An Attempt to Plan for the Greenbelt

Aside from doing some regular uphill training, I’ve been playing catch up since a recent one-week long road trip out to Maine.  As much as the Greenbelt Route is well promoted, the documentation to actually plan out your own trip is a little more difficult than I thought.

Planning each Day of the Route

The tricky thing is that some sections of the Greenbelt Route have more access to accommodation than others so attempting to plan out certain days cycling the route is difficult.  In addition, the GO Trains and Via Rail trains bike racks are not always readily available.  It’s good to read up on this earlier so I’ll incorporate this into my planning for next year.

It appears that these bicycle rack-equipped trains are only available until September 5th which is unfortunately because I’d prefer to be cycling in mid to late September rather than in August.

What to take along and how to pack

Bikepacking example
Bikepacking example via GearJunkie.com

I’ve also been trying to figure out what to bring along and how I should pack.  It’s actually quite fun and interesting because I’ve been pursuing a more lightweight and minimalist approach to hiking, so to only have everything with me on a bike is an added twist on the approach.  Fortunately, there have been some great information online on bikepacking … sometimes too much.

I do have to do some maintenance on my single-person tent and re-waterproof some of my gear from hiking.  Unfortunately, I still have to modify some more of my bike which means possibly adding a front pannier rack, and a couple of bike packs for easy storage.  I’m also considering replacing my bike saddle/seat — which is a little tricky because it’s a mountain bike which I’m technically using for bike touring.

More training to come so we’ll see what’s next in coming weeks…!

Additional Links of Interest

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Trying a New Route

So my friend and I had been bouncing this idea back and forth about how I should bike to her house for a visit and then we’d go check out this bakery in the vicinity.  Tricky thing is that she and her family live in Scarborough near Lake Ontario and I currently live in North York (no lakes but we got streams and rivers).  For those who aren’t familiar with the city of Toronto — North York and Scarborough are different parts of the city.

As I was mapping routes out, one of the first things I noticed was the lack of bike trails that could take me from North York into eastern Scarborough.  Everything in North York ran north-south.  This meant I had a choice to either ride along main avenues (big no-no for me) or find small residential streets and ride through those until I could make my way into the networks of trail paths in Scarborough.

Awesome multi-purpose trail path near Brimley in Scarborough.
Awesome multi-purpose trail path near Brimley in Scarborough.

I have to admit some trepidation on my part because despite having grown up and lived in Toronto — there are a lot of areas of the city I’m not familiar with.  Funny how that is isn’t it?  We sometimes know parts of other cities we travel to more than we know our own.

Anyhow, with some help from the popular RidewithGPS.com, I managed to create a route down to the Port Union area where the waterfront trail has been in development.  The waterfront trail in the downtown core and the Beach area really should be connected to this Port Union area but I’m guessing there’s a lot more work to be done and that’s a story for another time.

I managed to export this route and upload it to the new Garmin GPS that I had picked up.  This would serve as my guide to get to my friend’s place.  This was my test run.

Stopping for a break
Stopping for a break

I’ve been enjoying the new tires.  They are definitely making my ride a little easier and smoother.  According to the GPS, I manage to get to a speed of approximately 23 to 25km so far — sometimes faster if I’m going downhill but I have my doubts whether I’ll be able to go significantly faster on a consistent basis — not with the mountain bike frame and the relatively fatter tires.  My goal really here is just to manage energy more efficiently in the long-term when I’m going to tackle the Greenbelt Route.

Unfortunately as I make my way further south, I end up taking some wrong turns.  It is rather tricky trying to read the directions on the GPS and bike at the same time.  To top it off, the route that I had mapped out apparently took me on to a hiking trail and I found myself carrying the bike down some stairways.  Ah, the consequences of using Google Maps.  Still good enough.

Bridge over Bridge
Bridge over Bridge

The route took me further into a more elaborate network of paths which were amazing ride through.  Some were a part of a larger park, others were nice manicured gardens or extended backyards that led into a ravine area.  The diversity was amazing and I was grateful that such a network of multipurpose paths and trails were developed within the city.  To some extent, I wish the part of North York I lived in had more of these.  I followed these trails south until I hit the lake and it was a happy sight.  I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to drop by my friend’s place in time because I kept getting lost or taking a wrong turn.

After I stopped by my friend’s place (it was fun and her son was hilarious and inspiring) — I took the same route back home.  It was practically all uphill most of the way.  To make it even tougher, the wind was blowing at me the entire way back.  Good training opportunity for future reference, but quite the challenge.  Thank goodness it was a beautiful day and it wasn’t too hot or humid.

