2018 Cycling Roundup

Don’t worry, the general 2018 Retrospective is coming tomorrow. Today, I met my distance goal for cycling: 9,000 km for the year. With that, I thought it was a good opportunity to look back at the cycling year.

As I mentioned, I met my goal for the year, but my initial target was 8,000 km. In October, it was clear that I was going to pass that, so I upped my sights.

I don’t know what 2019 will bring, but back in 2014 I wondered how I would ever top 3,000 km.

But enough about me. If 2018’s cycling story was about anything, it was about the rest of the family. Both Miranda and Tammy joined the Bow Cyclist Club, and Ian was one of my biggest riding partners.

It all started in January, when I enrolled Miranda and myself in the Bow Cycle Service School. Miranda had “inherited” Tammy’s bike the previous year, but it was her opportunity to tear it apart and make it her own. I took my Giant commuter and replaced its drivetrain with a 1x system, which was my major cycling investment of the year.

The spring took its own sweet time coming, so while there were a few rides in March and April, nothing really started happening with regularity until May. Then the 2018 pattern established itself: I commuted pretty regularly, rode on Wednesdays and Sundays with the BCC (and Miranda would join on Sundays), Tammy would ride the Tuesday morning ladies’ ride, Tammy and Miranda would ride the Thursday night ladies’ ride with the BCC, while Ian and I would go for a spin along the pathways.

I had two early season “special” rides, both in June: the MEC Century Ride and the Gran Fondo Badlands. Keith came out to stay with us to take part. The weather cooperated, even if the integrity of our tires did not.

Ian turned eleven this year, and while his legs might not be long, he was super enthusiastic about riding his new road bike this year. I got the bike for $275 from Tara, whose son had outgrown it. Ian’s first attempts at riding it were comically tentative, but soon he was pushing himself to try new things, including riding up Canada Olympic Park and registering for the Tour de Victoria. That forced an additional bike rack for the Tiguan, as the Biickerts were all represented in the Tour de Victoria this year. That was the highlight of the year.

The weather didn’t cooperate very well this year. Calgary was choked with smoke through August from the BC wildfires, Victoria followed suit while we were there (thankfully not on the Tour day). Then winter arrived early. There were some further BCC rides in October, but only for the hardcore. For Tammy and Miranda, the season was over when we got back to Calgary from Victoria.

Faced with the prospect of a long, long winter, I opted for variety in the form of a set of cycling rollers. Technically an early Christmas present, it has already been a welcome change from Zwifting every day.

Stepping back and looking at the year again, it was huge steps forward for Tammy and Ian. Tammy will end the year with more than 4,300 km. That’s huge! Ian stepped up and rode lots and with enthusiasm. For myself, I can’t help but think that it was a bit of a step backwards. I know I didn’t reach the levels of fitness in the summer that I did in 2017. I only rode three centuries, instead of six or seven in 2017, depending on how you count them. I was very regular and my totals show it. And there is something very rewarding seeing the others reach new heights.

But looking ahead to 2019, I have already agreed with the BCC that I would shift to leading the Saturday ride instead of the Sunday ride. That will hammer me into shape: 90 hard km instead of 45 easy ones. I also am pondering entering the Tour de Bowness next August and there is something new called the Alberta Gran Fondo Series for 2019. Who knows, I might get back to 2017 levels next year.

Fat Biking

That is not a description of the rider. It’s the tires! 🤪

Today, I borrowed a bike from Bow Cycle and met up with a dozen or so club members to ride up the Powderface Trail, west of Bragg Creek. I was more than a little sceptical. After last year’s ride which was more ice than snow, I was worried that this was going to be an hour and a half of butt-clenching.

It turned out pretty good. The conditions were good, and the temperature was just below freezing.

At the trail head

It was a heck of a climb. Only about six kilometres in, but half a kilometre up.

Powderface Trail map and elevation

There was more than a little bike pushing going on. I know my heart rate spiked over 180 bpm on the climb up.

Pushing up one of the shorter climbs

It was fun, but exhausting. There’s gotta be easier ways to move around in snow than this.  I think fat bikes are cool, but I don’t want to buy one. I’d rather rent one every once in a while. The studded tires alone cost $700.

Rollers

It’s taken a few years, but I’ve finally bought myself a set of cycling rollers. Here they are, set up and ready to go tonight.

Norco Valence and Tacx Galaxia

I’ve borrowed rollers from other cyclists twice in the past: once from Brian and once from Kurt. As an owner of two cycling trainers and a regular user of Zwift, it took a fair bit of thinking to get me to add the rollers to our jumble of gear. If I had to sum up the reasons why:

  • It’s a singular sensation, balancing on the rollers. Always feels like you’re one twitch away from disaster (see video below). And interesting is always in short supply in the long winter.
  • It’s a different workout. I can already feel sore muscles from my short ride this evening. It works the core when you are balancing and it forces a smooth pedaling stroke.
  • Higher cadence, lower resistance. Should be healthier for my knees in the long term.
  • It gives months of bike handling practice. Things like learning how to turn your head without your bike drifting, and things like that.

I’m not cancelling my Zwift membership. I expect to intersperse trainers and rollers through the winter.

