Doing a long cyclotouring trip seems to be in the plans or at least in the dreams of so many endurance athletes. I thought giving all of you a few details about my wonderful trip could help make this a reality for others as well.
First of all, if you think that planning one of these trips takes about a year and countless hours of research on the web or in a library rest assured. I got the idea to do this about 6-7 weeks prior to our departure. A few friends and I wanted to do some kind of a bike trip this summer. In late June I was having fun on Google maps during my lunch break and a crazy trip idea came into existence. The map I created suggested that we bike from Rimouski around the Gaspï¿½sie, return inland and cross the St-Lawrence on a ferry to Baie-Comeau and return to Quebec city. At that point we would bike back home if time permitted. I decided to e-mail the map to a friend thinking wouldn't that be nice and started thinking about something more realistic. As time went on, the long ride was proving to be more and more realistic until I got an answer saying lets do it. Only a week or so had passed and everything had to be done. I had no proper bike, had to arrange taking off from work for two weeks and needed to figure out how much this would cost. To make a long story short, we dealt my thanks to my supervisor who had done this in his earlier years and a friend of my Dad's who had a good old 105 gruppo for sale (last year they made friction shifters I believe). I built a decent wheelset when I wasn't working as a salesman at Fresh Air Experience and bought all the camping gear that I didn't already own.
At this point, we were two weeks from departure and we sagely kept up with our plans to do a practice trip of two and a half days. We weeded out some problems and decided the actual trip was a definite go. Talking about my trip to different people I got a wide range of responses. People found our practice was going to be a wonderful adventure until they learnt about the actual trip were preparing for . . . many seemed to tell us we were crazy. Needless to say, the last week before our August 18 departure was quite hectic. As it turns out my tuition fees and different racing licences were finally available for payment but due when I would be gone. I also bought the train tickets and packed up the bike and gear.
As it turns out, trains coming to Ottawa never accept large items such as bike boxes. As a result of this my father drove me and my partner to the Montreal train station. Neither of us had taken the train before and didn't really know what to expect. The only problem was that we were to arrive at Rimouski at 2:00 in the morning and that left us with little time to find a spot to rest, not that we had planned any for the trip. We would basically bike all day everyday and find a spot to camp shortly before nightfall. Beside that, the train trip was really nice. Better than the bus and less hectic than the plane. Definitely worth looking into if you have to travel a reasonable distance. They also serve great food in the diner car while you travel, although you should reserve your place with your ticket unlike us.
Arriving at Rimouski we had to rebuild and load our bikes and set on a quest for a camping spot. Not having a clue where we were and what the city looked like we settled for a site two blocks away from the train station: Rimouski CEGEP near a little hedge. The night was nice so we only took out the sleeping pads and bags. We learnt the next morning that we were pretty close to downtown. Not too many people saw us though. The excitement woke us up around 5:30, and by 6:30 we were off on the road. Yes - that did give us about 2 hours of sleep and we still felt great.
This first day was perfect for cycling. The flat roads with wide shoulders were very scenic and we had a crazy tail wind. Just to give an idea we were cruising on the flats between 35 and 40 km/h with next to no effort on close to 100 pound bikes. We climbed some slight uphills at a 30 km/h pace. We had dinner around 12:30 in Matane which meant we had already done over 100 km in our day. We decided we would attempt a double century. We were set for our goal when I got a flat in the afternoon. It appeared as though a piece of glass had cut open the sidewall of my tire and a part of the thread. A Clif bar wraper was used to block the hole and we went out on our way. The subsequent hour I was paranoid about having my tire tear open on me. I was also afraid of having flats like this everyday. The tire finally held up for the whole trip and that was my last flat. Quicktip for all of you potential cyclotourers. Don't skimp out on the tires. If you can fit a 28c tire in your frame like me go for it. You'll see why latter on in the trip. I got a set of 700x28c Continetal Gatorskins as everyone I asked at the shop put a lot of emphasis on the qualities of this tire as a touring rubber.
By about 4:30 we had reached our two hundreth km and decided to look for a spot to stay. 5 km latter we found a seemingly abandoned rest spot for vehicules. It had picnic tables and long grass so we opted to stay there. We were in bed by seven and I can remenber sleeping fairly well after a long day and a short previous night.
Stats from day 1
Rimouski to La Martre
7h15.40 (actual rolling time)
28.4 km/h avg
77 km/h max
The Rimouski CEGEP when we woke up.
The little hedge that looked like a nice place at about 3:00 in the morning. We learnt this was CEGEP grounds in the morning.
Some place along the way.
Same place but with a view on a windfarm. It wasn't the Csp-Chat one we often hear about.