2017-12-03 EBTC Highlands-Beverly Walking Tour

These are some notes from a December 3, 2017 historical walk I did for the Edmonton Bicycle and Touring Club.  This was a combination of a stroll, historical and social notes.  See my sources below if you want to read more.

Context: The Area pre-1914

  • The area was annexed by Edmonton in 1912, and “was named in a contest offering a 50-dollar Gold Bar.” [1]
  • The neighbourhood is bounded on the north by 118 (Alberta) Avenue, on the east by 50 Street, on the west by 67 Street, and on the south by the North Saskatchewan River valley. [2]
  • The community is represented by the Highlands Community League, established in 1921. [2]

The Walk

Points of interest and route

  • 01) Start: Highlands Community Centre, 6112-113 Avenue, Edmonton.
    • What was the area like at different epochs: 10,000 years ago, pre-Hudson Bay Company, HBC era and then in 1900.
  • 02) South to 112 Avenue; be careful crossing 112th street, look both ways for street cars… the last one ran in 1951 but they could start-up any time! [3]  The end of the line was at 112 Avenue x 61 Street [4].
    • The development of the area was predicated on a street trolley being built.
  • 03) Walk to 6229 111 Ave NW; the Carriage House; this is where they stored the carriages! [1, pp. 267-269].
  • 04) Walk to 6240 Ada Blvd; this is the mansion for Magrath, one of the two developers [1, pp. 257-259].
    • Lived with his wife Ada… notice a connection?
    • And their son Adrian.
  • 05) Walk to 6210 Ada Blvd NW, Holgate Mansion [1, pp. 259-260].
  • Walk along Ada Blvd East towards 50th Street.
  • 06) 50th Street, start of the Beverly Heights Neighbourhood.
    • Originally part of the Town of Beverly, amalgamated with Edmonton 1961. [5]
    • Edmonton assumed the town’s debt of $4.16 million debt ($34.0 million today).[6]
    • The neighbourhood is bounded on the south by the North Saskatchewan River valley, on the north by 118 Avenue, on the west by 50 Street, and on the east by 34 Street and 36 Street. [5]
    • Beverly incorporated as a village on March 22, 1913 and became the Town of Beverly on July 13, 1914. [6]
    • Beverly was a coal mining community that overlooked the North Saskatchewan River valley. During the first half of the twentieth century, more than 20 coal mines were active in and around the town. The larger mines provided much of the town’s employment. [6]
    • In 1907, construction began on the Clover Bar Bridge. The Grand Trunk Pacific Railway (GTPR) built its own bridge as it could not use the CPR High Level. [6]
    • The GTPR became the biggest shipper of coal in Alberta, with much of the coal mined in and around Beverly. [6]
    • The Great Depression hit Beverly particularly hard. In 1936, the town defaulted on its debt. [6]
    • A provincial administrator to manage the town from 1937 to 1948.
  • 07) Take Trail to the River
  • 08) Look downstream to the beautiful Rundle Park [7].
    • Named for an early Methodist missionary.
    • This was the site of the Beverly Dump.
    • As the community grew post amalgamation, there were calls to close the dump to reduce the smell, salvage men and the bears that inhabited the site.
    • Futuristic plans were drawn up… a more modest park was built-in its place in the mid-1970’s.
    • Rundle Park: With an area of 117.68 ha, the park was named for Rev. Robert Rundle. He was the first Protestant missionary to serve at Fort Edmonton and in fact the first permanent missionary of any church to settle west of Manitoba. In 1840 he came to Rupert’s Land at the request of the Hudson Bay. [12]
  • 09) The bridge to cross to the South Side of the river is named for Ainsworth Dyer, one of 4 Canadians killed in a friendly fire incident in Afghanistan [8].
  • 10) As you cross the bridge look for Gold Bar stream coming into the river.  Early miners panned for gold in the gravel bars here. [9. p.13]
  • 11) The Gold Bar Waste Water plant [10, p.6]
    • Open in 1956.
    • Waste water is sent to the refineries where it reduces their water needs.
  • 12) Take a moment to look north along 50th Street – yup no bridge yet. [6]
    • Promised a new bridge for vehicular traffic across the North Saskatchewan River at 50 Street, residents of Beverly cast ballots in a referendum regarding amalgamation with Edmonton in which 62% voted in favour. The 50th Street bridge has yet to materialize.
  • 13) Highlands Golf Course [1, pp.254-255] and [11]
    • Built in 1929  surrounding the Premier Coal Mine.
    • The original lease started in 1929 for a 21-year term with a 20-year option to renew (1970).
    • The current lease is for 50 years starting in 1989 with a 10 year extension.
    • occasional sink holes from the coal mine cause some trouble for the course.
    • The Capilano Freeway (now Wayne Gretzky Drive) impacted the golf course when it was constructed in 1969.

