Thursday, 5 September 2013

FrankenBike Pt. 2: Testing the New "Accoutrement"!

If you recall, I wrote a brief piece a couple of weeks back about some *ahem* modifications I was making to my bike to assist in the overall experience of riding long distances offroad.  For those who don't know what aero bars are, here they are:

Seen far more commonly on $10,000 carbon team racing bikes, the looks that these garner when attached to knobby-tired bike are priceless.  For long distance riding though, enduro riders swear by them.  If you watch the Ride the Divide film, or check out any blogs written by TD riders past and present, these contraptions are not only essential from a physiological perspective (it is heaven taking your hands off the grips for a bit...absolute heaven!) but do a great job at holding up a roll bag on the handlebar.  And the cherry on top of the sundae?  They also take gadgets like lighting, GPS, or a trip computer off the handlebar; which by now, I'm sure has already gotten pretty crowded with the brake levers, shifters, bell, light, trip computer, strapped down dancing hula girl, adds room and comfort.  AND (this is like finding a second prize in a box of Cracker Jacks!)...they apparently due a great job as a clothes rack for drying out gloves, socks, and anything else that might, and will, get wet on the trail.

I had the opportunity two weekends ago (Ed. Sorry for the late has been crazy lately and I haven't been able to write.) to get out for my first distance ride in about 2.5 weeks.  While not an epic ride by any stretch, it was nice to squeeze 50 km out of the old legs.  Again nothing overwhelming (I left from Cambridge to go to Paris on the rail trail like I did about 6 weeks back), but it did give me a chance to try out the new bars AND see my daughter play in a soccer tournament, so...yay!  So without further ado, on to the product.

The Bars: Profile Design T1+ Aluminum Aero Bars

  • Multi-position ski bend extensions suitable for triathlon or time trial
  • 6061-T6 aluminum extensions and forged brackets
  • Injection molded F-19™ length, width, and rotationally adjustable anatomic armrests
  • Equipped with “J2” Brackets™ for an adjustable lower arm position
  • 503 grams

  • First Impressions: The model I ordered were the Profile Design T1+ aluminum with the "ski-type" bend to them.  There are probably 20 different models to choose from in all sorts of configurations and layouts.  They even produce the bars in carbon - superlight materials for superlight riders with a penchant to look really, really fast.  I chose the T1+s not for scientific purposes, but because they work...or at least they've worked for most people as they are areconstantly featured on several gear lists for past TD riders.  My other logic was this: I felt that the bend in the bar would likely allow me to alter my riding position even further.  One thing that did surprise me, but probably shouldn't have, was the weight.  I'm not sure what I was expecting, but these things are quite light.  I'll bet the farm that the carbon versions are ridiculously void of excess fat, but the cost-weight ratio wasn't significant enough for me to justify the added cost.  These are more than satisfactory.

    Set-Up: Once word - tricky.  Out of the package, everything seems relatively straightforward, but with the miniscule instruction sheet (side note - As a technical writer, I abhore whoever wrote this manual and urge my brethren around the world to seek out the culprit and flog them with a copy of the Chicago Manual of Style!), the installation was a bit more of a challenge than I had thought.  The initial trouble was caused by the placement of the clamps on my handlebars, which in the centre start out at 31.8 mm and taper off towards the shifters.  Unfortunately, this gives a somewhat narrow profile and one that may cause a braod-shouldered fella like myself some consternation.  Once I finally figured out what my outer threshold was, I began to tighten the clamps to a point where I could then stand back and gauge the horizontal plane in relation to the rest of the bike.  I had to imagine what the best riding angle would be without actually being on the bike.  Can you see where this might get a bit frustrating?  Did I mention that the bars are also adjustable laterally - meaning I could slide the bars further back towards the saddle, something that many riders do as a result of the riding position on a mountain bike?  Sounds all sorts of technical, huh?

    The long story here is that setting up aero bars in this nature is trial-and-error type of process.  I had to get on the bike, lower myself into that riding position and see if this was something that I could live with.  So I did exactly that.

