North Holland with novice to bicycle touring

How sweet is it when something you love to do is shared with someone you love?

Pretty sweet. After years of talking about touring together, last weekend another bicycle joined the extended bicycle family: A nearly new Gazelle Madeo Trekking Dames. Here it is ready for its first adventure. 


And here is its new owner (the one on the left). 


We head out to explore the curious historical landscape north of Amsterdam and only have three days to do so we get ourselves  closer by hoping on a train to Zaandam. 

The architecture of the Zaandam train station and environs are fun and funky. 

And soon we are along historical canals crowded with windmills and windmill gawkers. 

You have to hand crank your way across some of the canals on self-captained micro barge ferries connected shore to shore by a chain. 

 While other crossings have paid professional ferry operators. 
Bucolic scenery all day with little traffic of any kind. 


 After a full 70km day we arrive at the village of Opperdoes and the Opperbest Bed and Breakfast with one guest room and a wonderful four course meal prepared by the B&B owners. They welcomed us as family and we shared the meal and conversation with them. Sweet indeed. 

Zinn Titanium out for a few test rides

It has taken far too long to find time to gather all the parts and assemble this one but it is finally ready.

It is not as elegant looking as the Rivendell but the geometry is meant for my own gangly geometry.

Here  it is before I muster the courage to cut the carbon steerer to its final length.

Ready for the first test ride. Only one brake, no handlebar tape and some simple pedals but I can’t take the suspense any longer.


On the dedicated cycling path.

Now it’s ready for a second test ride. Got pedals now, handlebar tape and brakes front and rear. Smooth ride, very responsive and fits well. A bit of a wet 40km ride.

And now some images of a 50km ride to the Hook of Holland and back. A sweet Sunday outing that concludes with a sunset on the North Sea and moments later a fullmoon rises – a moon that will be eclipsed by the earth’s shadow several hours later.  


Moved to the Netherlands so I’m building a new bicycle

Here are a few photos as a wee motivation for blogs on this bicycle building project to come.


After moving in January 2015 to The Hague, seeing all the cycling life and how easy it would be to cross countries from here compared to Canada, I ordered a custom titanium frame.


The frame was built by the tall-cycling-person expert, Lennard Zinn, in Boulder, Colorado. In addition to the frame, I ordered a crankset 200mm in length, proportional to my leg dimensions. It would have been a challenge to put this on my Rivendell A Homer Hilson, which I am happy to sell to another adventurer.


I will build this up from scratch, component by component, I hope to last a lifetime. Well. given it is made of titanium, for many lifetimes. The Netherlands, as most of the world knows, is a great place to ride. Here is the scene just a few kilometers from my new home. Dedicated bicycle lanes along the dunes. Paradise, even on a cold afternoon. Dreaming of rides to come.



And of course, our other bicycles. Single speed granny bikes that cost 149 Euros each.

UWC 50th Anniversary Begins


A beautiful day for the UWC 50th Anniversary celebration and for the final ten kilometers of the journey across Canada and the length of Great Britain. I turn a corner a couple of kilometers from Atlantic College and see a row of bicycles along the side o the road.


About a dozen students, two teachers and former Pearson long serving teacher, Marks McAvity, are there to ride with me to the College.


I make it to the outer gate.


And then all the Canadian students come out to greet me.


I pedal through the archway to St Donat’s Castle and am met with a lot of cheers and get to chat with Her Majesty, Queen Noor, the President of UWC.



And as I dipped my back tire in the Pacific ocean when I left Pearson College, I make my way to the shoreline and dip my front tire into the Atlantic.


And one more lift of the Rivendell A. Homer Hilsen bicycle, which has served me so well for nearly 10,000 km.


And a big thanks to all who supported me and cheered me on.


Stats – for Wednesday 19 September 2012

Start: Cowbridge
Finish: St. Donat’s
Distance: 12 km
Time on Bike: 45 minutes
Distance for the entire Trip: 9,360 km

Penultimate Ride


The sun is shining brightly on my penultimate day of the journey but really the last day of serious cycling. Getting up and over the Brecon Beacons proves to be beautiful, fun and challenging. The beacons are like a hand with the fingers pointing south and the highest part, the knuckles let’s say, in the north.

First I pass through the Welsh countryside.





So I climb up and up the first knuckle not really knowing what to expect. When I reach the top, after many false summits, I can see it is a special place. Why? Because there is a film crew with all sorts of high tech gear setting up a series of cycling photo shoots with a professional cyclist for a bicycling magazine cover.


The view from the top of the first Beacon is best seen on film.

And a few photographs too.


The steepest climb of the entire trip came today going from the bottom of one beacon to the top of another.


I have been heading for this town all week.


Just about ten kilometers left for the ride in the morning.


My bike and I settle in for one more night.


Stats – for Tuesday 18 September 2012

Start: Talgarth
Finish: Cowbridge
Distance: 78 km
Time on Bike: 5 hours 10 min
Average Speed: 15.2 km/hr
Distance to Date: 9,348 km

Brecon Beacons beckon


The first 30 km from Shrewsbury are a bit hellish as I get caught in what feels like morning rush hour on route A49 on my way to the Brecon Beacons National Park in Wales. Once I turn off the A49, I am back on country lanes all the way to Talgarth at the foothills of the mountains.

As I contemplate the final 100 km ahead of me, including getting up and over the Brecon Beacons, here are some images of today’s ride.











Stats – for Monday 17 September 2012

Start: Shrewsbury
Finish: Talgarth
Distance: 98 km
Distance to Date: 9,270 km

Getting Close


I leave Runcorn later than I would have preferred because their Sunday brunch was just too inviting. I ate so much that I needed a digestive rest before getting on the road.

