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Bring bear spray
February 25, 2010 6:54 PM   Subscribe

Recumbent cyclist David Cambon shares with us a breathtaking, scary and wry photo diary of his 3224 km (~2000 mile) bike trip from Vancouver, BC to Inuvik, Northwest Territories, with portions along the famous Dempster Highway.

At the conclusion of his story, Cambon provides some tips to the cyclist considering the grueling trip up the Dempster.
posted by Blazecock Pileon (29 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
Interesting and informative. The photographs are very evocative for me, never having been there. Nice one Blazecock Pileon.
posted by tellurian at 7:03 PM on February 25, 2010


Why isn't "recumbent" linked to this?
posted by mrnutty at 7:04 PM on February 25, 2010


Yikes! Bear-bushes *pedals furiously*.
posted by tellurian at 7:07 PM on February 25, 2010


One day...
posted by ChrisHartley at 7:15 PM on February 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


When I returned to this campsite the following afternoon after spending the day in town I found a delicious and gigantic hazelnut chocolate bar the size of a brick with a lovely note from two German tourists with whom I shared a particularly crazy night of Yukon government campground mayhem a few days before. They left the note to congratulate me on my arrival in Inuvik. Meeting such nice people has almost restored my faith in humanity after having such a bad experience living in Vancouver for 20 years.

God, not to take away from his epic bike trip, but I hate when people talk like this. I seem to encounter it almost once a day, and I always want to shake people and point out to them that nobody is forcing them to stay here. Seriously, 20 years?
posted by mannequito at 7:18 PM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


yeow, guy was doing 100-150 miles per day!

Every time I stumble onto crazyguyonabike.com, I end up reading about five journals from beginning to end and an entire workday or night passes...
posted by mathowie at 7:24 PM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow, this is an awesome find, BP!!!!!

I live on Vancouver Island (where he started out his trip after Vancouver), and I've traveled on business a few time on Hwy 16 (between Prince Rupert and Kitwanga). BC's northwest is truly amazing country, and I've always wondered what it's like up Hwy 37 (the Cassiar) on the way to the Alaska Hwy. So this post is awesome.

Kind of wonder why he hates Vancouver, though.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:02 PM on February 25, 2010


i would like more details about his bear run-ins.
posted by empath at 8:02 PM on February 25, 2010


yeow, guy was doing 100-150 miles per day!

I think it was more like 100-150 kilometers a day.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:02 PM on February 25, 2010


This is a really neat photo essay. I can't quite tell how he feels about the RVs, though.
posted by dammitjim at 8:15 PM on February 25, 2010


mathowie: Every time I stumble onto crazyguyonabike.com, I end up reading about five journals from beginning to end and an entire workday or night passes...

<melbrooks>It's good to be the boss...</melbrooks>
posted by Kattullus at 8:16 PM on February 25, 2010


Our own Crazy Guy on a Bike: JeffL.
posted by Chuckles at 9:10 PM on February 25, 2010


I think it was more like 100-150 kilometers a day.

I think he really was doing up to 150 miles a day (about 240 km). Long summer days, lots of sunlight.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:26 PM on February 25, 2010


Weird. It looks like the "photo diary" link now points to page 29, instead of page 1, if you want to start from the beginning.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:29 PM on February 25, 2010


I think he really was doing up to 150 miles a day

Yes, it must be true - I Googled him and read his posts on radonneur-ing, where he cycles something like 18 hours a day. Holy shit.

And I think what he hates most about Van is the traffic.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:48 PM on February 25, 2010


Though I am a card-carrying anti-recumbentist, any post about long-distance bicycle touring gets my seal of approval.

I have a really hard time reading other people's records of their adventures, though, because it reminds me how much I miss being out there myself.
posted by killdevil at 10:00 PM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think he really was doing up to 150 miles a day

This kind of pace over an extended trip usually means that either (a) you don't have enough time to do the thing right, (b) you didn't plan well, (c) you're not having fun and you want to get it over with, or (d) you're doing mileage for its own sake, which sort of misses the point of bike touring, which is, you know, to tour. On a bike.

Averaging 12-13 mph, which is the usual pace for loaded touring unless you're really pushing yourself, this guy probably spent 10+ hours per day on the bike. For me, anyway, those sorts of long riding days have tended to range from moderately painful to extremely Not Fun, and when you're pushing past sundown to make miles you've got your head down and you don't really get to stop much to appreciate the scenery.
posted by killdevil at 10:21 PM on February 25, 2010


Having never ridden a recumbent, I have little right to be critical, but it seems the feat here is the ride from Vancouver to Inuvik itself.

Recumbent riders tend to tout their bikes by enjoying the attention, saying they're more efficient, and more comfortable to ride. Which, to me, says mainly that the bike looks different, so that's cool, it feels easier to pedal once you get going because it's more aerodynamic, so that's good, and fully sitting on both ass cheeks is better than splitting them apart, which also doesn't seem so bad. But why then doesn't the recumbent bike take over the cycling world?

That said, I drool at this kind of ride and admire anyone who does it. So thanks for the reminder to I chastise myself for not taking the time to do one like it. Oh Lordy I can hardly wait for Spring.
posted by kneecapped at 10:22 PM on February 25, 2010


But why then doesn't the recumbent bike take over the cycling world?

