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Into the Mountains

June 10th, 2013 | Posted by Dino in Canada | Uncategorized - (3 Comments)

Day 9: Enderby to Revelstoke (112 km)

Thunderstorms and cycling do not mix. The rain began to patter down on my tent as I stirred for breakfast. My mood was a gloomy as the low cloud when I checked the weather forecast to find thunder storms predicted for the 112km of cycling that way ahead.

Today I was cycling with the two Wanderers. These two had always turned up at the campground many hours later than I had on previous parts of the trip. But this was most certainly not because they cycled slower. They flew out the Enderby campground at a stonking pace (24km per hour!) and didn’t stop until 40km later.

Feeling slightly the worse for wear after yesterday’s revelries, when we stopped I collapsed on a coffee and cookies. We didn’t move from the comfy cookie-eating coffee-drinking position for over an hour.

With extra caffeine in me, I led the mini-peloton for the next 25km. It’s here that I joined the Trans-Canada highway for the first time on my trip. I smiled, knowing I would be following this road for more of less a month.

Then the heavens opened. The rain quickly soaked my windproof jacket and I could feel the water seeping slowly down the collar and into my socks. The wanderers both had waterproof covers for their shoes. With the threat of more rain in the next few days I vowed to buy the nicest, most waterproof pair I come across.

And yet it was glorious. For by now we were cycling into the mountains. Gone are the dusty, ochre-hued rocks of the Okanagan. Here the looming clouds cast shifting lines of darker green on the billowing, ascending pine forests. The mountains disappeared into puffs of white cloud. We cycled through noise and solitude. First the howling rumble of articulated trucks, zooming motorbikes, the earth-shaking rumble of a passing freight train and the lively, gushing creeks. Then the ceasing traffic noise would amplify the quiet sounds of cycling in the forest: the water trickling through the rocks, the wind in your ears, the slick watery hiss of your tyres on wet tarmac and one bodyless bird reciting melodies from above the forest.

Wandering into the Rockies

Wandering into the Rockies

The thunderstorm never materalised. Nor any hard climbs. With less than 2 miles to go Sofi Wanderer had a flat tyre easily fixed at the road side. But as we finally freewheeled our way to the campground the sky cleared and the snowy peaks of the Rockies were illuminated by the glowing evening sun.

Tomorrow it begins: the ascent of Rogers Pass and my route through the Rocky Mountains.

How to be Canadian

June 10th, 2013 | Posted by Dino in Canada | Uncategorized - (1 Comments)

Day 8: Kelowna to Enderby (87.5 km)

“Country club!?” I exclaimed, swivelling round from the front seat, “I thought we were going to a pub.”

It’s 10pm the night before an 88km ride. Usually by this time I would have followed the setting sun to bed and be deeply dreaming about Monty and mountains. No so in Kelowna.

Courtney and Danica had arranged to cycle with me to Kelowna but first they, and their gathered friends, had to teach me the important Canadian lesson of how to two-step. So here I found myself in a club with more cowboy hats than a Clint Eastwood movie. I was scared of the dancing. But even more scared when, during a quick break from spinning round the dance floor, Danica told me that they furthest she’d ever cycled was only 45km.

My worries were allayed the following morning when we set off in the sunshine, joined for the first 20km by Courtney’s dad.

A small peloton

A small peloton

The kilometres slipped by easily and the girls had to wait for me and Monty at the top of the climbs. They had cunningly arranged to have a Support Van (sorry, “truck”) follow us to the campsite later, laden with beer, firewood and a BBQ – all the ingredients for a good night’s camping.

But we could start the campfire we needed to chop the wood! And so commenced my second lesson in being Canadian…

Aim. Chop. Fling. Chop. Sorted.

Aim. Chop. Fling. Chop. Sorted.

The evening was spent gathered around the campfire toasting (and burning) marshmallows. I charged the gathered Canadians to compete for the accolade of “best British accent” (the prize was a toasted marshmallows) and amused them by rattling off a Raffi song in my newly acquired Canadian.

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What a wonderful day. It’s not fair to make sweeping generalisations about an entire people yet all the Canadians I have met so far have been awesome, kind and magnanimous people.

