Hello folks I hope this weeks blog post finds you well. Last weeks article was suppose to be in regards to the challenges of biking thus far, but it was postponed till this week. So without further a due here is Dion’s 10 Challenges You Will Face While Biking:
#1 – Finding a bike that meets your biking needs:
This is of paramount importance. For instance when I started my trip I was on a Leader that was a solid bike for commuting, but did not cut it for touring. The added weight created significant speed wobbles that felt like my bike was struck with an abrupt onset of parkinson’s disease. In contrast the Miyata is very stable up to 72kms an hour which is my top speed thus far.
I would suggest anyone interested in riding do your research and buy a bike appropriate for the type of riding you will be doing. For long distance tours I would suggest finding a nice moutainbike/roadbike hybrid. So you can ride both road and trails effectively. A devoted roadbike like mine is a dream on any road or compact dirt, however on trails or gravels it feels like using sand as a sexual lubricant, needlessly painful, brutally uncomfortable and teeth chattering.
Also make sure the bike is the right size for you. My frame is 23 inches, which like many things is one inch shorter than ideal. After 1000kms of riding I was having back and shoulder cramps so in Penticton I purchased a stem adapter that effectively increased the size of my frame and ensured a much more comfortable and enjoyable ride.
(“I spent all my cash on my sweet biker attire, so this bike was all I could afford…” Don’t let this be you!)
#2 – Eat right
This is a huge challenge for biking and if you have allergies or other dietary needs (vegan or vegetarian) it is even more challenging. Normally people need around 2000 calories a day, while biking 6-10 hours a day this requirement will go up, significantly! However if you put 5000 calories of Doritos, McDonalds and 7-11 Splurpees, you will feel shitty and quickly. (And speaking of shit I do not want to know what your stool would consist of with the above diet :S).
(“The 15 Mars bars I ate have the 4000 calories I needed, so why do I feel like this…”)
For instance I was buying Rogers granola which my friend Bryan aplty describes as sugar they market as “granola”. While eating this garbage I would get headaches and feel really drained, but because of being so active I would need calories so I would gobble it down, not a good combination.
Currently I eat a lot of Adams peanut butter it has 100 calories in 16 grams, as a pescatarian (vegetarian that eats fish) I have found nothing else has the same price performance. I supplement this with honey, unsweetened bags of porridge, bananas and whatever fruit juice is on sale. If you have the budget Cliff bars are great.
#3 – Drinking enough water
You pretty much can never drink enough water, unless of course you are at one of those frats that have initiation ceremonies where people literally have died from drinking too much water (http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/strange-but-true-drinking-too-much-water-can-kill/).
As a biker however you will need a lot of water before biking, during biking and after biking. I suggest at least 3 mount points for water bottles and I personally try to have 2-3 liters of water.
(Something like this)
I ran out of water one time while climbing Anarchist summit and it was a terrifying experience, there were no fill points and I quickly began to feel a sense of dread. I even flagged a park ranger down and he fortunately had an extra 500ml of water that was just enough to get me to another fill point. Water drink it, lots of it!
#4 – Bike seat
Like the bike frame this is vital to the success of a tour. If you have welts on your butt and your glutes begin seize, biking will be impossible. Make sure you have an appropriate seat for you butt. Girls because you have to push humans out of your nether regions, nature has given you wider sit bones so purchase a seat accordingly. Guys narrow ones are better and both genders this should be a no brainer but don’t put weight on your genitalia.
(If you have a bad seat it will quickly feel like you are riding a bike like this)
I also suggest finding a leather seat that is the appropriate size for you. I managed to salvage one that was neglected and it has made my riding so much better. I received this advice from a number of long distant tourers. The morality of using an animal skin for your sitting pleasure may be challenging, but their lovely thick hide will shape itself so that it becomes a hammock for your bum. If I use my regular bike seat I can ride for 4 hours before my butt starts to cramp, with my leather one I can ride 8-10 hours.
#5 – Grip positions
I have 5 different grip positions on my bars now and I rotate between then constantly. I personally really enjoy that many for touring. On a 10 hour ride you can shift around and vary the different muscle groups you’re using. My good buddy Tobias only has 1 and he does fine. I however, encourage having at least 3.
#6 – Keeping limber (Stretch do some Yoga!)
Your muscles are doing a lot of work and will begin to tighten up they need stretching. I really encourage finding a solid Yoga routine. My good friend Lennie helped me with mine and I have my own regimement of Sun Salutations that allow me to limber up my quads, hams, glutes, groin, calves and hip flexers. Don’t forget the hip flexers they are the first ones you will begin to notice because you put way more strain on them as a biker than you do in regular life. It’s also a good idea to stretch out the upper body the shoulders and triceps will stiffen up but lower body is a MUST!
(“I’m only 27 but I never stretched, oh god why didn’t I read Dion’s blog!”)
#7 – Get enough sleep
It can be challenging to find good places to sleep, I have been so lucky to have a good networks of friends, family, Warmshower hosts, Couchsurfing hosts and the occasional random stranger. To my understanding sleep is when you body rebuilds and heals all the damages caused during the day. When pushing your body you create “micro tears” in your muscles and with the right fuel and sleep your body will say “We can rebuild him. We have the technology. We can make him better than he was. Better, stronger, faster” (-Cheesey Movie/TV Show). If you are getting the right fuel and sleep you will feel it and it feels great!
