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For the first time since I started entering cycling events  and races, I decided not to enter the Ontario Spring Classic, Paris to Ancaster.  I had entered P2A every year since 2002, for a streak of 17 years.  These 17 years included several times when I was recovering from concussions and I entered the shorter version of the race. This blog post is a statistical and photographic summary of my 17-year history

When my race ended in 2018, I swore I’d never do it again.  That’s not uncommon for me. The mud, cramps, hills wore me out every year, regardless of distance, weather, fitness, conditions.  However, after 2018, it felt different. Despite 17 straight years in this wonderful event, there was no spark.  Maybe because I’d “been there, done that”.  There was a small part of me that wanted to keep my streak going, but it wasn’t enough to sign up when registration opened in late 2018.

And despite all the chatter online as the 2019 event approached, I still had no regrets about not signing up.  The only time I felt a bit of regret was on race day, when I followed the race online.  I missed the atmosphere, the cheers on the final climb and the satisfaction of completing a difficult event.  Still, however, I didn’t carry a lot of regret.

I’ve established a respectable history for this event.  Now it’s time to let others continue.  Here’s a quick summary of my 17 years of Paris-to-Ancaster, in numbers and photos:

  •  2002:
    • Distance: 60 km
    • Time: 2:59:35, place: 466 overall
    • Winner: Mathieu Toulouse, time: 1:52:42
  • 2003:
    • Distance: 58.5 km
    • Time: 2:39:57, place: 466 overall (again!)
    • Winner: Seamus McGrath, time: 1:40:44
  • 2004:
    • Distance: 58 km
    • Time: 3:01:37, place: 410 overall
    • Winner: Peter Morse, time: 1:59:11
  • 2005:
    • Distance: 62 km
    • Time: 2:40:57, place: 432 overall
    • Winner: Michael Simonson: 1:46:42
  • 2006:
    • Distance: 60 km
    • Time: 3:10:08, place: 652 overall
    • Winner: Michael Simonson: 1:55:37
  • 2007:
    • Distance: 61.5 km
    • Time: 3:05:13, place: 757 overall
    • Winner: Peter Morse: 1:48:02
  • 2008:
    • Distance: 62 km
    • Time: 3:08:14, place: 705 overall
    • Winner: Nathan Chown: 1:53:50
  • 2009: St. George to Ancaster
    • Distance: 38 km
    • Time: 1:59:41, place: 106 overall
    • Winner: Karsten Madsen: 1:20:54 (winner of P2A: Jeremy Powers)
  • 2010: St. George to Ancaster
    • Distance: 38 km
    • Time: 1:34:59, place: 55 overall
    • Winner: Sean Van Dongen: 1:16:44 (winner of P2A: Mike Garrigan)
  • 2011: St. George to Ancaster
    • Distance: 38 km
    • Time: 2:15:39, place: 181 overall
    • Winner: Jody Brown: 1:24:55 (winner of P2A: Mike Garrigan)
  • 2012:
    • Distance: 60 km
    • Time: 3:20:29, place: 819 overall
    • Winner: Mike Garrigan: 1:48:23
  • 2013:
    • Distance: 58.2 km
    • Time: 2:51:03, place: 647 overall
    • Winner: Justin Lindine: 1:43:17
  • 2014:
    • Distance: 63.4 km
    • Time: 3:03:22, place: 652 overall
    • Winner: Anthony Clark: 1:54:31
  • 2015::
    • Distance: 68.8 km
    • Time: 3:02:28, place: 686 overall
    • Winner: Jeremy Martin: 2:00:57
  • 2016:
    • Distance: 68.1 km
    • Winner: Gunnar Holmgren: 2:02:15
  • 2017: Harrisburg to Ancaster
    • Distance: 37.4 km
    • Winner: James Hedgecock: 1:27:46 (Winner of P2A: Gunnar Holmgren: 2:08:17)
  • 2018:
    • Distance: 73.3 km
    • Winner: Gunnar Holmgren: 2:14:43
Sticking the tongue out before Thomas Voeckler made it famous at TdF. 2003. Crossing the line, 2004. The look on my face sums up the way I finished most P2As. Looking up the finishing hill… suffering. 2006. Waterloo Cycling Club at the finish, 2013. 2013. Notice the bike: Hardtail mountain bike with skinnies. That final climb is never without pain. 2014. 2015. Approaching the final climb. First time racing P2A on a gravel/cross bike. The tongue again! 2016. 2017. The final climb hurts on a fat bike too (Photo: Paul O’Neil Photography) My final time up the Martin Road climb in P2A. 2018 (Photo: Lauren Daniells)
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There are a lot of articles (and probably books) about exercise and fitness and cycling after the age of 50. Many of them are written by exceptional people who have devoted a huge amount of time to staying fit and active.