Thank you to Courtney, Danica, Amanda and Kate for teaching me how to be Canadian.

Happiness is bicycle shaped

June 7th, 2013 | Posted by Dino in Canada | Uncategorized - (1 Comments)

Day 7: Penticton to Kelowna

I have a tshirt that says “happiness is bicycle shaped”. Today more than any other day of the ride this rang true.

Today I cycled 73km along the rugged western shore of Lake Okanagan. The Okanagan area really reminds me of the south of France. I cycled under a hot egg-blue sky, the lake to my right, dusty rocky hills on the left.

The Okanagan region is known for its wineries (it’s where Canadian ice wine comes from). With only 70km to do all day I was able to cycle at a leisurely holiday pace. After 20km I mounted a steep hill and treated myself to a gargantuan icecream. Nom.

Scoop 1: maple walnut. Scoop 2: black cherry.

Scoop 1: maple walnut. Scoop 2: black cherry.


20km later I didn’t think twice about zooming down a short hill to check one of the wineries. Having cycled in the heat for a couple of hours the refined sips of wine disappeared in thirsty gulps.

“Hmm… Yes you can really taste the notes of pear and citrus,” I commented while downing the glass in one. Trying to come across sophisticated while wearing Lycra and bike clothes is not an easy task.

All the wines were delicious (aren’t all wines delicious after cycling in the sun?) so I bought a bottle for the family who are hosting me in Kelowna.

I heard on the grapevine that the Okanagan region produces some fine wine. Groan.

I heard on the grapevine that the Okanagan region produces some fine wine. Groan.

I zoomed on merrily. I could mention the awful near-crash experience involving a steep descent, a busy highway and a hole in the ground. But the moment doesn’t a) fit into the holiday theme of the day and b) is liable to scare my mother and c) isn’t fun to dwell on. Suffice to say that a) Monty is a very trusty steed, b) braking on hills is occasionally wise, and c) highway authorities should not put drain holes at the bottom of steep hills on narrow hard shoulders where there is nowhere to swerve to except heavy traffic (!)

Arriving into Kelowna was not the most fun as first I had to tackle The Bridge. As you may know, I am not a big fan of bridges on bicycles. I sang the entire M&M song up to verse 10 before I safely reached the other side. Just as well as the M&M song does not have an 11th verse.*

*Gulp.

*Gulp.

In Kelowna I was met by Courtney who recognised me and Monty as the only lost-looking English girl on laden mule of a bicycle combo in the riverside park. Courtney and her friend Danica and I had arranged to meet up as next year the two friends are planning to cycle across Canada. The 3 of us will be cycling together to Armstrong on Saturday – followed by a van of food (!)

After catching up over a cold glass of water, Courtney and I headed down to the bike shop. She has recently got a shiny new Surly disc trucker in preparation for her Canada trip which she needed to pick up for its first service. I wheeled Monty along as I have recently been developing paranoia that Monty’s brakes are wearing down and that the tyres are about to perish.

My brake paranoia is perhaps justified as the brakes have had to cope with lengthy hairpin snaking descents in France and a nerve-shattering 25% descent into Lynmouth last summer.

“You have about 10% wear on those brakes,” the bike mechanic commented.
My jaw clunked like an unoiled gear change as it fell to the floor.
“Disc brakes last a lot longer,” he added as way of explanation.

The mechanic, a smiling cool-looking guy in a yellow tshirt chomping through a protein bar, cooed and ahhed over Monty. “That is your classic, round-the-world German style unbreaking touring bike.”

“It’s a Roberts.” I explained, not thinking they would have heard about Roberts. But they had. Another guy came over to inspect Monty. I got the impression that, despite the guys’ too-cool-for-school nonchalance, Monty’s arrival in this small Kelowna bike shop was an equivalent spectacle to a Wandering Albatross swooping over Bedfordshire.

Turns out that not only are Monty’s brakes totally fine but so too is his tyre beading. “I know a guy,” the mechanic explained, “who cycled across Canada and back on Schwalbe marathon tyres. He didn’t even get one flat. You have Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres.” My paranoia abated. Monty smiled coyly, flattered by the attention and admiration.

