Keep your head down!

28 01 2017

Keeping your head down on the bike is how you power through rough weather, or a bonk on the third mountain climb of the day.

This winter, it’s a matter of survival.


This is the kind of massive pothole that can destroy a season if a cyclist isn’t paying attention to the road surface.

It’s been an extraordinary off-season. After a run of virtually snowless winters, we were hit hard in early December by three consecutive storms. The thaws that usually wash those snows away never really happened. Instead, we descended into a weeks-long deep freeze that iced the land and roads and bike paths.

Now that temperatures have moderated, and most of the snow and ice has melted away, we’re finally able to safely get back on our bikes. But keep your head down, your eyes on the pavement ahead!


Warmer temperatures and blue skies have actually afforded some opportunities to ride.

Because the consequence of our wintry weather is streets and bike lanes cratered with crumbling asphalt, gaping potholes, yawning sinkholes. A moment’s inattention can collapse a front wheel, pitch a daydreaming rider over the handlebars, destroy a season.

The work crews are out there, doing what they can to patch the pocked pavement. But they can’t keep up with the structural failings. The repeating cycle of freezes, brief thaws and subsequent deep-freezes expanded cracks into fissures, pocks into potholes. And with more cold temperatures forecast, it’s only going to get worse.

Still, a couple of weeks of warmer weather has afforded some chances to ride. The legs are still feeling the effects of the season’s sloth, so the routes have been conservatively flat, the pace languid. But the air filling the lungs feels good, the muscle fatigue is welcome. Because it means we’re actually out there, turning the pedals, keeping our heads down. Dodging divots.

Frosty first foray

15 01 2017

The last time I threw a leg over Lapierre was 57 days ago. That’s 1,368 hours off the bike. Too many.

When circumstances presented an opportunity today, it was time to end that slothful streak.

We’ve endured an exceptional winter so far; two months of almost daily rain was followed by more than six weeks of cold and snow and ice. It caught everyone off guard, especially road crews who’ve been playing catch-up ever since the first flakes settled on the pavement back in early December.

Mario Bartel storyteller blogger photographer cyclist

It’s been such an exceptionally cold and snowy winter, there are ice floes heading down the Fraser River.

In this part of the world, a snowfall is usually followed in short order by a thaw to wash the wintry weather away.

Not this year.

While we’ve had some moderate days in the past six weeks, they were quickly succeeded by long stretches of even colder weather that froze the slush and water in place. The consequence has been roadways and bike routes left a rutted, snowy mess. No conditions for riding, even when the sun was shining and the skies a brilliant, crystalline blue.

Mario Bartel storyteller blogger photographer cyclist

Even just a few metres above sea level, bike routes are still a rutted, frozen moonscape.

Also frozen out by the weather were the road hockey courts; we haven’t played since early December and a vigorous shovel brigade last Sunday proved futile.

But with warmer temperatures and heavy rain in the forecast for the coming week, the main roads mostly clear and our road hockey game still on ice, it was now or never to get in the year’s first ride, 15 days in.

The air is still frosty, cold enough overnight to freeze puddles into sheens of black ice; route selection was important. We couldn’t head up towards any sort of elevation as that would lead us into the maw of snow-packed side streets and bike routes rutted with bergs of frozen slush. We couldn’t go far because, well, almost two months off the bike tends to take a toll on fitness. We couldn’t be out for too long as our fingers and toes would freeze.

So a modest 37km jaunt along the river was the sum of our ambition; embarrassing in July, a triumph in a wintry January.

Mario Bartel storyteller blogger photographer cyclist

We’re cold, but for the first time in 2017, we’ve actually ridden our bikes on pavement!