Monday, September 19, 2016

3rd return trip to Appalache hills south of Plessisville

Yesterday was my third-week-in-a-row ride in the Appalachian hills south of Plessisville in a region called Les Appalaches and also L'Erable (maple) region.

I took the easiest route into the hills via highway Rt 267.  Going against my preference of quiet roads, this is the easiest road into the hills from the ride start in Plessisville which is in the flattish St-Laurence-valley lowlands.

In Inverness I took a look at some of the many road-side bronze sculptures, which Inverness has because it is Quebec;s bronze sculpture capital. There are several bronze factories, exhibition spaces, and also the delightful Museum of Bronze. It's a national treasure.

From Inverness is is only 20 minutes on Chemin Gosford until the very nice parc de Chutes de Lysander falls. Usually on this ride this is my first sit-down rest stop, but today I kept going another 20 minutes on the same road to the Pont Rouge covered bridge. There is a big regional parc around this river (rivière Palmer) just after the bridge.

Then is over to Leeds, and onto Chemin Craig. Ride up nd over and past Kinnear's Mills and up to the hilltop belvedere Google calls l'Observatiore Craig. Craig Road is one of my top ten bike roads in all of Quebec. From this lookout you can see Quebec city. Mont Ste-Anne and the first of the capes (Caps) of the Charlevoix, Cap Tourement.

From this hilltop highlight-of-the-ride, it is only 100 metrers until another highlight: Carig road continues with a straight-down-the-hill descent at 17%. Woohoo speed is reached immediately. Then is is 13 zoomy minutes until the stop sign in St-Jean-de-Brebeuf.  There is a well-hidden road-side cemetery dating from the early 1800s english colonization days with a sign called "Chapel" although there is no chapel. It is a nice quiet secluded rest stop location.  it is very park-like and has lots of open space once you know where it is.

I continued and bought a big bottle of water in St-Jean-de-Brebeuf. For free water, there is also a natural spring at the side of the road about a kilometre further west on Chemin Craig.

The next section is another favorite section, over a big hill and down down down to Irlande and then Maple Grove. Turn left at the T and you start the climb to St-Julien. Second highest town in Quebec!  Right at the bottom is an historic church, take the church's second (uphill) entrance and find the picnic table under the giant oak tree. It's a perfect rest stop. 

Look around in St-Julien, there are great views (and benches and/or parks) in EVERY direction. Now go back down the road you came up, woohoo!

You can do a quick allez-retour to Vianney for a second hilltop town (easier and shorter than St-Julien with a better road).

Finally the rang St-Sophie is the backroad north to Ste-Sophie d'Halifax and then flats to Plessisville.  This is one last ultimate back road to enjoy, with a nice hill to cross before the descent into and through Ste-Sophie.

And that's the ride. 

And I love it.

Favorite easy ride: Lacolle to Franklin Centre (Verger Stevenson's Orchard)

This is becoming the standard ride, standard easy start version anyway.

Add some extra distance and excellent scenery by going west to Chateauguay River south of Huntingdon to Athelstan & the Powerscourt covered bridge (yellow on map).

This is the short version of what is definitely my favorite easy mid-distance ride.

You can do the ride with just the southern trace on the map also, but then you would miss half the fun.

What I changed this year is making the first half of the ride a bit easier. Following the southern trace for a pure allez-retour ride means the first half is always trending uphill and can be a bit brutal!

Map link here

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Cool weather/cold weather cycling clothing

Since cycling is active generally one makes enough heat to stay warm. The key is keeping cold wind off your skin. Then add more insulation/layers as needed (ex for me: hands and feet).

TL;DR: For a little cool (50F/10C to 70F/20C) it is wind chill that gets me cold, so I cover skin. The standard set up is (say it with me: "two way zipper") cycling vest and a fleece neck bandanna and a thin tuque under the helmet. Cooler? Add arm warmers and tights. Hands? Add liner gloves. Feet: booties.