    Test Ride #1: Prior to loading the bike into the car, I took a quick spin around my parking lot using only the bars.  Snug at the elbows, this was my first ever attempt at riding in this position.  Understanding that tweaking needed to be made, it wasn't too bad.  A bit narrow, and a bit low, but this also made me consider a couple of things about how I ride.  First, it is entirely possible that my saddle position is too high.  I felt like I was bent forward too far to fully reach the ends of the bars.  This may be the vertical position of the ends, or perhaps the angle of the bar in relation to my seating position.  Or, as mentioned, maybe I was sitting too high.  Second, I hadn't adjusted the arm pads yet, which can supenate outwards.  For a guy like myself with broad shoulders, rotating them outwards might be a bit more comfortable.  So far so good...

    Test Ride #2:  I didn't get these bars to ride on the road.  I needed dirt.  Now, I don't expect anyone to use these while riding technical trails such as Hydrocut or Kelso unless you have a death wish.  These bars are not meant to supplement technical riding in any way, shape, or form.  They are meant for the long haul.  That being said, I took off down the Cambridge to Paris Rail Trail with a bit of momentum and quickly shot outfront on the bars.  Without the aforementioned adjustments, riding on uneven gravel in this fashion was a recipe for disaster.  I knew immediately that adjustments had to be made.  Because of the position I was in, I was set at an angle that didn't allow me to fully power the bike ahead.  I was too low, and as such started to lose speed.  Also, because of the narrow wind-resistent profile I was striking, any nudge or rut would have caused me to topple.  Not something that I wish to have happen when isolated in the Rockies.

    All told, I'm happy with the addition.  As you can tell by the photo I have a bit of tweaking and adjusting to make.  The arm rests have to be readjusted.  The angle of the bars have to be realligned, and I'll likely be putting some cork bar tape on the ends to make the grip a little more robust and comfortable.  It looks like a strange arrangement, having aero bars on a knobby, but for those long stretches that I have to ride, taking the pressure off my hands will sure make a world of difference.  I'm planning a ride this upcoming weekend...I'll let you know how things turn out.

    Thursday, 22 August 2013

    Playing Air Guitar on the Trail

    ‘Cause I’m on top of the world, ‘ay
    I’m on top of the world, ‘ay
    Waiting on this for a while now
    Paying my dues to the dirt
    I’ve been waiting to smile, ‘ay
    Been holding it in for a while, ‘ay
    Take you with me if I can
    Been dreaming of this since a child
    I’m on top of the world.

    ~ On Top of the World - Imagine Dragons

    What a great set of lyrics -and a great song too (see below).  I'm a firm believer that music makes the mood.  Whatever it is you're doing, music can either bring you up, or take you down.  On a long bike ride, music can help sooth the monotony of the pedal strokes.  It can also help to guide those pedal strokes with a strong cadence.

    On normal in-city rides, I typically don't wear headphones.  Far too dangerous to have one sense disengaged while trying to avoid cars, open doors, sirens, train whistles, barking dogs that jump out of bushes right in front of you (happened on my driving test 23 years ago.  Seriously.), etcetera.  However, if I'm riding on an isolated stretch (such as the Elora-Cataract), I will put the earbuds in from time to time.  And with over 30,000 songs in my collection, making a good cycling mix can be a task bigger than changing a flat in Mosquitoville. 

    Choosing songs to listen to while riding is akin to deciding how to spend birthday money...the right choice is pure reward.  Choosing wrong however can be chock full of regret.  Music is one of the most subjective items available to mankind.  Everyone has different tastes and preferences.  Mood can also dictate what music gets blared through speakers or headphones.  With that in mind, I do have playlists at the ready for when I am in the mood to listen while I ride.  Here are some of my favorites:

    1) Float On - Modest Mouse: I love the melodies of this song.  Great coasting tune, especially during the chorus..."and we'll all float on, OK?".

    2) On Top of the World - Imagine Dragons: I simply love the sound that the Las Vegas-bred Imagine Dragons produces.  This track (which I first heard on the FIFA 13 soundtrack, by the way) has as strong up-beat tone with a truly inspiration chorus.  You can't help but take your boot out of the clip and tap along...on flat surfaces anyways!

