Friday, September 29, 2006

Puddles Suck

It was raining today and this means puddles.


I don't get very wet riding in the rain.

Except for puddles.

I passed a newly paved bike path in Saint Laurent. It had a 10 metre long puddle.

Can't todays laser measurement technology measure is a newly paved road surface is going to have proper drainage.

This is the kind of thing that the techno wizards leaving the universities must dream up every day. Make it Happen!!!

And where are the cities who pay and are apparently willing to accept this shoddy low-quality paving work?

The contract should clearly set performance guarantees. I think that proper drainage is one of the items that the paving contract should guarantee. Drainage isn't just wet shoes, it's a road hazard.

I know the solution: I'll go buy some bike shoe overbooties right now!

Because I know can't rely on the officials running our city(s) to demand a high level of quality when we pay contractors to do the paving work.

(Note, if you've been with me for a while you'll know that I have a rain bike, Rusty, and you'll wonder what's up, why am I not using rusty? It's in the shop. )

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Mont Megantic - The highest road in Quebec

Where is the highest road in Quebec? Is it some mysterious Gaspe mining road, or is it something hidden in the North Shore somewhere? Maybe it's in the Laurentians?

Nope, none of these.

The highest paved road is Quebec goes up to the top of Mont Megantic in the Eastern Townships, 55 minutes east of Sherbrooke (take the Rt 108 east from Lennoxville, then take the 212 at Cookshire) until you arrive at Notre Dame des Bois.

To get to Parc Nationale de Mont Megantic, drive north from the intersection in the middle of the village, to the first left turn, the road is marked "entrance observatoire" and in a couple of kilometres, you can park your car in the parking lot, pay your $3.50 park entrance fee at the Accueil (welcome centre), and prepare to ride.

The road has a gate, anyone can drive up as long as they pay the fee. Happily, this includes bicycles and their riders.

The road winds up between the main summit of Mont Megantic and the subsidiary peak of Mont St-Joseph. Mont St-Joseph has great views to the east, it's own chapel (!), and is accessible by a side road off the main Summit roadway.

The road turns and aims next for the top of Mont Megantic. Once near the top you will see the public observatory, and a bit further, the scientic observatory. Megantic is remote, and light pollution is at a minimum. This means lots of stars are visible, they say that you can see 2000 stars here with the naked eye. Compare that with Montreal, where you can see about three with the naked eye. Light pollution at night has removed the mysterious beauty of the night sky from our lives. There is an effort today to reduce light pollution both near the Megantic observatory and in urban areas. This basically means installing lights that aim the light down at the ground, not wasted light shooting up into the sky. But if you look around, you will see some new light installations that aim their light towards the ground, a big improvement on the past.

Getting back to the Mont Megantic Bike Climb, there is only one race that goes up this ride, and I think you have to be a pro rider to do it, because it is the annual multi day stage race, the Tour de Beauce. Although Megantic is not part of the Beauce region, it is just south of it. Race organisers knew a good thing when they saw it, and included the climb up Mont Megantic toll road as a great way to end a stage.

In my travels around Quebec discovering the best hills for cycling, I had never seen anything quite like Mont Megantic before. I knew that the Tour de Beauce finished on top, but I had not realized it was a public road. Now that I know it, I'll be back every year to take in the local scenic beauty, do some hiking and biking, and add this to my list of the jewels of Quebec.

If you want to stay overnight, there are numerous campgrounds and B&Bs in the area. the Parc Mont Megantic website has links to these facilities. There are two restaurants and a small grocery store and SAQ in the town of Notre Dame de Bois, The nearby town of La Patrie (on the way) is a bit larger and has a few more services. The ride south from la Patrie to Colebrooke and back crosses a big hill. Thisis cntained in a new Velo Quebec book on multiday rides, they suggest a three day ride starting in Chartierville, going around Mont megantic, to maine, and back across Northern maine, New hampshire, a bit of Vermont. it looks good, and I'll try it one day when multiday rides are in vogue.

Tourist Tip: The covered bridge 500 metres down a side road between La Patrie and Cookshire has a swimming hole. There's a sign on the highway 212 identifying this covered bridge.

Monday, September 18, 2006

The "Trans Lanaudiere Ride" project

Ask your friends about the Lanaudiere region. what's their answer? That's where the the music festival is? It's Quebec's tobacco farming region? It's the flat lands along the Saint Laurence river? No one answers "it's got some of the best mountainous road cycling in Quebec."

From Montreal, everybody thinks that the land to the north is the Laurentians. These are the laurentian mountains. But, the government one day got involved, and now there's two regions to the north: the Laurentians and the Lanaudiere. These are the same mountains, but there's technically two tourist "regions." Everyone knows the Laurentian region, with Tremblant as the big mountain to the north. But, what's east of Tremblant? Yes, it's the Lanaudiere, and it's also full of hills and mountains. Is it good for cycling? Not just good, it's great for fans of two wheels on the road.

I spent the summer exploring the northern part of Lanaudiere. South of this point is civilized North America. North of here are national parks, forests, preserves and ZEC's, the start of the thousand miles of northern bush until you run out of trees, and then hundreds of roadless miles later, you arrive at the Arctic ocean (ok, technically the Baffin Strait). I set out to explore this last east-west road network at the northern edge of civilization. North of here the bear, fox, moose and other creatures of the northern forest make up the population. Sure there's a few roads heading north, but they are one-destination dead end roads. I had never been here before, would I want to come back once my explorations were finished?

For the typical montrealler, heading north means crossing Laval on the 15 and heading straight up the Laurentian Autoroute, usually no farther than Tremblant. Instead of this now-familiar routine, I headed east to Jolliete and then north. For one thing, the Saint Laurence river heads north-east in direction. So the mountains are a lot closer to the river than further west.

