Eco Discoveries

10 secrets to cycle touring, british columbia cycling, ecodiscoveries, Eco Discoveries

What are Eco Discoveries?

We have two dreams. 1) To explore the world, and 2) To own a cycle-friendly, eco-guesthouse or hostel. We appreciate the need to be sustainable and want to make our hostel, as eco-friendly as possible. What better way to research and collect ideas for our future endeavour, than making eco discoveries through visiting established and aspiring eco-friendly businesses, buildings and organisations all over the world? We hope to learn how these businesses have achieved their dreams, what obstacles they’ve had to overcome, and what tips they have for ‘newbies’.

Already, we have been inspired to take a page from Patagonia’s book. To own a business that will cause no unnecessary harm, and be used to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis. This is apart of Patagonia’s mission statement, and something we want to take onboard. This is an example of an eco discovery – a lesson we have learnt from a green business during our cycle trip.

The Plan

During our world cycle trip, we plan to visit and learn as much as we can from different green businesses. The plan is to add our eco discoveries to this site during our travels. This will include information about what we’ve learnt, eco-friendly ideas, environmental issues that we encounter along the way, and anything else that we think might be helpful or inspirational.

How you can get involved

Get in touch, if you know of, or are the owner of a green business that might be interested in helping with our eco discoveries. Check out our proposed route to see whether your green business is on or near our route (bear in mind our route is very flexible). We are offering free advertising on our site and social media channels in return for your help and advice!

We will be visiting, interviewing and reviewing all types of eco-friendly businesses during our 5+ year cycle tour.

Some examples of the business we would love to hear from, include:

  • Eco-lodges, eco-guesthouses or eco-hostels.
  • Sustainable kitchens.
  • Cafes.
  • Breweries.
  • Shops.
  • Ecotourism attractions.
  • Tour companies.
  • Businesses that have implemented green/ sustainable building practices.
  • Organic Farms.

If your eco-business doesn’t fall into one of these categories, don’t worry, we would still love to hear all about it.

Why get in touch?

  • This is a great opportunity for the green business to gain some free local as well as global advertising.
  • Exposure on our social media sites.
  • Exposure on our website, in the form of reviews, interview posts and blog posts. Check out an article we’ve written for the Greenhouse restaurant, and Durgas Den.
  • You will be helping others (and us), learn to build their very own ‘green’ business, which of course, is a great way to increase sustainability, awareness and the green movement.
  • Long term exposure. Our cycle trip is estimated to take at least 5 years, so that’s at least 5 years of free exposure.
  • We are also offering sponsorship and partnership opportunities.

Choosing Travel Insurance for Cycle Touring

Cycling Kyrgyzstan, travel insurance for cycle touring

Having the appropriate travel insurance for cycle touring is essential! It gives you peace of mind in case something happens, and ensures you won’t end up forking out unnecessary dollars.

I know a lot of people take the risk and don’t buy travel insurance. Personally, I think that’s insane! I used to work as a travel consultant and I’ve heard MANY horror stories related to not being covered. The horror stories were from people that were on holiday or travelling, when something bad happened, and they either weren’t covered or weren’t covered for the activities they were doing. It always ended up costing them. So it’s important to not only have travel insurance, but to make sure you are sufficiently covered for the activities you plan on doing.

A few things to consider when choosing Travel Insurance for Cycle Touring:

Does the policy cover your bicycle?

I’ve discovered that most travel insurance policies won’t cover bicycle thief! Actually, I have not found one policy (for Australians) that does. Most policies also won’t cover damages to your bike. Most will however cover damages or thief to bicycle accessories (panniers, phone mounts etc.). It’s important to check and be aware of this. It’s better to know up front than think you’re covered just to find out later you’re not.

brodie green bicycle circuit
My new bike!

Does the insurance company cover long-term cycle touring?

This is something I always confirm directly with the insurance company, as it’s not always listed on the ‘included activities’ section of the policy. Some insurance policies may only cover cycle touring on roads or paths (ie. not mountain bike trails), or only cover cycle touring if it’s not main activity taking place (ie. it’s not more than XX% of the trip). Other insurance companies may not cover cycle touring at all or it might be considered to be an additional extra or ‘extreme activity’. Make sure you get confirmation directly from the provider before purchasing your travel insurance for cycle touring.

leaving vancouver
Cycle touring in Canada

And, what are the conditions?

You will usually find that the insurance provider will only cover you for cycle touring if you are following the country’s rules and regulations (ie. if it’s law to wear a helmet, then you must be wearing a helmet to be covered or, if you legally can’t cycle on a specific road, then you won’t be covered if you cycle on that road). It’s important to familiarise yourself with the country’s cycling rules, and if you do break some laws (face it, we all do at some point), then be mindful that you might not be covered if something was to happen.

How long do you plan to be cycling for? Will the policy cover you for the entire duration? Or will you need to renew you policy each year?

Most insurance companies only provide insurance policies for a maximum of one year. If you plan on cycling for longer than that, then it’s important to check, 1) Whether the policy can be extend, 2) Whether you can purchase or extend a new policy while travelling. A lot of policies cannot be extended, which means purchasing a new policy. Some policies have to be purchased while you are in your home country, before the start of your trip.

It’s also worth checking whether your travel insurance policy will become void if you decide to visit home during your trip. On the other extreme, make sure the policy isn’t a multi-trip policy; these policies are annual policies that only cover you for travel that is up to specific time period (ie. 60 or 90 days) at a time. After that you have to return home for the policy to still be valid.

I can almost hear some of you ask, “How will the insurance company find out if I wasn’t wearing my helmet, or that I went home for a couple of weeks?” The truth is, they might not find out unless they request specific documents that contradicts your story or if something happens to you while you are breaking one of the policy conditions. It’s whether you want to take that risk or now. If you are forking out all that money for travel insurance, then you probably want to be covered.

A few other things to consider:

Are you travelling solo, or as a group, a family or a couple? Sometimes it’s cheaper to buy a policy that covers you as a group, couple of family, instead of individually.

