Friday, October 05, 2007

From the Peanut Gallery

Maybe the extended summer weather is messing with people's moods (bring on the cool crispness of fall already!) but there seems to be a lot more commentary from the peanut gallery lately while riding.

Today's ride, a driver leaning out of some sort of government van (it had an Ontario logo on it):
"Didn't your mother ever tell you not to <mumble mumble>"

Hecklers never stick around. He was off before I could say pardon. I thought at first it was "pedal around" but then on reflection "pedal on the road" on "play on the road" seemed to make more sense in context.

If he had waited for me to answer, I might have asked him "didn't your mother ever teach you manners?"

Oddly enough, this was also on Queen Street where on a nice lovely day like today there were probably twice as many bicycles as cars on the road. (so if he is ignorant enough to think bikes should not be on the road, he has a lot of people to chat with)

Yesterday's ride encountered a snarky pedestrian. Now I can understand snarky pedestrians if oh say I was biking on the sidewalk, blasting through a red light, or deking into the crosswalk. But I was doing absolutely nothing to the pedestrian who felt the need to shout from a distance "You should wear a helmet!" She wasn't close enough to answer, and I was moving, and probably "You should wear one too in case you get plowed over by a cyclist" might have sounded just a *wee* bit aggressive.

Since apparently people have forgotten the concept if you don't have something nice to say don't say it...

I'm declaring next Friday - that's October 12 - to be Say Nice Things to Cyclists Day. Feel free to put your suggestions in the comments of random nice comments you can make to passing cyclists.

P.S. You don't have to wait until Friday :)

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Urban Jungle vs. Quiet Countryside

Last week on my way to work a car and I collided. This is my first unintentional contact with a motor vehicle in 20,000 km of urban riding. Queen Street, car turns right unexpectedly from the middle lane, I see him doing this, I turn with him to avoid, I can't turn quickly enough, I bounce off the mirror (it was a minivan so higher mirrors), yada yada. I did not fall, and it did not seem to hurt (it was more of a brush after the diversion to avoid). There seemed to be no point in stopping. I was okay, my bike was okay, I seriously doubted that my brush caused any damage to the minivan. I yelled something like WATCH OUT and kept on going. Honestly it seems like a honest enough mistake - I believe the lane issue was because a parked delivery truck (who I would be more irked at) was blocking the intersection. If I had been more attentive I could have foreseen the parked truck as obstructing the view of me, and changed lanes, but traffic was heavy and slow, and the streetcar tracks were wet.

I was not angry (like I was at the Audi driver who intentionally thought he owned the road and I did not deserve to be there - and tried to scare me, well must think on the positive side, I'm sure if he was thinking drive through me he may have been concerned about the paint job) I was not hurt. But my already fragile nerves from recent road rage were shaken up. I had flashbacks of shoulder bouncing off van and it just seemed like the roads were exceptionally mean.

I needed to remember why I love biking so much. I needed fresh air, sunshine, and quiet roads to bike for miles and miles and miles.

Big Chute 200K ride report

Starting from Barrie, with lots of country roads, and passing through villages on bodies of water, the Big Chute 200K seemed a perfect prescription for relaxation. I set myself a lofty goal of an 11 hour brevet. (For reference the three 200K brevets I have done so far have taken 13:18, 12:59, and 12:54). This also happened to coincide with the approximate number of daylight hours. I can finish before dark right? I asked a rando friend. Given my track record, he just said Nope! Which of course I took to be a personal challenge.

With a one hour drive to get to the start (yeah I know I complain about those people that drive their bikes to go for a ride, but hey fresh air, sunshine and quiet roads. so shhh! Got a ride with another randonneur) it was an early morning. Which should have meant prepping everything the night before. Instead it was a grouchy chaos of trying to find things, including sunglasses which I located a pair, broken. So no sunglasses, and grabbing the helmet which I seldom wear unless I have to (or its raining) I didn't realize the visor wasn't on or the headlight which comes in handy after dark.

My chaos delayed our departure, and although we did get to Barrie by 7:30 for a 8 a.m. start, my friend likes more time to get ready. After a coffee I was less grouchy and good to go, and I set off to find the others (the parking lot we thought was the meeting spot was under construction so we parked at Timmies) Waiting for M to prep his bike (my fault for being late really) probably delayed the start of the brevet til 8:10 (hmm late starts not being good for personal best quests!)

I set off squinting into the glorious sunshine (could really use those sunglasses) riding along with new rider C, a mom with some young kids looking for a club to ride with. In the mad dash I had also forgotten clips for the cue sheet making reading it somewhat inconvenient, so I relying on my wonderful (not really) sense of direction as the first part of the route to Carthew Bay overlapped a previous ride. Of course at the T-junction where I had a choice, I picked the wrong way, but C was following the cue sheet so we quickly got turned around.

