#30DaysOfBiking – The First Five Days

Those who have been reading for a while or who know me outside of this blog likely remember what I did during the pandemic. While many people were posting snarky statuses about their big travel plans for 2020 (The couch, the kitchen, the bed…) I was having one of my biggest travel years ever. To date I think of 2020 as my best travel year. I talk about a bunch of my destinations in this entry.

It kept up until late 2020 when a couple of things happened one after another. The first was when I overdid it on a run one evening, running 15 km when up until then I’d managed 8-10. A classic move for me in running – I am having fun and it’s a beautiful night and I just decide to keep going. By the time I got home, though, I was unable to walk due to foot pain which later turned out to be plantar fascitis. Later that winter I went out for one of the things I really enjoyed that winter: a night time trail ride. The day before had been warm, above freezing and the snow melted and wet down the paths which are not salted. That night they froze solid and I had one of my worst falls. I walked home and mostly stayed indoors and riding outside wasn’t quite the same.

Ever since I had this wistful attitude: “Remember when you used to enjoy going outside no matter what the weather was? Why don’t you enjoy it anymore?” I mentioned this to Sage more than once and she, of course, reminded me of my selective memory – I wasn’t always excited to go out but I made a commitment to do so and always came back having had a great time.

Last month, my friend Samantha talked about #30DaysOfBiking on Fit is a Feminist Issue. It was the right entry at the right time and something clicked. “I’m doing this.” I thought. And I’m doing it all outdoors. I’ve been at a while – shall we see if Sage was right?

My first ride, “Day 0” you might say as it was on March 26 was to a peaceful spot in the heart of the financial district. Surrounded by huge skyscrapers is a small plot of land with several cows lying down. This installation was originally placed here in 1985 by Joe Fafard.

It was 9 degrees outside – a bit nicer than usual but there was a stiff and gusty headwind so I wore a few extra clothes. In the end I probably wore too many as the work to fight the headwind generated a good amount of heat.

On the way down I stopped at the Chester Hill Lookout to see the skyline.

The roads were relatively clear of traffic and the snow was completely gone. A few cyclists were out so I wasn’t completely alone. As it was a Sunday night with few stores and offices open to bring people in the streets were nearly empty. The toll of the pandemic was very noticeable with a number of homeless people on the streets, tents set up in parks and one tent set up on top of a warm air ventilation outlet in the sidewalk.

I’d forgotten exactly where the cows were. I circled around a couple of blocks, dismounting and walking when I needed to go the wrong way down a one way street. Eventually I found them.

It was as peaceful as I remembered it. Looking up you can get a feel for how many people might work in this area on any given day.

Something about that perspective looked familiar. I think it was from this album cover from 1976. Some images are, unfortunately, timeless.

The first day of #30DaysOfBiking I started back down the same path I fell on years before. This time at 14 degrees, there was no ice to be found. In fact, the path was filled with people on bikes, running and out with their dogs. During times like these, you won’t make particularly great time – but you will get to see lots of happy humans and if you’re extra lucky you can even meet a friendly dog or two as well.

Today I had a purpose as well – this time to get berbere powder to make ful medames. Not far from our house is an Ethiopian neighbourhood with a number of restaurants, markets and coffee shops. So at the end of the trail, I turned up onto the road and headed home via Danforth Avenue. Right around the beginning of the pandemic they installed bike lanes on much of it and it’s been a huge improvement.

Soon I was at the market.

Last time I went here was fun. There were two women working there – one about my age and someone who could’ve been her mom’s age. When I bought berbere they laughed and asked me if I knew how to use it. I said I used it for making ful and doro wat – a delicious chicken dish. They laughed and laughed when I said that. I’m not sure they believed me!

This time was more transactional – no conversation today. Not only did I pick up berbere (1 kg!) but also a couple of cans of ful.

After a little less than an hour I was back home.

Day two, after a failed library visit, I went out for my ride. This time I went to use a not-yet completed bike trail. It’s mostly complete though it feels more like a Vermont dirt road (complete with some areas in ‘mud season’), one bridge not fully installed (ramps up are missing and so local mountain bikers made their own) and the crossing over (or under) the GO Train tracks missing. Still, I climbed up the steep ramp, over the tracks and then scrambled under a fence, pushing my bike ahead of me to get through. A friend on Strava thinks that the project may have been abandoned with the team stymied by getting past the train tracks. I’m actually fine with it as is, though. It’s quite nice and makes for a good loop. One part is tricky and I go 5-15 km/hr, and then the last bit is on a busy paved street where I can manage 25 km/hr. It’s a good mix even if I come home a bit dirtier than usual.

