Tag Archives: roadie

No chain

Seven whole days it has been. S E V E N! Even I can’t quite believe it has been that long off the bike. First couple of days are not bad. Day three you start to get the itch, and by day five it feels like a five alarm rash. All you can think of id that you have to get out there and pedal. But day five comes and goes and you find yourself entering rarely charted territory. How are you supposed to feel? What are you supposed to do? Nobody has ever come back from days six and seven and ever been the same.

Dramatic? Perhaps. Let me just say that when I rolled out of the driveway this afternoon, I was on a mission. To ride and to ride hard. The conditions were near perfect: almost no wind, drying roads, a pleasant 24c and no aggressive sun to sap the energy from you before it made it to the pedals. Let’s go!

One of the pleasant side effects, probably the only one, of being sans saddle for so long is that you’ve given your legs a chance to rest. They’ve completely recovered from all that commuting with a 25lb back pack and that hill climbing while standing in the pedals. They are ready to remind you what it feels like to ride fast. Today they did not disappoint. Lance once described those rides where you feel invincible as having “no chain”. Of course, turns out that he may have had additional assistance rendering the chain as the least of his worries, but still, I have always liked that expression. Today was one of those days. No chain! By the time I got to Parc Levesque where I planned on doing some intervals I was feeling very Graeme Obree half way through the one hour world record. That is to say it felt as if nothing was going to slow me down.


I underestimated the power of the “bike path rollerblader” in my calculations, however. Have you ever come up behind a rollerblader and wondered why they have to take up both lanes of what is ostensibly a fairly wide bike lane? The swooshing from side to side that almost deliberately consumes the east-west axis is infuriating. You watch them closely as you come up from behind and try and time your arrival to coincide with the far swoosh, but the problem is that you’re not dealing with people who are generally aware of their surroundings. The tell tale white wires hanging from their ears identify them as Apple shareholders which means that at that moment in time they have absolutely no idea you’re charging up behind them at almost 40 kph. Adding to the mix the seven straight days of rain which means a trip onto the grass would be certain disaster, and you’re left with no choice but to call out to advertise your impending arrival and if that fails hit the brakes!

Fortunately all interactions with both joggers and rollerbladers were successful, which means there was no interaction, or collision anyway. Unclipping in the driveway at home I was keen to check the stats and I was dead chuffed to see 37 km at an average of 32.2 kph. I know my time should have been quicker than that, but when you opt to hit the path on a Sunday afternoon you know you’re not going to be the only one.


This is one of my favourite rides and it is one that I do regularly. Always surrounded by water it’s almost perfect. Now if I could only find a way to dissuade others from using it! Ride safe.



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Mountain stage

Mountain might be a generous adjective, but we’re definitely not in the flat lands of Montreal and the surrounding areas anymore. Bring it on! Our Laurentian ride coincides nicely with the start of the three toughest mountain stages in this year’s Giro and I was hoping to somehow simulate one of the climbs and almost transport myself to Italy and insert myself at the top of the peloton with 1 km to go before the summit. Of course there is no comparison whatsoever between the climbs we have in the Laurentians and those that you’ll find in Italy, but hey, we have to make the most of what we have and they are climbs nonetheless! We knew we were going to feel the burn today.

We were five today: Andy, me and Hugo making up the boys team and Cheryl and Hélène forming the girls team. We met at the home of Andy’s friends in Morin Heights who kindly provided us access to their guest house so that we could prepare for our ride in relative luxury. By relative luxury I mean a beautiful out-house on the lake, complete with running water, bathroom and living room / kitchen area.  Like I said, it beat getting changed in a parking lot or on the side of the road!  Being right on a lake the view is gorgeous and you feel as if you are hundreds of miles from the sprawling metropolis of urban Montreal. In fact, you are only a fifty minute drive away, but it feels and smells like a different place altogether.

Cheryl & Hélène cruising down a hill, one of the rewards after climbing up the other side.

If you ever have a chance to ride in the Laurentian’s, I highly recommend it.  The roads are in remarkably good shape considering the battering they get over the winter, and for the most part there is a generous well paved shoulder that keeps you out of the line of traffic.  As for the view, well, as with any mountainous district the views are breathtaking.  Our ride featured a brutal initiation: within the first 50 metres we were faced with a decent climb up out of Morin Heights as we headed south to catch the Milles Isles road.  Yup, we soon knew it was going to be a great ride but a challenging one at times.

For every up there's an awesome down.

Our plan for the day was to break the ride up into two sections.  Our first ride was just over 50 km and focused on some lovely rolling roads from Morin Heights down to Bellefeuille, up to Sainte-Anne-des-Lacs (where Andy lived for many years), back west through Saint-Sauveur-des-Monts and finally back into Morin Heights.  A brief snack and bio-break was followed by some intense decision making on the part of Hugo as he tried to determine whether or not he was going to ride anymore.  One minute he was in, then he determined he was not, then he was again, but finally he dismounted and announced that he was going to head back into town.  So we were down to four, although Hélène was not sure of continuing herself until Cheryl boldly announced that they were coming on the second ride.  As Cheryl was the ride back into town, Hélène was left with little option but to continue!

