Gravel Grinding with the WCC crew

Finally, after half a year, I joined a group ride.  I started the weekend gravel grinder rides with the Waterloo Cycling Club about five years ago and these rides have been very popular in the fall, winter and spring.   Last fall, I was able to find a good group of folks to lead these rides in my absence.  This Family Day weekend, I was able to join for these gravel grinder rides for the first time since the spring of 2016.

A good group showed up at the St. Jacobs meeting place.  I didn’t count but it looked like about a dozen.  Ride leader Doug D. announced that we’d likely be breaking into two groups.  Doug had prepared a route of over 70 km that headed southwest past Wellesley and Lisbon.  I didn’t think I was ready for that kind of distance yet, so I told him I’d likely be cutting the route a bit short.  We headed out on a wonderful spring-like day and I very quickly realized that I was terribly out of shape.  Two groups formed right away, with WCC racers like Kevin G. setting the pace.  My trail committee buddy, single-speed Jay was also up there near the front… with more than one gear this time!  He’s fast on a single-speed, and with multiple gears… well it’s just not fair (for me, at least).

Once that faster group rode out of sight, there was a group of five that rode at a much slower pace.  Doug, Andy, Gabriel, a new WCC member, Felipe and I rode together (it turns out that Felipe is a fellow hydrogeologist, so we had some shop talk during the ride!).  The four of them were kind enough to wait for me while I dragged myself up the hills along Carmel-Koch Road (uphill, into the wind… ).  At the end of Carmel-Koch, I headed north towards Lisbon, while the rest of them headed south on their longer loop.  I made my way past Wellesley and back to KW with the wind at my back.

On my ride across the city, I thought I’d check out the recent modifications to Northfield Drive, in Waterloo.  I’ve previously blogged about the perils of crossing Highway 85 in Waterloo, and the Northfield overpass has recently been re-opened.  There are bike lanes now, which is nice, but there’s still a lot of on- and off-ramps where cars can go whizzing by.  It would be nice if they made the bike lanes more visible (painted green?). And in winter, bike lanes don’t get plowed, so even with the early spring thaw, bike lanes disappear.

Here’s a photo of the “bike lane” on Northfield, looking east towards the over pass at Highway 85.  Cars move pretty fast along here.  As you can see, the bike lane is snow-covered.  My options here are:

  1. Merge into the car lane
  2. Ride over the snow/ice
  3. Ride on the sidewalk (to the right, just out of the photo)
  4. Walk.

And here’s my thoughts on these options

  1. Merging is dangerous because cars aren’t expecting me to be swerving in and out of the bike lane.  The bike lane was fine in places, and like this in other places.  Still, I presume this would be legal for me to ride in the car lane if the bike lane was unrideable.
  2. I wasn’t on my fat bike, so riding over this snow was not a safe or desirable option
  3. Riding on the sidewalk is illegal, but safe.
  4. Walking on that snow/ice would be dangerous and I could easily lose my footing and slip onto the car lane.

And what did I do? I rode on the sidewalk once.  And a couple other times, I did a shoulder check and rode in the car lane.  I had a couple of close cars, but the drivers seemed patient.  I was able to turn back into the bike lanes eventually.

Snow-covered bike lanes on Northfield Drive in Waterloo.

I finished with over 60 km in 3 hours, which is, by far, my longest ride since my crash back in September.  I might have pushed a bit too hard at times, trying to keep up… but it was a good test for me.  I have a long way to go in my recovery, in terms of figuring out what level of intensity I can handle while my concussion heals, and in terms of fitness.  It was fantastic to be out for a ride… Spring in February!

Oh and look what I have now!  A frame bag prototype made by the seamstress in my household, co-designed by me and tagged with my logo!  Next is to get one for my fat bike!  Bikepacking, who’s in?

Custom, one-of-a-kind frame bag!


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