Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Reflections on My 2013 Biking Season

Now that I bike all year there is no end to the season but the putting away of the summer bikes and taking out of the winter bike marks the end of a season for me now. (Note: click on images in this blog post to enlarge them.)

Remembering Mario

As I reflect on the past season I feel a sense of guilt for feeling that I have had one of my best seasons yet, for how can I feel that way when we have lost our dear friend Mario in a tragic traffic incident.

I first met Mario about ten years ago in pre-OMBA (Ottawa Mountain Bike Association) days when MTB Kanata used to organize weeknight Jack Pine rides and weekend rides on what were then called the Kanata Lakes trails, which included the SMH (South March Highlands) trails on both sides of the Terry Fox Drive extension (which didn't exist then) through the forest.

One of my first memories is a road trip to CFMBA (Charlottenburgh Forest Mountain Bike Area ) near Cornwall. During the ride Mario noticed some issues with the trails, so of course, being Mario, he was back again for several weekends doing trail work.

Back in those days MTB Kanata used to sponsor several teams in the Tour Nortel (now CN Cycle for CHEO) and of course Mario was always a big supporter. Here is an image from the MTB Kanata newsletter of one of the few times Mario has actually “gone public” about what he has done. You can really tell he loved riding that bike.

One of my first memories of Mario's patience was a group ride on Outback where he was riding sweep. I remember finding it very challenging but he kept encouraging me even as we kept falling farther behind everyone else. Finally after taking a bit of a secret shortcut that he knew about near the end we finished about an hour, or maybe much more, after everyone else. Rather than being upset with me for holding him back Mario was more happy that I had accomplished the challenge.

And of course Mario was not a fair weather rider – he rode all seasons and loved his winter riding, he even perfected the making of spiked tires for winter riding, which, of course he had to share with everyone else on the OMBA forums.

When I started to volunteer for trail days for a couple of seasons Mario was always one of the regulars and if he wasn't there it was probably because he was helping somebody else with something.

One of my best biking seasons ever was the season that Mario was leading Group D on the Thursday Night Rides. You could not find a better person to lead a group of struggling beginners on the trails and he always tried to provide variety in the trails. As well as the usual SMH trails he would take us on the old Kanata Lakes Trails including the old Lost and Found Trails behind the GFR parking lot and the trails on the other side of GFR. One of his favourite things to point out was the H-tree, a tree along the trail that had grown in the shape of an H. (I have to go and find that tree now). I always loved that about Mario because that is the sort of thing that I would notice and it just re-emphasized that for Mario, like many of us, mountain biking is not the macho stereotype that is all about mindlessly ripping around on your bike, but it is just as much about being in the forest with nature.

The last time I saw Mario was at this year's Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day where our two groups kept leap frogging each other, even though I supposedly had the slower group. He had a couple of slower riders that he thought might fit in better with our group and asked me if I would take them, and of course I said yes. But, being Mario he didn't want to single them out so he asked everyone to express how tired out there were in a number between 1 and 10 and then suggested those that said 5 or less join my group. But nobody wanted to leave Mario's group and that was fine with him, and fortuitous for me as we kept leap frogging and I got to see Mario more often that day than I otherwise would, short little meetings on the trail that I will cherish forever.

Mario is remembered fondly by the Ottawa Mountain Biking Association and Trips For Kids Ottawa.

Mario would want us all to think positively, particularly about mountain biking and cycling that he loved so much, and he would want us to get out and ride as much as possible.

Statistical Overview

AS OF DECEMBER 7, 2013
TOTAL KM         HOURS         MTB KM         HOURS         HYB KM         HOURS         WB KM         HOURS
4944.75               317.58           860.75             75.63           3244.70           188.27          839.30           53.68

So what do the numbers say about this year's season. The first thing we notice is an increase in total number of kilometres over time, a new record each year, 4451 for 2011, 4754 for 2012 and already passed that on Nov 21, 2013 at 4767, and 4945 on December 7, 2013, well on track for a over 5000 km for the year.

It would be nice to think I am doing that much more biking but the increasing hours is not as great, going from 290 in 2011 to 318 by December 7, 2013. What we also see is a shift from mountain biking hours to hybrid hours, in 2011, 100 vs 162 and in 2013 so far, 76 vs 188. Winter bike hours went from 28 in 2011 to 54 so far this year.

Average speed this season on the mountain bike was approximately 11.3 km/hr, while it was 17.25 km/hr on the hybrid and 15.5 km/hr on the winter bike.

So for various reasons, trail and weather conditions and the fact that I am beginning to really enjoy the long hybrid rides, I am putting more hours on the hybrid, increasing my distance at a faster rate than the same hours on the mountain bike. The number of hours on the winter bike is primarily determined by when the City decides to start and stop dumping salt on the roads and paths.

CN Cycle for CHEO

The CN Cycle for CHEO is the first “event” of the new cycling season. The winter bikes go away at the end of March when the snow and ice are off the roads and paths and while the trails are drying out it is a month of “training” on the hybrid for the CN Cycle for CHEO (previously Tour Nortel) at the beginning of May. I have been participating in this fund raising ride for the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario for about 10 years. This year my daughter Jasmine joined me in doing the 70 km route at a pace of about 21.5 km/hr (75.5 km at 19.5 km/hr, if you include to and from the parking lot.). During our training Jasmine was a bit slower than my pace so I let her lead hoping to do a pace of about 18 km/hr, but she led us at a pace of almost 21.5 km/hr, my best pace yet. We both managed to make the 500 Club raising over $500 each.