What countries are you visiting? Different countries usually cost different amounts to cover. Make sure you’re covered for all the countries you plan on visiting.

What’s your nationality? You nationality will affect the policy, even if it’s the same insurance provider. For example, World Nomad’s policy for British nationals covers completely different activities than World Nomad’s policy for Australians.

Arriving in China with the bikes
Arriving in China with the bikes

If you are unsure about anything, confirm in writing with the insurance provider.

When choosing my insurance provider and policy, I always email the insurance company to confirm my inclusions and anything I’m unsure about. I actually did this once, and was told I was covered for something. It turned out I wasn’t, however because I wrote the to insurance company and had in writing that I was covered; they honoured the claim and paid me out. This experience was with World Nomads Insurance Company.

However, boring it is, I also recommend reading through the policy and comparing a few different policy options before choosing your travel insurance for cycle touring. Like choosing your touring bike – picking an insurance policy is an investment.

Our Experience with Travel Insurance for Cycle Touring

We used World Nomads Travel Insurance for our France to China trip, and DUInsure (which is actually part of the Alliance group) for our cycle trip across Canada. I’ve made claims under both policies and overall had a good experience with both insurance companies. However, I did find World Nomad’s system much more user friendly and less complicated for submitting claims online. The overall process with World Nomad’s was also a lot quicker, and I got paid out within days, opposed to DUInsure where I had to wait weeks. I found DUInsure is slightly cheaper for travel in Canada and the USA, which is why I changed insurance companies this time, however I think I will be changing back to World Nomads once we get into Latin America.

 

Feel free to get in touch if you have any questions about my experience with either of these insurance companies.

We would also love to hear from you if you’ve used either of these insurance companies and want to share your experience. Likewise, if you have any other tips for picking travel insurance for cycle touring.

If you enjoyed this article on choosing travel insurance for cycle touring, then you might also enjoy our article on Accommodation Options for Cycle Tourists.

Origin8 Classique Cargo HD Front Rack: Gear Review

Origin8 Classique Cargo HD Front Rack Gear Review

SPECS for the Origin8 Classique Cargo HD Front Rack:

Weight: 950gms

Dimensions: 38cm x 35.5cm x 35.5cm

Price paid: $55 USD + postage on Amazon

PROS:

  • 25 kg capacity!
  • Well-made and sturdy ‘one piece’ construction
  • Plenty of attachment points for cargo
  • Looks cool with a kick ass matte black paint job
  • Adjustable height
  • Can fit pretty much anything you would ever need on tour on the platform

CONS:

  • Very wide and awkward for touring / locking in public bike racks
  •  Mounts in the thru axle, which can mean buying a longer quick release skewer on some bikes
  • Fairly heavy
  • Cannot carry panniers
  • Does not come with longer quick release skewer or even instructions on how to mount the rack
origin8 classique cargo front rack bike
The beast!

OVERVIEW:

I purchased the Origin8 Classique Cargo HD Front Rack while still at home in Perth, Western Australia to aid me in my never ending beer runs from work (at a liquor store) where I was constantly lugging 30 plus cans and bottles of sweet delicious life giving beer home for essential taste testing. I was so impressed by the way I could pile huge amounts of weight onto this bad boy without it even flinching that I decided to pack this big bulky awkwardly shaped bugger into my backpack to come for an adventure with me across Canada and beyond. And just like that the Origin8 Classique Cargo HD Front Rack became apart of our gear for our trip across Canada.

DESIGN AND FUNCTIONALITY:

The Origin8 Classique Cargo HD Front Rack is a very well thought out and designed piece of equipment that also adds a classy stylish professional cargo bike look to any bike you use it with.

Designed to attach in three points to your bike; above the fork in the same hole you would attach fenders to and at the bottom of the rack using your bikes quick release axle skewer. I attempted to attach the rack using the skewer my bike came with but it was not long enough to lock down with the rack attached so I had to get creative and use the lower fork eyelets to attach the rack.

This was not a major issue, but the lack of mounting instructions and hardware provided was a bit frustrating and I was lucky that I happened to have some spare screws and washers that allowed me to mount it in this fashion.

The lower attachment holes are designed for the quick release skewer to fit through with the skewer end cap holding it in place, so as such the holes are quite large openings and cannot be used with the smaller M5 type bolts that fit in standard bicycle attachment points without use of an oversized washer to stop the screw from simply slipping through the opening and not holding the rack in place.

To get around this I simply had to use a large washer to prevent the screw from slipping through the racks attachments holes, again not a major issue and I still feel it was perfectly secure in this manner, but not quite as neat looking…to be honest I’m not a fan of racks that use the skewer as an attachment point anyway as I think it can put added stress on a fairly important part of your bike!

Apart from my axle mounting issues, the rack was fairly straightforward to attach to my bike. The legs of the rack are extendable and can be used on bikes with 26-29 inch wheels and lock in place with use of bolts and holes screwed at various intervals along the extendable portions of the legs. The extending portion of the legs can take a bit of convincing to pull out, but were easy enough to twist and pull down with my bare hands without the use of pliers.

The top attachment point is also adjustable so you can fine-tune the angle and distance the top platform sits in relation to the bike.

I love the layout of the Origin8 Classique Cargo HD Front Rack! It has four thick, round bars on the massive top platform plus the outer frame making it incredibly easy to attach anything you want to this rack without much hassle at all. The multiple struts connecting the top platform to the legs give you endless possibilities of places to loop your straps or bungee cords around and keep your load safe and stable as you cruise around town.

When loaded up heavily it does drastically change the feel and steering of the bike…but that is always going to be an issue when riding with a loaded bike. This is especially the case when the weight is high up like on a cargo rack, but you do get used to it and just have to take the load and weight into account when cornering and steering. Ultimately having the load up high and the way it effected the cornering caused me to reconsider riding around the world with this rack, but as a grocery runner and general around town hauler this rack is a total boss.

origin8-classique-cargo-front-rack-side
Side angle of the rack

DURABILITY:

The all in one construction means it is super strong and feels rigid and sturdy when attached as opposed to some racks that fold down and require assembling. The thick and strong round aluminium struts make you feel totally confident about the durability of this rack and it’s ability to carry pretty much anything you feel like strapping to it…as long as it’s under the HUGE max weight limit of 25kg.

