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Cherry Pirate 02-22-2012 04:19 PM

A Gulf Islands Cycle Tour, Advice?
 
Hello,

I've never been much of a cycler until my g/f's grandmother bought both of us a nice pair of bikes. Since then I understood why I didn't like cycling before (laborious on an old steel framed Nishiki with friction gears). Unfortunately, she bought us the bikes shortly before passing from lung cancer in November (in case you feel generous, we joined the Ride to Conquer Cancer in her memory: conquercancer.ca/goto/team_mediocre). At any rate, the point is I cycle now and am training up for that ride so I'll be in reasonably good shape by the time we leave for this trip.

Being the adventurous types we decided we wanted to do a two week tour of the Major gulf islands (2 days an island). We've been collecting gear over the last 6 months and have most of it now.

I have two questions: Where should we go (or not go) in our tour of the islands?

What is some general advice and gear concerns for a two week tour of the wet coast?

Obviously it won't be too ride heavy of a tour given the size of the islands.

Thanks for any advice

alpalmer 02-22-2012 04:44 PM

about what time of year are you going? I have done some touring and would suggest doing a test ride of your gear over a 2 or 3 day trip so that you can figure out the intricacies of packing. I was amazed how much unnecessary gear I brought along the first few times as well as the need for balancing the load on the bike. I'm always concerned about bike breakdowns so it might be prudent to locate possible repair shops along your route if you aren't self-sufficient for replacement parts.

But there are some very experienced cyclists on Clubtread, much more so than I, who can probably get you going. Good luck

Cherry Pirate 02-22-2012 04:56 PM

Quote:

quote:Originally posted by alpalmer

about what time of year are you going? I have done some touring and would suggest doing a test ride of your gear over a 2 or 3 day trip so that you can figure out the intricacies of packing. I was amazed how much unnecessary gear I brought along the first few times as well as the need for balancing the load on the bike. I'm always concerned about bike breakdowns so it might be prudent to locate possible repair shops along your route if you aren't self-sufficient for replacement parts.

But there are some very experienced cyclists on Clubtread, much more so than I, who can probably get you going. Good luck
We were going to go in May, but I've been have a rough time raising the money for The Ride, so I've decided I don't want to lose two weeks of potential fundraising time. Next available time I think is probably going to be august. A little hotter than I like, but I'll get by. On the plus side, I think we'll be able to fit in the shorter rides you are mentioning. I doubt there are many repair shops in the islands (maybe Mayne and Saltspring). What sort of gear failure, besides the obvious tires, can I expect?

alpalmer 02-22-2012 06:18 PM

If your bikes are in good maintenance condition, probably just flats and maybe a tire blowout. I had a rear pannier rack lose a bolt one time, rattled out on a gravel road. Fortunately, I had a replacement bolt and noticed the problem before I suffered any wheel damage from the support dropping down into the spokes. I ripped the sidewall out of a tire by accident another time, got to close to a curb with my bike fully loaded. Non-repairable and was 55-60km from the nearest bike shop and I didn't have a spare. The kindness of strangers helped me out there.

Try to have some contingency plans just in case. Loading up a bike with a lot of weight can put quite a bit of stress on areas of a bike that under normal circumstance would hold up just fine. Riding several days in a row for several hours at a time can place enough stress on weak areas to sometimes cause failure. The main thing is to not be surprised if you do have a breakdown. That's one of the reasons for doing the shake-down ride.

Consider a few pair of latex gloves in your repair kit in case you have to mess with your chain at all or change a flat on the rear tire. Avoids the greasy hand problem. If you are going to be doing a bunch of downhill make sure to start out with new brake pads or take replacement pads along.

Quite a bit of the risk depends on how much distance you plan to cover and the road surface so if the island roads are in good shape and the bikes are in tune, you should be good.





sgRant 02-22-2012 08:42 PM

While the Gulf Islands are a wonderful place to visit, there are some cautions for novice cyclists.

There are almost no level roads on the islands. Hills are frequent, and frequently very steep. Anyone with unconditioned knees hauling camping loads of gear risks knee problems and should be very willing to walk up some hills.

There are almost no paved shoulders. You must be able to get up the hills without weaving, be comfortable with close traffic, and know to get off the pavement when you stop.

Some of the Gulf Islands have developed heavy traffic over the years. After a trip to Pender a few years ago, I won't cycle there again due to the constant "rush-hour" traffic. On Saltspring the main road mostly has shoulders, and the side roads are quiet enough. Galiano is quieter the farther north you go. Saturna should be the quietest since it's the hardest to reach.