The first 50 km loop through the hills.

The second ride took us out of Morin Heights and straight uphill, again, towards the junction that would lead us to St-Adolphe-d’Howard.  Turning right onto the road that would lead us there we were faced with three large climbs, one right after the other, that Andy affectionately called “The Three Sisters”.  Each climb was in the 8%-10% range and after suddenly realizing that Cheryl and Hélène had turned around, I also noticed that some mild fatigue was setting in.  I was further dismayed when I looked down at Andy’s crank and noticed that he was climbing in the big ring.  Now I had done many of the initial climbs in my big ring and felt pretty awesome about that fact, but by this stage of the day I felt that it was perfectly acceptable to be in the small ring.  However, I could not help but feel slightly inadequate when I noticed that Andy was pumping his way up the same climb as me in a much larger gear.  I think the word “Bastard!” may have crossed my lips.

Andy and Hugo lead the pack on the first ride.

Having climbed the three stepping stones to St-Adolphe we turned around and began the return trip into Morin Heights.  I don’t know what came over me but I was suddenly re-charged and felt a surge of energy that allowed for some exciting riding on the final 10 km.  Andy did not drop me on any of the remaining climbs, although I was admittedly glued to his wheel to take advantage of a little shelter from the cross-wind.  By the time we dropped into our home base we had covered just shy of 75 km and had good reason to feel good about the morning.  When I checked my iPhone I read the text from Cheryl letting us know that they’d turned around and headed back home.  We hadn’t worried but it was nice to know that they had not somehow made it to St-Adolphe and back before us!

The shorter, harder second ride.

They’ll be a lot more hills to come this year.  I know we’ll be up in the Laurentians again soon simply to make the most of the scenery as well as the opportunity to get some real hill climbing in.  So to Andy, Hugo, Cheryl and Hélène, thanks for the awesome ride!

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Fixie 1:0 Roadie

I never thought I’d be one of those to gloat about anything, especially something as silly as the age-old fixie vs. roadie rivalry. It’s particularly silly when you think about it, because I am still a roadie as well. At least a couple of times a week I’m pulling on the lycra and getting out there in the full shaved-leg paraphernalia that accompanies the road cycling experience. But in the early weekday morning I am a fixie rider. Retro STP or Pink Floyd t-shirt, 3/4 length cargo pants, no computer, no heart monitor, no gears. Hard core (or as hard core as a middle aged, white bread bloke can possibly get anyway!).

So there I am riding to work on the Paddywagon, 30lb backpack on my shoulders and minding my own business. I had just stopped for a call of nature (coffee’s got to get out eventually) when a group of three roadies went by, the third rider slightly behind the lead pair. I caught up to the straggler fairly quickly and we started chatting. He complimented the bike, thank you very much, and then went on to say how fixed gear bikes scared the life out of him. He was a nice bloke and we chatted for a bit as we slowly but surely caught up to his friends. The other two are definitely not as friendly as the first and they don’t even acknowledge that I’ve arrived on the scene, but as we set off again my new friend signals to me to jump on their tail and ride with them. As we had a fairly stiff headwind that morning I was more than willing to take on the offer of a tow.

So one of the blokes up front does a pull for about two kms and then pulls off to the left to let the next guy through. As he is dropping back, my guy lets him know that I’m on the end and to watch out for me. Well, either the guy was deaf, or stupid or just a jerk, but as soon as he had dropped past his mate he cuts right in front of me, not even acknowledging that I was on the bloody road with them. That pisses me off. Being a jerk is one thing, but being a dangerous jerk is altogether a different story, and that stunt could have planted both of us on the tarmac. I wait for about thirty seconds to see if he’ll realise that I’m there and perhaps correct his faux pas, but no, nothing. Alright boys, that’s it.

I am not one to show off, or even one to throw down the gauntlet and challenge folks often. It’s just not in my nature. But these dandies on their expensive bikes and full Lycra bound bellies had ticked me off and unleashed a fire in me that could only be extinguished by teaching them a lesson.

So I pulled out from the comfortable vacuum created by the slightly large fellow in front of me, and increased my cadence gradually until I’d passed the first bloke and was now riding alongside the friendly fella from the start. I looked over and nodded and then muttered something about loving a good stiff breeze before I put my head down and prepared for the pain. And boy did it hurt. Mashing the 42/16 as hard as I could I knew I was building a gap on Team Specialized behind me. I was determined not only to stay ahead, but also to make sure that they were not blagging a free ride off my rear wheel. Childish of me? Yes, absolutely, but it satisfied that base need I had in the moment to stamp out my superiority.

By the time I reached the split for Nun’s Island where I figured they would stop following me anyway, I had managed to stay ahead, despite almost exploding a lung. Was it worth it? You bet it was.



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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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