Colder temperatures?
The gear below takes me to 0C/32F no problem and I ride down to -10C/+20F and cross country ski to a bit colder, and with adjustments this gear system works perfectly well.
At all times colder weather means taking shorter rides or taking frequent rest stops somewhere indoors to warm up. I do not treat cold weather cycling as an outdoors all day long activity like in summer time. Also below 15F/-10C the cold gets serious and frostbite and hypothermia become real risks. So pay attention to wind chill charts and remember that cycling itself is adding a lot of extra wind chill.

-Under the helmet: thin wool/merino tuque
-if colder I add a fleece headband/ear warmer thing
-You may prefer a shaped tuque to get better full-head & ears protection, 
-cotton balls (like for makeup etc) stuffed in ears can keep wind out and warmth in, I use them.

Eye protection.
-Being from Montreal Quebec Canada, I see a lot of hard core winter cyclists and some people definitely prefer ski goggles. They offer exceptional wind protection and many models let you wear prescription glasses underneath.
-I use sports/cycling sun glasses.
-However, sometimes sunglasses are too dark, because it is dark outside and and I use my night-time Plan B: clear safety glasses, the cool-looking ones available at very affordable prices at any hardware stores. I use these for night time snowshoeing in the forest. (like I said, I am from Canada)

 -A fleece headband goes great around the neck to seal the top of a vest or jersey from the chilling effect of the cold wind.
-A triangle fleece neck bandanna (i.e. with velcro) (this thing is super versatile) -If much colder, a full knitted neck tube like for skiing.
-I generally do not use a balaclava, however if you are cold and want the full solution, its called a balaclava.

-Cycling jersey + 2-way zip cycling vest. This combined with Arm warmers gives full coverage against the chilling wind. The two-way zipper cycling vest is extremely temperature adjustable and is essential
-if colder, add a zip-turtleneck-neck base layer garment or a full-sleeve wool cycling jersey.
-I used to use cycling jacket but I found too warm when I am fully warmed up. So jersey for colder temperatures and make sure it is designed to vent moisture, this is not a rain jacket.
 -For more core insulation there is a good assortment of base & mid-layers available from everywhere. Avoid cotton always!
-For precip conditions or colder & you want FULL outer coverage layer, consider buying alpine gear!

-It is amazing how well arm warmers cut the wind. The key is to kind one that fits your arms and stays in place and does not slide down the arms. Of three pairs of arm warmers I own, only one really is effective. And it was swag from a race I tied for dead last in.

-Keeping hands warm is one of the big challenges. I have quite a collection of gloves, liner gloves, over gloves, and mittens. For most of the time I use sports-store liner gloves under cycling gloves.
-During warm up I might add fleece over gloves, or three-finger lobster mitts. Sometimes this is obviously too warm, and I adjust down. I often start with over mitts and take them off when warmed up, because it is easy to chill hands at the start and then have to warm your hands back up (misery) vs start to sweat a bit and take off or adjust the outer hand layer.
-Hands are the only body area where I will start off with too much clothing rather than start off a bit underdressed and aiming for perfect once-I am-warmed up set up.
-A wise person once said you should start off riding and be a "little" cold and you are probably perfectly dressed for when you are warmed up 10-15 minutes into the ride. Hands are the exception.

Legs/lower body
-I do not own leg warmers. I wear thin, medium, or heavy tights, if cold I also wear a legs base layer long johns made of stretch synthetic. These come in a variety of thicknesses.
 -Cross-country ski attire works for this pretty good also, and in general the cross-country ski attire parallels the requirements cold weather cycling attire very well.

-De feet wool socks, heavy weight version. I like de feet brand wool cycling sox a lot. Avoid: if your sox and shoes become too tight from jamming too-thick socks into your regular shoes. Winter footwear often allows extra space for thick socks or extra insulation so if you have a pair of shoes that are a big large... perfecto.
 -Shoe covers or over-booties. Wind blocking is crucial to keeping feet, and all parts, warm. I like heavy weight full coverage versions. I would like these to have a little pouch for putting in chemical hand warmers for active heat generation. The human body when chilled will cut off blood flow to feet hands so it is important to keep them well-covered and prevent chills at all costs.
-I never really used cold weather cycling shoes, they look cool-weather and not real winter weather shoes. I use layers instead.

