I am soaked and chilled to the bone. The sun went down an hour ago, the rain is still falling, and right now, my body temperature is plummeting. I dream of a hot shower and a dry change of clothes. Yet my friends want to go straight to the pub to eat dinner and celebrate the end of our epic journey. I am on the verge of losing it.
I think about reasonable ways to protest this situation. Why aren’t we checking into the lodge?
“Dude! Are you serious right now?” My protest falls on deaf ears. I am voted down, and we head to the bar in our wet clothes to drain a few pints. My friends are patient.
This was the final ride of this journey, and the rain fell all day, for all seven hours of our ride. The temperature hovered around eight degrees Celsius (46 degrees Fahrenheit). At one point I put on all of my riding clothes to stay warm. After a few hours, every layer was completely soaked. And then, perhaps to add insult to sogginess, my Di2 battery went into sleep mode. So for the final 70 kilometers, I pedaled along in my 34-tooth chainring.
We shuffle into the Port Renfrew Pub and slump down into a seat. Slowly, our shivering transitions to a mild tremor, helped along with each sip of Dude Chilling Pale Ale, the local brew. With every sip, the reality dawns on us: we are done. Our nine-day bikepacking trip from Calgary to Port Renfrew on Vancouver Island’s southwestern tip has ended. I have pedaled 1,650 kilometers and racked up 90 hours of ride time in two weeks.
For weeks, this ride had seemed like an epic trip worthy of tall tales, not something you actually finish. I smile. This was an extremely unorthodox way to prepare for the UCI World Championships.
Damn, this first beer tastes good.
Origins of the journey
You may be asking why I chose to prepare for worlds with a bikepacking trip across some of Canada’s most rugged terrain. Normally, this type of adventure is for the free spirits and weekend warriors of the cycling world. I’m a professional cyclist, after all, and my world revolves around watts, kilojoules, TSS, and, generally speaking, very little unadulterated fun on the bicycle. Cycling is my job. I love my job, but like any job, there are both good and bad days at the office.
Usually, the end of the racing season brings fatigue and general a general feeling of malaise. Worlds was all the way at the end of September, which meant several additional weeks of training. In my eyes, the bikepacking adventure was the best ticket I had to endure a massive training load while also keeping myself happy (and keeping my TrainingPeaks account active).
I got the idea the morning of the Canadian national time trial championships. I woke up with a clear thought from that night’s dream. I wanted to ride my bike from my home in Calgary to my former home in Victoria on Vancouver Island. I had never ridden my bicycle that far, and I hadn’t slept in a tent for years. And, if I’m totally honest, a long-distance cycling trek with tents and campfires is something I’d make fun of.
Plus, I wanted to coordinate the trip with my own personal dirty fondo, The Last Ride, which I hold on Vancouver Island in late August. If I could ride to the Last Ride and complete it with my friends, I figured that would be all the worlds prep I would need.
I spent two months planning my route; my effort verged on the edge of obsession. I researched gear, read and watched everything I could about bikepacking, and messaged friends who had embarked on similar adventures.
After I finalized my route I had a big first step to accomplish. I needed to recruit some friends to accompany me on this journey. To give you an idea of my friends, let me just say that a two-week bikepacking trip across mountains, forests, and rivers is hardly the most reckless thing we’ve done. Not by a long shot. After a few email conversations, I recruited three: Nic Hamilton, Jamie Sparling, and Taylor Little. None of the three were in the least bit prepared. Bikes had to be sourced, time off from work needed to be secured, and bags needed to be packed. Also, their legs needed to be able to withstand between 7-10 hours of riding time each day over hard, mountainous terrain.
Other than that, Nic, Taylor, and Jamie were good to go.
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