Five years of “I do not despair” – revisiting our favourite posts


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On January 1st 2012 I published the first, tentative post on To celebrate my fifth anniversary I have gathered together a small collection of favourite posts. Firstly your top 5 – the posts that have gathered the most visitors,some … Continue reading

Cycle Touring in British Columbia – notes and reflections

British ColumbiaI was quite disappointed with the lack of resources on the web when I was researching my recent cycle tour in British Columbia. It was only a short trip in summer so the risks of getting anything significantly wrong were quite low but it was quite a frustrating process.

Putting “cycle touring” or “bicycle touring” British Columbia into search engines most of what I found was commercial tour operators or tourism sites that then provided no content or links to mountain biking centres. This may be linked to how few cyclists I actually saw. It was the height of summer and I only saw three tourists despite the amazing routes I was riding.

Half a dozen useful comments might have alleviated some angst, so for what it is worth here are the things I wish I had known before I set out, written down to help any future travellers, in particular those more used to touring in Europe. It is not at all a definitive guide, it would be great if someone in BC gave some thought to this, it would really help.

Route planning – roads

My biggest fear was the fact that the bulk of the route seemed to offer nothing but main roads including Highway 1 which in any country probably indicates a very major route.

I spend time online and looking at maps to see if there were alternatives because I was quite concerned and I really couldn’t find any advice. Certainly most of the bike routes online seemed to use main roads so I guessed I would be OK.

In reality I didn’t have much to worry about for three main reasons.

  • Firstly the traffic volumes were really pretty low by European standards except for a couple of sections. Without the RVs (recreational vehicles or campervans) some sections would have been almost deserted.
  • Secondly the wide shoulders on most routes were an excellent cycling route.
  • Thirdly the behaviour of Canadian drivers. I have never cycled anywhere where the drivers gave a lone cyclist such a wide margin when passing – remarkable. In particular truck and commercial vehicle drivers in the similarly deserted South Island of New Zealand could take a big lesson from the Canadians.

BC Highway 1However I will give this a health warning. There were some busy sections I cycled near Kamloops and Kelowna, but in both cases there were alternatives near these larger towns. My section of Highway 1 was bypassed by an alternative new route and when the two sections recombined it was much busier. The short section of a major truck route on Highway 97 North/South just north of Cache Creek indicated that this might not have been so much fun had I chosen to follow it for a long distance. And some colleagues reported that they felt that the provision of a cycle route alongside the 4 lane highway from Vancouver to Whistler just did not look safe because of vehicle speeds, but the person who rode it didn’t complain and I felt it didn’t look too bad from the bus.

However in general I would strongly say that even these specific examples were manageable and the rest were amazingly quiet and I really don’t know why I worried.

Second health warning – I wonder what this is like nearer to winter, because I guess snow could fill the shoulders even if the road is ploughed for vehicles.

I would also flag that there were really no alternatives except dirt roads in many cases. For example I spent a lot of time looking at alternatives from Cache Creek to Kamloops to avoid Highway 1. I thought it might be possible to go to Ashcroft and follow dirt roads to Savona. But I looked at several sources on paper and on line but I never really did work out whether the road went through, and one mystery line turned out to be a railway, not a road!

From the plane on my way back to Vancouver I got a much better understanding of the wide network of dirt roads in the back country because the dry weather had dried them to a yellow sand or clay colour which contrasted to the forest well. However I would not have wanted to risk them without very good mapping and a satnav or compass, and a full mountain bike because there was not a flat section in sight.

Maps and routes

I bought a map of Southern British Columbia from Amazon before I left for some route planning and stupidly managed to lose it but it was okay for planning. (British Columbia South: ITM.113)

So in Vancouver I looked for some alternatives. It was a complete disaster. The one and only map shop in Downtown Vancouver had closed and the alternative shops had a rubbish selection of town maps or maps on a huge scale that did not give enough detail for cycling. I thought I might do better in Whistler, but for an outdoor town the selection was to my eyes still really poor.

The only maps that appeared anything like the detail I would expect were a couple of atlases calling themselves “Backroads” atlases aimed at 4 Wheel Drive vehicles or Trail motorbikes. However the atlases did not cover all of my routes and would have cost me over $50 for limited benefit.

In the end I navigated using Google Maps, Bikely and pages torn from tourist guides for each region. This was of course possible because of my first point above – I was sticking to the main roads and so very large scale maps were all I needed. And in reality the maps on sale tended to meet that need – a country where the long distances mean people need big maps just to travel between population centres, or detailed local maps for the back country trails used to get into the woods or hills. Neither of these really work for the cycle tourist, but in hindsight I was not significantly disadvantaged by a lack of maps.