I am so happy the way my trip is taking shape. Possibly I am the happiest that I have ever been in my life. And so is Monty because he is doing what he was built to do.

It’s true what the tshirt says: happiness is bicycle shaped.

*The M&M song
The M&M song was co-written by my mother and Me last summer while cycle-camping the Kennet & Avon sustrans route. Sung to the theme of the Noah’s ark song “the animals came in two by two” it goes something like this:

The M&Ms came in two by two
Hurrah! Hurrah!
The M&Ms came in two by two
Hurrah! Hurrah!
The M&Ms came in two by two
The brown, the red, the green and the blue
And they all went into my mouth in order to keep me going

The M&Ms came in three by three
Hurrah! Hurrah!
The M&Ms came in three by three
Hurrah! Hurrah!
The M&Ms came in three by three
Two for you and a-one for me
And they all went into my mouth in order to keep me going

The M&Ms came in four by four
Hurrah! Hurrah!
The M&Ms came in four by four
Hurrah! Hurrah!
The M&Ms came in four by four
I ate them all and I wanted more
And they all went into my mouth in order to keep me going

Etc.

Crossing cycle paths

June 6th, 2013 | Posted by Dino in Canada | Uncategorized - (2 Comments)

Day 6: Princeton to Penticton (105 km)

Crossing bike pathsYou would have thought that there aren’t all that many folks cycling across Canada right?

Back in Victoria John and Kumiko (who cycled across Canada in 2007) told me that one day in Ontario they stopped for breakfast with not one, not two but a gathering of eight trans-Canada cyclists. It seems pretty incredulous that so many cyclists would congregate at the very same spot at the very same time. Not so.

Today my cycle path crossed with another 7 cyclists all headed for the East coast.

Firstly, Nic, the guy from Quebec who I have cycled with since Mission, is headed to Nova Scotia. We parted ways this morning as he is following highway 3 to the crows nest pass whereas I am headed for the northern route towards Lake Louise, Banff and other tourist traps.

I stopped outside a snack shop with 2 cyclists outside. Stan and Shirley had stopped to get the best beef jerky for miles around inside the store. They are both headed for the east coast. Amusing they describe their trip as “one woman’s dream, one man’s nightmare!” But on a sunny day with only rolling hills and beef jerky en route I doubt it was too hellish for Stan. They too are taking the southern route via highway 3.

At lunchtime I was happily munching through my fourth Ryvita and Gouda slice when Chase and Erica pulled up. Their trip is slightly different because they are cycling for a month, then have to return home to work for a month, but will they fly out to where they left to carry on their ride. If they don’t finish it in 2 months then they’ll complete their cycle ride next year. I love their dedication.

I also narrowly missed (by 10 minutes apparently) the 2 “wanderers on wheels”. The wanderers also have a very amusing blog which I greatly enjoy reading; certainly they make me feel like less of a nutter for making this trip. I did actually met these girls briefly at Manning Park. In fact, I met all the above guys at Manning park!

If you think about it… There are only so many months in the summer when Canada is fun to cycle through. And you need most if not all of them to cycle coast to coast at an enjoyable pace. I hope to bump into these guys again, and meet any other folks who are also making the trip.

Anyway, aside from meeting loads of friendly cyclists, today I cycled 105km with swoopy hills. One hill was so swoopy it swooped for about 10k (or so it felt) and I hit a max speed of 57.7km/h (that’s v fast for a fully loaded tourer like Monty)

My favourite moment of the day though was seeing a signpost that read: Similkameen Taxidermy. Emergency and out of hours call: 350-123-000

I will leave that for you to ponder.

Food glorious food

June 5th, 2013 | Posted by Dino in Canada | Uncategorized - (1 Comments)

Day 5: Manning park to Princeton

Today I mostly whizzed downhill. There was one big uphill. lots of beautiful scenery etc…

But I’m guessing from the last 2 days of blogging that you’ve got the picture. So today instead of cycling you have a photo blog of “everything the hungry cyclis ate today.”