My first destination was home to 19th century circus strongman Louis Cyr, the village of Saint Jean de Matha. I had looked in a bicycle guidebook to Quebec, "les Petits Escapades" which suggested a loop ride circuit around this village. My first visit here was at the end of June, on Saint Jean Baptiste day, Quebec's national holiday (now renamed La Fete Nationale). The scenery was nice, it is here where you enter the mountains. What would it be like on bike? The answer came quickly. I locked the car, crossed the highway onto a quiet country road, and in about four minutes after I started pedalling I was struggling up a 20% climb!

Aieee!

Luckily this was a short hill, but it set the tone for the rest of my Lanaudiere explorations. I had found hills, and I wanted more, more more more! Happily, Lanaudiere delivered these hills no matter where in the region I went, and by the end of the summer I had completed the entire trans-Lanaudiere east-west circuit on assorted saturdays and sundays. It's roughly 150 km across, and depending on how you do it it would make an excellent 200 point-to-point day ride. It has plenty of villages, each with it's own character (this is not a clone-town region like we see in populated areas, with the same megagiantcorp chains infesting every town with Tim's, MacDo, and Couche Tard at every highway intersection. Happily, the mass corporatization of our consumer society hasn't quite reached here yet. What was even better is that between these villages, there are back roads that cross farms, forests, hills, ridges, valleys and best of all, chains of mountains.

Where to start? There's almost too many choices, so I'll list them starting from the west and we'll voyage eastwards.

Tremblant to Lac Superieur

This essentially connects the next section to the populated Lauentian area around Tremblant. You could also start at St-Faustin/Lac Carre. I haven't actually ridden this section yet, but it is the logical choice to connect to the amazing road described next. From Tremblant, follow the road to "the north side" and then in the direction of the "La Diable" entrance to the Parc Tremblant, except be sure to turn for Lac Superieur. A few kilometres after the lake will be a road on leftside going to St-Donat. I a couple of kilometres more this road will transform from a tiny country road into a brand new, just built 30 km through the forest, which sees so little car traffic that it is known as "la chemin cyclist." Before a couple of years ago there was no road here at all, so the usual "cottage country" landscape hasn't yet been built, (it's beginning, but if you hury you'll see everythng in the natural state.

15 km

Lac Superior to Saint Donat

The amazing new road (aka "chemin cycliste") to St-Donat. 4 stars. Really big hills, big scenery, excellent road quality, and no condos! This is one of the best sections of road ever to be built in quebec. Once at eastern end, there are paved shoulders to Saint Donat. If you didn't start at tremblant, it is recommended to start at Saint-Donat. For one thing, it's not tremblant. For another, you're supposed to be discovering Lanaudiere. in Saint Donat park at the municipal tennis court or the park pioneers (swimming).

40 km

Saint Donat to Notre Dame de la Merci

This short section on the Route 125 is still not done, I did the next section as part of a short day which unfortunately left me with short gaps at either end. Doh. Route 125 is major road and busy, but is very scenic. Good halte routiere at Notre Dame de la Merci, which is where I parked for the next section.

15 km

Notre Dame de la Merci to Saint Come

Wow! This is a great road, twisty, hilly, twisty some more, hilly some more. First 8 km has good road surface, but no paved shoulder, after that a paved shoulder all the way to st-Come. The route 347 traverses along side and at one point, through the Foret Ouareau regional park. Excellent scenery. 4 stars ride. Note, this is a very popular motorcycle ride, so riding early in the day will make it a more peaceful experience. It is one of the most scenic road rides of my life. Notre Dame de la Merci has an excellent rest area, I parked (on weekend) at the town hall/library next to the halte routiere. There's also a new beach, kids park, and little nature trail to relax afterwards.

30 km

Saint Come to St-Emilie de L'Energie

I messed up the last ride and didn't get this last ten kilometre. There's a big hill down to St-Emilie (BIG!). St-Emilie has a very nice tourist stop and sawmill history centre but it is a bit hidden. From St-Emilie you can ride south to Saint Jean de matha over some great hills, or ride directly to Saint Gabriel de Brandon.

10 km

Saint Emilie de L'Energie to St-Jean de Matha

Thisis a very nice forested climb, take chemin des feuilles des erables (maple leaf road), this road is located at the very bottom of that BIG hill. After a long descent (there's a rest stop here at the depanneur Lau-Den). At end of this road take the highway (left) to Saint Jean de Matha (good parking at at Musee Louis Cyr behind city hall. Note: The loop ride from Saint-Jean de Matha to east to Saint Gabriel, then west to St-Emilie and back via chemin de feuille d'erable is the first one I did in the region, and is one that I repeated three times since)

20 km?

Saint Jean de la Matha to St-Gabriel de Brandon

Start on street in front of church, cross highway (east) on to quiet country road, with a sharp hill just 4 minutes from town. Don't miss the turn off to St-Gabriel or you return on a loop to St Jean de la Matha. In St-Gabriel you can park at the big parking lot beside the tourist office and across from the Metro grocery store. The nice town beach is north about 1 mile (sign says plage). Eat snacks or supper at the beach. I parked here for the ride to Saint Alexis des Monts/Lac Sacacomie.

20 km

Saint Gabriel de Brandon to St-Alexis des Monts

Take the highway east to St-Didace, then turn left on 349 on a small road to Saint Alexis. Possible improvements to this road are in store for the future. It's forested and quiet. when the town line to Saint Alexis is crossed, the road becomes a bike corridor. Arriving at St-Alexis stop at a dep for a snack, but continue with the snacks to the rest stop beside the church and the lake in the town centre. There's a gigantic trout jumping out of the lake.

Congratulations: you have finished the Trans Lanaudiere!