Real credit must go to online bike route website Bikely. Almost every road I wanted to ride had been covered by someone who had done it before so maps and profiles were available. It occasionally took some detective work to isolate just the section of road I needed and combine it with others to get an overall profile. But other sections were a perfect match, another rider doing just the same section. The key elements I needed were the confidence that the main roads were rideable and the route elevation profiles which told me the climbing. I also found mapping site geokov map maker which was great for topography.

The other thing I didn’t really find online but I now know exist are some interesting long distance cycle routes which might well have been good to try and incorporate had I known. Simple but bonkers fact is that the Trans-Canada Trail web site does not contain the word “touring” anywhere so will never be found in a search engine looking for cycle touring routes.

Sea to Sky TrailIn Whistler I discovered that the Sea to Sky route which comes from Vancouver is being extended beyond Whistler and is intended to go on and link up with other Trans-Canada routes which form a greenway network across Canada. The section to the East of Whistler is going to be an offroad trail running away from the main highway. However it will be much slower than the road route because it climbs more and the surface is rougher but it will be great for those looking for leisurely and scenic riding.

I also found that I was riding close to an amazing cycle route called the Kettle Valley Trail which is part of a whole network of former railway lines. The “trestles” or wooden railway bridges and tunnels have in many cases been restored and apparently provide some great cycle routes. There are published guides and histories which would have made a good pre-read and I could have aimed to include some of them in my route had I found them beforehand. Doh!

Planning services

This route was in Southern British Columbia which is the relatively densely populated part of the province. Despite that there were long sections that had absolutely no services. I could easily have made some big mistakes and left myself without food and drink because these sections did include access to camp grounds and provincial park centres but unlike similar venues in other countries most of these had no public services such as shops or cafes. The ubiquitous RVs may partly be to blame, even campers travel with a week’s supplies on board.Sign near Pemberton British Columbia

However I am told the real reason even quite big and popular camping grounds have no services is because the season is so short and it isn’t commercially viable to open a business based on just a few weeks’ sales. Therefore I carried extra food and even put a filled a Camelback bladder with extra water in my panniers for a couple of legs.

The best guide I found was the web site Mile by Mile which actually specified what was available along a number of the roads I used but I would suggest caution because opening times can be a bit hit and miss too.


The roads I used were in excellent condition and could be tackled on almost any road bike.  I only experienced a couple of dirt roads and generally they were good too, but steep, up to 13% gradients.

MTB as cycle touring bike However I would strongly recommend consideration of a 26 inch wheeled mountain bike set up as a road tourer. The roads are steeper than continental Europe with 10-13% encountered on several occasions so the lower gears of the MTB would be useful. I was over-geared on the bike I bought, I should have got the freewheel changed as it was probably only about a 25 tooth on a road triple which wasn’t enough. But perhaps more importantly the BC mountain bike scene is vibrant and you will find spares and repairs much easier to find, even in small towns. If you are going to buy a second hand bike as I did the range of MTBs on offer is much wider too.

That doesn’t mean foregoing dropped handlebars, I have regularly adapted them on to MTBs but I used some bar ends to get a different handlebar position.


I stayed in motels booked through web sites apart from the Alta Vista chalet run by Bear Back in Whistler. No real plans to carry camping gear around or buy it in Vancouver.

The advantage of the motels were:

  • That the rooms are large and mostly ground floor and I could take my bike inside all of them.
  • Clothes washed either in the shower or in washing machines daily and dry overnight by using the preferred wringing them out in a towel technique – always works with a plentiful supply of towels.
  • Microwave, tea/coffee, fridge in every room so I could buy and store food, saving money on meals all the way unless I fancied buying out. Although really stupidly the rooms don’t provide plates, knives and forks so I had to buy a plastic set. The probable reason (and downside) is that the selection of foods in the average small supermarket or convenience store was generally really unhealthy and the type of stuff microwaved in a burger bun. I relied on granola and milk in a cup (or several cups) as the most reliable breakfast, topped up en route.

Alta Vista Chalet would be worth using as a base (if not booked out) even if you are passing through Whistler on tour. It is a little cycling mecca – everyone on the staff and visitors is a cyclist, there is a really good workshop in the basement and the food is of the type and quantity that we love!

