Residents of Nelson, British Columbia, are accustomed to travelling to music festivals, whether it’s just down the road to Salmo for Shambhala or over the mountains to Bass Coast. But Nelsonite Jon Langille is the first Canadian in history to ride 2,500 kilometres on an electric bicycle to attend a rock concert in Indio, California.
Granted, the Desert Trip concert is going to be so historic it’s worth getting to whatever the means of transport: for the first time ever the Rolling Stones, Neil Young, Paul McCartney, The Who, Bob Dylan and Roger Waters will appear on the same stage over the course of the event. And as an avid music fan, Jon didn’t want to miss it. But why ride an electric bicycle there?
In an interview that aired on CBC Radio right before his departure on September 4th, Jon explains he had the time off work and, because he enjoyed traditional bike touring in his twenties, thought this would be a good way to get there. But as a man “of a certain age” he says he appreciates the added boost he gets via his pedal-assist electric motor when tackling the hills. (Jon is 54 and by the time he reaches California, he’ll have surmounted over 11,000 metres of elevation gain – roughly the equivalent of Mount Everest and Ymir Peak combined.)
An Exclusive Interview With Jon
Mountain Culture Group caught up with Jon while he was resting in Bend, Oregon after a week of being on the road. At that time he had travelled over 900 kilometres, had endured 60km/hr headwinds and seven flat tires. Amazingly he was in great spirits!
Hey Jon, congratulations for making it this far along your journey. What’s been a highlight so far?
Making it to the Washington-Oregon border at the Columbia River. I was like, “One state down, two to go!”
What’s been the biggest challenge?
The winds. Headwinds every day, and more intense each day! It finally started to let up on day six.
And you’ve suffered some flat tires too we’ve heard?
Yeah. Flat one happened on day one and was the result of a funky valve that wouldn’t hold air. Flat two was on day two and definitely a puncture. I rushed the fix though and didn’t check thoroughly for the cause. That came back to bite me a few hours later with my second flat of the day. That’s when I found the culprit: a centimetre-long stainless steel wire that clearly came off an exploded truck tire. That repair held for a few days. Flat four occurred on day five during some bucking, crazy headwinds, The rear tire went low but a few pumps was enough to get me to the next town. Day six and I experienced flat five. (I knew it was coming.) It’s really difficult pumping a tire up to 65 psi with a hand pump – 40 was about as good as I could do. I ran on soft tires for 65 miles looking for a gas station with air – bupkis! No air anywhere! Finally topped up in Madras. Flat (what number are we on?) was caused by, again, steel wire. Needless to say I was really happy to get to Bend and let the guys at the Pedego Bend bike shop have their way with the bike.
What can someone who’s thinking about bike touring learn from your experience?
Be well prepared for flats! Always carry a patch kit, good pump, extra tubes, tire levers, and Fix-a-Flat for bikes. Also, be sure to pack easy wash, quick dry clothes and not many of them. Consider gel seats and handles specially shaped for long rides.
How does this bike tour compare to other ones you’ve done in your twenties around Asia, Australia and the UK?
Even though the electric bicycle I have (a Pedego Stretch electric cargo bike), the actual riding is easier. Hills and wind are not nearly as big a battle as they are with a conventional bike. The route I’ve taken would not be advised on a standard bike. I think an ebike opens up more of the map for bike touring.
What are you most looking forward to in the next week to come?
The high country of central Oregon, following the Volcanos all the way to Mount Shasta, then either descending into the Sacremento Valley of California or climbing the roads east of the Sierra mountains.
To hear CBC Radio’s story about Jon’s trip, click the play button below:
And to follow Jon’s journey and see day-to-day updates, log on to: pedegoelectricbikes.ca/roadtrip