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Alberta - First Serious Bike Tour in (hopefully)

Old 06-03-10, 08:55 PM
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AaronJohnTurner
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Alberta - First Serious Bike Tour in (hopefully)

This was a post I made in the Touring Forum. I thought I'd get a more 'local' opinion in addition to that forum.

First bike tour
Hi everyone! Just to give you a brief background, I'm heading off to basic training for the Canadian military in October, and being the young testosterone-filled, adventure seeking guy that I am, I thought a long distance tour this summer would be a great way to celebrate my 20th birthday, and to get some adventure out of my system before I'm tied down by my military training. My desired route is from Edmonton, AB to Jasper,AB and back, approximately 366km/227miles each way (732km total). I was hoping to do this trip in about 8 (or maybe 10) days, nearly all self-supported. Besides Jasper National Park in the rocky mountains, half to 3/4 of this trip will be flatter prairie, so hills won't be a big issue for much of the trip. At this distance I will need to ride 90-100km per day.

I'm currently riding about 20-25km/day for fitness, and have done three 60-80km 'mini-tours' between my small town and Edmonton. I am also riding my first metric century July 25. I am hoping to make the trip to Jasper from August 2nd-10th.

I will be riding a Trek Valencia, equipped with a rear rack. If you have suggestions for affordable panniers and a tent I can fit me and my bike into that would be great!

I would greatly appreciate any advice, tips, and words of wisdom any of you seasoned veterans can offer. Thanks for taking the time to read this.

Cheers,
Aaron
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Old 06-04-10, 09:26 AM
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Worth noting that you'll get into rolling hills on the first day out, and there's more uphill than down until you get to Obed summit between Edson and Hinton - that's your highest point, and Jasper is actually at a lower elevation. Once you actually reach the mountains, the road follows a valley bottom and is an easier ride than the "prairies." This isn't a problem, but don't give yourself false expectations of the topography.

I've only done weekend credit card tours until now, and am just prepping my supplies for my first multi-week camping-based tour...I wouldn't call it fully supported since I'll be near towns pretty much continuously, and won't be carrying a lot of food.

For gear, you're left with a choice between cheap and good. Good and cheap isn't really an item. Having tried a few different tents for hiking and car camping, I would have to say that the best quality for money is from MEC, the Tarn 2 is great for a single or a couple, but a little cramped to share with someone that you're not intimate with. If $182 is a budget breaker, they also rent the same tents...worth inquiring about how much. Cheaper tents tend to use fibreglass poles (heavy and breakable), and are not well sealed against the elements. Better tents use aluminum poles, and have a full fly, effectively giving you a double wall with dead air to insulate. Also, look for a tent that has a low ceiling and isn't too big...big tents are nearly impossible to warm up. Remember that even in the middle of summer, nights can be very cold in the mountains and foothills.

For affordable panniers, good luck with that. I've looked far and wide and they all seem expensive for what they are. I have, again, MEC panniers (World Tour 56, ~$100), and also an Ortlieb handlebar bag for my camera. I'm not overly pleased with the MEC ones...I find the attachment system a bit cheap and the bags bounce more than I'd like. Axiom also makes comparable panniers in a similar price range, but they look equally unimpressive for attachment hardware. Neither are waterproof. They do work, though, and my one attempt to order a cheaper set, they were so flimsy I wouldn't even trust them for commuting, let alone touring. If you are willing to buy high end gear, most tourists seem to either favour Arkel (lots of pockets), or Ortlieb (super waterproof, one big pocket). I've found that the best prices are had by ordering from the States...I've had good experiences with bikebagshop.com, and they typically sell below MSRP. Some posters have suggested ordering from the UK may be even cheaper given the recent collapse of the pound, if you can find a site that'll ship for cheap.

So far Customs has yet to actually charge me any taxes on my orders, but as most bags are not North American products, you could be on the hook for import duties on top of GST.

Last edited by neil; 06-04-10 at 09:36 AM.
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Old 06-04-10, 08:59 PM
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Thanks, appreciate the info. If there's any place I should avoid skimping on the budget, looks like it'll be the tent and panniers. I don't mind spending a few hundred on something that'll last me years. It looks like I'll be riding with a couple friends, and we may just each take our own two-man tents, to make bike storage and sleeping room easier. I'm looking for a definate challenge, and to have to 'earn my way' to Jasper wilth all of the climbs sounds totally worth the work.
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Old 06-04-10, 09:14 PM
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I have the Axiom Lasalle panniers (40 L) and have put over 1600 k on them (commuting). I know several people in the Touring forum like them because they're a good mix of durability for the price. I haven't had any problems with them, except for the rubber coating on the hooks coming off. They stay pretty solid on the rack and I've put them through some abuse. I had a look at the MEC panniers and was not impressed, and I'm not flush enough to splash out for some Ortliebs yet.
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Old 06-04-10, 09:30 PM
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I wonder if MEC has changed something in their panniers as I have been using mine for everything for five years and even took them out on the single track we have here and never had a problem with them staying well put.