The Sources

  1. Historic Walks Of Edmonton, by Kathryn Ivany.
  2. Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Highlands,_Edmonton.
  3. City Museum of Edmonton https://citymuseumedmonton.ca/2015/05/19/when-trolleys-came-to-edmonton/
  4. Street Car lines circa 1944; http://www.tundria.com/trams/CAN/Edmonton-1944.shtml.
  5. Beverly Heights: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beverly_Heights,_Edmonton.
  6. Beverly, Alberta: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beverly,_Alberta.
  7. Edmonton: A World Class Dump, Part Three – Salvage Men, Coal Mines, and a Futuristic Weir; https://citymuseumedmonton.ca/2016/12/06/world-class-dump-3.
  8. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tarnak_Farm_incident
  9. Nature Walks and Sunday Drives ‘Round Edmonton Paperback – Nov 14 2003 by Harry Stelfox (Author),‎ Gary Ross (Illustrator)
  10. Comprehensive valuation report; City of Edmonton – Gold Bar Wastewater Treatment Plant: http://webdocs.edmonton.ca/occtopusdocs/Public/Complete/Reports/CC/CSAM/2009-01-20/2009PW2573%20-%20Attachment%202rev.pdf
  11. Highlands Golf Course: http://www.highlandsgolfclub.com/About-Us.
  12. Wakahegan Trail Guide, 7th Edition.

Other Resources

  1. 1). Edmonton and District Historical Society, www.historicedmonton.ca.
  2. Highlands Historical Society Society, facebook.com/highlandshistoricalsociety

Kettle Valley: Chute Lake – What a Road!

This is the last of 3 blogs concerning my 2017 riding of the Kettle Valley. The good intentions were to hub and spoke out of Penticton and complete three rides: 1) Osoyoos North to Penticton; 2) Skaha Lake 3) Chute Lake to Penticton.

What Road!

The road up to Chute Lake was impressive. At times a 12% grade with numerous switch backs on a sandy gravel surface. It was challenging enough in dry weather I could only imagine the climb after a recent rain or snow fall.  Slick as snot comes to mind (to use a technical term).

The road deposits you at the Chute Lake Resort and the lake itself. The KVR passes the lake from a point further east and our original put-in, Myra Lake. Had we started from Myra, the distance would have been 80KM.  A bit out of reach for a first ride of the area so Chute Lake was a reasonable compromise.

Mileage Signs en route.

Sand Bogs and a Closed Tunnel

The first 5KM or so of the ride was mush. Mush in this context means sandy soil that quickly absorbed one’s tires and made it nearly impossible to ride. In some places a raised shoulder provided enough terra firma to allow for some speed but often this effort was absorbed with a return to the mushy middle of the trail. Lower air pressure likely could have compensated and I suspect a good fat bike tire would have glided over this section of trail with barely a whimper or note of the mush underneath.

After this initial section, the trail began to harden to a more uniform gravel bed that was generally fine to ride on.  Given the altitude gained on the road up to the put-in, vistas were available aplenty. One portion of the trail that was closed was a U-shaped Adra tunnel.

Currently barricaded, the tunnel is about 500M long and takes a north/south orientated track to an east/west exit/entrance. Appeals for donations are made for the tunnel’s restoration which would be great. In the mean time a steep descent provides a cut off for the tunnel. A fun ride down, it would be a hard ride/push up! Coming from descent side of the tunnel, the temperature appreciably drops at 10C in the gloom of its entrance.

In front of the closed Adra tunnel.

Ride Into Penticton

From the tunnel, the ride is a gentle descent past numerous historical markers including a number of rock ovens used to bake bread during the KVR’s construction. Other markers include the foundation for a long-since dismantled water tower, a larger Ponderosa Pine and things of that ilk.

One of the great vistas with Summer Land across Okanagan Lake.


