Saturday, June 30, 2007

Urban Destinations ride

OK everybody, get on your bikes and starting at your front door, ride to an new urban destination.

It's also OK to start from your back door.

One of Montreal's advantages is the linear layout of the streets and it's relatively compact size. It is barely more than 15 km from north to south at the widest point.

The Gazette today featured the story of two pewople who walked from the western tip to the eastern tip of the island in one day, taking from sun-up to three minutes before sunset to complete the journey.

If only they had used bicycles, they would have taken less time and had time to stop and look at more landmarks and urban delights, and had more fun.

For many (most?) downtown dwellers, the notion of going north across the island is as foreign a notion as private health care! But it's easy, and unlike foreign health care, free!

It's free fun that's good for your health.

For the goal-oriented person, it's probably useful to have one or several destinations in mind.

Good destinations are museums, events and festivals, new neighbourhoods, and the magnificent local nature parks along the several rivers that surround the island of Montreal.

Nature Parks? Montreal has a number of great large nature parks.

To the north, not far past the end of the main north-south bike path axis (i.e. Christophe-Colombe) you will find the excellent Parc des Iles de la Visitation. Simply turn right when you reach the top of the island.

To the south, there's Parc Drapeau's islands of Ile Ste-Helene and Ile Notre Dame, and the incredible views of downtown Montreal from the west-side sidewalk of Jacques Cartier bridge.

For the more free-spirited, just get on the bike and ride a new direction. Try riding anywhere beyond your local neighbourhood. Or, dare to ride across the river and off the island.

Exploring is good for the heart and soul. You'll discover new places and see new things. There are always surprises and you will be amazed all the new things you never imagined you'd see.

You must now do two things, and do them now:
  1. Turn off the computer
  2. Go outside and ride your bike
Tomorrow: Repeat steps 1. and 2.

Walking your bike

Bikes are for riding, we all know that.

But when it is appropriate to walk your bike?

When you are on the sidewalk!!!!!!!!!

There's a lot of inconsiderate, selfish, and clueless idiots in this world, and one surefire way to spot one is if they are riding their bike on a crowded sidewalk.

When on a crowded sidewalk, please walk your bike. It's the right thing to do.

How do you tell if it is crowded? Did someone have to jump out of your way? Did someone give you a dirty look. Do you hear the the word idiot shouted your way? These are all signs that you are pissing people off. Be a decent human being and walk your bike.

SInce we all know that biking is about riding, not walking, if you really have a need to ride your bike, please take the time to explore the parallel streets to the one where you are usually riding your bike on the sidewalk.

For example, many people ride on the sidewalk because riding on the road is perceived as too dangerous. If this is the case, you should explore if the street beside the one you ride on the sidewalk use is a quiet residential street.

Avenue du Park is a busy urban-autoroute where I see many bicycle rides using the sidewalk. Here there are two good options. Hutchinson is a very wide residential street one short block away from Parc that is far safer for bike riding. A few blocks east is the rue Clark bike path.

These are both much better options than riding on the sidewalk.

But what if you have an errand on the busy street and you want to ride on the sidewalk because, you know, walking is too slow.

There's only one right answer: On a crowded sidewalk, YOU MUST WALK YOUR BIKE!!!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Summertime Bike Commuting

Well, after biking to work every month this year, we have now arrived in summer.

Ahh, summer.

No layers, no jackets, no toque, just t-shirt and shorts.

It's forget about windchill for a while, now it's smog alerts and thunderstorms.

It's great not to freeze!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Northeast Vermont & Pinacle ride

We went for a ride in Northeast Vermont starting in Frelighsburg Quebec on the St-Jean holiday Monday. Sid begged for a bike so I lent him Rusty, and made him wear a safety vest. Hehehe.

Sid riding Rusty - at the top of the legendary Joy hill

The ride is west of Jay Peak, and offers many stunning views, vistas, and scenery of all sorts--all of it good!

Riding to Richford VT from Frelighsburg QC takes you up Joy Hill and past the imposing Mont Pinnacle. Joy hill is a biggie. Happily, it's scenic, and eventually it does have a top, and then it's doooooown!

Pinnacle in the distance

Crossing the border is another location where the scenery is completely stunning. This picture is between the border and Richford:

Sea of mountains in Vermont

Richford has some amazing buildings. The town has seem good times and bad. Here's one of the good times' buildings.

Victorian glory

We rode the South Richford Road between Richford and Montgomery. This road is nestled in the hills, and is one of my favorites in the region. It has steepness at either end, and and fine rolling hills in a mountain valley in the middle.


There is a Covered Bridge as you come into Montgomery, and two others as you leave the town. These look like they had swimming holes too.

The third covered bridge

Coming back through the Berkshires east and west was nice open farm land, with quaint villages.

A Berkshire village hideaway

Crossing the border back into Canada brought a surprise: the road quality in Canada was superior! In fact the good road went all the way to Frelighsburg and beyond to Stanbridge East.

We finished the ride in Frelighsburg and had a late lunch at the Deux Clocher restaurant, eating on the balcony almost directly over the Riviere aux Brochets. We saw a dozen different groups of cyclists go past on the road. It seems to be a cyclist's dream locale!

This ride goes clockwise from Frelighsburg, Quebec

Source information for this ride:

"Backroads Bicycling in Vermont" by John S. Freidlin. This is the Montgomery-Richford ride and is 33.7 miles long, or about 60 km if you start in Frelighsburg.

Mr Freidlin writes, "The best is saved for last. There is no ride I enjoy more than this one."

We tested this statement, and found it completely accurate. An excellent ride for a scenery-loving cyclists, offering some of the best cycling in Quebec and Vermont.