We are also looking at doing the Edmonton - Jasper - Edmonton ride and also planned on making it a 10 day trip although it would be nice if we have 14 days so we can spend more time doing other things in Jasper.

Would also like to ride up to Miette Hot Springs which is a bit of a challenge...
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Old 06-05-10, 09:34 AM
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Here's a tip....put a quality plastic bag inside your panniers, re-cycle bags are tough and great, then just about any inexpensive but durable pannier will work. I have been touring for 17 years, cycling through Alaska, The Yukon, most of British Columbia, western Washington, Oregon, and California while using the same inexpensive, heavy duty panniers that I started with, and because I always use plastic bag liners, have had absolutely no problems with damaged goods.
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Old 06-05-10, 11:07 PM
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I can't wait to head out on the trip. If I make a goal of 100km a day on the way there, I can hopefully have a rest day to see the sites, maybe check out the stores and such. 10 days is probably all I can manage to get off work. I'll definately have to try out the plastic bags in the panniers.
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Old 06-07-10, 11:30 AM
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Aaron, good luck on your tour. I don't really have any words of wisdom or advice for tents/supplies/whatnot. I just thought I'd say that I tend to find the drive to Jasper pretty boring up until Hinton. Would it be an option for you to hang a left at Jasper and continue to Banff and Calgary instead of turning around? Could a friend or relative pick you up in Calgary? I think the Icefields Parkway would be a much more scenic tour than just to Jasper and back. Another option would be to go south from Jasper to the Saskatchewan River Crossing, then east on Highway 11 to Rocky Mountain House, then north on Highway 22 towards Drayton Valley. From there, there's a few options for getting back to Edmonton. Again, it's definitely a longer route than to Jasper and back, but I think it's nicer scenery.
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Old 06-08-10, 09:09 AM
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Originally Posted by Sixty Fiver View Post
I wonder if MEC has changed something in their panniers as I have been using mine for everything for five years and even took them out on the single track we have here and never had a problem with them staying well put.
Quick update - I had recently upgraded from the World Tour 40 to the World Tour 56, and had them attached to a fairly inexpensive rack (without the rear loop that helps stabilise the bag). The 40s, being narrower were stable enough, while the 56s wobbled too much in the back, and I'm sure were causing my fender to rub on the tire. After a pannier vs. spoke incident, I upgraded the rack to an Axiom Journey, and now they seem quite solid. The hooks are very tight to the larger gauge tubing, meaning it takes some muscle to get them on and off, but I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing.

Anyway, long story short, using a $40 rack instead of a $20 one is a much cheaper upgrade than high end panniers, and does solve my problem.
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Old 06-08-10, 06:36 PM
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Interesting idea groovestew. My dad happens to live in Calgary, so that might be something to consider. I've got ten days to do the tour, so I don't want to give myself too much distance in too little time. I'll have to calculate the distance and make a judgement call on it. I've invested in a Bontrager rack for $45 and so far it has been solid.
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Old 06-09-10, 09:22 AM
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Jasper to Calgary is about the same distance as Edmonton to Jasper, but between Jasper and Banff, you'll be doing a lot of climbing (and a lot of downhill, too, but a lot of climbing).
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Old 07-02-10, 09:48 PM
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Originally Posted by groovestew View Post
...Another option would be to go south from Jasper to the Saskatchewan River Crossing, then east on Highway 11 to Rocky Mountain House, then north on Highway 22 towards Drayton Valley. From there, there's a few options for getting back to Edmonton. Again, it's definitely a longer route than to Jasper and back, but I think it's nicer scenery.
I would do this instead of an out and back.

I'm apathetic when it comes to tents in the summer. Take a look at: https://www.mec.ca/Products/product_d...=1278128411628 or https://www.mec.ca/Products/product_d...=1278128411630

depending on where your career path takes you either may come is handier than a tent. If you are going to use liners in your paniers, and I think it is a good idea too, take a look at these: https://www.mec.ca/Products/product_d...=1278113786086

Again, the waterproof dry compression sack might just come in handy down the road.

Buy black or olive.

Good luck.
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Old 07-04-10, 05:17 PM
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I would certainly get more out of the trip taking that route through to RMH. Do you guys think its possible to ride that far in 10 days? I suppose I could always try to make it to at least Red Deer and get a ride back up to Edmonton.
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Old 07-06-10, 11:01 AM
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Originally Posted by AaronJohnTurner View Post
I would certainly get more out of the trip taking that route through to RMH. Do you guys think its possible to ride that far in 10 days? I suppose I could always try to make it to at least Red Deer and get a ride back up to Edmonton.
The round trip via RMH and back to Edmonton is almost 1000 km. You'd have to average 100 km/day with no days off, or do a few longer days and take a day off in the middle. It's certainly possible for some cyclists in good shape and riding well fitted bikes, but it would be a challenge for me.
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Old 07-06-10, 12:27 PM
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I would spend the $100 and take the train from Edmonton to Jasper, then ride to Sask. Crossing - RMH - Drayton Valley - Edmonton. It would be a pretty decent tour and would fit nicely into a 10 day window.
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Old 07-06-10, 01:11 PM
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Originally Posted by mercator View Post
I would spend the $100 and take the train from Edmonton to Jasper, then ride to Sask. Crossing - RMH - Drayton Valley - Edmonton. It would be a pretty decent tour and would fit nicely into a 10 day window.
That's an excellent idea. If you can get off the train at Hinton, that would also be a good starting point.
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Old 07-06-10, 10:22 PM
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Originally Posted by groovestew View Post
The round trip via RMH and back to Edmonton is almost 1000 km. You'd have to average 100 km/day with no days off, or do a few longer days and take a day off in the middle. It's certainly possible for some cyclists in good shape and riding well fitted bikes, but it would be a challenge for me.
You are too humble... I could not keep up with you.

