Monday, April 30, 2012

the wind is our enemy ride

 The first village after Yamachiche is St-Thomas de Caxton.  The wind was already a force to be reckoned with. We would reckon with it all the way to Ste-Elie-de-Caxton.

The wind was not our friend today, in fact it was a pretty bad enemy. it was the the kind of friend you don't want hanging around, and it was hanging around all the time today!

Th first fun little river crossing is just after St-Thomas-de-Caxton. it's a zoom-zoom little descent, then you crawl up the other side, which is better that dealing with flats + 50 km/h winds.

 This sign speaks for itself.

End of the world road... uh-oh.

The riverbanks of the riviere du Loup have been renaturalized, and is a great spot for a "beach" break.

Chemin Augusta is right after Chemin de bout de monde, and it is a favorite part of the ride

 Chemin Agusta still had some snow in the ditch!

The lookout at the Calvaire behind & above the church has a great new lookout deck

A nice village, and a nice distance from Yamachiche for the first half of a bike ride

Today's falling down barn has in fact completely fallen down.

Here is the ride map on bikely.


Sunday, April 29, 2012

Ormstown-Rockburn-Franklin Centre-Powerscourt-Athelstan Chateauguay Valley ride

Let me get something straight right from the start.  This ride and area is not the "Haut Saint Laurent." This is the Chateauguay Valley. Always has been, and no amount of government-forced cultural revisionism will change this fact. Let's recognize and celebrate the cultural diversity of Quebec's rural roots. Don't mess with our identity please so it sounds "proper" in the ministry offices in Quebec city.

Today's ride is clear blue sky and spring sunshine. The ride was wind powered too, at least for the half that was 25 km/h tailwind.  The Rockburn sideroad and first concession roads figured heavily into today's route. Everything is turning green. 

View upriver from Dewittville bridge

Entering Franklin Centre (one of the few food pitstops on this ride)

Some lowlife(s) stole the new historical plaque for Pont Percy covered bridge


Pont Percy (1861) is the oldest covered bridge in Quebec

 Chateauguay river running strong today

 View from the eastern "terrace" of Pont Percy, a favorite rest and snack spot

The ride passes this pre-colonization forest, where trees 300 years old,. 

What do drunken redneck yahoos driving around with loaded guns like to do?

Scenic scenery was frequently beautiful.

 The Chateauguay and Outarde rivers meet just above Ormstown

Friday, April 27, 2012

First Lanaudiere hills ride of 2012

We did our first visit to our northern Lanaudiere hill paradise last Sunday. 

A ride similar to ours is part of the new Quebec road cycling guidebook Le Quebec en 30 Boucles (Quebec in 30 rides) and we noticed that it used a part of the area we had never ridden: the short Chemin de lac Croche which causes quite a little bypass. Also, the guidebook's version of our ride goes in reverse direction. Long gentle climbs and short steep on-the-brakes descents. We prefer the reverse: steep but not too long climbs with long glorious fast descents with no need for brakes until we reach the bottom.  

We love exploring, so we did part of our usual ride in reverse, and we created a new version of the ride that is smoking hot in the greatness modality.   In fact, very high levels of fun occurred, and we will do repeats of this circuit in the future. Plus there was a mile of total climbing, oops, we mean descending!

The ride map is here on bikely.

Here are some scenic delights of the ride. 

What is this thing?

A mail box, obviously.

Spring color palate is not dreary at all.

The chemin Belle Montagne climb is however, a bit stiff.

yes, this ride has a few climbs. This is a good thing.  And no matter how steep the climb, it is a lot easier to ride a steep hill than walk/run the Mont Royal stairs. More fun too.

Another mailbox expresses its uniqueness.

We love unique mailboxes.

Very old, very small silo.

A very good book on the Quebec countryside is "The Heart of the Farm: A History of Barns and Fences in the Eastern Townships of Quebec" by Louise Abbott. Highly recommended. (buy it here)

Scratchitti that says we love you too

Another ride, another Pont Barré.

This one is crossable by bike... for now.

L'Assomption river at Ste-Beatrix entrance to Parc des Chutes

We are standing on the road bridge, and it is a regular rest stop on this ride,

Our lunch rocks on Chemin Belle Montagne have been redesigned

And just like the new interface, additional uselessness has been added and we don't like it one bit.

And this is how you keep the barn standing up!

A hand, yes. A corten hand, no.

There is no other description for it: this is a devil dog.
Stupid dog owners.

Arriving back at St-Jean-de-Matha.

What a great ride today!