35 km

Bonus ride: Saint Alexis des Monts to Lac Sacacomie

Officially, you have finished the Lanaudiere, but this last section is the icing on the cake. it is a wicked little ride and deserves to be done if any energy remains at all. (or if you rode from Saint Gabriel and will be returning on a out-and-back ride) Turn left at church to Lac Sacacomie (bad road for 8 km), turn at sign for Auberge Lac Sacacomie/Parking municipal Lac Sacacomie. This road is excellent 4 star quality. Enjoy excellent hills for 6.5 km. The road ends at hotel Lac Sacacomie You can stop here, or if returning, follow this advice: When returning, go down to the lake at the parking municilap de Lac Sacacomie. Then ride back up. You'll love me ort hate me, but you won't forget this hill for a long time. It's one of those the road can't be any steeper than this or it would be impossible to ride. (Yes, I find this sort of thing to be fun!). Once at the top of this, you have one of the best descents in quebec, let it rip! Woohoo! I hit a record maximum speed on this hill. Coasting! SInce the road is only 6.5 km long, you'll be be back at the crappy long before too long, but hope and pray that the long promised repairs are completed. Then it' back in Saint Alexis des Monts and you really are finished with Lanaudiere. Until you come back again!

15 km

Conclusion

When I read in the book les Petits Escapades, I looked at the hill profile and thought to myself, this looks interesting. That was an understatement. I enjoyed my summers' day trips to here, every time I was rewarded with great scenery and hills, and plenty of both. I saw a few dedicated cyclists along the way, but hardle any compared to the Laurentians region. Why the secret? I hope I can encourage more cyclists to come out and enjoys this jewel of a cycling paradide less than 90 minutes from Montreal. See you there!

For more information you can read ride reports from my individual lanaudiere rides on my cycling blog, cycle fun montreal.

Lanaudiere - the fameuse 347


Another week, another weekend, so I returned once more to the north.


This time I went to route 347 in Lanaudiere, a 30 km road through hilly hills from Notre Dame de la Merci to Saint-Come. I discovered along the drive there that there was an autoroute 25, an autoroute I'd never heard of before. It's not all completed, meaning that there's a village that needs to be bypassed, Ste-Julienne. This village had "the small village red light" which was the bottleneck of this fine route.

Anyway, I got to Notre Dame de La Merci and paked the car at the town hall. It was about 120 km from home, and took about two hours, including the red light bottle neck and a bit of minor car troubles. It should be about 90 minutes, which is what it took to come home. The drive up was very scenic, with lots of scenic hills, and they were being covered with scenic fall colours. In other words, very nice! Notre Dame de la Merci is a very small village, and a fair bit of tourism must be 4-wheeler because I saw tons of cars and trucks with empty 4-wheeler trailers parked in the village. I was on bike and got a better parking spot then these guys, in the town hall parking. There was a new "halte routiere" (tourist rest stop) which included a tourist info stand, a separate washrooms building, and a park with a pond with beach, kids play area, and nature trail. I took a swim in the little pond on my way back. It was refreshing because the water wasn't warm anymore!

Anyway, I got the skinny on the road I wanted to take, the 347, from the lady at the tourist stand. She even informed me where the fatalities had occurred. (uh, thanks.). Then I sat on the bike and rode, rode and rode, feeling very fresh in the legs department. It turned out I had a very nice tailwind on the out section of the ride. The scenery was excellent. Sometimes these hilly roads are covered in forest and a view is rarely enjoyed. Not this road, the view and the road are concurrent. And with the aurumn colors, the view was great. There were also rivers and some lakes, and even some cliffs to gawk at. The road passes through the "foret ouareau" which is a protected area with separate trails for hiking, mtn biking, and 4 wheeling. Sometimes when I stopped along the road I'd hear 4-wheelers in the woods. Every body was having fun. There was another group of fun loving rebels I have not yet mentioned: motorcycle riders. It seems that the 347 is a legendary motorcycle road for Quebec riders. Why? For the same reason it attracted me: the road twists and turns and goes up and goes down and never is straight for more than a couple of hundred feet! Woohoo! The motorcycles were a lot more dense on my later-afternoon ride back from the turnaround point of St-Come. I would guess that more than a hundred passed me, possibly much more. I did see six other cyclists during the day.

So the ride wasn't very long, about 30 km each way, but since the terrain wasn't flat it filled up the afternoon. It was hilly and climb-descend, which makes even a shorter ride interesting and keeps the average speed under control. I averaged about 22.7 km'h for the entire ride. I made many stops for scenery, so the ride wasn't as short as its 60 km total distance would indicate.

I was away from home from 10 am to 7 pm. I didn't get a chance to ride one village further to Sainte-Emile de l'Energie, where I have ridden through several times in the summer. This is because I didn't actually read my map when I was in St-Come and the road sign I looked at gave a distance to a different village that was further away and I didn't read the map to see that St-Emilie was quite close. Still, I used up the day light pretty effectively I thought. This did leave a 10 km gap in my trans-lanaudiere exploration, with another 15 km gap between Notre Dame de la Merci and the big town of Saint-Donat. Thiese are the only two gaps left to ride, then next year I'dd ride the whole shooting match from Tremblant in "laurentians toruist zone, to Saint Alexis des Monts in La Mauricie, traversing the complete Lanaudiere region. This will be a big one-way ride so I'll try to recruit Maxi as my car support for this sure-to-be-epic ride.

Riding back towards the west from the turnaround town of St-Come meant I now had a headwind, although it wasn't too fierce. ALso, some hills were steeper on the return leg it seemed. This ride has a greater number of shorter hills and fewer big or super steep hills that some other rides this this year. In fact it was a summer that was chock full of great hill rides, one of the best summers of my life for good road cycling. I really chose well when I decided to explore Lanaudiere late last summer and this year. It was everything I had wanted, hills hills and more hills! Oh, and good pavement and preferably, paved shoulders. You can judge the age of roads by whether the shoulders are paved. I used to not think about this, but now I really notice it, paved shoulders are good things!


Getting back to the car I went for a swim in the little lake, and wondered why I had no towel with me. I swam in my bike shorts and dried off with my cycling shirt and my cottony absorbant gaunch -- meaning I went home commando! (they were clean, I had driven up in bike wardrobe for a quick start once I park the car and they were part of my drive-home normal garb)

The rest stop at Notre Dame de la merci was great. I didn't explore the town very much,. because there wasn't very much town to explore. I am still not sure if there is either a dep or a restauant or hot dog stand. For once I made an effort to be home for supper and we had sushi which is the fastest and closest take out we have. Plus, it was still summer so I don't feel guilty, I really think of sushi as summer food.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Montreal City bike maps - latest changes

Do you want a Montreal area bike map with the latest changes and improvements?

