. 3 No. 4

This is our spring edition of Pico's Cycling - Tales of the Road although it is still winter as I prepare this. I look forward to a new year of cycling and writing. Several articles this month focus on the season.

March was another successful month. Solid readership in spite of continued problems with our Internet connection. We are finding ways around the issue but it would be nice to just have the technicians come and fix it.

Going forward we are planning to introduce articles highlighting certain cycling sites, events and personalities. The ideas are still developing so there is not final form but we know it will add some additional variety to our content. We also hope to make cycling book reviews a more common event in our pages.

In This Issue

Click the links to read or just scroll down.

Springing Into Cycling

Spring is here in the northern hemisphere and it is time to break out your bikes and ride, if you haven't been riding through the winter weather that is. Quick checklist here to make sure your ride is ready for action.

Scenic Rollercoaster

My after college trek continues up the California coast. Beautiful scenic coastline between Big Sur and Carmel-By-The-Sea. The cover photo above is from this part of the tour and ranks as my favourite bike tour photo outside of family pictures.

Bear Country

Cycling in black bear and grizzly country can be a little intimidating but it doesn't have to be. This article provides important information on riding and camping with the big fellas in the neighbourhood.

Why Would I Dope?

With all the doping scandals in the sport, some people seem to think that all cyclists are culprits. As stupid as that sounds, here is my refutation of the notion.

Captain Underwear

I can be very focused and sometimes I can be unaware of how foolish I might look. I look back at this whole episode with amusement. Hopefully my readers will see it in that same light.

That's it for another month here. Jack expects to be back next month. Been a crazy busy winter that wasn't supposed to last this long. Spring is so welcome. Until next month, be happy and safe in your travels.


Springing Into Cycling

By Pico Triano
Photos: Pico Triano

For some of our readers that moment has already arrived. Since we are read internationally, some of our readers never experience this moment. What I'm talking about is the moment that the weather has finally cleared enough to pull out your bike and put your feet to pedals for the first time in many months. That moment hasn't yet arrived as I write this. Our road is still under more than a metre of snow and ice. The temperature rose above freezing yesterday and will again today. I know it's coming and will it ever be welcome.

In New Brunswick where I live, it has been a record breaking winter. We didn't just beat the old record for accumulation on the ground. We destroyed it. The old record was 109 cm and at one point this winter we had 147 cm on the ground. It got cold and stayed cold and let's not even talk about the wind. Even with a fat bike there are places where I could have sunk all the way to my saddle in the snow. Part of me is glad there wasn't the option to ride through this winter.

As a Canadian cyclist, spring is always special for me. That first day I grab my bike and ride any direction. I hop my bike over potholes, curbs and sometimes just for the feeling of it. Bursts of speed mixed with lazy weaving are also things I like to do on that first ride. Might even pop wheelies. The bike and my old bones feel frisky. Even when I rode through the winter there is always that day when it really feels like spring. I don't feel the struggle with the elements. I'm just riding free and having fun.

Here's a few quick tips to make sure your ride is ready for that moment.

  1. Service your brakes. It's great to be able to go but you have to be able to stop.
  2. Make sure your drive train is properly adjusted and lubricated. If, heaven forbid, your ride is stored where the elements can get at it, nothing strips off oil and grease like snow, unless of course it's snow mixed with salt.
  3. Make sure everything else on your bike is tight and properly adjusted.
  4. Check your tires and tubes. Don't just make sure there is enough air in them. Rubber can deteriorate. I've had an old weathered tire split along the bead. Not a lot of fun. A patch kit and basic tools won't save you from walking with that type of tire failure.

If it hasn't arrived yet, don't worry it's coming. Happens every year. When it does, do like I do and enjoy it to the fullest. Then don't be afraid to tell us about it. A toast to a new year of cycling, whatever your favourite beverage.

Scenic Rollercoaster

By Pico Triano
Photos: Pico Triano

The California coastline running from Ragged Point to Carmel-By-The-Sea is exceptionally beautiful. I would have gotten even more pictures but the there was fog to deal with in the morning and later in the day I was dog tired.