If you believe what you read on the internet, it was Bill Clinton who said “Turning 50 gives me more yesterdays than tomorrows”.  It’s a sobering thought, but there are no guarantees in life at any age.  Now in my 53rd year, I’m gaining my own perspective about cycling through the middle ages.  I know more than a handful of extremely fit 50+ people through the cycling club I’m in.  They ride with people 20 and 30 years younger and age doesn’t seem to have limited their ability to keep up.  My experience of cycling after 50 is probably different than them, but I want to provide my observations and experiences of cycling after 50:

  • The competitive instinct fades with age.  This probably has something to do with diminishing testosterone.  I was never an ultra-competitive cyclist but I liked entering races and occasionally getting on the podium.
A fast cyclist (my younger bro, in the middle) once said: “The older I get, the faster I used to be”.
  • My focus and interested has shifted from speed to endurance.  I use the term “speed” loosely.  I’d never consider myself to be a fast cyclist, but I was certainly faster in my 30s than I am today.
Albion Hills, 2004. I wasn’t very fast, but I looked and felt fast!
  • Motivation:  I was never a highly motivated athlete, but in my 50s, it’s a lot easier to come up with easier things to do… Netflix, Spotify, sit on the couch and eat potato chips, sleep.
  • Aches and Pains: I remember my 30s like they were… 10 years ago.  I remember the aches and pains of a long, hard ride, but I’d be able to sleep them off and be fine the next day.  Now, I’m starting to accept that some of these aches and pains are a way of life.
  • Goal setting.  Last year, 2018, I cycled more distance outside than I’ve every cycled.  I started keeping a log of all my rides in 2002 (long before the days of Strava and GPS bike computers), when I was in my mid-30s.  Clearly, turning 50 hasn’t prevented my from cycling, it has  just slowed me down (from slow to slower!)
Before Strava, I kept a log of my bicycle rides in a spreadsheet!
  • Taking risks: When I started “serious” cycling in 2002, I began as a mountain biker.  I developed skills to ride down steep, rough slopes and I certainly had my share of crashes (Headline: Bicycle crashes into tree).  Last year, 2018, I did most of my cycling on my road and gravel bikes.  I think I had my mountain bike out twice.  I still love mountain biking, but I no longer have the desire or need to ride so fast that there’s a heightened risk falling into the trees. Riding a big rock. It’s bigger than it looks! (Note the arm bandage from a previous fall!)
  • Cycling for different reasons:  People cycle for different reasons: training, racing, fitness.  I’ve cycled for all of those reasons and those are the main reasons I started cycling.  But more recently, I’ve added to this list with: bike commuting, destination cycling (to a coffee or lunch spot, or bikepacking), bicycalligraphy, meditation.  When I say “meditation”, I don’t mean reaching a Zen-like state on the bike – that would be dangerous!  What I mean is: I ride to clear my head.  The physical fitness benefits of cycling are evident, but I didn’t realize the mental health benefits until recently.
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I’ve never written a review about a bike before.  I have several bikes – some I bought brand new, others I bought used.  And I even have one that I built with old parts.  Each bike has its pros and cons, and each bike has its purpose in my fleet.  But when I travel, I often rent a bike from a local bike shop.