I calculated I will need to eat 4,500 calories on average per day while cycling. Here is what I managed today…

Breakfast: 1x fresh orange, some black coffee and peanut butter on a roll/one slice of ryvita
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Snacks on the bike: 1 x banana, a few dried apricots, a handful of jellybeans
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Lunch: avocado on 4 x slices of ryvita (which does taste like cardboard but does also travel well), 1x fresh tomato, 1x apple
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Lunch dessert: a scoopful (or 4) of chocolate trail mix. Next best thing to peanut m&ms. Nom nom nom.
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Post-bike refuel snack: blueberry muffin. Swallowed whole. Good for repairing muscles etc etc.
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Dinner: noodles (with donated remnant of spring onion added) and 1 x local craft beer
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Dessert: fresh strawberries
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Plus loads of water cuz it was a hot day.

Whatcha reckon? Pretty tasty stuff, eh?

The ascent of Allison Pass

June 5th, 2013 | Posted by Dino in Canada | Uncategorized - (1 Comments)

Day 4: Hope to Manning Park

“When I imagined cycling across Canada I imagined it would be like this,” Nic remarked as we enjoyed the hardest cycling of the trip.

Sunshine, a cool westerly breeze, jelly beans, forest, steep ascending, mountains and even a bear – all these things made for a memorable day’s cycling.

Today we tackled Allison Pass. A hefty climb from 56m to over 1,300m above sea level. I’d read online that it was the toughest day of cycling across Canada. Monty and I were mentally prepped and focused on the ride ahead, but we also knew that we could do it. It’s ‘only’ as high as Mont Aigoual which we cycled up last year with Ruth (a reasonably horredous ride as it was so windy we thought we might be blown off the top of the mountain!)

In comparison to Mont Aigoual, Allison pass was a complete joy and pleasure. Yes it was steep, very steep in fact (for reference many stretches were much, much steeper than Nuffield hill or the hill up to the Lodge) but my legs felt strong.

Today was a day of firsts. First time I cycled past a bear, first time I cycled up a Canadian mountain pass, first time I cycled past patches of snow wearing just a tshirt and shorts (the exertion was enough to keep me warm.)

I should explain that I didn’t actually see the bear although it was only the other side of the road. How did I miss it? A car had managed to drive off the road so it was hanging precariously on the edge of the steep gravel slope that descended many feet into the Skagit river. It didn’t look like a great place to be. The driver was hanging out the window, as if trying to balance the car so it wouldn’t roll down the slope into the cold gusting river.

“I feel like a complete dumb ass right now,” he remarked, appreciating the stupidity if not the danger of dangling over a steep drop.

A couple of other cars had pulled up around, seemingly to help with a rescue although there was a distinct lack of a tow rope.

Oh well. We can’t tow up a car on bicycles. So we merrily cycled past. Now on the other side of the road from all this is a young black bear. It’s sort of like one of those physiology studies in distraction. Nic and I only found out about the bear when Rob caught up with us and told us about it (he even had time to take some photos).

I’m slightly disappointed that I missed my first bear. Yet also very pleased as it wouldn’t have done my nerves much good.

As you can see... Sunshine, forest, mountain and lots of pedalling uphill...

As you can see… Sunshine, forest, mountain and lots of pedalling uphill…

That's higher than snowdon

That’s higher than snowdon

Sunshine, a cool westerly breeze, jelly beans, forest, mountains and even a bear.

Today was exactly like cycling across Canada should be: awesome.

Anywhere to Hope

June 2nd, 2013 | Posted by Dino in Canada | Uncategorized - (1 Comments)

Day 3: Mission to Hope (90.5km)

If you could be anywhere in the world right now where would you be?

It’s easy to have moments when that ‘anywhere’ is somewhere else – eg home, warm, dry, not in an office on a sunny day etc. But there are also those moments, as rare and unacknowledged as a sundog in the heavens above, when that ‘anywhere in the world’ you dream of is right where you are standing.

Yesterday I couldn’t wish to be anywhere else in the world except riding with Monty between Mission and Hope.

Cycling yesterday was one of the best days riding I’ve had all year. I set off from the campsite with Nicolas, a cyclist from Quebec who is headed to Nova Scotia. We whizzed along highway 3. I felt like there was an invisible rope pulling me along – the joy of drafting behind Nic was so great. But then when I overtook we were still going a nippy 20km per hour.

