Archive for May 2012

A Dayride to Fort Saskatchewan   1 comment

With a couple of days of rain this week and a couple of days of fatigue, here it was Friday already and I hadn’t been out on the bike since Sunday’s Target the Tour group training ride. That one ride will not be enough by itself to get me into shape for touring the Silver Triangle in June. My plan has been to get in two progressively longer rides each week in addition to moderate daily rides. So today would have to be a longer ride. The weather looked fine so I decided to try a new route of what I estimated to be about a 75K distance – from central Edmonton to Fort Saskatchewan (a small city northeast of Edmonton).

Meridian Street

As soon as I had finished watching the day’s coverage of the Giro d’Italia. I got ready and headed out to the bike. At this point I discovered a small technical issue (actually two of them). Normally I wear my Garmin HRM/GPS and have my Cateye cycle computer (odometer, speedometer etc.) on the bike. For some reason the Garmin would not turn on and a probelm with a loose wire on the Cateye meant it was only intermittently getting a signal from the wheel sensor. The net result was I had not indications of speed or distance. On the way home I turned on the GPS on my iPhone which indicated a distance of about 36+ kilometers, so counting a couple of extra Ks in Ft. Sask my total was likely close to the estimated 75K.

My route to through Edmonton to the northeast was my usual (Dawson Park, Ada Boulevard, Rundle Park, Hermitage Park) along the bike paths and routes. From the top of the valley at the North end of Hermitage Park I dipsy-doodled my way north through the residential subdivisions until I reached the countryside at 153rd Avenue [map]. A couple of kilometers east I hit Meridian Street, a lightly-traveled rural road, and headed north. this road passes through farmland and, a few small acreage subdivisions. The road is in pretty good condition and the ride is pleasant!

A Sikh Temple in the distance across a fallow field

Approximately 8K north, Meridian Street is intersected by the Fort Road, which I turned right and followed. However, looking northwest from that point, across the fields and behind some trees one can see the unexpected sire of an ornate Sikh temple.

Turn onto Fort Road

Old Fort Road – an Idyllic (if rough) Country Road

The Fort Road is busier, as would be expected from the center and shoulder line markings, but it wasn’t too bad, late morning when I was there. I followed this road northeast for 4 or 5 kilometers until it intersects Manning Drive (Highway 15). At this intersection it is necessary to turn right and travel on the highway.  It is not a bad stretch of road, it starts off divided with a wide  shoulder (then becomes undivided but still with a generous shoulder.

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The highway stretch is just for a couple of kilometers before I turned right onto the Old Fort Road (Township Road 545). This is another quiet road through the farmland – very peaceful. Well peaceful but with a very rough road surface. It was paved and not particularly broken up but it was kind of jarring. The fact that I had a very-unusual-for-me headache today meant that I really noticed the roughness.

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The Highway Bridge to Ft. Saskatchewan

The Old Fort Road takes us to just below the highway bridge that crosses the North Saskatchewan River and leads into the City of Fort Saskatchewan. To get onto the highway it is necessary to first turn north onto a little road before turning right onto the highway.

This bridge crossing was my least favorite part of the ride – the traffic was moderately heavy (with big trucks), the shoulder was narrow compared to the open highway and the shoulder was also a bit rough and dirty. Full focus is required is required for a few hundred meters and I appreciated my rear view mirror

Once across the bridge the shoulder widens and taking the exit to the right, one is in the City. After first going west, I found downtown was to the east and offered more food options. I found a place to grab some lunch and took a break for half an hour or so then headed back, along basically the same route.

Again the bridge crossing was the only real concern but once across, I turned right and went back south, under the bridge and along the old Fort Road. Shortly back on to this road I came to a railway crossing where care was called for (as indeed it was when I  crossed on the way out). The timbers are old and rough and the rails are at quite an angle to the road but again traffic was light so there was no problem in taking it very slow.

Old Railway Crossing on the Old Fort Road

My return route deviated from the outgoing one only slightly as I was coming back into the Northeast Edmonton residential area. There was construction on the little dirt road I had taken to get to 153 Avenue so I couldn’t turn off 153rd at the same point.

