Sunday, October 7, 2018

Misunderstanding



As I was riding down a gravel road out by Graminia School this afternoon, a passing car slowed down and stopped. The guy rolled down his window and, in a friendly voice, said, "Hey man, there's an awesome paved road up ahead. Turn west and it goes for miles. Way better than this crappy gravel."

He must have thought I was lost, had turned off the paved road by accident.

I smiled and said, "Thanks, but, actually, I like the gravel. It's what I came out here for. I prefer it."

Dude just looked at me as I pedalled away into the leaves.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Cypress Hills Haze

Photo by Val Garou
As much as I love creating my own adventure-cycling routes, sometimes the work has already been done by someone else, and all one has to do is read the internet and follow the virtual wheel tracks. I’d been thinking about doing a trip in the fabulous Cypress Hills of southeastern Alberta and southwestern Saskatchewan for years, when I came across this trip report on bikepacking.com about a 100-mile route on a combination of trails and gravel. Perfect.

The Cypress Hills area is a gem, a little bit of pseudo-mountain in the middle of the great plains. Eons ago, this small area was somehow missed by receding glaciers (dumb glaciers), leaving an island of surprisingly high ground and all the flora and fauna that comes with it. Ask anyone who lives in Saskatchewan or southern Alberta about the Cypress Hills and you’re bound to see misty eyes and hear tall tales of family excursions to these underappreciated Pyrenees of the Prairies.  

The description on bikepacking.com says the trip is “easily attainable by most people,” a mere four out of ten on their scale of difficulty. The guys who wrote the piece did the trip in four days, and the pics on the website make it seem awful leisurely—dudes taking photos of caterpillars and stopping to fish for trout in streams. So, we decided to do the trip in three days. It’s only 100 miles, right? How hard could that be?   

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Roule Britannia


For close to a decade, British men’s cycling has been on top of the world—Grand Tour GC victories and stage wins galore, Olympic medals, a World Championship—and nowhere has this domination been more evident than at cycling’s premiere event, the Tour de France. Six of the last seven Tours de France have been won by Britons (Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome, and Geraint Thomas); meanwhile, Mark Cavendish almost matched Eddy Merckx’s record number of stage wins. And Team Sky, the British road-racing juggernaut launched in 2010, has come to dominate the Tour to an almost unprecedented extent.

With all this success, it may be hard to remember or believe that it hasn’t always been thus with British cycling. In fact, prior to 2012, no Briton had ever won the Tour, and before Cavendish started racking up sprint stage wins in 2008, the sum total of British cycling’s accomplishments in the most famous grand tour had been a grand total of about 20 stage wins and a few days in yellow, with the best overall finish by a British cyclist being Robert Millar’s fourth place finish in 1984.

In fact, the full story of Britain’s participation at the Tour has been, until this recent success, one of modest achievements. And it’s this story of small, and, in some cases, largely forgotten triumphs that William Fotheringham’s Roule Britiannia: Great Britain and the Tour de France tells, tracing the history of British involvement with the race, from the earliest forays across the channel in the 1930s up until Wiggins’ victory in 2012. 

Monday, July 23, 2018

Athabasca and Back


In case you haven’t noticed, I’m a sucker for gravel adventures on obscure historical trails. There’s something about the combination of dust and plaques that I just can’t resist. Our discovery, a few years ago, of the Victoria Trail northeast of Edmonton has been such a hit, that it now features in the annual Dusty 100.

For a while now, I’ve been wondering about the potential of another historical trail just sitting there on my map of Alberta: the Athabasca Landing Trail (ALT). This 100-mile trail links the town of Athabasca, on the Athabasca River, with Fort Saskatchewan, on the North Saskatchewan River. It was a major overland route for fur traders from the mid-1860s until the beginning of the railroad in that area in the 1910s. 

Friday, July 6, 2018

The Flyover


It’s hard to explain why I get such a thrill riding my bike on the Belgravia Road transit flyover. But I do. Every time.

The flyover connects the transit station at the University of Alberta’s South Campus with the westbound lane of Fox Drive, which then links to the Whitemud Freeway. It’s a one-way, one-lane, elevated bridge that curves around two corners before merging with Fox Drive. Because it was built on the side of a hill, where stability is an issue, the bridge actually sits on another, perpendicular trellis bridge.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

East Elk 50/50



I’m a believer in the 50/50 ride—that is, 50% gravel and 50% pavement. As every gravel rider knows, exploring dirt roads is terrific fun but also hard work. Hours of bumping along washboard, searching for a line in the beach sand can take their toll. So why not mix in some pavement stretches on your gravel route and give yourself a bit of a break? Especially when that strategy allows you to experience the best of both worlds.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Dusty IV Wrap


Gravel riding doesn’t get much better than what the Dusty 100 had to offer on Sunday out on the back roads of Smoky Lake county. The weather was perfect (21 degrees and sunny, with a tailwind for the home stretch), the gravel roads were in excellent shape (recent rains made for hard-packed lines on about 90% of the route), and the company was first rate (a corps of shiny, happy cyclists reveling in quiet roads and lovely scenery).

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Dusty Details


For those who haven't been to the Dusty 100 before, the meeting/starting point is the small parking lot beside the monument with three flags, about one km east of the Metis Crossing campground. (Where, incidentally, there's a music festival happening this weekend.) There's plenty of parking by the flags, a picnic table, and a rustic outhouse but no water, so bring your own water. (Only water refill on the route is at 60 km.)

Bugle call is 9 am.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Dusty 100 Preview

The big day is next Sunday, June 3, at Metis Crossing. All are welcome. This year's event features . . .

MORE RIDERS!



MORE PLAQUES!


                                   
                                                             A SURPRISE BAG!