For the entire day (all 90km) we cycled along the same road. No turnings, no navigating just a fat hard shoulder of smooth tarmac. The scenery heading East became gradually more mountainous. In the foreground lay fields of fruit trees, ripening in the cool breeze. To our right a rumbling freight train laden with lumber shook past. A golden eagle called out in a shrieking cry and swooped overhead. Swallows dipped and dived. The Fraser river reflected the shimmering blue of the snowy mountain peaks. And on we cycled.

“Shout if a vehicle comes and I’ll get out the middle of the road”

“Shout if a vehicle comes and I’ll get out the middle of the road”

We encountered a few short climbs but mostly it felt like we cycled downhill all day. The kilometres fell past us like dominoes knocked to the floor. On we cycled.

We pulled up for lunch outside a gas station. No sooner had we pulled out our food but a soft rain fell so we sat underneath the picnic table to keep dry. (It was a picnic table built for giants so plenty of room). Even rain couldn’t damp my spirits on day like this.

Nearing 90km we descended into the small town of Hope, that is nestled like a tiny egg in a box of snow capped mountains. On Monday I will be cycling up over the infamous Allison Pass. But for now I will rest in Hope. Hopeful that cycling across Canada will continue to be that ‘anywhere’ in the world that I really want to be right now.

Mission to Mission

June 2nd, 2013 | Posted by Dino in Canada | Uncategorized - (2 Comments)

Day 2: Mission to Mission

Mission is an apt destination for the day’s ride.

Imagine me pedalling along in the sunshine. It’s 3.30pm and I’m whizzing along merrily, dreaming of the hot chocolate (thank you Ruth) and marshmallows that I’ll cook up at the campsite. Yep, it just 10km to the campsite and then I reach…

The Bridge That Goes Nowhere.

I had heard that two years ago there was a ferry. But the ferry stopped and they built a bridge. Or, I should say, started building a bridge. The barriers, rubble and closed road signs suggested that it wasn’t finished. A guy in a van drinking coffee in a lay by confirmed it. I need a wee, I want a snack, I am not impressed.

Hmmf.

Ordinarily I would at this point do one of the following: whinge, moan, phone for a lift or jump in to swim across (depending on my mood). Monty didn’t want to swin. Daddy Rock taxis don’t pick up from this area. And nobody was around to listen to me whinge or moan. So there was nothing for it but make a 39km detour.

Cycling West on day 1 is not great for morale but luckily Monty and my legs were feeling fab. We whizzed off. Then we came to a proper bridge.

Now, imagine the M1 goes up some tiddly suspension bridge high into the sky over a gaping river. I should point out I am scared of heights. But this is it, this is the only way across I tell myself. I grit my teeth I pedal up the steepening ramp…

And then I notice the bike path. I turn promptly around and cycle the wrong way down the M1. Hop onto a bike path and then puff up some sort of bicycle helper skelter until I am again in the sky. Oh… Eek!

I try not to look down to the pinprick people on the ground. I am cycling in the sky. I hold my breath. I enter a meditative state of focus by reciting all the local stopping stations between London Paddington and Hereford. I am still cycling in the sky. I recite all the stations from Bournemouth to Newcastle. Eek. I am still in the sky. I wish I had committed more train lines to memory for occasions such as this. I start reciting the infinite series hoping that I will reach the other side of the river before I run out of numbers. I reach 16,384 and – phew – I’m across.

It is now getting to be late in the day so I cycle as fast as I can. Thankfully there aren’t any more bridges to contend with. I skid into the campsite at Mission just before 6pm.

I pitch my tent and celebrate the end of the day with a hot chocolate and marshmallows. Mission Complete.

Mile 0

May 31st, 2013 | Posted by Dino in Canada | Uncategorized - (1 Comments)

Yesterday I wanted to crawl up into a small ball and cry. I hope that is how the Great Adventurers of the World all feel when they are about to embark on the adventure on a lifetime. Anxious dread seeped through me like I’d been dunked into a bottomless ocean.

What on earth am I doing? I packed up my panniers, trying to pretend i was only going as far as Victoria and was not about to set off 7,500km across a continent.

