Archive for the ‘Cycle Touring’ Category

Rural Riding at the End of May   1 comment

2013 May 26 – another Sunday morning, another Target the Tour training ride with the Edmonton Bicycle and Touring Club, starting from a service station on the south side of the Yellowhead Highway, a little west of Ardrossan.

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This day’s route took us North of the highway for a while before returning to the more familiar roads south of Ardrossan. It was a pleasant day and nice to see the countryside greening up. Here are some photos from that day, without further commentary:

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A Late Start to 2013   1 comment

Here in Edmonton winter lasted as long as I ever remember. There was snow on the roads into April and although eager to get back on the bike it seemed as if we were defeated before ever beginning. There was not a long training period before the late-July Tour de l’Alberta which had been my usual early season goal.

Nonetheless I started the season joining  other EBTC members for the Target the Tour training rides starting out at Ardrossan every Sunday morning. May 19th was only my second Sunday ride  and although I didn’t have a lot of training accumulated  I was eager to make up for lost time. If I felt okay I would do the longer (up to 80K?) option

D80-2140 editAs is typical on these group rides I see a lot of the group early on and virtually no one the last couple of hours. However, the rural and farm scenery is always there to keep me company.

Cows on the HillReaching the half way, lunch spot at South Cooking Lake I felt good enough to tackle the long route (although something told me It might not be a good idea). I had one riding partner keen on doing the same things so we set off south along a nicely paved secondary road. At a certain point we would take a smaller road west for a few kilometers to join up with another road taking us North.

D80-2175 editWhen we reached the designated turn-off we looked – hard – twice! This road wasn’t paved at all – just gravel, and loose stuff at that. However considering it was just a couple of Ks it seemed like a better idea to continue than to backtrack. Well, a couple of kilometers of loose, rough and slippery gravel and we realized that there would be a lot more where that came from. At this point we admitted defeat and went back along the gravel road then back up the highway until we could find a paved east-west road.

Oh did I mention the mosquitoes?! They were horrendous along this stretch of gravel – especially bad when we stopped to consult the maps and assess our situation but even when we were on the bikes we weren’t moving fast enough to outrun a swarm of mosquitoes.

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The rest of the ride back was uneventful but it was a bit of a grind at times with a headwind. Then, unfortunately with about 5K to go, I bonked! I completely ran out of fuel reserves and was reduced to crawling (figuratively) back to my car. It was a good day, a good workout but in retrospect, perhaps a little more than I had trained for.

Headwinds   Leave a comment

Ah … back on an EBTC Target the Tour training ride.

Pre-ride Instructions

For one reason or another I had missed the previous few Sunday morning rides. Although the weather forecast had looked a little iffy, with possible early morning and late afternoon showers, It was absolutely beautiful as we gathered at 0930 for a planned 100k ride in the countryside northeast of Edmonton, out to the town of Bruderheim. [map of region]

Although this ride would be my longest one of the year and I hadn’t been on the bike much in the last couple of weeks I was feeling good and confident. A group of 25 riders, set off this morning on a route that would take us north from the Yellowhead highway, through Fort Saskatchewan and then north east to the town of Bruderheim before returning on a slightly different route.

Crop Rows (a bit unusual as most crops in these parts are fields of canola or grains)

Canola Field and Rural Road

Straight and Flat

It was beautiful, uneventful morning – well except for my getting-all-to-common electronics challenges. First, my cycle computer which I had again thought I had fixed wasn’t picking up the signal from the front wheel so I has no speedometer or odometer. All i could use it for was as a timer. It told me how long I’d been on the road but as I had inadvertently stopped the timer at some point and lost approximately 7 minutes.  I have no options now for this device other than to try to replace the thin wires (soldering will be difficult), or to get a new unit.

Luckily I had my Garmin heart rate monitor with GPS as a back-up – except that 1 Km out it displayed a message that it could not receive signals from the satellites – this out in the middle of the flat prairie! After approximately 10K the function mysteriously returned but for the rest of the ride I didn’t now how far I’d gone or had to go. I was able to get my speed although looking at the watch and changing screens while riding was not very convenient.

The other technology challenge encountered was that after I’d taken only 5 pictures, my camera indicated that the memory card was full. This was not a big problem but did mean that I had to take the time to manually delete a bunch of my oldest photos from memory to free up space.

Petro-chemical Plant

The ride north to Fort Saskatchewan was on the quiet rural roads. From there we took Highway 15, a busy 4-lane divided highway, but with very wide paved shoulders – not a bad stretch at all. This section of rural Alberta is noted for petro-chemical processing. Large industrial plants are frequently next to farmer’s green fields as a well as small pumping units in the fields.

During this part of the ride to the northeast I could notice the effect of the wind blowing from the southeast. The result was that my pace fell off noticeably, probably to something like 15kph. However, once we turned back north, I was flying – cruising along at more than 30.

Rural Road (to get back on course)

Gravel Road (to get back on course)

After another eastbound stretch on a rural road into the wind, I came to the intersection with a highway. By this time out group of riders was pretty stretched out and I was riding on my own with no one else in sight. So I quickly pulled out a map in my back pocket and noted that I needed to go north on this highway (830) so I turned left, and with the wind at my back I was again flying.