A Gravel “Connector” Path

I continued west to 18th St., then went south on a little gravel walkway (after having to carry my bike over a barrier). This gravel path was only about 300 meters before I got back on the residential road. It wasn’t a bad ride on my touring bike (with a bit wider tires) and would have been no problem on a mountain bike. I retraced my route back to where I could connect with the bike path at the end of Hermitage Park. From there it was just 15K or about 45 minutes) to home. Well “just” that with a couple of  significant climbs, the only real ones since about 50K back. Overall this was a very flat route.

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I did like this route and look forward to riding it again.

Quiet Countryside on the Road to Fort Saskatchewan

 

In the Zone   1 comment

Another Sunday. another ride with the EBTC‘s Target the Tour Classic group.

Receiving Pre-ride Instructions

It was a beautiful day for a ride – a bit cool, but sunny and with no wind. I rode in cycling shorts with a jacket over my jersey for the first half of the ride and was  comfortable. Today’s route was 66 Kilometers, so the longest of these group training rides this year. The group was again a healthy size, of about 40 riders. I arrived a little bit late so ended up starting at the very back of the pack, again. The route started off south – a long 13K straight stretch.

On the Road

Along this stretch, I was stopped to take a few photos when another rider asked if I might have some some chain lube in my large read rack bag. Indeed I did! I prefer to have my chain lubed and ready to go before a ride but encountering rain along a ride  has sometimes necessitated re-lubing during the ride, so I do like to carry a small bottle of lubricant with me and I was happy to be able to help out.

A Hill (sans fool) in the Relatively Flat Central Alberta Landscape

I found I wasn’t stopping as often to take photos today. the landscape was still beautiful and each week has been a little different form the weeks before , but I fear I am getting a bit desensitized to the scenery as it becomes familiar from riding in the same area week after week. One thing that stood out for me today was the color of the water in the small lakes and ponds – very blue!

Prairie Pond

Through the first half of the ride I continued to  lag near the back of the pack and often could not see the next rider ahead of me for a long time.

Along Wye Road

This week’s route again featured a variety of roads, mostly quiet country road but also some secondary highways, 2 lanes with moderate traffic and wide or narrow shoulders. For the 5K approaching the 40K mark we were traveling south east on Wye Road towards north Cooking Lake. For some reason this stretch was uniquely swarming with little bugs. It was absolutely necessary not to be riding along breathing through an open mouth. Instead I found I had to breath though my closed teeth. I was also glad to be wearing glasses but had to keep my head up and glasses forward so as not to get bugs in the eyes. It was like watching a show of  traveling at warp speed through a starfield – quite amazing.

Fortunately these bugs were only an issue for a short distance. At 40K I stopped to take off my jacket and to down an energy bar before we headed north off of the highway and back onto the country quiet roads. A minor frustration occurred on this stretch as I had inadvertently turned off my heart rate/GPS monitor when I  took my jacket off and didn’t realize it until I was a further 3 and a half kilometers up the road. this then through off distance markers on the day’s route map.

Riding Beside Wetlands

It was somewhere around the 50K mark that I lost sight of the rider behind me and I never did catch up with anyone in front of me. I was riding solo and that was fine with me. the roads were good, our maps were good and I was feeling strong. I just kept plugging away at a good cadence and soon found myself “in the zone”.

The zone is a nice place to be – the riding is free and easy. I was proceeding north along Range Road 215 into the final 10K of the ride. Somehow, in this “zone”, I missed  a turn-off. I didn’t realize it until I saw the sign indicating that I was approaching Highway 16, The Yellowhead. I should have turned west 3K back. I could have backtracked but decided to brave the highway. It is a very busy 4-lane divided highway but does have wide shoulders, so I decided to take it for 5K.

