Sunday, 27 May 2012

On the day's activities

I got up at sparrow's fart this morning, a.k.a. 5:55 AM. Far too early for my tastes, but today was the Défi Métropolitain, and therefore worth it. I had arranged to meet my parents at the Chez Cora in Beloeil at 7 AM (the time it opened on a Sunday) (I had rented a car for the day). Despite my parents best efforts, they made it, a little before opening.
After breakfast and getting slightly lost in the wilds of Beloeil, we set off at around 8 AM. The parents on the 97 km (advertised) version and myself on a longer edition. How much longer was a decision I had decided to leave until a point North of Rougemont where I would assess my condition and the weather and opt for the 147 km (advertised, see below) version or skip 22 km of the route. (Owning to the significant popularity of the Défi, the 97 km are sent clockwise around the general route, whereas the other distances go counter-clockwise.)

The day provided near optimal conditions with cool but most sunny skies and no significant wind. To begin with, I rolled up the Richelieu river to near Chambly. The route veered inland for a bit before crossing the Richelieu at St-Jean-sur-Richelieu. As I entered that town, I stopped to help a fellow cyclist change an inner tube. My main contribution was to provide him with the services of my Topeak Road Morph pump with pressure gauge. He had a CO2 thingy on hand, but he was most impressed with the Road Morph. St-Jean-sur-Richelieu seems to have an excessive number of railroad tracks to cross given its size.

The section of the route for those doing the 147 km or 125 km versions of the Défi had relatively few cyclists. Those that thought themselves tough enough for it were mostly faster than me on Leonardo. I mentally "grumbled" that the problem with doing the full distance was that there was no one for me to pass! ;-) I rather regretted this thought shortly afterwards when the less ambitious people returned to "my route". The road was positively and dangerously clogged with people riding side-by-side and the like. One particularly annoying group was a bunch of spandex types on fancy bikes rolling as a "peloton" at little more than 25 km/h. I passed them with ease. Some of these pelotons are composed of real idiots. I have seen them too often in dangerous immobile bunch partially blocking corners at intersections as they decide which way to go.
As I left the lunch area, I caught sight of this older couple in matching stripey t-shirts.

Relatively shortly after lunch, I came to the junction where I would have to decide how far I would go. Still undecided, I stopped at a convenient and safe entry to take a break and assess my situation. There was another middle-aged gent there doing pretty much the same thing. We chatted for a few minutes about our respective assessments of the conditions. Dare I say it, but I think he made the right decision for to opt out of 22 kms of road, based on his significant paunch and the way he spoke of the day. I also made the right decision to commit to the "full" version of the tour.

The first hills of my day rose at Rougemont along with a number of orchards and vineyards. Leaving the town of Rougemont by a up and down road that included some rough sections of road, I came to the Ciderie Michel Jodoin that in the spirit of generosity and self-interest had made its washrooms available to passing cyclists. I repaid them by buying a bottle of cider and by giving them props in this blog entry. ;-)

I stopped in the town of St-Damase to buy a bottle of Gatorade. As I poured the contents into one of my water bottle, a local (at least I presume he was a local) asked me what all these cyclists were doing there? Was it for a cause? I said it wasn't for any particular cause other than the pleasure of cycling. As a short hand explanation, I said it was organised by Vélo-Québec sort of like the Tour de l'Île only longer. As the local went into the dépanneur, another Défi cyclists, (hardcore, older and spandex) said I was wrong as the Tour de l'Île was for families and kids. I explained that the local probably wasn't that aware of cycling maters and that my explanation was close enough for him. After all, I quipped, he was a "civilian". ;-) I am not sure the hardcore type agreed with me.

As I neared the end of the tour, the mood amongst the cyclists around me, became quite chatty. My take was that "we" had nearly done the "full" distance and thus could relax as we had proved ourselves. Not that we didn't have some significant challenges. One section of road near the town of Saint-Jean-Baptiste was so bad it seemed like something out of the Paris-Roubaix. Then there was a steep 100 m climb over the corner of Mont Saint-Hilaire. However, we knew that it was downhill from there. On the downhill section, I commented to one of my fellows that he was quite musical on his Opus bike and wearing Allegro gloves! He was A. amused (the important bit) and B. hadn't thought about his choices in that way.

