This spring I got the amazing, incredible opportunity to go on a two-month bike trip with a charity called the Otesha Project. (My mom blogged a bit about it here.) There were fourteen of us from across Canada who came together to spend two months biking and performing across the east coast. We started in Fredericton at the beginning of May and ended near Halifax at the end of June. Along the way, we performed to more than 5000 people to start conversations about the environment and about sustainable living. (You can read all of our blog posts from the road here).
“The Otesha Project is a national youth-led charitable organization that uses experiential learning, theatre and bicycle tours to engage and empower Canadians of all ages to take action for a more equitable and sustainable world.“
This is a list of the six most important things I learned while on this awesome adventure…
- Know your bicycle
Sounds obvious I know but you’d be surprised what can go wrong with six weeks on the road. I was lucky, my bicycle only had one major issue (flat tire caused by worn out tire with rips in sidewalls requiring me to purchase a new tire during the middle of a ride). But other members of tour were less lucky- one person had to replace her wheel right before tour started unexpectedly since it wasn’t true, one person had a faulty tire which kept breaking spokes and eventually needed replacing and several people had minor issues such as multiple flat tires and broken quick releases.
More importantly, know your bike’s quirks and what tools are needed to fix it. Most of us had bicycles that could be tuned up with our multi-tool but several people had quirky bicycles that required wrenches or special tools to maintain or fix them. Know what tools you need and have them.
- Ask For Help
One of the best things about the tour for me was all the generous people who helped us out along the way. As much as our group tried to remain independent and self-sufficient, there were times when we needed to ask for help. We had people who drove sick or injured tour members to our next location, local bike shops that offered free labour to help us keep our bikes going, people who helped us figure out the best bike routes and people who talked to us about their bike trips and offered us helpful advice.
My most helpful person on the trip was a local bike store owner who brought me a new tire when mine broke about 10km outside the town. We called him to ask for advice on how to fix it or whether we would have to bike back into town. Instead he came out himself with a new tire and helped me install it on my bicycle.
- Pack Lots of Food
When you spend most of your day outside and a fair chunk of it riding, you will get hungry a lot. Carrying enough food to get you through the day is an important part of packing. On our tour, we would each pack lunch together in the morning before leaving. We also all carried snacks. But occasionally, somebody would run out of food due to the ride being longer/harder than expected or the particular meal not being as filling as others. For that reason, several of us starting carrying around our own personal jar of peanut butter in case we desperately needed a snack.
- Pack Lightly
When you have to carry everything you are taking with you on your bicycle, how much stuff you have makes a big difference. I found I had too much warm clothing, especially when it started warming up in June.
On the other hand, have what you need. It sucks arriving somewhere after a long day of riding in the rain only to find that you have no dry socks left. Or riding all day in the rain with a raincoat that isn’t properly waterproof. It’s a hard balance.
- Find Good Riding Buddies
You will spend lots of time with your team mates, especially on a six-week trip. This trip had a wide range of people selected by the Otesha office to come on tour. Some of us, like me, had done other shorter bike trips before. Others had no previous bike touring knowledge but were interested more in either the theatre or the environmental aspect of the tour. That was one of the great things about tour, all the different people coming together to form a community.
- Try New Things
One of the aspects that had me most nervous before tour was the theatrical aspect. As part of this tour we performed to over 5000 people, mostly in schools, about the environment and sustainable living. Our play that we performed was short, cheesy and actually tons of fun. It became one of my favourite parts of tour, performing
to different communities along the way. It was a new experience for me.
Other new things on tour included learning how to cook for a group of fourteen cyclists, bicycle maintenance, navigating in unfamiliar cities, group decision-making as well as performing our play. Lots of new experiences!
Mallory Brennan is a studying music and computers at Western University. She enjoys Aikido, swimming and singing in many choirs. During the school year, Mallory is far too busy for her own good but enjoys life nonetheless. You can read about her love of singing here.