    3) Grace for Saints and Ramblers - Iron & Wine: Cruising through a pasture or down a slow slope, I just love how this song just ambles along.  You just can't help but bop along.

    4) Harder Than Stone - City and Colour: There is just something about listening to this song as the last one on your ride.  You just feel a sense of "accomplishment".  For me, the Canadian references are pretty cool too.

    5) Gold On The Ceiling- The Black Keys: I'm going to default and put the ENTIRE El Camino album in the playlist.  Pat's heavy drums and Dan's wailing are simply enough to take you anywhere on any ride.  Pure Gold...on the ceiling and everywhere else!

    6) Be Faithful - Fatman Scoop: Changing the genre a bit, I enjoy hip hop and electronica in my mix.  It is great pump up music, especially when you are bonking.  I love this old school-sounding track...takes me back to my bar days (yup...I'm old!).

    7) Maximal Crazy - Tiesto: If you don't completely go nutters while playing this song, you are deaf.  The groove and beat push you to your max, which is exactly what you need when you're pounding through a tough and muddy slog.  I think I passed out trying to ride to this in an RPM class once!

    8) Spin the Black Circle- Pearl Jam: Time to put your head down and grind out that climb.  Eddie's gritty lyrics and wail during the chorus can't help but get you to the next level.  I also love the song because its about one of my passions - vinyl records!  Although, "spinning the black circle" could mean a tire?  Hmm.  Find a live version of this to really hear the Grunge Gods at their finest.

    9) No Easy Way Out - Robert Tepper: There is no workout, cycling or otherwise, that doesn't include a track from the Rocky IV soundtrack.  The guy looks like Michael Bolton's twin and the video is from 1986 (cheesy as all hell), but I can't help but want to be Rocky when I hear the bassline and lyrics.

    10) Drive Me Home - The Reason: You know when you walk into a Starbucks (sorry Tim Horton's drinkers!) and place your order, only to have to stand and wait for your $5 latte under those ginormous Christmas lightbulbs and there in front of you is the tantalization of free iTunes tracks?  Well, that's how I found these guys.  This track was the "free song" of the week and throwing caution to the wind (who cares, right?  Its free!), I grabbed one of the business card sized tokens.  Entering the code on my phone, the track soon downloaded and I was soon blown away.  Thse guys ROCK!  And the best thing...they are from Hamilton.  For those around the world reading this, that's about 45 minutes away from me.  Having seeked out more information about them, I stumbled upon another song called The Longest Highway Home (appropriate name for a cycling blog huh?).  Check out the bonus video below and consider it my gift to you.


    BONUS (just in case the ride goes a little long!) - Carry Me Home - Hey Rosetta!: I save this track for the home stretch.  Another outstanding Canadian band (What?! I love my country!), this time hailing from "Out East" - St. John's Newfoundland.  I can't recall how I found these guys (likely the same method I used to find The Reason), but I simply love the melodies here.  This song - with its novelty title cries for the opportunity to Carry [You] Home at the end of a long ride.

    I seriously could add 100 more songs to this list (hmm...maybe I'll make this a regular feature.  Thoughts?).  This is just a small sampling for a short ride.  Is there anything that you would add?

    Building a FrankenBike, Pt. 1

    First the grips.
    Then the electronics (reviews forthcoming).
    Now, the aero bars ("Aero bars?!" you say.  "Impossible!"  "Can't be done!").

    My frankenbike is starting to "come alive".  Stay tuned for Part 2...

    Wednesday, 14 August 2013

    All Dressed Up...and Nowhere to Roll.

    Time hadn't been on my side recently.  Come to think of it, neither has Mother Nature...that cruel, heartless ethereal being who causes great consternation amongst the human race, but always provides great watercooler conversation fodder.