If you read last months Finding My Rhythm, you would know I left Ragged Point behind schedule. It didn't turn out to be a big issue. Not that I made good time mind you. It seems I pedalled maybe a third of my riding time that day. The other two thirds were either walking the bike up steep hills (I didn't have a cheater gear for hill climbing on my 12 speed) or screaming down the other side.

Throughout the day I was grateful to be travelling north. The road wasn't too bad but I could picture myself being punted off the edge by one of the frequent RV's travelling the route. RV's do scare me on tour. They're nice enough people but some of them worked their entire life hard so they can enjoy their retirement. While working to save money they drove a sub-compact and now with those driving skills they're driving something the size of a bus. In places, that looked like one rough painful rocky tumble down to the Pacific.

There was a place where it looked like a small creek emptied into the Pacific Ocean. I wrote into a novel manuscript that a young couple followed it upstream on their bikes to a pool and picturesque wilderness campsite. Total fiction. If the book is published, there is no need to go looking for that spot because you won't find it.

My campsite at the end of the day was far less hospitable. If I recall correctly it was off a gravel turn out. I am bless with the ability to sleep on just about any surface when I'm tired. In the morning I may have a few kinks to work out but otherwise I'm okay. Granted I'm ageing and it doesn't work out quite that conveniently any more.

From there I left the scenic coastline and headed into the more heavily populated territory around San Francisco.

This story is a serial. If you wish to read the beginning, you can find it here: http://picoscycling.blogspot.ca/2015/01/it-begins.html

Cycling In Bear Country

By Pico Triano
Photos: Pixabay

I live in black bear country. Spring means the big fella is waking up and he/she is hungry. We've never been troubled by our bear population even though we live so close to them. Every fall they gorge themselves before the big sleep and one of their favourite haunts is an old apple tree half a click further down our undesignated road. We live closer to the bears than other people.

The only kind of bear that hunts humans is the polar bear. They are a separate issue and this article is not giving advice on dealing with them. Most bears are shy of humans and will make every effort to avoid us. Your chances of being attacked by a bear while riding your bike even in bear country is remote.

Wilderness camping or stealth camping while touring may increase your chances of being attacked but doesn't have to. Your camping habits, dare I call them skills, can make a huge difference. Here is my list of basic rules for touring in bear country.

  1. Don't feed the bears. Their primary focus is on finding food. Feed them and they will see you as a food source and will seek food from you. Why anyone would want to feed bears up close and personal in the wild is beyond my comprehension. Just don't say you weren't told.
  2. Don't smell like food. Bears can smell food from a long way off. If you're touring, eat supper on the road before you find a campsite for the night. The wise thing is to eat your supper a good fifteen minutes to half an hour before you're done riding for the day. Store your food and anything that has a strong scent (including toothpaste, soap and deodorant) downwind from your campsite preferably hung up out of reach from bears. Here is a link showing the proper technique: http://www.algonquinpark.on.ca/visit/recreational_activites/black-bear-safety-rules.php It is a good idea to store your not so fresh laundry and garbage there as well.
  3. Make your wilderness toilet downwind from your camp as well. Why you would do this anywhere else is beyond me as well. The smell of human excrement will scare off small animals, but not the big guys at the top of the food chain.
  4. Make noise. My older children go for long wilderness walks. We're a big family and have developed strong voices just to be heard. Loud conversation is often enough to keep bears away. If a bear chances into your camp, you'll probably be left undisturbed but yelling and banging things like pots and pans together will often send the intruder packing.
  5. Carry bear repellent spray. It's like pepper spray on steroids. I say carry the stuff even though you will be unlikely to ever actually use it on a bear. It's wise to be prepared just in case. As a side note, bear spray will work on aggressive dogs and other unwanted visitors.

Riding in wilderness country can be enjoyable. I love the great untamed outdoors. It'd be a shame not to tour just because of a fear of bears. Co-existing with these giants of nature isn't really that difficult.

Why Would I Dope?