(With appropriate sleep and food you could look as good as this sexy beast)
#8 – Be mentally prepared for natures adversity (She can be a bitch…)
There are four major challenges nature will throw at you. You can overcome them mentally the first two are pretty much unavoidable: hills and headwinds.
These can be frustrating, personally I didn’t mind hills and more appropriately for BC, mountains. Life is often about overcoming adversity “nothing easy is ever worth doing” this quote is 100% not true but works well here. (For instant breathing takes very little work, but incredibly worthwhile). Anywho back to the topic at hand, there are few things more rewarding then mentally and physically defeating a literal mountain, when you get to the top and see that “summit sign” a huge feeling of accomplishment and relief sweeps over you. And the huge bonus you get to enjoy a huge downhill section and get to immediately reap the rewards.
(This will be you “I did it!!!”, ya Stalone, we know now for the love of god please stop making movies)
The second, the spirit draining headwind is a huge challenge both mentally and physically. And you never get to an end point. I do suggest planing a trip according to the prevailing winds for me there was nothing more draining than a head wind sapping my speed and leg power as I slowed to a walking pace, happened to me yesterday, often better just to pull over and nap till the wind dies down, seriously! If you have to face the legendary uphill headwind I hope you have a good sense of humour, cause all you can do is laugh.
(This is what the feeling of biking into a headwind looks like)
The other two you cannot do much about other than planning around them and in turn avoiding them: perception and heat. Neither of these are great for biking, my favourite is biking on cool lightly cloudy days. The rain can make visibility hard and being wet and cold is miserable biking or otherwise. With heat you will sweat and use more energy as your body utilizes that vital (and heavy water) you are portaging. I suggest not biking mid day. Morning and evening peddles are the best. Bonus full moon rides are amazing, a clear cool night lit by the full moon is the absolute best, but impossible to get with any consistency take advantage when you can!
(“This bike ride is amazing and this acid is something else!)
#9 – Budget and gear
A good bike is expense so is good food and good places to sleep. I have very tight funds and even needed to take out a loan from the bank of mom and dad. (However they have great interest rates). I have a total of 600$ into my bike including my rain gear, saddle bags, lights and upgrades. Most people I have met have spent significantly more on their bikes and gear ranging from 1500-5000$. Some people’s coats cost more than all of my gear combined!
However if you can afford it, a good bike and great rain gear are so helpul when battling the adversities of biking. This also ties into food, if you can afford to eat out at good restaurants 3 meals a day good on you. (That is my personal dream 😦 one day, one day…) The minimum I think you can spend to be able to bike in Canada with enough proper nutrients is 15$ a day.
This brings me to accommodations, I have spent a total of 10$ on accommodations in my 2 months thus far. This is largely because I don’t have the money to spend on hostels or the offensively high rates people try to charge for camping. One lady in Drumheller looked at me with a straight face and said 32$+tax for pitching a tent. HA! So I suggest starting a Warmshowers and Couchsurfing account right now. Like right now! Seriously go do it! Did you? Is it done? Good, now keep reading. Now that you have made both those accounts you can help other travellers, meet great new friends and it will pay dividend on your next trip.
(“Did you seriously not make an account on those websites? That makes me sad… you should do it right meow.”)
#10 – Staying loose and fancy free
This one has two parts the first is in terms of weight, the less you pack the easier it is to peddle. However the added weight of a tent, sleeping mat and sleeping bag can be invaluable. But don’t be concerned about bringing a wardrobe, the less clothes the better. You will thank yourself later.
(“I live in the 3rd world I have to do this to survive, it’s impressive I know, but you should pack light!”)
The other challenge of staying loose and fancy free is not having too regimented of an itinerary. For me I am a social butterfly and love people. On this trip I have met so many great people and stayed so many cool places and I’m only 1/3rd done! The challenge is leaving them, “the good traveller has no plans, and is not intent on arrival”. I try to implement this as often as possible and frequently stay longer than I had expected. Which in turn has led me to numerous great nights and great connections. However as a traveller you are travelling and leaving cool places and awesome people is part of the package. Be ready to leave places and people you really like, it’s hard but more adventures await you!
Well that’s my list for biking challenges. My last week was spent in Calgary and Drumheller. I was hosted almost entirely by my amazing and talented friend Sam. Who is in the process of moving so comically might host me again in Toronto, hahahaha!
I also got to hang out with my good friend Devin whom is a very good sounding board these days. I did stand up at 2 open mics that went awesome and met a talented guitarist (who looks like Lenny Kravitz) and a base player whom I hope to make a band with. Seriously though, they need a lead singer and drummer. Despite both of them being good singers, however I have always wanted to be a front man for a band, so I am going to try and figure out a way to make it work.
Tobias and I did the Drumheller dinosaur museum which was great. No pics of time in Calgary though :(.
(I look unnervingly at home in this scene)
That sums it up for now, I am off to Saskatoon, thanks for reading,