Newsletter - 2016 Archive

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Hard Won, (out-of-shape, RM 1200 first-time, tandem-captain) Biased Advice:
Rocky Mountain 1200 Pre-Ride: July 11-15, 2016
by John Oswald

Don't Dawdle: With all that climbing on the first two days our average speed took a serious hit. Our usual sit down meal stops further set us back against the clock a few times. If you are challenged in the speed or climbing department, have a plan before you stop for food outside of controls so you do not waste time (Pro Tip: Having a second person on your bike helps to get stuff done at stops!).

Go Big: Get the widest fenders your bike can fit. Then get the widest tires that safely fit under them. Then ride those tires at a pressure that would make Jan Heine blush. Seriously. The shoulders are bumpy, some roads are chip seal and the Icefields Parkway from Sunwapta Pass to Athabasca Falls is essentially washboard. You won't remember any weight (or dollar) savings by the time you get to Jasper if you disregard these suggestions.

Use your mirror: Unless you don't have one. In that case, get one. The shoulders are narrow in some places; there are RVs, trucks and bigger trucks with wide loads. There are narrow bridges without shoulders that you will have take the lane on. All of these conditions require adjusting your placement on the road. A mirror cannot take the place of shoulder checking but better awareness of the traffic conditions behind you can help you position yourself in the safest, most efficient place at all times.

Daytime Running Lights: Are a good idea on the highway sections for a couple of reasons. 1) A headlight will improve the chances of that car that wants to pass a semi-trailer going the opposite direction will see you and might acknowledge your presence. 2) If you hit rain suddenly you will you want to maintain your visibility. 3) The tunnels on the way up to and down from Rogers Pass are another reason.

Consider Lower Gears: Our lowest gear is a 30x30 but we could have used a 32 in the back on Sunwapta Pass. Yes, we did the ride on a tandem without a lot of training so climbing high mountain passes was never going to be easy (and please don't take this the wrong way because there is nothing that we or you can do about this…) but we are younger than most of the field which sometimes allows us to fudge bad decisions without a DNF. A few years ago I did the Cascade 1200 with a 32x27 low gear and Chris Cullum did it with a 30x30. We finished together but guess which one of us had tendonitis at the end? (What can I say? I am a slow learner.)

Pay Attention to the Wind: If you experience a sudden headwind you are about to get rained on. At least that's what pre-ride evidence has shown. Perhaps mountain riders already know this. I grew up on the coast and during the summer I worked on the Icefields Parkway it only rained twice in two months…

Carry More Food Than You Think You Need: On brevets at home I always return with a couple pounds of food in my bag. On this ride we brought similar amounts and ran out on Days 1, 2 and 3 due to long hauls between re-stock points. You have been warned.

Souvenirs: The Saskatchewan Crossing Store at 554km is the only place riders might be able to get Canadian Rockies Souvenirs en route. (although the Husky gas station/general store in Little Fort at 1114.6km does have some pretty sweet Moose mugs). If you want to purchase some things at Saskatchewant Crossing, you can leave them with me (if they are fragile) at Jasper and I'll have them for you at the post-ride breakfast. Having lived in Japan for two years, I know this might be a valuable service for our Japanese riders: Nihonjin ga: Sasukachiuwan Kurosingu no gifuto shoppu niwa, Kanada no rokkii sanmyaku no omiyage wo kaeru dekimasu, yo! Moshi, anata tachi wa omiyage wo, Jasupaa made motte kite, sono ato niwa watashi ga Kamuruupsu ni antatachi no omiyage wo mote kimasu.

Look Up: When you are not checking your mirror or the oncoming traffic for people passing in the left lane, check out the view. This ride is not a peaceful journey through silent forests on the path less travelled. The roads are not the show here—the mountains, rivers, glaciers, wildflowers and wildlife are. If you are focused on the pavement or the tire in front of you, you will miss them. In addition to the mountains, glaciers and a couple of alpine sunsets, we saw three bears, a fox, some deer being chased off a farm by a dog, eagles, hawks and an osprey.


Go to: Rocky Mountain 1200 Home
Go to: John & Malou's Pre-ride Report & Slide Show


July 22, 2016