    As I've mentioned in previous posts, the TD requires riders to climb and descend 200,000 feet in 2,700 miles.  There is nowhere close to 200,000 feet of vertical elevation, let alone accessible trail, in Ontario.  I realize that to acclimatize myself to that type of elevation change, I will more than likely have to leave the province for some mountainous riding - perhaps upstate New York or the Laurentians in Quebec.

    However, my problem at the present time isn't necessarily gaining the climbing miles...its simply gaining the miles, period.  Its been a couple of weeks since I've knocked of a 50+ km ride, with my latest plans scuppered by other commitments.  I need to get out riding, and while local runs and ditty-bops through the surrounding trails are fine for evening rides, I need some good old thigh-burning, leg-cramping, butt-numbing long distance riding, and I need it now.

    I thought I would share with you some of my thoughts, hopes, and dreams for some LD riding in the future.  Some of this is more realistic and immediate than others, but no one can say that I haven't done my homework.  Like everything when you are preparing for the TD, a lot of preparation in the beginning saves you from some potentially epic fails at the end.  These are just a smattering of some of the trails I would love to ride, both near and far.

    The Waterfront Trail

    The first one that caught my eye (and stretching over 1,400 km from the southern border city of Windsor to the Ontario-Quebec border), is the Waterfront Trail - designed to give riders, runners, hikers, and the general public, a legacy trail that could be used to traverse the province via a dedicated and properly signed route.  The history of this trail, as told by the website, originates in 1988 when environmental evaluations were completed on the status of Toronto's waterfront.  Over the following years, the Waterfront Regeneration Trust was created to suitably recommend and implement "regeneration" initiatives along the Lake Ontario waterfront.  Through countless amounts of back-and-forth bickering, the WRT finally opens the Waterfront Trail in 1995 thereby creating "a 350-kilometre, virtually continuous trail along the Lake Ontario shoreline, which connects hundreds of parks, historic and cultural sites, wildlife habitats and recreation areas from Stoney Creek to Trenton." *

    *Sourced from .

    1,400 km of cycling good fun!
    The evolution of the trail eventually grew and took hold in two sections - the Lake Ontario Waterfront Trail (Niagara Falls to the Ontario-Quebec border), and its newer cousin, the Lake Erie Waterfront Trail (Lakeshore to Fort Erie).  Joined in the middle by the Welland Canal Trail and the absolutely gorgeous Niagara Parkway Trail, the provincial utility trail is a combination of paved and unpaved road conditions; dirt paths and minor highways.  This ride fascinates me for several reasons:
    1. Mileage - This is 1,400 km of multi-purpose, well marked trail (I was down in Niagara this past weekend and noticed signage all over the place).  While not exactly the Rockies, this ride would offer a rider like me a great opportunity to tack on multi-day centuries.
    2. Scenery - I love my province.  I have seen the province in all its splendour - from Windsor to Ottawa to Thunder Bay, and all points in between.  Well, almost.  A route like this is designed to get you intimate with the communities that you ride through; but gives you ample opportunity to escape the human race.  And I'll bet you there are some ghost towns along the way!
    3. Testing my Manhood - This is not what you think (Actually, what is it that you're thinking?).  What I'm referring to is testing my mental fortitude.  Let's face it...I've never ridden my bike on an overnight...ever.  While the route no doubt passes by luxury hotels and B & Bs, there is also ample opportunity to rebuke all of the hospitality temptations in front of you for the more homely activity of camping.  This would be a great opportunity to test a long day's ride with the packing and unpacking process.
    I'm not sure that this year will be the year to tackle this.  With summer quickly transitioning to autumn in the coming weeks (however, if you woke up in Ontario this morning, you most likely thought summer was over today.  It was only 9 deg. C when I left for work this morning!), the opportunity to tackle this with the shorter days is simply not realistic.  However, I'm going to file this one in the "to-do" pile for next year, or perhaps the month leading into the TD in 2015.