I’m actually pretty sure I’ve exceeded that weight limit hauling beer around town before and had no problems, but probably wouldn’t recommend it.

The tubes on this rack are super thick and all the welds are very professionally done and neat with multiple struts reinforcing and holding the top platform in place.

I can attest to the strength of this as unfortunately, I have crashed my bike with it on several times. I’m a bit of clumsy fool and took a few tumbles at home on bike paths after sampling a few too many of my works goods, plus a fairly major fall in the rocky mountains near the start of the trip. The rack did hit the pavement in the crashes and came out fully intact, some very minor scratches to the paint but otherwise unscathed. Considering the impact that the rack took I was very surprised how well the rack survived and particularly how well the paint job stood up.

Bomb proof rack!

warmshowers saviour
Work getting done on the bike! You can see the rack in the front.

SUMMARY:

I love the Origin8 Classique Cargo HD Front Rack. I do not want to get rid of this rack, but I kind of feel that I have to.

If I was running errands around town, picking up groceries and doing beer runs, I would never need any other rack than this, but for long distance touring it’s just not working out for me.

When fully loaded with rear panniers and a backpack on the top of the rear rack the addition of any substantial weight high up on the top platform of this rack makes the ride wobbly and unstable, so on the next leg of our trip I will be opting for either low rider front racks or fork mounted bikepacking style cargo cages such as Blackburn Outpost Cargo Bottle Cage or Salsa Anything cages. As for the beer – I’m going to be carrying growlers in future (no joke)!

The wobbly unstable ride is not the fault of the Origin8 Classique Cargo HD Front Rack, the fault lies with the amount of crap I’ve been carrying on tour. It’s not meant to be a rack for touring; it’s a cargo rack…for carrying cargo around town.

If you are considering getting the Origin8 Classique Cargo HD Front Rack to tour with I would have a good long think about exactly how much stuff you intend to carry high up on the front of your ride, because chances are you don’t need a rack this big and capable carrying such weight. Also consider the width and chunkiness of this rack for touring; if you need to squeeze it into a bus or car to hitch a ride, it can get awkward. I’ve also found it difficult locking Kelly’s bikes and mine together sometimes as the rack gets in the way and pushes the bikes apart.

However, if you’re looking for a rack to haul all sorts of crap around town and help your best friend move a fridge, then this baby is for you! Well made, looks sexy and super easy to strap stuff too.

I give the Origin8 Classique Cargo HD Front Rack 4 out of 5 stars. (Amazon/ Our Gear List)

Read my gear review about cycling with the LifeStraw Go water bottle filter or with the Goal Zero Rock Out 2 Speakers.

Cycle Touring Videos

Cycle Touring Videos

Welcome to our Cycle Touring Videos from our France to China cycle trip and our World Cycle Tour. I hope you enjoy them. The photos and videos are shot on a GoPro Hero 2, a Lumix GF1 camera and an iphone SE.

Safe travels!

Kelly & Michael x

France to China by bike Cycle Touring Videos

  1. France
  2. Italy
  3. The first 5000km (France to Iran)
  4. Iran
  5. Turkmenistan & Uzbekistan
  6. Kyrgyzstan & Kazakhstan
  7. Kazakhstan & China
  8. A Day in the Life of a Cycle Tourist

World Cycle Tour Cycle Touring Videos

  1. Canada
  2. Snapshot Canada: every 100km across Canada

The Cycle Touring Videos

France to China by bike Cycle Touring Videos

France

This is where the journey began at Sty Foy ski station in the Alps! We were working a ski season in the French Alps, when Kelly was in a ski accident, and was no longer able to ski, run, walk, or do anything, except cook and eat. The doctor advised her, that cycling would be good rehab for the knee… and so, with that, the idea of cycling to China was born. With absolutely no experience, next to no planning, and several injuries, we headed off – feeling… confident! Lucky for us the first few days were all down hill, followed by the rest of the week conquering 2 mountains passes. Read more about our cycle trip through France.

Italy

When we made it to Italy, we knew that we would be able to make it the whole way to China – despite what others thought. This was the first country we cycle the whole way across. Read more about our cycle across Italy.

The first 5000km from France to China

Unfortunately, we lost all our original video footage from the first half of our trip. This happened at some point during the trip, but we didn’t realise until we got home, and by this time it was too late to do much about it. We did however manage to retrieve this video about the first 5000km cycling through FranceItalyCroatiaMontenegroAlbaniaMacedoniaGreeceTurkey and Iran. Click on the country name to read more about our cycle trip through those countries.

 

Iran

We didn’t know what to expect when cycling through Iran, but as soon as we crossed the border from Turkey, we were welcomed by friendly and extremely generous people. A day didn’t go by where we weren’t given gifts of fresh fruit, water, smiles and waves. One of the hottest, but also one of my favourite countries on the cycle trip.

Turkmenistan & Uzbekistan

We were only able to get a 5 day transit visa for Turkmenistan, which meant 5 days to cycle 600km across a very hot desert on a very bad road. Luckily, we made it to the border in time. After Turkmenistan was Uzbekistan. The most challenging country during our cycle trip. Bad roads, injured dogs, boring scenery, a killer headwind, but some amazing people. Read more about our adventures in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

Kyrgyzstan & Kazakhstan

When we arrived into Kyrgyzstan we were greeted with smooth highways, beautiful scenery and lots of cows, oh and mountains. We made it to Bishkek, and then from there cycled into the last Stan of the trip, Kazakhstan. Read more about our adventures in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.

Kazakhstan & China

The last few days cycling in Kazakhstan were cold! We were looking forward to getting to China and exchanging our bikes for backpacks. The cycle into China was easy, however the bad pollution lead us to hitchhike to Urumqi. Once in Urumqi we sold the bikes, and made our way to Beijing as backpackers. Read more about our China experience.

