Monday, 6 September 2010

2010 Cycle Tour Across Canada. Job Done.

As you can well imagine, I’m truly ecstatic to have successfully completed my 2010 Cycle Tour Across Canada from Vancouver to St. John’s! Congratulations to me! It was the realisation of a longstanding ambition, certainly a trip of a lifetime and something I’ll never forget.

I cycled in all ten provinces of Canada: British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland & Labrador. I also cycled in the following States of the USA: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and New York.

My odometer, despite having a broken mount since day 3, recorded 8,302 km. (The actual total was a little more but I’m not worried). I was on the road from Thursday June 10th 2010 to Sunday September 5th 2010, a total of 88 days. I rode the bike on 77 of those days and had 10 rest days and one day off due to an injury. I averaged 94km a day or 108km a day when actually riding. My furthest points west and east were Ucluelet (125°32′31″W) and St. John's (52°42′26″W). I crossed 73° of longitude on my ride. That’s about a fifth of the way around the planet!

My original route schedule was 8,970km, 88 days, 76 days riding at about 120km per day. I didn’t quite manage that, hence I changed portions of my route to compensate. I straight-lined Minnesota and the Upper Peninsula, Michigan more than I wanted to and I didn’t ride the long way across Newfoundland. I actually rode further in Manitoba, first with a detour to Clear Lake and then taking back roads to escape the bad road shoulders and traffic! Unfortunately, I turned off the Cabot Trail because of the threat of bad weather. Other than that, I followed my published route pretty closely.

I had brilliant weather all summer. I think I only had about 7 rainy days in total. I had a ridiculous amount of tailwind! It was a little hot and sometimes humid from Saskatchewan onwards but it was only bad a few days. I managed to successfully miss the rains across the Prairies, the heat wave in Ontario and Quebec and even a hurricane in Nova Scotia!

I had absolutely no trouble with my bike, the indestructible Thorn Raven Nomad. Nothing broke (computer mount excepted) or malfunctioned. Amazingly, I had only one puncture (front, tiny piece of wire) which I mended before setting off on the last day to St. John’s! I changed the back tyre in Montreal at 6,400km. The front did the whole trip. I could have rotated the original tyres in Montreal and probably got to the end safely. The chain did the whole trip also and still has some life. I only wiped and oiled the chain a grand total of 4 times. The Rohloff Speedhub was faultless. I did the scheduled hub oil change (a little late) in Montreal.

I only had one small cycling injury. I picked up a random tendon strain on the outside of my ankle between Superior and Ashland, WI. It healed quickly. I had virtually no aches or pains that were cycling induced. I can only remember some cramp from the first hilly day. I had no saddle soreness at all. (Thank you: Brooks saddle, Assos Padded Shorts and Assos Chamois Creme)! Truly amazing, considering the various water sources and food sources I used during the 3 months, I did not get sick. I weighed myself in Montreal and I was the same weight as when I set out from the UK. I expect I’m still similar writing this text in St. John’s.

Some “accidental” things did happen that I sometimes but not always reported. I stubbed my toe badly on a bed leg in a motel in Saskatchewan, I had indigestion for a week approaching Montreal, I strained a muscle in my ribs really badly during sleep one night. (That required vast quantities of Ibuprofen for over a week in order for me to be able to lie down at night)! I crippled my calf muscles climbing the many steps up to Mont Royal in Montreal. I got stung by a bee right in the ear-hole. 

How tough was this ride? There’s no two ways to put this, it was very tough. Actually, physically it wasn’t too bad. I rode within my capabilities, ate well (most days), was able to recover successfully each night (motels and restaurant meals most nights helped) and I stayed remarkably fit and healthy. Mentally, it was a different story and I suffered on several fronts. I found I just didn’t want to ride 120km (about 6 hours) each day every day. It was just too much to do on my own with my own thoughts. I found the first 40km of each day a particular trial, fighting with myself about “how far I still had to go”. The remaining 80km nearly always felt easier and faster than the first 40km! I got freaked out by mosquitoes after being bitten badly in BC. (I’d not encountered mosquitoes particularly before). I nearly gave up in Prince George at a result. I never got on with camping, partly because of the bugs, partly because food was more limited, partly because I could never sleep properly, partly because most serviced campsites were noisy and crap, mostly because I just loathed making and breaking camp. I think my issues stemmed from doing this ride on my own. I perhaps underestimated this aspect. Three months was a long time to be alone on the road. I never got “lonely” per se, but I think I would’ve benefited greatly from having company to help stay motivated and sane. Bottom line, I don’t think I’d do a trip of this magnitude on my own again.

