Touring - Vancouver BC to Edmonton AB Trip, Looking for Advice/Information
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03-06-05, 11:21 PM
I am doing a volunteer program called Katimavik which ends June 8th, 2005 in which I travel around the country working as a full time volunteer. I will be in Vancouver BC when the program ends and the cycling trip I am planning is a 733 mile or 1180km trip from where I will finish the program in Vancouver, through the mountains, to my home in Edmonton Alberta. This will be my first long distance cycling trip and I am starting to be a little intimidated by the magnitude of what I want to undertake. It isn’t exactly a very good starter trip. However, doing this trip is is very important to me.
I will be buying my bike in Vancouver and I need a bike that will get me through the steep grades in the mountains while loaded for solo touring. I would also like the bike to be adaptable for commuting and doing bike tours across the prairies at a later date. I don’t have a lot of money. I am looking for a starter bike that is sturdy and reliable. I need something that will get me places and last but it doesn’t need to be super light or the easiest ride. At the moment my price range for the bike is somewhere around $1400.
I would like to use front and back panniers for the trip. I am also planning on purchasing an two or three person backpacker tent. I don’t plan on bringing a stove and I am thinking relying on cold food that is easy to pack for meals.
I will have between two and three months to train (explore Vancouver) before the trip. I also plan to take a cycle repair course before I begin and possibly a course on bear safety. My first priority will be to pick up a bike so I can start training.
I am looking for any kind of advice that will help me with my trip. Type of touring bike, tips about the route, good books on the region, good books for solo touring/cycling, what kind of things to look out for to make sure my bike is correct for my body type, what to look out for when shopping for a bike, could a second hand touring bike be a good idea, suggestions for saving money on bike and gear etc. I will have more specific questions as my research progresses. Any advice/information you can give would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks a lot!
First of all, you don't need both front and rear panniers - one set will do. In fact, since the terrain you'll be covering is mountainous ... the first piece of advice I will give you is to travel as lightly as possible. The more weight you have, the more difficult it will be to get up those mountains.
Next, 1180 kms isn't that far. It's quite doable at a fairly relaxed pace in about 2 weeks ... or a bit longer if you plan to do some sightseeing (it's a beautiful area!) So relax, you'll be fine! :)
I know the route(s) from Vancouver to Edmonton quite well, and have cycled most of it, so I could give you a pretty good day-by-day description of what to expect.
BTW - I live in Red Deer, Alberta
You've asked for quite a large spectrum of advice--I hope I can help you in at least some respects. I'm also in vancouver, and I'm planning a Vancouver -> Halifax trip this summer. Like you I'm relatively new to touring, but I can give you some advice about bike shopping.
There are a lot of bike shops in vancouver, but not all of them are the type of shop that sells the type of bike you want. Ones to try are La Bicycletta (800 W broadway) [carries bikes built on marinoni frame for about $2k and nothing cheaper), Dizzy cycles (1700 W 4th) [carries Trek 520 and marinoni-based bikes. My biking partner bought a trek 520 from here], and BSP cycles (on the downtown side of burrard bridge) [carried cdale t800, t2000, giant OCR touring. I bought a t800 from here]. I didn't find anywhere else in the city that sold touring bikes, but I didn't search exhaustively (although I did search quite a bit).
I can recommend all three LBS's. They were all extremely helpful, and each store had someone relatively knowledgable about touring (they have touring experience). The places my partner and I bought our bikes both spent a lot of time making sure our bikes were fit properly, and were more than willing to make fine tuning adjustments afterward. We both have a year of free service with our bikes.
The 520 and T800 are slightly over your price range, at $1500-1600 CDN (trek being slightly cheaper). Both are ideal for what you want to do, however. Used touring bikes can be a good deal, but, more than anything else, BE SURE THE BIKE FITS. It is essential to get a frame that is approximately the right size for you. Proper fit should be your number one criteria in selecting a bike.
As people will probably mention, you can tour on almost anything. However, any bike you consider must be durable (road bikes typically aren't built to carry 70 lbs of gear), long enough (touring bikes have longer chainstays to improve stability and give high heel-pannier clearance), be rack/fender equipable (road bike almost never have the necessary braze-ons, mtn bikes often do not), have varied hand positions (drop bars preferred; straight with bar-ends at minimum). Dedicated touring bikes usually have spiffy features, like a good quality rack pre-installed, and braze-ons for a third bottle cage underneath the bike. You'd probably be better off trying to convert a mtn bike to a tourer rather than a road bike
Gearing: mountain bikes will be probably be okay gearing-wise. Road bikes often only come with a double crankset, both geared /way/ too high. Even touring bikes often don't come geared low enough. The lowest gear on a stock Trek 520 is 25.5", 23" on a T800 (that's for my 2004; 2005's are geared slightly lower, methinks). Consider replacing the crankset with one with lower granny gears (cheap or free at time of purchase). I decided to keep stock gearing on my T800--I'll let you know if I live to regret it ;)
Tires: you'll probably want to replace the tires on a mountain bike and road bike (being too knobby and puny, respectively). The ones on the touring bikes are generally just what you need.