On my family vacation to Vegas earlier this month, I tried to balance family hikes and walking with my own cycling.   After considerable online research, I found a bike shop in the north end of Vegas that offered a great rental price for the exact kind of bike I was looking for.  I wanted a bike that could ride on gravel and dirt roads but also on pavement.

Southwest Bikes‘ website offered a Bianchi Impulso All-Road gravel bike for $45USD per day, with a free day for each 2 days booked.  So I got 5 days for the price of 3.  This compared to some other rental places that were on the order of $80 – $90 per day.

I don’t pay close attention to the specs on bikes I rent, so other than seeing that this bike was equipped with Shimano 105 components, I was unaware of other features ahead of time.  But here’s a quick summary of the bike:

  • 2×11 Shimano 105 drivetrain.  Rings 50/34, Cassette 11-34
  • Shimano hydraulic disk brakes and shifters
  • Kenda Flintridge 700×35 tires

The bike shop equipped the Bianchi with EggBeater pedals so I could use the shoes/cleats I brought on my trip.  The rental also included a fanny pack with a C02 pump, multitool, tire levers, spare tube, patch kit (which I fortunately didn’t need).  The bike also had a bell on the handlebar, which proved to be useful for the multi-use trails that I rode.

Other features I noticed during the week included:

  • drop handlebars that flare outwards to allow bigger handlebar bags for bikepacking/touring
  • mounts for fenders and panniers
  • internal cable routing

Oh, and the bike was in “Bianchi” celeste green.  In the photo below, I stopped near a rock that had mineral stains that were the same colour as the bike so I had to stop for a photo!

What I liked about the bike:  The size 55 was perfect for me.  I raised the seat just a bit and was off the the trails!  It was comfortable right away.  My first rides were on paved trails and road and the bike handled this smooth surface very well.  If I was trying to keep up with roadies, it might be a bit of a struggle (but it always is for me, even on a road bike).  The hydraulic disk brakes provided confidence in braking.  This was important because the trails have a lot of ups and downs, occasionally with quick turns.  I was able to curve with more speed because I was confident I could stop if necessary. On my last day, I challenged the bike a bit by exploring some gravel and dirt roads (see the photo below).  The Impulso was more than up for the task.  The grip was good even in loose gravel, and the hydraulic brakes gave me confidence riding and cornering on this unpredictable gravel road.

What I didn’t like about the bike: I had to give it back before we flew home.

If you visit the Bianchi specs page for more details about this bike, you’ll read things like:

  • Impulso Allroad Alu 6061 triple butted
  • Triple Hydroformed Technology
  • Bianchi
  • “The Impulso All Road’s stiff downtube and bottom bracket region make quick work of each pedal stroke”

This stuff doesn’t mean much to me but I can tell you this:  The bike rode well and it felt like the energy I was putting into the pedals was moving the bike forward efficiently.  I wasn’t trying to pick up an KOMs or ride in the red-zone, but the bike felt fast, comfortable and under control.

The MRSP, according to the Bianchi Canada web page is $3200 (Canadian) which seems a bit high for a bike equipped with 105.  But I haven’t done enough comparison shopping to say whether or not this price is reasonable.  Either way, it’s a great bike to ride that does well on the surfaces I tested.

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As a follow up to my earlier post this week about cycling in the Vegas area, this post is a photo blog about my hikes in the Vegas area.

Our family vacation in the Vegas area was only a week long.  We wanted to visit the Vegas strip and downtown Vegas, so we didn’t have a lot of time to explore all the parks and hiking trails outside the city.  We stayed at Lake Las Vegas, which is about a half-hour’s drive east of the city.  It’s a small resort area, close to the Hoover Dam.