BC Cycle tour – Day 4 – heat haze – Kamloops to Fintry (Kelowna)

British Columbia Lake OkanaganFinal proper day of the tour – 135km to meet my friends camping by Lake Okanagan just north of Kelowna’s Westside. 271miles/440km since I left Whistler, the tour is over, a glass of local wine by the beach to celebrate.

With pained memories of my previous long day just 3 days ago and the forecasts of temperatures well into the 30s all day I studied the ride and route profile assuming a day similar to day 1 – long and hard. As it was I had one of those special days on the bike where everything seemed to work out perfectly, the scenery was great and the miles just disappeared under the wheels making it a great end to my short tour.

I shall do some roundup posts about one or two subjects when I get home, but a thoroughly enjoyable four days in a stunning country. So glad I did it.

The ride

Because of the heat I was out of the motel and on the road by 6am with the intention of bowling along the valley from Kamloops to my main climb out of the valley as early as possible.

Odd bit of signposting as I left the motel, the marked bike route sent me almost immediately onto the shoulder of Highway 1 where I was to spend the next 26km despite the fact that most of the way alongside the main highway were a combination of service roads and residential roads that would make a perfectly good linear cycle network all the way along the valley.

However today it didn’t matter, it was early on a Saturday morning so the number of vehicles was minimal and there was no wind at all.

Highway 1

In fact the overwhelming feeling was of a day that was going to be a scorcher. The heat haze was almost mist already down the valley and in fact it never left all day, running any prospects for good photography.Near Kamloops 6.30 am

The road was just gently rolling and the hard shoulder was wide and well surfaced which just invited me to get into a slightly tucked position with my forearms resting on the handlebars and my hands just gripping the cables, reminiscent of a time trial position without tri-bars. Even the knobbly tyres seemed to roll without too much drag and I polished off the first 26km to the climb really easily.

This was slow and sticky, at least at the bottom, so I just tapped my way up easily, trying to conserve energy and not get too warm. But it was only a 400m climb alongside the relatively shallow gradient of a main road so it seemed to go quite quickly. The bonus was at the top when the road crested a small rise and dropped me into a beautiful green and fertile valley, just that bit cooler than the arid valley I had left.Seen close to valley road

At first the bottom of the valley was a flat area of grasslands and reeds fed by a steam, then the attractive Monte Lake with fishermen’s boats and a spectacular railway track hugging the far shore.

British Columbia

After the lake the valley opened out onto a pancake flat area of farms, many of them with sprinklers going flat out and my first signs of the famous Okanagan fruit crops with cherries for sale by the road.

Once again this road was so flat and inviting I ignored all the temptations to stop and just lay gently on my handlebars while bowling along at a really good pace. In my mind’s eye I could see those days in the Tour de France when the peleton has 200km or more to ride across the baking plains of the Vendee and the teams send the “rouleurs” to the front to just eat up the kilometres at a steady pace. Nothing like the same pace on my laden steed but the feeling of just knocking off the miles quickly was enjoyment in itself.

At the end of the open valley section the surrounding hills suddenly closed in to form a narrow V and I was descending again towards my chosen mid ride break at Falkland. Nearly 50 miles/80km achieved over an hour ahead of plan so I treated myself to a breakfast and home-cooked blueberry pie just to celebrate. I chose the rather twee café which looked like an English tea room because I liked the seat on the terrace, but I don’t know anywhere at home that also has a mural of their “Stampede” on the wall, the Falkland Stampede being the town’s biggest event of the year. I guess we would understand it as a rodeo, but I gather the rodeo is just one of the events in a celebration of all things cowboy and country.Falkland Stampede

From Falkland the road then descended at varying gradients for almost another 30km until I emerged into the north end of the Okanagan valley which features a lake 135km long. The valley is the home of a busy tourism industry, British Columbia’s wine growing and fertile farming district.

My destination was ultimately Kelowna but my friends from the city were camping at Fintry, some 30km north of the city on the west side of the lake so I was able to turn down the quiet West Side Drive to complete my trip. I was feeling so pleased with myself I initially tried to slipstream two road cyclists on skinny lightweights as they came past but that idea lasted no more than a few metres of downhill before I was gasping for breath and my legs reminded me that this was day 4.

Lake Okanagan British ColumbiaThe road offered regular views over the lake and the houses in amazing settings, but it also meant that the ride finished with some stiff climbs up and around the headlands.

Okanagan West Side near Fintry

Last hill!

