Over the Bridge

Screaming into the Void



Biking Wrapup

It's been one hell of a biking year!

So, as noted previously, this year was planned to be a big one for me. It's my first year taking biking actually seriously; and my first year with an actual roadbike. And of course, COVID, which changed a ton of stuff, and really encouraged me to get outside to do things, rather than staying indoors.

A lot of stuff happened. In no particular order, here're the greatest hits:

The (Fake) Tour de L'Ile

Given COVID, Tour de L'Ile was cancelled this year, understandably. Back in the winter I had talked about doing it, but obviously with the pandemic, it was always a distinct possibilty that it just wouldn't go ahead. And so I planned to do my own version of it.

The REAL Tour de L'Ile

Like a smart person, I picked a day that was like 33 degreees, with like 80% humidity. I loaded up my bike with only a single water bottle, thinking that I'd just buy more as needed. This was a mistake.

Starting from my apartment, I went north east, through the old port, and then along the water as much as possible all the way to the eastern tip of the island. After taking a small break, I cut west, and went opposite the direction I normally go along the north shore.

I stopped for a mid-ride poutine at LaFleur, just after getting out of Bois-Franc. They only had two sizes, small and large (rather than my usual medium). Obviously, I said 'fuck it', and bought the large. I ate about 2/3rds of it in all its gravy glory, before I had to trash the rest, but it still damn worth it.

From there, I cheated a little, and instead of following Gouin west, and hugging the river, I cut down into DDO to see a friend. By this point, I was really overheating, despite stopping to buy water fairly often. Luckily, my friend had air conditioning, and so we spent a brief (socially distanced) time, catching up and cooling off (and applying another layer of sunscreen).

After the break, I really debated just cutting south, and heading back home from there; but I figured if I'd come this far, I may as well see this mostly through to its conclusion. So from there, I headed west through the edge of the Morgan arboretum, where I nearly had a nervous breakdown because I was feeling so uncomfortable in the heat, and really wondering about whether I should be getting a cab.

From there, I went to St-Anne village, where I got two large bottles of gatoraide, and took another break, downing one, and saving the rest for later. This really made me feel a lot better. Not sure if it was just the tempreature of the liquid, or if I had just sweated out all my sodium, or if it was because at this point, I was heading closer to home, rather than further away from it, or if it was just purely placebo, but at that point, I knew for sure that I could make it home without tapping out.

At that point, I was really hoping nothing would go wrong, and of course; when I was completely exhausted, one of my saddlebags ripped. Which was super shitty, becuase they weren't exactly cheap. I'm still meaning to file a warranty claim on this. Luckily, I was able to tranfer things around, and after a bit of rearranging, I was able to get all my gear into the one remaining saddlebag. Still sucked, though.

After that, I took my normal route back along the southern shore of the island, heading through all the west island neighborhoods, until you hit lachine, and then through lachine all the way back to verdun.

All in all, it was an amazing ride, and I'm really glad I did it. In the end, it was 133km, which was actually less than I thought it'd be. It was really exacerbated by the heat; I'll never ever do a trip that long in weather like that ever again.

Lessons Learned/TLDR: Don't bike for really long periods in crazy hot weather.

The Trip to Tremblant

Just before Montreal closed down for another round of lockdown, my brother and I had planned a trip to Tremblant. We had bandied about starting points, but in the end, my brother drove in from Ottawa at dawn, picked me up in Verdun at 8, and parked the car in St-Jerôme, at the beginning of the P'tit train du nord around 10, on a Friday morning.


And so, we took off. And it was beautiful. Fall was here, and not only was it a great temperature for biking, but the trees were decked out in autumn's full riotous glory. The day was sunny, and it was an absolute pleasure to head north at a leisurely pace. The great thing about the trail is that, despite being mostly surrounded by nature, every 15km or so, you have a town that you can stop at, to pick up some refreshments.

We stopped for lunch in Mont-Rolland, only about 20km into our side; and got deux steamés all-dress ack ketchup, frites et un coke. Greasy lunches are always delicious when you're biking. From there, we continued north, and stopped off at Val-David for a brief beer on the terrace at Le Brail Rouland; which was... OK. The beer I had was passable, but nothing special. My brother felt the same way. Still, was refreshing after like 45km.