The first place we hiked was Red Rock Canyon.  Here are a few shots (photos don’t do it justice – you really need to visit there!):

Nooks and crannies all over the place! I wonder why they call it “Red Rock” canyon? Some of these mini canyons were off the main path.

We also spent an afternoon around the Hoover Dam.  Our exploration included a path through some old train tunnels and a view of Lake Mead from high up above:

Lake Mead.

Our final big day of hiking was at Valley of Fire State Park, about a hour’s drive northeast of Vegas.  We only hiked a few trails, but there’s a “secret” trail that’s not marked on park maps.  It took us through a beautiful canyon and the crowds of people we encountered on other trails didn’t follow us, so we had it to ourselves!

If you ever find yourself in this area, make sure to check out these areas.  And if you want to know where the secret trail is in the Valley of Fire, let me know!  There’s a lot more to explore near Vegas.  Next time, I want to venture a little further to California and Utah!

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After considerable debate over the past winter,  my family decided we’d head to Vegas for a vacation. I had two reasons I wanted to visit this area, and neither had anything to do with gambling or the Vegas strip: (1) I wanted to visit the parks outside the city and (2) I wanted to explore the cycling opportunities in the area.

After our first two nights near the Vegas strip and the airport, we stayed the rest of the week by Lake Las Vegas, about a half hour of town, not far from Lake Mead. This location allowed easier access to different parks, the Hoover Dam and many cycling trails!

I rented a gravel bike from Southwest Bikes in the north end of the city. In the days and weeks leading up to this trip, I researched  a lot bike rental options. Many places offered bikes I liked but the costs were on the order of 75 to 90 USD per day. Southwest Bikes offered a Bianchi Impulso AllRoad gravel bike with Shimano 105 and hydraulic brakes for just $45 per day, plus a deal for longer rentals, so I was able to get five days for the price of three.  When I arrived to pick up my rental on Wednesday, staff was friendly and helpful!

Tuesday and Wednesday of our week, the area was under a severe wind warning.  There was no rain, but winds gusted to over 60 km/h.  Though we managed to do some hiking, I didn’t get out on my bike until Thursday.

Near Lake Las Vegas, there are a number of cycling trails.  I had planned to explore the River Mountains Loop Trail and the Wetlands Park Bike Trail, both of which had trail heads near where we stayed.

On Thursday, we planned to visit the Hoover Dam.  The River Mountains Loop trail took me close to the dam so I rode the east side of the loop and met my family there to tour the dam.  My ride was about 30 km and I stopped countless times for photos.  The trail is a paved, two-way trail through the desert with amazing views of Lake Mead.  Every place the trail crossed the highway, there was an underpass tunnel. And much to my surprise, the desert isn’t flat!  In the 30 km ride, I gained nearly 450 m of elevation, including near the end of the ride where over the last 4 km, I climbed over 130 m on a climb that was deceiving because the mountains rose in the background, giving an illusion that I was on flat, or even downhill terrain. (If you’ve heard of Magnetic Hill in New Brunswick, the effect felt similar.)

It’s hard to tell in this photo but this was actually uphill at about 3% grade.

After about an hour and a half of cycling (I stopped for a lot of photos), I met with family and we walked around the dam and bridge.

Paved bike trails through the desert! I never need to be reminded to cycle slowly, so these signs always amuse me! Approaching our meeting point near the Hoover Dam.  Lake Mead in the background.

The next day, I focused on the Wetland Bike Trail.  It was strange seeing a wetland in the desert but the state has worked hard to restore this area.  The bike trails again were paved and well marked and this time, there were gravel roads in the area.

More paved goodness, with the Vegas strip in the background! Desert flora, and rocks… lots of rocks! Trying to be artsy with a bike in the desert.

On my third day of cycling, I decided to explore the western side of the River Mountains Loop trail.  The trail is a 34 mile single loop, and I only completed about 25 km of it earlier in the week.  Due to time restrictions, I figured I could ride about 10 to 15 km of the western portion of this loop.