Mapping Project

This season I continued my project to map the Greenbelt trails and finished mapping the western Greenbelt trails with the NCC Trail 10 trail system near Shirleys Bay.

All of the maps from my project are included on the Backroad Mapbooks Ontario GPS Map and when the next version comes out in the spring all my western Greenbelt trail maps, including the NCC Trail 10 system will be included.

Also during this season I mapped the trails adjacent to the Jackson Trails community in Stittsville, what appears to be an unofficial trail system with an uncertain future.

Also, on a day when I was looking for someplace new to ride I mapped most of the pathways in Stittsville, which I just realized I have not posted yet, so here is the overview map and watch for more detailed maps to be posted in the Hybrid Routes section of my Richard's GPS Trail Maps website in the, hopefully near, future.

Tuesday Night Rides

While, for various reasons I may put more kilometres on my hydrid, the high point of my biking week are the Tuesday Night Rides, also known as TNRs (® Andy AKA FaustCan).

The TNRs are intended to supplement the OMBA Thursday night rides in the South March Highlands but on the easier and more varied Greenbelt Trails. All riders from beginner to advanced are welcome and encouraged to participate. The trails we ride range from easy to intermediate technical.

The history of the TNRs goes back to the MTBKanata Jack Pine rides, and after those faded out, the MTBK Nora's No-Drop rides that I usually led.

The TNRs are a casual and fun experience with a great group of riders, usually led by myself or my co-leader Andy, who, if not kept in check will lead us off onto Untrails. We are always looking for new people to join the group and add to the fun.

To find out when and where the next TNR is just check the OMBA Ride and Event Calendar.

My daughter Jasmine usually joins us on the TNRs and next year my other daughter Maggie, and my wife Christine, might be joining us. I am looking forward to that.

Take A Kid Mountain Biking Day

My last bike event of the year is Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day where the the whole mountain biking community comes together to help Trips for Kids Ottawa get kids out of the house and away from the video games and into the bush to enjoy mountain biking, exercise and nature. My daughter Jasmine and I both volunteer to lead groups on the trails for this big event.

Below is Mario leading his group onto the trails at this event that he loved so much.

Winter Biking

I first started winter biking in December 2009 on a cheap $100 Supercyle, with studded tires that cost more than the bike, but I enjoyed it so much that when that bike died I replaced it in October 2011 with a used but better winter bike from Cycle Salvation. Later that season in February 2012, I modified itto make it more like a hybrid riding stance. And before the beginning of this season I added a panier rack and replaced the seat with a more comfortable one. The plan was to replace the chain and cassette at the end of this season but on my first ride I notice considerable chain slippage when I tried riding on trails or whenever I had to power pedal, such as going up hard hills. So it was back in to Eric at Phat Moose Cycles to get the chain and cassette replaced and now it is running like new. This is the winter bike in it's current incarnation.

The key to winter biking is keeping warm and I use the dressing in layers technique that I use for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing for my winter biking and wear my winter hiking boots instead of my biking shoes,.Winter biking has it's limitations but it does allow me to keep biking regularly throughout the winter.

Because many of the pathways are not cleared at all and others do not get cleared quickly, most of my biking is on the local community roadways, and again, because side streets are not always cleared quickly I have a number of regular routes that involve the collector streets in Bridlewood and Glen Cairn. However, I will sometimes go farther afield such as down Terry Fox Drive to Second Line and back via Old Crap Road, Huntmar Drive and Fernbank Road. Of course I have the advantage as a recreational cyclist rather than commuter to not have to be on the roads during rush hour.

Cycling advocacy

I have also used this blog and my Twitter feed to advocate for cycling issues.

In June I raised the issue of why the Prince of Wales Bridge isn't a bikeway and proposed a relatively inexpensive way to make it happen quickly. Since then the idea has been included in the City's Transportation Master Plan but as a much more expensive project in the distant future.


Photo Source

In July I blogged about Kanata's Secret Segregated Bike Lane, what appeared to be a low cost way to create a segregated bike, lane only to discover it was actually an “at-grade asphalt sidewalk“.

Perhaps my most important cycling blog post of the year was in August when, following a Twitter exchange, I posted Thoughts on Taking The Lane where I outlined the legal justification for cyclists taking the lane and stated:

While I am not one of those “vehicular cyclists”, that oppose cycling infrastructure because they think that the best place for all cyclists is on the roads competing for space with car drivers, I do believe that cyclists have a right to be able to ride on the roads safely. I also agree with the City of Ottawa when they tell cyclists “never compromise your safety for the convenience of a motorist”.

One of the most important ways that cyclists can ensure their safety on the roads is by taking the lane (riding in the middle of the lane of traffic) when appropriate and necessary

I also wrote a blog post in June relating to a proposal to widen roads through the Greenbelt to save commuters a few minutes in traffic during rush hour where I pointed out that:

Along this route proposed for widening there are two NCC parking lots, P6 and P11 with trail systems on both sides where crossing from one side to the other is already very difficult and dangerous. If any widening of these roads is allowed the NCC must insist that it include a solution that provides safe passage between the trail systems on both sides of the roads at the locations of those parking lots.

Conclusion

My life is good now and I am enjoying my retirement and cycling, especially mountain biking, is a very big part of that, thanks in large part to the friendly welcoming nature of the Ottawa mountain biking community. I enjoy cycling all year round but am especially looking forward to the next mountain biking season and the return of the Tuesday Night Rides.