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Little adventure in the Canadian Rockies

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  • Little adventure in the Canadian Rockies

    In preparation of a bigger trip, I decided to ride from Japser to Banff last week in order to train and test my gear. It was a great experience, I learnt a lot even if I was not able to ride the whole trip (I did not mind, my objective was not to do as many kilometers as possible but more in the experiment, and I had to be in Banff on a specific day to volunteer at the Banff Mountain Film Festival)



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    - Unicycle: KH29. As I mentionned on the forum before, this is just the size perfect for me. Easy to mount on it while I'm carrying a 10kg backpack, even after being exhausted by several hours of riding.
    - Hub: Geared KH/Schlumpf. Helps to compensate the fact that it is not a 36".
    - KH Handlebars
    - Freeride Saddle: I wanted to trim it but didn't find the time before I left. In the end wasn't too bad, I mean I would still want to modify it but I didn't suffer too much. I mainly had to make sure I had as less layers/seams as possible
    - Brake: disc brake Shimano Deore, I've rarely had to use it but I'm still super happy with the disc brake
    - Cranks: 137/165mm! Was perfect. Once everything was finally all adjusted and I knew how to deal with the snow, I only used the 137mm because I've never really had to deal with super steep hills. But I was glad to know it was possible.
    I had no problem switching gears! Finally (I've been struggling for the past 2 years)! With my short feet (5.5 woman), 137mm cranks is the way to go, if the cranks are longer, it just doesn't work as easily. I actually have to admit, I was only gearing up. Gearing down didn't work as easily and I didn't want to work on it during the trip. But it was fine just stopping when the hill was too steep uphill to switch gear, I needed to stop regularly anyway.
    - Tire: I realized I had to change my slick tire to be able to deal with the snow (well, I knew it before I left but I was in a rush and didn't have time to do it), luckily I found a shop with super nice people - free wheel cycle - that helped me get ready for my trip, also cut my seatpost in case I needed to use the 165mm holes). The bike mechanic convinced me not to use studded tires because it would be too slow on the road and I'm glad he did!
    - Rack: Justin made me a little rack - attached to the rim brake holes so I could add a bag with my sleeping bag and clothe. It worked great! Short enough that when the unicycle falls, it doesn't touch the ground and doesn't get damages. My legs would touch the bag a bit while riding but it wasn't too much and I got used to it quickly.
    - The bottle holder: holds a big bottle, I like it because it's bigger than usual (0.9L) bike bottles, but it was a tiny bit on the way too, barely, so not really a problem. I thought I would not use that bottle during the day but only at camp. I had forgotten that the tube of the camel back could freeze. So in the end I was using the water bottle during the day, I was able to reach the bottle while riding but it wan't super easy. Since I was not drinking a lot and stopped often enough and it was not needed, I only did it once I think.
    - Tool bag: wasn't a great bag, waterproof but annoying zipper because you had open it totally to get the tools and it wasn't easy... I avoided using it
    - Fender: "Rear Deflector Shield" , it worked great! I didn't even need to attach it. If it was just at the position where it would protect both my sleeping bag and my water bottle, it wouldn't touch the wheel. If it was too much forward it would touch, but it was easy to push back, even while riding. When the snow accumulated it was still ok as long as I was not riding in slushy snow.

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    Bag on the rack:
    - OR AirPurge DryComp Sack 15L: waterproof and solid enough so I was totally confident that my sleeping bag and my evening/spare clothes (1 shirt, 1 underwear, 1 pair of socks and my down jacket) would stay dry!

    - 28L.with frame and air flow I'm super happy with it too. Small but that's also a way not to carry too much. At the end of the trip I had about 9.5kg on me. Probably more like 11kg 11.5kg with my food. It really didn't feel like it

    - I took a multi-tool with me so I would have tools that maybe I would not have thought bringing but I did not realize that with the disc rotor, i would not be able to reach the screws of the bearing holders. So I would have needed to take the crank out to change the tire/tube! When I needed to change the tire, I was at a a bike store so I borrowed tools. When my tire was flat I just pumped it, it had a leak and I would pump it once or twice a day and it was fine enough

    - Mirror: Loved it. It's a big one and looks ugly but it was so nice to know easily that a big truck was about to pass me...
    - Sunglasses: loved them too, they were great when it was snowing!
    - Bike shorts: I'm not sure if I want to keep riding with bike shorts. What I know is the more layers I was wearing the worst it was. So the day it was snowing, I was wearing my long johns, my pants and my rain pants, no underwear and no bike shorts...

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    (if you want to know more about my gear list, ask me, I have all the details with descriptions and weight. I've spent hours choosing every piece: the tent, the mattress...)
    Last edited by anso; 2012-11-11, 07:17 AM.