A Day in the Life of a Cycle Tourist

Ever wonder what it’s like to be a cycling nomad? This video gives a glimpse into the life of a cycle tourist, while we cycled through the Kazakh desert, during our France to China cycle trip.

World Cycle Touring Videos

In June 2016, we decided to head off on a world cycle tour. This epic journey started in Vancouver, Canada, where we first headed across Canada to Halifax. After Canada the plan is to head south across the USA and continuing south through Mexico and the rest of Latin America.

Canada

The cycle journey started on 27th June 2016 in Vancouver, British Columbia. We then spent the next 3.5 months cycling 7000km across Canada to Halifax. The cycle trip took us through the Rocky Mountains, the Prairie lands, the lake lands of Ontario, French Canada and finally the Maritimes.

Click here to read about our cycle trip across Canada.

Snapshot Canada: every 100km across Canada 

We decided to take a photo every 100km that we cycled across Canada. The idea was to put the photos together as a slide show in the hope that it will give a perspective of how the Canadian landscape changes coast to coast. I think it definitely puts the prairies and also Ontario into perspective in terms of distance. The road quality also changes drastically. In total we cycled 7000km across the country.

 

Vancouver City Guide for Cycle Tourists

Vancouver City Guide for Cycle Tourists

So, why did I decided to put together this Vancouver City Guide for Cycle Tourists? Last summer I was fortunate enough to land myself a summer job in Vancouver, working at Capilano Suspension Bridge. If you haven’t heard about Capilano yet, don’t worry you would have by the time you leave Vancouver. It’s hard to escape the park’s advertising! Though I loved working there, it is a tourist trap. But, what I did learn during my summer in Vancouver is the best and cheapest way to see the city. Vancouver is an expensive city, and as you probably know, most cyclist tourists are on a bit of a tight budget. So it is handy knowing how to visit this awesome city, without blowing funds you’ve saved for a rainy day.

Vancouver is also where we choose to start our World Cycle Tour, where we bought our touring bikes and where we had to prepare ourselves for the start of our trip. I wanted to share with others what we learnt.

I’ve made a couple of assumptions of people reading this Vancouver City Guide for Cycle Tourists:

  • You’re planning a cycle tour that passes through Vancouver at some point.
  • You love the outdoors and like hiking.
  • You’re on a budget.
  • You’re visiting Vancouver during the “cycle season” (ie. May – Sept), which is also the “cruise season,” so Vancouver’s peak season.

So without further a due here is the Vancouver City Guide for Cycle Tourists!

Some things to know about Vancouver:

  • Bike theft is huge! Keep an eye on your bike. If it gets stolen you won’t get it back.
  • If you have an expensive Saddle, then lock it to your bike. No joke! Bike seats get stolen all the time. We got some old chain from a bike store and locked our seat to the bike with that. While I was in the bike store, a girl actually came into the store looking for a new bike saddle because hers had literally just got pinched.
  • Avoid staying around East Hastings & Main St (or anywhere near the bus station). It’s not the nicest area of Vancouver.
  • There are loads of cycle paths around the city.
  • You can take bikes on buses and on trains.
  • If you are visiting during July or August, then definitely book your accommodation in advance. I’ve found Airbnb to have the best accommodation deals, otherwise I would try bookings as they tend to have the cheapest hotel prices. Hostelz is also a pretty good site to use, particularly if  you are looking for dorm room accommodation.
  • Most people stay around Kitsilano, Broadway St or Downtown. My favourite areas are North Vancouver (or the North Shore) and Kitsilano. The North Shore is a bit far from downtown, however it is a great base if you plan on cycling Hwy 99 (Sea to Sky), as you will miss all the morning traffic when leaving Vancouver (and there is A LOT of traffic in Vancouver).
  • Public transport and traffic in Vancouver generally sucks! I’ve found it’s usually quicker to cycle somewhere then to catch the bus. If you are staying on the north shore, then there are no trains, which means public transport sucks even more.

Bike & Outdoor Stores

We got our bikes from Bikes on the Drive. Personally, we didn’t have a good experience with them and I wouldn’t recommend them. I’ve heard that Ride On and Ride on Again are both good bike stores to check out. There are LOADS of bike stores in Vancouver – make sure you read the reviews and do some research before dealing with the store.

Mountain Equipment Co (MEC): It is $5 for a lifetime membership and it is definitely worth it. You will love this store. They are dotted all over Canada (in the major cities, though more so in the West), have an AWESOME return policy and sell everything from bike stuff to camping gear to outdoors clothes. There are 2 in Vancouver: one in downtown and one on the North Shore.

Sport Check: Another good outdoor store. Reasonably priced with a good selection. There are a few dotted around the city.

Touristy things to do:

Unfortunately, a lot of the tourist attractions in Vancouver are over-priced, but there are a lot of free or cheap activities to do around the city. A lot of them in my opinion are more interesting than the paid attractions. Definitely skip Capilano Suspension Bridge. It’s a tourist trap and it’s ridiculously overpriced. You are going to see way more impress things on your cycle trip anyway. But, don’t skip the North Shore – it’s awesome.

North Shore

Here’s an idea of a day itinerary that I used to recommend to family and friends visiting Vancouver:

Head to Canada Place and spend a bit of time walking around the waterfront and admiring the seaplanes, view, sails on the building etc. Then, catch the ferry from there to Lonsdale Quay (on the North Shore).

At Lonsdale Quay you have a great view of Vancouver’s cityscape. There is a lookout you can walk up to and get an even better look. There is also a small market, a craft brewery (with ‘ok’ beer) and a cheap “all you can eat” Chinese buffet – if you want to start carb-loading. Lonsdale Quay also has a farmer’s market every Saturday during the summer, and a night market every Friday night during the summer months. The ‘Japanese style burrito’ food truck at the night market is delicious!

Lonsdale Quay has the North’s Shore main bus terminal. From here you can catch buses to several different trails and attractions.

A) Capilano regional Park, the Salmon hatchery, Cleveland Dam & Grouse Mountain

Take bus #247 towards Grouse Mountain. Get off the bus at Capilano Suspension Bridge or Cleveland Dam for Capilano Regional Park* (click here to see a map of the park with trails and bus stop locations).

