Dino's blog for mini adventures and endurance challenges

Bike insurance v Canadian wildlife

February 19th, 2013 | Posted by Dino in Canada - (0 Comments)

My bike is an object of much beauty and affection. My bike is called Monty. I would be very sad if Monty got stolen. In fact, not only would I be sad, but were he to get stolen when I was midway across the Canadian wilderness miles from anywhere then I would, in fact, be snookered.

The sensible part of me wants to get bike insurance because it seems like the Right Thing to Do. However, on reflection (and given the appetites of Canadian wildlife), it seems to be Wrong Thing to Do. Here’s why…

There’s only one company that I can find that will insure my bike oversees for 100 days. I phone them. I explain my trip. The lady asks where I will be staying. “Mostly wild camping or just plain old camping,” I explain.

“To secure your bike while you are camping,” the woman states, “you must take your bike inside your tent and lock the bike, using a Gold rated secure D-lock, to the actual frame of the tent.”

Hang on…

Had I known that I’d need to share my tent with my bike then I’d have purchased a larger tent. I didn’t. I purchased (or indeed was kindly gifted by Santa) a very small handmade Swedish tent. For one. So I’m not sure we’d fit very comfortably together without Monty elbowing me in the ribs and hogging the duvet.

But let’s imagine that someone wants to steal my bike. Do they bring bolt cutters and slice in two my Gold rated secure D-lock? No. They snap my ultralight tent pole like a twigglet in a hungry jaw. Thus leaving me with no bike, and the flapping remains of a broken handmade Swedish tent: a happy cycle-camping tour maketh not.

Hmm. The lady on the other end of the phone picks up on my incredulity.

“Alternatively,” she adds, “you can lock it to a tree.”

“Is there any minimum thickness of truck?” I ask, knowing that insurers are likely to find any excuse to weasel out of a claim.

“No,” she replies with a chuckle. I am at this moment calculating how thin the trunk of a tree would have to be such that I can slip the appropriate lock around it, and how long it would take to chop or saw through that tree.

Oh, except that would leave Monty venerable to theft by a nibbling beaver. He’d risk being carried off to dam a distant river, never to cycle again.

I need a tree that’s beaver-proof. An idea flashes into my mind: I could carry a small bonsai in my panniers. Ha! That’ll catch ‘em out. A pop-up carry-along bonsai bike stand might be just the ticket.

Oh, except a moose might munch it.

Monty - my trusty steed

Monty – my trusty steed

My fear of bears

February 15th, 2013 | Posted by Dino in Canada - (0 Comments)

Bears. Grizzlies. I started worrying about bears concurrently with planning my trip. The worry went something like this: And there I’d be – camping alone in the middle of a forest, curled up in my sleeping bag. Every shuffle from the trees is the threat of a bear, every gust of wind a sniff of my scent, every snapped twig a footstep approaching…

My worry was hugely exacerbated when I was kindly given a book for Christmas called Call of the Wild. The book is written by a Scot, Guy Grieve, who lived in the Interior of Alaska for a year. In it he recalls the tragic story of a man, a self-taught expert on bear behaviour, and his girlfriend who were both eaten to death by a bear in October 2003. As Grieve explains “it takes a long time to be killed by a bear, as they start on the lower limbs, buttocks and soft tissue. Bears are also keen on our glands, and seek these out with relish… [the man’s] death lasted for over an hour.”

Oh yikes.

My first thought on reading this was that “with relish” is a really inappropriate turn of phrase as it evokes an image of a bear popping open a jar of piccalilli. The second thought, confirmed by glancing down at my ample behind, was “oh goodness, can you imagine how much lower limb and buttocks I would have as a transcontinental cyclist?” That would be a very, very long lunch.

It’s at this point in trip planning that panic sets in. But no! I say, with great resolve. I must get the FACTS on bears.

So I do what I should have done months ago and look up the stats on bear attacks on Wikipedia. I am at this point on my Dad’s computer. My Dad is ironing his work shirts in the background. I read aloud:

“Around three people in the US and Canada are killed by a bear each year.” Oh, that’s not many. “One is more likely,” the page continues “to be struck by lightning than to be attacked by a bear… around 90 people are killed by lightning each year.”

“Oh yes,” interjects my Dad, “you should worry about the lightning. In the prairies your metal bike and tent pole will be the tallest things for miles around.”

And suddenly my fear of bear vanishes in a flash of lightning.