Do you want to use your bike to go somewhere (instead of using your car), and want an up-to-date map of bike paths in Montreal, so you can choose the safest and most bike-friendly route?

A new school season has started and thousands of students are biking from their homes to school, shouldn't they expect that the city and the number one bicycle lobby group in the city and province would want them to have the map information to help them take as safe a route to school as possible?

Do you think one of the great advantages of the internet is the speed and ease and cheapness of publishing updated information? The speed of information on the internet is amazing. This is especially true when compared to the traditional publishing method where printing a new and updated edition of a map took lots of money and so it was done infrequently.

Unfortunately, all these reasonable expectations aren't evident in Montreal. The city's official bike map is from 2004. Click here to go to Ville de Montreal's map webpage. It's a good map and a good website, but the info is just a bit old.

Hello? Anybody home? Wakey Wakey!!!

Let's try Velo Quebec.

It's the same map here. Out of date. Click here for Velo Quebec's map page for Montreal. It's a great webpage, it's just that the bike path network has expanded since the map displayed here was published.

I accept that the changes to the real-world bike path network were just done in summer 2006 and the city and Velo Quebec are probably working on the new map. But I don't accept that it would take months and months (and months) to get an updated map up on the web.

Does anyone work at internet speed in either of these two bureaucracies? It's called getting up off your duff and putting a morning's work into getting the new maps on the web.

Wouldn't ville de Montreal want to bask in the glow of good press from publicising these new transportation alternatives? Don't forget that replacing a car trip with a bike trip reduces downtown gridlock, cuts pollution including local smog and greenhouse gas emissions, and even causes healthier citizens.

Anyway, maybe La Presse will print up an article soon with a new map. It's a great paper and has excellent local coverage. It was there that I read about the summer's new bike path activity of the city after years and years of delay.

There have been a lot of very good changes, improvements, and expansions of the bike path network. It shouldn't be up to bloggers like moi to publicise this news to the world. The city actually employs P.R. people after all, entire hordes of them.

Beyond my desire for having the latest info in the online bike maps, there's the issue of giving all citizens information (i.e. motivation) about the city bike path network.

Every montreal address should receive a Montreal island bike map in their mail box every year. This map should have the "rules of the road" and other safety and bike operation information printed on the back. Every school child should get one on the first day of school.

Every child should have bike safety education as part of his gym class. (And wheelie lessons too!)

But thats a different blog story for the future.

the new mobility agenda

Here's a bike blog I found interesting, the New Mobility Agenda (click here to visit).

Here was one interesting topic from this blog:

Lessons from the Paris weekly friday night Mass Ride experience over these last years?

1. Transportation professionalism. snip

2. Iron discipline: snip

3. Be there or be square: snip

4. Have your man in City Hall: snip

5. Be your own good cop: snip

6. Communicate like a winner: snip

You'll have to go to the New Mobility Agenda to read about these six insights.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Cycling in the rain

Light rain today reminded me that autumn rain is cold! It has been a while since we had rain when I had to commute.

I also noticed that I could easily skid my rear tire, and also spun out when leaving a light. Remember to be well balanced over the pedals when you need the tires connected to the road.

I noticed a slippery manhole cover at the start, but also observed many well textured ones that were less slippery.

I got to wear my bright yellow helmet cover. I have long believed it's better to be highly visible and dorky looking than be cool looking and get hit by a car. I came to this realization after I experienced the alternative.

The only downside at the moment is that my shoes are wet. I need some light booties I guess. And new shoes. Yay! New Shoes!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Reducing bicycle accident injuries

The British Medical Association has stated the following:

Action to reduce the high rate of fatal and serious accidents suffered by cyclists must include:
  • the creation of a safer cycling environment
  • reductions in vehicle speeds and traffic volume in urban areas
  • the provision of cycling training for all children
  • recognising road safety, including cycling proficiency education, as part of the curriculum for all school children. This should include basic cycle maintenance, and safety precautions (such as lights, reflective clothing), information on the health benefits of cycling, as well as encouraging cycle helmet use.
  • Information on current cycle helmet standards and the level of protection they provide should be more easily accessible to consumers.
  • Advertising Standards officials should ensure that the public are protected against misleading safety claims from manufacturers.
  • Cycle manufacturers and retailers should consider supplying a free cycle helmet (or helmet voucher) with every bike sold.
  • Reducing helmet costs substantially, such as through Government subsidy schemes.
Click here for the full report

Today's Good Deed

Picked up a big piece of someone's car's exhaust system thast was lying on the road, in traffic, right after I watched the the cop car drove by and did nothing, as expected.

Then I told a little old lady struggling up the uphill side of an underpass that it would be easier to ride if she put some air in her tire. She looked at her front tire and said "the back tire?" and I replied, "Yes, the back tire." She could use some oil on her chain too.

Good deeds of the day were done. Ride on!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

A handy guide to Olmstead Road on Mt Royal

The dirt road that winds its way up Mount Royal is called Olmstead road, after the designer of Mont Royal Park, Frederick Law Olmstead. He also did Central Park, Candlestick park, and many other urban parks.

This road winds its way up through open fields, forests, even lakes (!), on the way to the summit of Mt Royal.


Here's a handy distance table to let you know how far it is to get to the top. This information was published in the Sunday Sept 10 2006 La Presse newspaper, on the subject of the Montreal Marathon. They provided numerous (non-marathon) running ideas and locations in Montreal.

I signed up for a La Presse subscription at the a Montreal bike show last winter, and I can now conclude that La Presse is a hugely better newspaper than the pathetic Montreal Gazette. The Gazette has almost no local content, the news section, (first section) is oftern news-free for several pages as the print pages full of ads, sometimes with 50 words of news ina corner of the page. I am sure the Gazette makes oodles of money, too bad they don't spend any of it on quality local content. I strongly recommend reading La Presse. They even have local cycling coverage that isn't racing oriented.