From there, we pushed through the entire way, all the way to tremblant. It helped that the last 10km or so was a fairly continuous downhill; and in the end we stayed book a small room at the Hotel Mont-Tremblant, and hit the restauarant and bar. On a tip from a friend, I had my firstAperol Spritz (which was... again, OK, but didn't really hit the spot for me), before slugging back a bunch of beer and whiskey, alongside a steak. It was great.

The next day, unfortunately, we found out that my tire must've been punctured with a pinhole leak, because after we took it out of storage in the morning, the front wheel was completely flat.

I, and my brother, tried not-so-successfully to use my kit (and the kit on the nearby maintenance station) to pop the tube out of the tire, but we didn't have much luck (neither of us is particularly experienced at bike maintenance). Luckily, literally right next to our hotel, there was a bicycle shop, so I just popped in and got things fixed up there, and we kicked off.

We made the return trip in good time, and on the way back, I noticed something amazing.

The last 30km back to St-Jerome from around Val-Morin are almost entirely downhill. I didn't notice it so much going one way, because the grade is very slight, but goddamn, you certainly notice it on the way back. I'd never experienced something like this. I literally had a stretch of no joke, 15km or so that I did not pedal once during. Literally 45 minutes of just sitting on my bike and having it go forward. Amazing.

Anyway, we made it back in one piece, but of course, the second we hit the parking lot in St-Jerome, my brother's bike's front tire popped. Literally the most opportune moment for it to happen possible. All in all, we were really lucky with regards to the whole thing; though even had we been unable to patch the tires ourselves, there were enough bike shops around on the path that we'd probably never be too far from getting bike help if we really needed it.

All in all, ~200km over two days. A fantastic ride. Highly recommended for anyone looking to get out of the city.

A Century Ride

This one was certainly the biggest ride that I've done. In the end, I did 183km; a round trip from Montreal's Sud-Ouest to Grandby and back.

Century Ride

This almost broke me. I did it with a friend, who was more experienced at this kind of thing (who only told me afterwards that it was the first time he'd ever gone that far either). We met up at basically dawn; when it the sun was just above the horizon, and headed off. It actually only took us about 3.5 hours or so to get there; but by the time we got there, I was completely starving. To remedy this, me and my riding buddy went to the McDonald's; and I proceeded to slug down two large sprites, and four McDoubles. I figure I'd earned it, given that I'd probably just burned like 2000 calories getting there.

The way back was an absolutely brutal slog.

It took us like 7 hours. We took a ton of breaks, but man it was brutal. Still; we had a great time, apart from the fact that we took the wrong route out of Grandby (the one towards St-Jean-sur-Richilieu, rather than Chambly), and had to backtrack briefly. Even then, it was still quite a positive experience; I don't regret anything about the trip. But I think I'll only do one of these a year. Any more would probably kill me.

Next Year

This year, according to my app, I've biked 2586km. I'm not sure if that's good or bad, but honestly it doesn't even feel like so much. I could definitely do more.

Next year, here's hoping that I'll be able to able to do 200km, or 240km. My goal is to eventually make my way to a double-century (320km), but first let's just see if I can do a double-metric century first.


Biking and Distancing

So, over the past week or so, I've finally managed to get out and do some biking. Which was great. Honestly, I was actually in a pretty big funk this past weekend (mainly exacerbated by a killer hangover from Friday), and what really pulled me out of it was getting on my bike.

It really is incredibly freeing to be able to just get on your bike, and go. Regardless of how you're feeling; even if you're jittery enough that just getting outside is a bit daunting, that just evaporates for maybee twenty minutes after I get in the saddle, and head out.

So, for my first route, on Saturday, I hadn't expected to go as far as I did; the underlying malaise I was feeling really was discoraging me from getting too ambitious, and so, when I started, I only was thinking about heading west; not really any particular destination, just to go out and have as good a time as I could, for as long as I was comfortable. In the end, after my discomfort had vanished, I managed to do my "warm-up" route from my previous post (with a few modifications).

Warm-up Route

So, I took this route, and then decided to follow it mostly to a T, though on the way there, I didn't take the bike path, I took Lasalle Boulevard. Once I hit Réné Levesque park, I veered right, and then headed back along the canal, but quickly decided to simply just take a meandering way through Lasalle, rather than actually go on the bike path for social distancing reasons. It was a nice little ride; I had a really good time. All in all, was probably about 25 kilometers or so.

