August 13, 1996 Porcupine Hills Bicycle Trip

Day 1 – Porcupine Hills Bicycle Touring Trip – Swan Plain to… Roadside Ditch

The following is an account of a bicycle touring trip through the Saskatchewan Porcupine Hills (in the vicinity of the town of Hudson Bay) from August 13 to 17, 1996.

Heading Out

Left Regina with Gregg 3:30 p.m. Picked up Al in Yorkton at 5:30 p.m. Left full-size GMC van with local in Swan Plain (27 km north of Norquay). Loaded the bikes and left the van around 6:30 p.m. in a light drizzle. My 40 lb mountain bike was loaded with about 40 lbs of gear (80 lbs total) using front and rear paniers plus tent and sleeping bag above the rear rack.

The Bike

The bike used on this trip is a 1991″Voyageur” Mountain Bike with steel frame and a Biopace SG* front chainring. The bike is still in use today (with most parts replaced at least once). Overall a very basic low-end bike.  The biopace is wearing down but still going.

*SG stands for “Superglide”, about which Sheldon Brown’s glossary states:

Super-Glide: Shimano’s system for improving front shifting. It consists of specially-shaped teeth and ramps on the sides of some chainwheels. Superglide chainwheels, like Hyperglide sprockets, come in sets designed to work together, so you won’t get the full benefit of the system if you substitute individual chainwheels.

SG was on of four biospace options:

Original Biopace, Biopace II, Biopace SG and Biopace HP…

There is apparently some debate as to the advantages and disadvantages of the biopace (no longer in production), I personally like it and find it easier on the knees.

On the Road

Heading north from Swan Plain, the pavement ended after about 15 km, near the beginning of the Porcupine Provincial Forest. By this time the rain stopped and skies cleared. Our spirits were lifting up.

Fire Tower

Gregg and I turned off to a fire tower after a few kilometres on the gravel. The 0.5 km ride took us to the base of the fire tower. The fire watcher came out of his little house at the base of the tower and happily took us up the 80 foot tower. It was a scary climb up the tiny ladder, through the hatch into the little plywood room at the top. The man had worked there for 11 years and told us all about the surrounding area while we watched the sunset to the west. We climbed back down after ~20 minutes.

Darkness Falls

Back on the road, we hit a nice long downhill run, averaging 45 km/hr. We caught up to Al at a small creek crossing. Darkness was falling fast (8:30 p.m.). We attempted a fast ride to Par Hill Lake campground, but were forced to stop for the night at 9 p.m. because it was too dark to see the road.

We madly set up the tent in the road ditch in near darkness while battling the billions of mosquitoes waking up for the night. The tent was hastily erected and gear thrown in messily. Gregg and Al were perhaps wondering what this adventurous teen had got them into!


[Photos to come with future posts, each blog entry represents one day on the trip]


2 Responses to “August 13, 1996 Porcupine Hills Bicycle Trip”

  1. Bryan Sarauer Says:

    Hey, I’ve got one of those bikes! OK, not the same as yours, but almost as old and, importantly, “with most parts replaced at least once”.

  2. prairievoyageur Says:

    Hey Bryan,

    The bike is heavy and not high quality, but makes a good all-weather commuting bike today (especially winter with salty roads).

    At the time of this bike trip, I was a teenager and that was the only bike I had (and likely similar to bikes owned by thousands of other teens). I really didn’t know anything else. If I ever get back into bicycle touring, I would likely buy a better bike!

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