Where we stayed at Lake Las Vegas, all roads go up hill, and on this side of the Loop trail, it went up until I decided to turn around!  From the plot below, I apparently gained 250 m in elevation in just over 10 km, including some short but very steep pitches.

On my fourth and final day of cycling, we didn’t have a lot of time because we had to check out by 11 am, so I did a quick 15 km ride on the Wetland Trail.  I had to stop to take a photo of this:

You know it’s a good vacation when this is the biggest decision of the day: Left = uphill pavement; Right = flat gravel!

Although I rode 100 km during the four days of cycling, I don’t feel like I covered a lot of ground.  On my two weekend rides, I encountered a lot of other cyclists, both on the road and on the trails.  There are some good bike lanes in the area and I’m sure there are some great road routes.  Just don’t expect flat, desert riding!  The hills, while not huge like you’d find in the Rockies, will still be a fun challenge!

A few more points about cycling in this area:

  • I rented a gravel bike that worked on the pavement and dirt.  Some of the gravel paths were a bit of a challenge (because of steepness and loose, sharp rocks).  A mountain bike would have been a lot more fun on some of these loose trails.
  • A lot of the main roads that I drove my rental car on had wide shoulders for cycling.  I didn’t explore many of these, but a road bike would be great in this area.
  • I expected mostly flat cycling (it is the desert after all), but was pleasantly surprised by the rolling terrain.
  • The Vegas Strip is pretty much what you’d expect: big hotels, lots of people and cars, Elvis impersonators, dancing girls.  Fremont Street in downtown Vegas is not a place I’d take kids though!  The parks outside of Vegas are a much better use of time, in my opinion.  I’ll be blogging soon about my hiking trips in the area.
  • I’m pretty sure I saw an Elvis impersonator riding a bicycle on my third day of cycling when I passed a group of road cyclists.  He had cool sunglasses and long, Elvis-style side burns!
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If you scour the internet, you’ll find a quote that is attributed to Gandhi.  It goes something like this:

The measure of a civilization is how it treats its weakest members.

Other websites will refute that Gandhi ever made this statement, but they will quote a speech he made in 1931, where he said:

The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way in which its animals are treated. I hold that the more helpless a creature, the more entitled it is to protection by man from the cruelty of man.

Along similar lines, Hubert Humphrey, former VP of the USA, stated:

The moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.

When I read quotes like this, I think about the most vulnerable people in our society: Children, senior citizens, handicapped people, minorities.  I also think about how we, as a society, move from one place to another.  There are those among us who drive motorized vehicles (or car share/Uber etc.) for any trip.  Others, out of necessity or choice, will travel by public transit (where available).  Others will travel by bicycle or on foot.

From this list of how humans travel, which humans are the most vulnerable?

I found a reference online that states:

A group of road users can be defined as ‘vulnerable’ in a number of ways, such as by the amount of protection in traffic (e.g. pedestrians and cyclists) or by the amount of task capability (e.g. the young
and the elderly). Vulnerable road users do not usually have a protective ‘shell’, and also the difference in mass between the colliding opponents is often an important factor. Vulnerable road users can be spared by limiting the driving speed of motorized vehicles and separating unequal road user types as much as possible.

From a cycling perspective, this implies that cyclists are among the most vulnerable road users.

But in our culture, there’s an entitlement that comes with owning and driving a motorized vehicle.  At my place of work, we have “health and safety moments” where before each meeting someone can speak up about an issue relating to health and/or safety.  One week, someone said that in winter when roads are slippery, someone could jump out in front of your car.  If this happens a night, you might not see them.  So the recommendation was: wear bright clothing and don’t run across the road at night if roads are slippery.  There was no mention about driving more cautiously and in control (until I added a comment).

