What I did on summer vacation. Ride, of course.

22 07 2015

I need a vacation. From my vacation.

As has become something of a Big Ring tradition for more than a decade, I book off for the last two weeks of Le Tour de France. Unfortunately, I don’t have the funds that allow me to actually attend Le Tour de France every year.

So I get up early to watch the live TV coverage, then head out for a ride that pales in comparison to what the pros achieve on a daily basis.

It’s a vacation of many kilometres, guilt-free snacking and little rest or relaxation.

This year, circumstances have allowed me to ride in the company of my former colleague, and current cycling fashion curmudgeon, Grant, who’s taking full advantage of his summer sabbatical to crank the pedals and crank up the mileage.

Grant has an issue with simple out-and-back rides. That means we have to design circuitous loops. Not always easy. But certainly conducive to new explorations and long rides.

We climbed the highlands above Kanaka Creek in eastern Maple Ridge. We crossed an old wooden single-lane bridge to the rural enclave of Westham Island. We hopped a free shuttle service that ferries us underneath the Fraser River. We were amongst the first dozens of cyclists to try the new traverse on the Port Mann Bridge over the Fraser River. We found excellent new sandwich stops in Ladner Village, Maple Ridge and North Vancouver.

And, of course, there were flats. This is the summer of flats, after all.

And, of course, there were flats. This is the summer of flats, after all.

An old single-lane bridge is the only way on, and off, the rural enclave of Westham Island.

An old single-lane bridge is the only way on, and off, the rural enclave of Westham Island.

Fields of flowering potatoes stretch to the horizon on Westham Island.

Fields of flowering potatoes stretch to the horizon on Westham Island.

Blackberries are an unexpected treat while waiting for the Massey Tunnel shuttle to depart.

Blackberries are an unexpected treat while waiting for the Massey Tunnel shuttle to depart.

Triumph! Cycling fashion curmudgeon Grant celebrates his first ascent of Mt. Seymour.

Triumph! Cycling fashion curmudgeon Grant celebrates his first ascent of Mt. Seymour.

Don't let the shopping plaza aesthetic dissuade you from trying the excellent food at In Grain. A tasty reward for climbing and descending Mt. Seymour.

Don’t let the shopping plaza aesthetic dissuade you from trying the excellent food at In Grain. A tasty reward for climbing and descending Mt. Seymour.

With more than a week still left in the month, I’ve already achieved my 1,000 km goal, an annual yardstick of my cycling fitness that eluded me last year.

My legs are tired. But it’s a good tired.

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Célébration Bastille brumeux

12 07 2015

The FR Fuggitivi ascribes to the Italian cycling ethos: ride for enjoyment, look good while doing it, and the quality of the coffee stop is as important as the Strava data.

But once a year, we channel our inner Bobet, pull on our French cycling kits, stumble through the high school french expressions we’ve somehow manage to retain and head up.

FR Fuggitivi’s French day falls on the closest Sunday to Bastille Day, which usually coincides with the beginning of the mountain stages in Le Tour de France.

For us, a mountain stage means Mt. Seymour; 1000 metres of elevation over 13 kilometres.

Guy serenades the bikes with a little piano music to soothe the savage climb ahead.

Guy serenades the bikes with a little piano music to soothe the savage climb ahead.

Fortunately, this year’s Gallic grind also coincided with a break in the heat wave that has afflicted this neck of the woods since pretty much the middle of May.

Richard channels his inner Virenque.

Richard channels his inner Virenque.

The misty clouds that shrouded us almost the entire climb were a welcome relief to the interminable furnace that softened the pavement and parched our throats on last Sunday’s epic Tour de Everywhere.

I wish I was a faster climber.

But as I’ve learned over many years of climbing the Grouse Grind, a steady, comfortable pace ensures survival.

While the mountain goats in the group spun off into the distance, Richard (Not Virenque) and I maintained a rhythm that kept us moving forward and upward, while still saving us enough breath for conversation. The mist had the added bonus of hiding from our sight the inclines ahead. Instead, we counted off the kilometre markers on the side of the road.

The view from the FRF autobus. The mist shrouds the inclines ahead.

The view from the FRF autobus. The mist shrouds the inclines ahead.

By the time we reached the foggy, chilly summit, everyone else in the group was bundled up and ready to head down. So we turned and followed.

The group is ready to head down.

The group is ready to head down.

Alas, the same damp mist that was our salve on the ascent, meant the roads were wet and slicked for the descent, so there would be no land speed records set today.

Of course, what's an FRF ride without the requisite puncture; my fourth official flat this season!

Of course, what’s an FRF ride without the requisite puncture; my fourth official flat this season!





Mann oh Mann

4 07 2015

There’s a new bridge in town.

Actually, the new Port Mann Bridge has been open to traffic for a few years now. The billion-dollar behemoth spans the Fraser River, linking the eastern suburbs to Vancouver and its immediate neighbours. For a time it was the widest cable-stayed bridge in the world, comprised of 10 lanes for highway traffic, and one for pedestrians and cyclists.

Well, it took them a while to finish the latter.

Cyclists welcomed the news of an additional crossing with a jaundiced eye.

The narrow old Port Mann bridge had no accommodation for cyclists or pedestrians, meaning a ride over the Fraser River and out to the Valley could only be achieved by a circuitous route to some of the other, more distant bridges like the Golden Ears or the Alex Fraser. The old Pattullo is an immediate option, but it’s a horrific, dangerous traverse that requires nerves of steel because of the close proximity of speeding traffic along its narrow lanes.

But the new Port Mann is bookended by complicated weaves of entrance and exit ramps that are difficult enough for a motorist to disentangle. How a bike lane would be squeezed between them was anybody’s guess.

Well, Wednesday we got our answer when the lane officially opened.

It’s on the east side of the bridge, offering a soaring view of the river below and the valley beyond.

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The lane is wide, the climb from the west end gradual enough that it doesn’t strain the legs.

A high barrier hides much of the traffic speeding past on the highway, and adds a further sense of safety.

So far, the entrance to the bridge is still a bit of a mystery to the rookie crosser. There’s a lack of signage on the feeder bike path, and until you’re actually on the final approach to the bridge, it’s still hard to conjure how a bike path could access the bridge. Hopefully that’s dealt with.

It’s a good crossing that opens up new options for exploration. It should be used.