Bike repairs, and as usual the shop does some really inferior work

The full suspension bike has all new disc brakes since the original Avid ones apparently are complete POS and "oxidize" after three seasons use.  We took it to the vendor xxx cycles for a complete brake replacement.  Actually we took it in for pad replacement up front and bleed the rear brake line (again!!!) but they told me I needed new brakes. WTF? Three seasons of mild use and I need complete replacement of the rotors and calipers? OK, I like safe brakes but still... big disappointment.

Great, new brakes... so how come the disappointment continues?

What we mean by that is... How come the brand new brakes installed by xxx shop staff seem... weird?

The brake levers hit the handlebars! Brand new brakes should not hit the handlebars nor should they need two or three squeezes to pump up the brake fluid because the brake lines were not bled properly.

Again... crap service from xxx. Let me clear, sometimes it is good but this is highly variable.

A few years ago they lost my quality rear wheel and installed someone else's cheap POS wheel and not my Suntour XC-Pro based wheel.  As part of the same servicing they didn't tighten the rear wheel tight enough, and it popped out of the dropouts causing me an accident and a major shoulder injury involving a one year recovery.

Did I mention the new rear wheel for the road bike where they said hey, we'll install the new tire no problem and it blew off the rim 5 minutes after I left the store? Nice work guys.

Did I mention the tiny wire from brake/shifter cable cuttings that found its way into my tire last october and caused a flat the day after a shop visit and five minutes into the ride?  Sweep the floors!

The disappointments keep adding up.

Why do I keep going back?  Why didn't I sue their asses off after the accident? How come they can't keep quality levels consistent, and by that we mean consistently high?

Quality matters. And it matters a lot.

Local bike shops need to up their game, and xxx in particular needs to improve their service department quality level a lot.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Lanaudiere hill ride 1668 m of vertical in 92 km ride

Today's version of our fav northern lanaudiere hill ride was 92 km long and was anything but a direct ride, we zigged and zagged but the result was quite a delicious and delightful ride. The statistic of the moment is the vertical of the ride: bikely says 1668 metres of climbing, and that is a vertical mile of elevation gain.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Gazette Jill Barker column on essentials of Bike Commuting

This week's Gazette Jill Barker fitness column is on essentials of Bike Commuting. Ms Barker writes a good fitness column, and her advice here is pretty solid. Read it and you might learn something.

Read the column by clicking here.

Our own primary essential tip for bike commuting is always get everything ready the night before. Everything. Every. Thing.

Also, sweat is not toxic and you probably don't need a shower when you get to work. If you do, slow down! Save the speed for coming home after work. That's when some exuberance is a good release for the workday's accumulated stresses.

Nice night for climbing

Living near Mont Royal means going out for some after work/evening hill climbing is easier than cooking supper.

And there's the whole "sunsets are beautiful" thing.

We like to do these two things together to give us a big dose of "it's fucking great to be alive." It's such an enjoyable experience that we do it again and again and again.

But for the montrealer/quebecer/canuck eventually summer ends and winter arrives. We pass the time doing snowshoe during winter blizzards. This is fun, but before too long winter ends. This is both sad and woohoo!

Woohoo because spring means getting to ride outside again, and lucking out when we get amazing weather, like 2012. (lucking out, or alternatively, more evidence that that we're doomed)

Anyway, after a few rides we figure it is time to get on with it, and climb some hills. Specifically the splendid hill of Montreal's Mont Royal. So tonight we got our fat ass over to Mont Royal.

Since tonight was our first time of 2012, we took it easy. Too easy... So we went back down and climbed it a second time, and passed two dudes. And of course we got passed a lot too. It is a popular place for cyclists, and there are plenty of lightweight dudes who can really climb. Also Arthur told us to do laps, and so we always do laps. Yes, this is fun.

We wanted even more fun (and a lot more sunset), so we went over to the Oratoire St-Joseph on the sunny and sunset-oriented west side. This is the best place for a sunset in Montreal.

Then we came back via the Poly hill -- and if you have not climbed the Polytechnique hill, you are not yet a complete "Montreal" cyclist -- and then we finished up our supper substitute superduper semi-summer-season sunset ride with a most excellent dessert selection: the deceptively easy looking Salle Claude Champagne hill.

The very top of the Salle Claude Champagne hill is steeper than bikes were meant to climb. Which is what makes it fun to climb. And it teaches you something about what it means to be alive. Alive... and on two wheels, which is one of the best things to do for the quite short period of time when you are alive and sentient.

This is a lot more fun than running/walking/crawling laps on the 256 step staircase below the Mont Royal Chalet/downtown lookout. Which we also do and recommend because reaching maximum cardio ability over and over again on stair laps is highly excellent bike training, and is sort of fun (as in... when is over).