Frelighsburg was a great starting point. (we parked behind the Catholic church, and there was parking all along this street). We also visited the museum at Stanbridge East on our way back to Montreal. How old is that bike in the basement?

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Urban museum and gallery ride

Since we're taking our time recovering from the big Vermont ride of a couple of days ago, we decided to do some easy urban riding and go over and see a museum, a gallery, and some historical buildings.

First Stop: Musée des Ondes Emile Berliner in St-Henri.

This hole in the wall museum tells the history of radio, with a large number of artifacts from early radio. The location of the museum is in the RCA factory, RCA was the IBM/Intel/Microsoft of it's day. Radio launched the whole electronic mass communication thing, and it changed the world into the one we know today.

Inside the Musée des Ondes Emile Berliner

Originally sound was recorded onto wax cylinders. The flat round disks we know today owe their origin to Berliner.

The Berliner Gramophone - "Beware of trashy imitations" it says.

The museum is located on the second floor of an industrial building (the historic RCA factory) at the corner of Lacasse and Richelieu, in the shadow of the Autoroute Ville-Marie. Lacasse is one way, so drive up St-Marguerite from St-Antoine.

Old RCA Factory on Lacasse

Second Stop: Parisian Laundry gallery - one site for the Montreal Bienalle exhibition.

We were entranced by the Graeme Patterson's Woodrow exhibition. Click the link to see a video of this show at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.

The Parisian Laundry is at the corner of St-Antoine and Bel-Air in St-Henri - to get there just ride (no don't drive!) west from Atwater. This is an impressive new gallery space. More evidence of the gentrification of St-Henri... the poor people are f*****!

Parisian Laundry

Next we rode to the Lachine Canal

Boating near downtown on the Lachine Canal

and then we turned south and went into Point St-Charles.

Bike path does not magically pass through solid wall

The plan was to visit the historic and pre-industrial Maison St-Gabriel.

Remember to look for blue tourism signs

It was late and the Maison St-Gabriel was closed when we got there.

Maison St-Gabriel

So instead we rode around the colossal-sized sculpture in the nearbly Park Margerite Bourgeois.

Big Sculpture

Then we rode back to the Canal, then east to the Vieux Port and watched the tourists pedalling around the Bassin Bonsecours. This "bassin" is one of my favorite places in all of Montreal, a jewel.

One of my favorite spots in Montreal

Now it's your turn, here's the route:

Le route

Friday, June 22, 2007

Vermont's Lake Champlain Islands ride

The ride starts at the upper right in Philipsburg, Quebec
Red Dots: today's ride (counterclockwise loop)
Blue dots: scenic diversions & Isle Lamotte

Riding South on Lake Champlain Islands - the Green Mountains in background

Vermont is know for it's quiet country roads and entertaining hills --the Green Mountains -- and these add up to pure cycling fun.

But did you know that Vermont is a shoreline state also? It shares the large Lake Champlain with New York and Quebec. Nestled between the Adirondacks and the Green Mountains, it's a scenic lake without equal in the east.

The northern part of the lake contain what are known as the "Lake Champlain Islands." These islands have a beautiful road running north to south, with a good quality paved shoulder the entire distance. Today we ride the Lake Champlain islands, with a return segment going north along the shore on the mainland.

In order to have the best views, we ride these islands in a south direction. The best views are when you are looking southeast.

Ride variations: You could also do this ride starting from Rouses Point in New York state, just across the Canadian border from Lacolle Quebec. (It would be a much closer start to Montreal). Also, although we are doing a loop ride on the islands and the mainland, you could do an out and back of the islands only, and even just ride around one or two of the islands for a much shorter ride. Isle La Motte is one such little island ride whose complete excellence makes it one of the choicest little rides I have ever done. (Link to CFM's Isle Lamotte ride from last summer.)

Other route information
The Lake Champlain basin is an excellent location for cycling. The organization Lake Champlain Bikeways has been developing cycling routes, maps, and road signs all around this lake. Please visit their website for more information and many online maps (pdf). (link) Highly recommended! Here is the link to their Lake Champlain Islands booklet (download)

Saving Baie Mississiquoi Bay

Our starting point is in Phillipsburg Quebec, three kilometres from the US border. It is on the the Missisquoi Bay part of Lake Champlain. This bay has recently been suffering the severe environmental problem of the nasty and toxic Algae Bloom.

Toxic Algae has been in the news quite a lot lately. More and more lakes in prime vacation country are too polluted to even touch the water. Baie Missisquoi has had this problem longer than most. The problem is caused by a combination of overuse by cottagers (poor sewage sanitation and removal of shoreline vegetation that serves the useful function of filtering out the pollutants before they get in the lake), and farm fertilizer runoff (farm fields need a buffer zone at the edges to block the free-flow of fertilizer into streams and rivers).

This picture identifies some simple things anyone (that's you) can do to help restore our lakes back to normal, by which I mean full of clean, safe, fun water.

Some simple steps to save our lakes

One long-term problem with the Baie Missisquoi bay is that the natural flow of watershed drainage was blocked by the Alburg bridge in Vermont - a causeway/bridge that all but totally choked off the basin's natural drainage. After many decades the evidence was finally impossible to ignore (the water had turned blue-green and was toxic to humans, and smelled stinkypoo) so Quebec and Vermont agreed to take actions, and Vermont is building a new above-water Alburg bridge and is removing the old causeway that blocked the bay's drainage.

In a strange but happy coincidence, the old bay-choking causeway was being removed the day of our ride. For more information on Lake Champlain, please visit Burlington's Echo Science Center, whose focus is the Lake Champlain basin. Here are some of my Google videos from the Echo Center visit last summer: Biology for kids, Sturgeon tank, and Turtle underwater.

