bikes canada gear general

Monkey metamorphosis

Well, my Monkey is finally beginning to turn into a proper touring bike. I installed the Rohloff, and then some time last year I sent Scott from Porcelain Rocket the sketch below, with a request to make me some bike bags:

In November, he finished them up, and I got an awesome early Christmas present. Which I have finally gotten around to photographing! As you can see, he rather awesomely brought my dreams to life.

The bags have had a bit of use already, as they’re really handy for longer day trips, and for just biking around town when you need some extra storage capacity. But what I’m really looking forward to is doing some overnight trips in summer. Without having to ride the final couple of kilometres to the camp site with one hand behind me, desperately trying to hold my thermarest in place as it tries to unravel and tangle in my spokes.

The next phase of the transformation is also underway. I have a front wheel built up with an SP PD-8 dynohub. I have a Exposure Revo light, designed to run off the hub. And I have an E-Werk usb charger, also designed to run off the hub, for the charging of GPS, phone, iPod, camera, satellite dish, portable microwave etcetera. All the necessary trappings of life as a modern cycle tourer/ bike packer.

The only tricky part is that all of these pieces are still in pieces, and I’m terrible at electronics. I’ve tried glaring at them, but so far no luck, they haven’t spontaneously self-assembled. I’m thinking of buying some sort of micro-switch, so I can build up a box that will let me switch between the light and the charger. And then somehow blackmailing an engineer to assemble the whole thing for me.

In the meantime though – look at the pretty bags!

bikes canada general moosling snow trip reports

Getting hardly any distance up Cox Hill

The initial plan was to try and bike/snowshoe up Jumpingpound Ridge. The road to the trailhead was open for logging until some time around the end of January, so we thought we’d give it a shot. Unfortunately, although we probably could have managed to get out there in the trusty little Subaru, there was no guarantee we’d be able to make it back later in the day, once the snow was even sloppier.

So, two-thirds of the way along the snowy logging road, we decided a moose in the hand is worth two in the bush, did a little digging, got the car turned around, and drove the kilometres back to the graded Cox Hill trailhead.

Cox Hill is steeper. It was fine for riding at first, but then became a nasty mix of ice (boo), bare dirt (yay!), deep punchy snow (boo), and steep bits of trail. I was fine on snowshoes. The Moosling was even happier hanging out on my back in the Ergo. But Alex was struggling, and so we called it quits after a couple of kilometres – but not before we’d gained enough height to gather some lovely views.

I’d love to try and get a bit further up the trail – an area I’ve never explored in winter.

canada general snow

Loppet crewing

For once it wasn’t me racing, but Alex. The event was the Lake Louise to Banff Loppet, a cross-country ski race which is usually 70km long, and travels the entire distance from Lake Louise to Banff, but this year was shortened to 50km due to flood damage, finishing 20km before Banff.

Alex skied the entire thing solo, while we noble crew cheered him on at the start, then at the exchange points at the end of each of the four legs. It’s a very small-scale event, due to the limitations placed by Parks Canada. There were around 110 people on the course at any time, with a mix of solo skiers and teams.

But first, after waving off the hordes at the start, we spent some time enjoying the Ice Magic Festival at Lake Louise. The Moosling was quite taken by the ice castle, and kept wanting to go back there. He even taste tested it: “Mmmm, tasty ice Mama!”

A few friends from work were doing the race as a team, I caught them finishing up the first leg before Alex skied in.

The weather was wonderful – the middle of January could really bring any kind of weather, so blue skies and temperatures between -10oC and 2oC were pretty much perfect.

Just to make things more difficult, I set an excitable toddler onto Alex just as he was crossing the finish line, narrowly avoiding making him crash.

general snow

The Grande Tour of the Nordic Centre

The Grande Tour of the Nordic Centre started off as a vague idea I had, that I should really ski all of the trails at the Nordic Centre. And that it should definitely be possible to ski them all in one day. And then I went and mentioned this idea to a couple of fellow lunatics who considered that this may well be a worthy thing to attempt.

When it came down to it though, the day we had chosen had the unfortunate problem of TOO MUCH SNOW. It is something you feel terrible complaining about, but it really makes for awful skate skiing when you’re wading through inches of ungroomed fresh powder. Nontheless, the other two were happy to start with the attempt, and so I felt compelled to join them.

