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Old 06-22-09, 06:15 PM   #1
kitchissippi
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Icefields + Kettle Valley need bike opinion

I'm thinking of riding from Edmonton to Vancouver, via the Icefields Parkway and then the Kettle Valley Railway Trail. The mix of road and off-road touring is putting me in a dilemma as to what do bike-wise. Here are my two scenarios:

1) I have a Trek 520, and I'm contemplating putting straight bars/rapid-fire shifters to give me better control on the loose gravel sections of the KVR. I would buy two sets of foldable tires, one slick and the other knobby so I can switch depending on surface conditions. This is the cheaper choice, but I will have to switch back the bike to its original configuration.

2) Buy a 29er. I've been wanting a mountain bike with disk brakes for quite a while and this would be a good excuse to get one. I'd also get two sets of foldable tires. My top choices are a Gary Fisher Ferrous 29, a Jamis Dragon 29 (both with front shocks), or a Salsa Fargo (no shocks). I would definitely use this bike after on the trails near my home. I may use a trailer on this option, especially for the GF or the Jamis, possibly an ExtraWheel trailer, so I can unhitch and do trail rides here and there during the trip. This is the expensive choice, but it gives me another specialized bike to use whenever I want.

If you were me, which set-up would you pick?
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Old 06-22-09, 06:31 PM   #2
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Do you know if the Kettle Valley Railway Trail is back in business? I believe a large section of it was destroyed in a fire a few years ago ... but they might have rebuilt it.
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Old 06-22-09, 07:47 PM   #3
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Do you know if the Kettle Valley Railway Trail is back in business? I believe a large section of it was destroyed in a fire a few years ago ... but they might have rebuilt it.
The KVR has been rebuilt and is open. However, several BF members have commented that ATV riders are causing issues on the KVR damaging the surface making it hard to bike as well as being noisy and aggressive trail users.

I have no experience with the KVR so I'm just reporting what I've read online.

I was going to ride it this year, but these reports turned me off and I'm going to ride the Canadian Section of the Great Divide Trail instead.

I would like to ride the KVR at some point and I'd be interested to hear from folks who have been on it recently if the ATV problem is as bad as it sounds?
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Old 06-22-09, 08:26 PM   #4
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I have ridden several sections of the KVR at various times, most recently last weekend. The trestles have been rebuilt and it was re-opened about a year ago. There were several Quads and dirt bikes (motorcycles) on it while I was on a section near Penticton last weekend, all were respectful and slowed down when meeting/passing. I have heard of problems with ATVs near Summerland but have no personal experience to back it up. Parts of the KVR are in reality a logging road and so there are lots of pot-holes in those sections and sometimes a surprising amount of traffic. Langdon's guidebook on the KVR is very good, just check the on-line version for updates.

I have ridden both the KVR and the Icefields Parkway with a Trek 7500FX, a hybrid and had no problems what-so-ever. You don't need a MTN bike for it but I would not use drop handlebars or skinny tires. I used 700 x 42C cycle cross (semi-knobby) tires and they worked well.
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Old 06-22-09, 09:53 PM   #5
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A group of us from Saskatchewan road the KVR about 2 weeks before the trestles burned. What a pity! I am looking forward to riding again now that the trestles are repaired but I am very troubled to hear of the increase in motorized traffic. What a pity! I found the trails pretty rough for loaded touring. I bought a full squish Rocky Mountain Element 30 upon my return! Gotta go back!
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Old 06-23-09, 09:42 PM   #6
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I've done plenty of off-road touring with drop bars. There's no reason to go through the trouble of switching out your bars on the Trek. I'd just put on some fat tires with inverted tread, which will be smooth on the road and handle well on the dirt. Knobbies are great when you're riding more aggressively and need the traction for higher speed turns but unnecessary for touring.

Before you buy a new bike or make any major changes, try taking your Trek for a ride on a local trail to see how it handles. Lower your tire pressure some to smooth out the bumps and make the riding more efficient.
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Old 06-23-09, 10:27 PM   #7
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I have ridden several sections of the KVR at various times, most recently last weekend. The trestles have been rebuilt and it was re-opened about a year ago. There were several Quads and dirt bikes (motorcycles) on it while I was on a section near Penticton last weekend, all were respectful and slowed down when meeting/passing.
That's good news...thanks for letting us know.
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Old 07-06-09, 06:46 PM   #8
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I rode the KVR last summer, shortly after the trestles re-opened. We did encounter a lot of ATV riders, but it was only an issue for one or two sections of trail, where there was very heavy ATV use and the trail got quite muddy and rutted. Those sections were unpleasant and I'd try to bypass them if I were to do it again. Unfortunately I don't have notes of where this was, but I'll ask the friend I traveled with to see if he remembers.

I also remember there being a lot of ATV riders on the section just east of Penticton, some of them going too fast. It diminishes the experience a bit, but for most of the route there weren't any ATV's, so I wouldn't let it stop me.

I rode with drop bars and it was fine. A few times in the loosest stuff I wished I had wide flat bars for control, but 99% of the time I was happy because drops are much more comfortable for me on long rides. Fat tires make a big difference, for shock absorption and float. I had 26x2.25" tires and was happy to have the fatties.

I thought about bringing a pair of skinnier slicks to swap out for long pavement sections of the tour, but decided against it and didn't regret it. Changing tires is another chore I don't want to mess with when touring. I just pump up the fatties (marathon xr) for the pavement sections and decide (whether true or not) that I'm not losing more time/effort than it would have taken to change the tires plus carry the extras.
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Old 07-07-09, 10:25 AM   #9
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Clearly you need a new bike...

If you have the loot, test drive a 29'er.
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Old 07-24-09, 06:22 PM   #10
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Thanks for the sage advice, modbiker. Looks like it's too late to get new bike for the summer (no GF Ferrous 29 in stock!) so I will stick with my Trek 520. I'll be riding with road tires from Edmonton and switch to fatties when I get to Castlegar. I'll chuck the road tires when I switch as they already have almoat 4,000 km on them.
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