Toronto to Hamilton: My first century ride on a fixed gear

For the last few years I have cycled very little other than to get to work.  This year I have started ramping things up again.  I trained fairly regularly on a Wattbike over the winter (but that’s another story) and by spring I was ready for some longer rides again.  From Yonge/Eglinton I have been riding south to the lake and then west pretty much every time venturing a little further as my legs allowed.  At first my turnaround was the Humber river.  After a few weeks I’d venture as far as Port Credit where I’d stop for an espresso before the ride home.  Eventually my usual espresso ride would take me to Oakville (95-100km), a handful of times on my own and once a week with a friend from mid-June through most of July.  After 8-10 rides to Oakville my riding buddy and I decided to explore a little further.

Here our bikes wait patiently for us to finish our drinks and to keep riding:

So with no particular destination in mind we set off from Oakville to the west along the Lakeshore.  After a few kms we agreed that we might as well make it official and ride right into Burlington. So we followed Lakeshore to North Shore Blvd East and did a quick turn around at the Burlington Golf and Country Club figuring that we’d gone far enough for one day.  So that loop worked out to around 145km, and definitely the longest ride I’ve ever done on my fixed gear bike!

145km.  Phew!  But that was a week ago.  Time to move on.  I was working on extending our route while keeping it interesting so I decided a ride around Hamilton Harbour might be best.  It would add about 30km to the ride.  See my earlier post for that part of the route (https://eatpedalpaddle.wordpress.com/2012/07/29/google-told-me-to-jump-off-a-bridge/).  Unfortunately my riding buddy was away this weekend so I decided to go it alone.

I set off from Yonge/Eglinton around 645am, after launching the GPS app on my Blackberry and stuffing it into my jersey pocket.  I checked my phone as I rounded the base of Bayview and turned onto King St East and it had yet to acquire the satellite signal.  Ugh!  Oh well, I guess there’s about 10km that won’t be captured in my ride history.  Into my jersey pockets I also stuffed a patch kit, a small pump, a couple of water bottles and a couple of my home-made energy bars.  I also brought a camera but I placed it, my house keys, some cash and a few allen keys into my frame bag.

I stopped briefly at my usual spot in Oakville for a double-long espresso.  As I enjoyed it I sat and wondered why I would stop with 120km to go.  It might have made more sense to stop later on, maybe closer to the 1/2 way mark, oh well, a habitual stop I guess.  I stopped again at the Burlington Golf and Country Club on North Shore Blvd at 9:15am for a quick photo op about 70km in, but otherwise I didn’t check my watch all day, so I’m not entirely sure how long each leg of the journey took.

The ride around the bay was a great.  Well, most of it. Riding through Hamilton’s downtown and industrial sector is just a section to get through, but the rest of it is incredible!  North Shore Blvd is a beautiful road, quite smooth, with some small gently rolling hills and with very little traffic on a Saturday morning.  This leads you to County Road 2 (Plains Rd W) and finally to York Blvd, taking you right around the western side of the harbour, mostly along bike lanes.  Once through the downtown and industrial sector you get to the best part of the loop, the Waterfront trail.  If you know of a more bike friendly route please offer it in the comment section.  See the map link at the end of my post for all of the details of my ride.

Why oh why does this picture get rotated 90deg when viewed in full size?????

In this section of the Harbour loop you’ll cover about 10km along the lake on the Hamilton Beach Recreational trail.  The path is smooth and offers a great view of the lake.  There are also plenty of benches to soak it all in from should you need a break.  If you you need a nature break along here there is one washroom about 4km down the trail, almost as far as the Burlington Lift Bridge.  There is also a water fountain there so be sure to stop, this is your last chance to fill up for a while.  At this point it is tempting to just keep on riding, to get ‘er done, but stop, relax, savour the moment.  You’ve got about 70km to go, but this can wait another moment, you’ve earned a break.

You’re on the home stretch now, the Toronto skyline is calling you home and is but a muted spec in the distance.

So there’s my first century ride in about 12 years and my first century ride ever on my track bike.  The total distance worked out to about 170km, but my gps app only recorded 160km worth, making it an official century ride either way, 100 miles or 160km.

…but only averaged 28.6km/hr 😦

Ugh!  And my average was not even 30km/hr 😦  Oh well, I’ll blame that on the headwind that picked up on my way home, on stopping many times to enjoy the view and to take pictures.  Total trip time was, according to my stop watch, 6.5hrs.  Either way the century is a milestone to many a cyclist.  It was a milestone that I had reached at least 15 years ago, but probably haven’t repeated since.  So there it is, a little reminder to my legs and mind (and butt) of what it takes to cover that distance again.  If a 6.5hr ride doesn’t sound like fun to you then just ride faster, ride a bike with more than one gear, one that allows you to coast, go with a fast friend and take turns drafting or if this doesn’t sound like something that you would be interested in trying in its entirety then check out Go Transit schedules.  They offer service to Hamilton all the time and depending on which station you’re leaving from and the time of day you can usually bring your bike on board.  From the Hamilton Go station you can then tour the Harbour and transit home again, or ride back to TO from there.  You have plenty of options and hopefully one less excuse.

