#30DaysOfBiking Day 7 – Monsters for Beauty, Permanence and Individuality

When I look out the window it looks like a perfect sunny day for biking, but fortunately I check the forecast before going. It’s 2°C and there’s another 25 km/hr wind from the northwest. I put on a few extra clothes and plan two routes: a two hour one and a one hour one just in case I don’t feel like staying out so long.

Today’s ride takes me almost immediately down into the Don Valley. I zoom down the same hill I went on in the rain a couple of days ago and feel so much more stable and in control on this bike than my other one. I am not likely to ride that one again outdoors.

The sun is dazzling and warm, but when the wind picks up it seems to go through my clothes, chilling me. As I ride on the trail under Don Mills Road, I remind myself of the helpful advice I got from a winter cycling workshop: “Dress for how you’ll feel 20 minutes into your ride.”

Despite the cold, I see lots of people on bikes, with children, dogs, or both and think that they, like me, have decided that while the wintery weather might not be over, they’re over waiting for it to finish and are just going out.

Riding a bike in the cold is kind of like driving a car in the winter. When you first start the heater just blows cold air and you are uncomfortable. But put more strain on the engine and it warms up faster. I try pushing myself a bit harder to generate some heat. It works well and soon I’m comfortable but I’m noticing something else. After weeks of an average of 2-3 hours of activity/week – and a month of no activity, post-COVID, I’m feeling a bit stiff after seven days in a row. It’s a good kind of stiff – but I’m beginning to think that the one hour option is the way to go and vow to take it a little easier on the way home.

Soon I make it to the destination. In a field in the shadow of the Bloor Viaduct where every few minutes you can hear a subway train rattle above, are a cluster of concrete gargoyles and statues called “Monsters for Beauty, Permanence, and Individuality” by Duane Linklater. They’ve been there for a few years now but they make me as happy today as the first day I saw them – a little bit of art hidden in the valley to enjoy.

From here I head further south to the next exit from the trail at Riverdale Park. I carry my bike up a set of stairs to the bridge. At the top, I can see the faint outline of some graffiti I photographed one night on a ride back in 2020.

From there I reach Broadview Avenue – just north of the library we missed out on last week. I turn toward home and back into the wind. With the strength of the wind I’m grateful for the headband that covers my ears, keeping them warm and stifling the roar of the wind. I pedal onward, making slow but steady progress until I reach the Millwood Bridge – the last big push before I get to my neighbourhood. As I turn onto the bridge it’s like pedaling into an icy wall. I actually have to gear down a little to keep moving. At the other side of the bridge, I leave the road and enter the park where I can cut through to our quiet neighbourhood street and have a leisurely trip home. I make it in just under an hour a short 14 kilometres.

Today, probably seven days too late I remember that I should be stretching after riding – especially as I’m ramping up so quickly. When I do I can see how stiff I am. How much of my ride today was fatigue and how much was stiffness I don’t know but I will be stretching more from now on.

The next ride promises to be another cold one with similar temperatures. However, if the forecast is correct, we should see a bit less wind. And if everything works out as planned I’ll add a library visit to the mix for twice the benefit!

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