Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Preparing for the Big Trip

My baby

Not too long ago I posted about my desire to travel to the vast expanses of Nunavik, the Great North of the province of Quebec, which is only a short 1500km North of my hometown of Montreal. Totally doable by car, and even easier by plane. Too easy. By bicycle though... ah, this will make it more interesting! But as I was explaining, one does not simply ride North with a back-pack full of spare clothes and sleep in hotels along the way. I wouldn't be the first rider to go out into the wilderness, but rides like this one have to be methodically prepared from A to Z, and ride buddies and/or a support team has to be found, and these guys have to be as crazy as I am. But before I even think about heading out to a place where caribous outnumber humans I have to gradually get used to long rides and being exposed to the elements. And towards that goal, I have a plan.

During the first 2 weeks of August I'll be on vacation, and at the start of week #2 Part One of my plan will be put into gear. After thinking about it for an enormous amount of years I will finally do the trip I've been wanting to do: Mont-Tremblant, here I come! This is still a 150km ride so it's not exactly a milk run, but most of it is spent on the Laurentian Linear Park, a bike path located on what used to be a railway called Le P'tit Train du Nord. The advantage of this: slope grades are almost non existant because trains don't like steep climbs. The downside: ALMOST non existant means that when you go slightly up, you go slightly up for a long time. But still, having taken that train when it was still in operation in the early 80's I know that the scenery I will ride through is absolutely breath-taking, therefore well worth the effort.

Because the bike path goes through many Laurentian villages I will not have to haul a huge amount of gear. My back-pack with a bit of extra clothes, a few bike tools, and a few snacks to have along the way and I should be all good. In the case of a bike emergency I'll be within walking distance of civilization at all times, and anyway there will be traffic on the bike path. But even thought this isn't the full-on camping trip there are a few things I will not want to be without when I'll do my 300-ish kilometer round trip:

  • Seat pouch with a bicycle multi-tool, tire repair kit, tire irons, pocket knife, and a mini first aid kit. I may upgrade my pocket knife to a camping multi-tool that has pliers.
  • A simple bike computer; I don't need a GPS, my heart beat, and the weather forecast for 2 weeks. All I want is the current speed, the average speed, a trip meter and the time of day.
  • A Presta valve travel bike pump. And I'll pray I don't have to use it. If it has a pressure gauge all the better.
  • A flashlight with plenty of spare batteries. I don't intend to do any night traveling but I may do some evening hiking. Yes even after a big bike ride; I'm crazy like that. The full reflector/lighting set-up will be for the longer rides where I'll use actual roads.
  • Walking shoes. My bike shoes are very comfortable to walk in... for bike shoes. They are still pretty stiff and I don't want to use up the cleats more than I have to.
  • Food: trail mix, trail mix bars, Power Bars, dried fruits, and always a full bottle of water. I will be using up calories at an alarming rate so I need to stay on top of it. Getting water along the bike path is very easy, but eventually I will need a water treatment kit. I checked and those things are more expensive than I thought.
  • Light rain gear. Because this is a "short" trip I may be able to bypass this if the weather forecast is good for the few days the trip will last, but who knows. I don't plan to look like Gilligan but if I can be slightly less wet when I get to a destination then all the better.

For this trip I can fit everything that can't fit into the seat pouch in my back-pack, and even then the weight shouldn't be too bad. The heaviest thing will be my lock. But yes, eventually I will have to gather up a lot more gear, the most important of which will be a one-wheeled cargo trailer. I've also seen the tents and sleeping bags that would be perfect for bike trips, as well as a ton of useful camping gear that I need to get for the bigger trips. At some point I will have to make myself an Excel sheet of everything I will need to go out on a solo camping trip. And when the set-up is not only obtained, but tried and tested in the field, then it'll be time to start thinking about the Big One. In the mean time, I'll do my best to enjoy what will essentially be 4 of my regular rides packed into one ride. At least I know one thing: rain or shine, this will be the cushy trip and on my two intended stops a warm bed will be waiting. Well, you gotta start somewhere :))

Between the Mont-Tremblant ride and the Nunavik ride I will plan others rides, gradually farther both in distance and from human civilization. Saguenay/Lac St-Jean is a good place to plan a trip. The Gaspésie region is another, plus I know the area a bit. Yep, I'm getting pretty psyched up about this :)

Live to ride, ride to live


Proposed Montreal to Mont-Tremblant itinerary

Parc linéaire Le P'tit Train du Nord

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