OK, here's the table of Olmstead Road distances

0 km Start / at Park Avenue/statue
1.0 km 2nd hairpin /behind McGill Residences/Victoria hospital & downtown shortcut
1.4 km 3rd hairpin
2.0 km start of plateau - road flattens out above downtown
2.3 km Stairs up to Mont Royal Chalet/downtown lookout or down to Peel street
2.7 km Abreuvoir (watering hole)
3.5 km first Summit on road / location is at Beaver Lake (great sunsets here)
4.0 km Maison Smith / Smith House - Mt Royal museum & Les Amis de la Montagne
4.5 km intersection of road - left to Summit or right to Mont Royal Chalet & lookout
5.0 km Scenic viewpoint on road to Summit (after 2nd hairpin corner)
5.5 km The Summit!!! You can now jump and cheer!
6.5 km (approx) continue around summit loop road back to Mt Royal Chalet lookout

Friday, September 08, 2006

Lachine Canal 3-lane bike path

The two lane bike path along the Lachine canal urgently needs to be made into three lanes.

Use the example of the Levis Quebec bike path "Les Parcours des Anse" in the Quebec city region. This excellent path has three lanes, two for bikes and one for blades and pedestrians. This gives enough space for everyone to fit. Enough space for everyone to get along without conflicts. Enough space for everyone to be safe.

The Lachine canal bike path is dangerous. It was designed before we realised that mixing slow pedestrians, unhearing ipoded runners, roller bladers skating side by side, slow family cyclists weaving back and forth, and fast racer dudes all on the same eight-foot-wide bike path is EXTREMELY DANGEROUS.

It's time to make this otherwise excellent bike path three lanes wide.

Quebec city videos up on Google Video

The videos I took in Quebec city are up in google video.

Search Google Video for
"Quebec city" and "cycle fun Montreal"


Videos are of
vieux quebec's steep hill
a few of Ferry across st-Laurence to Levis
Bike path Parcour des Anse in Levis
Biking the Pont de Quebec Bridge
the Quebec marathon
and more!

sunset bike rides

The sun sets at 7:20 pm.

With summer winding down and autumn around the corner, it is a great time to ride after work because the sunset is still at a reasonable time. You get time to ride before it is dark. But don't finish your ride too early, because you want to be outside when the sun goes down. (be sure to be carrying some reflectors pant loops or (preferably) bike lights to use to get home safely after sunset, the MEC has a $3.00 frog light, anyone can afford $3.)

If you have chosen your location well, you get a spectacular sunset extravaganza.

It's especially fine above Beaver Lake (on the grass between the lake and Olmstead road), or the Mount Royal Chalet's lookout over the downtown skyscrapers.

Enjoy it now, 'cuz winter will be here soon enough.

Get outside and ride!

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Saint Alexis des Monts / Lac Sacacomie ride


Lac Sacacomie
Nearing the top of straight-up climb from Municipal dock


The fourth visit of Cycle Fun Montreal to Lanaudiere ended up with us leaving the region of Lanaudiere because we rode so far east that we crossed the invisible line over to region of Quebec called La Mauricie.

We had received a suggestion from the internet to try a ride from St-Gabriel de Brandon east to St-Alexis des Monts. And, it was further suggested, if we were looking for some fun then we should continue north to experience the road to Hotel Lac Sacacomie.

So we loaded the bikes in the car and headed out on the Met eastbound, and from Joliette we drove to our new destination of St-Gabriel de Brandon. New, because so far this year we have always been parking at the central location of St-Jean de Matha. All the rides we did here this summer were based on the first ride we did in this region, from the book Petits Escapades, which takes you to the far western corner of St-Gabriel, but not into the village itself. So today will be the first time we actually enter in to the village (via Rt. 348).

Ok, so the first challenge is always where to park the car and where is the tourist office and where is the route out of town?

We took a cruise through the main street (rue St-Gabriel) through town to the lake (It’s called lac Maskinongé and it’s pretty big). It helps to get our bearings and then we U-turned and returned to the middle of town. We stopped in the big parking lot for the pool/arena/community center, beside the Caisse Pop, the friendly and informative tourist information office, and, it was right beside the route out of town. Jackpot! This is also conveniently across the street from a large and modern Metro supermarket. In fact after the ride I got food at the Metro and ate supper at the lake-side public beach picnic area, located about five minutes north from here.

The ride goes from St-Gabriel de Brandon along the main road of Rt. 348 10 km to the tiny village of St-Didace, where we turned at the Crevier gas station on to the Rt. 349 to go 25 km to Saint Alexis des Monts. There are not a lot of villages to pass through on this ride. There was a new beaver dam beside the road that I stopped to look at. The 349 is a smaller road and is hilly and twisty, and does not have a paved shoulder. With plenty of roadside trees recently cut down, it is possible they are going to be widening it. That would be good news.


Fresh Beaver dam near St-Didace


After a few peaceful miles we crossed the town-line border into St-Alexis. I t was apparent that they liked bicycles: we found ourselves on a designated bike route! This town line was really deep in the middle of nowhere, so seeing the bicycle signalization was a bit of a surprise. I always like to see the effort that some towns make to help the two wheeled set feel at home.

This road gradually became more populated and we were arriving back in civilization at the village of St-Alexis of the Mountains (des Monts). So far the ride had not been very mountainous, just mildly hilly. There were none of the big hills like those to be found south of St-Melanie de l'Energie, for instance.

Since St-Alexis was in the La Mauricie region, I had to go find some new maps. All my this-summer’s maps were Lanaudiere-region-based, now I had to find some Mauricie region maps. Quebec is a big place geographically. This is actually a good thing. I went to the local Dep to get some snacks and see if I could find a local map. I was in luck, after I asked for a local map he took me to a place in the store far away from the “corporate-map-company” display, and I got a local St-Alexis map, for a mere 2 bucks.