Westbound on the Yellowhead

 

Again this highway was not part of the official route and I wouldn’t recommend it, but it wasn’t that bad. I was thankful for having a rear-view mirror as I probably spent half my time keeping an eye on the traffic coming up behind me. At the first opportunity I got off of the highway, which happened to coincide with the Ardrossan turn-off, where I was able to get back on the route for the last couple of kilometers.

But instead of the Yellowhead image, I choose to remember the peaceful rural roads from today:

Peaceful Rural Road

 

A Mid-May 70K Training Ride   3 comments

Happy Zen Cyclist

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“Are my tire pressures low?”

“I think my chain needs to be re-lubed”

“Weren’t my hubs supposed to be sealed and never need maintenance? They must be dragging ”

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Thoughts like those raced through my mind yesterday, two and a half hours into what would be nearly 4 hours in the saddle. I accomplished my longest ride of the season, covering 70 Kilometers.

River Road Cycling Path

Again, I was able to rack up this distance riding mostly on the trails through the river valley  in Edmonton. I may sometimes complain about the condition of the paths these days, but it sure is nice to have the pleasant scenery to cycle through and not to have to deal with motor vehicles.

Further along River Road

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It was a cool May morning as I set out – about 8C degrees. Even though it was sunny, I did wear a jacket over my jersey and left it on for 3/4 of the ride. I also found that my legs (in shorts) were cool and my toes got  a bit numb.

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I linked my 40K westbound route with my 30K eastern route to rack up the  distance today. I started along the northside paths to to Groat Road. The long, flat section along River Road is a good way to warm up.

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I hit my first climb out of the river valley at about 7K after crossing Groat Bridge and heading up Groat Road. My route would  give me a surprising amount of climbing – I ascended to the top of the river valley about 10 times. My GPS monitor indicated about 870 meters of elevation changes.

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Talus Dome Sculpture

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As the bike path  crosses under the Quesnel Bridge [map]. I see a fascinating but controversial public sculpture, the Talus Dome, at the south end of the bridge, on the east side. I very much like this one – maybe because it reminds me of ball bearings but the setting beside a freeway just doesn’t do it justice. Cyclists probably get a better view than do the motorists and I think it will look better once the landscaping at the base is complete.

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The ride proceeded uneventfully. I reached my turnaround point in Terwilligar at 20K and started by journey east which I would do along the south side of the river all the way to Rundle Park. This route involved 4 major climbs (i.e. to the top of the river bank) and a few smaller ones.

Edmonton River Valley Path

By the time I got back to the downtown area, I’d covered 40K, just over half of my goal, in a couple of hours without any real rests. I was starting to feel a bit tired, a bit slower and getting hungry. I usually like to pack along an energy bar for times like this but I didn’t have any at home today. I figured I could pick up a snack along the way, but the downside of my route is that it doesn’t pass by any convenience store. I was looking forward to getting to Rundle Park where I know they have a snack bar/ concession.

Reflections in a Rundle Park pond

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By the time I crossed into Rundle Park [map]. I’d covered over 50K and was certainly looking forward to a break. The park was looking particularly attractive. The lakes have been refilled with water and are in their reflective wonder.

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I made my way over to the pavilion but – the snack bar was closed!  I looked around hoping to at least find a vending machine but one was not obvious, so I continued on my ride. I had another 20K to go, so figured I’d just have to do it on my built in energy reserves (5 or 10 Kilos of which I wouldn’t mind burning off).

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It was around now that those voices got loud. I found my self looking down at my tires to see if they look flat and wondering about all of the other mechanical reasons that might account for my slowing pace. Not that I was really fooled; I may have been tiring but still could reason that my low energy levels and muscle fatigue were the most likely culprits.

I continued north from Rundle Park through Hermitage Park [map], amongst the dogs and up to the top of the riverbank at 20th Street, before heading back down on the 15K return trip.

Path Through Hermitage Park

I did find my pace fell off  noticeably  over the last half of the ride but I still felt pretty good. Having been on the bike for so long, my neck got a little sore but that certainly reminded me of one of the areas that I am training – It is NOT all about the legs!

