Monday, 17 November 2008

On the "botte secrète" of Trans-Canada biking

Victor Chisholm made an interesting comment to my last post. He effectively pointed out that I had neglected to mention the lack of alternate routes in the area, thus making it the only way for all Trans-Canada traffic.

More positively, he gave me the links to two blogs of trans-Canada cyclists namely: or guy in the former seems to suffer from a huge number of flats and other mechanical failures, culminating in a frame break just before Kenora. Reading between the lines, he strikes me as a bit foolish. He only gets a Kevlar tire in about Manitoba (as opposed to before he started. Go Schwalbe, Go!) and at one point admits he had been underinflating his tires.

In addition, I am pretty sure he was riding a bike that wasn't really strong enough for the load he was carrying, given the number of spokes he broke, the frame fracture, etc. Then again, he likely didn't have an aunt making very good suggestions about what to buy and bring. (Thank you, Margo! ;-) (To put this into perspective, in 3000+ kms of cycling touring, I have had two real breakdowns. The first was the loss/disappearance of two bolts securing my rear rack in Cea, Spain and a flat tire caused by a big piece of broken glass in Madrid.)

On the flip side, he was doing some major distances. There are several 200+ km days mentioned in his blog.

Interestingly, both blogs feature the same shortcut, one that I had been unaware of. Instead of going via Sudbury and North Bay, they took a ferry from Manitoulin Island to the Bruce Peninsula and from there into Southern Ontario. The advantage of such a route is that it would get me into more populated areas more quickly than the Sudbury-North Bay route I had been pondering. Of course, as Victor points out, it would be a longer route.

All things being equal, I prefer the idea of the Manitoulin Island route over. It seems such a wonderfully sneaky way of quickly getting out of the Northern Ontario that it almost qualifies as some sort of "botte secrète".

If I may explain that last term, at one point I was watching a number of French swashbuckling movies. One feature of them (especially "La fille d'Artagnan") was discussions amongst the characters of various fencing moves, known as "bottes" in French. Various characters had favourite moves of varying quality, some of which weren't widely known. If they needed to, they would surprise their opponents with with their "bottes secrètes". I think I need to come up with an equivalent term for biking, because the Manitoulin-Bruce Peninnsula ferry surely qualifies!


Margo and Chris said...

Oh my!! Who is that handsome devil in the dashing yellow shirt, and is he getting a little too cheeky for his good???

MarkE said...

You say foolish, I say inexperienced.

In my own defense, the only touring that I had ever done before biking across Canada is nada. I only did training rides around Vancouver on a carbon fiber race bike (and commuting, I guess).

Of course, my way of looking at it is if you only do what you know, if you never take the jump into trying what you think is impossible, you never actually grow. Things like making the commitment to biking the continent fall into that category.

Feel free to call me foolish if you want, I'll feel free to call you a wuss. ;-)