    The Central Ontario Loop Trail

    For something apparently "legendary" about this trail for those who live near it, there is a God-awful neglect towards posting quality information on this trail online.  While there is mention of it here and there as a multi-purpose 450-km loop.  According to, the Central Ontario Loop Trail is "[a] 450km multi-use trail, open 12 months of the year. The trail consists of old rail line trails, and secondary roads. The trail passes through five counties, Hastings, Haliburton, City of Kawartha Lakes, Peterborough and Northumberland. For free print maps, trail rules and more information on the Central Ontario Loop Trail, please see their website.  Umm...OK.  The website does not exist, so I implore that anyone from the Hastings/Haliburton area who might stumble on this modest blog...can you please send me some information or some maps?  I'd like to check this route out, but without any idea how and where the trail runs, its hard to commit to this.

    La Tour de KW

    While not an official trail per se, I do have to give a shout-out to a local rider (Garmin Connect user "rvandermey") from the Kitchener area who mapped out a route on his GPS taking him over 77-km along every nook-and-cranny trail circumventing the K-W area.  Starting at the famous Hydrocut mountain biking trail in the west end of Kitchener, the loop takes riders south through Victoria Hills towards the Huron Park area.  From there, the path leads to the Homer Watson Park area (and some really beautiful singletrack).  After playing in HWP for a bit, the trail saunters towards Chicopee Ski Hill and some slight elevation changes.  Onward to connect to the Walter Bean Trail, which aligns itself with the Grand River, the route passes through some low-lying terrain and pulls back out near the border of the two cities and heads towards Uptown Waterloo.  Following the bike-friendly University Avenue (thanks to the 45,000+ students attending the nearby University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University), the trails finishes off in the Ira Needles/Boardwalk area and the trailhead.  I AM going to do this trail before the end of the season.  I was supposed to ride it a couple of weeks back, but I ran out of available time.

    Lake Champlain Bikeways

    OK...this one is a bit of a stretch, and also not in Ontario.  It does however, offer something unique to my training regimen - elevation.  The Lake Champlain trail system runs over 1,100 miles through the Adirondacks in Upstate New York, Vermont, and southern Quebec.  I recently stumbled on this, so more information will need to be gathered; however, from a high-level glance, this appears to be an excellent and well-supported system that would help me build some tolerence to the changing air pressure at elevation, as well as to gain climbing strength.  Certainly not this year and as a "hope and a prayer" for 2014, but with some planning and good fortune, this could be one to target.

    Kitchener - Hamilton - Niagara Loop this one I sort of made up on my own.  Sort of.  Its an amalgamation of several different trail systems that interconnect to form a 425-km+ "loop" from Kitchener to the north shore of Lake Erie, east to Port Colborne, north to Niagara-on-the-Lake, and returning west to Hamilton before retracing the early part of the route back to Kitchener.  I REALLY want to do this ride.

    Much of this route is spent on pre-esisting rail trails and side roads, ranging from colourful farmland to wonderful vistas overlooking the Lake Erie shoreline, with the return from Niagara-on-the-Lake spotted with the always lush orchards and vineyards of the Niagara Peninsula.  I estimate that a rider could likely knock this route off (weather permitting) in about 3 - 4 days.  I don't think this will be a 2013 run (maybe Fall, but unlikely), but definately something I will tackle in Spring 2014.

    No...I Haven't Gotten Myself Lost...Yet!

    It sems like forever since I last posted.  For that, I apologize.  Work and life in general have been pretty hectic, and despite having five posts backed up in the queue to publish, I haven't been able to actually finish them.  Lots to come though, so thank you for your patience.


    I wanted to take a minute to be gracious...

    To everyone around the world who has either purposely or accidentally viewed my blog, I can't express to you enough gratitude for your interest and engagement.  Seeing the views climb gives this blog purpose and feeds me with the desire to continue writing for you.  I am simply amazed by the way intercontinental communication has connected the world.  To date, I have had reviewers/viewers/readers/subscribers/passers-by from Canada, USA, France, Russia, Germany, Senegal, Taiwan, Singapore, and the Netherlands.  Unreal.

    Thank you!
    Vielen Dank!
    谢谢你 !
    Terima kasih!

    Please send me your comments and your feedback.  I would love to hear from riders, adventurers, supporters, and dreamers alike.

