Monthly Archives: April 2011

Bicycle. Bicycle. Bicycle.

Charlie Bucket Cycles rode their first official century of the season this past Friday.  What a glorious occasion it was.  Well, it would have been if we had all finished together, but although we did clock the 100 km necessary to qualify for the metric century, we finished in two groups.  One group of two, and then one on his own.  More about that later.

The author, Andy and Paul on the cable ferry running between Île Bizard and Laval

The ride started as it usually does with the three of us trying to casually mumble such things as “Got to take it easy today lads, no racing“, and “We need to save energy for the last 25 km, so no freight train on the way out, OK?”  without sounding like the wimp of the group.  I don’t know why we even bother going on like this because we all know that as soon as we’re on the road absolutely nothing that was stated before means anything.  Case in point: we were taking turns pulling each other as we headed west towards Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue when the relative calm and order of our ride was shattered.  I was leading at the time and we were keeping a comfortable 33 kph into a headwind when a cube van drove by us.  Before I had even completed another full turn of the crank I saw Paul go past, standing in the pedals and seesawing his Cervélo back and forth with the aggression usually saved for the final 250 metres of a flat stage in the Tour de France.  It took me a second to realize what he was up to, but when I did I also jumped up in the pedals and tried to join the rapidly disappearing back wheel of Andy who had been able to react faster than me.

By this time Paul had reached his goal and was tucked up behind the cube riding in the vacuum that is created in the zone about two feet off the rear bumper.  Andy had almost reached him and I was still a thigh-screaming ten metres behind them.  The bastards had out wit me, and not for the last time that day.  No matter, the advantage, as sweet as it was, did not last long as the cube van took a left turn about half a kilometre later.  It had served as a reminder, however, that I need to work on my ‘bursts’ of power, so I took a mental note that I would be needing to schedule some tedious and painful interval training sessions in the coming weeks.

Soon we were on the north shore having traversed the rapidly moving river between Île Bizard and Laval.  The seasonal ferry takes about 90 seconds to make the crossing and literally pulls itself across on a cable that is suspended 30 feet above the water.  Every time I cross this section of water I am convinced that if I was to fall in I would find myself in the Old Port in a matter of minutes, so rapid is the flow of water.

We were reminded that it was Good Friday shortly after arriving in the first town as a long procession, complete with police escort in mean looking black Dodge Chargers, went by.  The 100 or so people were obediently following a Christ-like figure hunched over under the weight of an enormous cross.  A re-enactment of sorts, it cut a dramatic if not slightly disturbing image.  Actually, I think that the most surprising element was the very dramatic unmarked police cars that seem to the norm on the north shore.  All black, no exterior lights and no markings whatsoever.  Is the element of surprise that essential when you get away from the relative sanity of the island of Montreal?  Perhaps it is.  Better keep pedalling.

So you may recall the throwaway comment I made at the beginning of this entry about finishing in two groups.  Here’s how that happened.  We were driving hard through Senneville down the three 1 km straights that take you from the northern edge of the island and bring you south-east to the autoroute 40.  Each kilometre stretch ends with a 45 degree turn that leads onto another long straight, and if the wind is going in the wrong direction this can be a tortuous ordeal.  Taking turns at the front we were maintaining an impressive speed given the late stage of the ride.  I finished my pull, drifted over to the left to let the others through, and then blew up.  I couldn’t hang onto Paul’s wheel and get onto the train and I suffered both the ignominy and frustration of seeing them slowly pull away.  My legs were not responding to the urgent and imploring messages from my brain, urging them to pull out one more burst of power.  They simply had had enough.  When we got to the T-junction that is the autoroute 40, the boys were politely waiting for me.  Turn right and you head west again for the roundabout way home.  Turn left and you shave off about 15 km on the return run.  I made it clear that I had to go left, even if that meant riding solo the rest of the way.  I could see the boys wanted to take the long way home, so I bravely encouraged them to go their own way (cue Fleetwood Mac).

By the time I rolled into my driveway I had completed the 100 km I set out to do, just!  I got a text from Andy shortly thereafter asking if I had made it back in one piece (what a super fellow!) and he confirmed that he and Paul had ended their morning at 115 km.  All in all an awesome day for the three of us and one that bodes well for the upcoming season.

I did record the route on the iPhone using the trusty MapMyRide+ application.  I find this a fascinating thing to do and it never ceases to amaze me when I review where we went on a fully interactive map.  It also helps with planning future routes because you can look for roads or climbs that you did not find the previous time out.

The 100 km I completed. Paul and Andy completed an additional 15 km at the end of the morning not reflected on this map.

Guess what!  I also recorded on HD video portions of the ride and yes, I have completed another short film of the day to share with anyone who cares to spend 3 minutes of their life watching it.  This time I selected ‘Bicycle Race’ by Queen and attempted to re-create the cheesy days of early music videos that those of you who watched MTV in the early 80s will surely remember.  Good times.

