Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Lanaudiere Hill Ride - with map and directions

This version is the best version of my northern Lanaudiere hills ride. It's not too far from Montreal, but the riding quality is out of this world!

Here's the link to very details directions on Google Maps. (link)

Here's a link for the bikely map I made of the ride.

Here's an overview map:

update: one improvement, take Feuille d'erable/Riviere blanche all the way down to the highway, turn right, and turn right after you cross the river at Pied de la Montagne, which you take up to Chemin de Belle Montagne and continue on the route.

Here's the report

Summary - Best ride ever!


Another weekend, and finally, some free time for a long bike ride. It had been several weekends without a good ride. So sunday at 11 am I was in the car driving.. where else... northern Lanaudiere's St-Jean de Matha, my favorite cycling destination in Quebec.

Last weekend my brother had actually visited me in Montreal, coincidently the same time as uber-slut Paris Hilton was here, which seems more than a mere coincidence... Anyway I took him on a walk over Mt Royal to the downtown lookout, then with only one mis-turn (winter and summer sure look different!) I got him back home in one piece, although I personally left behind some skin (the hidden plateau lookout is at the third lookout, not the second one!).

Sunday after he filled his car with bagels and hit the 401 I also got packed and hit the road with the freshly repaired car (again). After parking at the musée Louis Cyr (a convenient central location, plus Louis Cyr-inspiration). I was quite ready, since I was already dressed for cycling, so I adjusted things for the temperature (shorts, but vest and arm warmers) and I hit the road. In 4 minutes it hit back, because one of the steepest, and certainly the shortest of the steep climbs starts 4 minutes from the car. it's a good test, because if I can't get up here, I should turn around and go home. Happily, I got up it without dying, and a few minutes I made a new discovery: parts of this road that needed repaving, were repaved with fresh asphalt! Woohoo. This good-news would be seen again and again on this ride, and each time it was in sections that really needed rpaving and my prayers were answered, 100%, which is rare indeed.

Today's ride, to keep it from being too boring, involved some side-road exploration. This resulted in discovering that cul de sac means dead end, no matter which turn I take. (Actually the map showed that, but since I didn't have any map with me...) So even though I really thought I'd be riding around Lac Noire, unless I was going to steal a boat, it wasn't going to happen, and I u-turned. Happily, this means I was back on my regular route, which is, after many times, my favorite. And I got to discover some more new asphalt, because on chemin st-Catherine, the back-road route betwen St-Jean de Matha and St-Emilie de l'Energie you reach the end of a valley, one way out is up the extremely steep road at the valley's back. it's the way north, and it has been mainly looking like the iraqi army had been doing explosive testing here, but yesterday it was, what's the word? it had brand spanking new asphalt.

Oh... My... God...

Unfortunately the hill was just as long and steep as always, but I didn't stop, zig zag, or get a flat. And when one reaches the top of this climb a few kilometres later, there is a fantastic tourist lookout overlooking the St-Emilie valley, and it is spectacular. Not just because of the great geology and geography, but the trees were changing color too, this is one of my favorite rest stops of my life. (OK, I always look for a reason to stop at the top of a climb, but here for a change is also a great lookout with benches). this topis reached by some crazy steep road, and again I survived.

Then came the descent. Like a chicken I hold the brakes on the first section, it's a bit too twisty to go down at top speed, but before too long it's straight and I just ride and ride and ride. Sunday I explored a side road to the rt 131, but frankly this wasn't good for anything excep to know where it went. Until now the original route is still the best, although later I will discover a ride-variation that was a big improvement, in the ste-Beatrix-Ste-Melanie sector.

Anyway I arrive in Ste Emilie de l'Energie, the town without a church, because it burned down this spring, making it the only village in Quebec without a catholic church. I zipped right through here without stopping because 1) I had food with me, and 2) the sun sets earlier these days, and I usually end these rides before the sunsets, and I had additional variations to explore, meaing end of ride time was uncertain and I had to be on the move more often than usual, so passing through ste Emilie and in a minute or two I was on the steep long climb outa there: chemin feuille d'erable. Here was more signs of fresh asphalt, patches that were made in late spring, whereas the other repairs I witnessed today were since my last visit. Nevertheless, all road repairs are welcome, and with the new roads surfaces this ride, for the first time, is viable in either direction, something I'll have to try soon!

At the top of this hill comes a long descent, and for a change, with a descent corners, so I zoom left and I zoom right, and no cars, dogs, children, moose, or anything gets in my way. The good times stop at depaneur Lau-dan, not because of any accidents, tragedy or lost car keys, but because here is the turn for chemin de belle montagne, a road with a great name. In fact, this is one of the most scenic roads in quebec, and I found it be chance (I asked myself "hey, does this road live up to the name?" To which I discovered, it sure does!). So I ride through this valley, and it is good. Every road in the world should be this scenic. Too bad reality doesn't always measure up to my expectations, so when I find a road this good, it becomes part of the itinerary.