I look back on that ride with pleasure, a sense of accomplishment. Now, in preparing for next month’s Silver Triangle, I just have to build up to cover a 50% greater distance in one day, then do it for three consecutive days and  oh, do it in mountainous terrain.

Posted May 18, 2012 by Randy Talbot in Cycling

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Antler Lake Training Ride   Leave a comment

Sunday, May 13th, the fourth Target the Tour training ride and what a beautiful day it was. As we gathered for  our 0930 start, the sun was shining, the temperature a very comfortable 15C, there was no wind to speak of and the landscape had greened-up significantly.

The distance of this week’s ride was 45K – not an increase in distance, so the goal of the week was to pick up the pace a notch or two. The group of maybe 30 or 40 riders listened to an informative and entertaining pre-ride talk on re-fuelling on the road and then we were off.  The group spread out fairly quickly once we got on the road. The route took us out southeast of our usual starting point at the Country Boyz Tempo on Highway 16, through Ardrossan and on towards Antler Lake.

The group stretches out on a quiet undulating road in rural Alberta

The roads were a mix of the very quiet country road with a few stretches along busier roads, with shoulders and moderate vehicular traffic. As was pointed out, the Tour de l’Alberta, for which this series of training rides is preparing us for, will be along highways so we must train to be comfortable riding in those conditions.

Heading east along the busier secondary Highway 530

Pulling a Trailer

As we rode along it was very nice to have had a number of people comment that they have seen my photos/blog of our earlier rides. That was certainly nice to hear. I wasn’t always able to chat with these people on the road but look forward to doing so later.

This day’s ride again to took me to roads I’d never traveled and places I’d not seen, even though so close to Edmonton. The turnaround point was Antler Lake [map}, a small prairie lake just southwest of Elk Island National Park. We cycled around the  community on the east side of the lake – I was surprised to see how many lakeside homes/properties there were.

Wide shoulders

Our route back took us for awhile along the  busier Highway 630 but fortunately there was a nice wide shoulder on which to ride and really not to much traffic. A gas station/convenience store along this stretch offered an opportunity to take a brief rest and re-fuel

We crossed railway tracks a couple of times and both times I had to wait as freight trains thundered by. I was certainly reminded how important rail  is for moving goods around this country. As it turned out, the second time we waited we needed have as our turn-off was the  still a little further down the highway.

Waiting for the train

 

Roadside/trackside Pond

Bird in the reeds

 

Being out in the country on a quiet morning gives one the opportunity to soak-in nature. I particularly enjoy riding past the many ponds, especially when they are alive with the croaking of heard (but unseen) frogs. Then there is the bird life: ducks, geese, red-winged blackbirds to name just a few that I saw on that morning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rolling Road

Horses among the trees

 

 

Not all  of the animal life was wild – there were lots of dogs, a couple of pigs and some horses seen along the ride.

 

 

Windmill

 

As we rode back north, and particularly west on Highway 530, I noticed a headwind (at a point where I hadn’t notice a tailwind on the way out). The wind was brisk enough that for short times went down onto my handlebar drops to reduce wind resistance a bit.

 

 

Finally we cycled up through Ardrossan and made the turn onto the service road paralleling the Yellowhead Highway. Even though it had not been a particularly long ride, it did feel  good to be in that homestretch and to see our starting /finishing point.

In the home stretch … another good ride!

Back in the parking lot it was the usual post ride ritual of shedding the helmet, gloves and cycling shoes and squeezing my bike into the back of my car. After that there were a few minutes to chat and meet a couple new faces, before driving home.

More photos from my cycling excursions (and many other things) can be found on my Flickr photostream.

Green Day 2012   Leave a comment

Yesterday (May 7th, 2012) was another first (for this year anyway). It’s what I like to call “green day”  – the day on which the Edmonton river valley suddenly turns very green as the trees burst out in leaf and the day when my spirit takes a noticeable jump!

