Ding Ding Ding… Cycling Across Canada!

WHO

Three Dings and their bicycles:

SARAH Moliner-Roy

Age 22, from Québec, riding the Nimbus 2011, an Opus Largo touring bicycle

Sarah graduated from McGill University in Cognitive Science, and will have to spend the rest of her life explaining what that is all about. She is not ashamed to wear a fanny-pack and thinks that high-heels are a both a physical and social handicap for women. Postmodern art disgusts her, yet she loves randomness. Potato.

ARTHUR Omont

Age 19, from France, riding the Camembert II, a red road bike found on Craigslist

Arthur graduated from McGill University with credits in so many different departments that it would be hard to say whether he is a mathematician of linguistics, a politician of computer science or a multilingual philosopher. His sleeping pattern is completely disassociated from the sun’s cycle, and probably harder to decipher than the decimals of pi.

CLÉMENT Moliner-Roy

Age 17, from Québec, riding the Caribou touring bike by Devinci

Clément graduated from Alexander Galt High School, were he was both the school president and the school jester. He is famous for his circus acts, from juggling to unicycling… and infamous for his poor imitation of Justin Bieber. Despite being a talented chef who could open a five star restaurant if he wanted to, he mainly fuels on peanut butter and dollar store ramen noodles.

Sarah, Clément and Arthur

WHAT

We traveled with all of our camping gear bungee strapped to the back of our bicycles, knocking on strangers’ doors and asking if we could set up our tent in their backyard. We got offered free hot showers and breakfasts by generous souls, whom we could never thank enough.

A typical day: wake up, eat, pack, bike, eat, bike, eat, bike, eat, bike, eat, unpack, wash (optional), sleep.

Being outdoors all day discovering fantastic landscapes was amazing and we would repeat the adventure anytime!


Here are some photographs we took along the way! Click on the play button to watch. You can then click on the “Show info” button (top right) to read the information behind each picture. You can also click on the fullscreen button (bottom right) to immerse yourself in our adventure. Enjoy!

WHEN

Summer 2012. See the map below for day-by-day breakdown of the trip!

WHERE

Across Canada! We were told a million times that the dominant winds blow from West to East, so we should bike in that direction as well. Thus first we biked from Montreal to Halifax, and then we flew to Vancouver and biked back to Montreal. Lies. The wind blew in every direction except for the one we were going. Check out the map and pictures!


Here is a map outlining where we woke up on every morning of the trip. Our route starts in Montreal and heads East to Halifax, then it wraps around to Vancouver and heads back to Montreal. You can zoom, pan and click on the blue markers to see more information about each day.

WHY

Why? For no reason or cause in particular. We had no plans for the summer and were wondering what to do. We had all travelled a lot already, and felt like we knew less of the country we were living in than the rest of the world. So we figured it would be good time to explore Canada. We ruled out planes, trains and cars because we are cheap (dollar stores were our main supplier during the whole summer) and also because we pride ourselves in being tough (the ultimate insult is to be called a “softshell”, term used to describe athletes that have fancy matching tight dry-fit Gore-Tex apparel). We considered traveling by unicycle, but ruled that out due to time constraints (there is no concept of a free wheel on a unicycle… too slow). We lengthily contemplated using a tridem (a tandem bike with three seats), but couldn’t find one at a decent price. Therefore, we concluded that the best way to spend the summer was to bike across Canada. So we did it. And it was awesome!

HOW

With no training, no GPS, no escort car and no idea what we were doing, we just loaded our bikes with camping gear and started pedaling! We used the “MapArt Canada Back Road Atlas” to guess our way, and asked for directions when we got lost. We were very cheap on most aspects of the trip. We slept for free as much as possible, yet we always asked for permission before setting up our tent. We almost never got turned down. Most often we were even offered free hot showers, and even breakfast.

We are terrible bike mechanics and the most maintenance we did was to clean and oil the chains once in a while. We had to tune a back derailleur once and just made it worse; Clément ended up with only 3 gears to climb to Manning Park. We eventually found a bike store to fix it. All in all, we had about a dozen flat tires, most of them slow punctures caused by staples on the road in Manitoba that would slowly inch their way and through the rubber. Those were particularly hard to find and remove, and we got really good at patching the inner tubes. We had one more severe puncture where the outer tire was also cut, to the point where the inner tube could be seen bulging out, even after we patched it. So we put that tire on the front wheel (which has less weight) and reduced the pressure to about 30psi. Clément had to bike over 100km along the Bruce Peninsula until we found a bike store in Owen Sound to buy a new tire! The rest of our repairs were pretty much executed with duct tape.

Food is the only thing we were not stingy about. We generally carried two days worth of food on our bikes. When we did groceries, we would have a picnic in the store’s parking lot to splurge on hard to carry items, such as a whole roasted chicken or 2 liters of Coaticook ice cream. Our body weight did not change much over the summer. Early in the trip, we would be starving every two hours. One day we actually ate 7 full meals. Sadly, over time our metabolism got used to the higher energy expenditure and by the end of the trip we were back down to just 3 normal meals a day. Since we were not hungry anymore, we stopped taking snack breaks. That became a problem because we had no reason to stop and we would end up biking for 6 hours straight, so we had to impose a system to take forced breaks: every 2 hours or so, we would get off our bikes and sit by the road to play a game of cards (President). The winner would get to decide were in the pack he wanted to ride (front, middle or back).

Given we were somewhat limited in time, we figured we would bike as far as we could every day and only take full days off when it rained. Unfortunately (or fortunately) it did not rain for the 37 first days, so we did not rest at all. Then we decided we might as well take a day off even though it was not raining, and booked a hotel room in Portage La Prairie. We maxed out our time there, from check-in to checkout, swimming in the pool with a waterslide and chilling at the all-you-can-eat buffet until we were stuffed (playing cards at the table to make it last longer). After that day of luxury, we hit the road again and headed towards Ontario… where it rained almost every single day!

Although it did not rain much overall, we did see all kinds of weather. When we climbed up to Manning Park (some 1500m in altitude), we could see snow in the ditch and we regretted not having warmer clothes and gloves. We had also not anticipated that Canada actually has some desert areas, such as Osoyoos, which was unbearably hot and dry.

All in all, we probably averaged over 100km a day, although that doesn’t mean much given some days we biked 180km and others we stopped after 30km. It was a good workout, but not exhausting given we were all already pretty fit. The first week was the toughest, with muscle stiffness in our thighs and calves and sharp pain to the neck, back and wrists. However all of those receded as we strengthened our stabilizers and learnt to not put weight on our hands. The one discomfort that we never really got rid of was in the saddle area.

The hardest challenge was to keep our brains occupied during all that time. We sang songs and wished we had some sort of a sound system to listen to music. We learnt to recite the alphabet backwards and perform other mind tricks, but mostly ended up daydreaming about what to eat for the next meal. In terms of mentality, we quickly developed a new philosophy, which we baptized “Appreciative Pessimism”. Essentially, we would wake up in the morning and assume that the day would be uphill against the wind in a swarm of mosquitos on a muddy road with huge forestry trucks and grizzly bears. Then we would set off and savor every little positive detail that disproved that horrible expectation. We determined that if you always do your best and expect the worse, you can only be positively surprised!