Today (Tuesday), I took another stab at it, and went a little further afield; up north into St-Pierre, and through Montreal West (where I grew up), and visited a few people for a quick chat. One of the main reasons I did this, apart from wanting a ride, and some nostalgia, was to test my new cleats; one of the guys who encouraged me to get them told me they were great for going up hills. On the way up to Montreal West from St-Pierre, there is indeed a decent sized hill, called Devil's Hill.

Devil's Hill

It doesn't look as steep in that photo as it is, trust me.

Also, on my way back, I decided to go through Westmount, over a smaller hump of the mountain, up Victoria street, which has a decent grade as well. All in all, the route looked like this:

Warm-up Route #2

So in conclusion, while I can't really distinguish between the new bike, and the clip-on pedals, let me tell you, it is much easier than it was with my old steel bike and regular running shoes. It was also easier to find a nice equilibrium in terms of my foot position. I've been having a bit of pain in ankle, and I'm pretty sure it's because I screwed something up last summer; my bike wasn't properly adjusted, and so I overextended my ankle repeatedly, and it's something that's persisted through winter, which worries me slightly. However, the cleats really allow me to just pick whatever position I want as being my default "resting position", and I made a conscious effort to have it not be my left leg fully extended, and that seems to have helped greatly to reduce the strain on my left ankle. I'm considering seeing a physiotherapist about this, but for now, I'm just keeping an eye on it.

And so even though the ride was modified pretty heavily by not wanting to stick to bikepaths (where no one keep distance), I still had a great time. This ride gives me a lot of hope about biking this summer, that even if the COVID-19 measures continue, I'll still be able to have biking as a relatively risk-free outlet. It was surprisingly doable to keep a good distance away from everyone; the only times things got dicey was in Montreal West (where there were kids everywhere), and on Queen Mary approaching Snowdon, which was surprisingly busy. But even then, I still managed to get through without actually getting within ~2m of anyone.

The only question mark for me at this point, is biking with other poeple. I'm not sure how biking in a group is going to work; but it'll be interesting to see if we can make it work. I think you'll probably have to be a bit further than 2m back from someone who's biking with you, but it should be eminently doable to just space out a bit, and regroup every so often. I look forward to trying!


Planning Routes

So. Spring is officially here. Though, there is the fact that it hailed today, in Montréal, so I don't really consider to be quite spring just yet. The highest we've seen so far is 12 degrees or so, which I consider to be barely enough to bike in. It's doable, but it's not super pleasant. Without the whole COVID-19 thing going on, I'd be doing it every time, though.

Anyway, most days, however, we've been hovering around 5 degrees, or it's been raining. I did manage to get out last weekend for a decent ride; not very far, only about 5km, but it let me test out my brand new bike, and get a feel for biking with my new cleats.

That said, I'm fairly excited about us comping into the biking season in earnest, and am planning a number of routes, which I thought I'd share here.


So! Through experience I know that it's not the best thing to try and bike a good 70km+ out of the gate, without working up to a bit first. I've had bad experiences in the past where I've geared everything up to go, and decided to head over to Bootlegger in the west island to pick up some malt extract, and bike back with it in my backpack.

Let me tell you; starting cold and then buying 35km with about 7kg on your back is not a fun time. In fact, carrying anything on your back is not a fun time, much less twelve pounds of malt syrup.

This should be obvious; but I was pretty inexperienced back in the day; I really only actually truly got in to biking last year. So I know a bit more about what I'm doing this time around. (And yes, I have paniers now, to carry the malt extract on future rides).

Anyway, so here's what I'm thinking for a warmup.

Warmup Route

So that's only about 12km, but I do want something fairly easy. Starting from my apartment in Verdun, I'd take the bike path along the water up to the entrance lock to the lachine canal, and then head back towards atwater, and then just take city streets down from there back to Verdun. I'm somewhat hesitant to do it exactly as shown, due to the huge amount of people wandering about on the bikepaths these days due to COVID-19, and their preponderance to:

  • Pay no attention whatsoever.
  • Not observe any social distancing at all.
  • Taking up almost the entire bike path.

I mean, when I'm biking these days, I've always made sure to get essentially as far away from people on the path as possible, by moving over as much as possible, to the point of biking on the grass sometimes to maintain 2m of separation. It's somewhat infuriating to find oncoming traffic biking down near the dead-centre of the bike path; exactly what you shouldn't be doing, under even normal circumstances. The worst offenders seem to be kids, but I mean, we were all young once, so I can't really blame them; but when I see grown adults doing it, it's really irksome.

But I digress.