It is a chilly day with a headwind mixed occasionally with drizzle. Starting today, I am not relying on any suggested end-to-end routes and, with the aid of Google maps, I plot my own course. Delightfully, the option to plan a route based on walking instead of driving, takes me on fairly remote roads and paths. I am especially careful because yesterday, after seven hours of cycling, I just missed going into flight when my front wheel caught the edge of one of those traffic calming islands that are intentionally placed in the middle of the road to slow down cars. I prefer roads with no curbing at all.

I am okay sharing with an occasional tractor.


I make it to Shrewsbury just as it really begins to rain. And I notice a hotel with the name of the city in Canada where I began my continental crossing, Prince Rupert, and decide this is where I should stay. Upon sharing the story I get a deeply discounted rate.


As I plan for the next two days, I have moments of disbelief that I am now less than 200 km from Atlantic College in Wales. Pretty excited too.

Stats – for Sunday 16 September 2012

Start: Runcorn
Finish: Shrewsbury
Distance: 85 km
Time on Bike: 4 hours 50 min
Average Speed: 17.6
Distance to Date: 9,172 km

‘Cross the Mersey


Alan, like he did the day earlier, provides me a cycling escort, this time out of the city. He takes me past Lancaster University where he has a teaching post in music theory. I get to see a clever meeting room nestled in the forest, something that could fit in well at Pearson College.


It is a beautiful Saturday morning for a bicycle ride. There are far more cyclist on the road through the Bowland Forest than cars. Most are MAMILs. Middle aged men in Lycra. Much has been written about them recently and with Bradley Wiggins having won the Tour de France this summer, he has spawned many more. Packs of them pass me as I head to the Trough of Bowland. The few cyclists I am able to have a conversation with, all clad, indeed, in black Lycra shorts and flamboyant tight jerseys of the same material, tell me that this stretch of road is the best cycling in all of Britain. It is a curious combination of some of the best landscapes I have pedaled through so far. Something additional in this one is seeing hunting parties with their dogs, tweed clothing and men wearing colour coordinated ties. I cannot imagine walking in the mud and muck of these moorlands wearing a collared shirt and tie. But then again, I am not sure why men wear ties anyway.


Part of the landscape is like a lower altitude mixture of the Lake District and parts of Scotland.




After the trough of Bowland the landscape flattens out and I pick my way through lots of little towns and villages to the bridge that takes me over the Mersey to Runcorn.


Construction on the bridge has closed two lanes, and they allow cyclists on one of them. So I get to look up into the bridge structure from an unusual vantage point.


Stats – for Saturday 15 September 2012

Start: Lancaster
Finish: Runcorn
Distance: 125 km
Time on Bike: 7 hours 20 min
Average Speed: 17.1 km/hr
Distance to Date: 9,087 km

Alumni Escort



A treat of a day. I ride from Windermere for about 20 km where I am met by Pearson College Year 2 Alum, Alan Marsden. While there is rain all around me, the sun shines on the route and it is pretty much all downhill to the little village of Sampool Bridge and at the moment I reach the bridge, he reaches it too, after pedaling up to greet me from Lancaster, about 40 km away.


Alan leads us through farmland on paths hardly used by cars. We stop halfway to Lancaster at a bird sanctuary for lunch.


We then follow a towpath along a canal all the way to Lancaster. Lancaster is a dream city for cycling. The city was used as a test by the UK government to see how to transform it into a cyclist friendly place. The infrastructure and sign posting is excellent throughout the city.


Something that has been rare for me, twice in 9,000 km, a flat tire, happens to Alan. But he is an experienced and prepared cyclist and quickly fixes it. He has cycled the UK from end to end.


We conclude our ride earlier than my normal schedule so I use the time to give my bike and my clothes a good cleaning.

At dinner I learn that Alan was one of the three students who built a boat while at Pearson then set out to sail across the Pacific, which they did successfully. This is one of the big stories in the College’s history that captures the kind of personal challenge and adventure so tied in with the philosophy of Kurt Hahn.



Inspiring stuff. By coincidence, he was sailing across the Pacific the same summer I was crossing Canada by bicycle for the first time in 1977.

Stats – for Friday 14 September 2012

Start: Windermere
Finish: Lancaster
Distance: 56 km
Distance to Date: 8,962 km

Estimates – the bike computer is kaputt still

Lake District Gales


Over nearly 9,000 km, there have been many “est” days: hottest day, longest day, coldest day, farthest day, hardest day, hilliest day, loneliest day, flattest day, wettest day and so on. In my two weeks cycling the UK from end to end, I was not anticipating any more. Well, maybe the wettest day. But today was a surprise: the windiest day. I certainly have had lots of windy days but upon reaching the Lakes District National Park today, I could hardly pedal against the wind. It was blowing steady at 50 km per hour with gusts up to 80 km per hour or more. And right on my nose.

Here are some views as I approach the top of the pass from Carlisle to Keswick.



I am totally exposed to the elements up here with no place for shelter. The driving wind with a bit of drizzle not only works it way into my bones but into the few electronic things I have on my bike. My bike computer stops working as well as my two bike lights. The wind must have blown moisture into the heart of theses things.

The best way to feel it is in video. Take your pick.

In this one you can hear the wind – like a jet engine.

Windblown like never before, I make it to the town of Keswick. Full of tourists but a good base for exploring the surrounding mountains.

I get a great route tip from a local bicycle shop on how to get from Keswick to Windermere staying off the main road. And I also get a few breaks in the clouds along the way.



I come across a field of black sheep. I wonder, since the term black sheep is usually used figuratively, if there were a white sheep in this field would it be a black sheep?


Come ride along with me in this final video of the day.

Stats – for Thursday 13 September 2012

Start: Carlisle
Finish: Windermere
Distance: 85 km
Distance to Date: 8,906 km

Estimates – bike computer ist kaputt