After a few name changes, this road crosses the L'Assomption river and heads south to Ste-Beatrix. Today, I planned to discover what happens if I don't turn, if I just go straight to the next bridge, which the map assured me did in fact exist. After passing some ups and downs I came to the bridge and crossed it and found myself not far from St-Alphonse Rodriguez, or at least where it's Rona was located, about 5 km from the village itself (no good explanations exist for this location!). Here was a tiny grocery store so I bought a banana and a chocomilk to recharge. I didn't even sit down, I stood in the sun and ingested, I wouldn't even call it eating or drinking! But it recharged me with energy, energy I will be needing in an hour or two. So here I was, unfortunately on a busy road, so I got on with it, and after a few km I was in the actual village and turned off the busy road towards Ste-Beatrix. This detour had been interesting (there's a 1/25 scale model covered bridge!), but the original route to Ste-Beatrix at the first bridge is the best route. However, it felt good to add another line to the map where I document the roads I've ridden in Lanaudiere.

At Ste-Beatrix lately I have been heading south from the village centre in the direction of Ste-Melanie, because this year I'd added a "southern half" to this ride. The distances in this area are quite compact, and the ride had previously been a bit short in total distance. So adding this new southern half to the ride really solved that "problem." On the other hand, it is still a ride with multiple "bail-out points" meanng the ride can be cut short at 4 different locations if the hills are to hard or you've given it everything you've got and there's no more to give. But for me these hills are not in that category too much, it's the flat-land rides where I feel the pain: flats mean you're always pedalling. The hills, well, let me tell you the secret: the descent means no pedalling required! Oh god yes, I love hills mainly for the descent. It's a fact.

Anyway, today instead of heading south in the village, I went east a bit and took the road for the Parc regional parc dalles or something, but it's the local "regonal park" based around the L'Assomption river and some waterfalls, and it has three entrances: St-Jean de matha, Ste-Beatrix and Ste-melanie. These are connected by trails alongside and over the L'Assomption river. During my earlier explorations I had noticed that the Ste-Beatrix entrace was, unlike the others, not a dead-end road. So today I rode past the entrance, across the L'Assomption river, and on to new terrain. For the first time on this ride the new terrain was good, in fact, great! There was even a spot where 15 km away I could spot the church of St-Jean de Matha (it is conveniently located on top of the hill.) Then I was shortly back on known roads. I wasn't sure where I'd come out, but it was at camping St-Tropez, notable mainly for the worst road surface of the ride, and it was the only one not repaved.

After a river-crossing with a super-super-steep "up the other side" I was doing another big descent to the l'Assomption river, this time near Ste-Melanie. Then I reach the highway and cross the river, the other side is a big climb, the only good thing here is that at the top one arrives back at the Rt 131, which is the direct road back to St jean de Matha. This road is also completely repaved, with perfect asphalt, and wide paved shoulders. It's a busy road, but the wide shoulder makes it tolerable.

In a few km and after a hill I take a detour away from this road, at a point where I am quite close to the rides-end destination of St-Jean de Matha. The reason: To end the ride with a delicious and fresh country-road flavour (not that nasty busy-highway flavour). This means I turn onto St-Guillaume, and this little road takes a beautiful little road and valley that is otherwise the best-kept secret of the ride. I found it a few rides ago and it is now part of the standard ride. The middle cute-valley part of this road used to involve a descent on brakes because it had bad pavement, but today guess what? It was repaved with perfect new asphalt (St-Jean-de-Matha municipality must have read my mind & blog and repaved all the bad parts of my ride!). So this repaving was in just the right place, and at just the right time, and I zoomed where before I really had to watch it. Great-a happy ending to the perfect day. This little road at sunset becomes completely magical. As usual, I was here at sunset, and It lived up to it's billing, and was beautiful. Then it was back on to the road of the start of the ride, which I backtrack a couple of miles to to the car at St-jean de Matha, In this return-to-town direction it's downhill. Woohoo!

Result, a perfect ride, with greatly improved and almost perfect roads, great hills, some excellent new explorations of ride variations, and as always, return to the car just at sunset for fantastic end-of-day light.

I even called ahead and supper was ready when I got home,. A perfect day.

Ride food: Some people wonder what portable delicacies power me on these hundred kilometre rides. Here is the list of food I ate while riding: 2 Fairmount power bagels, 1 apple, 1 Leclerc cranberry * melted chocolate chip cereal bar, 1 bag of nuts, 1 banana, one 500 ml chocomilk (always check the expiry date!!).

Ride repairs: did I break anything during the ride, or did recent repairs survuive the wrath of Doug? It appears that we can report that the bike repairs survived their test ride. Specifically the new front tire, the old front tire re-installed on the rear, and the new rear derailleir cab;le and longer cable housing all worked great. In fact the bike did fine, All it needs now a new front wheel to match the new rear one. And new handlebar tape. And index shifting bar-end shifters. And maybe, one day, new brake pads, the originals are 19 years olf and still nice and thick, This last one goes to show that brakes are not really needed too often on a road ride. Actually, my city bike had a rear brake break, oh, 9 years ago, and I finally got it fixed last wekend, the rear brake... the optional one.

I thought since I didn't have my camera with me that my speed would be up, but all those double-digit steepness climbs took their toll and 22 km/h was my pathetic average speed. Total distance was 113.13, but this is actually around a 100 km ride without the exploration detours.

Conclusion: Another great day to be alive.


2008 Update: I rode the complete route recently and I can again report that it is a really great ride. Be sure to add the little improvement I identify at the map above.


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