An Attempt to Plan for the Greenbelt

Aside from doing some regular uphill training, I’ve been playing catch up since a recent one-week long road trip out to Maine.  As much as the Greenbelt Route is well promoted, the documentation to actually plan out your own trip is a little more difficult than I thought.

Planning each Day of the Route

The tricky thing is that some sections of the Greenbelt Route have more access to accommodation than others so attempting to plan out certain days cycling the route is difficult.  In addition, the GO Trains and Via Rail trains bike racks are not always readily available.  It’s good to read up on this earlier so I’ll incorporate this into my planning for next year.

It appears that these bicycle rack-equipped trains are only available until September 5th which is unfortunately because I’d prefer to be cycling in mid to late September rather than in August.

What to take along and how to pack

Bikepacking example
Bikepacking example via GearJunkie.com

I’ve also been trying to figure out what to bring along and how I should pack.  It’s actually quite fun and interesting because I’ve been pursuing a more lightweight and minimalist approach to hiking, so to only have everything with me on a bike is an added twist on the approach.  Fortunately, there have been some great information online on bikepacking … sometimes too much.

I do have to do some maintenance on my single-person tent and re-waterproof some of my gear from hiking.  Unfortunately, I still have to modify some more of my bike which means possibly adding a front pannier rack, and a couple of bike packs for easy storage.  I’m also considering replacing my bike saddle/seat — which is a little tricky because it’s a mountain bike which I’m technically using for bike touring.

More training to come so we’ll see what’s next in coming weeks…!

Additional Links of Interest

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Some Post-75km Ride Updates

Firstly as promised, the full version of my 75km bike ride (sans a few sections):

So after tackling the 75km Ride for Heart a number of weeks ago, I’ve been further reflecting on my experience of cycling 75km.  Some of the things I’ve contemplated revolved very much on how I would be able to improve that experience.  It was tough I have to admit — trying to keep up with folks who were on a road bike.  I definitely had the power, stamina, and strength to go up the hills but the ease at which they glided downhill and on simply straight flat surfaces caused be to take a step back and really see how much energy I was wasting.

Some friends pointed out to me that I should really get a new bike — but that simply isn’t an option. Too expensive and not practical at all. Maybe in the future I’ll swap my mountain bike for a touring one.

I decided to take my bike into the local Trek store in Toronto which is somewhat of a pain because my current neighbourhood does not have any bike shops within a reasonable distance but it was necessary. I ended up leaving my bike there for a week while the fine folks there helped me do a tune-up and change the tires to something more appropriate for the road ahead when I begin the ride on the Greenbelt Route. I realize I probably need to figure out how to do some of this stuff myself (which I have for some things) down the road but for now — I figured I was buying new tires so why not have them tune it up too.

Edge Touring GPS on the bike
The Edge Touring on the bike

Now, thinking ahead for the Greenbelt Route, I can’t imagine myself cycling with a bunch of maps printed out (and it seems no one has thought of selling a set of maps for the Greenbelt Route yet). After I did some more research on mapping routes out — I decided to dish out a chunk of change on a Garmin Edge Touring. There were definitely more expensive models with fancy features like connecting with your phone for updates and such but I really did not need that and I certainly did not want to spend an excessive amount of money for features that were pointless for me. I really just need to be able to map out a route on my computer that I can then upload to the Garmin Edge Touring — which would allow me to follow the proper route on any bike ride.

At the moment, I’m still testing it out but so far so good … more to come on that later.

The additional thing I’ve been trying to figure out are all the different pieces of cycling gear and clothing that I may require. I don’t really find myself drawn to most cycling clothes — perhaps it is the hiking side of me speaking — but I do see how they will be helpful. Once again, trying to figure out what is necessary vs. a luxury — I don’t want to spend money on stuff that I already have and can simply re-purpose.

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Learning Bicycle Maintenance 101 from a MEC Clinic

As I mentioned earlier, I am pretty much clueless when it comes to bicycles but I can’t remain that way if I intend on cycling 500km on the Greenbelt.