The Greening of the Trees (Rundle Park)

I was out on the bike and I had a good ride – my longest of the season, covering a distance of 60K in just over 3 hours, (without a major rest break). The sun was shining so I broke out the sunscreen for the first time this year. The temperature was up to 20 so I was quite comfortable in shorts and a light short sleeve jersey (that’s the way I like to ride). Also at that temperature and distance I paid attention to my hydration. I’m not sure if I did drink enough but I did make a point of having a swallow or two of water every 5 kilometers.

To get the 60K distance along the Edmonton river valley bike trails, I basically (although not exactly) combined my 20K east loop with my 40K west out-and-back route. I started out east, through Dawson Park, along Ada Boulevard on the top of the north river bank to Rundle Park [map]. After a  loop around Rundle,  I crossed over to Gold Bar on the south side of the river.

The North Saskatchewan River (high and ice-free) – looking west from near Rundle/Gold Bar parks

It was my first time this year on much of the south side trails [map] since they tend to be shaded and the snow and still be on the trails long after the exposed north side trails are clear and dry. There was however absolutely no snow or even wet paths, yesterday.

Bike Path looking west towards Riverside Hill

To be honest the other reason that I have not ridden the south side trails, is to avoid one particular hill – the killer slope on the east side of the Riverside Golf Course.  The fears were unfounded though, I geared down and grinded my way up with little trouble.

A good section of the downhill path

Coming back down from the top of the bank at the south end of Forest Heights Park I became aware of how a number of sections of our prized cycling path network is in poor shape. This downhill section in particular, reminded me that extra caution is required as the condition of the paved surface is no longer a match for the speed which one can easily reach.

II continued to follow the bike paths on the south side of the river, beside  the Cloverdale community, under the Low Level and James MacDonald bridges, through Queen Elizabeth Park and on to Kinsmen Park. At the west end of Kinsmen, the path turns south, up the river bank (which turned out to be more of a climb than I remembered). The path at the top of the bank follows Saskatchewan Drive along the north edge of the University of Alberta main campus. Then it was down Emily Murphy Park Road, over towards the Hawrelak Park entrance and right back up again on the sidewalk beside Groat Road. The next kilometer or so, of path  is flat following the top of the bank to the old Keillor Road. A nice downhill section here with a few switchbacks leads to a nice path that is straight and in great shape – wonderful for riding out the downhill onto the long flat stretch beside the Whitemud Equine Centre.

Where the Whitemud meets the North Saskatchewan

Shortly thereafter a small bridge crosses the Whitemud Creek ear to where it empties into the North Saskatchewan River. I am often seduced into a brief stop on the bridge and perhaps a picture (or two) before carrying on, under the Quesnel Bridge, then along the east/south side of the parking lot at the John Janzen Nature Centre and Fort Edmonton Park [map]. The bike path then skirts along the south end of Fort Edmonton Park with some gentle hills and some glimpses into the historic park. I quite like the trees along this section of the route and therefore often stop to take photos here too.

The nice, paved trail ends suddenly at a corner of Whitemud Road. To go right takes one down to a pedestrian cycle bridge across the river but here I go left  [map]. This section of road is definitely the worst of my entire route. It is steep so be sure to gear down before you start the climb. The road is also in very poor condition with broken pavement and a lot of sand and gravel (especially scary coming back down). Near the top of the road (where it technically is called 58th Avenue) I turn right along a walkway between some houses that puts me back on Whitemud Road. The next part of my route (in fact until I turn around and retrace by path) is on relatively quiet residential roads. I continue south on Whitemud Road turning right (west) when the road itself becomes 43 Avenue [map].

This section of Whitemud Road becomes Ramsay Crescent which offers a great view west over the river and beyond. This view is offered from the place where 2 or three homes slid down the river bank a number of years ago. Where Ramsay Crescent bends away from the river, I veer right and take a path that continues along the top of the river bank [map]. This path is paved for a ways and then it becomes shale and dirt. I take it for a few hundred meters, until I can get back onto a residential street, Romaniuk Road. This street turns into Rooney Crescent which I follow until turning right onto Roy Street, then right again onto Roy Gate.