We love summer sunset rides.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Cross training - the Mont Royal stairs

Between the Peel street entrance and the Chalet at the downtown lookout, there is a staircase with 256 stairs.

Climb the staircase. Do it slow, do it fast, but go there and do it.

Then repeat.

We did it 8 times last night.

It was hard.

It lets you experience your maximum cardio capacity.

Do it, then do it again. If little old ladies can do laps there, then so can you.

Yes, this has a training benefit for cycling. Mental and physical...

set some goals and sign up for some sporting events

We believe (and management consultants worldwide concur) that in order to get someplace different from where you are today, you have to set goals. Management consultants make fortunes telling you this (and the revenue stream becomes permanent with the ongoing measurement of the "change"), but we offer this advice gratis.

So following our own advice for a change, we signed up for a couple of fun events in the cardiofun department. The less fun and more painful item is the 10K running race at the Montreal marathon in late September. Lots of time left until then to avoid running. We did it last year, and noticed that with the incredible popularity of running among women, that the men's field is almost empty (it helps that really dedicated runners choose longer distances too) which increases our chances of a good placement in our age category (Top third last year).

The other and much more interesting in the bike and fun department is the Raid de Charlevoix.

A Raid is a mountain bike race, but unlike the several laps of a race course type of race, a Raid is usually a giant loop ride. Lots of opportunity to get eaten by hungry bears in the deep back country, in other words.

This race is in the hugely scenic Charlevoix. We emphasize that we entered to have FUN. If you have never been, go there this summer. (see how easy it is to solve the where to spend your summer holiday question?)

Of course, since we selected the longest distance event (25, 50, 75 km were the choices) we are fersure going to be feeling some pain at some point, so we hope it is only cardio pain, and not the pain of a bear bite or being attacked by some of those wild and aggressive charlevoisienne trees.

Life should be made of of many interesting, exciting, fun experiences, and the Raid de Charlevoix is going to be quite a memorable one. Preferably without the added excitement of bears.

Have a great 2012!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Maskinongé ride turned out to be 112 km!

Today's ride included St-Alexis-des-Monts and turned out to be 112 km. 112 excellent kilometres. Today we were reminded why we like this ride so much - it is a great ride.

Skip the side trip to At-Alexis and you have a nice 90 km distance.

This ride more-or-less as we did it today is a real favorite ride of ours.

The camera battery was dead so no pics but the highlights include:

snow in the woods as we got north on the ride
New asphalt between St-Elie-de-Caxton and Hunterstown
New asphalt on the downhill to Ste-Angele-de-Premont
generally clean roads
This ride's distance:difficulty ratio is solidly intermediate
The ride follows a few rivers and scenery is often great
The Calvaire lookout in Ste-Elie-de-Caxton has a new lookout deck
Crossing the last bridge on the ride offers a decent beach for some reposing

The commute to the start of the ride is autoroute express, it is a very easy trip.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Riding destination #2: MRC Maskinongé

Park in Yamachiche, and ride through some fine countryside.

Displayed above is our suggestion for a MRC Maskinongé ride based on the excellent MRC Maskinongé cycling map.

Our ride above displays shorter and longer variations and yes, it is somewhat better in summer and autumn, but it is never too soon to enjoy this excellent-for-cycling region.

One bonus for this region, the 2nd half of the ride is generally downhill until Louiseville, then it is with the wind back to Yamachiche. (Woohoo!)

This map is available at the Porte-de-la-Mauricie Autoroute combination rest stop/gas station and tourist info office. It is a great map for a great region. You can follow their suggsted rides, or if you like more chalenge, try the longer ride we offer you above.

Tip: When in Ste-Elie-de-Caxton, it is mandatory to ride up to the top of the hill behind the church to the Calvaire and scenic lookout for your lunch break. Some parts of this climb may require walking (it's ok).

Northern MRC Maskinongé is a cycling paradise.

Feeling like some extra "fun" is needed in your life?

Try the out-and-back to Hotel Lac Sacacomie north of St-Alexis-des-Monts. Pure fun for the hill specialists, and an excellent and legendary challenge for the rest of us (a bit easier when we get into shape by mid-season). Not a hill specialist? The ride to St-Alexis alone is relatively mellow and very nice.

A tip for hill climbing, instead of doing the risky zig-and-zag, try taking a micro-pause when you are out of energy. Then when when you feel ok (i.e. after a minute or two) continue climbing.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Bike decay 101

Blue the mountain bike turned into urban survival bike is undergoing some rejuvenation treatments.

We observed some decay, which we present to you as a public service for the "Don't let this happen to you" Foundation.

Front shifter cable/housing has a problem.

Amazingly, it actually (but barely) still shifted, but we admit we knew we had a problem. All the cable housings are ancient.