Click on the image to watch the video.


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First century of 2011, or not.

The weather was perfect.  Cool, yes, but we hardy Canadians are used to riding when its cold enough to freeze the spit in the corner of your mouth and ice up the nozzle on your water bottle.  Sunny, blue sky, dry.  Awesome day for the inaugural ride of the newly formed ‘Charlie Bucket Cycles‘ team.  Our objective for the day was 100 km, which given the fact that none of us had ridden that far in one sitting since the end of last season, was probably born from the overstated confidence that so often accompanies the amateur cyclist.  No matter, we met up at Andy’s place at 8.30 a.m. and immediately set about weighing our bikes (can you spell N E R D) with the fancy electronic gadget that Hugo brought along.  I was pleased to note that my bike has not gained any weight since I bought it four year’s ago, although slightly surprised that after more than 20,000 km it had not lost any either.

Andy, Hugo and the author somewhere off the island of Montreal.

This was a big day for Andy.  He was riding his new Cervélo for only the second time and what a beauty.  We all spent more than the appropriate amount of time ‘Ooh-ing’ and “Ahh-ing’ at the form and design, and I have to say none of it was forced.  It is a bloody gorgeous bike.  Of course, will it make him ride any faster?  I hope not!  Although he did mutter something about the power transfer being particularly impressive.  “What a nerd“, I muttered to myself, ever so slightly afraid that he might be right.

Riding in and around the Montreal suburbs is a largely flat affair, however, when you go a little farther west and leave the island itself you can find a couple of climbs, nothing more than bumps by European standards, but they test the winter legs nonetheless.  The other major test our green legs took on today was the wind.  We had a pretty gutsy head wind on the way out, thankfully offset in large part by the mini peloton we formed, each of us taking brief pulls at the front.

Andy finding the right tool to adjust his seat.

It wouldn’t be a good ride if we didn’t have to stop for some sort of mechanical issue.  Last year some of you may remember that Paul and I had to abandon Andy in the middle of the Laurentian mountains when his chain snapped and we, all three, had no chain breaker tool.  Well, this time around it was Andy again, this time with a wobbly seat.  Obviously the huge power he was transferring through the crank was too much for the new seat and it worked its way lose.  A quick adjustment and all was well though, and we enjoyed a tailwind for the final 17 km back into Dorval that saw us fly along the Lakeshore at an average of close to 40 kph.

Our objective for the day had been a century, metric-style, but we closed off at 75 km.  Well, we just ended up back home and it seemed silly to head off again!  It had been a terrific start to the season and I for one am pumped for more and looking forward to the next Charlie Bucket Cycles group ride.  The new jersey’s are almost on order and let’s just say that we’re going to be an impressive force on the Montreal bike scene this year.  (This is all in my head of course, but a lad’s allowed to daydream, right?).

I dare you to check out the two minute film of our ride by clicking here.  You won’t regret it, especially if you’re a Queen fan.


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Commute is on

This is a great time of year for me.  To be riding outdoors again after three and a half months confined to the trainer in the basement is like breathing once again.  I’m really not being overly dramatic.  You try it.

Paddywagon down by Lac St.Louis, about 1/3 of the way to work.

Last week was a great week by commuting standards.  I had to go to the campus three days, and all three were dry.  Not that I’m opposed to getting out there in a light shower (the Paddywagon is equipped with the necessary rear wheel guard to maintain an almost dry posterior), but it is still infinitely preferable to be riding on dry pavement.  Just got to stay alert and avoid the multitude of car-sized pot holes as well as the large patches of road salt that appear in front of you all of a sudden like a shimmering mirage.  Oh, and I can’t forget the millions (no, not an exaggeration) of pebbles scattered along the curb, pushed there by the tens of thousands of tyres that shoot them out of the centre of the road to their final resting place in the 12 inches of really dirty tarmac next to the curb.

42T/16 at your service

This is, in fact, a very tricky part of the road at this time of year.  The street sweepers have not been released from their winter garage yet and so all the debris from the months of salt and grit deposits have collected along the side of the road.  You don’t want to hit a thick patch because that could twist your front wheel.  You also have to play the ‘magpie’ and watch for shiny objects on the ten feet of pavement directly in front of you.  It’s quite remarkable how even the smallest chip of glass will flash at you for one millisecond, which is usually enough time of you to safely guide your front wheel clear of it.  What’s harder to spot are the small thin slivers of metal that seem to live on the roadside.  How they get there, or where they come from are a mystery to me, but if you’re riding a damp wheel then they stick just long enough to work their way through the rubber and kevlar and into the tender tube within.  Well, that’s what happened to me last Friday, isn’t it?

No matter.  It’s just bloody great to be outdoors again.  Tomorrow?  Well, I have a century planned with Paul, Andy and Hugo.  Stay tuned.

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