VANCOUVER TO THE ROCKIES; WET DAYS ON TWO WHEELS.

Michael’s write up of our the start of our cycle trip in Canada, cycling from Vancouver to the Rockies. Click here to read Kelly’s write up of cycling in British Columbia.

It’s here! Cycling Vancouver to The Rockies!

After 3 years of having very vague plans to ride across Canada the time had finally come! So here it is, my write up of the start of our world cycle trip, cycling Vancouver to the Rockies. You’d think after that long, it would all go pretty smoothly right? No, the start was a massive pain in the sensitive delicate rectum region.

We had subjected ourselves to that horrible thing known as “having a job” back home in Australia in order to save some extra cash for the trip seeing as we couldn’t save at all living in Vancouver. After 7 months we had finally saved up enough pennies to get back to Canada and begin our next adventure! We arrived in Vancouver after some major flight delays (8 or so hours) plus missed connecting flights, lost baggage and dramas getting our camping stove, ‘Colin on the plane (when the stove did eventually make it to Vancouver it had been damaged on the flight…fuck you WestJet!).

We were ready to rock from Vancouver to the Rockies! Well sort of.

Before starting a bicycle trip it is probably a good idea to have a bike. We had purchased 2 bikes on the recommendations of a bike shop in Vancouver to pick up when we arrived, I would not recommend anyone else trying this method, not a good idea. We thought it would save time organizing bikes before arriving but in the end it was a major hassle and cost us several days and a whole lot of stress.

Seeing as we are planning on spending the next few years riding, I had wanted to get steel framed bikes capable of touring around the world so we invested a little more cash than last time, but we still couldn’t afford the top of the range touring bikes so I was pretty happy when I found a store that had two of last years model bikes in our price range of under $1000 (bikes were $820).

leaving vancouver
leaving vancouver on the bikes

When we arrived though I soon realized that Kelly’s bike a Norco search S3 only had two chain rings at the front giving it a total of 18 gears…my bad I thought it had 3 at the front…sorry Kelly!

You like pushing up hills though right?? The bike shop had talked up how great these bikes were for touring and how they’d be perfect for what we needed them for, but really the gears on this bike were not exactly ideal for lugging a whole ton of shit through the rocky mountains and beyond and the shop should have been straight with us instead of trying to clear out old stock on a couple of tourists.

We persisted though, the shop swapped out the rear gears for something with a wider range, but on the day we left Vancouver it was clear it was not going to work, we made it 65kms to Kelly’s friend’s house near Abbotsford and she couldn’t get the bike up a hill so mountains were gonna be a pretty big issue! Cycling Vancouver to the Rockies – Kelly couldn’t even make it 100km. Something had to be done!

New day, new bike.

The next 2 days are a blur of stress, anger and frustration contacting the store, dicking around attaching and detaching crap to the bikes and eventually managing to exchange Kelly’s bike and pay the difference of about $450 to get this years model touring bike the same as mine (Brodie circuit) instead of a unsuitable cyclocross bike.

I’m sure there’s plenty of good cyclocross bikes for touring and I believe you can tour on just about anything, but as we were planning a pretty massive trip we wanted something better than we had last time. It was a frustrating experience and I could go into more depth about the shit that went on but it’s in the past now and thinking about it makes me want to curl up into a big shiny bald ball and cry my little peepers out so we’ll leave it there. We were just lucky that Kelly’s friend Kira is such a legend and gave up a whole day to take us back to Vancouver to sort it out.

brodie green bicycle circuit
Kelly’s new bike!

Vancouver to the Rockies – take two!

We greatly underestimated the sheer volume of shit that we had brought with us for this trip. It was ridiculous. The bikes were so heavily loaded up they were wobbling like a drunk cowboy at the Calgary stampede and still struggling to make it up hills, so over the next few weeks tough decisions were made and we both ended up donating various crap we could do without to people along the way. It’s still an ongoing process though, I feel like I have a lot more stuff than when we rode from France to China, but at least the bikes were actually up to the job!

After the initial stress and disappointment of starting the trip like that it felt great to finally be on our way plus we were riding through a place called Chiliwack so that cheered up my small childlike mind a bit. Spent a night wild camping next a river near Cultus lake and had all the old feelings of total freedom flooding back as we pitched our tent in a hidden little spot in the trees.

The tour had begun! Finally we were cycling from Vancouver to the Rockies!

In the morning I snapped my chain before we even left our little camping spot (first ever snapped chain for me!) and Kelly was stung by a wasp, but we weren’t gonna let it get us down goddammit!! Fixed up the chain and hit the road again passing through some beautiful B.C scenery at Bridal Veil falls, through the Othello Tunnels near Hope and camping next to a highway down an embankment hidden from sight.