Pedals: The trek 520 comes with SPD pedals, but the T800 doesn't. BSP gave me a good deal on a pair of reversable shimano pedals that I quite enjoy. If you've never ridden with clipless pedals before, that's something to look for.
Saddle: Everything seems to come with "blah" saddles. The accepted wisdom is to try a brooks leather saddle. I was unable to find any in vancouver--ebay seems to be the best bet. I've never used one.
Fenders: get them installed at time of bike purchase. You'll need them training in vancouver, even if it miraculously doesn't rain on your tour. I'm in the process of installing a mud flap to complement my front fender. You may find that overkill.
Shoes: I use mtn bike SPDs. Enough tread and comfort for walking, which means I'll take just these and sandals on the tour.
Panniers: the big names are Arkel, Ortlieb, and Jannd. Serious quality and serious $$. Serratus panniers (from MEC) have a decent rep. Right now, you can buy a PAIR of nashbar waterproof panniers for $30 US (regular $70US. red only, check their site). I've ordered a pair, on the theory that it is impossible not to get my money's worth out of them, even if they break quickly. I'll be tested them thoroughly before my tour--I'll let you know how they work out. I haven't decided on rear panniers yet.
Back to bikes. There are more options than I've listed, particularly if you've got the skill to build it yourself. Apparently some cheaper touring bikes exist, but I didn't find anything in vancvouer. If you're going to spend $1400, I strongly recommend a touring bike. Trek and Cannondale have been making tourers for decades and both have excellent reputations. You know that you're buying something geared toward what you have in mind when you buy one (except for the gearing... sorry for the pun). They are also going to last forever, with proper care.
As for training, the ride to iona beach (off sea island) is quite nice. I was doing it daily as part of my commute until I hurt my achilles tendon. Let me know if you'd like to ride sometime.
Hope that helps,
03-07-05, 10:31 AM
There's a bicycle shop right across the street from MEC on Broadway that handles Devinci touring bikes .There is a young lady in Mec in the bicycle section that I spoke to that seem quite knowlegdeable about touring and has done some.But I will warn you enter MEC on your on risk,it always seems to cost me beaucoup to leave there. Also check out crazyguyonabike.com there are a lot of journals of other peoples trips across Canada that you can find there with their routes.
03-07-05, 09:24 PM
Mike had great advice. I have a Trek 520 that I enjoy, but as Mike suggested, I had the LBS swap gears at time of purchase.
Two options there:
1. Have the LBS replace the crankset by an LX or XT crankset (with 44-34-22).
2. Have them replace the rings with 48-38-24.
The 520 comes with bar-end shifters whereas many other bikes come with STI. I prefer bar-ends – more reliable – and I am one of the few who hate the STI mechanism. Depending on your preferences, it might veer you towards or away from the 520.
The Marinonis – even the Turismo – tend to have very tight clearance for fenders. On the 2004 Turismo, installing 700x32 is a really tight fit with fenders. By comparison, the 520 allows 700x35 in front and 700x40-42 in rear (with fenders) and the Cannondale Txxx allows 700x37 to 40 on both wheels with fenders.
De Vinci makes good bikes, but they tend to have a low top tube and high bottom bracket -- more like MTB design. I don't like the concept, but others do.
As for packing, I like to carry plenty, especially in changing weather like what happens in B.C. You could ride with only 2 rear panniers, but expect squirrelly steering, especially on fast downhills. Four panniers is best, but if you want to save a bit you could do as follows:
- good front lowrider racks ; the MEC design is a good one.
- large front panniers, or even rear ones that you install in front (it works as long as there are no dangling straps and the like);
- rear rack.
If you strap your tent, sleeping bag and maybe your tool chest on top of that rack, you'll get a fairly decent fore-aft weight distribution. And by the way, MEC sells very good compression straps to tie that load.
For route advice, look at http://adamk.ca . He has explored all the roads in B.c.
03-07-05, 10:05 PM
klaas had some good advice about stores in vancouver.
I'd also throw Reckless into the mix as well(on Fir & 1st I think - near granville island). I friend used one of their house brand bikes for a month long tour of southern france. DeVinci makes their frames. They seem to have 3 touring bikes in the sub-$1600 range.
Sorry, I can't help with touring info, but I'll be keeping an eye on this thread for any advice that pops up.
I'm excited for you! That'll be a great trip. I rode from Calgary to Vancouver a few years back and loved it.
As for bikes, unless you're on a tight schedule, you could do perfectly fine on a cheap rigid mountain bike with some slick tires (make sure the frame has eyelets for rack attachment, though, as it seems most new ones don't).
Provincial campgrounds are your best bet, since they're tent-friendly and cheap, but believe it or not they're fairly far between. Given the choice of a 25$/night trailer park style private campground I tended to just stealth camp instead (never in the parks, though: mucho $$fine$$ for getting caught), but this can be tricky in the mountains. If you don't actually book things in advance, don't be surprised if you have to go 30km before you find someplace you can sleep.