I was pleased I didn’t have to do any seriously big climbs, by now it was 1.30, the heat was stifling and the tarmac was melting on the road.


Fintry was a delight, the former property of a rich Scottish man who had inherited some wealth and used it to escape to Canada and try to build a model farm on the banks of the lake almost 100 years ago. Today the old house is a museum and the area is mostly a delightful family camping ground by the lake where I was able to relax and have an afternoon snooze after a refreshing glass of white.

Fintry Mansion

Fintry Barns

I even justified carrying a can of extra strong insect spray all the way from Whistler – the only downside of the location!

Job done.

BC Tour Day 3: Heat and lifesaving

Roadside Diner Savona BCHow to give a cyclist fork to mouth resuscitation.

I think I must have been complacent after yesterday’s ride and not eaten enough breakfast because I was caught by surprise after only 25 miles when my legs went to jelly in the pleasant and sleepy lakeside township of Savona.

A big shout out to the Roadside Diner therefore, your massive Roadside Omelette with refills of coffee and sourdough toast saved me.

Traffic worries – or not?

I wasn’t sure what to expect from today. The simple facts were 85km from Cache Creek to Kamloops and only a few hundred metres of climbing.  But I was quite concerned that I was now joining Canada’s Highway 1, the Trans-Canada and the many trucks seen in Cache Creek could be coming my way. Plus the forecast for Kamloops was heading for 34 degrees, so I certainly didn’t want to be out in the main heat surrounded by traffic.

I have no idea why I worried. Most of the trucks I had seen the previous day were heading north as a new link has bypassed this East-West section of Highway 1. It is amazing to see that  in any country a road designated number 1 was so lowly trafficked until much later in the morning. Most of the way it had at least a 1 metre shoulder and the drivers were unfailingly courteous, pulling far wider than expected or needed as the passed me. For long periods I was alone listening to birdsong and crickets.

BC Highway 1The only exception was as I approached Kamloops.  Volumes of vehicles shot up from traffic re-joining off the alternative route and the city itself was far bigger and busier than I had imagined. I guess I had been expecting the next size up from the small towns of previous days but this is a big, bustling town, a real shock to the system.BC Descent to Kamloops

The ride

Actually little to report. Much of the riding itself was on open arid plateau or similar wide valley, irrigated to support crops with the road visible in the hazy heat winding into the distance.

Even after the spectacular descent to Kamloops Lake at Savona the road pulled away from the lakeside most of the way, climbing quite high before a steep final descent to the city of Kamloops.

It was very hot and I am frustrated that after lavish doses of factor 30 I neglected the tops of my legs which I never need to cover at home, by June they are always well browned. But of course this has not been that sort of summer in Europe and I have a painful pink line which I won’t share.

Other reflections on the way: Savona was a sweet, sleepy place and the locals take amazing pride in their lakeside gardens and flowers, shocks of colour against the dry scrubby landscape.

But almost every other house in Savona appeared to be for sale and all the way along there were what could be dream houses for sale. The real estate collapse in Canada was very much in evidence here.

To end.

In the big town I was quite taken aback at having to battle traffic and navigation to get to my motel.

However all was saved by the discovery of a riverside terrace nearby and a beautiful sunset. All is tranquil before another long hard day tomorrow.Storms restaurant

BC Cycle tour – Day 2 Lillooet to Cache Creek – beautiful day

Fraser River Gorge British ColumbiaBritish ColumbiaDay 2 and a complete contrast to the previous day. A much shorter ride – only 55miles/87km. This time I had checked the route profile much more carefully. Most importantly the climbing was very different. I actually was climbing for nearly half the ride, sneaking upwards a few metres at a time but spread over 25miles/40km the net gradient was shallow and there was plenty of respite.

I also got out early to miss the warmest part of the day, leaving the motel at 7.30am so I was at my destination for lunchtime, and more importantly a long Skype call home at a sensible time for my family in England. So less about the pain and suffering today and much more about the features of this part of British Columbia and another delightful ride. Good day!

New landscapes

Lillooet was being gently lit by a sun that peeped over the valley edge and highlighted the main street and the tidy buildings, including my star Greek restaurant, Dina’s.Main Street

It was also clear that this was going to be a very different day in landscape terms. Even dropping into Lillooet last night it was clear this was something different. All the way from Whistler the previous ride had featured waterfalls running down from snow in the mountains. The valleys were lush and the rocks were grey.Fraser River Lillooet

This was now very different, arid and dusty. There was no snow to feed streams and the soil had turned a sandy red and yellow. Irrigation was being used to water the occasional flash of bright green on a farm, but otherwise the plant life was largely scrub.