Owing to announced construction (and therefore congestion) on the Champlain bridge, I returned to Montreal on the Victoria Bridge. This was the first time I had driven across and it was a bit unnerving. I felt that the Dodge Caliber I had rented found the steel surface to slick for its liking.

While I checking my email after dropping off the car, having a pint of milk with maple syrup and a bath, I noticed that there were spots on the back of my hands.
After briefly wondering if I was coming down with a rash, I realised that today was the first day I worn some newly acquired Planet Bike Taurus crochet leather biking gloves for long periods in bright sunshine. I hadn't applied much sunscreen to the backs of my hands, so the holes in the crocheted backs to the gloves had let in the sun!

I then moseyed to the Burgundy Lion, a pretentiously and aggressively English (as in England) pub, for some darn good but calorific grub: fish and chips followed by sticky toffee pudding washed down with a pint of beer from a local microbrewery and some cask strength Springbank. The waiter asked if I wanted some ice for the single malt and wasn't offended when I formed my hands into a cross to ward off the evil he was suggesting! ;-)

One thing that did go slightly wrong was that my bike computer was shaken loose from its mount three times and thus didn't register my complete distance. I have made plans to change its mount.

My stats are: 6 hours, 12 minutes, 21 seconds; distance: 152.24 km; average speed 24.5 km/h; max speed 47.4 km/h. The difference between the measured distance (152 km) and the advertised distance (147 km) can be explained by the fact that there were a couple of route changes from the map a little before St-Jean-sur-Richelieu.

My parents opted for the 97 km version. My mother's stats (used without her permission, ;-) ) are: time: 4 hours, 48 minutes; distance: 99.91 km; average 20.7 km/hr; max: 42.9 km/hr. My father's stats are: time 4.53, distance 98 km, average 20 km/hr, max 43.2.

In other news, when I was reading the news on-line this evening, I was interested to see that a Canadian has won the Giro d'Italia for the first time. I don't follow pro-biking for a number of reasons. However, I am chauvinistic enough to say "Good on you, Ryder Hesjedal!" Sue me if that makes me a hypocrite.

Monday, 21 May 2012

On a tour of the Island completed

Well, I have now pretty much circled the Island of Montreal. I picked up Leonardo from the bike shop yesterday. I forgot to mention in the previous post that the bike mechanic who was making the diagnosis of Leonardo's problem, asked me if I used it for touring. He had noticed the bundle of spare spokes duct taped to the frame!

I set off this morning on Leonardo and had breakfast at Beauty's, before making a quick visit to the MEC. I took L'Acadie to the end and turned Westwards along a vague continuous series of bike paths, bike shoulders and parks. At around the Parc-Nature Bois-de-Liesse, I was lured away from the Back River by lovely shady paths and before I really knew it, I was "dumped" on a pretty good bike path under a power line. However, it was very near the center of the Island rather than at the edge. But, it was going in the right direction.

The bike path came to an end along with suburbia. I was treated to a glorious country road complete with a wide, paved shoulder and a tail wind to boot. I zipped along it, before entering Senneville. Senneville tries to pretend it is an exclusive country municipality and not part of greater Montreal. It makes for decent biking, but I don't think I would want to live there.

I found lunch in the construction chaos that is Ste-Anne de Bellevue. I was disappointed by the wind direction returning along Lakeshore Boulevard. The weather forecast had been predicting winds out of the South-West. In fact, they were out of the South-South-East, thus somewhat in my face. They were strong enough to make the lives of some kite-surfers near Lachine very interesting, if not scary.

I stopped at the Dairy Queen in Lachine for a banana Blizzard. While I awaited my order, an older man asked me how many kilometers I had done today. As I had removed my new bike computer from Leonardo while I went inside the Dairy Queen, I was able to pull it from my pocket, and show him the mileage on it. It was 76 km at that point. After my snack, I soon got on the Lachine Canal bike path and zoomed along to the McAulsan Brewery. It was doing land-office business selling beer to numerous cyclists and a few roller bladers. I stopped for a pint of their India Pale Ale which is one of their best products. It is hoppy bitter goodness. However, it has two drawbacks. The first is that it isn't available all the time. The second is that it is more expensive than their regular brews.

