The view from here. Way back here.

28 08 2017

For most of my cycling “career” I’ve been a middle-of-the-pack guy.

On group rides, I can take my share of pulls, then settle in comfortably in the midst of the peloton.

Even my best Strava achievements end up placing me somewhere in the middle of all the riders who have tested that particular segment.

I’m cool with that.

But this year, I have become back-of-the-pack guy. And too often I’ve been The Guy The Rest of The Peloton Has to Wait For.

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Too often this season, this has been my view of the peloton.

On Sunday’s annual FRF Fondon’t, I was firmly ensconced as the latter. No matter how hard I tried to hang onto the group as we pedaled the flats through Pitt Meadows, and the rollers of east Maple Ridge to the Stave Lake dam, there would come a moment when I would lose contact and the group just drifted away. I couldn’t hold a wheel if my life depended on it.

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The FRF rolls out early in the morning on one of the hottest days of the year.

On one of the hottest days of the summer, I felt bad every time the group paused at the side of the road to give me a chance to catch up.

Occasionally, our patron, or one of the other riders, would drop back to keep me company or give me their wheel; but, inevitably, we’d drift apart again, our peloton disappearing as an ever-shrinking dot on the paved horizon.

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Apparently I wasn’t the only one feeling the effects of the hot day and hard effort.

It was very dispiriting.

This hasn’t been a good season.

A new job with a bit longer commute and a different schedule, increasing demands for family time and miserable weather until almost July conspired against the miles.

So did the loss of Lapierre.

Because as much as cycling isn’t supposed to be about the bike, when you’ve got one you love to ride, that repays your efforts up hills with speedy, precise descents, that giddy ups when you want to go, you want to ride it. As much as possible.

Lapierre was that bike for me.

And while the borrowed Cannondale allows me to get out onto the road, it’s not my bike. Its quirks aren’t my quirks. Its rewards are few and far between.

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Well, at least this has been one reward worth riding for!

Lapierre’s replacement is on order. But a two-week window has stretched to a four-week wait, and the season, like the peloton, is drifting away.

As with Lapierre, I’m buying this bike pretty much sight unseen and unridden, but with a great deal of research into her pedigree. I’m confident it’s a good choice for me. I’m hopeful it will be my ticket to ride back to the middle of the pack. Where I belong.

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The challenge of Cypress

14 08 2017

Hills are the great humbler.

The spirit may be keen to go up, but without the proper amount of training, the legs will fail you.

In this, the summer of Lapierre’s unfortunate demise, the training has been lacking.

Other factors have come into play as well: a new job that involves a longer commute and a less ride-friendly schedule; more responsibility around the condo; more family time.

My mileage is down. There was no 1000 km July, because I’ve no holiday time to expend. There have been fewer opportunities for 100 km rides. An extended stretch of hot weather sapped the will to climb.

But when the opportunity to sign up for the Cypress Challenge for a third consecutive year came around, I didn’t hesitate.

It’s a simple enough ride; gather at the base of Cypress Mountain, ride 12 km to the top, and all proceeds go to help researchers find a cause and better treatment for pancreatic cancer, the disease that claimed my father 13 years ago.

This year, the FRF sent a contingent of six riders, departing from New West at 6:15 a.m. to make the 9 a.m. start. Round trip, it’s about a 105 km day, with about 1400 metres of climbing.

Here’s how it went down on a cool, damp morning, as told through a series of live tweets from the road:

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We interrupt this bike ride… for a boat ride

1 08 2017

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There’s something sublime about interrupting a bike ride with a boat ride. It’s like you’re still moving forward, advancing towards your destination, but you’re resting at the same time.

Back in the day you could get that experience puttering out into the Fraser Valley by riding out to Maple Ridge, then hopping the Albion Ferry to cross the Fraser River and then a short jaunt on to Fort Langley.

But the little, free ferry ride ended when the expansive Golden Ears Bridge was built, and the opening of the new Port Mann Bridge provided plenty of safe bike route connections out to the valley.

Today a new ferry service started, and it’s practically in our front yard.

The Q2Q ferry is a pilot project by the City of New Westminster to connect our waterfront neighbourhood with the community of Queensborough, just across the north arm of the Fraser River.

That connection was supposed to be a pedestrian/cycling bridge, but a feasibility study determined such a structure would be too expensive to construct and too obtrusive once it met all the requirements to accommodate the movement of tugs, pleasure craft and barges the regularly move up and down the river.

When I moved out here in 1991, Queensborough was a sort of rural and industrial backwater. Downtrodden boatyards and lumber mills lined the shore, farms comprised the inland of the western end of Lulu Island, the area’s geographical name.

Almost all the lumber mills and boatyards are now gone, and the farms have given way to gleaming new residential developments laced with walking paths and punctuated with parks.

It’s a nice area, but with an old highway bridge the only link between Queensborough and mainland New Westminster, it might as well be on another planet. We can wave to people frolicking on the little beach across the channel, but to get there involves a bit of a drive or ride that can quickly go sideways if there’s an accident on or even near the bridge. Forget about transit.

So a few years ago the city floated the idea of building a pedestrian bridge to link the island to the mainland. We could cross to enjoy the waterfront trails and burgeoning neighbourhood, and they could come over to sample the food at the River Market, shop downtown, go to a restaurant without fighting traffic.

When that didn’t work out, it proposed a ferry service.

A dock is already in place on the island side, as a developer installed it years ago in anticipation of operating its own ferry service to the mainland. Of course, it never happened. And there are docking facilities along the Quay.

 

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This way to the boat.

 

With a boat finally arranged, the ferry service started this weekend. (For more background about the ferry, fellow FRFer and city councillor Patrick Johnstone has an excellent post on his blog)

As it was a soft launch, the service was free; although it will cost a couple of bucks a trip henceforth. And the sunny, warm weather brought out curious crowds, many of whom were left standing on the docks for the next sailing as the boat quickly filled.

Bikes are allowed.

So as the FRF pedaled back from its Sunday ride, I opted to peel out to try the new service out, and perhaps relive the idyllic pleasure of ferry-interrupted bike rides from days of yore. Diesel fumes aside, it was a pleasant enough journey. It’s always interesting to see familiar landmarks from the water’s perspective. Selfie opportunities abounded. Everybody on board was excited.

 

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Leaving the FRF team to take one for the team. A selfie that is.

 

Whether that excitement lasts when the weather turns cold and dreary will be the litmus test of the prospective service.