View from Carthew Bay

M who had zoomed off ahead was waiting in Carthew Bay, so it was the three of us from that point on. At a quick pit stop at the 50K mark at a gas station store, I picked up some cheap sunglasses and my eyes were much happier. At some point closer to the first control I see this blaze of huge leg muscle come blasting by me at what seemed like twice my speed. I figure it was not one of us (or why would he have been behind for so long?) Muscle is up ahead chatting to M briefly and as I slow down to cross hazardous looking railway tracks, I figure I'm behind anyway may as well stop and pick up a stray water bottle I notice. A while later when I catch up with M and C, I find out muscle was one of us. He had started late because he had forgotten his shoes and had to drive back to get them. I assume its his water bottle and figure there's a chance we may see him as the route we take into the first control is the same road out of it.

We do see him on his way out but my frantic waving must have looked just friendly instead of hey I have your bottle, and he waved back and kept going. The first control is in Honey Harbour at around 86K. My back is absolutely killing me and I'm looking forward to a break off the bike. We get to the general store in the village and there's about 5 others there. So its nice to know I'm not that slow that we aren't that far behind. The speedy group however are way long gone, and I think there are two riders behind us. Service at the store is slow slow slooow, and we wait for C to show up who had stopped to say hello to a friend. I enjoy the extra time, and put on sunscreen and stretch and whatnot. There's a lovely view of Georgian Bay. But a 45 minute control stop is not going to help my 11-hour quest. I., one of the riders behind shows up while we are eating.

View from Honey Harbour

The roads on the ride were nice and quiet and virtually traffic free; the leaves partially turned nice and colourful; and the roadways lined with interesting Canadian Shield rocks. The highlight of the ride is seeing the Big Chute Marine railway. Its this interesting way they get boats from one body of water to another, by using a platform on rails to hoist them up and out of the water.

Step 1: The platform crosses the road on the rails to pick up the waiting boat

Step 2: The boat drives onto the platform while the platform is under water

Step 3: Platform hoists boat up and out the water

On the way to the next control in Coldwater, C has rack issues for the second time. It seems that two people are more than enough to solve the problem, and I look forward to some solitude in the country as I ride on ahead. I figure I'm the slowest of the three of us anyway and they will catch up. Riding through the tree lined quiet road on a July-like day at the end of September, I can't help but smile from ear to ear.

I. had suggested a sit-down restaurant in Coldwater as the control. Again not the best thing if I'm on a speed quest, but its really all about enjoying the wonderful day. After fuelling up, there's just the home stretch to go. There's no third control on this ride but I figure a pit stop at one of the stores along Ridge Road will be a short break needed for the home stretch.

The next 30 km are somewhat torturous for a slightly weary sore-backed cyclist. Hills, hills, and more hills as we navigate through ski resort country. I end up walking one as I get disheartened by the long slow grade turning suddenly steep, but misshift into too low a gear and can't spin fast enough to keep moving forward. C with more a classic road bike doesn't have as low gears as I do and is making the hills look easy climbing them out of the saddle. Odd I remember her saying she does all her riding in the Holland Marsh (ie flatlands) but she's a great climber anyway.

Back at Ridge Road, the route retraces the route we took out so I know there's no real hills, and it should be a fast ride back in. We all kind of want a short pit stop to recharge, but the first store we stop at has no public washrooms. We remember a pizza place and store further along, so we keep on going, to find the same fate. Oh well, that will just encourage faster pedalling I figure!

Past sunset, I'm hoping not to test my urban headlight out on a dark country road, so we keep pedalling our way along and manage to make it to the streetlights of suburbia (aka Barrie) before it becomes totally dark. Having had a wonderful break from the city road rage with a great relaxing country ride, I'm somewhat dismayed to get an "out of my way" honk from a bicycle-ignorant suburban driver. I am ashamed to admit I may have instinctively waved at him but not with all my fingers. That never helps to relax.

The road on the route closed to construction, C leads us back via a parallel bike path. I cringe at what Barrie has developed as a bike path, barely wide enough for one bike to ride comfortably between two concrete barriers, this is supposed to be bidirectional?! My legs feel like they could ride another 100 km, but my back has me totally done for. Oddly when we get back to the start point and stop for a few minutes, my legs catch up with the rest of me and decide they can't bike any further either. Its like um where is the car? You mean I have to bike another 200 yards?

Overall time was 11:49. Did not keep track of any other stats but figure at least 2:10 was spent off the bike. Thoughts of going out to Nuit Blanche when I got back to Toronto went right out the window in favour of sleep.

Annoyingly in my tired daze I don't know how I managed to only toss one half of the $50 pair of gloves into the car. I figure I jinxed my good bikey karma by writing about it, and colliding with a car and losing a glove. But I guess one can see the glass half full or glass half empty side. Yeah it was my first collision, but on the good karma side I did not get hurt. And with the bikey glove, at least I still have two usable gloves. Since for some reason after losing one glove last year and buying a new pair, I kept the lone glove, and the two hands now form a pair albeit slightly mismatched.