Several Reasons Why Bikes Are Shit

Trip Start Jul 05, 2013
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Flag of Canada  , Alberta,
Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Following on from my last blog, my mind sometimes works in very unorthodox ways. For example $30 for a hostel room and $10 for food would be completely out of question, but $40 on beer would be money well spent...

Most of the time within the Canadian National parks relied on a diet of cheese sandwiches, but after having a bit of a nightmare week did decide to splash the cash a little bit so I could get around and see quite a lot of the sites and attractions without having to rely on hitching and luck.

Gonna keep this entry reasonably brief (it wont be) as the pictures kinda do the talking, but rented a car out for the day and hit the Icefields Parkway - one of the most scenic roads in the world, between Jasper and Banff. The hire was pretty expensive so risked having no insurance (one of the advantages of getting older!) and decided I would sleep in the car for that night.

With the drive just kept kinda going and going and going. First major site was the Columbia Icefield/Athabasca Glacier. It's one of the biggest in North America although cant imagine it being there for much longer... Along the trail, there were markers to indicate where the Glacier had previously been to show far it had eroded in the last 50 years. Rather than protecting it though, the Canadians decided to have tours along it in massive ice trucks - Absolutely ridiculous! I just bypassed all the tour groups and went for a little walk along it which was pretty cool but couldn't help feel how stupid running big trucks over something they apparently are keen to preserve and protect was.

After that, my weakness for waterfalls came into play so drove another couple of hundred kilometres to Yoho National Park where saw the second biggest waterfall in Canada after Niagra which was pretty sweet, before realising it was actually pretty late and heading back via some more waterfalls and lakes (can never have enough!)

They have park rangers that go round in the night to try and stop people sleeping in cars so figured my best way was to hide in plain sight! Went into the hostel, cooked a load of food, had a shower then plonked the car directly outside and stole their wifi before crashing out for the night.

Returned the car to find I was actually limited to 200km and drove 570 - oops. They tried to whack on another $75 in fines but whacked out the old English accent charm (works a treat here) and got the policy readjusted to unlimited mileage, though it was still $100 plus gas so that kinda ate into a few days budget.

After that went over to the bike store where I'd lined up a bike hire afor 2 days. A French woman working there was doing it in one and having a van follow her down so the original plan was to do that with her, however after she asked me some questions and whipping out some cycle jargon she quickly realised I definitely WASN'T a cyclist! Negotiated a deal though where I'd set off the day before so I only had to ride the 100 miles a day ;) They would then take all my luggage in the van and pick up the bike in Banff with no drop off charge... Ill ignore the ridiculous $42 a day bike hire although it did actually work out a lot cheaper than the bus...

So yeh, naturally the first hour of the trip was spent trying to successfully bungee cord my small bag on the back of the bike so it wouldn't fall off. It fell off several times... Once I'd overcome that hurdle it was time to set off properly! Unfortunately my earplugs had broken so no music to push me through this one and about 70km I was SERIOUSLY regretting the decision.

I do, and have for a very long time hated bikes. This stems from falling off and smashing my teeth when younger, and also been given a £10 'Morrison Sidewinder' which literally had no breaks in wet weather (useful when your old paper round involved numerous steep hills). It was also probably the gayest looking mountain bike with pink and yellow stripes so I've had a bit of a vendetta since.

Fair enough, I could be out in the open and make stop offs but I could also do this in a car, and not be rained on, be cold, tired, grumpy and in pain! Still, I am determined, and had already paid for a hostel 160km so that was my incentive. Walked over the worst hills near Nigel Creek but then I did actually enjoy the last section near Bridal Veil Pass with the scenery so stunning.

So made it to the hostel, where met the owner (superjaw) Tim who I think actually had a smile wider than his face. He seemed to think my stories of hating everything about cycling, and incessant moaning whilst still doing it made me 'awesome'. I tried to explain that I am highly used to this process from my usual way of (barely) living and work routine back home, and this ride was actually a walk in the park. Told him about my 48km walk the 2 days before, showed him my (lack of) outdoor gear which seemed to astonish him even more and he thought I should enter in for endurance competitions as a new career ;)

Still, did need to rest up a little bit and was well happy to find there was an outdoor sauna, which I only really discovered when some old dude from San Francisco came out of some little hut with his wang out insisting I should give it a go. Not quite sure what 'it' was, I hesitantly popped my head round the corner and things started to make a bit more sense!

So the next day, another 160km or so to do. Which leads me on to another shit thing about bikes... Saddles... Who designs these things?! Why make it rock hard, stupidly uncomfortable, and shape it in a way that just makes your ass crack hurt for the next week? No idea how dudes in Tour De France get back on day after day. I only did two and was cursing mine. Add that to my list of things that need changing and inventing for the future ;) Either that or abolish bikes!

This feeling was certainly enhanced by what was by far the worst section of the whole trip. Ascending an 8% gradient for about 2 hours in massive hail, then coming back down the hill where I literally could no longer feel my hands and was a shivering mess. Had to stop by a restroom for about half an hour to run my hands under hot water so I could feel them again. Not happy.

Fortunately the weather cleared up, just in time to see one of the best lakes on the trip and then I was a lot happier before continuing and detouring to Lake Louise and Moraine Lake (a casual additional 40km). Again these were up massive fuck off hills and legs starting to hurt, but in essence these were the main tourist attractions to see on the whole ride, and I guess there was some satisfaction of getting myself there without having to spend hundreds of dollars on package tours. The Asian tourists pissed me off a little bit here as they were out in their hundreds, however they had to rush in and out while it was cloudy, whilst I got the time to sit about til the weather cleared and they all did one. In the meantime filled up on cheese sandwiches, and got attacked by a bird which literally flew into my face and made everyone laugh at me - yeh, cheers mate.

Moraine Lake was next and that's the bright blue one that's the main iconic image of Banff. Originally was unimpressed as from lakeside it just looked pretty normal but after hiking up to a view point you could make out all the colour and it was pretty amazing, especially with all the mountains in the background.

At this point I then got a text saying the van had arrived in Banff so was waiting for me. I still had another 60km to do - shiiiiit!

The last section was by far the worst of the whole ride. Imagine cycling from Leeds to Sheffield down the hard shoulder of the M1 with the wind blowing against you. Not in any tiny little fragment enjoyable, and again involved much swearing at lorries as they blasted past and blew a load of shitty fumes in my face. The van had actually arrived earlier as the French woman sensibly skipped this part of the trip. I had no such luxury :(

At this point my left knee was totally screwed. I had to have the bike in a high gear but if I stopped at any point, pedalling back down would cause a huge pain to shoot up my leg (again never get this with a car...) Broke through about 10 walls of pain, with the thought that I was 95% there when hitting the last 30km or so and eventually made it into Banff where I rewarded myself with food, coffee and being reunited with my luggage :)

Found a (definitely not) cheap hostel for the night, and met some Swiss guys in my dorm that were driving to Calgary the next day. Decided that Banff town was too expensive to stick around in and I'd seen pretty much everything so I'd go with them in the morning. The intention of this was I thought Calgary might actually have some public transport, although I should have realised this is North America. As well as saddles, I can add buses in Canada and the US to things that need inventing!

Had just enough energy left for beers at night, where happened to pick the deadest night ever - 4 people in a club, including the DJ (another old reminder of home) and the bar which was having a quiz nigh lt which probably consisted of 2 teams! Quickly decided enough was enough for the day, grabbed myself a McDonald's happy meal and sacked it off, ready for the next stage of my trip...
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