By Dave King – July 11 -14 2016
This was the first time I have ridden the Rocky Mountain 1200. I have always thought of riding my bicycle up Rogers Pass, along the Icefields Parkway, and through some of the beautiful river valleys here in the western part of Canada. The countryside is beautiful and what better way to experience it than at bicycle speed? The Rocky met and exceeded all my expectations for enjoying some of the greatest scenery in Canada!
I have never ridden the Rocky, so I can’t compare/contrast the pros and cons of riding counterclockwise to clockwise. It was a great ride; beautiful, diverse country, challenging hills, courteous drivers.
I wanted to summarize my thoughts of the ride overall as well as a few particulars about each day. As you read the daily notes, remember I come from a safety background, and I am usually thinking safety first. Again, these are my thoughts from my ride and will not necessarily meet the needs of all riders. I just thought of what I might like to know before I started a big ride and captured it here.
The Ride Overall
Weather is one thing we cannot control. Tough weather days often make the best memories. For the 2016 pre-ride, the weather was very cooperative. The ride started with moderate temperatures and a mostly cloudy first day, and ended with mostly sunny yet still moderate temperatures on day 4. Not too hot and not too cool. On days 2 and 3 we had some sporadic rain showers, but the temperatures remained relatively warm. Rain gear came on, rain gear was taken off. There did seem to be longer drier stretches on these 2 days that allowed one to dry out adequately between the intermittent showers. As always, be prepared for the worst. Watch the weather forecasts, pack for the extremes and you will be fine.
Riding in Traffic
I was a bit nervous about the possibility of riding along Highway 1 (Trans Canada) but the drivers were generally very courteous and many would move closer to the centre lane (away from me) to provide me more room as they passed. The transport truck drivers were some of the most courteous, and if they had the ability to move to the opposing lane, they would do it. The majority of the route has ample shoulders and rumble strips which dissuade automobile traffic from moving on to the shoulder. I had no bad incidents with drivers.
Traffic, like anywhere else, is quietest before 10am and after 4pm.
I chose to wear earplugs on this ride to abate traffic noise. It worked well and I would suggest it to anyone who finds traffic noise bothersome on any ride. The earplugs did not eliminate traffic noise, but reduced it to a manageable level. I could still hear vehicles coming, and of course could still see them in my mirror.
Earplugs also really help in rainy conditions when traffic noise is amplified.
Day 1 – Kamloops to Golden
Shortly after the start, we soon exited from Highway 1 to climb the rural Barnhartvale Road, a gorgeous stretch of secondary road. There are a few cattleguard crossings marked on your routesheet along this stretch. I never chose to ride across a cattleguard, instead choosing to slowly walk across them. I did see three cyclists ride across cattleguards quite quickly in Lake Louise without incident, but it was not for me. Just a note to those who will be starting on July 25, you will likely be in small to large groups by the time you reach your first cattleguards, and you should be aware some in your group may be stopping to cross the guards.
From km 120-129 (Highway 97), there are some potholes (unmarked) in the shoulder, mostly visible from a distance.
We came back to highway 1 in Sicamous. Good wide shoulders to ride. Earplugs in.
Tunnels going up and down Rogers Pass – not long (except one on the descent), and a decent shoulder in all of them. I waited for breaks in traffic before going into most of the tunnels, and as it was between 1700 and 1900 hours (Pacific Time), there were gaps in traffic that allowed me to pass through the tunnels without cars or trucks joining me.
Rogers Pass is awesome scenery, enjoy it as you ascend. You will not have a chance to see as much of it on your (quicker) descent.
Day 2 – Golden to Jasper
The morning starts with a climb, so be prepared for some elevation gains (slower speeds) as you are riding to Lake Louise.
Once out of Lake Louise it is a gentle climb up the Icefields Parkway. The scenery was spectacular and would be all the way to Jasper. There are no transport trucks allowed on the Icefields Parkway. The traffic travels slower on the Parkway than it does on Highway 1. You have opportunities to admire the mountains, lakes and wilderness in general.
You will have a bumpy shoulder stretch from a few kilometres before Saskatchewan River Crossing to a number of kilometres north of the Crossing.
The route, once beyond Sunwapta Pass, is mostly a gradual downhill all the way to Jasper, with excellent road surface. A great way to finish day 2, especially after the uphill challenge earlier in the morning.
Day 3 – Jasper to Clearwater…..and a little bit more?
On to Highway 16 westbound, the traffic is lighter earlier in the morning. Good shoulder. A lot less climbing than day 1 or day 2, you are now about to start your return towards Kamloops.
If you can get going early on day 3, and minimize your breaks, you may get into Clearwater with some daylight remaining. If you arrive in Clearwater and still have energy to burn, you may choose to complete another 50 kilometre loop to Wells Gray. You will have to ask yourself:
Do I really want to ride another 50 after 325?
Do I want to ride more hours of darkness?
Do I want to start day 4 with a 14 kilometre uphill?
Do I want to start day 4 with a ride of 175 or 125 kilometres?
Day 4 – Clearwater to Kamloops – the long or the short of it
Depending on your choice on day 3, you are either starting day 4 with an uphill or with a (mostly) downhill, long and gradual, with a few minor hills……all the way to Kamloops. The road from Clearwater to Kamloops is overall very really good, save for a few canyons where it is a bit narrower with less shoulder. Overall though, a very nice way to finish day 4 and the Rocky Mountain 1200.
Note: when you get into Kamloops and are facing the ride across the red bridge, the wooden sidewalk on the red bridge is very easy to ride. The roadway on the bridge is very narrow and there is a lot more traffic in Kamloops.
These are my thought s from my pre-ride. Enjoy your time on the Rocky Mountain 2016. I look forward to welcoming riders at the Valemount Control, where most will be arriving late morning to afternoon of day 3.
Additional Notes from Other Pre-Riders:
- Try your hardest to get over Rogers Pass in the daylight. We didn’t and found the descent was pretty scary in the dark, especially in the tunnels.
- To clarify Dave’s comments about the out and back to Wells Gray (UCFI – Upper Clearwater Farmer’s Institute). If you want to do this, go to the control in Clearwater first to get your card stamped! Then you can do the 50 km out and back to Wells Gray before resting in Clearwater. This makes for a harder day 3 and a very easy day 4.
- Always be prepared for extreme weather on this route
- Watch for pot holes. Don’t ride through puddles!
- Day 1 is the hardest. Keep moving!