Fresh tracks through powder, hurray!… No, hang on, not hurray.

We starting skiing not long after 9am. Conditions were not fast. And if Miles and I were smarter, we would have been on classic skis, at least at first. I’m not sure what Miles’ excuse was, but mine is that classic skiing irritates my hip flexors.

Knocking off a bunch of the black trails early on.

I had a route all planned out, based on five separate loops of the trails. Of course the whole thing was complicated by the fact that a huge chunk of the trail network was closed off for the Winter Olympics qualifying races (amongst other things), and they wouldn’t be re-opening until around 3.30pm. So we were re-routing on the fly. And then re-routing some more when people came up with cunning plans. While simultaneously trying to keep track of the mess of trails, and which ones we had and hadn’t skied.

The snow may have been slow, but it was still fun!

The idea of actually finishing all the trails seemed fairly unlikely. The skiing was such hard going that I stopped even bothering to check how far we’d gone. It was just too depressing. By the time we returned to the daylodge for lunch, we’d only managed to ski 27km or so in over three hours (for reference, a few days later I easily managed 16km in one hour).

Still lots of snow around, but the sun is out!

After lunch we lost Alaric to family skiing time, and so the remaining two musketeers set out to conquer the green loop – Salt Lake trail, and what was left of the biathlon trails. The snow was packing down as it warmed up and more people had been skiing it – so the going was getting marginally easier, and we were skiing a little faster.

Somehow instead of returning to the daylodge for more food after finishing that loop, we kept going. And started to get hungry. Rationing was in force and I was feeling shaky, low on water and out of food.

A driving desire for moral superiority led to the decision to ski up and down Bruin Cub, an ungroomed connector trail that for some reason is on the map and has a sign and a name

The descent on Bruin Cub didn’t treat me kindly, and I created a wonderful cloud of snow as I crashed

It was on the home stretch of the last of our far loops that Miles let me know that his back had started to cramp, and that he didn’t want to push it. At the same time, we were beginning to realise that it wasn’t a safe bet by any means that we’d make it to the daylodge before it closed at 5pm. And so I put my head down to ski the rest of the loop, and huzzah, made it back to the daylodge at 4.59pm.

Heading out on our last outwards loop, the sun is lower in the sky now

After retrieving the duffel bag full of useful things, like food and headlamps, I graciously relieved Miles of most of his brownies, then sadly waved him goodbye and got ready to set off into the darkness of the Olympic loops. After eating I felt tired but ok, and mainly I really didn’t want to let all of the hard work that morning-Megan did go to waste. I pulled out my iPod, started some songs playing (ska!) and got ready to head off.

But then I got a message from Lincoln – he could come ski with me! I waited 20 minutes for him to finish up at work, and we set off together at 5.40pm.

The final 11km required a ridiculous level of concentration and route finding. Another added ‘benefit’ was that the trails around Centennial and Olympic that hadn’t been raced on (but had been closed to the public) were ungroomed slogs. The race trails on the other hand, were nearly all set with 4 classic tracks, or were hardpack icy doom. Or both. I managed to avoid hurting myself or losing my iPod, and we only ended up missing one short connector trail that I’d meant to ski.

Finally, I was done at 7.25pm.

Distance travelled: 74.5km
Elevation gain: 1,767m

Things I learned

  • It’s best to have out and backs out of the way early on. Later on, you’re tired, and less committed to map reading, and just want to focus on skiing.
  • Always carry lots of food.
  • Don’t leave your duffel bag in the daylodge unless you’re 100% certain you’ll easily make it back before closing.
  • Carrying a headlamp is always a good idea.
  • Having crazy people for company when you’re setting out to do something crazy makes the whole endeavor much more enjoyable.

Here is a before and after map, with the five coloured loops. The one on the left is the track of where I skied. The one on the right is how I’d try and do it next time (although it still has a couple of things that need to be fixed up, it’s a bit easier to read than the original, and has a few better route options). If you click on them, they’ll embiggen to full size, so you could use them for your own attempt – if you do, please let me know :)