Backroads Bicycle Touring

   
Bicycle Touring 

1030 words

Backroads Bicycle Touring; by Terry Connellan

The How To of Back Roads Bicycle Touring

Bicyclists come in all shapes, sizes, and ages. They race 
on sleek road, and sturdy fall off the mountain, bikes. Their 
bicycles are used to commute to work and school, and 
to recreate themselves. 

These days a growing number of them are riding out 
on the high road to adventure, touring the main and 
backroads of North America. 
           
It is possible to travel light, eat in restaurants, and sleep 
in hotels, but it isn't much fun. Fully loaded touring doesn't 
require much additional effort, and the independence 
it affords is well worth it. 

Main highway travel offers little of interest. The noise and 
smell of high speed traffic and disassociation from 
communities along the way soon palls on the inquisitive 
cycle-tourist. The backroads beckon. 
           
On back roads paved shoulders are in short supply, 
so exercise your rights under sections of most State and 
Province Highway Acts and ride on the right hand car tire 
tracks. Overtaking traffic is required to pass with care.                         
          
Distance touring by bicycle is anything but risky if sensible 
precautions are taken. In the past sixteen years I have 
taken that adventure over 77,000 kms in all the provinces, 
save one, and in both territories as well as the United States. 
Add to that another 50,000 kms of city commuting with only 
a couple of serious incidents.
           
The road is shared with all manner of vehicles. Contrary to 
what you might believe, those professionals driving the big rigs 
are the least of your concern. I make a special practice with 
the large "semi's." When they are 200 metres behind me I 
acknowledge their presence with 2 or 3 wide overhand waves, 
pick a "line" and ride it, giving the trucker what they need 
to pass safely. 
           
If they are having a problem with a hill or oncoming traffic, 
and the shoulder surface is safe, I'll wave them by and pull 
off. As they pass I wave a greeting with a pull down motion as 
if I had air horns. 

This almost always brings an answering Blaaat and flashing 
backup lights. The drivers pass news of this courtesy along 
by radio and soon you'll find oncoming trucks honking 
and flashing a greeting. Respond with a pull down wave. 
In an emergency these men and women are your best 
friends. 
           
Camping is convenient, quiet, and plentiful with recreation 
sites, and roadside rest areas along your way provided 
by the Ministry of Forests and Transportation agencies, 
and most often they're free. 

There are also Provincial and State Parks enroute, but 
since they may be noisy, provide little in the way of 
services, and charge you the same as a motorhome, why 
bother. 
           
My favorite campsites are created on the banks of the many 
rivers that cross the roads. They are quiet, private, and I 
can easily bear-proof the site by suspending my panniers that
contain only the food and toiletries on a line from the bridge 
100 meters up, or downstream. 

That same 30 metre nylon line can be used to hoist your 
bike off the ground for repairs and to hang out the wash. 

Then, following an old Grizzly hunters advice I pour out 
a line of urine defining the territory 30 meters around 
my campsite. He warned me that only male urine works. 
I didn't question it because after all he did get to be 
an ...Old Grizzly hunter. 
           
Commonsense accessories for touring include a referees 
whistle, and little fisherman/treeplanters bells hung on bike 
and person so they ring constantly. 

A non-lethal bear deterrent of 10% capsicum, under pressure 
is available under a variety of trade names such as Counter 
Assault, or BearGuard. Couple this with a strong sense of self 
protection. This is very effective on bears, dogs, and other 
SOB's a cyclist might encounter. In all these years without 
a close bear encounter, I've never ventured out unprepared. 

Pred-it, the one I use is available in Canada from Home 
Safety Supply, 1-800-661-2333 (have your credit card handy.)           

For protection from mosquitoes, spray or dab Muskol on a 
cheap ball cap and, when not on your head, store it in a 
freezer bag out of sunlight. 

At sleep time comfortable foam earplugs, a pillow made 
from a semi-inflated bladder out of a 4 litre box of wine, 
wrapped in a sweater, on a Thermo-rest self-inflating 
mattress, inside a plus 10 degree sleeping bag and 
you'll think you're at home in bed, well almost. 

A nice extra touch is a sleep sheet stitched to fit your bag 
with an integral pillow pouch. It's obtainable at any Youth 
Hostel for under $20.00. I wouldn't leave home without one.      
           
To me every campsite is user maintained and I practice  
"zero impact" camping. No fires and pack out all my 
garbage in a plastic bag tied to the top of my food 
panniers until I reach the next bear proof garbage can. 

In case of a bear encounter drop the bag as a fragrant 
distraction. Trust me, it's an acceptable form of littering, 
under the circumstances. 
           
Bear proof garbage cans make excellent food pannier 
storage. If you camp in a roadside rest area, and there
isn't a satisfactory tree available, tie the panniers to the 
underside of the lid so that they hang inside, but not 
touching the contents of the can. Put up your tent in sight, 
at a safe distance.           
           
There may be government workers (that's an oxymoron 
isn't it?) who aren't aware of the policy of Do Not Disturb 
The Cyclist Camped Overnight In Rest Areas, so if you         
have a problem with them, or spot a "wreckreator," take 
photos of the person, their vehicle license plate, note the 
time, and get their name. 

Fax or phone a complaint to the applicable Minister, or 
State official and if necessary call for help from State Police, 
or in Canada from the finest police force anywhere by dialing 
0 and asking the operator to connect you with the RCMP. 
This is your land you're protecting. 

Terry Connellan is a veteran long distance cycle tourer who 
occasionally shares his adventures. He freely admits 
to having made every non-fatal mistake on the way 
to acquiring a significant bank of cycling know-how. 



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