Our transport picked us up still high above Penticton. The trail however continues down into the city along the KVR route and as well along a city constructed trail. Finding the trail required a small bit of route finding as one section would end and the next would start-up to half a block away. A disappeared trail general meant a scan up and down the road to see where the city put the next piece.

Overall, this is a great section of trail. The ride from Myra Lake to Penticton is very doable on a good mountain/fat bike. Likely this would be an all day affair particularly with a car shuttle. Given the remoteness of the initial section, an available support vehicle would be a strongly desirable additional feature. In other words, Penticton KVR – I will be back!

Kettle Valley: Skaha Lake Loop – Ice Cream Detour

This is the second of a set of 3 blogs concerning my 2017 riding of the Kettle Valley. The good intentions were to hub and spoke out of Penticton and complete three rides: 1) Osoyoos North to Penticton; 2) Skaha Lake 3) Chute Lake to Penticton.

Skaha – Consolation Prize

Unfortunately my partner in riding had an unanticipated work commitment and the planned ride could not occur. Nevertheless, the ride we did was a perfect little putz with a too large ice cream in the middle.

Skaha Lake is just south of Penticton and like most of Okanagan lakes is narrow and long. Smaller than most lakes, it is 11.8km long and book ended by Penticton to the North and Okanagan Falls to the south. This ride took us from our motel at the north end of Skaha south along the west side of the lake to Okanagan Falls.

Although the trail was empty when I rode it the previously day, on this day there were about a dozen cyclists and walkers using the trail. The trail itself deposits you at the beach in Okanagan Falls and from this location the logical thing is to look for ice cream.

Vista Skaha Lake from the west side.

This is a Children’s Cone?

On the south side of the town is an ice cream institution, Tickleberries. A combination of ice cream gift and junk shop, they are known for their generous portions so I thought I would be smart by ordering a childrens cone. Apparently in the Okanagan, children are capable of eating two fist size scopes of ice cream! Either they are very tough or have a morbid obesity problem.

Return Along the East Side

Like most large lakes in British Columbia, there is a distinct East and West side (mostly because the mountain ranges generally in BC run North/South). Our return was along the East road and generally it was uneventful and occasionally pulled the user up into a mid-level vista of the lake. Good asphalt and a reasonable shoulder. We took a short detour back into Penticton to find a cold beer and then rode out to the hotel.


A nice albeit short ride of about 30km with moderate undulations in climbs and descents. Suitable for an older child reasonably comfortable on a bike. This could be a tune up and a first day ride if just arriving in the area. The one factor is the amount of fine grit and sand on the west side which tends to cover the bike and running gear. Like other trails in the KVR, a good chain cleaner is a must post ride!

One of the many historical and natural sites along the route.

Kettle Valley Osoyoos to Penticton – NOT

This is the first of a set of 3 blogs concerning my 2017 riding of the Kettle Valley. The good intentions were to hub and spoke out of Penticton and complete three rides: 1) Osoyoos North to Penticton; 2) Skaha Lake 3) Chute Lake to Penticton.

These rides were based on the trail guide: Cycling the Kettle Valley Railway, by Dan Langford.  Generally a well written and descriptive book, in this section alas it failed miserably.  Not to put too fine of a point on it but there is NOT a contiguous trail North from Osoyoos to Penticton.  The trail guide is not the only source that suggests that there is such a route, the provincial maps also clearly show such a trail.  Certainly poking around north Osoyoos failed to yield much evidence.  However, if you don’t mind a bit of highway riding and some flat and boring trails, you can get North to Penticton.

Note: this is a potential source of future reference, Trails BC.

North of the 49th

We started our ride at the border crossing just south of Osoyoos.  Still in Canadian territory, the ride went north along Highwya 97 to Osoyoos town limits.  From the park in the town, a trail winds it way North until private land and signs indicating no trespassing stop you at this point.  Apparently the land on which this spur of the railway was sold in the 1970’s and there is no longer a legitmate public access route.  As well, there is some hostility amongst landowners against a trail being created due to concerns of vandalism, etc.

Back to Highway 97

From the end of the trail, we re-climbed out of the valley to highway 97.  While the road is ‘okay’ (reasonable shoulder, moderate to heavy traffic), it certainly is not ideal. In the end we cut east again along Road 22.  Mentioned a few times, this road was also ‘okay’.  It had its share of undulations and the hill climbs gave a moderate cardio work out.  The alternative was to ride along the river/irrigation canal that runs from Skaha Lake to the North and Osoyoos Lake to the south.