It’s been asked whether this ride was harder than my ride across America in 2007. Well, probably yes, but not in the obvious way. The American ride had a very aggressive riding schedule of 200-250km per day for 26 days with no rest days, but you didn’t need to “think”. It was run as a military operation, with motels provided, route sheets to follow, daytime food and energy drinks to rendezvous regularly with. Obviously, as a group ride, there was plenty of company and comradeship on offer. The American ride was certainly more physically demanding than my ride across Canada, but the mental component on the Canada ride far outstripped the physical component. On balance, the Canada ride was harder because of the mental “pressures” of riding solo and unsupported. The additional length of time on the road also played it’s part towards the end.

Nearly finally, I’d like to thank the people of Canada (and America) who made me feel so welcome. I was the subject of many acts of kindness both large and small. The people I met on my travels, especially the countless roadside chats with inquisitive strangers, were often the highlight of the day. They really helped me along in many ways.

Finally, this will be my last post “from the road”. If you’ve been following this journal during the summer, I hope you’ve enjoyed the ride! It took me about 1.5hrs per night to first edit the day’s photos and then write some accompanying words. The journal was a labour of love, but it was sometimes a pain in the butt when all I wanted to do was sleep. I hope my efforts have been worthwhile.

Cheers everyone!



Martina said...

Hmmm - can't imagine how tough it must be, 3 months more or less on your own bar a few random conversations with strangers (aka new friends) on the way. I hope the occasional blog comment back from the UK helped a teeny-weeny bit.

Once again, many congratulations :-) Cheers - beer well deserved.

Hughie said...

You're in St. Johns!
I'm going to email you my cell number, if you're in town for another little bit I'd love to meet up with you and shoot the shit about the ride!

paul said...

Lurker post! 1st, Congratulations! Massive respect on completing the Trans-Canada!! It's a trip l hope to do one day and have followed your blog during my lunch-time breaks. 2nd, I have your blog bookmarked and hope to fall on it for when l do plan my trip. Well done again Shaun! Best, Paul

R & A said...

What could anyone add to the congratulations you so deserve

Sam Vekemans said...

Hi Shaun,
Wow, Great work! And such amazing details on your blog posts. Awesome photos, and great to read your quick summery each day. This really helps future riders for next year and beyond.

I was actually a bit worried at your start date (a little late in the season). But you managed to stick to your schedule. 108km is a good average (above average i think) with 88 Days .. and 70 of riding. .. that left enough days for rest. .. and to do some sight seeing.

Since you've already done the USA, im sure you were well prepared. ... so for those who havent done as much cycling, would you recommend taking a bit longer? Would you recommend a different route?

I followed your progress daily :), and reTweeted as you posted, and shared to the FB group. Since I'm not actually cycling this year (still working on the map), it inspired me to keep on going :)

It's Great you got to Ucluelet, BC for your official back tire dip :)... most people skip Vancouver Island (which is like skipping Newfoundland)... you missed Victoria. Perhaps thats a good thing as you might not have left :-).

... and just 1 tire puncture? Your load must have been well balanced and kept your bike in mint condition. ... did you need to stop at more bike shops than you wrote about?

Please keep in touch, it would be great to hear more about your trip :)

Sam Vekemans
Across Canada Trails
acrosscanadatrails at

Anonymous said...

Well done for keeping it together to the end. I know what you mean about doing a journal at the end of the day ! my hand writen ones descend into a barely legible scrawl just to get it done !

I did get the impression that it was a bit of a lonely route, not a regular Trans Am type route with lots of fellow cyclists. Instead of camping or Hotels/Motels how about warmshowers ? that could work better.

Really enjoyed your blog (flower of the day !) but particularly enjoyed your very honest summing up at the end.

Again well done

Darrell said...

Congrats, well done. Mosquitoes, i hate them too, but at least you didn't get any snow.

Aldernath said...

Congratulations from another stranger who has been reading your blog almost daily since discovering it in mid July - a magnificent solo cycling achievement and an outstanding blog. It inspires beginning cycle tourers like me to think about trying something similar.


Adam said...

Congrats Shaun!! Couldn't have said it better in your final post of the whole experience. We have a lot of catching up to do reading your blog once we complete our trip too!!