Thanks to Bow Cycle for granting me the staff discount for being an ambassador with the club. It makes a big difference.

Updated

I made some adjustments before my ride today:

  • Raised my handlebars
  • Shortened the rollers from #3 to #4 (Tammy helped me measure the axle length)
  • Put a hard surface (some wood) under the rockers/rollers on the bottom to allow them forward/backward movement.

These all were very positive changes, making the rollers much more stable. I’m still the weakest link, but it’s good to know that things are set up more optimally.

Brr. Cold September!

It’s been a lousy, rotten September. And I’m not kidding. I went to Winnipeg and Toronto in the last two weeks, and they are having lovely early Fall weather, while Calgary has been cold and wet, with dustings of snow. Now the forecast for tomorrow is warning of up to 20 cm of snow. There is an actual reason for it. Strongest ridge in 60 years. Arctic air is shooting straight down through Alberta.

That has meant for little outdoor cycling, and yet at the same time, I am not ready mentally to throw in the towel on the riding season. I have found some days to commute to work. And today I showed up for the Bow Cyclists ride with six other hard core (hard-headed) members. It was -3 and dry, with a windchill of -9.

Bundled up against the cold (Bart, Derek, me, Kevin, Wing, Mark and Kurt out of picture)

It was chilly, but the camaraderie was good. When we were leaving the nice, warm shop I did point out that I was there “ASA: Against Spousal Advice”. 😆 There were a few comments during the ride that “we should have listened to Simon’s wife”.

I am still hoping that the weather will revert and give us a nice October and November. We’ll see.

2018 Tour de Victoria

I am having trouble choosing where to start. I could tell the story about my ride and what I know about everyone else’s ride, but that would be missing the forest for the trees.

The most important thing about yesterday was that everyone participated. It was an unlooked-for thing and yet makes me so proud I could burst. Ian rode 30 km, Miranda and Tammy rode 60 km and I rode 140 km.

It was a culmination of different stories. We each got there in different ways. I got here by Tammy kicking my butt six years ago to get onto my bike because I’d hurt my foot in karate and I wasn’t exercising and I was gaining weight. Now I am strong and fit. This was my fourth TdV, and I consider it a regular date on the calendar. Tammy got here by declaring when we moved to Calgary that she and the kids were going to take advantage of all of the bike paths near our new house. That led to a new bike, commuting to work, and joining the Bow Cyclists ladies rides. It was her second participation. With the changes this year to the TdV, the 45 km distance that she did last year wasn’t available, and she took a big step up to 60 km. Miranda had the quietest path: she always was a good bike rider (once we shipped her off to Pedalheads, anyways), and when Tammy got her new bike we almost sold her Specialized, except Miranda quietly asked if she could have it. A week later she registered with the club, and she has been riding twice a week since. I thought the 60 would be a challenge, until two of the club rides ended up over 60 km this year. Those didn’t bug her at all. And then there is Ian. The little one, with short legs struggling to keep up but refusing to give up, waiting until he was big enough. Tara sold us her son’s old road bike because he had outgrown it this winter. Ian was so tentative on his first ride this spring, but has taken to it with massive enthusiasm, with two rides per week plus he started riding on his own. He wanted to ride with everyone else at the TdV, but he was anxious about it. I extended our rides to the same length and amount of elevation gain to prove to him that he could do it, and with our encouragement he signed up.

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Ian Made Up His Mind: He’s Riding the Tour de Victoria

It was months ago that we discovered that kids were allowed to ride unaccompanied in the 30 km distance of the Tour de Victoria, as long as they were 11 years old. I mean, it’s a closed road, with police officers at every corner. Safer than when Ian goes for rides on his own around here…

We gave him the option to ride, but he didn’t make up his mind. He wanted to, but:

  • He was worried that he would have to ride in a peloton like in the Tour de France. Not an issue: the ride isn’t like that.
  • He wanted to spend time with Grandpa. Not an issue: they will be together in the morning and then Grandpa will be taking him to the starting line.
  • He was worried about the distance and the hill to climb. Not an issue: Ian and I have ridden 30 km each of the last two weeks, and climbed more on those rides than you do on the Tour de Victoria route.

So we finally had to corner him, because if we were taking his bike to Victoria, that would be four bikes on the car, and they wouldn’t all fit on the rack. We needed to get a roof carrier as well.

So he said yes, and we now have a Thule Up Ride car roof rack.

Thule rack installed

It wasn’t too hard, and we put Ian’s road bike on and went for a test drive. It worked well.

In other news, today was the Tour de Bowness Hill Climb. I led the Bow Cyclist ride this morning, and ended it at Mackay Road, where the race was going on. Tammy rode down with Ian, and back with Miranda, and Ian and I checked out the racing. It’s a 500 m drag race up the hill. There was a lane for riding up and down the hill (not a racing lane), so Ian and I rode down from the top to the starting line and then back up. He got some cheers from the onlookers for climbing the hill.

Ian making it to the top

Bow Cyclists Group Photo

Last night, I led out yet another Bow Cyclists Club ride. This time, we headed for Emerald Bay, a little cul-de-sac looking out over the Bearspaw Reservoir on the Bow River.

