Archive for March 2011

With Spring Comes…   Leave a comment

I know you are expecting me to say “the start of a new cycling season” – perhaps I’ll tell you about getting out on the road for my first ride of the year. Well even though yesterday was the first Saturday of Spring 2011, I actually didn’t get out on the bike (as much as I would have loved to). Truth is … I was on the golf course.

At Riverside Golf Course in Edmonton

Bigger truth is … I wasn’t golfing (as much as I do enjoy that when I can). No, golfing was not even a remote possibility in this year when winter will just not break and the ground is buried under half a meter of snow!

Snow!? The only logical thing to do is get out the skis and take advantage of it.

My skis in the tracks

I am embarrassed to admit that this was the first time I’ve had my skis out in the 2010/2011 winter season (and here it was spring already!) I’m not sure what happened – just busy I guess and by the time we got through January I suppose I was just thinking forward to spring and cycling. Anyway, I found my trusty old skis and some poles in the garage and dug my boots out of a bin in the basement. I found some old wax that I figured would work for the minus single digit temperatures and rubbed it on. I threw on some clothes that would do the job and headed over to one of my favorite local cross-country ski sites – Edmonton’s Riverside Golf course. I wasn’t sure what to expect for ski conditions. We had some thawing in late winter which I expected would have made the tracks icy and left the off track areas covered in a crust of ice.

Tracks on the Fairway

I was pleasantly surprised – the conditions were excellent. A light snow over the last week had covered any ice there may have been on the tracks and when I went off-track I found a bit of a crust but nothing serious. I started off skiing down the tracks along the sides of the fairway, happy to get into that nice kick and glide rhythm. Before long I was off making my own tracks. It took a bit of effort to break through the snow but I was enjoying myself and I didn’t mind.

I was surprised not to see even one other skier out on the course. The snow conditions were great  and with a temperature of about -5C, you can’t complain about the weather (not for skiing anyway).

Tracks of a Herringbone Climb

After a bit of time skiing the flats I found myself at one of my favorite playgrounds. At the east side of Riverside the golf course creeps up the bank of the North Saskatchewan River. this makes for some challenging elevated greens in golf season and some hills on which to practice ski turns in winter (or early spring). The only thing about downhill skiing on x-country is you are on your own – no tow or lifts . If you want to come down you’ve got to climb up. So that what I did – a couple of times (only). You turn the tips of your skis out so you don’t slide downhill and step, step, step.

These hills aren’t too steep, not too long, but they so allow one to get up a bit of momentum in order to carve a turn or two. I love doing telemark turns  on my cross county skis. I was very pleased too link two simple turns together on my first run down. Then  I turned around and “herringboned” back up hill for a second run.

What goes up...

For my second downhill, I started a little higher, went a little faster and … well you can probably guess where this is going. I linked a couple of turns together then found myself going a bit too fast through the bit-too-crusty snow. My skis went apart and down I went (see the big depression in the snow in the photo). That was when I truly realized how much snow there was on the ground. It was a challenge to get myself upright; to twist myself around and then push my poles through to the ground so I could leverage myself back upright.

After that fun I stuck mainly to the relative flats of the open fairways (but I did go down one more time and had even more trouble getting upright). I ended up being out skiing for an hour and a half. Curiously I did not see any other skier  but on the way back I did step off the trail to let a mountain biker go by.

I started off the day and weekend as a frustrated and unhappy cyclist, but I was happy to discover my happy inner skier.

As for cycling … maybe next weekend (but hopefully there will be one of two more ski outing too)

Posted March 27, 2011 by Randy Talbot in cross training

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2010 Golden Triangle Day 3 – Golden to Castle Mountain Junction   1 comment

The final day of the 2010 Golden Triangle on May 24th would take us from Golden B.C., through the Kicking Horse Pass, back to Castle Mountain Junction in Banff National Park. It was a beautiful morning that greeted us – sunshine and blue skies. After a quick breakfast out behind Mary’s Motel where we had spent the night, we were off.  My knee felt good enough to start the day but I told myself that if it got bad I’d call it quits and hitch a ride in our support van. As for my bike, I was still missing 4 of the 5 bolts holding my chain rings on but it seemed secure enough to give it a try. If I had mechanical difficulty I had decided I would end my ride.