The regional park is free and has some amazing views of the canyon and really nice walks through the rain forest. In my opinion it’s nicer than the park. I recommend heading to the Salmon Hatchery first (it’s free and takes about 30 minutes to walk to from the Capilano suspension Bridge and about the same from Cleveland dam).

From the salmon hatchery head over the bridge to the lookout that looks up at Cleveland dam (trail #8 on the map). The Coho Loop is also a nice loop to do if you want to explore a bit more. After exploring this area you can head up to the top of Cleveland Dam. It is really beautiful and a nice place for a picnic.

Once finished at the dam, you can head to the bus stop on the road. You have a couple of options here:

  • You can catch the #247 up to Grouse Mountain. Grouse Mountain has a gondola you can take up to the top ($40+). Or, you can hike the Grouse Grind (check that it’s opened if visiting in May or earlier). It’s a steep, but short hike to the top. It’s then only $10 to catch the gondola backdown, plus you get the chance to see all the attractions at the top (grizzly bears, lumberjack show, bird of prey shows etc.) and a nice view of Vancouver. Grouse Mountain has a free shuttle back to Canada Place for anyone that rode the gondola. The bus takes you over the Lion’s Gate Bridge.
  • Catch the #247 back to downtown Vancouver. This bus also takes you over the Lion’s Gate bridge. You do have the option of getting off the bus near Stanley Park.

You can also walk up the Grouse Mountain from the dam. It’s about a 30 minute walk just along the main road.

  • If you want to skip Capilano Regional Park, the salmon hatchery and Cleveland Dam, you can always stay on bus #247 from Lonsdale until the end, which is Grouse Mountain.

B) Lynn Valley and the suspension bridge (the free suspension bridge)

Take bus #228 to Lynn Valley. Get off on Lynn Valley road near the suspension bridge and follow the signs (the bus driver can tell you when to get off). There are some nice walks around the park, including the smaller, but free suspension bridge, some pools that you can swim in, and lots of canyons and waterfalls.

Alternatively, if you want to try some longer hikes you can stay on the bus until Lynn Valley Headwaters Park. There is a hike to a waterfall, and a longer hike, which leads up to Grouse Mountain (this is quite a difficult hike, so don’t attempt unless you are prepared – it also takes at least half a day to a day).

I’ve only mentioned a couple of hikes that you can do from Vancouver, however there are loads. If you are interested in doing any other hiking then definitely check out Vancouver Trails.

Capilano Suspension Bridge - the Lynn Valley one is much nicer!
Capilano Suspension Bridge – the Lynn Valley one is much nicer!

Deep Cove

Deep cove is also a nice place to check out. It’s a small town on the Indian Arm inlet, which has some great (and reasonably priced kayak hire), a famous donut shop and a nice hike known as Quarry Rock.

To get there either take the #219 bus from Lonsdale Quay to Phibbs Exchange, then catch bus #212 or #211 to Deep Cove. Or you can catch the #211 from downtown Vancouver all the way to Deep Cove.

Kayaking at Deep Cove
Kayaking at Deep Cove

Stanley Park

You can’t really visit Vancouver without taking a stroll or cycle around Stanley Park. It’s huge and it’s busy, but it’s still definitely worth doing. Usually people will cycle around the seawall and follow the cycle path along the waterfront taking in all the sites along the way. The cycle path follows the waterfront from Canada to Place, around the seawall (under the Lion’s Gate bridge), around the stadiums and science musuem, Granville Island and Kitsilano. It’s definitely a nice cycle – but it can be extremely busy.

There are also a lot of walks around the park, but personally I think the best way to see it is to cycle.

During the summer Stanley Park also has free outdoor movies.

Craft Breweries

We decided beer is pretty important and Vancouver has some pretty great craft breweries. So we thought we had better make a whole section in this “Vancouver City Guide for Cycle Tourists” dedicated to it. Since writing this guide we have also started a new site dedicated to cycle friendly breweries – check it out at Beercycle Touring.

Black Kettle on the North Shore is a small, but very good brewery. It’s in the industrial area, and is only a small place, but definitely a great spot – especially if you want to get off the tourist trail.

Steamworks does good beer and also good food (I highly recommend the quinoa burger). They are located in Gastown.

Granville Island brewery is super popular, and you will find it all over Canada. The brewery is pretty cool though, and they do brewery tours. The hummus plater is also really good.

I didn’t think much of the beers at the brewery in Lonsdale Quay, but they do have a pretty cool location.

Though it’s not in Vancouver, if you do make it up to Whistler, The Whistler Brewery does a very good Grapefruit beer.

If you want to try a bunch of local brews for cheap, then head to the liquor store and grab a few different ones to try. Drinking beer is carb loading – so, it’s great preparation for cycle touring wink, wink.

Enjoying craft beer at one of the breweries in Vancouver
Enjoying craft beer at one of the breweries in Vancouver

Liquor Stores

BC has 2 types of liquor stores:

  • Government owned (BC liquor): these stores are generally cheaper, but don’t always sell cold beer. When they do sell cold beer it’s usually only bud and coronas (if you’re lucky).
  • Privately owned: more expensive, but they usually have cold beers and wine for sale. They are more likely to sell a larger range of local beers and wines, however this is not always the case.

A lot of the privately owned liquor stores will have tasting nights of either local BC wines or beers. It’s worth keeping an eye out for these.

Free Events in Vancouver to watch out for:

Vancouver loves fireworks.

There are several firework displays on every summer. Celebration of Light and Canada Day (1st July) are 2 of the big ones. There will also be several smaller ones throughout the summer.

Night markets.

  • Richmond Night markets (Saturday night)
  • Lonsdale Quay (Friday night)

There are actually a whole bunch all over the city. This article (though for 2016) does a good job at describing all the different night markets in Vancouver.

Farmers markets.

These are dotted all around the city. Whatever day you are in Vancouver, if it’s summer, it’s likely you’ll be able to find one on, whatever day you’re there.

