Sunday, August 20, 2017

2017 - the year so far

It seems many people are complaining about the weather of 2017. Not me! I've been having a very nice riding season, thank you very much.

I've been doing my classics aka favorite rides and a bit of new explorations too.

Riding season nowadays follows a bit of a script: easy rides, then longer easy rides, then hard rides, then long hard rides. Then mountain biking!

So what are these classics?

I'll define them by starting point, aka where do we park the car?

This is first on my list for easy road-bike ride paradise. Generally if you ride any road south of the Chateaguay river & always 100% avoid the busy Rt 138 & Rt 202 highways, you will have a good ride. Allez-retour Ormstown>Huntingdon>Powerscourt covered bridge for shortish road ride, add Rockburn to make it a loop ride is a PERFECT medium distance easy-ride. You can also add a bit of Elgin, if you can figure out where Elgin is.

For good bike maps, you can get maps in the tourism kiosk in the IGA mall in Ormstown (near the SAQ). Another very good map is the Le Suroit map. The Monteregie bike map is detailed, but doesn't show road names to the same detail as the previous two maps.

I have historically called this region the Chateauguay Valley, but it is also known as a) Haut-St-Laurent, b) Monteregie c) Le Suroit d) southwest Quebec. Geographically it is south of the Chateauguay river from anywhere starting Ste-Martine & continuing up-river. Rarely I'll ride north of the Chateauguay river up to the St-Laurence river/seaway, but usually south of the river to/along the US border and the many fine roads in-between. Although the area is geographically-compact, there is quite a variety of different roads, scenery, and eco-systems. 

This is the longer-distance easy-ride category. It is the MRC Maskinongé and there is a very good bike map to the region.  This starts about an hour northeast of Montreal via the Aut 40. Ride to Ste-Elie-de-Caxton for lunch up on top of the hilltop Calvaire lookout. Return via chemin au-bout-de-monde & optional St-Alexis-des-Monts. for adventure, go north from St-Alexis-des-Monts to Hotel Lac Sacacomie. The hills to get there are hard hard hard. One in particular is so steep that you can see the tops of (large) trees beside the road. I take pauses to climb this and one time a car stopped and was sure I was dead from exertion!  

I do my favorite hill ride circuit here. My favorite hill climb circuit of all time. 'Nuff said, except that finally Ste-Beatrix is rebuilding Rang Ste-Cecile, a key road for the western part of this ride. It was getting really post-apocalyptic in recent years. There are two big climbs and a nice waterfall on this ride.

Victoriaville / Plessisville
Hills, longer ride category.  Two different starting points for riding in the L'Erable/Appalache maple-forest hills & historic roads between Victoriaville and Thetford. SCENIC! Many parts of this are some of my favoritre all-time bike roads. This year I parked in Victoriaville and not Plessisville for this regions' rides. Both are good starting points. Nice hilly quiet and scenic. "Paradis du vélo." I say this a lot, but I've done a lot so different rides and these are the ones I always come back to. Historic roads Craig and Gosford. It is possible to do shorter rides here, but mine tend to be epic in scale.  There are a couple of unique hill-top villages around here.  St-Fabien being the more epic of the two.

This starts directly south of Montreal near the US border and it is an easy drive.  I ride bike path an hour west and it enters the Chateauguay valley (see Ormstown/Chateauguay valley rides above). It adds a lot of ride options and the variety is endless. The earlier I getup and start the ride makes the rode shorter or longer. Super flexible distance and easy, quiet scenic roads make this the easy choice lazy start times. The rides here are first-half of ride into-the-wind/slight uphill so it is possible you'll feel you are not riding as fast or as strong as usual. So then you need to remember to save energy for the turnaround point and then you will have energy to ride with the resulting second-half of the rides' tailwind and slight downhill. Experienced cyclists know these to be two excellent things that when combined create the conditions for a best day of the year candidate.

New rides

I explored by starting my fave Plessisille Appalache rides in Victoriaville.  This resulted in learning more about Ste-Sophie roads and a new route into the hills. Rides in this area start at towns down in the St-Laurence valley and head into the Appalachian hills to the south. The choice cyclists have is "which road do I take into the hills?" Because some of these entry points are better than others. Ste-Sophie takes you directly up and into a perfect road with big scenery, and starting from Victoriaville adds a covered bridge and some highly scenic backroads. All paved, I mention this because this region has a lot of unpaved dirt roads.  An all-roads bike is on my list of dream bikes...

I like rides just west of Lac Memphremagog a lot. My buddy took me on one starting in Eastman and two things surprised me: 1) there's like 100 times more cyclists in this area than the quiet areas I usually ride! And he is still a lot faster than me going up hills. Actually this was not a surprise. He has always been a faster climber than me. Only one year did I ever match his speed. Oh, 1992, how I miss you.

Mountain bike - East Hereford
(aka Mont Hereford / Circuits Frontières, located east of Coaticook).  It is not boring to always go back to the same place if that place always has great trails.  This destination is a bit far, but inside my three hour limit to be on the bike after leaving my front door. East Hereford has a trail network that is over a large geographic area across the side of a fairly big mountain and protected forest. It is the opposite of a small-area mtn-bike park with lots of short trails in the midst of modern civilization. East Hereford is a big place with lots of big forest and once you leave the village you'll be in the forest all day long. The only farming you'll see is Christmas-tree farms,.  The trails are laid out with a nice selection of easy-intermediate trails along a east-west axis.  I won't go into detail, but it is a great way to have the most fun day of your year and possibly life.

There is a rainbow trout fish farm in the village (behind the town library in middle of village) and you can buy some frozen sliced smoked trout (that will thaw in your cooler during the ride) to be enjoyed afterwards. Because it is far there you need to be aware that after Coaticook there are no services although there is a dep/food in Ste-Heremenegilde about 15 km from East Hereford. That said, be self-sufficient. The bike parking has a very nice village park, plus for dirty mountain bikers there is showers and across the road behind the tennis court is a bike wash. Maps are available at the bike parking at the kiosk, where you pay your $10.  Lastly I need to say this a remote and wild area and you ability to be self sufficient on the trail (reading maps, fixing minor bike problems) is really important.

Because starting from the village require a long climb (Rembobine then Bobine) there are two  Parking lots located mid-mountain.  The parking for the popular easy-level flow trails is at top of Chemin Houle (via Chemin des Cotes).

That's 2017, and I think it has been a very good year so far.