The media doesn’t help.  Somewhere along the way, our mindset has turned to victim-blaming.  You see it in sexual assault cases (“What was she wearing?”; “How much did she have to drink?”…).  You also see it in crashes that involve a cyclist or pedestrian: “Was he/she wearing a helmet?”; “Were they paying attention at that cross-walk”?; “They should have been wearing brighter clothing?”.

Bicycling.com has an article about victim-blaming in the media here.  There are good examples (plus a few I’ve found elsewhere):

  • Bicyclist Struck, Killed By Car Near Palo Alto.
  • Friends Remember Cyclist Killed In Tulsa Truck Accident
  • Des Plaines woman, 66, dies when bicycle collides with car in Aurora
  • Cyclist seriously injured after being struck by car in Weston

What are the common themes in these headlines? In each case, there’s a human who is a vulnerable road user: “bicyclist”, “cyclist”, “woman”.  However, also in each case, the less-vulnerable human in the motorized vehicle isn’t even mentioned.  Also notice the use of the passive voice in the sentences such as: “… struck by car…”.  This kind of language places responsibility on the more vulnerable human in a not-so-subtle act of victim blaming because it fails to acknowledge the fact that the “car” or “truck” was operated by a human.

You’d never read “man shot by gun” or “victim was stabbed four times by a knife”.  There’s an action that is missing from these headlines.

So I’ve corrected these headlines should be re-written in the active voice:

  • Driver of a car strikes and kills cyclist.
  • Friends remember cyclist who was killed by the driver of a truck in Tulsa
  • Driver of a car crashes into and kills a woman, 66, from Des Plaines
  • Driver of a car crashes into and injures cyclist in Weston

In short, here are a few tips (please add more in the comments section!):

For the media:  (1) don’t use the word “accident”, (2) avoid passive voice, (3) humanize the driver of the motorized vehicle.

For city planners: (1) don’t design roads where cars can drive 80 or 100 km/h and put up a 50 km/hr speed limit sign, (2) all neighbourhood streets should have a speed limit of 30 km/h (3) cycling infrastructure: a network of bike lanes.

For drivers: (1) be smart and respectful; you’re driving a 2000 pound piece of metal at high speeds.  You’re protected but others around you are not.  Cyclists and pedestrians are humans, just like you.

(side note: My home in Waterloo is on a suburban street – just down the street from a K-8 school. Right in front of the school, there’s a speed hump and a School Zone sign.  Just past the school driveway, there’s a sign that says 40 km/h zone ENDS!  This implies the speed limit goes back up to 50 km/h???  There’s a turn ahead in this photo.  Lots of cars parked on the street.  50 is way too fast!)

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My monthly update blogs have, admittedly, been inconsistent.  However, I’ve got a little time on my hands so I thought I’d provide an update in my little cycling world.  I had a good month, but also a very non-typical month of cycling.

Within these blog pages, I’ve talked about my love for cycling outdoors – the fresh air, the scenery.  And I’ve discussed my lack of motivation and interest in training indoors.  I’ve always had a bike set up on a trainer in my basement at home but seldom used it in recent years.  I’ve also had winters where I signed up for weekly indoor cycling classes with focused workouts, including on systems that allow for power measurements and virtual racing. At home, I’ve used training videos with structured workouts, but the motivation has been hard to come by in the last decade or so.

This changed when I had the opportunity to buy a used power meter wheel for my indoor bike, and now I’ve entered the world of Functional Threshold Power, Sweet Spot, Tempo and other terms that I’d only heard in conversation.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll take riding outdoors any day over indoors.  But given the crappy weather we often get in winter here in Ontario, having an indoor option that motivates me is something new and exciting.

