21. Kawartha Lakes

The Kawartha Lakes Cycling Tour

And so, at 4:48AM, the day began, not with the cock of a crow (hehe) or the blare of a clock radio, but with the soothing sounds of “Walk In The Forest” courtesy of my Samsung Galaxy, building into a crescendo until I pressed DONE.

Why.  The hell.  Was I waking up so early?  Pfft.  For a bike race.  Why else.

Even though waking up at that ungodly hour for anything other than the call of my bladder wasn’t cool (so not cool), a bike race is a pretty solid reason.

The race started at 8AM, in Lindsay.  With a 90 minute drive, and registration an hour before the race, waking up at 4:48AM, while cruel and unusual, was necessary.  Really though, night was still actually falling when I got up.  It had to get darker before it got lighter.

Aside from being an earlier start than other race-day mornings, today was different. Today was the day me and my riding buddy, John, (two mountain biking dudes) would ride the Kawartha Lakes Classic Cycling Tour (a road race) from Lindsay up to Kirkfield, and back.  100k in total.  Sweet.

This would be my first actual road race, and I had no pre-conceived ideas, or conceptions (mis, Mr., or otherwise) about road riding. I’ve had a Giant Defy road bike (sweet carbon road geometry…) for two years, but I don’t ride it much. In fact, until today, I hadn’t ridden it once this season. Single track MTB is my jam. So, it was nice to go into an event with a blank slate. Granted, maybe I should have ridden the Defy at least once prior to the race, but it’s too late for that now.

What follows are the observations of a mountain bike rider (and his buddy) on the whole road riding thing.  Shhh, don’t tell the roadies there were strangers in their midst… Although I think they probably figured it out.

After arriving Lindsay parking the Team Colin Support Vehicle, it became an epic game of “Which One of These Is Not Like The Others?”  Spoiler alert.  It was us.  Between John and his baggy mountain bike shorts, plain blue shirt (gasp) and Fox mountain bike gloves, and me in my sausage skin kit, literally towering over and out-girthing most everybody else, we won the prize for the day.  Sure, there were a few other big guys, but I couldn’t see too many with my, well, my size.  I didn’t see lots of “us”, but there sure were lots of flashy race kits.  And flashier bikes.  And even flashier shoes.  I think the Roadie Constitution may actually stipulate shiny red cycling shoes as part of the uniform.  And guess what?  They look awesome.  The closest thing I have to shiny on my bike is me.  You know, because I sweat.

Shiny red cycling shoes.  Sweet.  Most MTB shoes come in varying shades of “dark”.

And can I talk about the socks for a moment.  Many people were wearing white knee high socks and such.  The closest you ever get to an article of apparel that’s white at a mountain bike race is “Used to be white”.

And the differences didn’t end there.  While the worlds of mountain bike and road riding both exist on two wheels, the worlds started to seem like they were galaxies apart.  I jammed everything I needed in the back pocket of my jersey, but John usually rides with a Camelback, and he was way out of his element.  He kept saying “Where the hell do you guys put your stuff?”  Although on further glance, it looked like most other riders didn’t bring gear.  Their back pockets were empty, except or a few who had an energy bar and such.  Damn.  I had a full tool kit, pump, tube, patches, tire levers, my cell phone, a water bottle (because I hadn’t ridden my road bike this year, when I arrived I noticed it only had one bottle cage) plus a supermarket of fuel: energy gels, power bars, electrolyte fizzes, and, of course, a full peanut butter sandwich.  When you don’t know what to expect, you pack heavy.

On a side note, when you pack heavy, your jersey weighs a lot.  I can only imagine how I normally look to a rider behind me:  skin tight kit, all side-gut flappy and wide.  However, with the knapsack worth of stuff in my back pockets, I must have looked like a Sherpa sitting on a donkey riding on a bike.

At 8AM, after a few announcements, the race was on.

Race Report:  Kawartha Lakes Classic.  August 27, 2016

Okay, we immediately discovered it wasn’t a race.  It was a tour.  Cool. But what the hell is a tour?

The tour started in the parking lot of a Boston Pizza restaurant, turned left onto the highway, and onto a road.  After a bit of the road, we turned onto another road.  Then, we turned onto a different road.  The tour continued until we turned onto a road, another road, another road, and another road.

Lots of roads, but what did I expect from a road race, um, I mean, a cycling tour.

John and I rode solo for the first 25k, until I needed a biological break.  Just as I finished, you know, breaking biologically, a pack caught up to us, so we tagged along.  We were on a road, and then we turned onto a road…

It was our first pack riding experience and it was waaaaay different from what we are accustomed to, but more on that later.

At about 60k, in Kirkfield, there was an aid station.  We stopped to refuel, and left quickly, before the rest of the pack.  Since it was a tour, not a race, the atmosphere was social and communal. Cool. We were off. Around a bend and up a short hill (there was minimal climbing in the race—it only had a quarter of the climbing in the Eager Beaver), and the route turned onto a gravel road (Wohoo!).  It was awesome—for about 500m.  Oh well.

We continued on that road, onto another road, and then a few more roads, before returning to Lindsay, and the tour was over.