Road 22 to Oliver

Road 22 eventually descends into the town of Oliver where we had a spot of lunch in the park.  From there, the trail along the river continues on until it intersects Highway 97.  Once again, the maps suggest that it continues west of the highway but we could find no sign of the trail.  Instead the route was along highway 97 to Okanagan Falls.  From here there is an excellent trail on the west side of Skaha lake that will take you into south Penticton.  Along this route I had the following black bear experience:

On a remote section a black bear Cub popped onto the trail. The problem with a bear club 100m ahead of you is where is it’s the mother. Fortunately she popped up beside the cub. She took a look at me and decided I was not worth the bother and ambled off to the other side of the trail with cub on tow. At this point, 15 seconds later I was glad I was uninteresting… Alas no photo but at least I got to tell the tale!


It might be interesting to go back and try to find a route from Osoyoos to Penticton… okay, not fantastically high on the priority list of trips to do in the time remaining here on earth, but if circumstandes allow for it, interesting nevertheless.

Starting on one of the intermittent sections of the Osoyoos to Penticton KVR.

Driving MS Daisy 2018

A Little Context Please

Canada has the highest rate of multiple sclerosis (MS) in the world, with an estimated 1 in 340 Canadians living with the disease. While it is most often diagnosed in young adults aged 15 to 40, younger children and older adults are also diagnosed with the disease (source, MS Society).  Each June the MS Society of Alberta and the NWT runs the Leduc to Camrose ride over two days and about 150km.

Who Cares About MS Anyway – I Want to Go HOME

Picture this, you are on the MS Leduc to Camrose ride and true to form it is raining, you are tired and there is BIG-FRIGGIN’ hill between you and the next rest stop.  This hill seems to be about as high as Mount Everest.  Who the HECK builds a road up FRIGGIN’ Mount Everest and then runs a MS BIke Ride on it!

As you stare at this hill that is growing by the minute in height, you cannot even remember why you signed up for this ^#@)!=& ride in the first place. Actually you know why, that cursed wife/husband, girl/boyfriend, co-worker, aunt/uncle, etc. talked you into it.  Who the hell cares about MS anyway, you are cold, wet, miserable and you just want to go home.

Giving Everest a Pass for MS

Just as Mount Everest is growing taller, a white pick up truck pulls in front of you.  From it walks a friendly volunteer.  The volunteer discusses how MS is episodic, there are great days and there are days just like this one that REALLY suck.  Like most diseases, it is easy to be over-whelmed and even lash out to those who care for you and are trying to help.  The volunteer suggests that you hop in the truck, take a pass on the Mount Everest’esque hill and get driven just a few kilometers to the rest stop.

At the rest stop the volunteer then asks you to do something strange, sign the truck.  With a larger marker, you write your name, perhaps including a small note.  You notice that you are not the first to sign the truck.  Hundreds of people who have been helped by the truck or who have helped create the truck inter-mingle on the hood, fenders and doors of this circa 1995 white truck.

It is then you understand why you signed up for the 2018 ^#@)!=& MS ride.  It is because some days, people with MS just need a small rescue and a bit of hope to get to their next rest stop so they can carry on the next day.  Your wife/husband, girl/boyfriend, co-worker, aunt/uncle, etc. pulls into the rest stop.  All is forgiven… well until the next big FRIGGIN’ hill that is… but that is down the road… just like living with MS.

Wanted an Old Truck Called Driving MS Daisy

On June 9 and 10, 2018 I would like to be that volunteer (see my 2017 MS Ride notes on why I am doing this).  The truck needs to be in a good running condition and reasonable shape.  Likely the MS Society will register and insure it.  When 2018 is done, MS Daisy 2018 may be auction off and a MS Daisy 2019 will be created with a circa 1996 white pick up truck.

Sponsors and Friends of MS Daisy

MS Daisy 2018 will be a community and collaborative affair.  I am looking for a variety of sponsors from getting the truck pro bono, repairing and restoring the truck, applying thank you-decals, driving it (possibly all over Western Canada), writing on it and finally auctioning it off to start fresh.

A Pro Bono Circa 1995 Truck

To start, I need a truck. Ideally I would like to find a circa 1995 white full sized crewcab pick up truck.  She can be as old as 1984 or as new as 2003.  These dates represent the range when MS is diagnosed (34 years old) or typical first onset (15 years old).  Also I am calling MS Daisy a she because MS strikes 2:1 females versus males (and it makes for a better pun).