By Pico Triano
Photos: Pixabay, Shawn Whitelaw

Doping tied to professional cycling has been run through the press so much in recent years, we're all sick and tired of it. It was an issue long before the Lance Armstrong era, although some seem to think it wasn't. Riders were doping back when Greg Lemond won his first tour and before. The fact that people exist who are willing to cheat predates sport. To be perfectly honest there are probably riders who are still doing it in spite of the heightened stigma. The problem is NOT unique to cycling. Sadly somehow all this has poisoned some people's view of cyclists in general. I ride a bicycle therefore I must somehow have been a doper/cheater. That view is ridiculous.

I love riding my bike because it has always given me a sense of freedom, because I can get where I need to go. It is good for my health and keeps me in exceptional physical condition for my age. I enjoy the time spent with family when I'm riding with my wife and children. It also saves me money on gasoline. Where pray tell does performance enhancing drugs fit into that? Let's look at some potential “benefits”.

I could go faster. My answer to that is, so what? I'm a Clydesdale and a slow rider at that. I've been passed on my bicycle by someone's grandmother. I've accepted this. I don't think doping would make me competitive against any kind of legitimate race competition. It isn't that I have no inclination toward competition. I'm quite proud of the shear mileage I manage and the conditions under which I manage it. I just don't really care who does it better. I just don't have the physical build or talent to be a great bicycle racer. For those that do, in my prime, I likely could have made you look bad on the basketball court.

I could have a more sculpted physique. We'll, I'm not a professional athlete. I don't have time to try and look like one. I still weigh the same as I did in my college basketball playing days and I'm over fifty. I can still do most of the things I enjoy with exception of playing competitive basketball at any level but that is a back issue that no drug is going to fix. In that regard I think I'm doing all right. I doubt I would gain anything on the physical attractiveness scale either. I was born with this face. Besides my brother-in-law is a two time Quebec body building champion. One thing my wife never wanted in a partner - was a body builder. Incidentally I out weigh him by thirty pounds.

I honestly can't think of any other potential benefit for a regular person.

I don't need to cheat to enjoy riding my bicycle. Most people don't. The notion that cyclists as a whole are doper/cheaters is a stupid one. Granted I know I'm preaching to the choir, but just maybe someone will read this and begin to see straight.

Captain Underwear

By Pico Triano
Photos: Pixabay

As a college student back in the eighties, one of the our requirements was to have a number of physical education credits to get our degrees. Our gym uniform consisted of a purple t-shirt, white shorts and white socks (no stripes allowed). The shorts were very high quality and seems to outlast every other pair of shorts I owned.

Toward the end of my college career I progressively travelled more and more by bicycle. Those shorts of course came with. The further I toured the more I tried to travel light. I brought minimal clothes with, which of course always included those shorts.

Washing clothes on tour got done whenever I could find a laundromat. For me it was always the same routine. I washed everything except the underwear I was wearing and my white shorts. Those would get washed separately at the next opportunity. Boxer wearing Americans will immediately see the problem with this. Being a Canadian though, I didn't quite make the same connection. Canadian men and boys embraced coloured underwear long before their American counterparts. I remember going to summer camp in Minnesota. You could separate the Canadians from the Americans based on the colour of their underwear.

The laundry wasn't the only time I stripped down to those shorts. I had no problem washing in public as long as I was wearing my gym shorts, after all I was decent. I did notice people looking at me funny though but just shrugged it off. People stare when you're travelling by bicycle anyway. Being regarded as a bit eccentric stopped bothering me a long time ago. Keep in mind I was attending college and cycling in California not Canada.

Then came the day I had to run from my dorm to the local grocery store. I couldn't find anything but a white t-shirt to wear with my white gym shorts. My only thought was that some one might think I just stepped off the tennis court. When I got there I ran into one of my basketball teammates who loudly greeted me with, “Pico! What are you doing here in your underwear?” In that moment it all became clear to me.

Yes, not only have I been known as the Moncton Maniac for my riding, but you can call me Captain Underwear as well. Maybe I could try riding to the beach in white Speedos. Then I could look like I'm riding in my tighty whities. There's a thought to make you want to claw your eyes out.