Vancouver – Van Isle Tour

Shawn sent me this video from his recent Island tour. Good to see folks using parts of the island bikepacking route. :)

“Rode to the ferries via the dyke trail through Surrey and Delta, then to Saltspring to Crofton to the Cowichan River Campground. Then onto part of VikB’s Vancouver Island Bike Packing Route (vibikepacking.wordpress.com/). From there rode to Victoria and then back home again. Fun few days!”

Butt Buster Tour – Day 1

Here is the long awaited trip report from newly graduated Gravel Pimp Michael Melo aka Mr. Smooth aka The Director!

We went counter clockwise around the route...

We went counter clockwise around the route…

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Had this actually happened? Month’s or is it years in the making I have completed my first bikepacking trip. My friend Vik an experienced backcountry bikepacker volunteered to take me on a loop he had previously explored on a solo trip in the reverse direction.

A sneak peak at our rigs from later in the trip...

A sneak peak at our rigs from later in the trip…

The weather forecast looked very promising with high’s in the upper teens and possibly even lower 20’s. Our first stop after leaving Victoria and before reaching our departure point of Port Alberni was Smokin George’s BBQ in Nanaimo tucked away in an unusual setting for a restaurant amongst industrial and commercial buildings. With our stomachs full of beef brisket, fries and corn bread we continued on to our departure point. Our next task was to find a safe spot to stash the truck for a few days, fortunately a new found friend Lee at Ozzie’s Cycle was gracious enough to let us park in their lot. With our bikes unloaded gear checked and après ride drinks organized it was time to head out.

Finally rolling like a boss!

Finally rolling like a boss!

Departing Port Alberni heading first east up the No. 4 highway. Vik wasn’t pulling any punches on my virgin trip, the first leg would have us humping 15km uphill, 450m meters of climbing with grades topping out north of 15%. Now road riding is not my preferred way to enjoy cycling and this particular road less pleasant still, No. 4 highway out of Port Alberni is a busy corridor frequented by large commercial vehicles. By the time we made it to the top and entrance to the fire road my left ear was aching. Which is just as well since it took my mind off my aching legs.

Look at that climb!

Look at that climb!

After that initial noisy introduction the silence of the first few meters up the fire road was pleasantly startling. With only the sound of my wheels rolling over the gravel the air tasted sweet and was invigorating, I couldn’t help but grin widely as I felt the weight of civilized life fall away behind me. A few short rolling hills later we come to a large old clear cut. The lack of any sort of trail required us to push our bikes over the terrain resembling a forgotten game of giant pick-up sticks. We picked our way across, carefully avoiding dropping a foot into a seemingly bottomless hole and doing our best to sidestep the young thorny bushes seemingly escaping every crevice.

Someone forgot to sweep up!

Someone forgot to sweep up!

With the sun hanging low we arrived at a decommissioned bridge over a lovely small river, presumably removed to reduce or eliminate travel over this route. As Vik pointed out one of the awesome things about bikepacking is the extreme portability afforded by our lightweight mode of transportation, allowing us to push forward through these types of obstacles. After some deliberation over whether to continue on or not we chose to camp on the opposite side and walked our bikes across the shallow side of the river. The water was exactly the perfect temperature (bloody cold) to drop our brews in to cool off while we set up camp and cooked up our dinners.

Pimping a new tent... :)

Pimping a new tent… :)

I was excited to express my wildageek and exercise some virgin outdoor gear, including a new Tarptent Moment DW and an alcohol cook set from Trail Designs.

Time for some vittles...

Time for some vittles…

I’ve been experimenting with a new product called a Hitcase, essentially a ruggedized housing for an iPhone 5s with a wide-angle lens mounted to it. It’s the poor mans GoPro, a previous trip and subsequent video edit proved it makes for a pretty decent action sports cam. Having used the iPhone for video all day I knew it needed a charge and my first job was to pull out a new portable battery I purchased expressly for this trip and give the phone a power boost. Unfortunately I discovered that I had forgotten the iPhone charging cable in Vik’s truck. So that was it for day ones footage, I was confident that we’d be able to pick up a cable along the next days route in one of the small towns we’d be passing by.

Time for a nice cold beer...

Time for a nice cold beer…

Vik coaxed a small fire to life and despite what appeared to be a buffet of dry wood surrounding us it was surprisingly difficult to keep it going. As the waning light of the sun faded we rescued the beer from the river a welcome treat at the end of the day and chatted, finalizing our plans for the next leg of the trip. With an early start planned we decided to turn in while the sky was still a shade of blue. I’m not sure if it was the excitement of what lay ahead the new experience of sleeping on an ultra light inflatable mattress, the use of a quilt instead of a traditional sleeping bag or my bad habit of getting to bed late in my regular life. I had a hard time falling asleep, tossing and turning for what seemed like ages and two bathroom trips later at the sign of the first couple of stars I finally dozed off to the rushing sound of the river.

The day of the derailleurs!

Derailleur hanger #1...

Derailleur hanger #1…

I haven’t had a derailleur problem in over 15yrs+ so it came as a bit of a shock to damage two of them in 50m of trail. First up John tweaked his hanger and derailleur after a small crash. We stopped and he replaced the hanger with a spare he had and bent his derailleur back into shape.

It was a beautiful day So chilling out in the sunshine while he fixed his machine was no big deal.

50m later....WTF?

50m later….WTF?

Literally 50m down the trail I rode over a large flat rock that flipped up and pushed my derailleur into my spokes. Ripped the hanger off and wrapped the chain around the back of the cassette. Hanger destroyed, derailleur bent, but thankfully spokes/wheel not damaged. The Bike Gods had some mercy. ;)

Working on the Nomad...

Working on the Nomad…

The good news is I had a spare derailleur hanger in my pack. The bad news is it was for my Pivot Mach 6 not the Nomad! ;) We were at the top of the mountain I just pulled the chain and derailleur off and I coasted down to truck.

This is the first major mechanical I have ever had on the Nomad that shut down a ride so I can’t really complain. I’ll be installing a new derailleur, chain and a new-ish crank from Sharon’s Pivot [she put a new crank on it and gave me the take off.].

I’ll put the Nomad away for the summer riding season and bring it back stronger than ever next fall.

Better this hanger than my frame...

Better this hanger than my frame…