-It takes more skill to learn to ride one.
-They're more expensive due to being more complex items (and also not many sold so economies of scale work against them being less expensive)
-Their visibility is inferior to a regular bike due to being lower to the ground
-Your field of vision while riding one is also somewhat hampered by your position
-Never crashed one, but I get the impression it might be less pleasant than crashing a regular bike (not like that's pleasant, but we're talking matters of degree here)

I think ultimately though it really comes down to economics and availability. As long as they are a considerably more expensive and rarer variety, people are just going to stick to the tried and true standard bicycle.
posted by barc0001 at 10:43 PM on February 25, 2010


This kind of pace over an extended trip

Actually, he varies his pace considerably during the course of the trip. Some days he "only" does 50 miles in one day.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:04 PM on February 25, 2010


Having ridden some miles on both kinds of bikes, the main thing I got from a recumbent is that it's harder to ride and more work because you're fighting gravity in most configurations versus a traditional bike.

A traditional bike lets you use gravity to help on half the pedal stroke, whereas on most recumbents your legs aren't moving in a mostly vertical circle below you but a circle directly in front of you. So that "down" pedal stroke is actually out and across gravity. Recumbents are certainly faster at speed due to lower wind resistance, but they are more work on flat ground and even more work climbing hills due to the added weight and lack of helpful gravity in the pedal stroke.

50 miles on a traditional bike is way easier than on a recumbent, and I think for the recumbent riders, they kind of enjoy the added challenge in the same way a guy that built his own OS kernel and runs his own fork of linux prides himself on the extra work entailed.
posted by mathowie at 11:25 PM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've ridden a recumbent for about eight years or so, but not like this guy. I used to think recumbents were expensive, but now the median price of road bikes has shot into the stratosphere. The lightest recumbent out there is about 20 lbs. My cheap EZ-1 weighs about 39 lbs. Yes, I know. It also cost me <$500.

You lose some "over your shoulder" visibility, which is why you see mirrors on recumbents.

One advantage is that someone as out of shape as me can put in fifty miles without a lot of preparation (my son's bicycling merit badge) and at the end of the day no parts of my body are numb, and any soreness is muscular, not due to nerve compression or skeletal pain. I am 43, and that is worth something. Also, you really do see more of the scenery rather than 15 feet in front of your handlebars. Climbing takes different muscles, buy you're still hauling a heavier bike up the mountain in most cases.
posted by mecran01 at 11:49 PM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


It takes more skill to learn to ride one.

Not much. Somewhat different, not really harder. Depends on the type of recumbent, too. I do ride one model which takes longer to get used to, and is less forgiving of balance, but if a klutz like me can ride it, about anyone can.

Your field of vision while riding one is also somewhat hampered by your position

Not true. Your head is more naturally upright than on a regular bike. You have a wider field of vision in front all the time, rather than the slight downward incline of your head. It's certainly more pleasant for a nonracer to tool around on a recumbent looking at the view, kinda like you would from a recliner. Plus, you can usually set the level of recline, and it varies depending on the recumben. You should have a mirror for proper behind views since it can be more difficult to look over your shoulder.

Never crashed one, but I get the impression it might be less pleasant than crashing a regular bike

I've crashed both types of bikes into moving cars (their fault both times, unless you count the times when I was a kid). Much nicer to crash on the recumbent where I just bounced back with a munged pedal, whereas with the upright I went all the way over the car's hood and the bicycle went underneath. That was unpleasant.

As far as speed, the fully-faired recumbents ridden by the HPV-obsessive types can be killer fast. Obscenely fast. Those are the same sort of guys who set bicycle speed records.

Everybody who's ever ridden my recumbent bike, my wife's bent, or my recumbent trike for more than a few minutes has liked it and thought it was pretty cool. Had several second ride requests.
posted by mdevore at 1:52 AM on February 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


There are plenty of reasons to ride a 'bent, but the reason why you tend to see more older riders on one really comes down to the lack of genital numbness. The main blood supply to the penis, as well as the main nerve, are both compressed by a standard bicycle saddle, and while there are alternative saddles, gel cushions, and the ever-popular "Get a Brooks" suggestion, a lot of riders--particularly male riders--really don't want to risk any more impairment of sexual function above and beyond what age brings, especially since bike-related erectile dysfunction can sometimes be permanent. If I ever get the chance to do that cross-country bike tour that I've always dreamed of, I'm going to get 'bent.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:58 AM on February 26, 2010


mathowie: "A traditional bike lets you use gravity to help on half the pedal stroke"

So what happens on the other half of the stroke? Unless you've got some way of transferring the mass of one foot to the other so that gravity can assist with the next foot's down stroke, this shouldn't make any difference. Same with your power stroke travelling across gravity rather than up/down. I've never ridden a recumbent, so I don't know what it feels like, but this is a Red Herring.
posted by sneebler at 9:13 AM on February 26, 2010


What with his huge hate on for RVs I do not understand why he didn't camp wild.
posted by Meatbomb at 12:12 PM on February 26, 2010


sneebler: but this is a Red Herring.

Actually I do think that there is a significant gravity-assist when riding a conventional framed bicycle. When I'm riding up a hill, or when I'm sprinting, I can get out of the saddle and the whole of my body weight, plus my muscle contractions, drive the pedal down, as well as up -- much like a teeter totter, or a small catapult. It seems to me that a pedaling motion parallel to the ground would at the least require more exertion when climbing a hill, because in that situation gravity would actually be working against both your pedal stroke, and the weight of you and the bike.
posted by kneecapped at 1:54 PM on February 26, 2010


Thanks for explaining that - I was reading his post too literally.
posted by sneebler at 6:15 PM on February 26, 2010


"a lot of riders--particularly male riders--really don't want to risk any more impairment of sexual function above and beyond what age brings"

Remember--you don't have to be an impotent, sexual cripple to ride a recumbent!
posted by mecran01 at 8:53 PM on March 3, 2010


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