    I also want to show my extreme appreciation for my greatest supporter on this little quest for mental and physical fulfillment - my beautiful wife, Jennifer.  Without her staunch encouragement for me to get up off the couch and chase my dream, this "mid-life solution" would have never taken off.  Thank you for kicking my proverbial butt Honey!


    Some of you might know that I am a technical communicator by trade - so writing is quite natural for me.  This type of writing, however, isn't typical of my profession.  I truly hope to further engage your interest and fascination with my little adventure with better quality writing each time out.  To coin an appropriate analogy, writing is like hopping on a two-wheeler for the first time - the more you do it, the quicker you can learn to do it with both hands off the handlebar (or eyes off the keyboard).  I plan to write quite often about a variety of topics - gear, rides, biking philosophies, fitness, and even recipes(!).  I hope you stick around and continue to support me on my quest to ride the Divide.

    Now, back to the writing that pays the bills!  We'll talk again very soon.

    Wednesday, 7 August 2013

    The Wheels That Turned Before Me: Conquerers of the TD

    This is going to be a short post, but one that I think everyone should take a second and check out.

    I am certainly not the first one to attempt the Divide, nor will I be the last.  This "race" has been run for years.  Hundreds of people have tried.  Hundreds of people failed.  As a future racer, I look to the sage words of wisdom and advice from those who came before me.  What they've seen and experienced will hopefully keep me safe, prepared, and safe (yup, kinda important to me!).  So this post is meant to direct your interest to some of the best Divide blogs I've come across - either from a quality writing POV, or from a quality information POV.  They are all quality from my perspective and they deserve a visit by anyone interested in bikepacking, the Tour Divide, or simply adventure cycling.  Enjoy!

    Nick's Misadventure Page - This guy wrote a great blog about his adventures on the TD.  Well written with wit and humour; informative and inciteful.  Definately a great read! (Nick rode in 2011)

    Team Kaker (TD Gear List for 2013) - I stumbled on this site purely for the gear list, which is very through and comprehensive.  Worth a checkout.

    Greg Rides The Divide - Greg is a 59 year old endurance racer from my home country Canada (Eh!) who recently completed his first attempt at the TD.  Coming from the nearby city of Oakville, Greg and his family posted regularly and often.  Also, Greg was riding for a great charity!  Definitely check this one out.

    Jim Stansbury's Tour Divide Race 2012 Adventure - A very well-written post.  Discussion about gear, logistics, and strategies supplemented with an outstanding photo gallery make this blog one of my favorites to re-visit.  And for the record, Jim completed the TD when he was 57! 

    Zero to 2700 Miles - Another Canuck, J.D. from Hamilton made the TD trek this past June and finished it.  Another great perspective on the preparation - both mental and physical that one has to undertake to complete this race.  Must read!

    Chris Bennett's Triathlon Blog - it says triathlon in the title, but Chris entered the race in 2011 and clicking on the link will take you one of his posts on the gear list he used for the race.

    Normally Aspirated Human - This is Mike Hall's blog.  Who's Mike Hall?  He's the Welshman who KILLED the TD this past year setting an unofficial record of 14 days, 11 hours and 55 minutes!  Unfortunately due to the forest fires causing detours through New Mexico, Mike's record is unofficial.  Fifteen freakin's days!  Think of the math...2,700 miles in 15 days is 180 miles per day...EVERY DAY!  Insane!

    These are only some of the blogs out there worth checking.  As far as I'm concerned, anyone who documents such an adventure deserves credit and is owed your attention.  Some other resources that might pique your interest:

    Adventure Cycling Association - The grandaddies of adventure cycling and the TD.
    Eat, Sleep, Ride: How I Braved Bears, Badlands, and Big Breakfasts in My Quest to Cycle the Tour Divide  by Paul Howard - Great Read!
    Be Brave, Be Strong: A Journey Across the Great Divide by Jill Homer - Well regarded book from a well-known adventure traveller. 