Restoring Missisquoi Bay by removing the old Alburg bridge

Removing the bay-choking causeway

On the Bikes

We parked across the street from the municipal dock in Philipsburg, Quebec, a mere 3 km from the US-Canada border. There is a depanneur located here.

We got on the Rt 133 and went south a short distance to the US-Canada border and the US Customs at Highgate Springs.

I have been crossing the border a few times already this year, but usually it's on a quiet peaceful country road in the middle of nowhere. Today we cross at a huge US Customs, and on the other side of the border is a US Interstate highway. The Quebec side is divided highway but not Autoroute. But since this is the principle road-link between Quebec and Burlington/northwest Vermont. Translation: this customs is busy, and BIG!

We got in line with the cars. Once we are on the other side (in America) we start riding, and we discover we like riding on an Interstate. We take the first exit, so our Interstate ride is over almost as soon as it begins.

We head to Highgate Springs, then south to Swanton, where we turn west to cross the top of the lake to reach the islands. This is a busy highway but it has a good quality paved road shoulder. We are still very close to the Canada border. This takes us across the new bridge between Alburg and Swanton, across the inlet to Mississiquoi Bay.

Here's a link to some very unusual history of Swanton and Alburg.

Now we are heading south on Rt 2. We will ride this excellent highway all the way south across the islands until we return to the mainland.

We have now two great things: a tailwind, and great views of the numerous Vermont mountains. We average in the mid-30s (km/h) all the way continuously down this section. I had been promised flat (after two rides of "hills-only" I was keen on some flats to recuperate). I don't think we stopped anywhere on the islands - only when we off the islands at the southern end of the ride did I notice my feet were standing on the ground again.

Anyway I was hoping for a relaxed easy-flats recovery ride. Hoping, for something quite unlike todays reality! At this pace I wasn't recuperating. I normally climb even the steepest climbs with a heart rate of 140-145, but today I was holding this rate for the hour+ ride all the way south across all the islands. Also, it wasn't table-top level flat either. In other words, I got sandbagged (or is a little self-deception is a dangerous thing?).

I had waited until the ride was well underway to cautiously ask how long this ride was expected to be. Around 150 km Pierre said. Woowee, that's quite a long ride. I was up for it and after I communicated that I understood that the ride had no bail-out options (yesterdays Mont-Tremblant-area ride had multiple options in the make-the-ride-shorter department) we rode pretty much nonstop for the next three hours through some of the nicest bike riding in the east.

Riding south on the Islands - Tailwind and "faux plats"

Anyway, this southwards Island leg of the ride went well, I was riding comfortably at maximum, and the road surface and views were both excellent.

I hoped I had enough reserve left at the halfway point when we regained the mainland and had the hills of Vermont to contend with. We were now across the last causeway, and turned off the highway to quiet country roads. I couldn't help but notice this little road went uphill, steeply uphill! Aieee!

The map directions were a bit vague for this tiny-country-roads section, so here's a map of the inland section. The route we took has the Red Dots, but the Blue Dots was our original plan - it was the shortest route back north.

Now were in the Vermont that we know and love: roads that wind through the trees and forests and open farmland, with the road winding up and down and around the hills - almost always on excellent road surfaces. (There was one short unpaved section)

Eventually we reached our first rest stop at St-Albans Bay - after 3+ hours of riding I needed a break. There were many good rest stops along the villages of the Islands, but our plan was more to ride than do "stop-and-sightseeing" on the Islands segment of the ride.

This rest stop was well earned. There was a convenience store and a municipal dock and a lakeside park to sit and recover our breath. There were also some state parks withing a mile further north along our lakeside route. In fact, there were a dozen state parks along the islands, a fact to remember for lazier rides.

View from St-Albans Bay - rain clouds to the south

From this stop it was straight north on the back-to-the-border segment. Next stop was Swanton and then Highgate Springs. (If you were doing a USA-only ride, you would skip this return-to-Canada section)

Riding NW Vermont flats - catching the good draft

After Highgate Springs we ride uphill to the Interstate entrance and the US-Canada border and Customs.

On I-89 approaching the Canadian border, with US Customs at left

We waited in line and passed back top Canada. After riding the last three kilometres we dropped down off the Rt 133 into Philipsburg and a few seconds later we off the bikes. The ride was over! We had a lot of saddle time time today, and as much as it was a pleasure to ride in such beautiful settings, it was also quite a pleasure to get off the saddle.

In a few minutes our bikes were put away, we bought some beverages at the depanneur next door, and walked across the street to the municipal dock. We could now sit in the sun, look out over the water, and relax in the late afternoon sun.

The dock at Philipsburg- the perfect post-ride relaxation spot.

Philipsburg from the air - Municipal dock and Rt 133 visible


The Vermont Lake Champlain Islands ride is one of the classics of the northeast.

This was my first ride in a few years with my friend Pierre from Bromont. We've been friends since we met the first day of Cegep-we had residence rooms across the hall from each other. Later on we both got good bikes and have enjoyed the great cycling of Quebec's Eastern Townships and the mountains of Vermont. These rides usually involved him taking me on some epic Vermont ride adventure, so I wasn't surprised that today's ride was both long, hard, and incredibly scenic. Thanks Pierre!
Ride stats:

Riding time: 5 hours
Distance: 143 km (90 miles)
Avg Speed: 28.8 km/h (18 mph)

Lake Champlain Bikeways

The Lake Champlain basin is an excellent location for cycling. The organization Lake Champlain Bikeways has been developing cycling routes, maps, and road signs all around this lake. Please visit their website for more information and many online maps (pdf). (link) Highly recommended!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Amazing Tremblant - Riviere Rouge ride

The Rouge river valley south of Mont Tremblant (St-Jovite) is one of the most beautiful places to ride a bike in quebec. Even the llamas agree, I asked them.