So, if I have to, I'd be happy to take Boulevard LaSalle most of the way. At least drivers are (sort of) paying attention when they're driving. Sure you have to stop a lot more for crosswalks and stop signs than you do on the bike path, but I'm not going to be in any particular hurry, and it'll give me lots of practice clipping and unclipping my new cleats from their pedals.

Pushing Further Out

Now, I like going to the West Island a lot. It's far enough away that it makes for a decent ride, yet close enough that it's not going to knock you out of comission for a week when you're done. It's decently pretty, there are lots of bike paths, and there are some interesting businesses out there to visit. The only big problem is that there's only 4 places to cross the 20 and the 40, so if you do want to go north-south through the west island, you generally have to do it on major roads. But it's not so bad, as long as you're careful.

West Island Tour

Anyway, I'm thinking I do something like this after I've got a couple smaller runs like the above under my belt this year.

Larger Route

Normally, I'd make a pit stop in DDO to visit some friends, but with all the social distancing going on, I'm not sure that'll be possible. If, by the time I do this route I can; great! If not, well, I'm happy to just do the thing for the fun of biking itself. Maybe I'll just pop over and have a loud conversation from a distance. Who knows.

So that's a pretty good one.

Smoked Meat Pete's

Alternatively, there's this one, that I do like doing, mainly because it has Smoked Meat Pete's as a midpoint. Mmmmm. I'm trying to eat less meat these days, but damn, their smoked meat is definitely the best in/near the city (and thus, probably, the planet), and there's not quite like shoving your face full of greasy deliciousness in the middle of a decent ride.

Smoked Meat Pete's

It also has the advantage that it doesn't cross the 20 & 40, so it's mostly bike paths/residential roads the whole way.

Longer Trips

In the end though, I'd like to do some serious biking. Last year, I truly left the city for the first time (Smoke Meat Pete is just off island, so I'm not counting that), and went places like Mont Saint-Grégoire, Laval, Saint-Rémi, Varennes, Repentigny, and Chambly. All these are between 70-100km away, which is great. It's also great that you get to get out into the country a bit.

However, last year, I had a much shittier bike, no clip-on-cleats, and not much training time once I sort of knew what I wanted to do. So, in addition to those above trips which I'll use as warm ups after I'm through with my middle two up above, I'll be doing a bit more.

Here's what I'm thinking.

Le P'tit Train du Nord

Petit Train du Nord

Basically going from Verdun to Saint-Jérome, through Laval, and back. This one has the advantage that if I'm truly exhausted before completion, I can always hop on the train; apparently, they do let you transport bikes.

South Shore to Valleyfield and Back

South Shore to Valleyfield

So, this involved going across ice bridge to the seaway, then down through Kanawakhe, before hooking up with a random bike path that I found on google maps, coming back up to Valleyfield, and then heading home via the normal route (i.e. the south sode of the island).

This is a lot. I'm definitely going to have to work up to this one. But I feel it's good practice, as it's close enough to Montreal that I could probably get an uber if I'm exhausted, and not have to fork over an arm and a leg in payment. The scenery also looks decently nice too. But really, it's training for the biggest trip I'm planning this year:



This'll be my first one-way trip (no way in hell am I doing return; that'd be batshit). Almost 200km.

The good news is, there'll be bike paths the whole way. The bad news is, some of those are gravel, and not paved.

Now, I bike around 25-30km/h normally if I've got a good pace going. So even optimally, we're looking at at least 8 hours, probably a lot more because I'll have to take breaks, and that sort of thing. I figure if we call it at 14 hours, that's reasonably safe, accounting for all kinds of breaks, stops, a very large lunch, etc..

So I'd start in the morning, probably around 6AM. That means I'll be finishing around 8PM. So long as I do this thing in June/July/August that should be close to fully in daylight, no compromises. I have a brother in Ottawa, so I'll probably try crashing at his place, and then take the train back the next day (or maybe the day after if I can barely move).

Anyway, this one, I wouldn't do alone. So this whole thing is contingent on some of the COVID-19 restrictions being relaxed by that time.

I have a couple of people who are interested in doing this, but they're of different minds about how to do it. One guy wants to do it in one day, and another of my friends wants to split it up into two much easier days, and camp in the middle.

I'm honestly amenable to both, but I'm leaning towards doing it one day. Just to see if I could. I know I can do 90km in a day; it's not even that hard. But 180km is certainly something else, and that challenge is part of what makes it interesting.