It turns out that I shouldn’t have turned! I had looked at the preliminary map that I also had in my pocket but we had already gone as as far north as we were going. I noticed my error when I stopped to check at the next intersection, a couple of kilometers down the road. I could have (probably should have) simply backtracked but decided that I would take the eastbound road at that intersection and then take the next south road to get back on course. Most of the roads in these parts are along a rectangular grid – very predictable!

The rural road which I took east was a bit rougher in places than the ones I had been riding on but not bad. when I came to the next crossroad I headed south. This road however was much rougher, a gravel/dirt road. I was glad I was riding my touring bike with its bit heavier/wider tires rather than ones only suited to paved roads. The road surface wasn’t as bad as the headwind I now encountered. My speed dropped to something like 13 Kph which made it seem like forever to cover this 3 Km stretch. It did however only take 15 minutes to get back and then shortly thereafter arrive in our designated rest stop in the town of Bruderheim [map].

Rest in Bruderheim

It was good to see others of our group there, but they had already been there for awhile and by the time I had a blueberry muffin and some Powerade, they already had a 10 or 15 minute headstart on the ride back.

When I did get back on the road it was due south, into the wind, for 3 kilometers. Although I had only stopped for 15 minutes it felt as if my body was starting to seize-up. Back on the road, I was noticing an uncomfortableness in my left knee. Since this knee had been an occasional problem in the past I was a little concerned.

After the 3K I turned right onto the major highway and was traveling in a westerly direction. Even though the wind was not fully at my back, enough of it was that I felt I was flying again. Indeed my speed had gone from the 10-15 Kph range to averaging in the 30’s. After a few kilometers it was a turn south and a long straight stretch in to that wind.

(Was it jut the fatigue of having already ridden 60 or 70K or was the wind really picking up as we headed into mid-afternoon? Anyway, it was a drag, a slow, head-down, solo ride that quite frankly wasn’t much fun. I did stop for a few photo breaks but not as many as I would have liked.

Prairie Field and Summer Sky

Prairie Rails

Eventually I did catch-up with Chas in his support truck and then with a couple of other riders. I stuck with them until we got to the end of the ride.  We were looking forward to a break from the long headwind stretch.

The Long Road into the Headwind

We were supposed to turn west onto a quiet road for a few kilometers  but when we got there we saw that the road had been very recently oiled, so we continued south to the Yellowhead and then rode that busy highway back to the Ardrossan turn-off.

It was around 3 PM when we got back – a little over 5 hours on the road. It had been a decent ride, especially nice on the first half. I had looked at this ride as a test of my fitness in evaluating if I’d be up to doing the 180K Tour de l’Alberta distance in four weeks. Having completed this ride, the thought of heading right back out and doing practically the same distance again, pretty much answered my question – I’ll be sticking to the 100K distance on July 22nd.

Explorer in my Own City   1 comment

Like a Foreign Land

The excitement of exploration – even in my own city. I love to just explore, to take new paths and see what I can see. It is a particular bonus when I can discover a new cycling route, one that will become part of my regular routes by virtue of it’s good qualities: low traffic, smooth surface and interesting scenery. I felt like an explorer of times of old, looking for a new passage to the Orient. For the last couple of years I have hoped to discover  route from the west side of the Anthony Henday Drive bridge [map]. I’ve crossed the bridge and rode up into and around the Cameron Heights neighborhood, a number of times but never found  that elusive connector route. I always had to turn around, cross the bridge again and return my ride on the south side of the river.

I approached the bridge again this day and was taken by the construction of another,  new high voltage power line along the existing utility corridor. It wasn’t my goal but it did provide a surreal view (see photo above)

Construction

Wooden Road

I’ll start this tale from when I reached the Terwilligar area since I have already described my route getting there a few times .  there is a bike opath that leads down to the Anthony Henday Drive over the North Saskatchewan River in southwest Edmonton. I have crossed this bridge a few times in years past, always hoping to find a route that goes somewhere but to no avail.  I’ve ridden the path until it dumps me out in a residential neighborhood, ridden around that neighborhood not finiding anywhere to go and then simply backtracking.

This day however I pulled out my iPhone and looked at my mapping application. I noticed what looked like a path that I’d not noticed before just a block away. I rode over there, discovered a little concrete sidewalk goinf away from the road and following that a short ways it connected to an old road that lead into a ravine!

An old road through a ravine

Downstream: The Tiny Creek

On the left of this picture you can see a wooden fence, Below that fence a culvert provides a path for the tiny stream under the road. At this point one could hop across the creek but what a difference looking upstream.

Looking upstream I saw the most marvelous beaver dam and not only a big dam but a huge pond with the beaver’s den  in the middle. I was even fortunate enough to see the beaver swimming around in the pond. What  a fantastic discovery! I wasn’t expecting to see something like that so close to the heavy construction, freeway and residential neighborhood that I had just passed through.

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Upstream: The beaver dam, pond and den (and the beaver swimming too).

After a good break to observe and photograph  this marvel, I continued on up the road to the top of the ravine on the other side. From here I rejoined residential neighborhoods and roads. Although I did not explore  and further I was very excited because from that point I think I will be able to find a route, back along the north side of the river to the pedestrian bridge by Ft. Edmonton Park. If I can do that I will have a very nice cycling loop – but I left that exploration for another day and just retraced my route for this day.

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

 

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.