I rode from St-Jovite to just before Brebeuf, then turned on Vents and rode upriver to La Conception, where I crossed the river on their unique wood bridge.

Across the river I rode downriver to Brebeuf, then continue to Lac Loutre where there was a rest stop.

Downhill from here I turned and started riding upriver again.

This was on chemin Riviere rouge all the way to Brebeuf. Very scenic, again.

Back at Brebeuf for the third time, this time I stopped and visited the beach and the bridge and got some food at the Axep store.

Then it was over to the covered bridge, yet another scenic spot on this ride, scenery is the number one reason to take this ride. It sure isn't the quality of the roads.

Finally it was up the crazy chemin sauvagin, up and up and up.

At last there was no more up, and it was finally time to go downhill and back to St-Jovite on Kavanaugh, a road with the best bike path I have ever seen.

Summary: This ride has the best scenery in all of Quebec.

Ride Source:
The idea for this ride came from the Velo Mag book, Randonees des Reves (loosely: "Rides of your Dreams") . This is an excellent book, with many great rides in the harder, longer department.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

La Bataille de la Mauricie

A few days ago I picked up the new Velo Mag summer issue. It has some great Quebec riding destinations in it.

These include the Beauce/Etchimins area south of Quebec City, the Sherbrooke area's surplus of great destinations in the Eastern Townships (Cantons d l'est), and some special riding north of Trois Rivieres in "le parc national du Canada de la Mauricie."

The beautiful Mauricie River

This picture is not from the park!

On September 22 Velo Mag is organizing with Cyclomauricie "Le Defi Velo Mag" road cycling ride through parc national de la Mauricie (en francais) for a total distance of 125 km of, get this - car free roads. These roads will be closed to cars for the day of the ride. Limited to 600 riders, the Defi offers 3 ride-length options: 30, 53 or 105 km distances. The first two distances will have shuttles, the last one is the complete out-and-back ride between the two park entrances.

This ride sounds like a a lot of fun.

I heard a voice deep inside me saying: go there, ride it, pack your bag, go there now...

OK, I obeyed cuz simetimes the voice has some pretty good ideas. This was one of the best.

The result: This is one of the GREAT RIDES OF NORTH AMERICA!

Some park facts:

The parc de la Mauricie has a perfectly paved road between the two parc entrances. These two entrances are 62 km apart. The round trip is about 125 kilometres (78 miles) in total length.

The VeloMag feature gives the following very interesting statistics. Note: The VeloMag Defi will not go all the way to the St-Mathieu park entrance, so it is a slightly shorter ride than riding entrance-to-entrance.
  • One way length - 53 km (NOTE: complete entrance-entrance ride is 63 km)
  • Roundtrip length - 105 km (NOTE: complete entrance-entrance roundtrip is 125 km)
  • Total distance Uphill - 36 km (that's 21 Camilien Houdes)
  • Number of uphill climbs (roundtrip): 54
  • Total elevation gain (One-way): 1128 m (3700 ft)
  • Total elevation gain (Round-trip): 2256 m (7400 ft)
There were some scenic spots: the Le Passage parking has the views from "the top of the park" and should not be missed. The bridge just north of the Esker camping road has great views and lots of canoes.

Canoeing would seem to be the other main reason to visit the park. Parc de la Mauricie is one of the worlds greatest canoeing parks. Canoeing lac Wapizagonke would be a good day's fun in a totally spectacular setting. Shorter or longer trips. with or without portages are also possible.

lac Wapizagonke from bridge near Esker

Other activities include hiking and mountain biking. There are trails for each. The winter has cross country skiing, both classic and skating. And there's always snowshoeing. For the less robustly uphill there's also fishing.

Getting back to the bike ride...

With the car parked the car at St-Jean-des-Piles entrance, we investigated the Acueil (Welcome) building, paid the $6.90 entrance fee, and got the free map of the park. This an excellent map.

Please note that there is no food of any sort at this entrance and very few services along the way. The park entrances only have a Pepsi machine. You can glycogen replenish after the ride with a delicious refreshing Pepsi, but you have to head back to civilization to get some real food. (Or plan ahead and have food in the car.)

Also worth checking out, perhaps once you finish the ride and need a place to sit down, is the dock located on the other side of the Welcome Chalet, on the St-Mauricie river. When I finished the ride I relaxed and stretched here, basking in the late after noon sun (almost napping, but not quite!).

There are great views of the St-Mauricie river from this spot.

View of the Mauricie River and dock from behind the Welcome chalet

Here's the ride report:

Uphill, uphill, uphill, Zoom downhill, Uphill, uphill, uphill, Zoom downhill, Uphill, uphill, uphill, Zoom downhill, Uphill, uphill, uphill, Zoom downhill.

Arrive at the other park entrance (St-Mathieu). Fill up water bottles and camelbak. Eat bagel.

Uphill, uphill, uphill, Zoom downhill, Uphill, uphill, uphill, Zoom downhill, Uphill, uphill, uphill, Zoom downhill, Uphill, uphill, uphill, Zoom downhill. Try to get the ride's average speed pushed up on the last few kilometres of descent, arrive back at car.


With the exception of the first couple of miles near either of the park entrances, the road quality was completely excellent. (Completely perfect is another description).

Although there were lots and lots of climbs, none of them were sick crazy steep. But let it be said: there were alot of climbs. There were more, and longer, climbs than I would have thought was possible. The steeper climbs saw my speed drop to 8 and 9 km/h. (I was still able to climb sitting down with the 39/28 bottom gear)

There were a lot of descents. with excellent pavement and no crazy steeps, the descents were fast but stable with plenty of fast corners, and even some long series of fast downhill corners, one after another, There has to be some reward for the pain of all that climbing!

