Saturday, April 16, 2016

Ste-Martine > Elgin & Dundee - another Chateauguay Valley Southwest Quebec extravaganza ride

There is no better place in Quebec with such a huge selection of high quality intermediate rides

(Ride map: click here)

A good bakery is pretty much mandatory to a good bike ride.

I went back to Elgin Bakery yesterday and unlike last week when I had to add clothing and put on every piece of clothes I had with me, this week it was "take it off!" Sunny and warm. This time I rode the first half of ride with the wind, and came back against the wind, and as it turned out, the daylight.

I started ride a bit farther away, parking in Ste-Martine (which was my original plan for last two weeks also but I had copped out to park at Ste-Clothilde & a shorter ride) 

Some numbers

1:00 pm bike ride start from Ste-Martine

3:23 pm the well-hidden Elgin Bakery              

That is 50 km super-direct, with a nice tailwind. TOok the straight line route, on super nice roads. I got passed by a super fast old dude.

On Friday the bakery closes 6 pm, so no race to get here unlike last week.
I had two complete complete coffee+snack mini meals in a row, when she gave me the bill she totally forgot I had had the first one!

4:15 pm Leave bakery (at road)

Decision required: turn around now, or go west a bit more before turning around. Well, it's not yet 5 pm, so go west old man!

I went quite a bit farther west, as it turned out, which was good because beautiful roads & first green field of 2016, but bad because daylight is finite. I was within a couple of miles of my Mom's birthplace on the ancestral farm on Carr Front road, which google calls (incorrectly) Carrefour road. LOL!

Super fast old dude passes me again! I suspect he's doing laps on a circuit of his own creation. He does not slow down to chat.

5:00 pm Turnaround point further west at edge of Dundee township.
(unfortunately, still outside Dundee township geographic limit, doh! Need an earlier start time than 1pm)

The turnaround point, when set ambitiously distant & far from the car (as in today) can arouse feeling of what if I don't make it? It's cold at night! I try to quell such anxiety by making a serious effort to pedal fastly. Which I did quite consistently for the next 3 hours and 45 minutes! Hey, I'm surprised too that I could maintain this pace for so long!

5:05 Uh-oh - First obstacle to the return-ride plan: the chosen return road has bridge out & freshly rebuilt dirt road, happily I don't have to walk any of it & bike & I survive

7:14 arrive at Franklin, where compass veers northeast to Ste-Martine and direction is downhill

I knew that the sunset was close, and that car was not. 7:14 is late. Ste-Martine is still far. So I was now racing the sun and not for first place. There was no doubt or denial about this.  

Who won? Me or the sun?

Sunset: 7:32
Ste-Martine at car: 8:47 pm. 

A lot of this was quite well lit post sunset gloom, but then it did get actually dark. Luckily I had chosen quiet roads with minimal car traffic & I have lights on my bike basically permanently.

Riding time (guess which direction had higher motivation levels, & also triple caffeinated)
Distance west (63 km) 4 hours
Distance east (75 km) 3:30

You can see from the map the route I took, as well as in yellow the route I had planned to take. Mid ride I decided to go further west, because riding with a tailwind on a warm spring day is a joy to be extended as far as possible. This meant coming back I had to take a shorter route (necessity!), on roads which I am familiar with but had avoided due to they were in poor condition - surprise: they have been very nicely re-paved since last time. I am happy to renew my riding on that section of "the rock" road. This also made the after sunset section of the ride less of a "to be survived" section and more of a "to be enjoyed."

I include a real old map, I was riding across "Blueberry plains" but managed this week to avoid "The Wilderness."

Look closely, this week I avoided "The Wilderness"

Yellow sections was the planned route, Red is the ride I actually did.

Duck in the duck spa.

Elgin Bakery, a true "hidden jewel" of the region

Where bakery is located is the only still-snowy part of ride.

Cows in their natural habitat.

Super fast dude passed me twice!

First green field of 2016!

ride had this unpaved, recently repaired road, not ideal for bikes but rideable

The glorious Pont Percy, Quebec's oldest covered bridge

From here I know I will ALWAYS be able to get back to the car, no matter if daylight or not.