Made it to the lake and Port Union
Made it to the lake and Port Union

Some Post-75km Ride Updates

Firstly as promised, the full version of my 75km bike ride (sans a few sections):

So after tackling the 75km Ride for Heart a number of weeks ago, I’ve been further reflecting on my experience of cycling 75km.  Some of the things I’ve contemplated revolved very much on how I would be able to improve that experience.  It was tough I have to admit — trying to keep up with folks who were on a road bike.  I definitely had the power, stamina, and strength to go up the hills but the ease at which they glided downhill and on simply straight flat surfaces caused be to take a step back and really see how much energy I was wasting.

Some friends pointed out to me that I should really get a new bike — but that simply isn’t an option. Too expensive and not practical at all. Maybe in the future I’ll swap my mountain bike for a touring one.

I decided to take my bike into the local Trek store in Toronto which is somewhat of a pain because my current neighbourhood does not have any bike shops within a reasonable distance but it was necessary. I ended up leaving my bike there for a week while the fine folks there helped me do a tune-up and change the tires to something more appropriate for the road ahead when I begin the ride on the Greenbelt Route. I realize I probably need to figure out how to do some of this stuff myself (which I have for some things) down the road but for now — I figured I was buying new tires so why not have them tune it up too.

Edge Touring GPS on the bike
The Edge Touring on the bike

Now, thinking ahead for the Greenbelt Route, I can’t imagine myself cycling with a bunch of maps printed out (and it seems no one has thought of selling a set of maps for the Greenbelt Route yet). After I did some more research on mapping routes out — I decided to dish out a chunk of change on a Garmin Edge Touring. There were definitely more expensive models with fancy features like connecting with your phone for updates and such but I really did not need that and I certainly did not want to spend an excessive amount of money for features that were pointless for me. I really just need to be able to map out a route on my computer that I can then upload to the Garmin Edge Touring — which would allow me to follow the proper route on any bike ride.

At the moment, I’m still testing it out but so far so good … more to come on that later.

The additional thing I’ve been trying to figure out are all the different pieces of cycling gear and clothing that I may require. I don’t really find myself drawn to most cycling clothes — perhaps it is the hiking side of me speaking — but I do see how they will be helpful. Once again, trying to figure out what is necessary vs. a luxury — I don’t want to spend money on stuff that I already have and can simply re-purpose.

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75km and Onward

I did it.

Thanks to so many folks who supported me. That includes my friend who trained with me for her 75km, the wonderful people who made a donation to the Heart & Stroke Foundation in supporting my ride, and of course — the many kind and supportive words that I received along the way.

This is for me just the beginning as I journey towards 500km.

So how’d it feel? Uhm. Challenging. Even with the training. For the first time, I really felt how much slower I was going with my current bicycle. Throw in some headwinds (I learned about that recently … thank you Suzan!) — and there were times when I was wondering if I was moving in the right direction…

So waking up at 4am is not much of a problem for me. Same goes for getting soaked in a thunderstorm just from setting up the bike on the car rack in order to get to the event. The toughest part was trying to keep up with my former coworker who was on a road bike! Alas, I didn’t have the opportunity to ride with the person I was training with but I was happy to hear she killed it! Made it to the finish line 40 minutes before I did. I can only say that I was stopped numerous times for photos … and they were not for me. 🙂 Anyhow, I was simply happy to see friendly faces and content that I made the first major step towards the Greenbelt route.

What was it like?

Here’s a glimpse of what happened on Sunday in this very brief time-lapse video. I’ll post the full thing later.

So now what?
I keep training. I’m planning a number of cycling routes with friends (more news to come on that front).

I’m also planning to take my bike in for a tune-up and change up the wheels to something more appropriate for the road and gravel. I spoke with a guy at the Trek store over the weekend about my goal for next year and was informed that fewer manufacturers are making 26 inch wheels … but fortunately there are still some being made that will work for my mountain bike. I breathed a small sigh of relief because I really don’t want to be buying a new bike. Not any time soon anyways.

Doing some research on some good cycling routes in the Greater Toronto Area.  Preferably not on the road so if anyone has any suggestions … feel free to throw it on the table.

I’ve had the opportunity to bike much of the Waterfront Trail in Toronto, the Lower Don trail, the Beltline, as well as a number of other trails scattered within the city of Toronto.  I am taking a closer look at the trail around the Humber River but I feel like I need to go a little further out of the city for a longer route.

Good Weather, More Distance

If there is one thing I’ve learned as I’ve been training for the 75km Ride for Heart — it has been that the weather is something you just have to contend with and that good weather will just mean you tackle more distance.