Here are my stats:

Direction: St-Jean-des Piles -> St-Mathieu
Distance: 61.89 km
Time: 2hr 55 min 30 sec
Avg Speed: 21.1 km/h

Direction: St-Mathieu -> St-Jean-des Piles
Distance: 61.44 km
Time: 2 hr 43 min 35 sec
Avg Speed: 22.5 km/h

Total Ride (Round-trip)
Distance: 123 km
Time: 5 hrs 39 min
Avg Speed: 21.8 km/h

Talking about average speed, the application for the Veo Mag "Defi" ride asks if my average speed is above or below 30 km/h. Ha! I congratulate anyone who does this ride at average speed over 30 km/h, because they will have worked really hard all year to be able to achive this.

One interesting and unique aspect to the ride is that the distance in kilometres is painted on the road. So about every three minutes another number rolled under the bike wheel. I knew exactly how far I was from the halfway point or how far I had to go to until the end of the ride (15, 10, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1-Woohoo!).

This was a great "introduction to the parc de la Mauricie" ride. This first trip has shown me scenic beauty and the many great attractions this park has to offer. I'll be back!

Watch out for Canoes!

Bikely map (Link): This map shows the Defi 52 km ride, the St-Mathieu park entrance is ten km further south at the lower-left end of the ride. Todays ride, rode from this ride in both directions (i.e. an out and back ride), starting at the right side of the map.

The Superbly Scenic Seaway Bike Path

Friday night I rode the excellent Les Berges bike path that goes long the edge of the St-Laurence river. I described it as the most scenic bike ride in town.


There is another bike path beside the St-Laurence river, on the other side of the river from Montreal. It follows the thin piece of land between the St-Laurence river and the St-Laurence seaway along the south shore.

This path has amazing views of Montreal across the wide part of the river.

Mont Royal in the background, with the skyscrapers of downtown on the right side and the green hill of Westmount on the left side. This view of Montreal is the best there is.

The path goes between Parc Drapeau/Ecluse St-Lambert Locks on the north side and 13 km car-free kilometres to the south is the ecluses St-Catherine. Access is also available at the Nun's Island Estacade (ice bridge).

Did I mention that this is car-free? Yes, it's a full-size road, but it's car-free and as a result: completely great for bikes. Clubs use the ten km paved section this for a ten km time trial.

This ride is just you and the great scenery.

At the southern (St-Catherine) you reach the St-Catherine locks. Here you can: 1) turn around and ride back. 2) cross the locks and enter the town of St-Catherine. Here you can ride back along bike paths along the south shore to the St-Lambert locks or Pont Jacques Cartier. 3) continue to the end of the seaway at the "Recreoparc." It is free to enter just to ride around (I think there is a pay beach). Riding around lets you discover that here you have close up views of the Lachine Rapids from the south side of the St-Laurence river. Take a few moments to stop and stretch while enjoying the fantastic view, it's on my top-ten list of Montreal views and it is one of Montreal's best secret nature spots.

For our ride tonight we u-tuen and ride east and north, following the river as it turns northeast on it's trip to the Atlantic Ocean. Back by Parc Drapeau gives one a few treats: riding on the circuit Gilles Villeneuve race track (you can ride around it for a lap or two if you have the time), and passing beside the humongoid geodesic dome from Expo 67's USA pavillion, and finally crossing the Jacques Cartier bridge, another top-ten view of the city.

In a few minutes we reach the plateau and cross the Rachel path, and then up St-Joseph to Mile-End. Start-to-finish in under two hours? We should do this ride every week. It's a great after work ride without the crowds of the urban bike paths. It truly takes you to a different world with the natural setting of thr Seaway bike path. Secluded between the two stretches of water, it is the most "nature" you can get anywhere in Montreal.

It's after work and you have no time for a big ride?

Did I mention it is only a two hour round trip from Mile-end? Yup. You can do it as an after work ride.

Map Legend:

Red Dots:
My actual ride - you could skip the trans-downtown section and ride out-and-back from Pont Jacques Cartier/Parc Drapeau only

Blue Dots:
Alternatives for more scenery or distance
1) Les Berges/Lachine Canal/Parc Levesque loop (my Grand Tour ride)
2) Recreoparc at St-Lambert locks - amazing river's edge view of Lachine rapids
3) alt. route from Pont Jacques Cartier to St-Lambert locks bypassing Parc Drapeau

Yellow Dots:
The Great Montreal Bike Path Missing Link: St-Catherine locks to Montreal via Pont Mercier Bridge (this is NOT reccomended because there is no bike path on Mercier bridge - VERY DANGEROUS - a bike path across bridge is promised for 2009)

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Happy Father's Day Dad!

It was 40 years ago when my Dad got me my first bike.

40 years later, I still think biking is the greatest thing in the world.

Thanks Dad!

(And you too Mom!)

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Super Adventure Parc de la Mauricie ride

Velomag this month has a travel feature on the road ride through Parc de la Mauricie. I recall it here from memory. Factual Accuracy may not be 100%!

Update: boy, I screwed that up! This will be an organized group ride of three distances, including a 105 km out and back ride. The roads in the park WILL BE CLOSED TO CARS!


Le parc national de la Mauricie accueillera près de 600 cyclistes lors du Défi Vélo Mag de Shawinigan le 22 septembre prochain. Le parc national étant fermé à la circulation automobile lors de cette journée, les cyclistes de tous les calibres pourront sillonner à leur guise les sentiers destinés à la compétition. (Link)
The main park road goes between the two main parc entrances. It can be ridden as an aller-retour ride for a distance of over 100 km. Returning by a loop outside the park could be quite long. A car shuttle may be required.