Other factors - venting sweat
-It is really important to vent sweat. Cycling is an active sport and sweat is constantly being produced. You do not want this sweat building up in your garments.
-Therefore: no sweat-absorbing cotton! No well-sealed rain gear.

Other factors: visibility
-Cycling in colder temperatures means car drivers are not looking out for cyclists, also there is more darkness than in summer, so having an outer layer of high-vis clothing is something I use when out on the roads.
-Also, when one is all-bundled up you are not like in summer and able to turn your head as easily to see all around you, so make sure drivers can see you.

My hands and feet are quite susceptible to getting cold and with the garments above I am comfy down to -10C/20 F.

2 rides in the Appalachian (Appalache) hills (keyword: hills!)



More hills.

Followed by a "Would you like some more hills?"

Yes it is late summer and driving to Plessisville to ride in the hills of the "Appalaches" south of town is on the menu.

This season I am investigating different routes into the hills for a clockwise direction ride.

Plessisville is on the flats of the St-Laurence river valley and the Applaches are in the Appalachian hills, going in a clockwise rode direction gives you several choices to enter the hills. Some of these are better (paved roads) than others.  My favorite entry point via Mont Apic ski hill and between St-Pierre-Baptiste and Inverness are still suffering from 4 km of road-reconstruction that remains unpaved (but rideable in a way that subtracts joy), while the big climb out of Lyster has a big dirt section on top of the hill, This is one of those ymmv decision, and some asphalt on these two roads would greatly improve the joy of cyclotourism.

For a counter-clockwise ride the only choice is via Ste-Sophie. There is no "easier version" of this direction's entry point into the hills. I like coming down the Ste-Sophie hill, so I generally ride this area clockwise.

Enough clock talk!

Parking in Plessisville has some advantages. There are good services (non-bike) and discount gourmet cheese (typically because after aging the cheese is slightly underweight) at the Saputo ice cream stand and cheese factory. 

This year I have taken the bike path east for a few Km and explored alternative routes south to the hills vs the traditional route of Rt 165 and Rang 10.  Mainly because I want an easy first 30 minutes to warm up the legs a bit more gradually. I still like Rang 10 and it gets down to business right away and next ride here will be this trad route.

Some things I like about riding here

historic roads Chemins Craig and Gosford were the first roads built between original Canada capital of Quebec City and to the USA for the 7-day stagecoach voyage from Quebec to Boston.
Scenic in a Vermont kind of way.
Most of the ride's roads are of the quiet country road variety.

The first ride last week was more of the traditional quiet country road variety. Yesterday's ride south to Thetford Mines (aka Thetford) was on two numbered highways - not busy ones but still not super quiet. The Rt 265 also had construction at two sections, which sucked but is only temporary and will not be a problem in future years.

So I would say that my traditional ride here through the quiet country roads of Chemins Gosford and Craig roads is my favorite version of the ride by a big margin. Even with the un-paved road between St-Pierre-Baptiste and Inverness (please please pave this road. The road rebuilding was finished two years ago!).

One historical fact going here is that the region was first opened up (aka colonized) by the first wave of immigrants to Canada from the British Isles. This is reflected in the english names of towns and several ghost towns with only now-historical churches and cemeteries remaining. These make great rest stops!

Another fact is that there are hilltop towns. Ok, maybe not towns but villages. Ok, maybe not towns OR villages, but definitely hamlets. I am speaking of St-Julien and Vianney. Both are tiny villages perched on top of hills that we do short out-and-back sections to add some spice to the ride. Also as they are near the end of the ride, we want the fun to continue for as long as possible and these short out-and-backs are great fun, and mandatory!