Don’t get me wrong — good weather doesn’t necessarily equate to more comfortable conditions. When it’s too warm or too breezy — it can actually slow me down or I end up getting sneezing fits from all the allergens in the air. Ah, spring time…

So this Victoria Day long weekend, we set forth on yet another training ride — this time while dealing with the insane amount of traffic on the Waterfront Trail in Toronto. It was as if all of Toronto decided to come outside. Particularly at the ferry over to Centre Island — good grief the line up was crazy. Granted, I can totally see why … it was sunny and warm all weekend. Not hot, just warm enough. I saw and smelled barbeque everywhere — ice cream trucks spaced out perfectly amongst the waterfront — ready for anyone’s frozen treat-craving to kick in.

We weren’t really sure how much distance we covered but upon calculating it this time around … it seems we unknowingly went over 50km. Can’t really be absolutely sure by how much but it is reassuring that we may actually have made it over 60km! My quads were feeling the pressure from the workout but they definitely could have gone for more, but since we thought we had made it over 50km — we figured it was good enough.

One more week of training before the big day arrives. Weird how it arrived so quickly.

Postponing Rides due to Weather Conditions

I am typically keen on riding my bike regardless of conditions although a past wipe out incident back when I was in university curbed my enthusiasm a bit.

So when I saw the weather conditions for the Sunday — my friend and I decided that it really wasn’t worth getting wet and frozen for a 50km training ride.

Hopefully the weather will be better this upcoming Victoria Day long weekend.

Unfriendly weather conditions
Unfriendly weather conditions

So what’d I do instead?  I began reading up on touring bikes.  It is really interesting the different takes and thoughts on touring.  I have some folks telling me that it’d be hard on a mountain bike and so I should spend the money to buy a new bike — while others just suggest doing it on a modified mountain bike.

One thing that I think I’ll definitely need to assess is whether I should change up my tires from the mountain bike knobby tires to something more road friendly (and still handle some gravel).

Some good food for thought from these folks:

Some tune-ups, upgrades, and another 50km ride

The last weekend, I had enough of leaning my bicycle against everything.  I wanted a kickstand.

Safe-T-Salt can be useful at times...at propping up a bike.
Safe-T-Salt can be useful at times…at propping up a bike.

I also noticed that the bike was making some really squeaky noises as I was peddling — I figured it had to be the chain.  It needed some TLC, so I took a stroll down to the Trek store near Yonge and Eglinton and picked up the kickstand and a bottle of chain lube.

Ideally, I would have picked up stuff from MEC but it was too far out of the way for me and I didn’t have any time to spare before the weekend.  It was a busy busy week.  Have I mentioned that I was about to change jobs after nearly 8 years?  Well, now I have.

Anyhow, setting up the kickstand was a bit of a pain.  Instructions were pretty hard to interpret and it didn’t help that whoever put the price tag on the package, decided to place the sticker right on the instructions (which were on the plastic packaging of the kickstand).  It more or less felt like I was trying to piece together a puzzle but I figured it out eventually.

The good news about all of this is that despite the effort, I gained a sense of pride in figuring this out on my own.  That said, I still don’t see why they could not have improved the user experience and instructions.

Next up was to apply the chain lube.  It grabbed an old rag and started cleaning the chain by winding the pedals backward — just as I was taught in the MEC class!  Pretty amazing to see all the grime and dirt come off of the chain but I got pretty tired of dealing with it after spending 10 minutes winding the chain and still seeing tons of dirt and grime show up on the rag.  Then I applied the chain lube and wiped the excess off.

It was pretty amazing to ride my bike and immediately feel the difference.  Last week, I could hear my bike squeaking.  As my friend phrased with respect to her bike after a major tune-up, it was like butter — super smooth.

So that was Saturday.  Sunday was an attempt to tackle 50km on the East Don Parkland.  Just like last time with some solid hills to climb up.

We were ready for this round but unfortunately the weather ended up surprising us.  While the weather reports were informing us that there’d be less than 1mm of rain that day (40% probability of precipitation) — my friend and I ended up in the middle of a thunderstorm and multiple showers!

Thank goodness the trail we were on run underneath bridges such as these.  They saved us numerous times from hail as well as pouring rain.

Bridges like these saved us from hail
Bridges like these saved us from hail
Saved from the thunderstorm by this bridge
Saved from the thunderstorm by this bridge

We managed to get in about 35km despite the crazy weather and since it was Mother’s Day — there were important plans for the remainder of the day.