It was a short ride to the edge of town, onto the Trans-Canada highway and the climb began. Even though traffic was busy (far busier than on the previous day’s ride), it was still early (7:30) and the highway had a nice shoulder for most of the climb, so the ride was non-stressful.

Morning over Golden

And climb we did – it was about 21 km from Golden to the top of this climb. This included a couple of level stretches but basically it was low gear climbing for over an hour. There was some great scenery on the way up as the highway progressed along the steep edge of the Kicking Horse River Canyon.

The long climb out of Golden

At about 18Km we reached the bridge over (way over) the Kicking Horse River

Bridge over the Kicking Horse

The Kicking Horse River Far Below

Another 3 km and we reached the summit and then another 4 K and we were into Yoho National Park. This was a beautiful section of the ride – beautiful snow capped mountains wherever one looks and a good shoulder on the road so that it is safe to take in a bit of the scenery.

Most of the time the EBTC rest stops would be at a different location from the stops for the much larger EVCC contingent, but in this case they were at the same picnic area.

Rest Stop in Yoho National Park

Highway and Mountains in Yoho National Park

It was another couple of hours of beautiful mountain riding  until we arrived at our lunch stop in Field B.C.

Yoho National Park panorama

Lunch Stop in Field BC

It was a this point that I decided to call it quits to my day of riding. The previous hour had not been fun. Sure the air was fresh and the scenery was great but I had a pain in my knee with every pedal stroke. It would have been nice to say I covered the whole 300K distance on my own but I’ve done that before so that bragging point was not important. More important to me at this point was not incurring a long-term injury that could hamper my cycling plans for the upcoming summer. Perhaps amazingly, my other potential ride-ending problem, the 4 lost chain ring bolts, had not been an issue through the morning’s ride. So after making and putting down a couple  cheese-on-bun sandwiches, I secured my bike to our support van with a couple of others who also decided to not ride any more that day. By this time the rest of our EBTC group was already well down the road.

Leaving Field there was another climb, a major pass with a rise of 400m over the next 18K to the continental divide and the border between Yoho and Banff National Parks. Trying to take  photos from a moving van certainly reminded me of why I prefer to cycle. On the bike I can stop virtually anytime, anywhere (particularly on these park roads with generous shoulders). In a motor vehicle you have to stop at a designated viewpoint, picnic ground, etc. Even if the shoulder and the traffic levels would allow one to stop between these sites there is still the fact that by the time you stop you’ve traveled some distance from the point at which you might have seen something that inspired a photo.

In the van we did stop a couple of times before the end of the journey. The first time was when we noticed a lot of other vehicles slowing down or parked in the middle of nowhere. What we saw was a rare sight – a grizzly bear:

Grizzly

While my first thought is to say that I am sure glad I wasn’t on my bike at this time, that would be a bit of an over-dramatization.  This bear looks close (thanks to a telephoto lens and image cropping) but was a long way (200-300 m?) from the highway –  up a slope by some railway tracks – and paying no attention to the dozens of people watching him.

The next stop, was at the cyclist’s last designated rest stop, at Lake Louise. It wasn’t much of a photo opportunity because we were basically in a busy parking lot of a suburban mall. However if one lifted one’s gaze you are reminded that you are at one of the most beautiful places on the planet and a world-class ski resort that was probably very busy just a month earlier:

Lake Louise

Leaving Lake Louise, the cyclists turned onto the quiet old highway, the Bow Valley Parkway, for the final 25K of the trip. While the ride into Lake Louise had been on the traffic-laden main highways, the Bow Valley Parkway runs parallel to the main highway with little traffic, through a shading and aromatic evergreen forest. I regretted not being able to ride this stretch.

