Top tips for cycling across Canada – Part 1. The bicycle

I am delighted that so many people I know want to do long distant cycling trips. Recently a former student asked for advice as she prepares to cycle across Canada so here is the first of a set of top tips.

1. A bicycle that fits

Make sure your frame is the right size for you. Use the Pubic Bone Height formula. Fun and simple to figure out. Once you set your proper seat height, adjust the handlebars to the same height or a bit higher.

2. A bicycle made of steel

Steel has a nice flex to it, more so than aluminium. Carbon frames and components are not practical. Titanium is wonderful but hardly worth the price over a steel frame bike like the Surly Long Haul Trucker or the Trek 520. It’s worth looking around for a vintage steel frame and upgrading the various components.

3. Wide tires

Install the widest road tires that can fit your frame. Look at Schwalbe Marathons or Supremes and Rene Herse Tires if you can afford them.

4. A leather seat

Find a comfortable seat, preferably in leather, like the Brooks B17 or the Sele Anatomica, my favourite if you do not have much time to break in the saddle before you start your cross country tour.

5. Pedals that are wide or that you clip onto

Seeing a pattern here? The most critical items are those that touch the road or that touch you. Choose pedals and corresponding stiff soled footwear that can take many hours of pressure without creating a painful heat spot on the ball of your foot. Consider MKS pedals with a super wide platform if you are not going to wear cycle shoes or a mountain bike clip in pedal with corresponding mountain bike shoes you can walk in. Don’t use road bike pedals. You are touring, not racing, across the country or wanting to skate across the floor when you walk in road bike shoes.

6. Racks front and rear with lights attached

Install pannier racks front and rear as low as possible on the frame. Balance the weight front and rear. Don’t use a backpack. Choose bright colours. Ortleib’s are waterproof and hard to beat. Add a flashing red light to your rear rack and consider a white one for the front. Even if you ride mostly during the day, you’re going to find times when you need some illumination in rain or fog or at dawn or dusk.

7. Gears for different terrain

There is no reason to get electronic shifters or shifters integrated into your brake levers. See the specifications of the Surly Long Haul Trucker or the Trek 520 for ideas. An eight or a nine speed rear cassette and a triple crank or double crank can work just fine. And bar end shifters are basic and reliable for shifting.

Thinking about no. 8…

Top 7 tips for cycling across Canada – Part 1. The bicycle


2 thoughts on “Top tips for cycling across Canada – Part 1. The bicycle

  1. Hi David, how wonderful to hear from you. I think you should cycle across Canada. I am not sure about the Covid rules (I’m living in Switzerland now) but maybe this could be managed if one is camping. I certainly hope to visit Beaverview again. David

  2. Hello David, It’s good to hear from you again and what a superb idea you have had to pass on hard earned tips, learned through your long term experiences in the field (ok read on the road), to the next generation of touring cyclists! Reading through your lists in both parts 1&2 almost makes me want to have a go but…. maybe a bit late for me to start being in my seventies. I do still tour on two wheels but with the help of an engine when it is possible. 😉 Sadly, I don’t suppose touring across Canada is possible for a while with the latest round of BC and other Provincial Covid restrictions?

    Cheers from David W
    Beaverview RV Park & Campground
    McBride, BC

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