The Frazer River showed its power by carving out a deep gorge in the soft stone as our road gradually gained height up the gorge side providing some spectacular views. (Below and first photo above) Fraser River Gorge

The riding wasn’t too painful this time, I could sit and ride up in my lower gears and I only needed to bounce out of the saddle occasionally for a change of position.

Pavilion Lake

After about 20miles/30km the road swung east to make the final climb up to Pavilion, Pavilion Lake and the Marble Canyon. As I had already gained half the height of the day this last steeper section went by easily and almost by surprise I reached my highest point. This allowed me a massive treat. The valley was lush, wide and inviting.British Columbia

The blue of Pavilion Lake was breath-taking and I envied the people camping or owning summer houses by the water in this beautiful place. (Second photo above and below) British ColumbiaThe lakeside road was 4miles/6km long, rippling gently up and down as I rolled along easily.

From the end of the lake the water starts to flow down towards Cache Creek but only along a long shallow valley so there were no sharp descents until the very end. Visitors from Europe would easily recognise the farming patterns, cattle out in the fertile valleys enjoying summer pasture fed by the river while the hillsides were becoming dry and barren.BC Valley pasture

There was a niggling head wind but I rolled along steadily, especially when I realised that lunch in Cache Creek and an afternoon off was an option. I even got out of the saddle and thrashed up a couple of small climbs because I wanted to – I must have been feeling better.

Cache Creek

The biggest disappointment was the end of the valley. Just 5km to go but I left my sleepy highway 99 to join a much bigger road and a blustery head wind. I put my head down in best British Time Trial mode and allowed the suction of the trucks to give me a bit of a boost every few hundred metres. I really hadn’t thought about it much before but the traffic volumes previously had been unobtrusive and unfailing polite in passing me, a strong recommendation.

And so to Cache Creek, a nondescript collection of motels and houses at a highway junction. Few redeeming features, but the motel is spotless and welcoming and I have enjoyed a laid back afternoon catching up.

Route profile credit:

There is very little on line material about cycle touring in this area. I got my information from and in particular the routes put up by user nozza who has done much of the same route I am riding. The image below is a screen copy of nozza’s route – please visit the site for more information and or some of the other great routes this user has done. Thank you very, very much!

BC Cycle Tour Day 1: Hardest day’s cycling in years – Whistler to Lillooet

Kevin MayneMy thanks to the campervan driver with the German accent who provided the photo of the tour, probably without realising.

Many cyclists will have experienced a day like this. Exhilarating scenery. Amazing experiences. The satisfaction of taking on a ride that is on your limit. But it was hard, very hard, and at the end I was pretty much on my limit. This was always going to be me longest ride with the hardest profile but it was also the proof of whether I had taken too much risk arranging to ride across British Columbia on a heavy knobbly tyred bike I bought for $129 from a bike recycler.British Columbia

Yes it would have been a much easier day on my Dawes Super Galaxy with lighter weight, narrow wheels and lower gears. Yes it is a pretty daft idea going on tour with extras like a laptop in the bags.

Whistler Green LakeBut it could not have been a better day. As I say so many times it is always about the ride. And this was a special one. I have written up the day as a diary with photos, I hope they capture something of the ride, enjoy wonderful British Columbia. They had better be good – I haven’t carried this laptop for nothing!


It was with some trepidation that I left the cosy cyclist friendly atmosphere of Alta Vista Chalet to head north to Llllooet.

I am I knew I had about 85m/135km with a really tough climb Train and waterfallsen route which I had estimated at around 10km and 10% average gradient from my research on (acknowledgement below)  The unknowns were how I would cope after two hard days mountain biking in Whistler and whether the gears on the recycled Raleigh were really low enough for the very relaxed attitude I had to luggage weight when I left Vancouver.

The first signs were great.  Gaps appeared in the clouds over Green Lake at last and the first 30 miles were downhill and then flat through Pemberton to the foot of the main climb. En route the road followed the tumbling river and the longest slowest train I have ever seen.

Sign near Pemberton British ColumbiaI dropped nicely along the main road which has an excellent hard shoulder for cycling down to Pemberton where I decided on an early coffee. There is a reason for that:

I have to say the road from Pemberton to Lillooet Lake (nowhere near Lillooet town!) was an absolute delight. The road became really quiet and rolled gently along the valley floor which was verdant with woodlands, fields and wild flowers. There was a real mixture of houses, some almost imitating an English country garden, while other landscapes could only be North American.