I spent my first 3 nights with a lovely couple of outdoor enthusiasts, John and Margaret, who were invaluably helpful to me. Together they helped me fix Monty, sort out a few things, allowed me to recover from the awful jetlag and still have time to see something of Vancouver (even though it rained!) They were such kind and wonderful hosts, encouraging me with stories of their own adventures of hiking and cycling. And yet the dread set in….

John kindly drove me to the ferry port. It was raining. Cycling didn’t seem a particularly inviting prospect.

Off the ferry at Vancouver island I cycled the 16km uphill to meet another adventurous couple, John and Kumiko. In 2007 they cycled across Canada. More amazingly they cycled from their home to Halifax in only 79 days, taking only 4 rest days. They did it aged 67. I was keen to hear of all their adventures and tales from road but first I had some cycling to do. John bundled me and Monty into his van and we headed down to Mile 0.

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This is it. After 8 years of dreaming, 3 years of saving, 5 months of planning – here I am at Mile 0. Monty and I went down to the pebbly beach to dip Monty’s rear wheel in the ocean. John (of Vancouver) had advised me not to dip too much – salt water and bicycles don’t mix.

Monty's next dip will be in the Atlantic

Monty’s next dip will be in the Atlantic

And then we (we = Monty and I) were off. It was a pleasant 30km from Mile 0 back to John and Kumiko’s house almost entirely along dedicated traffic free bike route. Yes it was raining, but I was now in high spirits.

I’m here, I’m cycling across Canada.

Monty’s big bash

May 29th, 2013 | Posted by Dino in Canada | Uncategorized - (3 Comments)

Bikes have wheels not wings – they are not designed to fly.

So young Monty was feeling quite nervous about the prospect of being wrapped in foam and packed into a polythene bag for a 10 hour flight. We were both nervous about the flight given the horror stories of baggage and flying and the danger that I might fly to Vancouver while he jets off to Toronto or Dubai…

I was greatly relieved then to see his shiny wheels appear on the oversized baggage pick up in Vancouver airport. Phew. However, my relief however didn’t last too long.

Two friendly Canadian cyclists, John and Margaret, came to bike me up at the airport. Despite having never met, John was easy to spot because he was the only man at the airport wearing cleats. John and Margaret helped me unwrap Monty, slicing off the cable ties and padding, pumping the tyres and reattaching his wheels.

“Er… That doesn’t sound right,” John remarked, turning the rear wheel. The mudguard was rubbing in the tyre and it took a moment to notice the damage. The rear rack was bent out of shape and parts that were once welded together were now broken apart. Poor Monty looked like this:

Must have been a hefty big bash to bend solid metal like this

Must have been a hefty big bash to bend solid metal like this

Ouch. So lucky this bash didn't damage Monty's frame or wheels

Ouch. So lucky this bash didn’t damage Monty’s frame or wheels

We set about fixing Monty sufficiently for the cycle home. A couple of adjustments and cable ties held the mudguard away from the wheel so it didn’t rub. It worked for the 13.2 cycle ride home in the rain but it wasn’t going to last me for the 7,500km…

The first time Monty got scratched I freaked out. He was scratched, incidentally, by travelling by train. (There’s a pattern emerging here..) but this time although the damage was much worse I was calm and already thinking of the solution.

The solution appeared after lunch. John and I rode to the local bike shop and explained the “emergency”. The guys in the bike shop were thankfully not too busy and able to attend to Monty right away.

The rack was beyond repair (or at least beyond repair given it has 25kg to carry for 3 months!) so a new rack was in order. “Wow, that’s a high end rack,” one of the mechanics commented while hunting around for a suitable replacement. Thankfully they had one Tubus rack in stock.

About an hour of fixing later (which included bending the mudguard back into shape) and I parted with $150 before wheeling Monty out. Yep, it wasn’t cheap and indeed Monty’s mudguard is now partially affixed by cable ties which looks a bit naff.

But it’s sorted. And so I have learnt a few lessons:
a) contingency money was a wise idea (although a shame I needed to break into it on day one!)
b) cable ties solve all sorts of bike problems
c) bikes aren’t meant to fly

Monty’s big bash has made me realise how much I will need to be careful about looking after him on the road. But now he’s fixed he’s really for a more metaphorically kind of big bash- namely the adventure of a lifetime!