People kept talking to us about the Coquihalla mountain pass and making us regret our lack of physical fitness and pre trip training as we pedaled through the rain towards this hilly beast. Our legs definitely got a little shock when we hit it, but memories of some of the horrendous climbs we’d tackled through central Asia and Europe made it seem not so bad.

The rain persisted on and off so we were going from shivering and wet one minute to baking and sweaty the next having to constantly put on or take of layers of clothes. We cruised through valleys and mountains and passed through cool little towns on our trip through Kamloops to Merrit camping in hillside scrub, rest stop areas barely hidden from view and one particularly stunning spot on our way to Kamloops next to a river with perfect views on our little tents’ doorstep!

After about a week we decided a shower was in order as we had various plant life growing on us and had begun to smell like a French cheese boutique.

We found an airBNB in Clearwater to escape the still constant rain and scrub ourselves raw. Felt nice to be indoors and have access to a kitchen, as our stove had died on us a few days previously and we had to buy a tiny emergency twig-burning stove to heat up our meager rations of oatmeal and pasta. Also felt nice to fill my insides with sweet delicious beer!

Spent a few hours checking out some amazing waterfalls in the nearby Wells Gray provincial park with our awesome Airbnb owner and then hit the wet road again! Climbed higher heading towards the rockies and smashed out our first 100+ km day of the trip so far through an isolated stretch heading to mosquito capital of the known universe, Blue river BC.

Our Airbnb host in Clearwater who took us to Wells Gray Park
Our Airbnb host in Clearwater who took us to Wells Gray Park

Mosquito Flats

As we pulled into the small mountain town looking for a clearing in the forest to duck into and set up camp, A large friendly black bear appeared casually chilling on the side of the road roughly 4 meters from Kelly so we decided perhaps this was not the ideal spot to rest our weary bones for the night and continued on into the town. I asked a couple with a young daughter if they thought we would get into trouble if we set up a tent in the local park next to a lake, but turns out they weren’t locals either and didn’t have a clue.

The Spanish couple quickly offered us a backyard to camp in overnight and we were set…apparently the town had been having a bit of a bear problem recently with a particularly big grizzly stalking the area and they showed us the large trailer parked across the street from their house with a huge metal bear cage trap. Felt a bit better knowing we were near a house at least and we could store our food inside to hopefully keep the furry little buggers from eating our tent and us.

We had no encounters with Yogi or his friends that night, but my god the mosquitos were savage! We had originally thought we’d get to hang out and practice our now terrible Spanish over a coffee with the nice couple that saved us, but instead were forced to rip everything off the bikes and dive head first into the tent as quickly as possible before we were sucked dry of all our precious blood that we need for living and stuff. Thousands of them. Thousands of the horrible little shits. Looking up in the tent at the outside was terrifying; it was a covered black mass of swarming bloodthirsty winged shit heads. I already felt a bit dizzy from dehydration, I think if anymore had munched me I probably would have passed out.

It was onwards and upwards.

We had another big day with stunning scenery and pedaling close to 100km getting to Valemount to stay with our first Warmshowers hosts (like couchsurfing for cyclists) Tom and Peggy. Was great meeting this couple who had an incredible amount of experience cycle touring all over the world for years, plus Tom was a pretty handy guy who brought our poor little stove ‘Colin’ back from the dead! He could no longer simmer and only functioned in the ‘off’ or ‘burn the absolute shit out of everything’ modes…but he was alive! Pretty stoked we could cook food and boil water for coffee again without scavenging for dry twigs when it had been raining solidly since we arrived.

Spent a nice evening with Tom and Peggy chatting and getting lots of helpful tips about the route and then had a leisurely 40km day started off by gorging ourselves at the local Swiss bakery before setting up camp in one of those weird ‘non wild camp on the side of the road’ official government run campsite thingos near Mt Robson. Campsites with showers, toilets and water?!?! Who knew!

cycling the rockies, VANCOUVER TO THE ROCKIES
Cycling the Rockies

It continued to piss down solidly over the course of that day and the coming days as we finally finished cycling from Vancouver to the Rockies!!!

To celebrate cycling from Vancouver to the Rockies I decided it would be a grand idea to clip a guard rail with my pannier while trying to take a photo, throw my camera several feet in the air into the middle of the road and crash off the bike carving a chunk of flesh the size of a late night drunken kebab out of my ankle. I will admit, not my finest idea, but I like it to mix things up while cycling to keep it fresh. It felt like we needed some more excitement and our luck had got better since the start of the trip so I didn’t want us getting too cocky.

