Bike camping gear in northern Ontario
May 1, 2013 12:17 PM   Subscribe

Help me prep for a 7-day, 700k bike trip through low-populated terrain!

I'm out of shape/overweight but a pretty comfortable cyclist. I ride a 2009 Kona Ute (modified to a 21-speed, one of those orange panniers on each side). Used to ride 50k 2-3 times a week without stopping, no problem. Have ridden 120k in 6ish hours, no major problems, all on that bike (although without the panniers on). Haven't ridden much this winter except at the gym.

I'll be taking it from Timmins, ON to Ottawa - This route. Leaving Saturday, June 8, and I absolutely positively must be in town by mid-day Saturday June 15. I know the first third of the route very well, and it's reasonably unpopulated - most of the rest is the same way, from what I understand. I'm riding solo. And I've read this thread.


1. Does anyone have recommendations for good puncture-resistant tires in the larger sizes? I'm willing to spend some money on that - this is at the moment my only transport, so it's used for city riding and shopping, which means I'm often in areas with foreign objects.

2. I need a helmet-mounted mirror - I've tried the handlebars ones, and due to the configuration of my bike & girth, they're not very workable.

3. Specific recommendations for gear beyond that:
a) I need a tent/hammock/tarp. What's good for these types of things?
b) Front light and back light - the rear light will likely be duct-taped to the deck (because mounting to the seat the wrong location for the dimensions of my bike, and more importantly gets blocked by things I carry, and the tube at the very back is narrower than most clamps as well as horizontal rather than vertical) but a helmet-light would be fine. Battery, rather than chargeable.
c) What else do I need? I will of course have patch kits/tubes/pump/tools and my maintenance book; sunglasses/baby wipes/sunblock; bike shorts/underwear and good cycling shirts. What am I missing?

4. Food: suggestions? I have a great deal of space in my giant panniers, but will quite frequently be 50km from the nearest anything. My current plan is to buy lots of peanut butter/jam and a loaf or two of bread as needed to fuel me, and bags of apples/bananas when I'm able. Will carry about 4-5L of water to fill up my bottle. I'd prefer to avoid stoves and such - I'm gonna buy a better touring bike soon, and will get a stove and such when I can plan out space requirements.

5. Any other advice - I've never done overnight rides, although I do have a decent amount of camping experience from when I was younger.

Bonus 6. Anyone know of a good battery-to-(mini-)usb charger? I will take my cell with me - I plan to have it off most of the time, but just in case it drains and I end up in a crunch.

On preview, I notice that the google maps directions are different for bike than car. I am doing the car route - down to North Bay and then skimming the north of Algonquin park.
posted by Lemurrhea to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Get a rack mount for your rear light, don't trust duct-tape. You'll lose the light and won't even realize until you're fifty miles down the road. I've got a Planet Bike Blinky that works pretty well, and came with a rack mount. I've got a Princeton Ecotec EOS light mounted to my stem up front, and it's pretty awesome.

I've had exceptionally good luck with the CST Salvo - no punctures at all when I was commuting in the city.
posted by Slap*Happy at 12:28 PM on May 1, 2013

Best answer: For tires, Schwalbe Marathons are the standard puncture-proof(ish) suggestion. You hear of cross-continent trekkers going thousands of miles on them. The traditional and "plus" models (I've used the latter) go up to a 45mm.

Make sure you bring extra chain or individual links and a chain tool. That's an easy roadside fix that could otherwise strand you. Chain lube, too, especially if it rains.