Having said all that, here’s my summary of January 2019:

  • Distance cycled outdoors: 180 km
  • Distance cycled indoors: 0
  • Indoor time on trainer: 4.6 hours
  • Total rides: 13 (4 outdoor, 9 indoor)
  • Functional Threshold Power (FTP) : January 10: 162, January 24: 180

There are a lot of different websites/apps that offer different ways to train with power.  The most popular among people I know is Zwift, but I decided to join TrainerRoad, partly because it’s cheaper but also because I like numbers over graphics.  TrainerRoad offers dozens of different workouts as short as 20-30 minutes to over 3 hours.  Each workout is designed on the basis of each cyclists individual FTP.  There’s a Ramp Test that estimates your FTP.  I plan to do this test every month to see if I’m improving my fitness.  Basically, in an FTP ramp test, you steadily increase your effort until you can no longer continue.  For me, the main barrier for stopping is my brain.  I start to think… “wow, this sucks… I’m gasping for air and don’t want to continue”.  Sometimes that barrier hits early, and sometimes I can push through it a bit.

My first Ramp Test got me an FTP of 162 watts.  I thought it seemed low, but my next workouts used this value.  After a few workouts that seemed easy, I did another FTP test and got a value of 180 watts.  This made my workouts harder, which is a good thing.  My fitness certainly didn’t increase by this amount over just a couple of weeks, but I was definitely able to push harder the second time because I was able to push past that mental barrier.

I can now customize my workouts based on my FTP.  During my day job, I work with an elite road cyclist who provides insight and support into my latest obsession.  I now have Sweet Spot, Tabata, Endurance and Tempo workouts.  My workouts tend to be anywhere from 20 minutes to about an hour.  I still don’t have patience to sit on my stationary bike any longer than that.

In addition to my nine indoor rides, I did manage to get out for four outdoor rides in the first half of January.  Here’s a heatmap of my 2019 outdoor rides:

All of these rides were gravel grinders with the Waterloo Cycling Club and friends.  The first half of January was noticeably warmer than the second half.  This allowed me to get outside more.  Once the snow arrived and temperatures dropped, motivation to get outside became more difficult.  We were also greeted with a couple of freeze-thaw cycles so even if it got warm, roads were icy.

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First a bit of “History of Gravel Grinders with the WCC”.  Back in about 2012, I started riding on Saturday mornings in the fall with some friends.  The mountain bike trails were too wet and the paved roads were cold and windy, so we decided to explore rail trails and gravel roads where speeds would be slower and we’d hopefully get some shield from the wind.

Within a year, our unofficial rides (typically organized via email and Twitter) became official club rides and more people showed up. Usually, we’d split in to two groups: A fast group and my group!

This story begins on a typical fall Saturday morning in 2015.  November 28, to be precise.  A group of over a dozen cyclists showed up for the 8:30am meeting time in St. Jacobs.  I’d plotted out a route in Strava earlier in the week so riders could download and follow on their on if they wanted to.

This route headed north from St. Jacobs, to Elmira, then past Elmira to some of the fine gravel roads in that area before returning south along Yatton Road towards Hawkesville. North of Elmira, the faster group went off on their own, and my group is shown here:

L-R: Alain, Kevin, Kevin, Taryn, Bob, Steve, Kari, Doug, Joel (I think Bill took the photo)

The Conestoga River passes through Hawkesville and there’s one main bridge that crosses the river.  There are also a couple of smaller crossings that vehicle traffic avoids. The planned route was to take Temperance Rd and avoid the main bridge, instead following one of the “smaller” bridges. As group leader that day, I approached the bridge cautiously.  Clearly, this low-lying concrete structure was under the swift-moving water of the Conestoga River.  But as I got closer, I realized that it wasn’t too deep and I’d be able to ride across.

I started to pedal and the water got deeper to the point where I couldn’t pedal. So I stepped off the bike.  Feet soaked, I dragged my bike through the knee-deep river that had a surprisingly strong current! At one point, the current nearly pulled the bike out of my hands!  I eventually made it across and looked back.  No one had followed me.

The following photos document the crossing.  I believe the photos were taken by Bill F.