My ankle looked pretty nasty as I had carved it up on the front gear cogs forcing a kilo or so of black greasy shite and grit into the wound so we stopped on the side of the road to rub my dirty gash clean(ish) with some alcohol wipes…not a fun time for me to be honest. In hindsight, I most definitely needed stiches as this occurred roughly three weeks ago now and it still keeps opening up to let the inside of my ankle say hello to the world and give my blood a chance to explore Canada, but we were nowhere near a doctor or hospital and were also in a bit of a race to get to Calgary in time for the stampede so didn’t want to have to take a break off the bikes. Yeah I’m an idiot.

So we had made it!!!

After a shaky start and some ups and downs we were finally entering the Rockies! We had made it from Vancouver to the Rockies! We had started to feel better about the cycle trip and our chances of survival (despite my little tumble) and were slowly getting back into the swing of things after nearly two years since the last trip and felt ready to invade the Canadian Rockies like Genghis Khan on a pushbike! So we made it Vancouver to the Rockies.

 

Interested to know what countries we’ve rode through on the bikes? Check out our Country Tracker to find out, and create your own country tracker to see how many countries you’ve been to.

3 Replies to “VANCOUVER TO THE ROCKIES; WET DAYS ON TWO WHEELS.”

  1. Sounds like you had a rocky start. We’d been given all sorts of advice on all manner of things before we started out. People have really different styles/ideas when it comes to touring. We also bought our bikes in Vancouver from afar and knowing what a risk that could turn out to be we did lots of research on bikes for touring (being road bike users this was not an area of cycling we were familiar with). And we were able to do this long distance purchase partially due to having family in Vancouver who could test ride the bikes to make sure there were no defects. We loved our bikes and look forward to many years of touring with them.

    Sound harsh, but I think you have only yourself to be angry with about the bikes you ended up with, and let me tell you we had some weird things said to us by staff at the same shop but we’d done our research on bikes, then looking for somewhere that sold that bike in Vancouver, we knew what we needed and wanted and took responsibility for those choices and decisions. They are the single most expensive and important equipment of the trip.

    It’s the same for route choices, we knew what would happen if we went on side roads and we knew the benefits to keeping to the Trans Canada Highway (max 6% grade as they were built that way for transport trucks) and we knew our preferred style of riding. We heard some parts of the TransCanada trail were unpassable walking let alone on a loaded bike and for the most part decided to stay clear except where we knew it would be a good experience. We’re very concerned others may be lead down the wrong path (literally) with all the marketing and articles of this amazing cycling highway being built in Canada to be complete 2017. Some such articles even come with photos of paved roads that have nothing to do with the Trans Canada. Crazy.

    Anyway I digress, I’m glad you got things sorted and hopefully your bikes served you well for the rest of the trip.

    1. Thanks for your comment!

      In hindsight we agree that it wasn’t the best way to go about purchasing a bike for the trip (I think Michael did mention that in the post, and he acknowledge responsibility for the decision). Given our experience with our previous cycle tour, where we purchased second hand, (cheap) hybrid bikes for our France to China trip, and rode them 8,500km with absolutely no issues with them; we underestimated the complexity of purchasing the bikes in Vancouver before the trip. I guess we got lucky last time and just relied on the bike stores opinion as we no had reason to doubt it. I think most people in our situation would have presumed the same. We weren’t angry at the bike store for suggesting the bike, it was actually the attitude of one of the team members that worked there that upset us, and that’s why I personally wouldn’t recommend the store.

      I’ve also seen those Trans Canadian Trail articles suggesting the route is almost complete and completely paved with no cars. I’ve actually thought about responding with an article describing what the trail is really like so people don’t get caught off guard trying to follow it. We did cycle parts of the trail, it was mostly compacted gravel but really enjoyable, you just have to pick the right sections to cycle because it definitely varies in quality. I guess if you’re on a road bike it wouldn’t be too much fun. We like to get off the highway as much as possible, but you’re right, everyone enjoys different aspects of cycle touring. Each to their own 🙂

      I hope you enjoyed your cycle trip! We made it to Halifax with no other issues, and love our Brodie bikes! So it all worked out in the end!

  2. Glad you made it, and enjoyed the Brodies (great bikes). I would for sure answer to that article. I can’t tell you how many people shared it with me, so aggravating and then reading the comments of people thinking of attempting it under the article – worrisome. Like you said there are some good parts, but the bad parts can be really bad.

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