Garden near Pemberton British Columbia

British Columbia

Then Lillooet Lake itself provided some amazing views.

British Columbia

All a bit too easy because I knew somewhere along the lakeside the climb was due to start. Before I left the chalet I had said to the guys that my hope was that the hill wasn’t a constant 10% for the whole 10km, that it would offer some respite through the bends and contours of the hill.


Without warning the road left the lakeside and reared up at about 10% straight away. I was bobbing in and out of the saddle almost straight away and really struggling. Instantly I was analysing that I was certainly over-geared and definitely over-laden, just as I had feared. There were extended periods of out of the saddle easing over the cranks to keep the bike moving at just 4pmh/6kmph.British Columbia

I fell into the cyclist’s trick of playing mind games to accompany myself up the climb. Maybe a sip of water if I can just get round the next bend. Maybe lunch halfway up?  It was hot and hard, stopping for the odd photo was one of my psychological treats.

Fortunately the gradient did ease off after about 2 miles and started to offer some variety in gradient so there were periods of sitting pedalling and others of out of the saddle heave. I was making steady progress with the mind games so the climb was probably going to take something over an hour. I was feeling tired but relieved as I neared the top and this lovely waterfall came right down to the road edge and the flowers were increasingly abundant.Kevin Mayne's bike in British Columbia

Duffey Lake RoadI hadn’t bargained on two things. Firstly I really hadn’t studied the route profile in intimate detail – and it turned out it was a 13km climb, not 10, and the last km was a horrible final flog up which made a big dent in my reserves. Secondly I had focussed so much on the climb that I wasn’t really conscious of the 69km on the summit sign to Lillooet – I knew it was mostly downhill so it didn’t really matter. Well it did, because scattered along that 69km was another 600metres of climbing that I hadn’t really got my head round.

Duffey Lake Road British ColumbiaBut before that the summit which provided some great views, and I guess the sign that would have helped the most at the bottom!

I guess it is symptomatic of the range of roads of Canada that what would be a significant landmark in many countries gave the most unremarkable welcome – no summit or altitude sign, no group of skinny men in lycra having their photo taken. It even has a nondescript name “Duffey Lake Road”.

Heading for home.

The first descent to Duffey Lake was a beautiful setting for a late lunch.

British Columbia

After the lunch break there were some amazing descents and overall the road was pretty much downhill as it tracked the river that fell steeply away. However the highway engineers seemed to have different ideas as the road wound up and down the valley sides rather than follow the river contour. This reached its extreme on the final few km before Lillooet where the road rose really steeply up and away from river which had carved out a steep gorge below. I couldn’t help but wish for the sort of Swiss engineer who would have blasted a downhill path through the rocks quicker than you can say Emmental. However it was not to be and I arrived at the top absolutely finished – my longest day in the saddle for a very long time and nothing left.

British Columbia Duffey Lake Road

River – down left. Road – Up right!

Things were enlivened a bit on the 13% descent, I did hit about 40mph/60kmph but I really didn’t fancy leaning the luggage over on the hairpins on this bike.

And finally to dropping to Lillooet on the banks of the Fraser River, already large here and running all the way back to the sea at Vancouver.

Time to collapse in a heap, to recover and reflect. And who’d have thought it? An excellent Greek restaurant in the middle of nowhere? (or at least in the middle of town 200 metres from my motel!) The food and the two glasses of locally produced red wine went down a treat.

I slept very well.

Route profile credit:

There is very little on line material about cycle touring in this area. I got my information from and in particular the routes put up by user nozza who has done much of the same route I am riding. The image below is a screen copy of nozza’s route – please visit the site for more information and or some of the other great routes this user has done. Thank you very, very much!

Whistler Day 2 – rivers, emerald forest and bears!

Whistler Valley View

Ready to goHustle and bustle at the chalet this morning. There is a real mixture of riders here at Bear Back Biking which reflects the diversity of rising in Whistler. Downhill culture gets all the publicity because of the Whistler Bike Park but the variety of trails and facilities means that small groups will go off in different directions.

Today I had a guided ride off to the area known as Riverside which as it suggests is a series of routes up and down a steep sided valley with a glacial river flowing down the gorge. Beautiful spot with a choice of gravel forest roads or a network of swooping and dipping trails up and around the river. And once again the guys at Bear Back had pitched it just right for my level so I was really able to enjoy it.Whistler

Yesterday was very much about riding skills but today was more about scenery and landscapes, although as most cyclists knows that means more hills – you can’t have views without some climbing and for me why come to a mountain resort unless you are going to get up to a level, even with low cloud around.