The ride goes in an arc between the two park entrances. and is supposed to have something around 56 hills (...and 56 downhills) (this could be for the round trip). Additionally, if you are doing a loop, you have to connect back to the start outside the park, with additional klicks and hills.

My ex-boss Francois said this was the hardest day of his life. He's not in the dedicated daily cyclist category, but he's got the guts to have done some big rides, like Ottawa-Montreal in a day. I've never done that one. Maybe long flats with tailwind are too easy? Or maybe I should make rides like that a good opportunity to use the recumbent bike.

Anyway, back to the Mauricie, a ride which has lots of entertaining hills. I love hills!

The map below shows the route. Lots of hills and curves. The route outside the park is hypothetical, I need to so more research on that segment: there may be shortcuts.

Useful links
Cyclique Mauricie (local bicycle club)
Cyclique Mauricie's useful map
Parks Canada Parc de la Mauricie webpage

Here's my crappy route map:
Red Dots- inside Parc de la Mauricie (can be done as an out and back ride)
Blue Dots - Hypothetical route outside the park back to starting point

Montreal's most scenic bike path

Les Berges - Montreal's best loop ride?

The Les Berges river-side bike path: Red dots
Lachine Canal: Blue dots
Atwater Market-Les Berges Connector path: Green Dots

The Les Berges bike path, which goes along the St-Laurence river and Lachine Rapids between the Champlain bridge/Nun's Island all the way to Lachine, is one of the best, most scenic, and continuously car-free in Montreal.

It is truly one of the great bike paths in the city.

The only hard part is making the on-road poorly-marked but "real bike path" connection between the Atwater Market and the path start/finish in Verdun, plus the road surface quality of this on-street section is often described as poor, terrible, or post-nuclear holocaust. But keep going, the Les Berges path is worth it, it is genuinely fantastic.

A bit more detail about this Atwater Market-Les Berges path linkup: Critically, there is a very poorly marked critical left turn at Boulevard Lasalle-Rue Henri Duhamel. I believe there is signage, but it is located well-before the critical intersection, and is easily missed. See this map detail for the critical route to get from Atwater to the Les Berges path (atarts across the road fom Canadian Tire at the baseball fields. The Big green dot is the critical intersection.

Big Green Dot = critical intersection

Interestingly, the Rue Henri Duhamel has been blocked so it is no longer an express car-route! The bike path on it has been inproved too: there was a bad intersection where the path changed sides of the road, with a "good luck getting safely across the intersection" design philosophy. This dangerous intersection has been eliminated, and this is a major improvement in cycling safety. Good Work, ville de Verdun.

Once you are on the Les Berges path, you will enjoy, enjoy, and enjoy some more. The path follows a green belt all along the St-Laurence river. It is 95% park land, there are lots of rest stops, including a floating-island pier and deck on the river itself!

The path continues along the river's edge through Verdun, Lasalle, and Lachine. At the west end in Lachine the path connects directly to the Lachine Canal, the beautiful Parc Rene Levesque, and the path west along Lakeshore boulevard (to Ontario!). This is also part of Route Verte #1. (IMPROVEMENT NEEDED: The Les Berges bike path passes beside but it does not yet connect to montreal's MISSING LINK: across the Pont Mercier bridge to the seaway bike path at St-Catherine lock (Ecluse). The Mercier is starting a two year reconstruction project, and we are promised a new bike path on this bridge).

An excellent loop ride involves going, in either direction, in the following loop:

Atwater-Market to Les Berges path
Les Bergers path complete
Parc Rene Levesque in Lasalle (loop ride on peninsula)
Lachine Canal to Atwater market.

It can be done either in an express-ride fashion for a good after work ride, or in an all day scenic lots-of-stops family ride.

And remember, always yield to the other, slower path users. Nothing is stupider than scaring pedestrians by being a crazy inconsiderate racer.

Surprising Path improvement: this is a typical two-lane bike path, sometimes with a separate foot path. But I noticed one section where the Les Bergres path is being widened to a three lane path (two lanes bike, one lane foot traffic). THIS IS A MAJOR SAFETY IMPROVEMENT. Keep going, make it all three lanes!

1000th visitor

I have just had my 1000th blog visitor!

This person was searching blogs for "Velomag and St-Donat," and Cycle Fun Montreal is the only cycling blog, or blog of any kind, that goes out and rides the finest in quebec cycling and then writes it down for you to read about, get motivated, and then go out and ride it yourself.

In case you didn't know, St-Donat has the most incredible 40 km of road cycling in Quebec. It's the new road to Lac Superieur (Chemin Nordet in Google maps), and it is everything you'd want a cycling road to be: good pavement, wide shoulders, big hills, great views, and fast downhills!

Ride to live-live to ride!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

A Montreal Hills Ride

I rode up the hills of Montreal tonight, because...

After many months delay, tonight I got my new rear wheel.

Now my bike is like new again.

Silent, strong, fast.

Hey is that me or the bike?

It's the bike, I was huffing and puffing as I climbed five of Mount Royal's best hills.

First stop was Fernhill, the light appetizer before the big meal of the next climb: Camilien Houde, getting passed by a few guys, then Westmount's Mount Pleasant/Belvedere, then the amazing St-Joseph Oratory new road, after which I did UdeM's Poly Hill, and finally, a repeast climb of the Montreal jewel: the 1.7 km 8& climb Camielien Houde again, this time I did some passing! OK, I got passed too, but I was hitting the hill harder and feeling good.

OK, at the top I wouldn't say I was exactly feeling "good." But what I was feeling would kill most 47 year olds, and that's something I think is good!

I had been avoiding the urban hill because of the bad wheel, now that I am back on them, let me say that many of the roads on and around Mount Royal are complete crap.