Outdoor movie nights.

Stanley park open aired movies are free and on every Summer. There are also a few smaller companies that have free outdoor movie showings at different locations through the Summer. The best place to find out about these is in the Straight free magazine or on Vancity Buzz (which I just discovered is now called Daily Hive).

Free salsa classes.

Free walking Tour. 

There are also lots of parades and festivals going on in Vancouver over Spring and Summer, such as the Vancouver’s International Jazz Festival and the Pride Parade. The free magazine called The Georgia Straight is the best place to check out events and festivals.

There is also some pretty useful information on the bicycle section of the Vancouver Tourism site, including information about bicycle events and links to cycle maps.

Sunset in Vancouver, while waiting for the fireworks to start, Vancouver City Guide for Cycle Tourists
Sunset in Vancouver, while waiting for the fireworks to start

Getting in & out:

So I’ve already mentioned how bicycle friendly Vancouver is with all the cycle paths, and public transport that can carry bicycles, but what about getting in and out of the city.

Vancouver Island:

There are two options for getting to and from Vancouver island and both involve BC ferries.

Nanaimo – West Vancouver

Victoria (Swartz Bay) – Vancouver (Tsawwassen)

To the rest of BC:

The two most popular routes out of Vancouver (if you’re heading across Canada) are 1) the Sea to Sky highway to Whistler/ Pemberton and, 2) Highway 1 to Hope (or rather the roads that parallel highway 1 to Hope).

Personally, I would recommend the sea to sky highway, as it is a beautiful ride with stunning views, but it is a little longer and a bit more hilly than the alternative route. The highway does get a little narrow in sections, as does the hard shoulder. Something else to keep in mind is that bicycles are prohibited on sections of Highway 1 from Vancouver to Hope. This means you will have to take the quieter country roads (which I think are actually much nicer, just not as direct), for part of this route. Check out our Canada route notes or our ebook on Cycling Canada for more information about the roads out of Vancouver.

And that much pretty sums up our Vancouver City Guide for Cycle Tourists. Vancouver is an awesome city! We absolutely loved living there, so hope you enjoy exploring the city too.

If you have any questions or suggestion on how to improve this Vancouver City Guide for Cycle Tourists, please let us know. We’d love to hear your feedback!

Accommodation Options for Cycle Tourists

Cycling Kazakhstan, Accommodation Options for Cycle Tourists

There are plenty of different accommodation options for cycle tourists when on tour. One huge decision factor will be budget. Another will be your chosen destination and route, and what is actually available.

This article is going to explore some of the accommodation options for cycle tourists. These options might not be for everyone, but they are certainly available to everyone. Personally, I like to mix it up. When I’m on tour I primarily camp, however at least once or twice a week I will treat myself to one of these other options.

So, here is our list of Accommodation Options for Cycle Tourists

Hotels

Hotels are awesome – the ultimate luxury while cycle touring. They are available all over the world. They usually have hot showers, comfortable beds, wifi, sometimes even breakfast. Everything you dream off while spending the day slugging up a 13% gradient in a cold, wet head wind.

One downside to staying in hotels is the cost! Spending every night in a hotel can be expensive, especially if you’re cycling through Europe or North America. But, even if you’re on a shoestring cycle budget, you should definitely treat yourself once in a while. One thing I discovered about cycle touring is that it makes you appreciate small luxuries. You will definitely appreciate the luxuries of a hotel more while on tour.

Another downside to staying in hotels is availability. Perhaps you’re cycling across the Gibson Desert in Australia. Your hotel options will be few and far between – even more reason to treat yourself once you make it into a city.

I recently discovered Wego search engine, which is a great tool for searching for the best value hotels, wherever you are in the world. It’s a comparison search engine, which means it searches several different sites including booking.com (one of my personal favourites), hotels and LateRooms. It’s great for giving you plenty of options and finding the best price for a particular hotel. If you’re also looking for flights, it even has a flight search engine.

Airbnb

Airbnb is next on our list of accommodation options for cycle tourists. If you’re not familiar with Airbnb, it is an accommodation site, which allows locals to rent out their spare room or apartment for a couple of nights. Airbnb is still relatively new, but the number of hosts is constantly on the increase.

I’ve found Airbnb to be a great budget option. You can also find places that give you access to a kitchen, laundry facilities and somewhere to store or lock your bike – things that might be a little difficult to find in a hotel.

One downside I’ve found with Airbnb is that you can’t secure a booking instantly. You request a booking; it then has to be approved. This means if you’re looking for accommodation for that night, you may not hear back in time. Generally if I were looking for a same day booking, I would look at a different option. It is however a great option if you have set dates planned in a particular location. Another downside to Airbnb is that like hotels, they aren’t available everywhere. I’ve also found the fees on Airbnb to be a bit high – however, the overall price tends to be lower, so usually it is still a cheaper accommodation option.

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halifax home
Our home for the winter (an Airbnb)

Hostels

Staying in a hostel is a great way to meet people. Most hostels also offer access to a kitchen, laundry and common area. If you are travelling solo, then staying in a dorm room might also be a good budget option. If you are not travelling solo, then it can sometimes work out more expensive staying in a dorm room. Splitting the cost of a hotel room or Airbnb, could work out much cheaper, so make sure you check all your options.

Warmshowers

If you have not heard of the Warmshowers community, then check it out now. It’s an awesome source of information and a great way to get in touch with other cyclists.

Staying with a warmshowers host is great! They understand what it is like cycle touring. They know how you are feeling, what you need, what you want. It’s also a great way to get involved in the cycle community. You don’t always have the opportunity to meet other cyclists when on tour, however, warmshowers gives you that opportunity. The great thing about Warmshowers’ is that it tends to attract a similar type of person, so you will usually find you share a lot of common interests with your host or guest.

It’s also good practice to offer to host cyclists when you’re not cycling and able to.

Couchsurfing

Couchsurfing is similar to Warmshowers, however it is designed with all travellers in mind, not just cyclists. It’s a great way to meet locals and I’ve always had a very positive experience and met some amazing people.

