With the current Covid 19 travel restrictions I’ve been looking for adventures closer to home this past winter. Last week I saw a 2 day weather window which doesn’t happen too often in the Rockies during April. Not wanting to let this opportunity pass I made a last minute plan for an overnighter. The idea was to ride my Kona Libre gravel bike 230 km down the Icefields Parkway from Jasper to Lake Louise, spend a night then return the next morning. I’ve done this ride many times in the winter, so was excited to try it out when it wasn’t freezing and full of snow and ice!
Tuesday morning I had a physio appointment for my shoulder from 8 am to 9:30 am, came home, tossed some stuff in my Apidura bike packing bags, strapped them on the bike and was soon off down the Parkway around 10:45 am! It wasn’t the earliest of starts for a 230 km ride through the mountains but the weather looked sunny and I was motivated for a big day of hammering. Looking for some hard efforts, and hoping to save some time since it was a late start, I convinced my Mom to do some motor pacing for the first 45 km. She was looking to get the Dog out for a walk, so loaded him in the Van and set a good tempo for the first 75 minutes to Sunwapta Falls. This provided some mini race efforts up the hills and then it was off solo for the last 185 km. The wheels were rolling good this day and I cruised into Lake Louise just before 6pm, 7 hrs and 25 minutes after leaving Jasper. Just in the nick of time to grab a few groceries before everything shut down for the night. Next up I rolled into the Mountaineer Lodge, my nest for the night. Generally I would stay in a hostel or camp out, but once in a while it’s nice to treat oneself and the luxury would certainly help the recovery process before turning around and heading back North to Jasper in the morning!
So what do you pack for a credit card overnighter like this? Not much to be honest. Here’s a a list of what I put in my 17L Apidura Expedition Saddle Pack. On top of this I had a 5.3 L Frame pack and a 1 L Top tube pack, both which I filled with food, electrolytes and bike tools, 2 bottles on the bike, and that was it. It took about 15 minutes to pack for this last minute adventure, I try not to overthink it too much, something I learned from my Nepal buddies over in the Himalayas.
Ride Kit: 7 Mesh Mission long sleeve jersey, MK bib shorts with pockets, leg warmers, wool socks, shoe covers:
Giro Aether Helmet, Giro Pivot 2.o Gloves.
17L Apidura Expedition Saddle Pack:
Down Jacket: 7mesh Primaloft Hoody
Rain Jacket: 7Mesh Guardian Jacket
Wind Jacket: 7Mesh Northwoods Windshell
Extra Jersey: 7Mesh Ashlu Merino Jersey
Touque for under helmet, neck tube, extra set of warm gloves (Giro Proof).
Top Layer for Evening: 7Mesh Compound Shirt
Pants for Evening + backup in case of foul weather: Rab Goretex Pant
Merino socks, underwear.
Toothbrush Bag: toothbrush, small toothpaste, deodorant, Calendula Cream, Traumeel cream, Sunscreen. Ear Plugs.
Electronics: Garmin Inreach, Garmin cycle computer, Go Pro, heart rate monitor, USB wall plug, multi throng cable for charging.
5.3L Apidura Expedition Frame Pack
F00d- Protein powder, greens + for the morning, L-glutamine, hemp seeds, Clif bars, Clif blocks, caffeinated Clif gels, electrolytes.
Spare bike parts: Multi tool with chain break, spare chain links, 2 tubes, patch kit, tire lever, matches, fire starter, emergency blanket.
For dinner I was planning to order something in from one of the many Lake Louise restaurants. To my surprise the only place open was the Fairmont up at Lake Louise proper. So I pedaled my bike 15 minutes up to the Lake only to find out they were just serving to hotel guests due to Covid rules. It was now 8pm and I was still searching for some type of food to fuel the next days 230 km ride. Eventually I found a $8 chicken salad from the Gas Station, went back to the hotel and ate this with a pile of Clif bars to help top up the Carb reserves. Not quite the dinner I had planned but during these weird Covid times you just gotta roll with it.
After a solid sleep I was up early in the morning but was in no rush to get out on the Parkway as the temperatures were -5 and I’d be climbing straight out of the gates up to Bow Summit at 2050 meters where it could be near 10 below. Breakfast was served up in the basement of Mountaineer Lodge, a Covid friendly take away bag full of gluten free egg and cheese sandwiches. I’ve been playing around with trying to ride in a more ketogenic fat burning state, so the lack of proper food wasn’t too bothersome. Around 9:45 I eventually mounted my Kona Libre and set off North up the parkway to Jasper. It was below freezing going over Bow Summit but it soon warmed into a brilliant sunny, early spring day with the temps hovering around +8-12 for the duration of the ride. The highlight is always going up the Toilet Bowl climb (Big Bend) and through Sunwapta Pass between Jasper and Banff National Parks. It’s a pristine 15 km through some amazing Canadian high alpine meadows with huge glaciers and mountains surrounding the valley 360 degrees. This part of the ride will never get old!
With about 80 km to go, Jeff Bartlett and a friend pulled over along Beauty creek flats where we had a quick visit after not seeing each other for years. It was also pretty sweet as they had a floor pump which enabled me to top up one of my tires which had a slow leak but wasn’t causing any serious troubles yet. Jeff would give me a short 3 minute motor pace session to warm up the legs again as they blasted off to Jasper and I tucked into diesel mode for the last stretch of the ride. A nice treat was having my buddy Declan ride out to Athabasca falls for the final 30 km push into Jasper. He came at a good time as the wind shifted, turning it into a pretty solid headwind for the last bit as I capped off the 230 km journey in around 7hrs, 45 minutes, much faster then the January trips!
These credit card trips are super easy to prepare for, grab a credit card, throw a change of clothes, tootbrush bag and some food in your bike packing bags (or backpack) and giver. Whenever you get tired, pull out the credit card, grab a bed for the night and then hope you can find something better then a gas station salad for dinner! The training effect from these trips is tough to beat as all you do is ride your bike, search for food, recover, sleep and ride your bike some more. I’ve always found it nice to have a destination in mind for the big training days on the bike as doing circles can get tiresome after awhile. Get out there, be safe, and feel free to message me if you have any questions on packing or preparing for your own credit card overnight adventure!
Over and Out from the Rockies.