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Dusty 100 Gravel Challenge 2016

The second edition of The Dusty 100 Gravel Challenge will place Saturday, May 28, 2016. The start/finish is Metis Crossing, AB ...

Sunday, May 1, 2016

The Self-Propelled Voyager

“You can ramble and roam more easily on a bicycle than by any other conveyance.”
--Winfred Garrison (1900)

I’m excited about this book. Duncan R. Jamieson’s The Self-Propelled Voyager: How the Cycle Revolutionized Travel (Rowan and Littlefield, 2015) is the first serious, book-length, historical study of cycle travel and its literature. Jamieson is an historian at Ashland University in Ohio, and he brings an academic thoroughness to this research project while managing to strike a completely accessible—and, at times, surprisingly personal—tone. The book’s aim is to trace the “rise and development of long-distance bicycle travel through the narratives of those who travelled.”

Monday, April 18, 2016

Dusty 100 Gravel Challenge 2016

The second edition of The Dusty 100 Gravel Challenge will place Saturday, May 28, 2016.

The start/finish is Metis Crossing, AB (2 hour drive northeast of Edmonton); park one km east of the campground entrance, by the monument.

9 am bugle call and roll out.

The route is a 107-km loop on quiet, picturesque GRAVEL roads that include the scenic Victoria Trail, the oldest continuously used road in Alberta.

Everyone is welcome: gravel lovers, the gravel-curious, and anyone up for a dusty adventure.

A few things to know:
  • This is not a race (though times will be recorded); no prizes will be awarded.
  • Riders will be given a cue sheet--that's all. 
  • There is a lovely Petro Can and a restaurant in Waskatenau at the midway point. That's the only supply point.
  • Almost any kind of bike will work (cyclo-cross, touring, mountain, fat) but tires 33 mm or wider are strongly recommended.
  • WHILE NOT A RACE, THE DUSTY 100 IS HARD. THAT'S WHY WE CALL IT A CHALLENGE. And did we mention that it's dusty?

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Frozen Pigeon

Although winter feels long gone from the city, out at Pigeon Lake, where my family spent Easter Sunday, it still feels very much like winter, at least out on the actual lake. My son Max and I brought our bikes, thinking we'd explore some gravel roads around Mulhurst, the little village on the northeast corner of the lake.

But when we arrived at our friends' cottage, we realized that the lake was still totally frozen. Folks were out ice fishing, walking about, quadding, and generally cavorting on the ice. Our riding plans quickly changed. It's not every day that you get a chance to cycle on a frozen lake.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Shitty Sekine

I park beside this crappy bike almost every work day. I have no idea who owns it. But I have grown quite fond of it. 

For one thing, it’s a Sekine (pronunciation: rhymes with "zucchini"), which gives it instant street cred. Although I remember seeing Sekine ten speeds in my youth, I didn't know the Sekine story until one of my Manitoba relations explained that Sekine bikes were made in the tiny town of Rivers, Manitoba, northwest of Brandon in the 1970s and early ‘80s. 

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Winter Fuel: Little Brick

 All rides should involve coffee. Before, after, during—doesn’t matter. Coffee just needs to be somewhere on the agenda of any civilized bike ride. It’s part of the Code of the Semi-serious Cyclist.

And in winter, this rule can be extended: All cold-weather rides should also include sustenance, some fortifying foodstuff, whether it be a hearty snack or a full-on hot meal. Winter rides call for something substantial to stoke the engine and boost the blood sugar before heading out to face the chilly wind. I’m talking about winter fuel--steel-cut oatmeal or Irish stew or cheese fondue—the kind of cockle-warming fare worthy of a wintry effort.

To that end, I’m introducing an occasional series on some of the Dusty Musette’s favorite winter pit stops, places worthy of a refuelling stop on winter bike rides. And to kick this off, I’ll start with Little Brick Café and General Store, the latest piece in local coffee guru Nate Box’s suite of hip Edmonton cafes. 

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Miles from Nowhere

This year marks the 40th anniversary of Bikecentennial, America’s great participatory cross-country ride in 1976, which signalled a moment of great optimism for bike touring in America. Bikecentennial’s legacy includes the formation of the Adventure Cycling Association in Missoula, MT, not to mention countless golden memories for a generation of Boomer cyclists.

In honor of Bikecentennial’s 40th, I recently re-visited Barbara Savage’s round-the-world-bicycle-adventure book Miles from Nowhere (1983), which tells the story of husband-and-wife team Barbara and Larry Savage setting out from their California home in 1978 and venturing through 25 countries and across 23 000 miles over a two-year-plus journey.

Now, the Savages journey wasn’t technically a Bikecentennial project, and, in fact, the book makes no mention of Bikecentennial (though there is reference to an inspirational slideshow by another couple who had recently cycled across the United States, possibly as part of BC). But it seems to me that, consciously or unconsciously, the trip is inextricably linked with the BC zeitgeist, which lingered over American cycling for many years after the bicentennial. The Savages embody the plucky, can-do, hit-the-road ethos of Bikecentennial, with their twin goals of operating as frugally as possible and seeing as much of the world as they can on their bikes. (They were no credit-card bike-tourists; their commitment to camping cheap, even amid dire circumstances, is commendable.) In my view, Miles from Nowhere is an embodiment Bikecentennialism.

Friday, January 29, 2016

McLaren Mudpuppies

The third-hole "green" at McLaren's challenging golf course. 
McLaren Regional Park, in southwestern Saskatchewan, about 100 km northeast of Medicine Hat, is my kind of place: quiet, mostly forgotten, a bit rough around the edges but recently loved and emanating some positive 1970s vibes. The day we pulled in there last June, near the end of our Rural Alberta Adventure (okay, so it wasn't purely Albertan), the place was empty, not a single other camper in sight (or on sites, for that matter). Right away, I had a good feeling about McLaren Lake.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Whitemud Creek Jaunt

Winter fat-biking in the city—even a city with a great river valley trail system like Edmonton’s—can sometimes feel, well, a little ho-hum. How many times can you ride the same small network of trails before it all starts to feel a little Groundhog Day-ish? Sure, there’s always the option to load the bikes on the car and head to the country roads and trails, but that requires time and planning; sometimes—most of the time, really—a semi-serious cyclist just wants to walk out to the garage, hop on a bike, and go.

Fortunately, a few weeks back, the Dusty Musette crew discovered a new urban option that’s got us excited: creek riding. The idea came to me while dropping my son off at the Snow Valley ski hill. As I drove over the bridge spanning the Whitemud Creek below the freeway, I noticed DIY cross-country ski tracks on the little frozen creek and thought to myself, hey, if it works for skiing, why wouldn’t it work for fat-biking? So Val, Penn, and I arranged an expedition up the Whitemud Creek one sunny afternoon, starting where the creek spills into the North Saskatchewan. We didn’t know how far we’d get or how many soakers we’d come home with, but we were keen to explore new territory in our backyards.

Saturday, January 9, 2016


Genuine discovery is possible in the nearby unknown.
                                              --Robert L. McCullough

Does being on a bicycle affect how one sees the landscape? That’s one of the big questions posed by Robert L. McCullough in his fascinating new book Old Wheelways: Traces of Bicycle History on the Land (MIT Press, 2015). McCullough, a landscape historian at the University of Vermont, looks at the influences of bicycles on the land and how the bicycle changed how people thought about landscape between about 1880 and 1910 in the northeastern United States. And his answer to that question above is yes, at least for some.