Posted by: Silver | September 25, 2010

Port Alberni to Salt Spring Island

This was a very long ride that turned into a very short one. The total distance between my two hosts was around 150 km, so I had originally planned to split the journey in two, with an overnight in Nanaimo; however, due to various circumstances with my previous hosts, I wasn’t able to leave in time to do this, so my host kindly offered to give me a lift to Nanaimo to make up for the lost time. And in the end, we were enjoying chatting so much during the journey, that she actually gave me a lift all the way to Chemainus, turning my 150 km ride into a 38 km one! It was another day of glorious weather, and part of me wished I’d been stronger about asking to be dropped off earlier, just so I could have enjoyed the cycling for longer; however, when I arrived on Salt Spring Island, I began to appreciate that maybe the shorter distance was no bad thing…

Situated as it is off the west coast of British Columbia, it probably shouldn’t come as any surprise to say this, but Salt Spring Island really isn’t very flat. My hosts advised me to take a particular route in order to avoid ‘the big hill’ out of Ganges, and if it was indeed bigger than the hills I did have to climb, then I am extremely grateful for their advice. Being completely honest, the hills weren’t actually that big (the highest peak was no more than 200m above sea level), but boy, were they steep! The grade function of my Garmin actually gave up on several occasions, but it did manage to keep calculating long enough to confirm that I have now climbed my first 24% slope, with what I now know to be around 20 kg of baggage on my rear wheel (depending on how much of my water I’ve drunk!), and – to cap it all – it was on an unpaved road!* Averaged out, I climbed nearly 17m for every kilometer I travelled – pretty much twice the average for my journey so far. Suddenly, the shorter horizontal distance began to seem like a blessing in disguise.

And talking of unexpected blessings, huge thanks here to Milan at Ace Automotive in Port Alberni. We’d actually gone there to deposit the broken down van that was part of the reason for my late departure, but when Milan saw my trike, it quickly became clear that his first love was bikes rather than cars, and when he saw the state of my chain (still rather sorry-looking after my day in the rain), he instantly offered to give it a thorough clean (a two-person job on a trike and thus something that doesn’t get done nearly as often as it should). And whilst chatting during the cleaning process, it transpired that he was also an avid organic gardener and would-be WWOOFer: a serendipitous coincidence indeed! Thank you, Milan!

(* Interesting footnote: when I tried this same slope the next day – without my packs – I actually found it completely impossible. It would appear that, without the extra weight pressing his rear wheel onto the ground, Ranger simply couldn’t get traction on the unpaved surface when climbing at such a steep angle. Weight is generally considered the enemy of hill-climbing when you’re pedalling, but just occasionally, it would appear that it is actually essential!)

On the road to the Salt Spring Island ferry



  1. In all my years of cycling, I’ve never had a problem getting traction. Perhaps I was doing it wrong?

  2. Thanks for the useful ‘weight on the rear wheel’ advice, i’ll remember that if i’m ever rich enough to afford a ‘bent.

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