Aside from that the uphills are great. Each hill I did tonight was a great hill. Every one. It's great to be back with a bike I can ride hard.

Yeah! New wheels! Woohoo!

The two best westmount climbs:

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Saturday, June 09, 2007

USA-Canada Cross-Border Monteregie-to-Adirondack Century Ride

There may be seasonal service.
If it is closed you must use the Covey Hill (located at Havelock) or the Herdman border crossings.

We strongly recommend that you call the numbers below to verify if Franklin crossing is open:

Calls within Canada


  • Service in English:
    1 800 461-9999
  • Service in French:
    1 800 959-2036

TTY within Canada
For those with hearing or speech impairments

  • 1 866 335-3237

Calls outside of Canada
Long distance charges apply

  • Service in English:
    • 204-983-3500
    • 506-636-5064
  • Service in French:
    • 204-983-3700
    • 506-636-5067


We ride from Ormstown to (and around) Lyon Mountain in New York State in the United States.

This is the first view of Lyon Mountain as we ride south. You can see this mountain from Mont Royal.

Lyon Mountain in the distance, south of Ellenburg Center, This is our first full view of the mountain we will ride around.

2007's first century ride

I did my planned cross-border Century ride today. From Ormstown (Quebec, Canada) south to (and around) Lyon Mountain (New York USA, in the northern Adirondacks).

Here's the route map:

Easy directions: Ride south, ride around mountain, ride north

Bikely map of the route is here.

This ride wasn't just distance: there is over 3000 feet of climbing.

The basic route of the ride is: leg 1: to ride south to the USA and to the town of Lyon Mountainin the Adirondacks. leg 2: ride counterclockwise completely around the mountain of Lyon Mountain, back to the village of Lyon Mountain. leg 3: Return north to Canada on the same route as leg 1.

At 11:30 am I got on the bike and headed south to Franklin and the border. The road steadily rises and I feel the effects of a week spent on the flats. It climbs further after franklin Centre to the actual border with the United States. The American customs station is named Churubusco, the Canadian one is Franklin.

Once you pass through US Customs, this is what you see: perfect pavement with well-marked paved-shoulders. Perfect for bicycle riding. Cycling heaven. Paradise for two-wheels. You get the picture, if not, here's a picture:

America: new roads, paved shoulders

The ride south through the Adirondack foothills is very beautiful: farms and forest, peaceful quiet roads (a couple of miles on Rt 11 was the extent of busy road). This leg steadily gains altitude to Lyon Mountain village. You'll earn this section, but it's gradual.

I stopped in Ellenburg Center for a snack of banana and chocomilk. There were no outside garbage cans. That's not my bike on the left side!

Today would be a day where "riding on empty" would result in me being eaten by bears, so I fueled up to keep energy levels high. Happily there were no bears.

South from Ellenburg is mixed farmland, then it becomes forested as you pass over a ridge to arrive in Lyon Mountain. Exceptional stage.

We arrive in Lyon Mountain village and turn right by taking the right fork at the Mobil station (direction Stahdish/Clayburg), and this road will keep uphill for a couple of miles to the high-point of this first half of the ride.

Lyon Mountain was a very large iron ore mine in the US before WW2. I noticed the train station being turned into a museum--this is good news.

You can see the giant ore-tailings pile behind the town. It's kinda wierd!

Yard sale, with view.

Just after Lyon Mountain (direction Standish) there is a roadside spring. It's a good place to stop for a brief rest and to refill the on-bike water supplies. The elevation-high-point of the first leg of the ride is just ahead. It wouldn't be unfair to say that you could turn around here and ride home and it would be a heck of a good day ride.

Untested water and well-tested bicycle

Alas, there was no turning back for me. I continued south on the descent past Standish and down to Route 3. This is the first time I ride south on this road, previously I had ridden it north to complete rides that had travelled south from Malone (using rt 99 at duane to rt 3, a wicked road). Standish always had Hitchcockian/Lynchian feel to it, but this sunny day it felt more normal. The road turns left, southward, in Standish. I again wondered if the little backroad to the right was now paved--it's a super-backcountry road, and it entices me... later!

I descended this very quiet road until I hit Route 3. Bingo - this point is the south-direction end point. Actually I would have been happy to stop here for the day. But in fact I was ready (as in, I had no choice) to begin the epic ride back to Canada.

Rt 3 road was busy but had 6-ft wide shoulders. Unfortunately, the quality of the asphalt on these paved shoulders had cracked and decayed, it's wasn't great quality. But it takes me to the road on east side of the montain that I will use to ride back. Chazy Lake Road, it is the other hill of the ride. I have not ridden it before but I know it's formidable!

Villages passed by, there are plenty of convenience stores and restaurants along here if you wanted a lunch stop to break up the two halves of the ride. This is probably a good idea, but I just kept riding. I would stop for snacks in Lyon Mountain village.

Next: 14 miles and 1200 feet climbing: Fun!

At Picketts corner I spotted the little sign for Chazy Lake Road. It passed a wonderful old house and then climbs, climbs some more, and then keeps climbing.

Did I mention that Chazy lake road climbs? This is the looking back after the first mile uphill, Stopping and looking around is a great way to waste time, I mean recover, on a climb. There's lots more hill to come.

Looking south across the Saranac River valley.

Here's looking back at the very top of the final climb of the day, I've reached Chazy Lake, and I am climbing the final, (really steep!) hill before the village of Lyon Mountain.

View of Chazy Lake after 1200 feet vertical gain in 12 miles.

This is at the very top of the climb, in a few hundred feet the ride will start dowhill--all the way home.