And I got to meet the neighbours too!Black Bear - Whistler

The other highlight of the valley was the sheer exuberance of the greens in the little hollows and ponds which featured up and down the valley. It was almost temperate rainforest in its appearance with the combination of ferns and fronds, a rare combination in most countries.

Riverside - Whistler

Riverside Whistler

Kevin Mayne

Kevin Mayne

Whistler – first day

View from SquamishGreat to be here in Whistler for my two days mountain biking.

It was an amazing trip up here – I was told the Sea to Sky Highway was something special – it certainly is. Imagine a four lane highway alongside a fiord, swooping up and down to take in enormous views. And then at Squamish we turn in towards the mountains for the first time, following the valley up to Whistler.

Arrival at the Alta Vista Chalet last night, home of Bear Back Riding, my hosts for the next two days.

Canada Day WhistlerThe welcome was warm, the food was excellent and it was also good to bike up to the Village to see Canada Day fireworks on the mountain.

Today some trepidation – how would I cope in this mecca of mountain biking? 50 year old roadie, not done much off road for a couple of years and definitely carrying a few kilos that I could do without when we start climbing. And needless to say the rain was hammering down

Probably didn’t need to worry. Full suspension bike from one of the many rental stores in the Village which frankly rides better than my bike at home. My guide Jamie took me off to the Lost Lake trail area which I gather is the testing ground for new arrivals.

I had an excellent day – 3 hours with Jamie in the morning and then another two hours after lunch on my own to freshen up my skills. The trails selected were about right for my ability although I got absolutely infuriated with myself because I couldn’t get up anything technical at all. As soon as a few rocks or roots got in the way I seemed to just stall. In the afternoon I felt much better.

The trails were probably “Red” by UK standards which is just about my limit at the Seven Stanes or centres in Wales, so that worked really well. What I haven’t ridden much are the wooden bridges as I don’t ride North Shore at home but these were really not slippery given the awful conditions. Best named section “Pinnocchios Furniture” – because this boy is made of wood.

Not many photos today as the weather wasn’t very good for views but I have stocked up a few for a blog post about Whistler itself tomorrow. Interesting to compare such a bike mecca with the transport cycling towns that we have been discussing last week – this is a whole different outlook.

Green Lake View point Whistler

Low cloud line!

Jamie from Bear Back Riding - Whistler - Green lake View

Whistler ride

Pinoccio's Furniture sign

Bike bridge - Whistler

Vancouver – meanderings, musings and buildings

Chilco cycle route sign, VancouverLast two days in Vancouver before I move into holiday mode.

Rounding up some incidental photos from across the week, wanderings on Saturday and then off to watch the European Championships finals in the Italian area of Vancouver – which was achieved by way of a few discoveries on the way.

So this is a messy post, but one that closes the week nicely.

Mood – chilled out. Everywhere should have a cycle route called Chilco, but it sums up the weekend mood in Vancouver just nicely.

Seaside cycle route Vancouver - family group

And Saturday’s ride was a gentle meander after the rain which took me to Inukshuk.

Inukshuk plaque

The symbol of the stones is actually seen all over BC as a welcome, but this one on the Seaside was oddly accompanied by pillars of stones set on the rocks by the sea. I am sure I could look up why, but they seemed oddly apt beside the larger piece.

Inukshuk, Vancouver

Roof Garden VancouverNearby I also saw the most over-ambitious roof garden I have ever seen. It’s a bit grainy, but yes there is a tree on that roof facing the sea winds. “More money than sense” as your granny would say.


And to today’s ride. Out from the city centre to Commercial Road which is lined with Italian cafes and restaurants, so the obvious spot to see Italy play Spain in the Euros.

And handily marked a quiet streets cycle route out to my destination and back.

Diverting slightly off route via Chinatown on the way out I found this amazing mural.

Lao Tsu mural  Chinatown Vancouver

Chinatown Vancouver - Street signsChinatown VancouverThe Chinatown is not as ornate as those in London or Manchester with such defined entrances, it seems to be a more authentic Chinese living and trading area than a tourist trap.

Chinatown then gives on to some lovely residential streets with what I would call “colonial” style houses, although that is probably not the politically correct term in the 21st Century.

