Sunday 20 April 2008

Finally: A Sunny Weekend in Ottawa

Today's Ride from Ottawa to Richmond and back

After what feels like the longest winter in Ottawa, we enjoyed a very fine weekend, with temperatures ranging as high as 25C (77F), enough to melt most of the remaining little snow piles. Rather than spend the days at the athletic club on the spinning bike, I elected to head for the Great Outdoors.

On Saturday I went to the Experimental Farm and participated in a Group Riding Clinic put on by the Ottawa Bicycle Club. This is a requirement for new members (and even returning ones like me) before they can join the weekend group rides. There were two instructors from the club and about 20 participants. Two of the women had absolutely brand new Eclipse bicycles from Pecco's, a very good local bike shop. After thirty minutes or so talking about cycling safety we got into the specifics of how the club rides. This is basically a double paceline that moves up clockwise. Most of the time I have ridden double lines they have gone counterclockwise but no big problem.

We split into two groups of ten and practiced our paceline on the roads of the Experimental Farm, which make up in potholes what they lack in car traffic. Most of the people did quite well, although I hope that the enthusiasm for pointing out and calling road hazards will become a bit more muted since people were even pointing out holes that had been filled in!

After this practice, we took to the open road and headed west into the outskirts of Ottawa, stopping at a Tim Horton's doughnut shop before coming back. The ride was about 20 kms at a pretty easy pace and the only issue was that people were letting big gaps open up in the line. I think some of the cyclists were a bit less fit than others and by the end of the ride they were probably tiring. After the class, I returned home and did two circuits of the Eastern Parkway, adding another 41 km to my day's efforts. I even managed to draft a triathlete with massive legs and hold his back wheel at 45 km/h for what seemed like 8-9 kms. All that training in the basement seems to have paid off!

Today I rode over to Billings Bridge Plaza to join the club on a group ride. I had to make some detours on the bike path as the path was flooded in several areas. There was still a bit of snow in shady areas but this will probably be gone in the next few days.

The good weather brought out a lot of people, probably around 80 in all. We split into groups, and I chose Touring 2, which was advertised as averaged 28-30 km/h. Considering how flat Ottawa and environs are I thought this might be a bit slow for me but it is better to start out with a pace lower than the one you usually ride to see which group might be best.

A lot of people wanted to do Touring 2 and we had enough ride leaders to manage three groups of ten. We set off in our double paceline, heading for Manotick and then to Richmond on genuinely terrible roads, with massive potholes. The double paceline is nice in that you get to chat with everyone in the group. I enjoyed this and even spoke German to a nice Swiss, Horst, originally from Basel who lives in Manotick, and with Mario, new to cycling and who manages one of the programs at the Ottawa General Hospital. Probably the highlight of the ride through a pretty dull neither-winter-nor-spring landscape was a small but insane red squirrel that dashed across the road and somehow evaded our wheels. No Huckabee Stew tonight, thankfully.

When we came to Richmond we had a short (very short, actually) break at the Richmond Bakery, where I had a 300 Kcal apple turnover, and then headed back to Ottawa. As we left Richmond I felt the rear tire hitting bumps and realized the air was coming out.

We pulled off the road and I had the tire off pretty quickly. As always happens, everyone has their own way of fixing flats and the leader, Dan, took over pretty quickly. I was getting a bit flustered but got the tools and the spare tube out quickly, and pulled off the tire in a moment with the Speedlever. Dan was not impressed that I was not carrying a pump but only CO2 cartridges, which he opined were "only good to get you home." I was not going to make a big deal out of it but the 16 g cartridges I use will put in 130 psi if you need it and I have had great success with them. As we were pulling on the tire (I would have used the Speedlever instead of my hands) I mentioned that tubeless tires fit tightly and are tricky to get on but he told me that my tires were not tubeless. Everyone mixes up tubular and tubeless terminology but someone else did notice that we did not take out a tube from the flat tire; Dan admitted to me that in fact my tires were tubeless once we were back on the road.

I am pretty capable of fixing flats, having done a few hundred of them, but everyone seemed to be having such fun and since I really hate having people watch over my shoulder while I work that I let them just go ahead. I suspect that the patch I installed a few months ago inside the tubeless tire may not be holding, or else the brutally potholed roads were were riding had loosened up the valve, which is attached to the rim and I was getting a slow leak. I will take out the tube and fix it tonight. {Postscript: in the evening I removed the tire and replaced the patch, but I did such a good job of re-installing the very tight-fitting tire that I damaged the bead and it would not hold air at all. Mr. Mechanical Genius then got rid of a six months old $50 tire and installed a brand new one. Luckily it is holding air!}

Anyway, we were back on the road in only a few minutes and I soon found myself at the front. I felt very strong, particularly after about 60 kms, and felt I could have ridden hard for the rest of the day. The scenery was pretty ugly, being flat, muddy farmland, followed by four lane suburban traffic. There is no climbing to speak of, although the profile suggests it is rolling countryside, which is not the case--I think the hills are actually highway overpasses. Luckily the weather was excellent and the company was great so I had a very enjoyable ride in this, my first outing with OBC. This was also my first long ride of 2008 and I covered just over 100 kms in just under four hours and had great fun downloading everything from the Garmin Edge into my training software. Whee!

When I came home I also truly enjoyed my beer, a nice cool Creemore Springs Urbock, a dark, malty rarity that is only available in Spring, if you can find it. It is unpasteurized and absolutely delicious. Creemore Springs Brewing was bought last year by the horrible Molson-Coors combine but it seems that they have pretty much left this cottage brewery alone to do what it does best.


Bob said...

Leslie - Do I read this correctly? you are riding tubeless tires. If you get a puncture, you patch the tire on the road? How do you find the puncture? Can you put a tube in if you so choose (i.e., in a pinch)? Sorry for all the questions but I'm curious as to how the tubeless tires are working out for you (and maybe others are too). Expensive?

Sprocketboy said...

Hi, Robert. I really like the tubeless tires. On the road if there is a flat I just put in a tube, being sure to keep the special valve that normally is attached to the rim in a safe place afterwards. Then when I get home I patch the inside of the tire. I have cut a tire too badly to repair once and then damaged the bead of the tire another time, so I was out two. They are the same price as normal high-quality clinchers, around $45-50 each. The only rim at the moment is made by Shimano, and the only tires are from Hutchinson. Road handling and comfort is terrific, and of course no pinch flats are possible. I just hope this technology becomes more widely used. has had some good discussion about the tubeless system, which has come from the MTB world.

Donald said...

Well Leslie, you had me going there through your rides... I was feeling for you... totally understood the tire frustration and the mechanics thing. But I really connected on your last paragraph. You succeeded at leaving me craving a good beer just as you described. Tasty!

Sprocketboy said...

There is no frustration that a good beer will not cure at the end of a ride.

Will said...


Glad to hear the weather is improving.

You'll have to give the Tour d'Enfer participants a 1st night explanation of which direction our tow-lines will go.

(although with all the climbing, drafting may be an afterthought)

mmmmmm .... I miss Tim Horton's

Judi said...

Hey, thanks for adding me to your blogroll! :)

Sounds like a nice ride except for the tire issue.

Jeff said...

I'm sorry.. this was a story about cycling? I just read the part about consumption of Creemore Springs and I don't remember anything else.

Sprocketboy said...

Creemore Springs Urbock: nothing more needs to be said, really.