Alex Bikes

Ottawa bike politics.

Monthly Archives: July 2011

Getting ready for the trip

Why am I doing this?

I’m a few weeks away from starting this tour, and this is a quick introduction to it.

This is to be an unusual tour. A lot of this comes from trying to balance the needs of:

  • the allocation of vacation allocated to me by my employer
  • wanting to vacation with my wife (who does not like hills)
  • my interest in biking up hills
  • my unending love of French bakeries

By playing around with some accumulated vacation and an extra three-week partial sabbatical, I’ve managed to put together six consecutive weeks. The next time I’m likely to get this amount of time is when I retire in a couple of decades.

And really, is there a better way to travel? It is slow enough to get to know a place, but fast enough to actually see stuff. And being able to eat anything I want and still lose weight is pretty nice too.

So what is it with hills?

I’ve always liked them. They can also be exceptionally difficult. There’s nothing like grinding away for a few hours up a good 5% 20km hill, then whipping down without pedalling in just a few minutes. And don’t forget about the beer. It’s awesome.

It’s been a bit hard to find people willing to bike hills with me. Jim and I biked across BC, which was a really good intro to a hilly trip. The Rockies are more long than they are steep. I’ve done day trips here and there: Alpe d’Huez, various parts around San Francisco (Skyline, Mt. Tam, Mt. Diablo) and parts around Portland. The hardest and greatest day of biking I’ve ever had was a 100mi ride, 3000m of climb trip around Mt. Hood. And last summer I did this 2-day, 390km ride through the Adirondacks.

The approach

Experienced tourers will call this credit card touring, which is considered wimping out. It is shameful.

I’ve decided to do this trip with no camping. It means using hostels, warmshowers hosts and inns. The motivator is that camping in Ireland is apparently pretty bad, and do I really want to haul camping equipment through mountains? Camping can be pretty liberating and cheap. But I’m looking forward to a lighter ride.

The equipment

In early June, I got my year-old Surly Long Haul Trucker stolen from City Hall (where I was lobbying for better bike parking, no less). It had been through 6,000km, and a lot of that on a tour from Ottawa to Connecticut with Anouk. It really is a nice bike for touring, so I bought a copy of it. I’ve been pretty busy getting it ready; getting replacement racks, a computer with altimeter, pedals, etc. On warning of Irish sheep shit, I’ve added fenders.

On the tech front, I’ve decided to go with just my  iPhone. It can do lots of things: be a dictionary, a mail client, an offline blog editor and web browser. I’ll be using it mostly on wifi. And it can take phone calls, and I’ll check in to work on occasion.

According to World of Maps, the entire country of Spain has been out of maps. Fortunately, they were just reprinted, and I will pick up thel IGN maps that cover some of the relevant parts of Spain later this week. The French maps are here, and I’m trying to match up with as much of stages 14 and 15 from the Tour de France.

The itinerary

– Aug 17: fly from Ottawa to Barcelona; say goodbye to Anouk who is hanging around the Netherlands for a few weeks

– Aug 18 – Sep 6: bike from Barcelona to Santander, through the Pyrenees

– Sep 6: fly to Dublin on Ryanair, meet up with Anouk

– Sep 6 – 13: bike across Ireleand to Dingle

– Sep 13-27: hang out at a borrowed house in the Dingle peninsula

– Sep 28: drive back to Dublin, fly back to Ottawa

– Sep 29: back to work!

What’s next

Hopefully, I’ll be blogging from Europe!