It was a nice evening, with the thunderstorm holding off until about 10:30 pm. Roy, one of the club members, took this photo.

Bow Cyclist Club. I am front and center

Ian’s First Ride up COP

As is our usual, when Tammy and Miranda went for their Thursday night ladies’ ride with the Bow Cyclist Club, Ian and I went for a ride of our own. This night was a special one, because Ian had been bugging me for a long time that he wanted to try to ride up the hill at Canada Olympic Park. COP is a bit of a byword around Calgary as one of the world-class local hills for cycling. It’s not long at 1.3 km, but it is steep. It averages 8%.

COP hill

To put that in perspective, that’s in the same ballpark as famous hills in Europe such as Alpe d’Huez.

On this night, Ian and I rode up it. He stopped only once, but he made it!

Ian just before the last hairpin

When I posted the ride on Strava, Ian got lots of support.

  • Adam Clark Was that Ian’s first time up COP?
  • Simon Biickert yep!
  • Adam Clark Well he must be getting ready for A group rides then.
  • Tammy Biickert Way to go Ian!
  • Phil Arsenault Great job Ian. COP is tough!
  • Karyn Silenzi Nice – that hill is my nemesis!

 

Gran Fondo Badlands 2018

I’m home, tired and sore after a long day. It was the Gran Fondo Badlands, in Drumheller, AB.

It’s really hard to summarize the day, because it was so eventful. There were ups and downs, pain and joy. To set the stage, though, the weather around here turned horrible yesterday. The forecast was nothing but high percentage chances of rain and thunderstorms. And we were planning on spending more than six hours out on bicycles in it. Keith had made the trip from Vancouver to be here. He is staying with us until tomorrow. His take on the situation was: “Think of the stories we’ll have to tell.” Mine was: “Don’t trust the weather forecasts around here.”

It was looking like he was going to be right on the way there. It was intermittent, but there were downpours. The kind where you have to kick your wipers on high speed. It was still raining lightly in Drumheller when we arrived and had some breakfast. We were ready to go.

Keith and I, ready for the weather

The roads were wet. But the rain disappeared.

The starting line

That’s when our plans started going astray. Eleven kilometres in, we were in the bunch when Keith got a flat rear tire. I stopped to help him change it.

Keith changing his tire

We said that we’d used up our bad luck, and the rest of the day would be better. The truth, however, was different. After the second climb of the day, I got a flat in my front tire.

Flattering picture…

We made it partway to Wayne when my tire went soft again. Then when we were at the aid station in Wayne, Keith’s front tire went flat. That was four flats in sixty kilometres. We were having to borrow inner tubes, because even though we came prepared, our reserve supplies were already used up.

We rolled out of Wayne and going southeast, until the turnaround for the 100 km route. Keith and I had both signed up for the 160 km distance, but we were so far behind schedule. We were more than four hours into the ride and we were only at 75 km. I was starting to feel more positive (no flats in 15 km and the weather was perking up), but Keith was starting to wear out chasing me. We agreed that he was going to turn back, and I was going to go at least as far as Dorothy, and maybe climb the last hill of the ride.

I set off, and immediately appreciated a tailwind. I was feeling good, and pushed over 40 km/h for almost 20 km to Dorothy. I was feeling so good that I went straight on and climbed the hill. Then I thought I could go as far as the 140 km turnaround. When I got there, I reasoned it was mostly flat to the 160 km turnaround…

As I was heading towards the 160 turnaround (straight, rolling road to the east), I was staring at a HUGE thunderstorm. It was getting closer, but I could see it was drifting left to right, so it wouldn’t hit me. I saw a number of lightning strikes in the distance.

So I did the whole distance. After such a rotten start, it felt good, despite the fact that I rode solo into a headwind for the last 52 km. I stopped to take a picture in the hamlet of East Coulee, and texted Keith to let him know where I was… it was 2.5 hours since we’d parted ways.

East Coulee and Hoo Doos. Storms to the left of me, blue sky to the right…

It started to get a bit painful in the last 20 km, particularly due to my left foot. I was riding my Roubaix, which has Speedplay clipless pedals. At the first stop, I had to use the portajohn and needed to cross some muddy ground to get to it. From that point on, my cleats on my shoes were muddy, and so were my pedals. It was harder to clip in, but still workable. When I clipped in at Dorothy, little did I know that my left wasn’t going to come out again. When I stopped the last couple of times and at the finish, I couldn’t get my foot out. I literally had to get a friend to help me get my shoe off (still stuck to the pedal) so that I could get off of my bike! I left it there until I got home.

I was the last of the Bow Cyclists to finish. I saw and waved to almost all of them as they were on the return leg when I was still heading outwards. And most of them were there at the finish to cheer me as I arrived. It was a great feeling. I was 132nd out of 147 finishers of the 160 distance. 7 hours and 17 minutes, but only 5:59 of that was in motion. When I set out on my own I thought I might be the last overall, and I was fine with that.

Considering the weather forecast, the day was beautiful. Considering the flats, the ride was great. Both Keith and I were right: there were lots of stories, and you can’t trust the forecast. 🚴‍♂️