Monday, July 20, 2009

Two rides in one

This week's recap is actually a bit of a 2-in-1. The main reason for that is that last week, rather than writing about my Sunday ride, I decided to put in a plug for the MS Bike Tours. So this week I'll start with a recap of that ride first.

This first ride was another group ride with the TBN, and actually followed the same route as the one I did a few weeks back when I totally bonked and barely made it home. This time around however, things went much better, but I can't say it was totally without some adventure. First of all, I came much better prepared, with lots of food and liquids in hopes of avoiding the dreaded dehydration that led to my previous bonk. It's probably a good thing too. Unlike the previous ride, this one for some reason started out much faster, with the group pushing a pretty high pace right from the get-go. I was fine with that as I like a little higher pace than we had done on the previous ride.

What I didn't like was getting another flat and losing the group at about 40k in. What was unusual about this flat was that it was most likely the result of a pothole I hit at about the 25k mark. Once again, I hit it pretty hard and thought for sure I would flat immediately, but it didn't. It wasn't until I was going downhill at about 45kmh much later than the air finally let out. I certainly didn't hit anything, and the tube damage had all the earmarks of a pinch puncture typical of a pothole hit. Anyway, I was left alone with no way to catch up to the fast moving group after a 10-minute repair stop.

I checked my map and realized that if I cut-off the top part of the route's loop, I just might be able to rejoin. My shortcut trimmed about 5k off my ride total, but I couldn't have timed it better. Just as I reached the crossing point, sure enough the group was right there. I hopped back in and finished out the ride at a pretty steady 30-35kmh pace. In all, 109km in 4h06. Perhaps the most notable moment of the return ride was that I fianlly made it non-stop over the dreaded "Weston Wall". I've been up that thing 3 times now, and this was the first time I didn't have to stop for a breather. I also learned that the "Weston Wall" is actually called "Strawberry Hill". That certainly sounds a lot less daunting, but it is still brutal none-the-less.

4 fifths of my group heading south back to Toronto
4-fifths of my TBN group heading south back towards Toronto
Yesterday's ride was also a TBN group ride following a different route to the northeast and a little town called Mt. Albert. The morning sky was very grey with a cool breeze, and I actually went back to my long sleeves for the day. This kind of cool is almost unheard of in and around Toronto in July. Normally it's low 30's celsius and 90% humidity. The cool makes for great riding, but a lot of people are starting to wonder if we'll ever get a summer. I think maybe it's time for someone to give Al Gore a wake-up call too.

This turned out to be a great ride and pretty well paced. Nothing eventful of note to speak of, other than climbing a hill next to a shooting club and listening to the pop of gun fire. We were just hoping they were shooting in the other direction. Unlike the Tour de France, we cyclists shouldn't have to worry about getting shot at. After a short stop for a bite to eat in Mt. Albert, our remaining group of 5 headed back south towards Toronto and I totalled out at 103k in 3h45. That now puts me just over 1500k for the year.

I should have no trouble reaching my next goal and perhaps even a bit more. Now that I am unemployed again, I've got no shortage of time for riding. So much time in fact that I've decided to turn pro. Sure there's not a lot of money in it at my level, but at least I can fill in the gap on my résumé with a job title until my next paying job comes along. By the way, if there are any pro teams out there looking for a domestique, I'm currently accepting offers.

Monday, July 13, 2009

GearingUp for MS Bike Tours

As a participant back in June in the Becel Ride for Heart, and having seen first hand what cyclists can accomplish for charity, I thought I'd start out this week with a little plug for some other upcoming cycling events created to raise awareness and much needed financial support for a very worthy cause.

Since 1989, the RONA MS Bike Tours have combined fun with fundraising as cyclists of all ages and fitness levels ride to end Multiple Sclerosis. In the years since that first event, the RONA MS Bike Tours have raised over $50 million for the MS Society of Canada. The various Tours include food and beverages, rest stops, cyclist support vehicles, first aid, basic bike repair services, and a finish line massage and barbecue.

This year, there are five MS Bike Tour events on the calendar throughout Ontario and a total of 21 events right across Canada that are expected to attract more than 10,000 cyclists from coast to coast. The local the RONA MS Bike Tour here in Toronto will be held on Sunday, September 13th and offers routes of 30 and 55 km, perfect for cyclists of all levels of ability. Rides will start and end in Centennial Park in Etobicoke and will be followed by a barbecue lunch for all participants.

Canadians have one of the highest rates of MS in the world, with three more people being diagnosed each day. Women are diagnosed three times as often as men. For people living with MS and their families, your fundraising and participation in the RONA MS Bike Tours may be life-changing. Proceeds of the Tours will fund world-class research into the cause and cure of multiple sclerosis, as well as innovative programs and services for people living with MS. More information is available at

The MS Society of Canada has also launched a great new blog called Gearing Up, offering news and tips about the RONA MS Bike Tours and cycling in general. You can visit it at

So if you're looking for a great cause to ride for this summer, register for the RONA MS Bike Tour nearest you today. In exchange for your fundraising efforts, you will be awarded with various prizes based on fundraising total, including a very nice Louis Garneau semi-relax cycling jersey.

Choose a Tour. Choose a distance. Choose to end MS.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

A Weekend Off

Although I started this weekend with every intention on doing my regular weekly ride, I actually ended up deciding to take a weekend off from the bike. Due to a family commitment, I couldn't ride on Saturday, which left today as the only opportunity to hit the road.

As it turned out, I didn't go for a ride today either. The first reason why I didn't get going was that the Toronto Bicycle Network, with whom I normally do my group rides, didn't have a 10am "tourist" class ride scheduled for this morning from the start area nearest my house. There was a 55k "Easy Roller" ride scheduled, and I thought of joining that for a roll-out before splitting off for a solo to extend the distance. Not being a big morning person however, I had a bit of a sleep-in and would have had to rush to make it for the start time so I decided to pass on that.

During breakfast, I thought about going for my typical solo ride, but for some reason, just couldn't seem to get myself going. It had nothing to do with the weather as it was a beautiful day for cycling. I think what it really boiled down to is that I just felt like I could use a little break, both physically and mentally. My last couple of rides had been pretty tough and I had successfully reached my first kilometer goal for the year last Saturday, so the timing seemed right for some time off. So instead of a ride, I opted for some chores around the house. Besides, because this past Wednesday was Canada Day and a holiday, I did sneak in an easy 55k ride, so my week wasn't entirely cycling-free.

I also spent a bit of time on Saturday working on that bad click I've been hearing coming from my bottom bracket. My nearest local bike shop, Spokes and Sports, very kindly loaned me the tool I needed to take my BB apart and I overhauled it as best I could. I have no idea if I was successful fixing it, as a good test ride is really needed to determine that. Fingers crossed though, problem solved.

Needless to say, like a lot of fellow amateur cyclists, I've also been glued to OLN TV (Canada's version of Versus) and the first 2 stages of the Tour de France this weekend.

I don't think that my break will have a negative impact on my reaching my new goal as I suspect I'm soon going to have lots of time for cycling in the coming weeks, if not months. Unfortunately, due to a significant slow down in a major project at work, I got my 2 week notice for a layoff on Friday. It wasn't a big shock and I had actually expected it for some time. Things have not been very busy at work for really a couple of months now. It does kind of suck though as I don't get paid to ride a bike. So, in addition to lots of cycling ahead, it's back to looking for a new paying job, which is something I kind of dread. Wish me luck!