So I decided to sign up for a 1 hour bike maintenance 101 class at MEC.  It only costs $10 so it is pretty affordable (based on cost of living these days in Toronto).  If need be, just skip a lunch!

I dragged a friend along because he happened to be experiencing problems with his bicycle chain and wasn’t sure how to address it.  There were 201 (more advanced) classes as well but I figured if we needed to, we could take those later.

The class itself was really casual and informal and run by a friendly bicycle technician at MEC with quite a few years of experience.  People from all walks of life showed up to learn at my class.

Bicycle maintenance illustration by JP Flexner
A cool bicycle maintenance illustration by JP Flexner

Most of the class was focused on fixing tire flats but we did cover some of the other major things.  Some major takeaways for me were:

  1. The differences between presta and shraeder valves for the tires.
  2. The steps involved to replacing or fixing the tire.
  3. How to clean and oil the chain properly.
  4. Determining the right tire tube for your tire.
  5. Why there may be issues with the bicycle chain.

In hindsight, the steps involved with fixing the flat tire make total sense but the lack of knowledge and understanding of the anatomy of the bike (not to mention information overload) is what hinders us from making the right decision on what to do first, next, and last.

Some notes that I took were:

Fixing Flats

  • Before trying to remove the tire, shift gear to the highest number (furthest away from the wheel) to avoid hindering the tire removal.
  • Unhook the brake noodle for V-shaped or cantilever brakes.
  • Recognize the differences in approach to presta and shraeder valves
    • Presta valves have a bolt and nipple to adjust when filling air
    • Shraeder valves are wider
    • Tire pumps are not always compatible with both.
    • Use the brand or labels as reference points to know where the valve will go and/or when checking for issues with the tire or the rim.
    • The tire bead (a wire encased in rubber within the tire) helps maintain the tire form and structure

Chain maintenance

  • Use a rag or old t-shirt and clean the guck or dirt off the chain.
  • The chain should be silver.
  • Don’t use grease.  Use proper lube — eco-friendly if possible.
  • After applying lube into the chain and NOT on to the chain — use a rag to wipe off any excess lube.
  • Excess lube or oil will only catch more dirt and cause more problems down the road.

Picking the right tire tube size

  • Refer to the bicycle tire.  It should identify the brand, the dimensions of the tire or type of tire (i.e. 700CC), the suitable tire pressure range.

Overall, I really enjoyed the MEC Bicycle Maintenance 101 Clinic.  I do wish they had example bikes that we could actually work on but I guess perhaps the cost might be higher.  It was nonetheless really informative and I may pursue the more advanced or specific clinics down the road.

In the meanwhile, it is almost time to start trying some maintenance on my own bike!

Some additional resources I found helpful:

Between the Bike and the Weather

With spring time fast arriving in Toronto, I am hoping to get started with some early spring training once I return from a quick trip to Utah.  I don’t know this’ll happen if temperatures continue to be looking to be in the low single digits.

A 14-day weather forecast from Weather Network starting from March 20th 2016
A 14-day weather forecast from Weather Network starting from March 20th 2016

I’m hoping that once I return from my trip to Utah, things will be significantly warmer for the first weekend of April.  I’ve been doing a bit of reading on training and it is suggested that cyclists training should start off with short one-hour rides.  I might even start with less than that if the weather is that cold.

I’ll also need to see if any of my toques can fit under my helmet and will work effectively.  I think I caught a brief cold in mid-late March as a result of wind chill and my toque was practically useless as I could feel the cold wind blowing right through.

In the meanwhile, I’ve focused on learning more about my own bike, a Trek 3700, a 2010 model if I remember correctly.  There’s a lot to learn and I haven’t figured out which bicycle maintenance book to buy yet — but a friend and I have signed up for a bicycle maintenance clinic at MEC.  It’s $10 for an hour’s worth of learning, and you don’t have to bring your own bike (which is good because I live a fair distant away from the MEC store in Toronto).  I’m excited to see what I’ll learn and be able to put into practice when I bring out my bike for some spring cleaning!

My bicycle when it was younger (and newer)
My bicycle when it was younger (and newer)

Between the bike and the weather, I’ve got a lot of figuring out to do…!