I didn’t know what to expect
Honestly I thought the first 6 months of this ride would suck. I had no expectation of enjoying this part of the ride at all. I just told myself suck it up and get through it. I mean who the heck in their right mind goes outside in the winter voluntarily? Who the heck bikes down a highway in frigid temperatures and identifies that as fun?
Just grind it out and prove to yourself that you are strong enough. I mean I hate the cold! Who on earth wants to camp in the winter anyways? I love jungles and 80 degrees and high humidity. I have no interest in winter sports at all.
Anyways, turns out that I have really enjoyed my first 35 days on the road and I have made it through all my immediate challenges far better then I could have hoped for. I am really happy that I started my bike ride at the time of year that I did.
That being said it is very obvious that starting a bike tour across Canada at this time of year is not something that should really be recommended. Most people simply could not undertake such an adventure. I also realize that I have been very lucky when it has come to weather and very lucky on this ride as a whole. Not to mention I am only 35 days in and have only pedaled just a little over 1,500 km’s.
Some of my biggest challenges
Partway through Newfoundland I found a truck scale that was open and able to weigh my bike and gear. It all came to 185 lbs. That is a lot of weight! Rewind to the day my parents dropped me off at the Newfoundland ferry in North Sydney Nova Scotia and my bike and gear was so heavy I was too scared to pedal my bike at all. I pushed my bike through security and to my departure lane. I pushed my bike on the ferry and I pushed my bike off the ferry.
I pushed my bike to my ferry lane in NS
For all intent and purposes I never actually rode my bike fully loaded until the day I left the starting mark in St John’s Newfoundland. Twenty one days later I pedaled 98 km’s to the ferry in Port aux Basque. And I had actually pedaled 92 km’s the day before.
Scaled my bike out at 185 lbs at a truck scale
You can’t image what was going through my mind in the first 10 minutes of my ride.
Many many people said I couldn’t do this kind of ride at this time of year. Many many people said I couldn’t pedal Newfoundland at this time of year. Admittedly when I realized how heavy my bike actually was I wasn’t sure I could pedal across Newfoundland.
A lot of mountains in Newfoundland
Admittedly I was feeling the pressure to get my Newfoundland crossing under my belt. I needed that victory for further confidence. I felt if I could cross Newfoundland then surely I could cross Nova Scotia and surely if I had crosses Newfoundland and Nova Scotia and most of New Brunswick then surely I could handle northern New Brunswick and into Quebec? As I realize that area is a total other animal.
Anyways 21 days later I had completed Newfoundland.
The Cold and Wet
Dealing with cold has not been nearly as difficult as I thought. The wet of Newfoundland was a little bit more miserable to deal with. I am no fan of the cold at all. But I discovered that when you have no expectation of getting out of the cold that your body adapts to the cold way quicker than expected. There were definitely cold and windy days in Newfoundland and you simply adapt. You have no other choice. And I did adapt. Many times a day in the cold I would simply look around at an amazingly beautiful landscape on top of a mountain and out loud exclaim “Thank you God for such a beautiful day.” And then pedal on.
Most of my temperatures rarely got colder than -5 for these first 35 days. And I survived quite nicely but I knew it was only a matter of time before colder temperatures showed up. And truthfully I was not sure what that would mean or how I would handle them.
And then -14 showed up in Nova Scotia and I set my tent up and I made it through the night. And now, knowing that temperatures may drop to -14 on any given night does not scare me in the least. I realize temperatures will get colder than -14 and I will simply have to face those temperatures when they arrive.
-14 degrees in River John Nova Scotia
But perhaps you are seeing a pattern here? I run into one challenge and then I over come and that gives me courage for the next challenge and then that challenge appears and I overcome that. Always building on the courage and confidence of the success of last challenge.
As far as the wet is concerned. My simple advice is to stay out of the wet at all costs. Once you are wet you are wet and cold. I always got lucky because I made sure I was able to make it to a dry warm place (such as a restaurant) to dry out when needed. So the trick is either to camp behind a restaurant or make sure that you are within striking range of a restaurant down the road to dry out. Admittedly twice I got out of the wet mainly by luck.
Getting Beyond The Challenges
Challenge by challenge I overcame them and came to realize as I pedaled how quickly I adapted to the weather and how quickly I realized that I enjoyed being on the bike and how much I was enjoying the ride at this time of year.
And then I discovered another category of this ride I never expected – all the amazing and interesting people I would meet along the way. I can’t believe how many people have so far invited me into their homes along my ride. The experiences have been so awesome I barely want to move on. I have stayed in 6 separate homes so far. And on 4 separate occasions I have been given a warm place to sleep as a result of immediate bad weather (2 were homes, 1 was a hotel room and 1 was an enclosed shed).
January, February and March are all in front of me so I am well aware of colder temperatures and rough snow storms are ahead of me. But so far I have been doing good and enjoying myself far more then I could have hoped for.
I have to be honest. It’s hard not to recommend other cyclist to do this very same ride of their own someday at this same time of the year.