I always emphasize to everyone that I meet, that Saskatchewan is anything but flat, however when it comes to my next adventure I’m really hoping that those parts that are flat, are about as flat as they come.
As a goal in 2013, my husband and I have decided that we would like to complete an overnight cycling trip. Not avid cyclers, barely even recreational cyclers, we were inspired to put feet to pedals and see some of our own countryside after meeting a French cyclist last summer by the name of Hadrien Robinet. With no set-in-stone plans, and no prior training Hadrien, who hails from Paris, decided to quit his job, give up all his belongings, and book a flight to Canada where he would spend 7 months cycling and touring from coast-to-coast, starting in Vancouver and ending in Montreal in November.
After meeting Hadrien at a Ghostown Blues concert just outside of Maple Creek, and learning of his plans to view Canada not from its major highways but from the viewpoint of its small towns and secondary highways, we felt ashamed that while we were born and bred in Canada, we didn’t look at it in the same awe-inspiring way that he had. Soon, we had decided that we too would like to view the countryside from two wheels instead of the 110 km/hr air-conditioned comfort we were used to. A decision we may yet rue one day – and soon.
Enter in the Swift Current Cycling Club and their annual “Great Prairie Tour.” Now in its 5th year, this three and a half day, Thursday to Sunday tour is organized by avid Swift Current cyclist Dave Cyca, and is the perfect tour for those like us who want to try and do an overnight cycling tour, but who also want some support along the way.
Staying in hotels each of the three nights the group either cycles or drives out of Swift Current on the Thursday afternoon, (with the support van holding all of the luggage and mechanical supplies). Friday is a full day of riding, as is Saturday, with Sunday’s ride ending usually around lunch time, at which point they’ll either catch a ride in the van back to Swift, or ride in proudly under their own steam. In total it’s about a 300 km ride over three days, on mostly flat terrain (though they did ride into the Cypress Hills last year, which I’m assured everyone survived).
As to where they’ll go this next year Dave says he hasn’t quite decided, and with only 14 spots available (the number of seats in the support van), and more than 20 members in the Cycling Club, we may not even get a coveted spot on the tour this year, which would mean we may just have to head out on our own (bribing a child or two to be our “support” vehicle). But now that we know: a) it can be done, b) it’s not as difficult as it sounds and c) that we’ll only hurt for a week or so afterwards, I’m pretty sure, once the snow melts, we’ll be out training and doing our best to get on our bikes for more than half an hour at a time.
If you want to see what the tour is like firsthand – you’re in luck Dave (Tour coordinator AND musician) and his brother Len (a photographer) have paired their talents to bring your a musical slide-show of their last year’s tour.
How to GoHere: The itinerary for last year which started at the Junction of Hwy #1 and #21 near Maple Creek (driven there by the support van) is as follows:
- 2011 – Elrose to Eston, Eston to Leader, Leader to Cabri. Cabri to Swift Current.
- 2010 Swift Current to Hodgeville, Hodgeville to Gravelbourg, Gravelbourg to Assiniboia, Assinboia to St. Victor.
- 2009 – Swift Current to Kyle, Kyle to Beechy, Beechy to Riverhurst, Riverhust to Central Butte, Central Butte back to Swift Current.
- 2008 – Swift Current to Ponteix, Ponteix to Val Marie, Val Marie to Climax – loaded up in Climax and drove home.
Good to Know:
- If you’re going to start training to do 60-70 kms a day, you should start out slowly advises Dave. Your first couple of times out just head to the store and back, gradually adding a few kms each day. Just be sure to get on your bike every day, because riding daily helps those parts that can get tender, used to being in the saddle.
- If you would still prefer to go with a group, or find that you’re looking for a bigger ride with a little more adventure in the form of camping each night, the Great Annual Saskatchewan Pedal (aptly named GASP) might fit the bill. http://www.saskcycling.ca/GASP/gasp.html
- The Swift Current Cycling Club is the most active cycling organization in the Southwest. Catering to Mountain bikers, touring cyclists, BMX’ers and racers. Find them here: http://www.swiftcurrentcycling.ca/
- To see more of Len’s Photography GoHere: www.cycaphotos.com/