Looking forward to that next tour!

The Great Lakes

I have already circled Lakes Erie, Huron, Michigan and Ontario. This year it's Lake Superior's turn!
Click to enlarge.

As each day passes and I come closer to my next tour I find myself becoming more and more excited.

In previous years I'ved circled Lakes Erie, Huron, Michigan and Ontario. Each lake has had some charm and during each circuit I've found time to explore at least one hillier area near the lake.

With each lake my knowledge of touring has grown and my appreciation for the pure joy that touring can bring has also increased.

Always at the back of my mind has been a strong desire to go around the largest lake in the world (based on surface area, Lake Balkal in Russia is larger in some other ways). It seems fitting that this year I will circle the most majestic of the great lakes last.

Lake Superior is a very cold body of water. It's been called an inland ocean and it's known to strongly affect and even create it's own weather. The area around the lake is in many ways still considered very remote when compared to all parts of Southern Canada and the Lower United States. The landscape is very challenging and many a cross Canada cyclist have come upon the hills on the northern side of the lake with some surprise at initially their existence and then later the sheer effort it takes to go up and down each one. The temperature of the lake doesn't climb much above freezing even during the hottest times of the year so I am expecting to encounter thermally generated head winds on especially hot days.

This is the challenge that I've set for myself and I must confess that I am certainly having no problem getting motivated to get closer to being fit for my next tour. If you are curious what I've been doing so far you can see my ongoing progress at my 2007 Pretour Training page.

Other pretour challenges have also appeared as I get ready for this wonderful adventure. My Trek 520 has been retired once it was discovered that my frame has ovalized at the point where the headset connects to the front fork. Since this could have serious impact on steering I've decided to play it safe and gamble on a new bike.

This time around I've selected the Surly Long Haul Trucker. As I type this most of the parts from my Trek 520 are in the process of being moved over to the new bike. I use a 54 cm frame so the move to the Surly also took me from 700c tires to 26 inch ones. This has the impact of actually giving me an even lower low gear. With my 700c rims my lowest gear was 17.6 gear inches and my highest gear was 92.0 gear inches. With my new rims my lowest gear is 16.7 and my highest is 87.2. It should be interesting to see how this new gearing makes a difference for my upcoming tour. ( If you are interested in finding out the gear inches for your bikes a great tool for this Sheldon Brown's Gear Calculator)

Decomissioning my old bike was a tough thing to do even though in this case it was likely to right thing to do. After my tour I'll be posting a review of the Surly Long Haul Trucker as well as a comparison article covering both bikes.

A new bike coupled with a long tour has given me the opportunity to add a few more extras to my bike as well. I've decided to add a Schmidt SON dynohub to the bike. A dyno hub gives me the ability to have a lighting system with me that doesn't require batteries. This means that I have an option to continue riding into the night if desired or necessary. Instead of a normal hub on the front wheel I instead have a hub that contains 26 magnets. As the wheel turns these magnets create energy to power the lights. Of course those of you that had less then efficient bottle generators when you were kids probably instantly think about extra drag. So how much extra drag am I willing to endure while going on tour?

According to the specifications of the SON hub the drag generated by the unit with the light turned off is the equivalent of riding one foot uphill per mile. With the lights turned on the drag increases to the equivalent of five uphill feet per mile. A test of hubs and bottle generators reported results that seem to match this claim. A review of newsgroups, forums and mailing lists reveals that many long distance Randoneurs who ride 300, 400, 600 and 1200 km at a time also seem to look very favourably upon this option.

I purchased a light to go along with the new system from Peter White Cycles. The light is an Inolight 20+ 2 watt LED light that mounts on the crown of the front fork. Purchasing from Peter White is a real pleasure because not only does he understand bicycle touring but he can often be found on the International Touring Bicycle Mailing List providing unbiased and useful advice to tourers from around the world. More information about the Inoled lights including some actual pictures of the lights in use can be found at Peter's site.

So far my Surly Long Haul Trucker looks like it will be another wonderful bike to tour on. As I write this it's still in the process of being built so I can't tell you how it feels to ride it. What I do like is the spoke holders, chain holder and other nice features that seem to make this bike a little bit more touring oriented rather then a club bike that can also tour. It will be interesting to see how she rides.

My last new purchase for this bike is a set of Schwalbe Marathon Supremes. After four years of heavy service including tours around Lakes Huron, Michigan and Ontario plus lots of everyday commuting and numerous smaller tours it was time to finally take my first set of Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires off the road. After all that time and all that distance the number of flat tires I actually experienced was zero. This is a hard record to beat so the new Schwalbe Marathon Supremes will have their work cut out for them!

For those who have contributed articles to Bicycle Touring 101 you will be glad to hear that Schwalbe has once again extended their sponsorship of those who contribute to the site. More details can be found here.

By the end of this month I will be out on a bicycle tour once again living the life of an adventurer. I am really looking forward to this tour and I encourage you to get out there on the open road and for at least a short time, experience something different then your normal everyday existence.


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