I’ve found that a lot of cyclists turn their nose up to Couchsurfing. The community tends to get a bad rap due to the popularity of it, and sadly there are a lot of people that have abused it and given it this reputation. You are also less likely to meet people that understand cycle touring. This means it can be a little difficult explain that you may arrive a day early or late, that it’s hard to give an exact time and that you need somewhere to store or lock your bike.

With that being sad, I’ve explaining this, I’ve never had an issue. And, generally I’ve found couchsurfers’ to be very interested in learning about cycle touring. Another reason I’ve heard from cyclists that don’t like couchsurfing, is that with warmshowers, you know the type of person you will host or stay with. Warmshowers tends to attract the same ‘type’ of person. However, couchsurfing, you could end up with anyone. I guess it’s more of a gamble

One major plus to Couchsurfing being so popular, is that it means that you’re more likely to find a host in some obscure locations. It is also more common than Warmshowers’ in countries such as Mexico and Turkey.

Like warmshowers, when I’m not cycling and able to, I will offer to host other travellers. I think of it as a type of karma. Paying it back, or paying it forward – however, you want to look at it.

Discovering Persian hospitality
Our awesome couchsurfers in Tehran

Official Campsites

Staying in official campsite definitely has its bonuses. It is usually cheaper than a hotel, Airbnb or hostel, especially if you aren’t cycling solo and can split the cost with others. You can set up camp whenever you like, and usually there are hot showers, a picnic area, toilets and a shelter.

There are two types of official campsites; primitive campsites and full service campsites. Primitive campsites might not have showers and usually have limited services. Full service campsites have everything – sometimes even wifi.

The biggest downside to staying at official campsites is that they aren’t popular in every country. If you’re cycling through Turkey, Iran, Central Asia or South East Asia then official campsites are rare. Also, if you’re cycling solo through a country like Canada, then depending on the location it can sometimes even be cheaper to stay in a hostel than an official campsite.

Wild Camping

Also known as Stealth Camping, Free Camping, and Feral Camping.

Wild camping is last on our list of accommodation options for cycle tourists. It involves pitching your tent on unoccupied or crown land. There are usually limited services available (no toilet, running water, showers, bins etc.) In some cases there are designated primitive camping spots, which might have access to drinking water. I’ve also camped at picnic/ rest sites that have access to some services.

In some cases, wild camping might be your only option. It is also a great way to save a bit of cash and keep within your budget. However, if you do wild camp make sure you leave no trace. Pack out your rubbish, respect any fire bans, and don’t disturb the nature. In many cases wild camping has become illegal due to people not respecting these rules – this is the case for many wild camping spots around my hometown, Perth.

Wild camping definitely comes with its risks. If you’re camping illegally then you could be moved on in the middle of the night, or worse you could end up with a big fine. I always check whether there is any “no camping” signs before I set up camp. If I’m camping in a town or village, then I ask locals whether they can recommend a wild camping spot. If I want to camp on private land, then I ask the owner. Private land doesn’t have to just be someone’s garden or field; it could be a visitor center, shop or gas station. Whatever it is, I ask first.

My wild camping rules usually include, keeping out of site, being within a reasonable distance from the main road, asking permission (if required) and most importantly, listening to my gut. If you sense something isn’t right, then don’t camp there – this actually saved us well cycle touring in eastern Turkey.

Cycling Kazakhstan
Wild camping in the desert of Kazakhstan

Other than the risks and lack of services, another downside to wild camping is it’s not possible to wild camp everywhere. Wild camping in touristic places and in cities is usually not possible, or not safe. This is when some of the other options might come in hand. Wild camping also requires you to wait until the evening before setting up camp, where as staying in an official campsite means you can set up whenever you like.

That’s our list of accommodation options for cycle tourists. What’s your preferred accommodation option while on tour?

If you enjoyed these cycle touring tips on Accommodation Options for Cycle Tourists, then you might also enjoy our article on 10 secrets to cycle touring.

LifeStraw Go water bottle filter: Gear Review

lifestraw bottle and lid,LifeStraw Go water bottle filter

SPECS for the LifeStraw Go water bottle filter:

Weight: 221gms

Dimensions: 22.85cm x 7.6cm x 7.6cm

Volume: 650ml

Filter capacity: 1000ltrs

PROS:

  • Easy and quick filtration method
  • No batteries or chemicals needed
  • Fits in standard water bottle cages
  • Easy to clean
  • Can be operated one handed on the bike (flip top mouth piece)
  • Comes with caribiner and attachment point for connecting to backpack
  • Replaceable filter

CONS:

  • Leaks when not upright
  • Small volume
  • Don’t get big gulps of water due to water passing through the straw fibers

OVERVIEW

On our previous cycle trip we relied on a Steripen U.V filter and iodine tablets to purify drinking water that we suspected was not clean and while both these methods worked fine, the Steripen is very time consuming and requires batteries and the iodine leaves a pretty funky taste in your mouth and doesn’t filter out any chunky bits so we were very excited when we came across the LifeStraw Go water bottle filter!

lifestraw bottle and straw
What the straw looks like out of the bottle

FUNCTIONALITY:

This a brilliant piece of equipment and integrates Lifestraw’s revolutionary Personal water filter into a water bottle for conveniently transporting filtered water instead of just being able to suck it up directly from a lake / stream river / puddle or whatever you can now fill up and filter on the move!

It uses hollow fiber membrane strands packed tightly inside the large straw to prevent pathogens and bacteria from passing through so you only get a mouthful of good clean H20 instead of all the other potentially nasty stuff that could be lurking in the water. It’s super easy to clean out only requiring you to blow out the excess water from the straw to expel any dirt or nasty stuff that his been trapped in the filter and you’re good to go again!

The manufacturer claims that the straw can filter up to 1000ltrs before being replaced which is pretty impressive and I’m guessing it might even be more than that depending on how dirty the water is that you use with this. We’ve used it collecting water from rivers and lakes across Canada that appear fairly clean so I think we’ll get at least a thousand liters out of it if not more as opposed to if it were being used in muddy rivers or ponds.

