Saturday, January 19, 2008

Back to Winter

Ontario., Riding the gravel roads near Goodwood.

Now we are back in Toronto. While we were in Spain there had been some brutal weather here but for our first few days back it was relatively mild. Last Sunday it was about five degrees C so friends Dougie, Noah and I decided to make the most of it and get a few kilometres in.

In recent years cycling out of Toronto has become pretty miserable with traffic. We now almost always drive out to the outskirts and ride from there. The countryside is still remarkably close and after half an hour in the car we are in quiet country roads. On Sunday we decided on our usual ride from the Toronto Zoo and then up to Goodwood which is North East of the City. The roads are quite quiet and quieter still if we choose the gravel ones. This time we decided to stay on the pavement as we feared that the recent weather would have made the gravel roads rather messy.

A great gravel road near Girona, Spain

A strong wind out of the east made the ride tough and it was a bit of a struggle over the rolling hills. The cafe in Goodwood is a great place to stop. The coffee, food and service is always excellent. Soon after we arrived another group of a dozen or so riders turned up. They were a group from the Jet Fuel Team who were out getting some early season training miles in. We spent a pleasant half hour or so chatting. On leaving Goodwood there are two roads to take South. One is HWY 47 which is always busy with fast moving traffic and the other is Concession Road 3 which is gravel. We decided that gravel was preferable to traffic. It turned out that the road was in great shape, well packed down and almost as smooth as tarmac. Why would anyone choose riding on Hwy 47 when they can ride this quiet country road.

Riding on roads with a lot of traffic means that you are forced to ride in single file with cars, trucks and buses thundering by. What pleasure is there in that? But most cyclists will not dream of going on the gravel roads. Sometimes, usually just after the "improvement truck" has been through, the surface can be loose and a bit dodgy but if one relaxes it is not too bad. One doesn't need fat tires. Everyone in our group rides 700 x 23s. although I'm sure something a bit fatter would be preferable. On this occasion we stayed on the gravel almost all the way back. We saw almost no cars, we were sheltered from the wind by forest for most of the way, and were able to ride two abreast and chat without worrying about the traffic.

Like riding in a close knit group, riding on gravel roads requires practice. One has to learn to relax if the surface is loose. But the advantages are many. The gravel roads generally take you into farmland away from housing. The roads are much more interesting as they are more likely to have curves and hills and they generally take you deeper into the beautiful Ontario countryside.

Remember gravel is a lot safer than traffic.


stands-on-stilts said...

I'm sorry that I missed my opportunity to own one of your frames but I'm excited to see your bicyle projects in future postings. Please take lots of photos!

Brock said...

As the proud owner of 3 Mariposas, including the 1975 touring bike that Mike recently refurbished,I ride them around Vancouver & the Lower BC mainland, always attracting the attention of other cyclists. Mike has been a leading light in Canadian cycling and without peer among builders anywhere. My heartfelt thanks to you Mike. It's been an honour & pleasure.
All the best to you & Clare going forward.
Brock May & Lisz Keallen, Vancouver, BC.

Anonymous said...

Mikes comments on gravel roads are dead on. I have always enjoyed the peace quite of unpaved roads in Ontario. Except for the odd occasion when the road has just been redone these roads are usually smooth and roll well. The very occasional car seems to give a lot more room when passing as well. Most of these roads are in the more scenic routes. I think everyone should take the time to ride the roads less travelled.