Have already ridden nearly 500 km this month and almost all of that has been on loaded touring bikes... 100km a day is not that hard for someone in decent shape with a good fitting bike.

If you average 20kmh when you are touring that is considered to be okay and anything over 25kmh is considered excellent... in nice conditions that is 5 hours of saddle time.

Rode a century today and am feeling remarkably good.
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Old 07-06-10, 10:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Sixty Fiver View Post
You are too humble... I could not keep up with you.

Have already ridden nearly 500 km this month and almost all of that has been on loaded touring bikes... 100km a day is not that hard for someone in decent shape with a good fitting bike.

If you average 20kmh when you are touring that is considered to be okay and anything over 25kmh is considered excellent... in nice conditions that is 5 hours of saddle time.

Rode a century today and am feeling remarkably good.
And at my age I should be doing that and more! I've only rode but 1200kms in the last two months. My longest ride so far in one afternoon evening is 92km. Oh, and I made the move to clipless pedals, scored some great used shoes off Kijiji for 40 bucks. I think I may just spare myself the expense and ride the whole way. I can simply go for more distance in the non-mountainous regions and take a little more time traversing the Rockies.
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Old 07-06-10, 10:51 PM
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I rode 1500 plus km in June and try to put in at least 40km a day and have ramped things up for July.

When it comes to touring you would be amazed that this is where older riders tend to excel... we might lose a little of that quick twitch muscle (or a lot of it) but gain stamina and what is really important is that mental toughness that keeps you going when things are at their worst.

My left leg is getting stronger with every mile I lay down but my right leg is still doing the lion's share of the work... I'm doing less of the one legged hill climbs now but still have to spin a pretty low gear when I run against headwinds and am on longer climbs.

If you want to go for a longer ride and have some company I am sure we could put something together... EBC is doing a little mini tour on the 10th and 11th as well.
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Old 07-06-10, 11:05 PM
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That would be awesome, any excuse to go out for longer rides, especially having other people around for company would be great. My current job is giving my Wed-Thurs-Fridays off, so I can't do too much weekend wise unfortunately.

I'm think one or two overnight 'practice' trips when I have my gear would be a good plan. I'll hopefully be riding to Edmonton at least a couple times the next three days, to get some ergonomic hand grips that don't float down and some bar ends, and just for the sake of riding. I wouldn't mind popping into bikeworks either to finally get a membership and get my rear wheel properly tensioned.
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Old 07-06-10, 11:05 PM
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Hi Guys. Im 56 and rode my 42 lb bike to Wetaskiwin on June 26. 105 miles. Avg. about 12.5 mph.
On June 12 i went to Thorsby/Leduc, 97 miles. Got 4 pieces of wire in my front tire that went flat and 2 more in the back that i didn't find until 1 and 2 weeks later. Rats.
I wear running shoes and regular golf clothes. haha I generally take 12 hours for these trips to rest and see the towns. I eat two meals also. Had a great turkey dinner in thorsby.

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Old 07-06-10, 11:09 PM
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Gord - What takes you to Wetaskiwin ?

For me it's family.

Rode down there on Canada day and took 814 there and back... it's a lovely route.
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Old 07-06-10, 11:15 PM
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I just go anywhere for a ride. My mother had friends there. I used to vist in the 60s

I try not to go where the big headwinds are goint to be. eh ha

Actually i have never gone overnight with just my bike. Haven't used a tent since 1986, my last water-ski days.

I went south on 814, one hot day, to Millet thru Beaumont. My 2 bottles of water almost went dry. I walked up part of that darn hill south of Beaumont.

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Old 07-06-10, 11:37 PM
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Originally Posted by GamblerGORD53 View Post
I went south on 814, one hot day, to Millet thru Beaumont. My 2 bottles of water almost went dry. I walked up part of that darn hill south of Beaumont.


Look familiar ?

Rode up that damn hill into Beaumont in that storm.



Coming north is still easier than heading south which can feel like a never ending climb... and I always carry three litres of water on 100k rides.
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Old 07-07-10, 12:04 AM
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Nice pic 65er. I had the same cloud view when i got to Leduc, coming from Wetaskiwin. Got a bit wet and heldup coming up 103 St.
It was a perfect day until then. The Harleys were in the hundreds, the Thorsby trip.

Why that ugly bike ??? haha
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