Here’s a link to the full map of the ride, which by the way could not be saved into google maps because Google keeps guessing which way you’d want to go which never makes any sense so you have to keep moving points along the route from Google guess to the actual route until you literally run out of points that you are able to enter….  So, I had to use the gmap-pedometer, which is far more user friendly:

http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/?r=5584895

Have a safe ride!

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DIY Energy Bars

I can remember many a cool fall ride in the mid to late 90s, coming over a rise on a beautiful country road, as I neared the half way mark of a 100+km ride, the birds overhead flying south for the winter, the sun low in the late afternoon sky, as I tried in vain to gnaw my way through a cold Powerbar that had been in my jersey pocket.   They were hard as a rock and about as palatable.  The only thing worse than their texture was the effort required to open their space-age mylar packaging, with gloves on, as you rode!   Powerbar was the go-to brand though.  They sponsored everything on two wheels and they were about all you could find at the bike shop, I even acquired a taste for them after a while.  Seriously!  I’m not sure exactly when Clif bars came out, but I was quick to convert.  They offered chewy ‘chocolate chip’, ‘oatmeal raisin walnut’ and ‘carrot cake’, among others!   They were like cookies that you could believe were good for you.  As the years, and the miles, passed, my nutritional perspective began to change and I sought to get away from the carb dominant bars and soy protein isolates.   By this time, around 2005, I wasn’t riding much, except to get to work, but I was looking for a convenient bar to fuel the longer sessions in my outrigger canoe that tended to take me from the TSCC in Toronto to Port Credit and back (about 34km depending on the line taken), or from the TSCC to Ashbridges Bay (also about 35km), or for a quick post workout recovery snack after my favorite loop around the Toronto Islands.  Around this time MCT (Medium Chain Triglycerides) products were becoming better known amongst endurance athletes, and while I wasn’t about to drink MCT oil from the bottle, I did look for lower carb bars that were higher in fats, especially these medium chain fats from coconut oil.  My favorite became the Cocochia Bar by Living Fuel.  It happens to be dairy-free, gluten-free and soy-free so it’s ideal for those looking to remove these common allergens from their diets too.  The flavour is mild, and it provides sustained energy, just like the wrapper claims!  In fact I liked them so much I became one of their Trusted Advisors, or distributors, a few years ago.   The only problem, other than all of the chia seeds that will be stuck in your teeth and the fact that no one will tell you, would be the price, about $35 +tax for 12, or about $3.25 per bar.  The price is actually a bargain given the quality of the mostly organic ingredients, but it does add up after a while.  Still a favorite I tend to pack one in my jersey occasionally now that I’m back to cycling regularly  and covering longer distances again.  Here’s a link if you’d like to learn more:  http://www.livingfuel.ca/en/products/Original_CocoChia_Bar/index.html

But this isn’t about Cocochia bars, this is about my bar, or your bar, this is about making your own and packing it to go!

I was inspired about a month ago have a go at making my own bar so I looked for recipes online.  Many of them used oats as their base.  I have been on a gluten-free diet since March, and while oats are a gluten-free grain, they are pretty much all contaminated with other cereal grains, and thus gluten, during shipping, processing and packaging, so I decided to go with toasted Buckwheat instead, and hoped for less contamination.   Yes, despite having wheat in the name Buckwheat is one of the few gluten-free grains.  It has a rather strong flavour though, compared to oats, so I wasn’t sure how it would work out in a bar, but I figured if I mixed in enough dark chocolate chips it would all even out 🙂

So with some online recipes in mind to serve as a guideline I took a trip to the Bulk Barn at Yonge and Carlton and picked up a pile of things that I hoped would go well in a bar;  Toasted Buckwheat (often labeled Kasha), raisins, shredded coconut, walnuts, semi-sweet dark chocolate chips etc and some brown-rice syrup to help bind it all together.  The most expensive ingredient would be the walnuts, but even then, the price per bar comes in under $2 and for that price I know what’s in it, and I get exactly what I want.  Actually I would prefer to use almonds instead of walnuts but my partner may be allergic, so I made the change in case she’d like a sample.  Baked ahead of time, these chewy, nutritious walnut-buckwheat bars are the perfect companion for long rides or your favorite canoe route. Here’s the recipe if you’d like to give them a try, or make a few substitutions and come up with your own:

Chocolate-Walnut-Buckwheat Energy Bars (okay I may need to work on the name)

Homemade energy bars

1 1/2 cups Toasted buckwheat (kasha)

1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts

1/2 cup raisins or dried cranberries
1/2 cup semi-sweet dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds (unsalted)
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/4 cup all-purpose gluten-free flour
2 tbsp packed light brown sugar (to help balance the bitterness of the cocoa powder)
2 Tbsp cocoa powder
2 Tbsp coconut oil
3 Tbsp brown rice syrup

Preheat oven to 325°F.

In food processor, or coffee grinder, grind all or most of the walnuts into a coarse flour.

In large bowl thoroughly mix together all dry ingredients, add oil and brown rice syrup and mix thoroughly.

Pat mixture evenly into a parchment-lined cookie sheet until it reaches desired thickness. Bake about 10-12 minutes. Transfer to cutting board to cool.

While still warm, shape edges if necessary.

Once cool cut into rows, 2×5.  Makes 10 bars (obviously).

Enjoy and let me know how yours’ turn out!