The Ride to Conquer the Ride to Niagara

I was planning to ride from Toronto to Niagara Falls last summer after I’d heard about GO Transit’s bike train.  GO Transit offers, amongst other destinations, service to/from Toronto and Niagara Falls through the summer with a couple of train cars dedicated to carrying bikes.  For folks in Toronto it’s a great way to get to Niagara for a day/weekend of cycling and wine tasting.  I figured I would ride there and take the train home.  The problem for me was with the schedule.  I could start my ride at 4am and take the 1230 train home, or leave later, after the traffic and temperature had ramped up and then return on the 840pm train.  Neither schedule seemed appealing.  I had ramped up my riding to prepare, but I didn’t make it happen in 2012.

This weekend my wife and I were going to Niagara-on-the-Lake for a night for a friend’s birthday, so it looked like I could finally make this riding dream a reality.  Saturday morning I took the subway to High Park station and at 8am I was on my way.  The ride is 150-160km so I expected it to take around 6h30.  Here’s my approximate route, minus some washroom break detours (Toronto-Niagara Bike Map).

Looking back from the Humber River

I decided to capture the moment as crossed the Humber River and looked back at Toronto’s skyline.  I was about 10min into my ride.

Burlington Skyway

By 9:55 I had put 60km behind me.  I was slightly ahead of schedule and beneath the Burlington Skyway, crossing the lift bridge.  You’ll want to stop soon thereafter at the trail side rest stop and washroom.  This is your last chance to fill up on water for a while.  The temperature would soon reach 29C and I had already downed 3 water bottles.  I filled one, drank it and filled all three again before setting off.

There were more than a few stops that I wanted to make along the way.  From the QEW you can never get a good look at the sunken ship around Jordan Rd.  So, about an hour after my last stop, I stopped again and climbed down an embankment, around the base of the Jordan Harbour (because road shoes are perfect for climbing down embankments), to quickly snap this shot :

Sunken ship

…riding on I was rather puzzled by this:

Antique Factory Outlet??

How do you have a “factory outlet” for antiques?  Anyhoo…

Believe it or not I was already out of water again at this point.  Another 30km and another 3 bottles of water!  So I pulled into Charles Daley Park for a refill, only to find a sign saying “Water not potable”!!!  Ugh!  So hot, so dehydrated already, my quads were beginning to seize!  I think my 29kph average was about to take a hit!

It was 12pm as I rode on into the scenic town of Port Dalhousie and made my way to the nearest Starbucks.  Time to fill my bottles again and wash down an energy bar with a well deserved latte!  Setting off again, and anxious to make up for lost time, I was forced to stop minutes later as the drawbridge rose to allow the huge Algocanada tanker to pass along the Welland Canal.  I figured I might as well read this sign to pass the time…


George Nicholson Trail Section along the Welland Canal

Once past the Welland Canal you’re out of St. Catherines and into farm country again.  It’s nothing but vineyards and orchards all the way to Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Vineyards through the Niagara region

Once through Niagara-on-the-lake you take the Niagara Parkway along the Niagara river  all the way down to Niagara Falls, for the last 22km of the ride.  Here you face the only significant climb on the whole ride, up past the Brock’s Monument.

Brock Memorial

The hard work is all done but there are still some nice views along the way.  The Lewiston-Queenston Bridge seemed like a worthy stop:

Lewiston-Queenston Bridge

…it’s 2pm, 6hrs have passed and I’m at the Falls!  Time for some cheesy tourist pics of the Falls and the downtown.

Niagara Falls by bike

My trusty Specialized Roubaix handled the ride with ease

Downtown Niagara Falls

So I was clearly riding alone here.  My wife rented a car and drove to Niagara Falls.  A one way ride is enough for me so I would be driving back to Toronto the next day with her.  I asked what she rented and she answered happily “a Fiat”.  “Oh no!” I thought. “A Fiat 500? There’s no way that will fit my bike”, “I’m going to be riding home tomorrow”!  Well, for all of the doubters, myself included, here’s a 58cm bike, plus our overnight bags in the back of a Fiat 500 (with the seats down of course):

Fiat 500

What a ride!  So much to see along the way.  It was getting a little intimidated by the loop as I began mapping it out but I’m now anxious to do it again.  Any takers?