Nothing Like a Spring Ride
Spring started two weeks ago.
Except I think Mother Nature didn’t get the memo.
But I don’t care.
I don’t care because it’s not warm, but it’s warm enough to get outside. I don’t care because the trails are too fragile to ride, but the roads, urban paths, and gravel aren’t. I don’t care because THIS IS SPRING IN ONTARIO. Unpredictable, cold, windy (I really hate the wind), crappy, horrible, and wet.
And AWESOME. Yes, awesome. It’s shoulder season, and while most of us are itching to hit some sweet singletrack, there’s still plenty of riding to be done.
And so, last night, after work, I was sulking. I was sulking because I have this boss new bike, and for the past two weeks, I’ve been dying to let it roar. Lately, so many riders have been posting pictures from their rides on social media, but I’ve been fairly inert. Forget the bike, the savage beast inside ME wanted to roar. I NEEDED to get out for a ride, so finally I planned to leave work early and go for a romp on my CX bike–just some park paths, a bit of gravel, and bit of road, and a ravine or two, down to Lake Ontario. It wouldn’t be much, but enough to warm me up for Sunday’s Steaming Nostril, and tame my restlessness. And then I left work a bit late, and got home with only 2 hours before sunset. Aw dang it!
My wife hates it when I sulk (but I wanna sulk…) so she said “Go for a ride”. What else could I do? I squeezed every ounce of those dwindling hours of light.
I wrote this on my Facebook page:
…most people in my neighbourhood don’t even realize that we basically live right on Lake Ontario. It’s true. It’s only a quick shot up the road, through a ravine shortcut, into the park, up to my old high school, along a 2k road connection, down (and up) a sweet gully, over the train tracks, into Morningside Park, through the university campus and Colonel Danforth Park, straight to the lake, and then a quick boot to Rouge Beach. Yeah, I pretty much have beachfront property.
And would you look at the beauty I rode.
It was my first proper rip on my new (used) Norco Threshold. Forget that I had drivetrain problems; and forget the fact that I had to turn it upside down three times during my ride; and forget that I coiled the chain so badly around my crank that I bent the heck out of it and need a new one. Despite everything, this bike purrs. It climbs like a rutting bobcat, and tears at everything else like a tyrannosaurus rex. What a rip.
I’ve lived in Scarborough my whole life, so it’s safe to say that I pretty much know most every rideable nook and cranny (although I’m always looking for more) around my house. I don’t really follow a set route. Depending on weather, conditions, and my mood, I usually just make it up as I go–and Wednesday was no different. Wednesday was about climbs, wood chip trails, winding park paths, and repeat. I had an hour to get to Rouge Beach (the furthest east I figured I’d make it), and an hour to get home before the street lights went on. That was my usual curfew time growing up.
I made it to the beach. And somewhere along the way, which is usually the case on a great ride, I changed a bit. I remembered something. I remembered the joy, bliss, and absolute peace of a ride. I remembered the physical, emotional, and mental cleanse of a sweet rip.
I spent the winter riding at Joyride, spinning in my basement, and even on a fatbike (or three), and while all of it was awesome, nothing–and I mean nothing–beats being outside.
Part way through my ride, I also remembered that sweet climb up to a great lookout at the Highland Creek Sewage Treatment Plant (at the foot of Beachgrove Road). It’s a quick detour, but totally worth it. There is a walking path climb that starts at the top of a paved climb, and it was dry enough to shred. The paved climb is sprintable, but not really, so when I hit the walking path, my lungs were already burning, and my legs were on fire, but it didn’t matter because the change in cadence from the pavement to grass was enough to reinvigorate me. I hit the climb and the wind kicked in (stupid wind). I dug in and gave it everything I had left. At that point of the hill, you can really smell the poop curing in the nearby sludge tanks, but it didn’t matter because I devoted my attention to managing the ruts, fighting with that damn wind, my legs, and my lungs.
And before I knew it, I hit the top for the sweet view.
But I was in the zone, and I didn’t remember to stop and enjoy the view. I de-snotted, got out of my seat, moved back on my bike, steadied my grip on my brakes, and hit the descent on the other side of the hill. More ruts, a bit of spongy trail, a horrible wall of poop smell, and I was at the bottom. I shook it off, did a 180, and continued on my way. It was 6k to Rouge Beach against a punishing head wind. I kicked the wind in the throat, and made it the shack on the beach with just a bit more than an hour before dark. I was feeling strong–not summer strong–but strong enough. My back was feeling the climbs, and that bloody wind was just mean, but my legs felt good, and my heart was still beating.
Heck, it wasn’t just beating, it was singing.
I never really forgot how a awesome a great ride makes me feel, but between work (that’s been a bit of a mess lately) and life (that’s been a bit hectic lately), and trying to carve out some time for a proper rip, the joy took a back seat. Not anymore.
It’s Spring, and I’m back in the saddle. Boom.
I took a different route home, and made a quick stop on a bridge overlooking MY ravine. I made it home well before the street lights came on (phew). My route was awesome, and I wondered about the awesome secret routes that other riders carve close to their homes. That’s MY ravine in the background, but I also wonder who else OWNS it. And how THEY use it on their rides.
After a winter of waiting, the outdoor riding season (in shorts) is upon us, and I’ll take the uncertainty of spring weather, the waiting for the trails to dry, and the stupid jerky wind, because spring riding is AWESOME. It’s not sweet singletrack, but you can smell it in the air. And I’m not talking about the smell of the poop from the sewage treatment plant–I’m talking about the smell of the eminent singletrack bliss.
I know it sounds hokey, but for me, nothing soothes the savage beast like a sweet rip. Initially, this ride was intended to be a warm up for this weekend’s Steaming Nostril (Runny Nose distance), but it became so much more, because at the heart of every great ride is fun, a bit of evolution, and just a great time playing bikes. Team Colin: 1, Savage Beast: 0. Roar.
Here’s to a season of sweat dripping into my eyes, cramped calves and sore wrists, the occasional sun burn, horribly awesome climbs, shiver-inducing descents, grit-covered water bottle nipples, the promise of the road, the grind of gravel, and miles and miles of sweet singletrack.
Even when it’s windy.
I’d love to hear about your secret route. Or whether you think I got this right. Comment in the space below, or send a message to: firstname.lastname@example.org