With the month of June upon us, cycling season is in full swing and despite the rainy May that we had, the weather has been good to get out on the bike. On this first weekend in June, I was able to add two new rides to my nearly-complete “50 memorable rides in my 50th year” quest: Ride 47: 70 km of city trails in Kitchener-Waterloo, and Ride 48: 2017 Ride for Heart in Toronto.
On Saturday morning, my friend Tim and I ventured out to explore many of the trails and forests with the city limits of Kitchener and Waterloo. I live in the northeast end of town, so I’m familiar with my area of Waterloo. Tim lives in the opposite part of town, so he knows the bike trails out there.
We met at my place and headed towards Breithaupt Park for our first taste of city trails. Breithaupt is nestled right next to the Conestoga Parkway but the are a few nice trails in the woods. From there, we headed to the Spur Line trail, which still has a very confusing road crossing at Weber Street, and towards downtown Kitchener where we were interrupted by a long procession of motorcyclists on Weber St. (more than a couple hundred). Once we proceeded, Tim led me towards Victoria Park where we picked up a bit of the Iron Horse Trail before heading west on a community trail through the Henry Sturm Greenway. This trail continued through the Filsinger Natural Area and under a surprising dark tunnel under Westmount Road. We eventually ended up in Monarch Woods, which is at Victoria and Fischer-Hallman. I’d driven by this park countless times when I lived on this end of town but this was the first time I’d been through it. The forest is a pleasant surprise. The trails are wide and accessible for both walkers and cyclists (we were on cyclocross/gravel bikes).
From Monarch, we rode some suburban streets to Highland Road, where we headed west to Ira Needles. There’s a hydro field with a singletrack trail that Tim led me on before hooking up with the Forest Heights Community Trail, which is a gem that lies parallel to Highway 7/8. This trail led us to Tim’s street where we had a nice break for coffee and cookies (Thanks Tim!)
From here, we had to battle our first busy street: Fischer-Hallman, as it crossed the highway and then Ottawa Street. Bike lanes are sometimes present, sometimes not, and cars were whipping by at speeds that were uncomfortable (for us cyclists). Fortunately, we didn’t have to ride too far before finding Dinison Park and more greenway trails as we headed towards McLennan Park (affectionately known as Mount Trashmore). We stuck to the main trail through this park as we continued east. We rode on some streets and small parks before getting to Steckle Woods, which is another gem. Great trails (not technical singletrack, but fun family walking and cycling trails). We then found our way to Schneider Creek and Homer Watson Park before turning back north on Wabanaki Drive.
When we got near Fairway Road, we had a decision to make. To cross the highway, we had two options: Ride on Fairway Road, or on the train tracks. We chose the former and ended up finding a dirt trail along the road that got narrower and narrower until it was barely wide enough for us to ride. With cars whizzing by on our left and a guard rail on our right, we had no margin for error. Once we managed to get through it, we concluded that we should have chosen the train tracks!
We made our way towards Chicopee Ski Park. I’d ridden here many years ago and a lot has changed in recent years with a lot of development. There’s a good network of community trails but we couldn’t quite find all the connections. Eventually, we did find our way to the Walter Bean trail and rode this until Ottawa Street, where we headed westward to Stanley Park Conservation Area. I’d only seen this place on a map before, but it contains a beautiful, forested trail.
We crossed over Victoria Street at River Road (over the train tracks on the pedestrian bridge), hooked up with the Walter Bean Trail again and wound our way back to the start/finish. 70 km!
And here’s a link with the route on Strava (Click Here).
On Sunday, my partner in crime (Julie) and I rode in the Ride for Heart in Toronto, for the fourth time. This year, we’d be missing our ride-mate daughter, who injured her arm in a school triathlon only 5 days earlier.
In previous years, we’d completed the 25 km distance, and in preparation for this year, I’d been talking the two of them up for 50 km. Julie’s first concern was her heavy mountain bike, so I cleaned up my old gravel grinder (a hardtail MTB converted for gravel roads… read about it here) for her. With bigger wheels and thinner tires, she’d be able to ride a little faster with a little less energy for the longer distance.
The other issue was the weather. The forecast called for rain all morning. We had received over $2000 in sponsorship (thanks to all the generous donors), so we were committed, as long as the event wasn’t cancelled. And it wasn’t!
We arrived at the CNE shortly after 7am and after a hot breakfast, we started in a light rain. Julie reserved the right to decide on 25 or 50 km at the 25 km turn around point at the Bayview exit. It was cold, and we fought a headwind along the Gardiner, but she told me early on that she’d ride the 50 km distance!)
We rode north on the Don Valley Parkway (uphill most of the way!), when I heard my name called. Under one of the overpasses was my old highschool swim team buddy Alex! We hadn’t seen each other in years, but in this age of social media, we’ve managed to keep in touch. Alex was a first-aid volunteer for the event and an avid cyclist. After exchanging hellos, we continued to the 50 km turn-around at York Mills.
We stopped for a quick snack and drink and headed back south. The first stretch downhill was wonderful (but cold!). I don’t think we pedalled between York Mills and Lawrence. A couple of slight uphills didn’t slow us down too much and we made it to Bayview in good time.
On the last stretch of the DVP and Gardiner, the rain had stopped and I was actually starting to dry off a little. The clouds provided a lovely backdrop:
On this last stretch, we also passed the 5k and 10k runners, who started later:
And then… we were done! 50 km on a cold, rainy Sunday morning. I should add that this was, by far, Julie’s longest ride EVER. Her previous longest ride was 25 km, but she battled tough conditions to double her distance record! And here’s the proof that we made it to York Mills Road!