Saturday, November 19, 2016

Halicz-Glidehurst


Most semi-serious Edmonton road cyclists know Halicz-Glidehurst—even if they don’t recognize the unwieldy name. It’s a 20-km zig-zag paved road that runs through a quiet rural area southwest of Devon, Alberta. The noteworthy feature of H-G (as I call it) is that it is the only paved back road in the area. It is surrounded by a grid of gravel. I’m not sure why H-G is paved; apart from being a back-door route to Devon, it doesn’t seem to connect anything to anything. But it’s an exquisite piece of asphalt for skinny-tired cycling, an unlikely but pleasant respite from truck-infested highways 19 and 60, and the kind of road you can ride down the middle of, most of its length, almost any time.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Onoway Getaway


It was back in May, during the Dusty 100, in fact, that Val, Penn, and I received an invitation to visit Bigfoot Ryan’s cabin near Onoway, northwest of Edmonton, and ride some gravel roads around Sandy Lake. Finally, a few weeks ago, we got our act together and ventured out there. It was a glorious, sunny, clear day—a rarity in recent weeks—and perfect for autumn riding. But the cycling was only part of the reason for going. I’d heard Ryan and his partner Gigi talk about their cabin at the lake for years and just wanted to check it out.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Liberal Fenders


The Alberta Liberal Party is a longtime political sadsack. Unlike its much more successful federal version, the centrist Alberta Liberals are perpetual underdogs, it seems, having never formed government in this province. For the longest time they could blame it on the genetic conservatism of Albertans; but that explanation no longer works, given that the leftist New Democratic Party under Rachel Notley leapfrogged over the Liberals in the 2015 election and took power.

Still, though, I have a soft spot for the Alberta Liberals (for the same reason that I’ve always loved the Leafs). That’s probably why I agreed to put a Liberal sign on my lawn when candidate Donna Wilson knocked on my door a month before the election. I liked her and had heard good things about her work. The Liberals went on to lose the election, of course, and in the end, I’m embarrassed to admit, I didn’t even vote for Donna Wilson. (Sorry, Donna, really! I got swept up in the orange wave like everyone else.) But it may be some consolation to Donna and her party that, while the campaign was a failure, her lawn sign lives on.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Worm Carnage


Rained all day here on Saturday, so even though the sun was shining yesterday, the roads were still damp, even bepuddled in places. Which means our Sunday road ride was worm carnage. 

I can't say that I noticed many worms on the asphalt as we pedalled, but when we finished and looked at our bikes, this is the gruesome spectacle we witnessed: tiny, noodly corpses attached to pretty much every surface of our bicycles. Tires, of course, rims, spokes, cables, down tube, brakes--even one affixed somehow to Val's headset. ("The horror!" I can almost hear Chris King whispering.)

Monday, September 19, 2016

Gravel Glossary: Fresh Powder


Encountering a grader at work on a rural road is something that occasionally happens to gravel riders, and for me, anyway, it’s usually a mixed blessing. True, graders can transform the nemesis of so many gravel cyclists—unholy washboard—into perfectly flat road surface, but in the process they tend to leave behind this soft, fresh powder, which, although pretty to look at, is no picnic to pedal through. As skiers know, fresh powder can be deceptive. It may look perfect, all soft and fluffy, like grey icing sugar, but it’s a quagmire in the ass to ride on. In a car? No big deal. But on a bike? It kinda bites.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Grand Beach Postcard


End of summer, one last hurrah, a few glorious days at Grand Beach, north of Winnipeg, visiting old friends. Classic cottage activities, catching frogs and playing cards, helped us not think about school bearing down. But this beautiful bike ride along a lovely stretch of the Trans-Canada Trail that runs parallel to the shore of Lake Winnipeg was the highlight. My favorite riding partner, Victoria Day, joined me on this one; here she is, among the birches, on our way back from the Ancient Beach Trail. I like how the trees are showing the beginnings of autumn, and I like how the trail looks like it goes on forever through the woods.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Pit Stop: Crepe and Shake


Bodacious Beaumont. The lovely little town on the hill southeast of Edmonton has got it goin’ on these days. Not only did Beaumont recently take over hosting the annual Tour d’Alberta bike event (and do a fine job of it); it’s also home to one of the hottest new restaurants in the west, Chartier. This once-sleepy French town is accumulating reasons to make it a destination. Edmonton cyclists have long appreciated Beaumont as a place to ride out to and back. And now there’s a terrific place to stop and take a load off, yet another Beaumont success story: Crepe and Shake on 50th Avenue just west of 50th Street. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Tour of Alberta 2016 Preview


The Tour of Alberta professional bicycle race is just a few weeks away, but I have to admit that I’m having trouble getting excited about it. The race route this year is, in my view, the least inspired one in the race’s four-year history. Why? No true mountain stage, very little gravel, and too many urban stages. 

Friday, August 5, 2016

Sex, Lies, and Handlebar Tape


Before reading this book, all I really knew about Jacques Anquetil is that he was the first man to win the Tour de France five times, that he dominated cycling in the years between the reigns of Fausto Coppi and Eddy Merckx, and that there was some kind of incestual monkey business in his personal life. Paul Howard’s clever title for his 2008 biography of Anquetil is a nod to the Steven Soderbergh movie of 1989, Sex, Lies, and Videotape, in which a disturbing but strangely arresting James Spader films various women talking—just talking—about their sexuality. That film was compelling but gave me the creeps; the same can be said for Howard’s book about Anquetil’s life. The Frenchman was a great champion and an enigmatic character, but like Spader’s character, a complicated and curiously sympathetic perv. All of which makes Anquetil’s story one worth telling—and re-telling.