    Tuesday, 6 August 2013

    Picking a Two-Wheeled Family

    No, I'm not replacing the two-LEGGED family that I already have.  They're great, let me do stuff, and put up with the minor annoyances that exude from my person on an almost daily basis.

    No, what I'm referring to is how to pick a bike store.  Your bike store.  Its sort of like choosing your local watering hole.  Rather than serving up cold pints and neat shots, the fine folks at a bike store are there to support your riding whimsies and provide you with practical and solid advice.

    So why then, after living in the Kitchener area for over a year, am I having a hell of a time finding "my store".  The KW (Kitchener-Waterloo) area has the good fortune to be blessed with four (count 'em) time-tested bike stores: Ziggy's, Braun's, King Street Cycles, and MacPhails.  So again, I ask the question...why can't I find a bike store to call my own?  Am I being too particular?  Too picky?  Too pig-headed?

    Let's go back in time for a moment and relive what I believe to be one of the finest bike shops around.  Prior to living in the K-dub, my residence of choice was the Northern Ontario city of Sudbury.  Located four hours north of Toronto, Sudbury offered everything that anyone could possibly wwant in outside activities.  Heck, they even had an Outside Store!  With thousands of square miles of Canadian Shield rockiness, Sudbury had the roughness that any outdoorsman could want.

    Let me preface all of this by saying that while I had always enjoyed cycling, there was a long period out of the saddle for me.  In recent years, my interest increased once again to the point where I had to finally replace my 1989 Raleigh Discovery (C'mon, the damn thing was purple!  Very chic and flashy for 1989!).  Shopping for said replacement brought me to three of Sudbury finest purveyors of rubber, grease, and lycra: The Outside Store, Pinnacle Sports, and Adventure Ski & Cycle.  All three carried their own lines of bikes and all possessed a multitude of options for a prodigal cycle bum.

    Ultimately, I chose the Kona that you saw in one of my earlier posts.  And I purchased it at The Outside Store.  Why did I purchase at the Outside Store?  Because they listened.  Because they advised.  Because they listened again.  They never judged me.  They never thought that I was a wannabe.  Heck, they even invited me out for a group ride to get me acquainted with the local MB community!  Not to mention, they had a shop that could easily have been supplanted on the main street in Banff and would have felt right at home.  Wood beams, racks of outdoor gear, bikes hanging from the ceiling, and a friendly golden retriever to greet you at the door.  They understood what I was looking for and made the suggestion.  I evaluated.  They listened.  I postulated.  They listened again.  We got each other.

    I can't seem to find this here, and I can't quite understand why.  What's even more frustrating is that I live directly across the street from what could be MY store...but I can't seem to get the "warm and fuzzes" out of them.  It feels cold and impersonal.  Now, I understand that when a middle aged guy walks in to a store and tells whoever will listen that he plans to ride the Continental Divide, the urge to roll one's eyes might be too tempting.  What none of these places realize is that over the next two years, I will likely spend a considerable amount of money on equipment, servicing, and if they're nice...some valuable web time trumpeting their service and speciality.  But it seems to me that everyone here has either "heard it before", or is so bent on selling the high margin items they have in their store, that no one seems to listen.  I'm looking for advice.  I'm looking for expertise.  I'm not looking for pacification or patronization.  I know enough about enough and I've done my research. When I want to go into a store to talk about equipment choices and strategies for one of the biggest races on Earth, I expect that at least one of them would like to "come along for the ride".  Seemingly, this adventure I'm going to embark on is falling on some deaf ears at present.

    Its a tough place to be.  Thankfully, there are several very good blogs written by those who have ridden the Divide with pages of equipment advice and suggestions, logistics advice, general friendly support us riders looking to follow in their treads.  I suppose I'll have to invoke the spirit of the race and go outside my comfort zone to find the best possible resources for me - local or otherwise.

    UPDATE!: I had to travel 2 hours outside of my city (enroute to the family cottage) to find some genuine interest and advice for what I'm hoping to do.  Many thanks to Chris at Black Tooth Grin in Barrie for listening, advising, and listening some more.  A great store, with great products and they love to talk about riding.  I will be back!