The Chazy Lake Road climb starts out at around 800 ft elevation at Picketts corner, and climbs to about 2000 feet elevation just outside Lyon Mountain on the Rt 374--This highest point of the return leg, which I fortunately knew from the week before, was a low point in energy. The one-word expression of sagging energy and morale, "Wouf," pretty much sums it up.

In fact the picture below shows what I was actually seeing as I crested the top of the climb.


Was I glad to get to the top of this hill? What was I thinking? Thinking? I wasn' thinking, I had no spare oxygen for thinking, seeing, just holding on to the handlebars and push the pedals around and around... Around and around... It'll be over soon, seconds from now, around, and an around.

I finally reach the top. This is the hardest moment of the day.

It's all downhill from here.

The descent starts and just a few minutes later I arrive and stop in Lyon Mountain village for a premium unleaded chocomilk and some solid food. This was needed!

I went over to the church pond for the the best view of Lyon Mountain on the ride. The rest stop was minimal, I didn't want to let the muscles cool down too much. The view has geese. The road in from Chazy lake (Rt 374) passes from left to right in the forest behind the pond.

Lyon Mountain, with geese

It was now time to head back to Canada and La Belle Province. One good thing about this leg, and it was a very good thing, is that now it was time to boost the average speed of the ride.

Lyon Mountain to Ormstown is downhill. Translation: average speed increases as time passes - thanks to the invisible force of gravity. I got the average speed up to 24.2 by the end of the ride. It was 22.6 leaving Lyon Mountain. With 50 km between here and home, seeing avg speed increase is a good morale booster to see avg speed increase.

By now I had just one objective: Pizza. The ride north was uneventful except for the entertainment of cows, I always talk to the cows, it's an artifact of being raised in the country. Unlike modern industrial food production (i.e. "feedlots") where most of our beef comes from, here were cows in their natural settings. By this I mean forests. Cows in Forests... this is where they were living before domestication.

But I digress. I had to pass the time somehow until I reached my next stop: the Canada Customs at Franklin.

Crossing the border is like stepping into another country. Hey, wait a minute, I am stepping into another country!

One thing that wakes me up now is the quality of the road surface. In the US it is perfect, in Quebec it's... how do we say... "special."

Back in Canada the road here descends into Franklin and it is here where my average speed makes it's leap upwards. There is also a great view of the Monteregie and in the distance, Rigaud, Oka mountain, and Montreal with Mount Royal and the downtown skyscrapers clearly visible. I think we call this "incontournable" in French. I'd call it "million dollar."

Passing through Franklin Centre I zig-zag and take Sharpe road north (Mtee Sharp). I like this road a lot. It is often my last-leg-zip-home road. It descends fun rollers out of Franklin (fun because you hammered out of the village and you carry the speed as you ride long slightly downhill). The road goes past orchards and maple forests into farm land and forest. I love it.

This section keeps the morale up, until I get within 2 miles of Ormstown and have to conclude the day on the busy and no-paved-shoulder Rt 201. Luckily it is only a couple of Kilometres until I take the corner at tullochgorum to finish the last section on Jamestown road, a few hundred feet east of the 201. (Jamestown was originally everything on the south side of the river. The northside was Ormstown.)

As I pass the start of Ormstown at Tullochgorum road I see the odometer show 160 km, the long-awaited 100 mile point of the ride. My first century of the year.

I get home and quickly get out of the cycling clothed into a pair of shorts and collapse (is this the right word? Oh yeah) on the porch.

The ride is over.

Reflecting on the day, there's a few points that should be mentioned or mentioned again.

First, this was a really great ride. The roads are scenic, there is generally good or great quality road surface, and landmarks and route directions are straightforward.

Next, last week's explorations in the area proved useful: I made no wrong turns today, and the route I selected for today was on-the-nose century distance. Ok, that second point was pure luck!

The new road of the ride, the Chazy Lake Road, had some sustained climbing. Wouf.

Stats are
7hr 30min total time
6hr 38min riding time
160.96 km distance (That's 100 american miles)
24.2 km/hr average speed (15.1 mph and better than last week!)
66.8 max speed (I'm waiting for new back wheel before I hammer the descents)
3000+ ft of climbing(1800 ft south direction, 1200 north direction)

Scenery was great: clear skies (partly cloudy) and great views all day. Last week had been foggy and hazy, so the excellent views of today came as a real bonus. I wore my vest that I zipped up on descents.

There were several places to get food on the ride. I did the ride on 2 gatorades, 1.3 camelbak water, 2 packs reeses peanut butter cup, 2 Fairmount power bagels, 2 US chocomilk. Chowed in Ellenburg going south, Lyon Mtn returning north.

I totally forgot to look for the parking for the Lyon Mountain hike. Whoops. I was in a 1200-ft of climbing-induced hypnotic fog on this section.

The distance between Ormstown and the point furthest south is 37 miles "as the crow flies." That's 60 km.

This was an excellent ride. Highly recommended. Do it. Or, if you want, just do a smaller part of it. It's like a pizza, you don't have to eat the whole thing, taking just one slice is good. Mmmm Pizza...

Map with optional routes

Here is the route map with other options indicated. Blue dots, the 100 miles Ormstown-Lyon Mountain ride. I also mark some optional route choices. For a shorter ride, you can interconnect any of the routes I have marked: be creative, explore, and have fun!

Map legend:
Blue: the century ride
red: alternative route back to Canada
left-side Green: more scenic route back in Canada
right side Green: alternative route through adirodack foothills
Purple: optional "exchange Dannemora for Chazy Lake Road section"

Click HERE for the route map on Bikely.

External links:
Here is the Lyon Mountain loop ride part o fthe century, as a 38 mile stand-alone ride, courtesy Lake Champlain Valley Bikeways organization. The ride is called "the climber" and it does the ride reverse direction from how I did it. Link to the ride map (pdf).

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