Sunset: 7:23 pm. Still one hour of riding to go.

8:30 pm: bike path, a mere 10 minutes before back at car in Ste-Martine, but maybe I should have started ride at 12 pm, not 1 pm!

Conclusion: an excellent ride with many possibilities to do shorter version of the ride. 

Saturday, February 27, 2016


Here is the twitter, where I am a bit more active.

Lots of great bike ride blogging and related words: just click on any summer month over on the archive list on the right side of the screen.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Winter trip to Charlevoix/Saguenay region - planning

It is the planning phase for the annual winter snowfest funhog week of outdoor fun.

Last year the destination was Petit Saguenay. Before that it was Baie St-Paul. This year I would like to combine the two of them.

The highlight last year was the hiking part of the Sentier des Murailles into Lac Cardinal. It is a cliff-lined alpine lake and one of the nicest lakes in Quebec. In deep winter the lake is frozen and even more spectaculaire.

It seems that the group running the Sentier Les Murailles is closed for the winter and so is their website. But another website has map info on the different sections of the Les Murailles trail.  Here's the interactive map page  and here's the page with other info and gps coordinates.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

I have perfected the best southern Quebec road-bike ride, with various distance options.

I have found the perfect road bike ride. It is not a hilly mountain ride, because that's a different thing. It's not just lowland flats, because that's boring. This ride combines scenic rural country road riding with a moderate hill climb in the middle, all of it on great roads: quiet with few cars, always scenic with mix of forests and farm fields, and almost always on good to very good quality asphalt.

The itinerary is

Section 1 : St-Bernard-de-Lacolle to top of Covey Hill

St-Bernard-de-Lacolle to new bridge on Covey Hill (above town of Franklin Centre)

St-Bernard-de-Lacolle /piste cyclable la paysan bike path /Chemin Hebert/Country roads near St-Chrysostome, Havelock, Franklin and finally chemin Brooks to top of Covey Hill. On a clear day Chemin Brooks has a view of Montreal from 80 km away. We stop at the bridge because it is scenic and a zen spot.

The Covey Hill bridge is the turnaround point - or the start for all longer-ride tours to the west
This bridge is where all the ride options start. You can return back to the start (by a the same route or a slightly different route), or head further west for whatever distance you want to ride or extra time you have in the day before sunset. Sunset time and remaining daylight is the constraint you need to decide what to do here.

The return from Covey Hill to St-Bernard-de-Lacolle via Chemin Moore 

This section of the ride takes a slightly different route from the route we took to get here.

I use a different route to make the start of the ride a bit easier and less complicated and since it's on a bike path you can chat with buddies a bit more comfortable than on a road. The return simply takes a series of perfect roads for road-biking, including the funfest Chemin Moore. This direction also exploits the downhill trend of the landscape so it is speedy. Pure gravy!

All the optional circuits to the west will return to the Covey Hill bridge and will use the Chemin Moore route back to St-Bernard-de-Lacolle.

Section 2: West between Franklin/Covey Hill and Powerscourt

There's a bunch of excellent options in this section. Riding around Rockburn and Powerscourt is road bike paradise. In Powerscourt is QUebec's oldest covered bridge, built in 1863. It crosses the Chateauguay River. This region is called the Chateauguay Valley and don't you forget it!

Rockburn loop

This option adds one hour. It pure bike-ride perfection. Highly recommended. Either direction is good, I like clockwise. You could do even it both ways because it is that good. I usually do this version of the ride because I have just enough time extra to still get back in time for supper. So I often say to buddies, we can do this little extra section, one hour, and it's great riding." Then next time they tell me that want to do it again, so I know it's good. 

There is a restaurant in Rockburn.  Because this ride avoids towns and civilization, this is a chance for food without having to take a detour into a village.

Powerscourt allez-retour direct
Go west (one hour) direct out-and-back to Powerscourt & Quebec's oldest covered bridge.

You will be riding on First Concession. A few hundred metres south of here is the border with the USofA.  It is a another great road for road-bike riding. No I am not bullshitting. THis ride overflows with great road-bike roads.

