In a world increasingly preoccupied with throwaway materialistic things; where people are constantly busy earning money to pay for those things, or so their children can have those things;
This is the story of my dreams of travelling the world by bicycle. Because it's there. And because I dont want to die without experiencing the truly important things in life .

A sense of wonder and a sense of adventure.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Pre Tour Jobs.

Less than two weeks before we go on our next cycling adventure. I find the two week period before going overseas a rather stressful time. There are all the last minute things to do combined with the worry that something may go wrong with the house while you’re away. No matter how well you plan and attend to all the possible problems that may arise while you’re away something can always come out from left field and surprise you. I find that once I am on the plane and have left the country and there is nothing I can physically do to fix things, I generally forget about it and concentrate on the cycle tour.

I also find that the cycle touring once I am on my bike and free of air companies and custom officials, goes pretty much to plan. When it comes down to the bike and I, versus the weather and 100-200km of terrain each day, it’s pretty easy. The wind can only blow so hard and roads that head skywards   eventually lead me to the coast. It’s pretty hard to pack up and head out into inclement weather but once you do its better than sitting around camp knowing that you are wasting time going nowhere.

Adi will be with me this trip so there will be no worries about loneliness on the road. I must however remember that others are not so fortunate to have company. So when I spot another cycle tourist I will make every effort to say hi. This is something that does not come naturally when I’m on the bike as I generally feel pretty confident of my ability and although feeling a bit lonely I feel comfortable with my own company. I think we may bump into quite a few across Canada riders on this trip.

Last night I was rummaging around among some old books and low and behold a 1970’s street map of Vancouver dropped out of one of them. Not quite up to date but good enough to direct me from the international airport to the Burnaby camp ground where we will spend our first night in the Canada’s.

Tomorrow Adi will relinquish her GT Zaskar so that I can put her touring wheels on, carrier, and do all the final checks for the trip. It will then come up from the workshop to the house where she will attach her panniers and do a trial pack to see how everything goes. I’ll leave my bike until next week as I’m very familiar with how everything goes on the Mercian.

Before we go I am doing the odd extra day at the bike shop as the owners are off on vacation and by coincidence also in Canada. But in their case they are MTBing and not cycling across the continent. The odd customer that knows my cycling habits comes in and asks why I’m still here and where I am off to next. It never ceases to surprise me that after explaining that I am cycle touring and that I am fully self-contained with tent primus etc. that they will still ask me where I am staying and how I will feed myself. When I explain that I will be camping at times and motor camping at others and that if the mood takes me I may 4star it in a tourist hotel they look totally baffled. They look equally baffled when I say that I might go hungry at times or cook dinner over my primus or if the mood takes me have a 4 course meal in a gourmet restaurant. Or heaven forbid, maybe even McD if I feel like some fast calories. (One must be adaptable).

Roadie’s aye! They have no idea! How far are you riding each day they will ask? And I will reply that I will ride as far as it takes to get a good meal and a site to lay my head. Once again they look baffled.

We will ride like that every day for 76 days until we reach the ocean on the other side I say.

How fast will you ride they ask? I reply that I will ride at the speed necessary to reach my meal and sleeping spot before nightfall. Again, a look of non-comprehension.

But who will carry your gear?

And we are back to square one, Roadies! If they didn’t have their I pad and filtered water they’d be lost.

I have decided that when my membership in the CTC (Cycle Touring Club UK) expires this year I will join the Audax UK club. I think with my intention to complete the next Paris –Brest –Paris and my focus on long distance cycling this club better represents my interest. The CTC is unfortunately having to cover too many different styles of cycling and 2/3’s of their magazine and news bores me to tears. MTBing and kids, sponsoring a women’s road team, please spare me. A mini tour of the Loire, (no I’m not on my last legs yet thanks).

Today it’s raining and one day closer to the grand depart.  Raining!! I haven’t got time for rain. I was supposed to be cycling into town and dropping off my handlebar clock/altimeter to the watch shop for a new battery. At the same time I need a new battery in my Swiss Army wristwatch.  I like to have a good handle on the time while I’m travelling. I wouldn’t want to fall behind schedule and miss my flight home. The rain may force me to start getting my things together a bit early. I need a set of camp clothes and one set of cycle clothes. I’m thinking for the camp clothes, a Brooks woolly jersey and either jeans or my light weight long travel trousers. I’ll go with the Brooks top even though they didn’t pick me to trial one of their new saddle designs. I’m not bitter. I didn’t exactly give them a glowing review when it came to their multi tool or H/Bar bag.  Choosing my cycle clothes for the trip will be easy. I’ll go with a black and white theme (New Zealand colours). Black and white NZ top, white shorts and white vest or jacket. In reserve I’ll have arm warmers, tights and a heavy plastic rain jacket. It will of course be summer in Canada, but what does that mean. I don’t think it will be tropical and I think it could actually be cold at times. I’ll also take a training jacket for cold crappy days. Weight is a real issue for us on the plane being only allowed 23kg each and 7kg carry-on luggage. I will wear as much as I can on the plane.

I Will Buy All Tyre & Tube Spares in Vancouver,
The weight on the plane has prompted me to use bike bags instead of the bike box idea. I’ll go into the packing in my next blog. But basically a bike box weighs more than a bike bag and the bag can double as an extra ground sheet under the tent on wet days.

O’well , until next week my dear couch followers. When I will show you how I pack up my kit for an overseas cycling  adventure.   And to those out there doing it, see you on the road shortly.

My travel buddy is reading up about Bears again………Canadian Street Gangs.


  1. Hey good luck to you and Adi this time Niel, watch those bikes!!

    I'm thinking of getting a Mercian myself, especially if they'll do 200k a day, ha ha. I like the look of them and what a range of colours. What model is yours?


    1. Thanks Ian.
      I wont come back home without my bike. We are flying Air New Zealand this time so I have every confidence that they will not misplace my bike.
      You wont find my bike on any of the standard Mercian model lists as it was made especially for me. I went into their shop in Derby with a bike that I had ridden for some years and that I liked the geometry of. They reproduced that geometry with some improvements in a frame made of Reynolds 853 tubing. They put that tubing together in a more careful way than the mass produced thing that we took the measurements off.

      Its funny really this mass produced pig frame would crack every two years or so and they would give me another one! Not really the sort of frame you could get attached to or trust too much. But the geometry was spot on for me.

      When Mercian made me the frame I got them to make me a duplicate so I would have another to use while it was being repaired. I don't think they appreciated the suggestion back then but you know me, I couldn't be caught without a bike. Anyway that was 98000km ago and the frame is still crackles.

      We'll see if I can break it in Canada! See you when we return.

    2. Thanks for that info Niel, I too have a frame that I'm very attached to and would like to reproduce. Like it's owner it's getting a bit long in the tooth and has seen some hard times. I need a retirement bike, something that will see me into old age. I know what I want it's just a case of finding the right make.

      Enjoy your trip; I'll look after the country while you're gone. at 98000k you will clock up the big 100 in Canada. I hope you've got a big celebration planed. I'd go for a couple of good single malts!!