Bicycle stores are very uncommon, but with new, but tested, bikes you're unlikely to need them. Generally the residents of the islands are relaxed and don't mind slowing for cyclists. But the weekend cottagers rush around aggressively like they're still in the city.

sammysamsam21 02-22-2012 10:01 PM

I've cycle toured on all of the ferry accessible Southern gulf islands and the San Juan islands. I would re-iterate that they are hilly. Expect to spend half your time huffing slowl up hills, and half your time zooming at full speed down the other side. Having said that, I think they are still the best option for cycle touring close to Vancouver. The islands are great places to explore at a laid back pace, in which case there is no need to rush up those hills. Just get into your granny ring and plod along slowly. The traffic tends to correlate with ferry times. Sometimes it's best to just wait it out - that's certainly the case when disembarking from a ferry. Let all the cars go past, before tackling the inevitable first hill. My favourite island is Saturna, because it has very few cars, and some really incredibly beautiful parks. you can camp at Narvaez Bay. The ride up to the far end of Galiano is great too (and you can access Dionisio Point marine park by bike btw - you could camp there). I didn't have any issues on Pender, but I was there in the low season. Other campsites I'd recommend are Montague Harbor on Galiano and Ruckle Provincial Park on Saltspring. Prior Centennial on Pender is nice and central and in a pleasant forested park, but is inland. I don't know if you're including Gabriola, but it's worth a look as well!

The San Juans have a different feel to them, being in the States, but do have a lot to offer. I can give more info on my time there if you like.

I highly recommend checking out the cycle touring sections of BC Car Free. All online, and with lots of info (but some of it is out of date).

http://www.car-free.ca/


Cherry Pirate 02-24-2012 02:16 PM

This is excellent, thank you. All your specific nitty gritty tips are exactly what I was looking for.

How is food supply on the islands? I was thinking of bringing some emergency dehydrated back up food, but largely buying meal supplies when I get to each island to reduce overall weight carried.

In spite of living in the lower mainland my entire life, Sam, I can't actually say I've ever even heard of the San Juan islands. I don't plan to expand this trip any, but I am always interested in future adventures. So, please, share about the San Juan islands.

Thank you again

Cherry Pirate 07-15-2012 07:14 PM

Finalizing some plans for an August 11th departure, and I was curious what campsites were like during mid august? (regarding availability)

Also, how do you cycle tourers deal with laundry? In two weeks were going to have to wash our chamois at some point. What about bathing?

How are the mosquitos? Just curious, not much I can do about that one.


brucew 07-15-2012 08:32 PM

http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/
Has lots of advice on the what to bring,what you need, and how to's.

Cherry Pirate 08-27-2012 06:31 PM

Got back from this Saturday. Truly life changing. I just wanted to say that if anybody is planning a similar tip, I open myself up to questions even if you stumble across this some years down the road. I'm no expert, clearly, but I think I could say some things that will create a more robust experience.

I'll post a TR at some point but 2 weeks of even minimal photos is a lot to sort through. Also, I wrote about each day and I have to decide if including excerpts of prose is a suitable thing for the forum.

At any rate, a fantastic trip for relatively cheap. Questions welcome.

Clumsyintellect 05-10-2016 03:56 PM

Hey Cherry Pirate.

I'll be doing a 7 day cycling trip to the gulf islands next week. What islands would you recommend? Did you bring a tent and a portable stove? Any info you can give would be much appreciated. Thanks

Jacob

Itscindy 05-31-2016 11:25 AM

I'm planning a trip also. What was your experience, Jacob?

alexcanuck 05-31-2016 08:27 PM

Cherry Pirate hasn't been heard from for a couple of years, but the thread is still largely correct. To clarify some logistics: Camping on Saltspring and at Galiano's Montague Harbour is somewhat limited and busy, could be an issue on weekends. Galiano's Dionisio is bike-accessible, great, a long way up the island, no services nearby and largely empty for political reasons (Google "dionisio access" for details). Saturna is perhaps the most bike-friendly especially for those uncomfortable with traffic on narrow roads, ample camping, fewest people and services. Don't overlook Gabriola just because it's not on the same ferry route, I've heard good things about it but have no personal knowledge.

As long as you are OK with hills any of the islands would be an excellent choice. Hills, hills, hills! The Gulf Islands are nothing but hills. Anyone who tries to soothe your hilliphobia is lying. Maybe with good intentions, but lying.


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