For food, it seems like you want low-bulk high-calorie (i.e., dense) things. PB is good (as long as it's not in a glass jar); honey might be better than jelly. Clif bars are good if you can stomach them. Bananas are great as long as they don't get squished in your bag.
posted by supercres at 12:40 PM on May 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I did a similar trip many (many) years ago in Australia. Water was pretty key there - I was rather surprised that one of my planned stops had no fresh water! Thankfully there were other better prepared campers there to help me out. I had a tent vaguely like one of these and a sleeping bag that was far, far too big. If you're feeling really extreme go with a bivvy bag but definitely splurge for a lighter down sleeping bag. Just don't get down wet. Other than that you seem to have most of the high points. Bring a camera. Bring bug repellent - it's northern ontario, you could be completely exsanguinated by the bugs in a day. I had a Trangia stove with me and I liked the option of actually cooking stuff, or at least having tea in the morning. It's pretty small but as you note it's probably not strictly necessary.

You'll find that you'll shape up pretty fast after a few straight days of riding, but doing training between now and then will help a lot. Do as much as you can - I dount any amount would be too much.

Good luck and have a fun ride!
posted by GuyZero at 12:56 PM on May 1, 2013

Response by poster: Not to thread-sit, but:
You'll find that you'll shape up pretty fast after a few straight days of riding, but doing training between now and then will help a lot. Do as much as you can - I dount any amount would be too much.

Oh absolutely! Grabbing my bike back from the shop today, I'm gonna do at least a 70k if not 100k on the weekend, and going to try to get out as much as I can before the ride.

Thanks for the advice so far, keep it coming!
posted by Lemurrhea at 1:10 PM on May 1, 2013

Best answer: I know you're not super into getting a stove, but there's a new stove on the market that can also charge your cell phone that might interest you - the BioLite CampStove. It runs off of wood debris (no fuel canisters to carry!) and holds a charge that you originally get from your computer/a plug that helps the fire to get going.

I'm not sure if the way the Google Maps posted in your OP is the route you're planning to take, is it? The last part shows the route on the 417 into Ottawa, which isn't legal for bikes to ride on (I'm guessing maybe the link didn't post correctly). Once you get into Ottawa, the river pathway is quite a nice ride, very smooth and complete into downtown. Lots of the shoulders of roads in Ottawa can be pretty cracked and a bit of a bumpy ride.
posted by urbanlenny at 1:54 PM on May 1, 2013

Best answer: You are looking to do a 100km/60mi ride per day for a week. Very doable---I've done it myself---but also something that needs quite a bit of physical prep.

You should be doing at least 200km a week to prepare, likely more. You do want to try to do 70km to 100km rides on the weekends in advance. Don't neglect your hills either.

Weight is critical on a long-distance ride in my experience. The more you carry, the harder it will be. Try some of your week-end rides with your loadout. You may find that necessary to adjust. I typically take 2 sets of cycling clothes, washing the days set each evening. Also a couple of sets of street clothes for off the bike. For off-bike shoes, a pair of light sandals (you are using clipless pedals/shoes, right?). Light rain shell/poncho. Do you need rain pants?

Basics tools: pump which you know can reach your max tire pressure, extra tube, tire boot, duct tape, zip ties. Tools: patch kit (cause they're tiny anyway), a decent multi-tool, chain breaker, spoke wrench. An emergency spoke isn't a bad idea, particularly as you will be back heavy.

What's your purpose for the light? Around the campsite? Get a headlight. I really would not want to ride any part of your route at night. Plus battery systems add considerable weight.

I'd forgo a tent and just go with a bivy sac. You want bug protection, but you really don't want the weight. I've used a tent similar to this but found it rather large and cumbersome on the bike. Sleeping bags are also bulky, but a decent 5C synthetic bag isn't hugely heavy, nor is a guide-sized 3/4 thermarest.

Also, don't neglect the psychological effect of a hot pot at the end of the day. A canister stove and a single aluminum 1 pint pot/cup are very little additional weight or size.