  • #2

    When I arrive in Jasper by bus, I realize that there is more snow on the roads than I expected. So I really spend the time to meet the locals and see what my options are. I've given myself 6 days to go to Banff which should be easy, it's about 300km. Some people are trying to discourage me, the road is dangerous, I'm not allowed to camp along the way: campgrounds are closed and it's a national park. But other people are really supportive, it seems that there are a bunch of athletic people/adventurers in the Rockies who are just happy to see other adventurous people: "I'm not going to tell you you're crazy, you already know it, just good luck and have fun!". I understand I will probably not be able to ride the whole length towards Banff but I will try to do as much as possible.

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    I thought I was going to ride the 1st day but realize it's better to take the time to finalize the preparation: change the tire, cut the seapost, buy the few things I forgot (pen, compass...) and enjoy my first solo snow camping!

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    I'm glad i thought about protecting my uni before going to bed. A dry saddle is always nicer!

    My distances are dictated by the lodging possibilities. After Jasper, all the campgrounds are closed until Banff. Besides, camping solo in National Parks is not worth it, it is as expensive as a hostel because the price is by site. It's only worth it for groups. Luckily some hostels are open along the way. Because they're wilderness hostel (=no running water, outhouse, sometimes electricity) I end up not taking a shower for 7 days..(I can tell you it was a really appreciated shower!)

    My first day of riding is only 30km, so it's an easy day but it's nice to warm up and get into it slowly. The Athabassca Falls hostel is in a pretty nice area, surrounded by mountains.
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    I try to gather as much info as possible at each stop. It looks like I can keep going a bit further. The road should not be too bad, and there is still a hostel where I can stay. It's closed but I can obtain the code to get in. So I decide to try riding further. This 2nd day of riding is a bit longer, 55km. I'm a bit too addicted to my speedometer (by following my progress, not by going at crazy speed) and don't enjoy the scenery as much as I should. I generally go at 16km/h on flats, 13km/h when slightly uphills, between 22km/h and 27km/h downhill. I would not want to go faster with my 10kg backpack and the risk of ice on the road. My average is about 10km/h including stops. And I stop about every 10km or every hour for a "butt" rest.

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    I make the mistake of stopping too often in the snow that day (or not having protected my feet with plastic bags) and if it's fine during the day because I'm riding, my feet are super cold when I reach the hostel where I'm spending the night. I'm so cold that before I can go back outside to turn on the propane/heat, I have to use my own stove and warm water to warm my feet.

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    The 3rd day of riding, I decide to ride back towards Jasper. I can't ride further South for now and I'm not sure how to find a trustworthy lift plus I still want to ride more. I'm faster because I'm getting more organized and I'm getting warmer, plus I know the road and it's slightly downhill in that direction (I mean up and down but downhill as a whole)
    The mountains are just fantastic, everywhere around!

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    • #3
      I hesitate between going all the way back to Jasper to take a bus (but it's expensive), find a lift there or stop earlier at the hostel where I stayed a day before. I finally decide to stop at the hostel, I liked that place. I'm glad I did, there is only one other customer at the hostel and he's going towards Banff the following day! It looks like he would be a careful driver that I can trust on the icy and snowy road. If I don't want to keep riding, it is not just because of the difficulties of riding in the snow but also because of the drivers around that I'm scared off.

      As expected, the following day the road conditions are pretty bad, several times our car slides slightly on the road but my driver is great at staying calm and mastering the car.

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      We meet a big truck sideways across the road, cars stuck along the way, and we hear of a car on its roof. But we also meet wild animals (bighorn sheep, goats)...

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      I decide to get off at Lake Louise so I can try to ride from Lake Louise to Banff (60km) or further. People don't really encourage me but they don't look really adventurous at all and it seems the conditions should be good enough. The elevation is not as high and it's on a bigger highway so the snow plow would do a much more thorough job.
      After a wonderful shower and a good night of sleep, I leave under the snow but I'm in a really good mood and it doesn't bother me that much, I'm ready for it : I wear rain pants (so no underwear and no bike short to limit the number of layers) and I have plastic bags in my shoes (it worked great).

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      I notice the truck drivers are mostly really nice at changing lanes when they pass me so they're the further away from me. The road is not as beautiful as before, partly because it's too foggy to see the mountains.The ride is mostly downhill but it's not as exciting as I expected it to be : it's always the same small grade and I never get to go really fast, my rhythm is a bit repetitive. I also get my first UPD (Unplanned Dismount) of the trip when I see a snowplow right behind me. I got scared it would not avoid me (but it did!)

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      Getting closer to Banff, 60km is not enough, I decide I can keep riding and to go at least to Canmore, 20km further. I have the time, I only need to be in Banff the following evening. And the whole route, I'm debating with myself if I should even ride the 20km back to Banff once I reach Canmore. I feel I have the strength to do it, but my knee starts to hurt. It's also gonna get dark and if I can avoid riding on the highway, it means riding on a snowy/icy trail by night. I choose to be gentle with my knee, it's not worth taking the risk of damaging it during a first training.