This version goes straight and does not use the Rockburn Loop (Although I suggest including the clockwise direction of the loop on the retour/return leg of the ride because it's a free downhill, and it's really good riding.

Powerscourt plus Rockburn Loop
Go west (2 hours) hour direct out-and-back to Powerscourt  This version includes doing both directions of the Rockburn Loop separately on the allez and the retour parts of the ride.

Franklin > Montée Rockburn, Athelstan, Powerscourt

Franklin > Montée Rockburn, Athelstan, Elgin, Powerscourt

Franklin > Montée Rockburn, Chemin Gore, Gilmore Bridge, Elgin, Powerscourt

We'll finish this later. It's time to go outside.


Friday, November 13, 2015

Fast pedaling workout aka High Rpm Cadence Intervals

Pedaling cadence rpm is one of those things that separates the pros from the slows.

High rpm spin-the-pedals is always preferred to low rpm push-the-pedals.

Fast pedaling at high rpm = low effort.

Slow pedaling at low rpm = high effort & poor form.

Here is a cadence interval workout I like a lot.

I like it a lot because it works. The more you do it the easier it is to bike. This makes biking easier. So either easier, or faster, or more fun, or all of these together. Caution: may cause jubilant glee.

Training to spin over 110 makes regular 90-100 rpm cadence sweet and easy, and gives me plenty of headroom for accelerational requirements.

Having good high rpm cadence capabilities is a skill the debutants definitely do not inherently possess and I would say it is as fundamental as correct bike position, map reading skills, flat changing skills, road safety skills, and a positive and welcoming attitude about impending uphills.

I like that this provides a training to support the constant changes in pedaling speed and effort arising from wind, gravity, shifting and other fun factors.

I love to watch Colorado high speed road bike youtube videos because watching high speed road riding inspires high speed pedaling.

This workout will make bike riding easier, therefore more fun, with greater potential to put the pedal down and go faster when needed.

Which means have more fun!

Print me! Ride me!

Don't forget to use good form. Good form is everything.

These things will address good form. Always use good form.
  • No bouncing up and down.
  • Keep your weight on the seat.
  • Watts set watts or power below your cardio overload level. This is NOT about pushing hard.
  • Headband, bike gloves, towel, lip stuff, and water nearby. 
  • Put a powerful fan in front of you. You will sweat. (with big fan wearing bike shades for eye protection is useful)
  • Use fast-beat tunes
  • Fast Colorado mountains road-bike videos on youtube
  • Rest the next day, no back to back hard sessions! 
It's a long time until summer returns:
  • November - the less less said about n-v-m--r the better!
  • December - perform sacred snow dance to make snow fall from sky in large quantity
  • January - snowshoe and cross country ski - woohoo
  • February - snowshoe and cross country ski - woohoo
  • March - snowshoe and ski road trip to Charlevoix & Saguenay
  • March - late winter road bike rides near ormstown if dry weather
  • April - road bike rides near Ormstown, mtn bike on road around lac Brome lake & Wotton
  • May - everything turns green and warm temperatures arrive
  • June - It's starting to look a lot like summer!

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Lacolle to Powerscourt ride along US Border via Franklin & Covey Hill

(Letter to a friend format)

Well I had also had significant winds in the consistently 30 & gusting to 40 km range all day, and in the they're out to get me dept, they were NE winds. So riding Lacolle to Powerscourt I had a fabulous great amazing best first half to a ride possible. Then it was turn around time and what was joy and happiness became energy depleting relentless obstacle. 

I got the first 80 km to powerscourt done 4 hours total time including a Pont Barré that was really Barré and so I had to explore crossing options in some detail and ultimately stepped over widely-spaced stones through a pretty good current. Using the bike with brakes held on helps stabilize when making the big steps between rocks (and they we all big steps between rocks!!). I lost a water bottle there because stupidity. This was the closed road (bridge closed) to Havelock which means that geographically the next step could only be to climb Covey hill the HARD way, from the east and it's a mega hill, 30-40 km tailwinds assisted fersure here. Then from the crest of the road's highest point it was downhill and tail wind 30 km all the way to Powerscourt. It went fast!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

I got to powerscourt at 1 pm and doing the math I had to turnaround here because return leg (although a shorter route) would be slowed by wind.  As a result I got home to Montreal at 7:20 for the 7:30 chicken roti pickup right on time, so this turnaround point plan worked exquisitely well. This is the deal with this ride, turn around at whatever point will result in correct return home deadline. Still gave me time for beer/n/chips when finished which if I had continued into Elgin would have been eliminated and it's a feature of this ride to be relished and with a hard return section, anticipated with pavlovian intensity.