It’s always great to be able to get the on-the-ground local map. Bigger maps never have the intimate details of a locally-produced map. This one got me located and as you will see, motivated too. In fact without this map I would have had 80% less fun on this day. Yes, 80%

I didn’t want to eat standing in a dep parking lot, so I rode a little bit further to the town center. Here was the imposing Catholic Church, and to my surprise, beside it is a lake, in the middle of town, with new picnic facilities along side.

Excellent lake-side location for our lunch stop


However, I was nervously noting that there was also a gigantic trout jumping out of the lake. When I say giant, I mean a 20-foot long trout. Trout are supposed to jump out of water and eat mosquitoes. This one was big enough to jump out and eat me.


One big trout

The St-Alexis tourist office was closed (on the weekend?), but the map I had bought at the dep turned out to be perfect for my needs. I had heard that the road to Hotel Lac Sacacomie was "something special" in the hills department. Since the ride so far had left me wanting more hills, I looked at the map to see where this place was. I originally had the impression that it was 50 miles to the west of here, but it turned out to be about 15 km away (i.e. 30 km out and back). That was just perfect to add it to today’s ride. I had mistakenly thought that this hotel’s road was 50 miles to the west of here. So this was a big surprise and a great bonus to the ride. And quite possibly reflective of some pretty slack planning.

I took a look around so I wouldn't get lost on the way back; the landmark was the National Bank (I mean, banque) that was on my road direction home. I really didn't want to get lost and stranded! Then I headed in the direction of Lac Sacacomie. Backing up the map was also a direction sign in the village.


Leaving St-Alexis: some remarkable roadside kitch

The ride now climbed upwards, we were heading into the hills outside of town. One note, the road quality of this section, about ten km, is terrible. Going uphill you are going slow enough to steer around road obstacles, but the descent later was not one of the joys of my life.

Soon we arrived at the turn on to the Lac Sacacomie road. There were some nice surprises. First, the road surface was top quality. Next, I had noticed we were following a river uphill, and were getting higher and higher above the river itself. Turning on to this road meant we were now suddenly confronted with a fast descent down to the river level. The first fast downhill of the day, and it was fast, wicked fast. Well, this was happiness inducing.

At the bottom, at the river level I quickly sobered up: the road continued up the other side and it looked steep. I started climbing and I soon learned that it wasn't just steep, it was steep AND long, and the steepness increased as I rode along. The bottom was actually the gentle bunny-slope area, the middle was steeper and was enjoyably twisting back and forth and still with the hard climbing, and then I arrived at the last section, straight up the hill for 500 metres. Straight up and steeper than below , in fact in an optical trick, it made the below area look like it was the flats! It was a solid, straight up the wall, unrelenting 15% climb.

The "Wall" was later to be one of the fastest descents of my life

Well, Woo-Hoo! Yes, I was still enthusiastic, later today this would be replaced with a kind of oh-my-god-how-slow-can-I-climb-this-and-not-fall-over mentality. But for now, I was happy, because I know that on the other side of every killer uphill is a great downhill speed-fest.

At the top I took a pic of the road sign for the hill behind me: “Danger: 15% hill” it said. Now comes the descent. In one of the quickest kilometers I’ve ever seen on a bike, the sign for the entrance to the municipal parking access area for Lac Sacacomie (some services) flashes by, and I was soon climbing up another big hill as the road winded it way around this hill-lined lake on the way to Auberge Lac Sacomie.

This was really good fun, and when I got to the end at the hotel, I wasn't sorry it was ended, because I knew I had those big descents to climb back up. The fun wasn't over yet.

I had a talk with the Hotel Lac Sacacomie doorman. I learned that maybe there's a possibility that the first part of the road will be repaired in the future. If so, this would be one of the best routes for cycling in Quebec.

I didn't stop for long at the Auberge. I walked from the hotel to the road to soothe my hard-worked leg muscles before tackling the hills again. They were just as steep going back, and when the sign for the Municipal lake parking area came up I turned to see what's up down there. It was a descent back to the water level, and it was almost insanely steep. At the water was a chalet (services) and a public dock and boat launch, I didn't do any off-the-bike exploration, which I regret, but I know I'll be back here again some time.

Before climbing back up I did have a talk with the chalet worker who was outside in the sun. We talked about me going back up the hill; I think she thought I'd have to find a truck to give me a lift back up the hill! No sir, I rode it all the way back to the entrance to here, and back up the main road, which would take me to the ultimate high point on this road: at the top of the steep ride back down to the river-crossing.

Climbing up here I noticed I wasn't the happy dog I was earlier, it was getting hard. The climb is about 100 metres in about a km: a very good hill indeed!

There are only so many 100% efforts anybody is capable of; I had used up my allotment. I know I should have ridden Cam Houde more than once a month!

The climb up had a flat section so I sat up while riding and relaxed, I looked around, and... Got stung by a bee.

%$@%#$%!!!

It wasn’t fatal and I scraped out the stinger, and continued on my way, the sting changing from a red spot, to a loonies sized bump, then later that night to 3 inch wide red circle. I was happy that it didn't hurt too much at all. As you can see, I'll find any excuse I can to be happy!

Bee sting (minor)

A couple of minutes later I was on top of the hill.


15 percent descent - Speed Limit 40 km/m

And a maximum speed of 83.7!



The upper part of the descent: down "the wall"

I was looking forward to the descent to recover some energy, so I coasted all the way down, the top section I let it out, and went under control through the middle-section's turns, and then down the final bit and I was down at the river level again. My smile was big enough to dam the river! I checked out my max speed on the speedometer gizmo and it said 79.4 and this was an all-coasting descent. I was still in a state of jubilant glee, so with no one telling me that this was a really bad idea, I went right back up the hill again to do another descent, this time I would pedal the top section.

Good idea right?

Well..... Yes and no.

I got another great descent, and I got my max speed up to 83.7 KM/H. Nothing bad happened, I got back to the bottom again even happier than before, but the climb had definitely been an extra effort that used up some reserves I would have liked later, because as I got closer to home my speed was not respectable!

But that was later, I rode up the final climb and I was back on the main road at the sign that says Auberge Lac Sacacomie 6.5km. I took a minute to think about what a road this is. My mission this summer was to find and ride some great new hills. This one is on the list!