The most appealing part of using this water bottle for me is the fact that you don’t have to sit down and pre filter your full days worth of drinking water; you can simply fill all of your water containers with dirty water and just refill the LifeStraw Go water bottle filter with the dirty water throughout the day and filter it as you drink! Saves a lot of time and messing around and you don’t have to ration your drinking water if you haven’t filtered enough at the start of the day.

lifestraw bottle
Another photo of the lifestraw bottle

DESIGN AND DURABILITY:

The bottle itself is pretty sturdy and made from solid plastic, so not quite as convenient for cycling as a squeezy bottle, but that’s not what it was designed as so I guess you can’t hold that against it! A few weeks ago going over some pretty rocky cycle paths in New Brunswick the LifeStraw Go water bottle filter popped out of cage at fairly high speed and hit a rock on the side of the road. The bottle itself didn’t crack, but a small piece of plastic from the near the mouth piece broke away, I think it is made very solidly though and any other bottle would have probably sustained similar damage from the impact.

The bottle has a rubber seal around the top that doubles up as an attachment point for the included caribiner clip which is a very nice touch and would definitely come in handy for lashing to a pack when hiking or even clipping on to a pannier if you don’t have enough bottle cages on you bikes.

The mouth piece is a flip top with convenient thumb grip to get it open allowing you to use it one handed when on the go hiking or riding and has a soft silicone covering over the valve.

The straw itself is completely protected inside the water bottle, but if it were dropped when refilling the bottle I think it would survive pretty well as it’s constructed of hard plastic and feels solid so would take a fair bit of impact to cause it any damage.

There are only two major drawbacks with this bottle that I can see, the first is the volume of water it can carry, 650ml is not a whole lot really, but is still enough to keep you going for a short period. If LifeStraw came out with a larger volume version with a longer straw, like maybe 850ml that would be ideal for touring and hiking.

The second and most annoying drawback for this bottle is that it is not leak proof despite being advertised as such. The leak doesn’t occur from where the lid attaches to the bottle, rather from where the mouthpiece pivots to join the lid. It’s not a heavy leak where if you turned it upside down the water would flow out of the bottle rapidly, rather a slow leak where the water drips out gradually, but it is still enough of a problem that I don’t trust it in the tent at night or lying on it’s side for long periods. This problem occurs with both mine and Kelly’s bottle so I don’t believe it is simply a faulty bottle, I think it’s more of a design flaw…still not a major issue just a minor irritation.

lifestraw bottle and lid
What the lid looks like! You can also see the crack in the bottle lid from where I crashed on the bike.

SUMMARY:

I give the LifeStraw Go water bottle filter 4 out 5 due to leak issue, other wise this baby is a total life saver and an essential bit of kit for a world cycle tour!

This was one of those purchases where at the time we didn’t really think we needed it as we already had a filter, but since using it for the last 4 months cycling I cannot imagine living without it! It’s extremely convenient and totally reliable, as you won’t get caught out by batteries dying on you when you’re parched. Having the ability to filter ‘on the go’ is awesome and gives you a sense of security when cycle touring knowing that you can filter water in an instant and the fact that it happens to fit in my bottle cages is an added bonus!

I would definitely recommend the LifeStraw Go water bottle filter for cycle touring. (Amazon / Our Gear List)

Want more? Read my gear review on the Origin8 Classique Cargo HD Front RackEVO Low Rider Fork Mounted Front Rack and Goal Zero Rock Out 2 Speakers.

Hello! An update from Halifax!

An update from Halifax

Michael and I have been busy little bees this week! After arriving in Halifax a week earlier than planned, we’ve been busy cleaning and mending gear, looking for jobs for the winter season and exploring the awesome city of Halifax! We also got the opportunity to host two of our cyclist friends, Jacque and Luisa. They just finished their 6 month cycle trip across Canada and fly home this week. We met up with them several times during the cycle trip, so saying “goodbye” to them has really made us realise that the Canada cycle trip has come to an end. But as Jacque pointed out;

We’ve also been keeping ourselves busy during those rainy days by smashing out some gear reviews and updating our gear list, typing up and creating TWO ebooks and moving/ updating posts from our France to China trip, which were originally published on a different website. Over the winter we hope to add to this, by creating and sharing some awesome videos of our cycle across Canada, plus adding some more articles on eco-friendly businesses.

If you’ve been following our Canada cycle trip or met me during our cycle trip, then you might also be aware of my eye condition. Well, that is still on the mend, with a potential need for surgery to remove a couple of nodules on my eye (it’s only been 4 months since they first appeared – exactly the reason why you need travel insurance). So hopefully that will also get sorted before we start cycling again in April.

So what’s the plan now. To work our butts off until April! Fix up and/ or upgrade some of our gear. Do some maintenance work to the bikes and prepare for the next leg of the cycle trip. Though we’re looking forward to the break now. I’m sure by the time April comes around we’ll be rearing to go again.

halifax home
Our home for the winter

I mentioned we’ve published two ebooks! Exciting times!

Cycling Canada: Coast-to-Coast Trip Notes” are in-depth notes about our cross Canada cycle tour. The notes are based on our cycle trip and are written primarily for fully loaded cycle tourists, however they should benefit anyone planning a cycle trip in Canada. New Promotion: Leave a review on Amazon, then email a screen shot of the review to info@cycletrekkers.com and we’ll send you a free pdf copy of our France to China ebook.

France to China by bike” is a collection of posts from our charity cycle trip in 2014, where we cycled from France to China. All royalties from this book will be donated towards the global sanitation and World Toilet Day campaigns.

books

These are available on Amazon to purchase.

I’m new to writing and creating ebooks, and both of these books are the first editions. So if you do have any feedback please let me know. I’m always keen to learn how I can improve and will update the books based on any feedback I receive. You can send any feedback to our email info@cycletrekkers.com. If you get the chance to leave a review on Amazon, that would also be awesome and greatly appreciated!

That is about it for our update from Halifax, well for now!

Safe cycle trails!

Kelly & Michael Xx