Arriving back at the car, I didn't stop, I just kept going on the bike path! Because I battled headwind for 4.5 hours all the way back I went past the car a kilometer in order to turn around in a klick or two so I would then have tailwind and finish the ride with a little less survived the Somme feeling and get a tiny taste of tailwind to end the day. Ok, fine.  But when I mapped the ride when I got home it turns out my total distance was 158.5 Km or 99 miles, meaning I should have done 2 km not 1 km extra into the wind and I would have had 100 miles! Doh!  

It was also a cold day, the first one of the season - but I have figured out how to completely cover the exposed flesh and that wasn't a problem. I have new neoprene booties to wear over my shoes, and shopping early meant large (technically xxl) is in stock.  I wore a liner glove-cycling glove-fleece glove on top combination which worked quite well in combating my cold-finger problem.

So a good road ride uses up all your energy. The quality of "good" can be calibrated by identifying at what point the energy reserves are depleted, versus where on the ride the energy depletion occurred. For this ride, the energy reserve depletion point (ERDP, also known as the point where you learn you are not actually in the shape you dreamed you were in) was at the 75% of ride point, so the final downhill 1/4 of the ride (usually on a good day with the wind but today aggressively against the wind) was a challenge, but it has downhillish tendencies and this characteristic to the ride is a life saver. Both for me and most buddies who had their edrp long ago earlier in the ride.  When I did this ride two weeks ago I rocked this section at top speed, so what a difference wind direction makes to my perception of my self-greatness!

Good things
got an early start, on bike 9 am
great tailwind for 4 hours
did Covey Hill the hard way (first time since Dominic ride a few years ago)
Didn't get me or bike wet during Pont Barré stream crossing
Low car traffic (as expected and usual)
Almost no noisy motorcycles
Got some apples and juice at Stevenson's in Rockburn
Easy drive both ways
Did not forget any cold weather gear
These roads are perfect for biking in every way
Amazing view of big mountains in eastern townships and Vermont from middle hard covey hill climb
My explorations zigzagging during first 1/4 of ride has developed nicely into a new & favored version of the ride
Chicken roti with pumpkin for supper - a favorite post-ride supper,

Bad things
wind on the return leg of ride
did not get to elgin bakery within time limits of ride. Need 8 am start or less time-wasting zigzag route for first 1/4 of ride
I could be both stronger and have better endurance
forgot camera, although this does speed up the ride a lot.
Winter's coming!

Post ride advice: Recommendation: Chicken Roti at Caraibe Delite on ave du Parc. Spread the one-person size cup of hot sauce on the top of the roti. Mmmmm good.

Sunday, September 06, 2015

New bridge on Sentier du Paysan bike path - Muddy detour gone forever!

Depuis l’article GeoPleinair sur le Sentier du Paysan dans 2012, il a construit des aires de repose, et mieux, il a construire a nouveau pont a Rang 2 a Ste-Clotilde. Le détour de boue est fini pour tout temps.

Yellow: new bridge replaces the obvious detour
Green: a fun variation with good scenic and asphalt qualities
Red: how to get to/from Ste-Chrysostome from western end of bike path

Another fine bike ride on Quebec's most southern road

I returned to the Lacolle >Franklin (Rockburn) roadride with the std distance extension western section to Elgin (Powerscourt) yesterday because I broke a spoke on the mtn bike on friday night - which put the kibosh on my saturday mtn bike ride plan.

You can see from the map that I variated the route (introduced a series of possibly unrandom variations).  This worked out great, I like especially when a new road is a nice asphalt & scenic road and I found one of these too. 