Roy Gate takes me to Rabbit Hill Road, which I cross, then follow along Heffernan Drive [map] until it intersect Heath Road, where I turn right. I continue south on Heath Road for a few blocks, past where it passes through a utility corridor (with bike paths east and west). I turn right onto Hector Road and follow it until I reach my turnaround point (a point which gives me a 20K ride home). As I usually do, I pause at this point, munch on an energy bar and have a few swigs of water before heading back north and east.

I didn’t retrace my steps exactly this day (or it would have given me an 80K ride rather than the goal 60K). However I did go back on the same route just described all of the way to Hawrelak Park. The nice thing about my return route is that there is only one significant climb – at the east end Keillor Road (back up to Saskatchewan Drive [map]. This was the one that I so enjoyed the ride on the way down, now it’s payback time! It’s not actually that bad. Having ridden it often enough I know the pace that I need to maintain and I can even usually make it up comfortably without using my lowest gear.

The start of the Keillor Road climb

From the top of this climb, it is back along Saskatchewan Drive, down Groat Road (again the “sidewalk” on the west side of the road). Here is where my return route differs from the outgoing one. I follow the road north out of Hawrelak Park, over Groat Road  and then cross the Groat Bridge on the east side sidewalk. At the north end of the bridge I take a quick right on the path and connect with the cycle path along the south side of River Valley Road [map]. This long, straight, flat path takes me east to the traffic lights at 105 St. I then follow the path beside the river as it skirts around the Rossdale community, then on  past the convention centre, through Louise McKinney Park and past the Cloverdale footbridge and finally  into the Riverdale community (where I finish my ride) [map].

It was a good ride, a long one I had to make up for missing the Target the Tour training ride the day before. As good as I felt during the ride, I was certainly wiped out later. I have a ways to go with my training  in order to do be able to ride 3 consecutive 100K days or to be able to cover 180K in a single day – but so far so good, no injuries and incremental progress.

With the local trees leafing-out, the world turning green it really feels like the cycling season has begun in earnest. See you on the trails!

 

Reminiscing on a First Tour   Leave a comment

It sure doesn’t feel  like very long ago but I’ve  just been realizing that it was 30 years ago this week (i.e the first week of May in 1982) that I set off on my first major cycle tour – a 4-week ride with 3 cycling buddies, primarily through the Loire Valley and Normandy. We flew in and out of Gatwick Airport south of London, so there was also a bit of time spent in southern England as well as a few days in Paris before heading to the Loire.

We flew out of the Edmonton International Airport on a Wardair charter flight – it was an evening departure, taking off at something like 10 PM. That flight was my very first time flying! What a way to start – on a long haul flight in a 747 (then the absolute creme de la creme of aircraft) Fortunately I enjoyed the flight (loved it actually, especially the acceleration at take-off!).  Wardair was also a real gem of an airline – first class service, including a decent in-flight meal served on real china with silverware. What I loved most about WardAir was how simple it was to transport a bike. I believe there was no extra charge for the bike (it just counted as one of the two pieces of allowable luggage and all of my panniers and other gear was stuffed into a big canvas dufflebag). We didn’t even have to worry about having the bike in a box or a bag! To prep the bikes for the flight, we took off the pedals, turned the handlebars sideways and let the air out of the tires – so simple!

Sunrise on flight to the UK

Another thing I remember so clearly from that flight was the descent into Gatwick. As we broke through the clouds and could see the English countryside I was struck at how green and lush the patchwork countryside was. When we had left Edmonton, the trees had not yet leafed-out and fields were still brown. All of a sudden it felt like cycling season!

Preparing our bikes in Gatwick Airport

We arrived in England mid-morning, went through customs and picked up our bikes and bags. After straightening out our handlebars, putting air in our tires, attaching out pedals and packing all of our gear onto the bikes we were ready to hit the road – a bit groggy and jet-lagged from the overnight flight, but definitely excited by the adventure head of us.

For more posts about this trip, start here.

Posted May 6, 2012 by Randy Talbot in Cycle Touring

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