This road was a descent, but it was a rough road. It was all bumpy and bouncy downhill coasting, until I was soon back at St-Alexis. I made another pitstop at the dep for some mid-ride food supplies. Then I went back to the centre of town to eat beside the lake, in a different and more grassy’n’green location behind the church. There are lots of good spots to eat or picnic here. The bells of the church rang with the celebration of a newly married couple. Life is good, I thought. And, it was.

I still had to ride the 35 km back to St-Gabriel, luckily I knew it wasn't going to be hard riding. I followed the bike path directions back out of town to the Rt. 349. I now got to enjoy this road with the magic light of late afternoon. I stopped in a road-side sand quarry for a little break, away from the road and really, in just a few feet, deep in the woods. Sometimes on the road bike we don't get a real feel for the nature we are speedily riding through. Now, For a few moments, I got very immersed in nature.

When I woke up, I mean, with the short break now over I continued this away-from civilization section until I passed the beaver dam and got to the intersection of the 348 at St-Didace (population 589). I took a few minutes to cross the bridge into the village proper. The church perches high up the hill, there's a dep, and in a few hundred feet there's a dam or weir that maintains the level for the Lake at St-Gabriel de Brandon. I'm guessing this but more and larger boats were floating in the river than I expected to see in such a tiny (but it did have a golf course!) village. There was a park at the dam and you could cross the river on top of the dam. It was worth the stop, and some people (i.e. motorcyclists) were just stopping at the totally unscenic Crevier gas station for a break. You can do better than that; cross into the village itself!


St-Gabriel de Brandon to Lac Sacacomie


Then it was back on the main road, Rt. 348 and back to St-Gabriel de Brandon. From this road there was a pretty good view of the mountains to the north. In a few miles we arrived at eastern end of Lac Maskinonge. We took a short detour ride north on the road to Mandeville (we’re back at civilization: there’s paved bike path shoulder here), because the road aimed straight for these hills and in the setting sun it was irresistibly ultra scenic. I didn't go all the way to Mandeville, I was intent in just getting back home to the start, and home was close (think: supper!!!)

In a mile I was back at the edge of town and intriguingly, there was an alternative bike-path-route through town, avoiding riding along the edge of the highway route of Rt. 348. I took it, and it was interesting, but it was bombed-out road first paved in the 1940s and I don't think ever repaved. Oh well, it was going in the right direction, and I was riding slowly anyhow.

When I reached rue St-Gabriel, the main street of the village, I took one last detour. I went down to the water’s edge to the town beach (Plage). At the late hour I was there, it was free parking, so after seeing that the picnic tables were perfect for eating my supper I went back to the car, finally!

For once I remembered to check the bike computer to see what is the total distance of the ride, it was about 105km for the day.

I got changed, locked the bike in the car, and walked across the street to the Metro store to pick up some picnic-feast type food. Then I drove to the beach and to "the best seat in town” for supper.

I sat a picnic table on the edge of the park that sits elevated about five feet above the beach level. Here I ate my salade avec saumon sauvage d’Alaska salmon. with 7-pepper hummus and whole wheat baguette with jus d’orange and biere Labatt. I was sitting at the picnioc table on the edge of the beach, with not a road or a car in sight, and ate and watched the sun set across the lake and the light leave the sky. This had been an excellent day to ride a bicycle.


Lake-side sunset supper spot: another great location

Labour Day weekend is often considered the symbolic end of summer. If I might indulge in some reminiscences, let me say that I have really enjoyed exploring the Lanaudiere region of Quebec this summer. It has lots of great roads for cyclists seeking scenic settings to cycle some smile-filled miles! Next year I plan to explore the western side of Lanaudiere, where it connects with the Laurentians. Next month I am going to Trois Riviere to ride something, perhaps a loop through the Parc de La Mauricie, which was what my my coworker called “the hardest ride of his life.” Sounds good to me.

For anyone not yet convinced that they should visit Lanaudiere, then let me remind you of this one fact: One hour and 15 minutes from your door in Montreal is St-Jean de Matha. From this village you can ride in any direction and cycling happiness will be obtained.

Don't wait until next year, September is here and the trees are changing from green to the reds, golds, and yellows of the autumn. September and October are great months for biking. And they’re the last two months of cycling until next year. Break out the tights and woolie jersey, and get riding!



For the other Cycle Fun Montreal rides in Lanaudiere


click here for trip # 1 - original Petits Escapades ride in Lanaudiere
click here for trip # 2 - added side trip on chemin belle montagne to Saint Beatrix
click here for trip # 3 - made a great modification to eastern half of the ride


click here for a great Laurentians hill ride, the nearly new Saint-Donat to Mont Tremblant road.



Friday, September 01, 2006

Sept 17 public bike ride in Lotbiniere region

The region southwest of Quebec city, Lotbiniere, is holding a big public bike tour this Sept 17. There are 4 posible circuits, from a short rid to a 100 km fast ride for les amateurs.
  • 1- Escapade familiale (20 km) - 12 km/h
  • 2- Les découvreurs (47 km) - 22 km/h
  • 3- Parcours des vallons (67 km) - 25 km/h
  • 4- Lotbinière express (94 km) - 30 km/h
Click here for event website and the route map, it's a great reference if you plan to attend or if you just want info to plan your own visit at a later date.

Click here for some info on this region, from the "Most beautiful villages in Quebec" website.


See you there!

Bike Lights and darkness

On our main city bikes we have lights front and rear to make us visible in the dark. WIth summer ending the sun sets earlier and earlier and when riding in the dark, it pays ti be safe and this means VISIBLE. This, in turn, means lights and reflectors.

I just got front and rear lights at MEC. I got the large 2 AA battery $7.00 co-op brand rear light, and the Planet Bike "dual SPot front light for 18$.