Foodwise, you're going to want at least 3000 cal/day, and 4-5 litres of liquid. I'd have at least 3 on the bike in the morning, perhaps more. It's tough to do that much much food cold (at least for me). Dense foods are ok, but I find digestability to be a problem. There's nothing that makes me more nauseous than a big lump of dense carbs sitting in your gut for hours at a time.
posted by bonehead at 3:15 PM on May 1, 2013

Best answer: I would discourage from loading up on too much food. While Highway 11 is relatively sparse compared to most other Ontario roads, it's still the Trans-Canada. There's plenty of spaces to stop and pick up supplies between Timmins and North Bay. New Liskeard (about half-way) has a Wal-Mart directly on the highway with a full grocery.

Once you hit Highway 17, however, the towns are mostly bypassed, so there's less places to easily duck into. Mattawa, Deep River, and Cobden are fairly small though, so a stop won't take as much time.

Also, it's illegal to bike on Highway 417, which begins in Arnprior (HTA reg. 630). You'll have to plan an alternate route for the last 70 km of your trip.
posted by The Notorious SRD at 3:28 PM on May 1, 2013

Best answer: All of my experience with bike camping is from a trip I took in high-school with 3 friends from Toronto to Ottawa. This was before modern technology like cell-phones and none of us had particularly great gear.

Plan your route for each day now. I would strongly suggest camping in Provincial parks or other campgrounds and use that to break the trip into 7 days. If you know your daily route you will be able to plan for stops along the way. Along with this, take a map with you so that you can make adjustments to your route on the go. A nice hot shower at the end of the day is a great thing to have. Plus, you should be able to get food at or near the park. And have a fire to cook your food.

One thing you may want to consider is crossing over into Quebec between Pembroke & Renfrew as travelling on hwy 148 is a much more efficient path then whatever you'll have take once the Trans-Canada becomes the 417. Plus there were shops, and chip wagons, along the way in Quebec.

MEC has a good selection of lights and I am pretty sure you'd be able to attach one of them to your rear rack. I bought their cheapest combo set and it works quite well for me. While I too don't think you should be riding at night, a rear light would be good to have if there is fog or other poor weather.

I'll echo The Notorious SRD regarding stocking up on food. By all means take granola, Clif bars and the like but you will never be too far from real food on your route. At most you would need to plan and pick up something at a shop you pass by in the morning to eat for lunch later on. If your route is planned out you will know where these shops are ahead of time. Maybe keep the bread and peanut butter for when you haven't secured a better meal on the way.

One good thing I found when bike camping (and camping in general) was that I woke up pretty early in the morning. Starting early will give you more time to make your daily target and also to stop for a meal or a swim on the way. In June you will have something like 15 hours of daylight to work with which means you can take things relatively leisurely if your goal is 100k per day.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 5:00 PM on May 1, 2013

Response by poster: Yeah, sorry for the confusion re: the 417 - I haven't looked too carefully at the ending of my trip, because I'm unsure where in Ottawa I'm going (friend, relative, tattoo parlour for a bicycle tattoo are the three possibilities right now, depending on timing) - but I'll either cross to QC or pop along the side roads/river.

WRT food and density - I was indeed mainly concerned with the 17, although I know people in Deep that might feed me. Thanks for the tips.

Light purposes are mainly in case of overcast/dusk-ish - not going to be riding in the proper night, but I do want lights just in case. I'll have a proper flashlight, yeah. Also, how have I never seen a rack-mounted rear light? I'm an idiot, of course that's what I want.

Camera - I've got my gopro with both a helmet and handlebar mount, so I expect to take some fun shots.

Thanks all! You all get best answers in a day or so (after the likelihood of more answers die out)! Did a 20k ride yesterday home from the shop and oh god it feels good to have the snow melted (as of the weekend) so I can ride again!

If you'll excuse me I'm going to spend all of my lunch break looking at tires.

On edit: Yes, definitely using clipless.
posted by Lemurrhea at 9:09 AM on May 2, 2013

Best answer: The Princeton headlight I mentioned above comes with a headband, so you can use it as a hands-free flashlight... One less thing you have to pack and buy batteries for.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:59 PM on May 3, 2013

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