By Day 3 I remembered my old trick – one of the big motivators that got me outside on my bike in 2020: having a destination. And so it was I choose another art installation. This day’s destination was Primrose, a sculpture of a baby donkey born in 2012 whose front legs are wrapped in casts because she was born prematurely and her legs weren’t properly developed and needed to be braced to grow properly. The piece was created in 2019 by Canadian artist Myfanwy MacLeod. The original “well wishes” on the casts are faded but people have left new ones.

Day 4 I went with a similar theme for a destination, chosing another art installation that was vaguely animal themed. Back in 2000, the city had a large public art display called Moose in the City. The founder of McDonalds Canada had the idea and was the chairperson for the campaign. In the end, 326 life sized moose sculptures with various themes were placed throughout the city. There were quite a few left when we arrived in Canada back in 2004 though now they’re pretty rare. I know of only a handful. As I’m riding every day I need to have some lighter days (in lieu of rest days) so I went to one moose that is still installed nearby at the McDonalds Canada headquarters just a couple of kilometres away.

As a bonus I finally found a cup of coffee big enough to satisfy my huge caffeine craving.

So far motivation has been relatively easy to come by. The weather hasn’t been too cold, not too windy or rainy. This would change on Day 5. As I sat on the couch having my morning coffee I watched huge bolts of lightning strike just to the north of us. All day the rain came off and on – sometimes with hail, and always with a howling wind. As I finished work another huge storm rolled through with more thunder, lightning, wind and hail. It wasn’t looking good for a ride even in terms of safety. As the thunder and lightning moved away I started to take apart my indoor cycling setup. The trainer and mat went back in the closet, and the bike that was on the trainer was reassembled to go outside. There would be no weaseling out of an outdoor ride by doing an indoor one. Mother Nature agreed and decided to shut off the thunder and lightning. She did not, however, turn off the rain or the wind. The temperature was a brisk 5 degrees.

I put on a few extra layers. Rain pants, merino wool shirt, wool socks, gloves, a warm band to keep my ears warm, waterproof helmet cover and my waterproof jacket. I decided to take the indoor bike out for a ride.

The bad news was that my suspicions about this bike were confirmed. As much as I like it – it’s quick and agile. It’s also a bit too big for me and I have trouble using the brakes on drop bars. I feel like my stopping reaction time and power are just too low to feel safe. I rode off road that night but it’ll likely be the last ride until I can decide what to do with it. Daegan’s a bit taller than me and he may do fine with it. I may be able to have some tweaks done in a bike fit session, or maybe I’ll have to just give it up. I’m OK whatever the decision.

The toll of the storm on the city was really evident. I rode through deep puddles and on bridges over very high rivers. The ground was quite wet also. At one point where construction is underway for a new transit line I took a detour through the woods onto clay single track. In drier times these single track trails are great. Today? The clay was as slippery as if I were riding on snow. My only other choice was another deep gravel path. I walked that little bit until I was back on the paved trail.

I decided to head up along the Wilket Creek trail. As this leads to Edwards Gardens where there is both parking and a nice destination, it can be really busy. Today, though, I was alone the entire ride. Finally at Edwards Gardens I found another animal sculpture:

My goal having been reached, I headed back toward home, taking a different route. As you can see, the storm did take a bit of a toll on the forest.

Meanwhile, despite the cold drizzle and wind. I was warm and comfortable. Next time I’ll take my other bike and it will be sure to be a good ride.

So far it’s been an auspicious start. I’ve had fun and enjoyed getting out and about. My fitness is noticeably improving again after a long time of sporadic inactivity and I’m once again looking forward to getting out on my bike every day after work. Which, I intend to do after a quick snack, and I’ve got a fun destination chosen.

I’ll continue to update you as this project continues. Starting next week the weather looks like it will be improving a lot and if the forecast holds up I’ll be taking my bike to work on Wednesday. With some nice weekend weather expected there is potential for a longer ride happening over the four day weekend. Watch this space to see how it all goes.

10 thoughts on “#30DaysOfBiking – The First Five Days

    1. Oh that’s excellent! I like having a quiet trail for sure but I’m far more interested in everyone having more safe places to ride including easier access to The Meadoway.

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