      It was worth waiting! I get to ride the 20km back to Banff with a beautiful weather on a nice trail along the highway. I take my time, enjoy the sun and don't even look at my computer.

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      I also get to ride some of the steeped hill (but super short) I've had so far, it's a nice little challenge, especially the last one. My final destination , the Banff Center is at the top of a hill.
      Time for a great festival and time to meet a lot of great people including Sean White (photographer and filmmaker : unizaba, Into the thunder dragon...)!!

      So it was a great little adventure and I'm mostly super happy with my gear except the multi tool and the tool bag. I also learnt a lot, including being resourceful and being organized, having dedicated spots for things because you can't loose stuff and you can't afford to carry spares, it would be too heavy.

      And it's so beautiful, almost as beautiful as British Columbia , I'll have to come back, maybe during summer so I don't have to skip any part.


      • #4

        What an awesome adventure.
        Well done.


        • #5
          Respect. That's an awesome touring set up.
          My first novel, Bridge of Otherwhere, Michael Wilkinson, on Kindle. A tale of subtle magic, mystery, friendship and love. For US$ page:


          • #6
            Thank you very much for such interesting report, beauteful pictures and inspire

            PS for non freezing camel back tube just blow back after sip so it stays dry
            Well balanced person
            My Facebook page


            • #7
              Originally posted by anso View Post
              I had no problem switching gears! Finally (I've been struggling for the past 2 years)! With my short feet (5.5 woman), 137mm cranks is the way to go, if the cranks are longer, it just doesn't work as easily. I actually have to admit, I was only gearing up. Gearing down didn't work as easily
              When it comes to riding on the road (I love me some long cranks for MUni) and reaching Schlumpf's magic shifting button without having to readjust your feet on the pedals (or ride on your toes), the 137mm crank length is good for most "normal size feet" people (I wear Mens US size 10 with big clunky 5.10 Impact shoes). I started Schlumpfing on 150mm and appreciated the extra leverage to learn high gear but hated spinning longer cranks in 1:1 so it was not long before I switched my geared 36er to 137mm. My shifting abilities improved dramatically. Keep practicing downshifting. It gets easier.

              Originally posted by anso View Post
              - Mirror: Loved it. It's a big one and looks ugly but it was so nice to know easily that a big truck was about to pass me...
              +1 my Take-a-look mirror is also big and ugly but it's a must when I'm on the road with traffic. Be careful out there!

              Originally posted by anso View Post
              if you want to know more about my gear list, ask me, I have all the details with descriptions and weight.
              The forum User CP has an album feature you might consider as a gear catalogue. It sounds like it would be an interesting read.
              My greatest fear is that, when I die, my wife will sell all my unicycles for what I told her they cost.


              • #8
                Awesome adventure, beautiful scenery, and you are amazing!


                • #9
                  Originally posted by aspenmike View Post
                  Awesome adventure, beautiful scenery, and you are amazing!
                  Praise like this from Aspen Mike, the amazing unicycling master of awesome adventures in beautiful scenery? You've arrived!
                  My first novel, Bridge of Otherwhere, Michael Wilkinson, on Kindle. A tale of subtle magic, mystery, friendship and love. For US$ page:


                  • #10
                    sounds like a lot of fun
                    My youtube channel:CANMOREUNIPRODUCTIONS

                    Visit for all your unicycle needs


                    • #11
                      + 1 What everyone else has written.

                      Amazing stuff! and thank you for taking the time and effort to share your adventure with us.


                      • #12
                        Just figured out what my senior trip will be! Wanna do something like this.

                        Amazing ride.
                        "I used to watch Highway Patrol whittlin' with my knife..." - NY


                        • #13
                          Wow, what a great setup and a fantastic adventure! What rim are you using? Could that be the KH "XC" 38mm rim?
                          Last edited by MuniAddict; 2012-11-11, 11:48 PM.
                          Happy Birthday Terry! Every year you get cooler, younger and unicyclier!
                          Be our muniprohpet for many years more.
                          -Dani Buron



                          • #14
                            dear An'So I am jealous that's the kind of place where I would like to go (and I love this weather)
                            alas I am not technically and physically fit to do that (to day a simple 15km trip in Bay area just washed me out )
                            so thanks you again for giving me an adventure to dream of!
                            One Wheel : bear necessity
                            (Abuello RodoMancat)


                            • #15
                              Nice. Those of us with more settled lives are a bit jealous right now..
                              KH20 Street, 110/127 Moments with rollos
                              Stock KH27.5 with Black Street Saddle
                              Oracle 36/Oregon Hub, 127/150 spirit