Bikepacking, Canada

Solo

Am I there yet? I rode over 4000km, just a few hundred more to go 🙂

Riding solo has it’s ups and downs, but so does the road!

I’ve been asked so many times “solo”? Yup! On my own. I’ve been asked as a single human and as a women.

I crossed path with a handful of other cyclists and half of them are on their own. Mostly men, but women too.

It’s difficult to do it alone, but it’s also sometimes better. I ride at my own pace, sleep where I want to sleep and eat what I want to eat.

But it’s lonely. It got tough when I got on the highway, when I stopped talking to the cows and waving to the farmers. Locals would ask me questions and show interest when I was on the roads less traveled, but on the highway it’s all about the destination and how fast we can get there.

I actually met a few people that I actually shared a meal with or a cup of tea. I would also have shared beers with another, but I am an old lady and like an early bedtime 🙂

I actually got a ride yesterday, not because I was tired or hurting, no mechanical, just because I was bored and really happy to have company. A 71 year old gentleman (what an inspiration) is riding across the country with a friend driving the car and luggage and another lady friend (my age).I rode with the gentleman until he got into the support vehicle, then I got in with him. I cheated and saved 50km, but chatted, shared stories and laughed. The other lady friend is faster then he is and never gets into the support vehicle. I am so impressed of all the daily mileage she does and how strong she is.

It was great, it was awesome to have company and I am so so happy I cheated and got to get out of my head for a few hours!

Riding solo may be riskier, but not worse for a woman then a man. I know how to fix my bike, I have all the safety gear and I have loved ones following my dot on a map. Riding solo means spending more time in my head and thoughts, but also opens me to talking to others which I wouldn’t do if I was with someone else.

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Bikepacking, Canada

Get off the highway

Did you know the prairies were flat?

Did you know they were filled with lots of history? Towns that were founded due to mining or railway, now living mostly from agriculture.

Did you know lots of nice people live there? I didn’t ask for anyone to pose for me, but I really enjoyed talking with locals.

Did you know most secondary road is not paved and almost no one drives on them? When they do cross or pass me, they stop, move to the opposite and wave. Mostly bog pickups and farm tractors, everyone has been very nice, even apologetic if they thought they drove too close or too fast.

I detoured towards Gravelbourg just because I liked the name. They have a museum, grocery store, a field without toilets you can camp on, but most importantly they have a great coffee shop 😁. The cheap motels are basic and not cheap enough, but the coffee is great and the people are super friendly.

The problem with the prairies is that there are not many places to sit and relax for lunch between towns. There are also no rest areas or water water sources. So fill up your water bottles and be ready to have lunch sitting on the side of the road.

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Bikepacking

Mon grand sentier part 4

What am I doing? What’s with trying to go fast and get somewhere quickly? Time to take a step back and smell the roses.

Canada is a big country, how can I expect the trails to be the same throughout? In the tradition of over planning and overdoing everything, I may have planned too much time on the saddle to keep it fun.

I did my homework, looked at elevation, terrain, distances between campsites and hotels. I looked at the overall elevation gain, but not at every peak!

It’s great to log 100+ km rides, but when the terrain is more difficult, it doesn’t leave a lot of time for exploration and fun trail discovery. The last 2 days were hard, I lost track of the exploration and discovery part of my journey.

Heading to Fernie, I had to get on the highway because of trail closure and then missed the next fun off road section. I ended up pushing it to get to Fernie fast, missing out on lots of amazing off roading and beautiful scenery.

Before I ended up on the highway, I had ridden rail grade gravel, followed by fun and flowy trails. I can only imagine how much fun the trails I missed would have been. Chatted with local people, encountered deers and scared a bunch of cows, before I had to coexist with all the pick ups heading to Alberta after enjoying Canada day long weekend.

So I decided to stay an extra night in Fernie and explore some of the trails I missed and their famous mountain bike trail network.

Smiles for miles!

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Bikepacking, Canada

Routine

My life is pretty simple right now, I get up, pack the bike, climb a hill for hours, descend a hill for hours, get a coffee or hot chocolate and go to bed 🙂

There are a few variations to my days. 1 day out of 2 I camp and take more time to settle in, rehydrate food and drink my hot chocolate, then slip into my sleeping bag. When I hotel, I find a good coffee shop and relax, check-in to my room, have an amazing shower and do laundry. I then find a simple place for dinner, then use the WIFI to confirm the next ride, post pictures and write this blog. I also really like having bacon and eggs for breakfast instead of instant oatmeal 🙂

There are a few reasons why I hotel, safety, comfort, power and laundry. I do not feel safe camping everywhere, I’m a chicken and am afraid of weird dudes. My inflatable mattress is amazing, but my back deserves a real mattress after spending 100km on the bike. My solar panel is very efficient, but not as much as BC hydro. I am testing Icebreaker’s claim to merino’s properties and can wear the same top 2 to 3 times, but not my shorts. BIBS NEED TO BE CLEANED DAILY!

The other daily thing is the amazing views I get when I reach the top. I wish I could show you how magnificent it is. These views, these mountains and trees make me feel like I am so small and insignificant. I can’t transfer that feeling in a picture, you really have to get there and see for yourself.

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Bikepacking, Canada

Mon grand sentier part 2

There is no reason to be scared, or are there? The trail is official, the government advertises it as complete, what am I afraid of? Not afraid, but just on the edge and trying to take good reasonable decisions. I carry way too much food and water, have clothes for all conditions and I packed a safety blanket and first aid kit.

I have already done a few bonus climbs (oups!) taking wrong turns, but nothing too bad. I had to check and recheck Garmin, Google, Trailforks, “the great trait” app a few times and always found my way. The trail is well marked, but the grades and level of difficulty are not that well advertised. I will shorten some planned days to make up for some varying trail conditions and take the time to enjoy them more.

I almost road off the trail into the river today (oups!). I was enjoying the reward of that 70km rail grade climb and going pretty fast downhill when the trail disappeared into the river. Trails have suffered this winter, there are a lot of land slides, rock slides and some flooded area.

I got to log in 2 days in a row of more then 130km on mostly trails with lots of climbing. It’s fun to vary the terrain and difficulty. The shorter more technical days were a different kind of fun and I would go back to redo these trails anytime.

Now that I am sitting in my hotel room and reflecting on the last few days, I realize how lucky I am to get to ride to all these remote places and enjoy all that amazing scenery.

Thank god for hotels and hot tubs! Don’t get me wrong, I like camping, but I love hoteling! After riding 130km of Gravel 2 days in a row, I think I deserve a bit of luxury 🙂

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Bikepacking, Canada

Choices, choices!

A few months ago I heard Craig Dalton, on the Gravel Ride podcast, say that the best bike for a good gravel event would most likely not be perfect for the entire event. I tend to agree with him!

My adventure isn’t a race, but I still want my bike to be fast. The chosen distance is a bit excessive, so the bike needs to be comfortable, carbon fibre please 😁 this way I can keep the weight down. I will carry all the gear for my self supported adventure, so lots of mounting points are essentials. I am short, so I need a small frame, but not so small that I cannot use the inside of the main triangle. I want it to be fun on singletrack, but still stable since a fully loaded bike is harder to handle.

I chose to go with the Salsa Warbird on this adventure. It feels as fast as my regular cyclocross bike, but has clearance for wider tires and made to be ridden for more the 45 minutes at a time. It has all the attachments for mounting fork racks, a third bottle mount and a big enough triangle for a good size bag.

It won’t be perfect for all the trails I will ride, 🇨🇦 is a big country and no bike can be perfect for all the different terrain I will encounter.

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