The bike is an 85 or 86 Rockhopper we bought 2nd hand in 88. One of the oldest Specialised bikes in Quebec! We renovated it in the early 90s and it has become time for some further attention. It was probably time for some attention a few years ago.

Better late than never.

Prevention/solution for the grease gunk and goo of the well-aged bicycle

Buy it now! You will not regret it.

Click on the photo and see a fridge magnet for the longest covered bridge in Quebec!

Here is some more decay, of the slow-aging and still working variety:

Derailleur pulley wheel showing some signs of age!

Derailleur pulleys are supposed to look like this:

New pulley wheel

The backend of Blue has some more cable decay, decay was everywhere. Aieee.

The good news is that 80's Deore derailleurs are indestructible.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Some urban biking realities

Wrong-way rider - on busy avenue du Parc!

Some things never change. Idiots are one of those things.

This bike didn't move since summer 2010 and is being eaten by lawn

Slowly. Very slowly.

Someone is creating an alternative reality

A wooly reality.

Quebec City's curly bike rack.

We love the ville de Quebec.

Howick - Franklin Centre - Covey hill ride

The weather got perfect for a while.

Crossing renovated & bikes-only Turcot bridge beside Georgetown Church/Howick

Montée Covey Hill is no longer impossible to cross the missing bridge

Yes, this is a road bike ride!

Not found today!

Can you pronounce it correctly?

Did a repeat of the Covey Hill from Howick ride and reaffirmed that is it a fun vaied and not too hard ride up the easy way on to Covey Hill.

Today we were not stopped by the Pont Barré because we could ford the stream a little below the missing bridge. Excellent news.

The downhill and with-the-wind (mostly) back from Franklin was excellent, and when we crossed the Chateauguay at Allan's Corners the final section of the ride totally rocked.

Start at red-roofed Georgetown Church located on Rt 138 at Howick. This is 68 km ride, which we call easy intermediate level.

The ride is identical to last week's ride except we crossed the mising bridge and did a loop west to Dorea before we rode down to Franklin Centre.

Click here for the ride map we made on Bikely.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Mont Rigaud mountain bike trails are open

Trails are open on Mont Rigaud.

Click here for more info

Be aware that these trails are closed during and after heavy rains.

Please respect these trail closures... Don't destroy fragile trails!

This is a destination we have yet to visit. 2012 is the year fersure.

Le Québec en 30 Boucles #8 Ormstown-Rockburn-Powerscourt

Blue sky, scenic and smooth country roads, this ride never disappoints.

The new guidebook Le Quebec en 30 Boucles is written based on favorite rides submitted by readers of Quebec's VeloMag magazine. It has, you guessed it, 30 rides! All levels, distances and the rides are located all across the giant-sized province/nation of Quebec.

So natch we selected one of the closest-to-Montreal rides, which happens to also be our homeland. And for a change, we followed the ride map precisely. It was easy: there are only six corners on the whole ride.

Well actually we didn't. We snipped off some distance at the start of the ride (by starting in Ormstown) and at the end of the ride (by going no farther west than Powerscourt covered bridge). This gave a good distance for a first-rides-of-the-season type ride, where maximum distance is not required. And adaptation to the bike position and seat and muscular requirements start fresh after winter's generally non-bike season.

This ride has several aspects that combine to give it a AAA quality rating

Smooth roads (very few frost heaves or bad sections)
often newly paved roads
rural countryside scenery, (aucun tims, mcdos, etc.)
quiet roads
very clean roads (in spring, many rides have shit covered road edges and shoulders)
scenic farmland with plenty of farms 100-160 years old
Several ecological zones
60 minutes from Montreal
easy directions to get to start of ride
many scenic villages
Quebec's oldest covered bridge
view of mountains across the US border
Rockburn sideroad has been called the best cycling road in Quebec
Triangle-shaped region has lots of different rides and route/distance variations

Chateauguay river at Powerscourt covered bridge, fresh from the USA

1861 pont Percy bridge is Quebec's oldest covered bridge.

Completely renovated and fully reopened last October 2011.

Perfect road. Perfect perfect perfect road.

Montée Rockburn sideroad is a paradise for bikes.

Sometimes we do a short ride which is basically just go south to the end of the road at chemin First Concession (south of Rockburn), then turn around and ride (downhill!) back to ormstown. Woohoo. Pure fun.

A lot of snow geese.

We saw a lot of geese today. It's one more benefit of an early season ride.

total distance 62 km. Park at the IGA in Ormstown. Excellent maps of the region are available free inside the mall at the self-serve tourist kiosk.

Conclusion, a very successful ride.