Friday, January 4, 2019

The Day After New Year's Day



In New Zealand, January 2 is an official holiday known as Day After New Year’s Day. I know, it sounds like the title of a bad sequel to that climate-change disaster flick The Day After Tomorrow. But it’s a real thing, and, the more I think of it, a civilized concept. With hangovers and college bowl games out of the way, January 2 is the perfect time to go for the first bike ride of the year.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

A Very Brady Bike Ride


My favorite ride in Maui was an early Sunday morning jaunt from Kihei up to Wailuku and Kahakuloa, on the north coast of the Western side of the island. While the entire West Maui loop is a classic ride, the southern section sees a lot of car traffic, so I decided to try an out and back to the more remote northern portion of that loop, a stretch known as the Kahekili Highway. It was a good call. The roads around Kahakuloa are stunning—super twisty, single-lane, up and down, with breathtaking views of the ocean and the valleys running down to it. Plus it was the least trafficky road I encountered on Maui. But the ride was also kind of weird, complicated by some ominous notes that brought back some childhood memories for me.    

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Maui Postcard

Tree on Pulehu Road
Sometimes Maui feels like one big tropical traffic jam. Outside my condo, the cars crawl up and down South Kihei Road, bumper to bumper in the late afternoon. Many of the roads in the middle of the island are packed with a steady stream of bland rental cars and Toyota trucks from dawn til dusk. It's a bit depressing. The scenery is stunning, but if you want to ride a bike around here, you don't dare take your eyes off the road for long.

Sure, Kihei has bike lanes, of the paint-on-the-road variety, but they don't feel especially safe to me. A lot of the drivers here are either elderly or from Alberta or both. That thin layer of paint doesn't offer much protection. I feel about as safe cycling in Kihei as I do around a seniors home in Leduc.

But with a little effort, you can get away from the traffic, and that's when Maui cycling becomes transcendent. You find a perfect spot, a stretch of car-free road, a breath-taking view of the ocean, some weird tropical bird, or a majestic tree--like this one on Pulehu Road--and you remember that this place was once paradise, and, in some hard-to-reach places, it still is.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Tom Winder's Famous Ride



The 1890s was the Golden Age of long-distance bicycle-travel books. While Elizabeth Robins Pennell, Karl Kron, and Thomas Stevens proved the concept in the 1880s, it was the decade of the 90s, with the rise of the safety bicycle, that saw the phenomenon take off, as bicycle travel captured the mainstream imagination. Adventurer-authors such as Sachtleben and Allen, Annie Londonderry, Frank Lenz, Fanny Workman, and John Foster Fraser not only pedaled far and wide, they wrote compelling accounts of their travels, devoured by an audience hungry for glimpses of the world as seen from the saddle. One of the lesser known and underappreciated books from this vibrant period is American Tom Winder’s Famous Twenty Thousand Mile Ride (1895). I only heard of it thanks to Duncan Jamieson’s indispensable overview of the history of bicycle travel, The Self-Propelled Voyager: How the Cycle Revolutionized Travel. But I’d include Winder’s book in that list of Golden Age classics.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Misunderstanding



As I was riding down a gravel road out by Graminia School this afternoon, a passing car slowed down and stopped. The guy rolled down his window and, in a friendly voice, said, "Hey man, there's an awesome paved road up ahead. Turn west and it goes for miles. Way better than this crappy gravel."

He must have thought I was lost, had turned off the paved road by accident.

I smiled and said, "Thanks, but, actually, I like the gravel. It's what I came out here for. I prefer it."

Dude just looked at me as I pedalled away into the leaves.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Cypress Hills Haze

Photo by Val Garou
As much as I love creating my own adventure-cycling routes, sometimes the work has already been done by someone else, and all one has to do is read the internet and follow the virtual wheel tracks. I’d been thinking about doing a trip in the fabulous Cypress Hills of southeastern Alberta and southwestern Saskatchewan for years, when I came across this trip report on bikepacking.com about a 100-mile route on a combination of trails and gravel. Perfect.

The Cypress Hills area is a gem, a little bit of pseudo-mountain in the middle of the great plains. Eons ago, this small area was somehow missed by receding glaciers (dumb glaciers), leaving an island of surprisingly high ground and all the flora and fauna that comes with it. Ask anyone who lives in Saskatchewan or southern Alberta about the Cypress Hills and you’re bound to see misty eyes and hear tall tales of family excursions to these underappreciated Pyrenees of the Prairies.  

The description on bikepacking.com says the trip is “easily attainable by most people,” a mere four out of ten on their scale of difficulty. The guys who wrote the piece did the trip in four days, and the pics on the website make it seem awful leisurely—dudes taking photos of caterpillars and stopping to fish for trout in streams. So, we decided to do the trip in three days. It’s only 100 miles, right? How hard could that be?   

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Roule Britannia


For close to a decade, British men’s cycling has been on top of the world—Grand Tour GC victories and stage wins galore, Olympic medals, a World Championship—and nowhere has this domination been more evident than at cycling’s premiere event, the Tour de France. Six of the last seven Tours de France have been won by Britons (Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome, and Geraint Thomas); meanwhile, Mark Cavendish almost matched Eddy Merckx’s record number of stage wins. And Team Sky, the British road-racing juggernaut launched in 2010, has come to dominate the Tour to an almost unprecedented extent.

With all this success, it may be hard to remember or believe that it hasn’t always been thus with British cycling. In fact, prior to 2012, no Briton had ever won the Tour, and before Cavendish started racking up sprint stage wins in 2008, the sum total of British cycling’s accomplishments in the most famous grand tour had been a grand total of about 20 stage wins and a few days in yellow, with the best overall finish by a British cyclist being Robert Millar’s fourth place finish in 1984.

In fact, the full story of Britain’s participation at the Tour has been, until this recent success, one of modest achievements. And it’s this story of small, and, in some cases, largely forgotten triumphs that William Fotheringham’s Roule Britiannia: Great Britain and the Tour de France tells, tracing the history of British involvement with the race, from the earliest forays across the channel in the 1930s up until Wiggins’ victory in 2012. 

Monday, July 23, 2018

Athabasca and Back


In case you haven’t noticed, I’m a sucker for gravel adventures on obscure historical trails. There’s something about the combination of dust and plaques that I just can’t resist. Our discovery, a few years ago, of the Victoria Trail northeast of Edmonton has been such a hit, that it now features in the annual Dusty 100.

For a while now, I’ve been wondering about the potential of another historical trail just sitting there on my map of Alberta: the Athabasca Landing Trail (ALT). This 100-mile trail links the town of Athabasca, on the Athabasca River, with Fort Saskatchewan, on the North Saskatchewan River. It was a major overland route for fur traders from the mid-1860s until the beginning of the railroad in that area in the 1910s.