charity · cycling · Guest Post · traveling

Six Things I Learned on my Six-Week Bike Tour (Guest Post)

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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…

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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!

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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.

cycling · family

Proud cycling momma

My daughter Mallory is almost done the Otesha Project’s East Coast Tour. And I’m very proud of her.  We’ve been riding together since not long after she was born. (Thanks Burley bike trailer.) We’ve done lots of mother-daughter bike tourism together, the rail trails of Quebec and of New Zealand’s south island (see Cycling holidays, Part 1: Rail trails) but I love that this summer she’s off riding her bike with a group of like minded young people and has discovered her own love of cycling.

This summer she also moved to clipless pedals and I might even have talked her into a touring road bike for future mother-daughter cycling adventures!

What’s the Otesha Project?

“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.”

Riding the Tides of Change
Fredericton to Halifax
May 3 – June 24 2014
Performing and Cycling Tour

Here’s their description of the  East Coast Tour: “Let the cliffs, culture, and concentration of sea life in Canada’s majestic Maritimes fuel your passion for sustainability and social justice . A 9 day training in bicycle skills, interactive theatre, community engagement, and facilitation techniques prepares your team to spark dialogue with thousands of students using Otesha’s play “Cycling Through Change” and “Action Addict” workshop. Wind your way around the Bay of Fundy and through the Annapolis Valley, learning from the Mi’kmaq, anglophone, and Acadian communities that welcome you.”

Read their blog.

Look at their photos.

And if you’re in, or near, Halifax you can meet them on Thursday, June 19th!

“The Otesha Project is rolling into Halifax after our 2 month East Coast Cycling and Performing Tour talking with schools and communities about environmental and social justice! Come join us in Victoria Park at 5 pm for a public performance of our play (rapping and singing included) and a critical mass ride around the city at 6pm!!” See details here.

Here’s a few photos of Mallory and the group:

And here’s some of child Mallory in her early days as a cyclist!

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