I did not make it to the Elgin Bakery, or rather I did but about two hours later than its 2 pm closing time. I had stopped at Stevenson orchard in Rockburn on my way west and got a bottle of fresh apple juice (1.89l is quite a lot) and they had sweet tango apples. I said I'd pick some up on the way back and I made it back there 1 minute before the closing time! From that point it is up onto the top of covey hill and then downhill back to the car, today was not a with-the-wind day (damn!). The last 40 km were hard and I did a lot of speedy coasting (gentle sprint to top a rise, then a long coast, repeat).

In a sign of things to come in the 2015 bike season , the sun set before I got back to the car. But happily because of the fact the last ten km is on bike path, the sun set just as I arrived on the bike path so no issues with traffic safety. The dep 3 km from the end of the ride had cold beer and chips and these were excellent. I was soif!

I still continue to regard this ride as nearly perfect, with low traffic, good roads, nice scenery, good variety, and now in apple season much improved food options around Franklin. This ride is my favorite for a reason, not too hard and as long as I want it.

Riding the final wooded bike path section in the dark reminds me.... there have been cougar sightings in the area.  Recent marking of bike path bumps has had an effect: not only can I see the bumps in near darkness, but the town saw them too and repaved a couple of sections of high bump concentrations!!!!!

It took about nine hours total time to ride this, roughly 11 am to 8 pm. A full day of perfect sunshine, low winds, and hot summer temps. And some suffering, but not too much. 

Sure it looks like two bike rides, but it is an excellent long day ride. I did it in 9 hours, from 11 am to 8 pm.

NEWS! Looooong-awaited new bridge on sentier du paysan near St-Clotilde

Abandoned church in middle of nowhere near St-Chrysostome.
Church in St-Chrysostome
many many stone walls on this ride in Franklin and westwards
Ths point means 1/4 or 3/4 of ride is done.
Mtée Covey hill with new asphalt! Nice bridge rest stop at dip in the road
The Bertrand also likes this rest stop on Mtée Covey Hill
Round barn on Gore road south of Huntingdon
There is no end to the uses and usefulness of those velcro pant cuff thingies
200 year old tree
Entering Athelstan, a nice neat clean brick church (Ormstown brick)
Someone in Athelstan really likes trains - note the bronze conductor!
Gilmore bridge across Chateauguay river into Elgin is thin and delicate old-school steel bridge
Gilmore bridge closed to cars, but open for bikes, it's a perfect private rest stop
1St Concession is a perfect bike road in every way. Paradis du vélo!
Sun, trees, forests, fields, farms, fences, fun and fun and more fun
Quebec's oldest covered bridge, Pont Percy across the Chateauguay river at Powerscourt near US border.
Good view of the double-arch aspect to the MacCallum bridge design used here.
Historical plaque was stolen three years ago, and still not replaced.
Two genuine original Chateauguay Valley pioneer buildings ar Rennies farm on 1st concession
The ride is full of perfect roads for road bike riding of all levels.
Yet another tree tunnel
Recognize this? THis is fresh asphalt, smooth and perfect for biking.
When you order your mailbox on the internet from the artisanal mailbox company and for appearance/finish you click on "distressed" this is what you get
This ride avoids almost all towns, especially on the return section all along 1st Concession along US border (most southern road in Quebec) but people at corner Mtée Rockburn (aka Dewittville sideroad) and the first Concession put out this self-serve water station - and it has COLD water!
Every 3-4 minutes another kilometer passes by... much better than any 4k tv set
These cows appear concerned for my health because at this point I was beat.
Cows watching the sunset, but I still had an hour to ride before finished & back at the car
Which came first? The Sunset or finishing the ride?  Oopsie, the sunset. But today it is ok because at this second of sunset I also arrived at the Sentier du Paysan bike path and 10 car-free kilometers to ride straight back to the car in St-Bernard-de-Lacolle.
The delicious new Apple variety Sweetango is now ripe and available for your apple-eating pleasure. I bought this bag at Verger Stevenson's orchard which is right on the bike ride route. I did have to carry the bag 52 km back to the car. (tip: split up the apples in three between bag, camelbak, and I use the spare vest's deep back pockets and tie vest solidly to the camelbak (it works, trust me)

new helmet, bigger vents, more hair