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.

Monday, 30 March 2015

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.

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 preferable 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 my degree. 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.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

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

Another month has arrived. Once again we set a new record for readership last month. I'm hoping that I get tired of making the same announcement each month before it stops happening. Over 1500 readers in February and that in spite of continued Internet issues here caused by the weather. We've been hit by what has to be some kind of record for blizzards this month. Internet has been up and down for the past several weeks. March is in the system so I should be able to be published on time. Once this page is complete, we'll be published for another month.

Iohan's ride starting in the Northwest Territories absolutely destroyed our previous record for page views for a single article. Hopefully we'll be able to present more of his adventures in future articles. Time to get on to the new issue.

In This Issue

(Please click the links or just scroll down)

Finding My Rhythm

If you enjoyed reading "It Begins" last month, this is the continuation of that story. It covers my own personal experience from that first rough twenty-four hours on the road up until I'm riding in unfamiliar territory.

Meals On Wheels

When you tour self-contained you are literally living on your bike. Part of planning a tour means planning on food. How are you going to get it? How you going to prepare and  eat it. This is a general discussion on available portable stove options.

Family Versus the Dog Kind

Not all dogs are a cyclist's best friend. Because some can be dangerous, it's important to take appropriate precautions. This is just a recounting of some of our experiences riding as a family and dealing with someone else's not so friendly canine companion.

Break Days

Not everyone who tours self-contained loves the day in day out grind of making massive daily mileage. Planned break days from cycling to rest or do other activities while on tour can make the whole experience more enjoyable for everyone.

The Financial Side of Things

On tour it usually takes some money to make your wheels go round. Jack Hawkins takes a quick look at how he is preparing for his coming tour financially.

That's it for another month. Hope you all enjoy the articles we have to offer. Keep in mind Pico's Cycling is always on the look out for stories. If you have a tale to tell, we're more than happy to have a look and if it works for us publish it in one of our up coming issues.

Next month we're looking forward to forgetting winter for awhile. Looking forward to having everyone on their bikes again.

Until then bike safe.


Finding My Rhythm

By Pico Triano
Photos: Pico Triano

This is a continuation of the story I began last month called It Begins. Bit by bit I will cover my entire two thousand mile journey.

After that minor disaster on the first day of the trip, I settled in pretty quickly. Riding in familiar territory, beautiful weather, comfortable seat pad, this was the way it was supposed to be. I caught glimpses of the Pacific Ocean on my left. I could have followed the coast but that would have meant taking convoluted winding roads and sacrificing a lot of forward progress. On my right the Santa Ynez mountains rose high in the sky.

Just past Santa Barbara a credit card cyclist caught up with me. I don't remember how far north he was planning to ride. He might have been headed all the way to British Columbia but I honestly don't remember and my cycling diary didn't record that tidbit. We rode together chatting for a few miles before he decided to make tracks. His mileage goals were a great deal more ambitious than mine. With my touring load, I would only slow him down. The road can be a lonely place and it was nice to interact with another human being.

The Gaviota Pass held my first real obstacle. I knew it was coming but I still hate cycling through tunnels on major roads unless they have a pedestrian way. This tunnel of course did not. It isn't a long tunnel and there is a wide shoulder but still potentially dangerous. When vehicles enter tunnels the sudden change in lighting makes seeing difficult for at least a few moments. There have been horrible crashes inside them. I waited at the entrance until there wasn't any traffic in sight, then I made a break for it. Pedalling like a madman, I was almost out the other side before another vehicle passed me. Phew!

Right after the pass, I decided to trust my map and deviated from my route of the previous summer. If it had gone well, I would have saved a considerable amount of time. I wasn't so lucky. I remember standing at the top of an overpass looking across a field of corn to the road I had hoped to end up on. I had to backtrack and then cut back to my old route. I was not a happy camper and had a few choice words for the map publisher.

My next series of stealth campsites were not very memorable. I made steady progress up the scenic California coast. Just before Pismo Beach I entered virgin cycling territory for me. Around Morro Bay I made a call to my family back in Ontario to let them know I was still alive. This was in the days before cell phones became practical for cyclists so I was dependent on pay phones.

I continued north. I made lousy progress the morning I pulled into Ragged Point for a quick lunch. From the other direction a female self-contained cyclist pulled in from the opposite direction. There was no resort back then, just a burger stand. I went straight to the counter and ordered a grilled cheese sandwich (I was on a pretty draconian budget). She wandered around the picnic area stretching her legs. I don't think either one of us had any intention of screwing up our schedules and starting a conversation. That got wrecked by the arrival of a tour bus full of senior citizens. They cornered her first and grilled her about her sport. I tried to sneak past unnoticed but did not succeeded. We fielded questions for a time. When the seniors left we weren't done talking.

First thing she asks me about was my gel seat pad, which at the time was a fairly new innovation. Asked me if it was one of those pads that prevented penile numbness. Here I was straight out of college with a Bachelor of Arts with a major in theology. I kept my cool. I think my sunburn helped mask any embarrassment. She was seriously cute too. Long sandy blonde hair and blue-grey eyes if I recall correctly. I towered over her but we couldn't shut up for quite awhile. The road can be a lonely place and I had to fight the urge to follow her like a puppy. We didn't exchange contact information. Never even knew her name. Based the opening scene of one of my unpublished novels on that encounter. We both continued on solo in opposite directions way behind schedule.