Sunday, November 27, 2011

Newbie Rider

My first road bike:

I decided to get a road bike after I got my butt kicked in the cycling portion of a sprint triathlon and someone stole my mountain bike.  However, not knowing how to ride with fancy pedals and clips, the bike sat lonely in the basement for about a month until I had the chance meeting of a pro-cyclist who took pity upon me and agreed to teach me how to ride.

So it has been about 3 weeks and I can say with some confidence that I can ride reasonably well.  Some things I have learned from my esteemed biking team (Nigel and Lockie) include:

- Never plan your route, as it will change when you get to a dead end, find an unassumed road or a interesting looking trail that just may lead to exactly where you want to go
- If you haven't had to carry your bike across a stream, the beach or a farmer's field it probably isn't that good of a ride
- When you fall down, veer off the road or smash into a pile of burrs, laugh, get up and continue riding
- From a fashion perspective never wear a visor on your helmet, always wear your sunnies on the outside of you helmet straps and try and look as professional as possible.
- Bike in a straight line, don't look at your gears, and don't stray your glance at all the "shiny things"

I can't wait till spring to ride again. Thanks guys!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Not bad for a first timer

Good time of year to ride. So why is it that I know the water is about 10 degrees in Lake Ontario?

My friend, Amanda, recently bought a road bike and wanted basic instruction on going from the trainer to the road. Enter: me (god help her).

I tried to get a few people out, but it ended up just being Amanda, Nigel and I. Her first day riding outdoors was a little on the breezy side (40km/h) but gave us a chance to do some easy spinning with the wind and cover a lot of ground. At this point you might think we ended up going too far, but nope. However we did take a different, unplanned, route back. This resulted in riding a few kilometres down a road that ended up being a dead end. Or was it??? There was a little trail off one side, which Nigel jokingly suggested we take. Amanda immediately said sure! Let's do it! At that point, can you imagine two intrepid males saying no, looks kinda sketchy? Hell no!

Two hours later:

It was actually great fun (route here) and I'm sure Amanda picked up some wicked bike handling skills. :) We made it back to the cars for dusk; in my books, that's not too bad!

A few days later, Amanda excitedly told her roadie friends about her first road ride. They were shocked and appalled. Gravel? Hiking paths? The horror! haha

Still, Amanda was happy to come riding again the following weekend. Nigel and I plotted a slightly more "run of the mill" ride. And it was. At least until half way. Since we were only an hour behind schedule, we figured on the return we would take the road less traveled.... Again, Amanda was partly at fault. But again, so fun! The result: we hiked about half a kilometre on the beach, crossed a small stream feeding into Lake Ontario (water was cold but not unbearable), more beach, rode through a bird sanctuary, out-voted Nigel on taking the actual road (sheesh!) and instead went back to hiking on the beach in order to meet up with the waterfront bike path.

I should point out that although Nigel sounds like the voice of prudence, in actual fact he was a large part of numerous diversions throughout both rides ("hey, google maps on my Blackberry shows a faint trail through this [impenetrable looking] forest!" and the like).

Amanda found out on this ride that an apple and 8 raisins doesn't quite replace 2,000 calories on a ride. She bonked so hard. Lesson learned, I reckon, and we got to make fun of her while she lacked any come-back power.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Another toke of the big smoke

Start of October (yes, I'm a little behind) I moved back to Toronto. I'm staying with my buddy, Christian, who, in a funny things-coming-full-circle kind of way, was who I lived with when I first moved to Canada, ten or so years ago. Back then I spent 4 months on his couch in a one bedroom basement apartment, and since he tolerated me there, one can be optimistic that we can get along while I live in his several-bedroom house a little out of town.

Now that I've moved from the outdoor paradise that is Calgary, epics are nearly a thing of the past. I can't remember the last time I was unintentionally stuck outside, after dark. Miles from salvation. Potentially half-way up a cliff. Or other similiarly fun times.

Never the less, I try. Jesse and co were going to ride in the Don Valley, so I rode the 30km in to town on the mountain bike, rode with them for an hour or two, then, since no one was waiting for me any more, took the path less traveled to return... Where the road & bike path diverged from the Lake Ontario shoreline, I found a park which abutted the lake (Greyabbey Park, in case anyone is interested), lowered my bike down the cliff (I so wanted to ghost-ride it off, but decided I didn't want to risk walking 20km home, carrying a busted bike) and rode along the beach for a few kilometres.
I had no idea Toronto had such nice, secluded beaches
Eventually the bike path returns to the water's edge, and after giving the bike a quick dunk in the water (living by fresh water is occasionally a good thing!) to wash the sand out of the brakes, I was quite happy to get back on pavement - even with 3.5" tires and riding just out of the lapping waves where the sand was most packed, it had been pretty tough going!