My total stats for today are: biking time of 4 hours, 10 minutes and 21 seconds; distance of 88.07 km; average speed of 21.0 km/h; maximum speed of 53.8 km/h; 1336.2 calories theoretically expended (hah!) and odometer 88.9 km.

Time for a bath. I have recently observed that one way of knowing if you have been really riding hard, is that if the bath turns relatively opaque before you start washing yourself with soap! ;-)

All in all, a good way to spend Victoria Day. I approve of the Monarchy on the grounds it would far too much trouble to replace it with something else. As well, the anecdote by Lars Mathiesen in this BBC article reveals that her majesty isn't above getting her hands (or at least her shoes) dirty. It also plays into the fact the Monarchy is very much in favour of sport.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

On the tribulations of a trial run

I had planned to take Leonardo out for a training ride today. In fact, I got about a few blocks out before I noticed something was amiss with the front derailleur as it wasn't shifting at all. I tried to figure out what was wrong but I quickly came to the conclusion that I couldn't and what was wrong, was wrong beyond my capacity to fix it. I was somewhat annoyed by this especially as I had Leonardo tuned up a week earlier. I took it to the bike shop in question and politely grumbled as they had been remiss. The guy there concluded that a spring in the front derailleur had broken, possibly due to trauma combined with age. He said the derailleur would have to be replaced but if I left it there I could pick it up tomorrow (Sunday). When I noted I worked tomorrow, he then said I could pick it up on Tuesday, no problem. Something clicked at that point. Monday. A holiday. A chance to ride. I then said that I would in fact be picking up Leonardo on Sunday!

I walked home, and changed my cleated shoes for regular sneakers and set off on Floria die Fleddermoose. Today was too nice a day for biking not to be carpe diemed. Using bike paths, I headed first to the Old Port, then locally North to the Back River.

Along the way, I stopped at the HQ of Vélo-Québec to top up my tires with air. This did not go smoothly, as something was amiss in the way my Presta-Schraeder valve adapter was set up. It took a lot of fiddling to get my tires properly filled up. With the benefit of hindsight, I should have refilled the tires up at home with my floor pump. (I carry a mini-pump at all times, but it is intended for pumping just enough air to get me home, not to get a "standard" inflation. On tours, I carry a bigger and better Roadmorph pump with a pressure gauge.)

Once at the Back River, I hung a right and headed to the Eastern tip of the Island of Montreal. I came back up beside the Saint-Lawrence stopping to check the Montreal biking map app on my iPhone and for some soft ice cream.

Floria lacks a bike computer (just one more thing to get damaged or stolen) so I can't give you speed and exact distance. According to Google Maps using the bike setting, I covered about 75 km. I didn't make note of the time I left my flat, but I think it was about 5 hours including various stops, some of them fairly lengthy.

Not bad for a first long run of the season.

Friday, 4 May 2012

On the difficulties of planning how to cross the Prairies on a bike

The Prairies: flat, with roads everywhere. It should be easy to plot a route from Calgary to Winnipeg taking in the interesting bits, right?

Wrong. The thing is that there are almost too many roads, especially compared to the number of settlements with accommodations. Furthermore, my tastes don't necessarily coincide with a logical, efficient route. I mean, wanting to go through Vulcan, Alberta as well as a portion of Canada that drains into the Missouri and go to Moose Jaw and Grasslands National Park, whilst getting to Winnipeg in time to fly back to Montreal for a friend's wedding is probably a bit much, especially as the road system is essentially aligned with the cardinal directions, and I wish to go at "funny angles", this adds a lot of "unnecessary" kilometers. Nor does it help that I haven't quite got to the two-wheeled gypsy mode of cycle-touring. As well, it is surprisingly difficult to figure out which bits of roads in Saskatchewan are paved or not. To top it off, the only cities that are roughly on my route that aren't end points, are Moose Jaw and Regina which are only a day apart! I am actually toying with the idea of skipping Regina in favour of Moose Jaw in order to save a day. Probably a bad idea, but it would let me go through McTaggart, Saskatchewan.

Anyway, I still have more than a month to work out a least a tentative route, one which allows modification according to the wind and weather, as in theory, if I caught a good tailwind, I could do 200 km in a day, but I would be unwise to plan such a day.