I also like to use an reflective pant-cuff strap, even when wearing tights. I even attach a few of these ot my black backpack. Visible is almost free and a huge safety improvement, since with no lights or reflectors/reflective clothing you are basically invisible to traffic (car driver hears a thud, passenger says "what was that?" Drive answers, "I dunno. I didn't se anything." The passenger says "Neither did I.")

MEC also sells front and rear in a package for $17, you really can't go wrong, there are only benefits here folks!!! Night riding means adding lights. For the record, night riding is amazing fun! Well, as long it's not in November rain. Anyway, that's a long way from now.

Time to go install them!

Bikes on Ferry - Quebec City to Levis

I recently visited the great city of Ville de Quebec, the capital of (the province / nation of) Quebec.

It's got an awesomely steep hill in Vieux Quebec between the river-level and the top of Vieux Quebec!

For biking, I took the Ferry (Traversier) between Quebec City and town of Levis, one kilometre across the Saint Laurence river. It's about a ten minute ride.

The bike path along the Saint Laurence in Quebec city goes right past the Ferry entrance, and actually, it goes right in the Ferry entrance.

You buy your ticket at the car entrance, and ride in the car lane entrance to the Ferry.

It costs $2.60 to cross one-way, this is the single person ticket price, the bike is carried for free. Sweet. It's not just a deal for cyclists, but for the ferry company: If all the cyclists had cars, they'd need a much bigger ferry!

Once inside the boat you will find bike parking for 100 bikes, and there is an air hose to pump up your tires. Use it!!

Upstairs from here is the main deck with an outside area front and rear. You are immediately struck by the GREAT VIEW!!! The best place to see the grandeur of Quebec City is from the water. It is worth a round trip on the ferry just for this reason.

Inside is the passenger cabin. Here are are seats, tables, toilets and vending machines, and a great exhibit of models of the ferry itelf, plus models of older versions of river ferries, going back to horse powered ones!

Once the ferry arrives in Levis, the bikes get off first, before the cars. You arive at the old Levis train station, where there is now a bike shop with rentals, and a large tourist office. Here's a surprise: inside the tourist information office is a bike stand. So you can bring your bike inside, park it on the bike rack, and look at the maps and things. You don't have to waste time locking your bike up outside and worrying about if anything "disappears" whilr you are inside. It's a great idea.

The Ferry dock and the old train station/tourist office is located in the middle of the bike path called Les Parcours des Anse. It is a magnificent bike path, three lanes wide, two for bikes, and one for foot traffic.

More on this bike path in a separate entry. Just a quick note on where you go from here:

If you go east the bike path climbs in a park setting away from streets, and then follows the Rt 132 and several smaller side roads along south shore of the Saint Laurence. The rive rwidens here and the scenery/ecosystem changes into a coastal area instead of a river area because the river widens and is now 20 km kilometres across. It is VERY

If you go west the bike path goes beside roads in an upriver direction. The river gets narrow here. You can do an out-and-back ride (the views are on the "back" direction) or you can have a nice loop ride back to Quebec city via the historic Pont de Quebec. However, This bridge has only a one-lane two direction path across it. It's not bad, but when you meet someone, both people have to stop. it is otherwise a magnificent river crossing.

At the tourist office there is an excellent bike guide to this part of quebec. The "region" is called Chaudiere-Appalache. The region is both coastal (beside the Saint Laurence river) and inland is either river valleys (beauce) or hills. To the south of it is the north border of Maine USA.

The guide book is "Chaudiere Appalaches - Guide Velo (edition 2006)." It is one of the best bike guides I have ever seen, and I collect these things. It has detailed maps of ten circuits, many with alternate routes and variations. There are enlargements of several town maps to help guide you along. There are maps of links between one area of the region to another(!). And there is reference information and accomodation, attraction,and food info. It is 64 pages long!!!!!! And it is free.

Click here for the guidebook and information on this great area for cycling.

Go to the website for more info, It is in french, but easy enough to figure out. Anyway, if you are planning to visit, a bit of basic knowledge of french will be needed.

FREE AIR

Some places around montreal have free air for bicycles. Many people are riding around on nearly flat tires, even though they don't notice.

Putting air in your tires is job one before you ride.

Here's a few spots that offer free air for bikes.

  • Circuit Gilles Villeneuve - The race track on Ile Notre Dame has more than a just a car-free 4 km track with perfect pavement in a beautiful setting. It also has two "Halte Cyclist" where there is an air hose and some basic bike tools. (The tools are attached with wire so they don't get stolen) The locations are 1 - East side - at the entrance to the track at the bridge across from the giant Geodesic Dome from Expo 67. 2 - west side - Between the Pont de la Concorde and the bike path off the island to the south shore at western tip of island, along the Saint Laurence There's a great view of Montreal from here too.
  • Maison de la Cyclist - The home of Velo Quebec is located just north of Lafontaine park at the intersection of the Rachel bike path and the Axe-Berri bike path when it exits north of the Park.
  • Bike Shop on Rachel bike path between St-Denis and St-Laurent.
Are there any more than you know of? Leave the address in a comment.

I highly recommend a floor pump. It's hard to pump a tire with your compact bike pump that you carry on your bike. It is much simpler (and easier) to use a floor pump made for bicycle use. I have two: the cheapie MEC red thing, under $30 bucks, and a Zefal Husky, which is a heavy duty model that will last a lifetime that I got years ago.

To summarize, Go pump your bike tires, right now!!!

3-lane bike paths

I recently rode on the Parcours des Anse bike path in Levis across the river from Quebec City, and the bike path had three painted lanes on the path.

Two were for bicycles for the opposite directions of travel, and the third is for pedestrian and in-line skaters. There was some flexibility in this, but the wider bike path and separation of bike and foot traffic create a safer bike path for everyone.

Safety First!

Worst street in Montreal - COTE VERTU?

Cote Vertu street east from downtown Saint Laurent to the Autoroute 15 overpass and Acadie blvd, is in TERRIBLE condition. Constant holes, craters, trenches, cracks big ehough to swallow small dogs, and a very busy traffic situation.

People riding bicycles are risking damaged wheels and potential "certain death!"

This road needs complete and total repair.