Plan to carry at least enough food and water for two days, 'cause especially around the Jasper area, if you have a bad day and bad weather you don't want to have to rely on a grocery story that may or may not be open when you finally pull into town.
Beware bears! Never ever keep food or anything smelly with you when you sleep!
Bring a good toque or balaclava, light windproof gloves if you can, and something to keep your feet dry and wind sheltered (even if it's just plastic breadbags).
Stop at all available hot springs.
There's a few random recommendations for you!
I hope you have a great time!
03-10-05, 10:55 PM
Thank you for the great response. I just arrived in Vancouver and Its really cool to hear from those who know the area and are familiar with my route. I am feeling a lot more confident with what I need to do after hearing your responses and talking with a friend who started in Vancouver and went through Calgary on his way to Ontario. It will probably take a week for me to get settled in and then I am going to start looking at some of those bike shops you have suggested. I am really looking forward to this trip. It will be a great opportunity for me to prepare for real life again after my program and to have a little adventure.
I will definitly be looking for a touring bike for the trip. Oops, gotta go, I will reply more when I have more time.
hey victim, lotsa help here...previous victim i am. my rotation was a different century...lol. did mine in Baie de Gaspe, Naden (Navy), and Lake Simcoe.
You in Van now? Been to OCB on Main? http://www.pedalpower.org/ocb.html Good luck with all
03-18-05, 01:20 AM
I just went past OCB on the bus today. Checked out the website and it looks great for what I need. I'll be able to go there and practice my mechanical skills before the trip and fix up the four "free Katima bikes" we found in the basement when we got here. It's great that everywhere you go you can find someone who has done the program. So how does rainforest green sound for the frame? I'd definetly be up for a ride mike if I pick up my bike within a reasonable amount of time. I'd like to pick my pump for the trip right away. I'm thinking that I will need a full size pump since the little miny ones seem like they might not be strong enough to get the right pressure. Any comments on that? If I have a full length pump and 3 water bottle brackets on the interior of my frame would it work to attach the pump to the top of my crossbar?
glad to hear you found OCB...I think they have the largest selection of parts on the lower mainland, also they have a changing selection of used frames. I wouldnt be too set on 'new' frame if you're willing to seek some help 'upgrading' what you may find is a very good used frame. You may want to call the bicycle hut at UBC, they are associated with OCB, 604.822.2453. If number too old you can ask at OCB.
Have you done up a budget with contingency options yet...? Might be a good idea, BEFORE making any large expenditures, this place http://www.sportsjunkies.com/ is a great place to find consignment stuff, they reduce the price on objects weekly, and if you're patient you can get things relatively cheap, also MEC has a regular gear swap page that is maintained regular - buyer beware, as will all things purchased this way. :eek: http://www.mec.ca/Apps/outdoorGearSwap/gearswap_main.jsp
Your're right, I think OCB would be willing to trade your time for skills. I think rainforest green sounds great for the frame? Yeah, as far as pumps go, I run a high PSI, and can't use a smaller pump, good in emergency on day trip, but not for longer trips on the side of the road in goatsville, BC. Specifically, I would have to see your set up for bottles and pumps, the best people to ask would be one of the OCB staff...they are amazing. They love questions.
Have you been to check out the cinnamon buns at Solly's Bagelry? - you'll be hooked for sure. Or, try they're other many pastries... :D
03-21-05, 05:13 PM
Hey Dub -
The route you are proposing isn't that hard at all - the highway along the Thompson River has a very gradual grade and Yellowhead Pass is the lowest in the Rockies. Anyway, by that time you'll have your cycling legs. Even with the new toll road, Trans Can 1 up to Kamloops can really suck. Most of the time there are shoulders - but traffic can be heavy - plus there are a number of tunnels.
Here's a website with pictures of various sections of the highway to Kamloops.
Notice the pic of the tunnel with the semi coming in.
You don't need to take a bear safety course - never eat in your tent - not now, not during your trip, not after. Most campgrounds in bear country have either lockers or bear poles. If not, make sure to have 10m of light nylon rope and hang ALL of your food and toiletries 100-200m downwind from your campsite. Since you are not cooking - but doing the rabbit food thing - that will reduce odors as well.
If you have a new bike - plus can change a tire - you should be okay. A mountain bike is slower, but has stronger rims. If you use a tourer - make sure the rear wheel has at least 36 spokes - not 32. If you can true a wheel - great, but my experience is that it won't go that far out of true in the ride you are proposing. Likewise with brake and shift cables. Brake cables aren't that hard to change out - although you have to be careful not to fray them. Shift cables are trickier to set - esp, rear. But if you have a new bike - you are HIGHLY unlikely to need to do any of this. My suggestion is to use your time training and enjoying life.
Best - J
03-21-05, 09:41 PM
One word of advice about your route,try to plan your ride so you ride the Icefield Parkway,just for the grandeur of the Rockies.It will help you to find your place in the grand scheme of things.
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