Dino's blog for mini adventures and endurance challenges

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.*



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


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!

Just going on a bike ride

May 28th, 2013 | Posted by Dino in Canada - (1 Comments)

“I’m just going on a bike ride, eh?” I said to my Dad, trying to play down the epic-ness of my adventure, When 7,500km are stretched out ahead of you it makes sense to focus on what is achievable and fun: going on a bike ride.

Yesterday evening I gave a small whoop of glee: I’m packed. After 8 years of dreaming, 3 years of saving, 5 months of planning and a packing process that I started sometime in mid-March. Yep, I am finally packed and ready to go.

I spent the last dregs of Sunday evening flipping through an Atlas and looking through an old book of Canadian photography. I couldn’t get to sleep. My head felt inside out. My dreams were so vivid they seemed like wakefulness and I jolted myself awake several times. I woke at about 4am with my head feeling like a mashed banana.

My Dad drove me to the airport. Getting up at 4am to drive me to the airport is probably not his ideal Bank holiday birthday (yes,it’s his birthday today) but I am very grateful.

Thankfully Monty and my large, shabby looking bag of pannier bags made it okay through check in. Monty didn’t much enjoy being wheeled around the airport as some of corridors and lifts were only 2mm wider than him. Poor thing felt like a fat person in a cubicle toilet.

Thank goodness I am not flying Cattle Market. The Air Transat check in was a yoga retreat of calm compared to the noisy, crowds hordes queuing lengthily at the Easy Jet counter.

I hugged my Dad goodbye. I nearly felt tearful but my banana brain can’t quite comprehend what is about to happen.

Generous folks have called my brave. Canada is a huge country but it is not the size of my courage. I have only the Courage to Dream. Then I have the Credit Card to Pay. And once the credit card has paid (for non-refundable, non-transferable flights) then I do not need courage any more. The pieces of my trip in the last 5 months have fallen like dominoes. The click of my computer mouse was the first push that set my trip in motion. one by one the tasks were lined up and fell in turn. Flights lead to insurance, bear research, friend contacting, route planning, cycle training, back stretching, blogging, tweeting, kit testing, new kit purchasing, and finally packing.

At the moment I am trying to imagine that I’m only cycling as far as Lake Louise. Because 4,500 miles across the second large country on earth seems a tad far, eh? Whereas a 2 week jaunt through BC sounds like quite a jolly summer holiday.

So I’ll have my jolly summer jaunt in BC. Then hopefully after that I’ll fancy a 2 week break to Winnipeg. Then after all that cycling I will need a vacation so might nip on my bike through Northern Ontario for a bit. You know the rest…

Does playing dominoes require bravery? No, only the courage to push the first piece into motion. I hope now that the journey continues in the same way – one domino pushing into the next. Each pedal stroke leading into the next stroke, the next kilometre, the next day. Victoria, Mission, Hope…

After all, I’m just going on a bike ride, eh?

The Full Monty

March 28th, 2013 | Posted by Dino in Canada | Uncategorized - (1 Comments)

Before you get too excited I should explain to new readers that my bicycle is called Monty. (50% readers now surf on) Happily, Monty has just hit a milestone as he (yes, he) has just had his racks fully loaded for the first time.

To celebrate this landmark, one lucky person has won an Easter egg for guessing the weight of the Full Monty – ie the bike plus all the kit you see.

How much does he weigh?

A whooping 38.5kg! Some stuff is gonna have to get thrown out before I go to Canada.

My bicycle, Monty, fully loaded for the first time. Aka the Full Monty

My bicycle, Monty, fully loaded for the first time. Aka the Full Monty

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