Yeah, OK, maybe it’s a little deeper than “knee deep”. When I made it across safely, I called out asking why no one followed me! WCC then-president Alain F. (green helmet) was probably telling the group…. That’s NOT how to lead a group ride! At this point, the group was looking at each other, saying… I’m not going across, no way. And they turned around…

We met up on the other side.  My feet were soaked and cold, but thankfully we didn’t have far to go to complete the ride.

When I got home, I checked Strava and I got messages that one of the riders in the fast group complete the same feat!  My buddy Mike C. was the lone rider from the fast group to get across that river, and he posted this photo after he crossed:

Mike C.’s photo, looking back at the remaining riders in the fast group, after he crossed the flooded bridge, minutes before my group to there.So there were two of us that made the crossing that day.  Two crazy people who took a risk that worked out. Would I do it again?  Not likely… I was in my 40s at the time, and I didn’t know any better…  I don’t know if wisdom comes at 50, or if wisdom comes after taking risks like this…. but I feel wiser.

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So…. here we are.  Another year over, and a new one’s just begun. And you know what that means?  Numbers and maps – two of my favourite things when it comes to cycling and motivation.

So here’s my Cycling year 2018 in numbers (sources: strava.com, veloviewer.comhttp://www.jonathanokeeffe.com/strava/annualSummary.php)

  • Total distance: 5450 kilometres (most km’s I’ve cycled in a calendar year!)
  • Best Month: June (935 km)
  • Total time cycling: 241 hours (10 days)
  • Total elevation gain: over 36 km
  • Active cycling days: 108 (135 activities)
  • Longest Ride: 128 km
  • Bike commuting distance: 1478 km
  • Average cycling speed: 22.6 km/hour
  • Most frequent riding buddy: Kelly M. (22 rides, 21.1 hours), Taryn D. (11 rides, 21.0 hours)
  • Different bikes ridden:
    • Road bike: 1967 km
    • Gravel bike: 2572 km
    • Fat bike: 400 km
    • Mountain bike: 42 km
    • Winter gravel bike: 453 km
    • Bike share (Toronto): 16 km

And here are some graphics and maps (we engineers love graphics and maps!)

Here’s my entire 2018 cycling heatmap, from as far north as Killbear Provincial Park, to as far south as Niagara Region.

2018 Cycling Heatmap

My local heatmap for 2018 looks like this map below.  Warmer colours show routes that were cycled more frequently, so you can see my commute to Guelph as bright yellow.

Local cycling heatmap for 2018. All cycling photos that I posted to Strava. 2018 ride summary from veloviewer.com
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I’ll be writing a 2018 summary but I thought I’d start with some of my favourite cycling photos of the year!

January – In December 2017, we had a lot of snow and cold temperatures.  That made the first two weeks of January perfect for fat biking in the snow.  It didn’t last of course.  A mid-January thaw broke up the ice on the river and the remainder of winter was a mixture of rain and snow with fluctuating temperatures.

Snowy single track by the frozen creek

A flash flood in January caused the ice on the frozen river to be pushed way up the river banks.February – Rides were a mixture of gravel and (light) snow.

Chasing gravel. Tracks in the snow.

March – A short trip to the Niagara Region over March Break allowed me to explore the Niagara River and Falls.

Niagara Falls. Upstream from the Falls.

April – More gravel griding and a photo of the final climb at P2A

P2A – the final climb.  Photo by Lauren Daniells Chasing more gravel!

May – A vintage gravel classic in Creemore!

Mark B., Dave G., Alain F. and moi at Turas Mor, Creemore,. ON. The hills around Creemore go up, up and up!

June – A ride to Dundas, ON with a couple friends to ride up Clara’s Climb, plus my 2018 fund raiser – Ride Don’t Hide – 80 km in the rain!

The top of Clara’s Climb, Dundas, ON. Ride Don’t Hide – 80 km in the rain but at least I had motorcycle support!

July – Bike share in Toronto and chasing silhouettes.

Bike Share at sunset – Toronto. Just me… and 2D me.

August – Non-biking vacation in Newfoundland and riding in Toronto

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