Vancouver houses

To Commercial Road where throngs are gathered on the pavements outside every cafe, although it appears the Spanish are almost as populous as Italians, and even more so when they won – resulting in a street parade of honking horns and flags.

Soccer fans, Commercial Road, Vancouver

So finally I drift back towards the railway and bus station for my bus to Whistler.

And I am rewarded by excellent views back over the city, some great cycling themed murals and then finally the outstanding modernist 1920s interior of the Vancouver main railway station – a building lost well out from the city centre.  A shame because the interior is a treat.

Vancouver Sunday

Cycling mural Vancouver

Cycling mural Vancouver

Vancouver Pacific Railway Station interior

Tour de France watching for breakfast – totally guilt free!

I have been trying to get my head round watching the Tour de France from British Columbia. Particularly this year because of the British interest with Wiggins and Cavendish. So I just sat down with the official Tour web site and the trusty time zone calculator to discover that Wiggo should be donning the yellow jersey for the first time around 8.30 am tomorrow.*

And after that the stage finishes should all be around the same time each day. Amazing – able to watch the sport without the slightest guilt that I am wasting the day, not sold out because I am watching not riding, not having to do the ironing to justify watching sport all afternoon. And then I can go ride my bike afterwards.


*Over-optimism may be creeping in with the joy of this discovery.

Tour de France at the Halfway Inn, Kent, England

Tour de France at the Halfway Inn, Kent, England

Vancouver bike parade – just in time for the rain

Having had several days where the weather has been good and the sunlight has brought out the very best in Vancouver tonight’s bike parade was a rather gloomy affair.

Sadly few modern cities of steel and concrete can look at their best in under darkened skies. However a real brightness was brought by the volunteers from the Hub in their bright yellow shirts, but oather than that it was a bit dour. A shame, because I had already done much of the route in the sunshine over the last few days and it was great and for some of the delegates this will be their main bike excursion around the city.

The other thing that ruined the photography was the lack of many interesting participants from the city, I was really hoping we might get some of the cycling sub-cultures out on the street. Our delegates were somewhat uniform because they are almost all on the Bixi public bike sharing machines from Montreal and wearing the uniform black Lazer helmets issued by the organisers to encourage us to comply with the mandatory helmet law here. (Although many didn’t comply.) Thank heavens for some Dutch humour – they always say laughter is one of the greatest weapons in advocacy. Well done.

Dutch Cycle helmet!

So limited photography of the kind I like, you will have to go back the Vienna RadPaRade for some real cycling diversity. But a few shots – we did enjoy ourselves and for those that had never done a Velo-city bike parade with 800 people in a close road convory were really enjoying the novelty.

Vancouver bike parade


Dawn bike ride in Vancouver

Sunrise - Waterfront, Vancouver

Yesterday’s early morning ride. Waterfront, Stanley Park and views from Lion’s Gate Bridge.

I happened to have a moment when I had to fill a short gap from the stage of our conference. I told the European delegates that if they didn’t use the fact they are all waking up at 5am to get down there at first light they would regret it. I hope there is a small convoy of Bixi bikes out there now even as I am typing. The light quality is brilliant. And for photographers I can say that the shot above did not use any filters or treatment – the diffraction effect just came naturally.

Bike parade round the city tonight. Should be god for lots of photos, although the conference talk is of how many delegates and locals are going to use it as a chance to protest about the compulsory helmet law.

And welcome to my new best friend – what $129 buys you from the bike recycling scheme at Ride On Again – just the job.

Coal Harbour

Sunrise - Waterfront, Vancouver - Houseboats on Coal Harbour

Vancouver Stanley Park Totem poles

From Lion's Gate Bridge Vancouver

My new best friend. Recycled bike on Lion's Gate Bridge Vancouver

How will you show your love of cycling?

Karly Coleman, Edmonton cycling activistOne person bringing smiles to the faces of the delegates at Velo-city 2012 is Karly Coleman, bike advocate and promoter from Edmonton, Alberta. Great to meet her and her colleagues this evening. Here is one lady who is just passionate about what she does for cycling – and to make sure everybody knows! With people like Karly around how can we despair for the future of the cycling race?

Karly’s web site

Museum of Anthropology and University of British Columbia


This gallery contains 7 photos.

Lots of stuff about Velo-city 2012 on the official ECF web site and trending seriously on twitter after this morning’s barnstorming opening presentation by Gil Penalosa. #velocity2012. But that is the day job which you can follow on  – … Continue reading