And it. Was. Awesome…riding with the pack…sitting on a bike for 4 hours and chatting with my buddy…cruising through some sweet Ontario countryside…all of it.  It wasn’t mountain bike riding, it was road riding, and I loved it.  I especially loved the pack riding.  Here’s why:

Pack Riding:  Mountain bike riding is a fairly solitary endeavour.  Even when you’re riding with a group you have to stop your bikes if you want to talk.  Also, every aspect of your performance rests on you, and you alone.  When compared to road riding, the group rules.  There is a profound sense of community.  In “Graduation” (blog #19), I wrote about the elegance of distance riding, and in “Single Speed 101” (blog #7), I wrote about the elegance of riding a rigid single speed mountain bike.  Riding a bike is an inherently elegant occupation: It’s just you, two legs, and two wheels propelling through time and space. I’m discovering that each style of biking has a unique elegance.  The elegance and simplicity of pack riding was beautiful.  We were contained in a group of about 30 riders, and immersed in the sounds and smells of 30 souls in pursuit of the same goal.  The actual moving of air to accommodate us, and the pull of the group was surprisingly powerful.  Moreover, the reliance on the group, and the sense of community was terrific.  Also, in contrast to the white knuckle pace of mountain bike riding, the relatively relaxed pace of pack riding allowed for actual conversation.  It was also great that the size of the group insulated us against vehicular traffic.  I hate riding in traffic.  Cars seem to dislike bikes (sometimes with good reason), and the two modes of transportation are simply too different.  But in a large pack, there was at least the comfort that we were more visible than a lone rider, albeit probably a huge pain for the cars that had to pass.

Oh.  Traffic.  That’s why the ride started so early—to avoid afternoon traffic.  Okay, I get it now.

In the middle of the race, John leaned over to me and sheepishly said, “This is lame” (he read my mind).  It wasn’t said in a derogatory way, but riding with a pack simply wasn’t what we were used to.  Also, we were kind of getting freaked out being so hemmed in by the group.  Really, as awesome as it is to ride in a pack, for the uninitiated–and I was really really really uninitiate–it was pretty daunting to be moving so fast, and riding so close to each other.  Plus, riding a mountain bike is often about the adrenaline rush of barreling through the forest at break neck (thankfully, not literally) speeds, dodging rocks, branches, roots, and trees.  Riding in a pack was very different.  Instead of having a chat while floating down the highway at about 30 kph, we wanted to book it and feel the freedom of the ride. Like I said, it wasn’t bad, it was just different.  Maybe next time, we’ll push to the front so that we can lead for a while and feel like we’re part of the process.

We broke away from the pack and did our own thing.  Sometimes we drafted each other, but more often, we just rode along side of each other and chatted, or didn’t.

I was so far out of my element today, and I liked it.  And that’s awesome.

Hey, can I talk about my bike for a second?  I loved it.  It wasn’t the borrowed Stigmata that I rode for the Eager Beaver, and I’m sure nothing ever will be, but it came damn close, and was a great machine nonetheless.  My road rides are usually 25 to 50k tops, so I’ve never really tested it on a long haul, but it performed beautifully.  Sweet shifting, rock solid handling, sure braking, comfortable geometry, and unbeatable reliability.  My Giant Defy made the day that much better!

I also got to pick up a few useful bits of experience for my next big ride.

  • On my last distance ride (which was my very first distance tide), I applied chamois cream (Bag Balm from Lee Valley).  It worked fine, but that ride took place during a biblical flood, when nothing was likely to chaff.  I repeated the process this time, but it was much warmer today, and that changes things.  More bag balm next time, and I’ll need to apply it to a few more areas…
  • My fuelling for the day was spot on:  pasta before the race; an energy gel, a power bar, and an electrolyte fizz per hour; a peanut butter sandwich; and a bunch of water, banana halves, and orange sections at the aid station.
  • My pre-race preparation was stupid.  We had buffet the evening before the race, and I think I was still digesting my meal when I woke up in the “morning”.  Less (read: NO) buffet before a race next time.  I’m not sure how I’ll be able to maintain my svelte 250 pounds of Clydesdale goodness, but I’ll let poutine help me figure it out.

To sum up my experience at the Kawartha Lakes Classic, I’ve compiled 10 Reasons why I think mountain biking is way cooler than road riding.

Ha!  Got ya.  It’s not better.  Or worse.  It’s just different.  And it’s awesome.  Awesomely different. Just like mountain bike riders are awesome, roadies are awesome.  And just like a sweet run of single track is awesome, a sweet run of asphalt is equally awesome.  This wasn’t a one-off road riding experience, it was the start of my road riding.  I want to do a few more long distance road rides, maybe a full Gran Fondo.  I dunno, but the Kawartha Lakes Classic helped me understand the allure of the road, and you can’t beat that feeling.

And that’s how two mountain bike dudes became roadies for a day, and rode a cycling tour from Lindsay to Kirkfield and back, in the Kawartha Lakes Classic 100k.




A few shout outs:

First, proceeds from registration fees and pledges went to A Place Called Home, a local shelter that supports men, women, and families in need of temporary shelter.  If you want to donate, click here. A Place Called Home

Second, thanks to the organizers, Spokes for Folks, and the Kawartha Cycling Club.  Great job today.

Finally, thanks to all the great staff, volunteers, and sponsors who made the day purr like a sweet drivetrain.  These rides don’t happen without your support.

If you’re part of the organizational team, and I missed anyone who was an integral part, please let me know.


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