By 2:30 on this Monday afternoon we were back at our vehicles at the Golden Triangle starting point at Castle Mountain Junction. I collected my gear and bike from the van and loaded everything into my car. After farewells to my new EBTC friends, I was back on the road for the 5 hour drive back to Edmonton – happy to have participated in my first cycle tour in a number of years – and already planning for the next one.

End of the Ride - back at Castle Mountain

To see more of my photos from this day, please visit my Facebook album.

2010 Golden Triangle Day 2 – Radium to Golden   1 comment

Day 2 of the ride started off good. After a soak in the Radium hot springs the previous evening and then a good night’s sleep I was ready to go. first of course we fueled up at a good communal breakfast. I think we were pulling out of the motel parking lot around 8:45. The weather was cool (single digits) but dry. Wearing long pants and a jacket over my long sleeve jersey, I was very comfortable.

The ride north from Radium to Golden is just a little over 100K and relatively flat(some climbs but no mountain passes). Highway 95  follows the valley between two mountain ranges providing  mountain scenery without the climbs. In the valley is the Columbia river which is broken up into many channels and picturesque  little lakes. The terrain beside the road is mainly rangeland and farmland. It was rural but not wild country one wouldn’t go very far before seeing a driveway leading to a house set back from the highway.

Between the 20-some riders with the EBTC and the 300 with the EVCC there were a lot of cyclist on the road this day but it was never crowded. Towards the end of the day I would ride many kilometers before catching or passing another cyclist.

The Columbia River Valley

The EBTC support van at a roadside rest stop

My touring bicycle

The day was peaceful, enjoyable and eventful (except for one story yet to come). I stopped many times to take photos along the way (which made it a little difficult to keep up with the group (I think I did slip to the back of the back). I was not helped by a knee pain that developed about mid day and got progressively worse. This is not a chronic injury nor could I trace it to any specific incident, so I just kept moving along and using photo stops to settle the knee down.

Black Bear

Along the route I would see a black bear down by the river. It was a fair distance (a few hundred meters) away and across the road, down a hill on the other side of dual railway tracks and across a hundred meters of marsh, so there was never any worry of an encounter.  I was also fortunate to see a young (but large) bird-of-prey (not sure what kind) in a nest – pretty cool! I stopped for awhile to watch as the mother left the nest, presumably on a hunting expedition while the baby remained in the nest squawking. It is interesting to note that his nest was not in a natural habitat but rather located at the top of a pole that had probably been set up to provide a nesting habitat.

Bird in a Nest

By late afternoon, I was pretty alone on the road – there were a few others but not many. My knee continued to hurt but I soldiered eventually  using my good leg for most of my power. Also late in the afternoon my crank developed an annoying creak. With my knee hurting I didn’t feel like stopping to check out the crank – another 20km or less and I’d be in Golden and then could assess the situation. Unfortunately as I was going up one hill I discovered that I couldn’t shift my front derailleur properly and when I looked down I discovered that my large chainwheel was wobbling. Still I figured i could carry on with just my smaller chainwheel – just a little farther to go. Then my chain fell off and I had to stop to fix it. At that point I looked more closely at my crank and chainwheels. I discovered that a bolt that holds the chainwheels  together was lose – no it was missing! Looking more closely I discovered I wasn’t missing just one of the bolts but two … three…four of the 5 bolts! How could that happen?!

Anyway I got out my tools, tightened up the remaining bolt very securely, left my chain on the small inner chainring and hobbled on into Golden. I found the motel we were staying at, caught up with the group, cleaned up and had a great dinner.

In the evening I had a little time to wander around the town of Golden and take a few pictures. I love the fast and cold Kicking Horse River

Kicking Horse River in Golden B.C.

As I marked the end of Day 2 I was thinking ahead to the next day, wondering if my bike and my knee would be up to some serious mountain passes on the return to Castle Mountain Junction.

To see many more photos of the wonderful scenery from this day please visit my Facebook album. Also check out my blogs of Day 1 and Day 3 of this tour

Posted March 6, 2011 by Randy Talbot in Cycle Touring

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