Perhaps there is a car dealership or broker who has one sitting in their inventory or a great deal comes up on the wholesale auction.  In any case, the organization providing the truck would get primary sponsorship space on the truck itself.

Repair and Restoring the Old Girl

Circa 1995 vehicles typically are showing their age.  They have a bit of rust and require at least some mechanical work.  There is a parallel here to MS in which a healthy lifestyle may prevent MS episodes or at least make the next episode easier to weather.

In my ideal world, this work would be done by a technical college or even a high school as a class project.  Even better, a garage or auto body shop would sponsor and supervise the work done by the students for apprenticeship credits.

While in the shop, MS Daisy would get a basic engine overhaul, full mechanical inspection and repair (e.g. brakes, electrical system, suspension, etc.) and possibly new rubber.  Cosmetically, she will receive a paint job, ideally in flat matte white.  Why, because it easier to write on of course!

In addition to sponsorship decals, everyone who is involved in buying and restoring MS Daisy will get to sign her.  In this way, the MS Society can use MS Daisy as a symbol to show how the disease touches the lives of many Canadians.

Driving MS Daisy 2018

The intent is drive MS Daisy in the June 9/10 2018 Leduc to Camrose MS Ride.  This by itself would be success.  However, the MS Society may choose to use MS Daisy to help other riders participating in other events held in Alberta and Western Canada.

Beyond MS, the MS Society may also wish to loan the vehicle out to other events.  For example, MS Daisy can help with the Tour de l’Alberta, the Tour of Alberta or even other rides that meet the MS Society’s goals or that sponsor the society.

Whether on the Leduc to Camrose MS Ride, another MS Ride or on a partnership event, everyone who comes into contact with MS Daisy will sign her guest book. The fact that her guest book is her hood, front fenders and doors is part of what makes MS Daisy eccentric and a bit charming.  It also builds a tangible link between individuals, the vehicle and the MS brand.  In the day and age of instant celebrity and oblivion via social media, this gives those touched by MS Daisy a touch point to a larger community cause (plus she will make an awesome backdrop for an Instagram photo!).

Retiring MS Daisy

Every year MS will strike a new group of young people in Canada and every year a new MS Daisy should be found.  But what to do with the old one?  Why send her off to a new adventure of course.  She will be sold at auction (e.g. Ritchie Brothers) everyone who signed MS Daisy will be invited to to see her go to a new new home.  To a certain extent, this is the final metaphor for the MS Daisy program.  By riding in the MS Ride, we want those who have the disease to go on with their lives in as normal of fashion as possible.

But what about 2019?  Ideally a new MS Daisy will be nurtured into existence, driven around the Western Canada and then auction off to start a new life as well.

Financial Considerations and Next Steps

Will Driving Ms Daisy 2018 raise money for the MS Society?  Yes but not a lot.  There will be a ‘MS Daisy’ team entered in every event the vehicle participants in.  Ideally this would raise between $500-$3,000 in donations.  The value of the final auction will also net the society between $2,000 to $7,000 gross proceeds.  This will raise in total of  $2,500 to $10,000 gross proceeds.

This may not seem like a lot but there are also no costs associated with MS Daisy for the MS Society other than registration and insurance.  The campaign has an opportunity to promote the MS rides among cyclists participating in other events and it will generate over all brand awareness for MS.  Secondary benefits include reaching out to new sponsors to support the ride.

This has been fun putting together this promotional campaign.  Hopefully it is of interest and in the meantime, does anyone have a circa 1995 white pick up truck?  I would like to use it to help someone conquer an Everest’esque hill on the June 9 and 10, 2018 weekend.


MS Ride 2018 – A Better Marshaling Experience

In 2017, I had fun Marshalling the Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society’s Leduc to Camrose ride.  I enjoyed it because I was able to help the participants better understand both cycling and MS.  I was not the only marshal, there were about ~17 others.  These folks rode the entire way clocking about 150km to do so.

Riding 150km over two days is one thing, fixing flats, coaching riders, reminding participants to ride single file or not use head phones makes the ride even longer.  As a result, the 17 individuals who did the ride deserve special commendation as volunteers, cyclists and contributors to the event.

150KM Is a Long Way to Fix Flat Tires

The Edmonton Bicycle and Touring Club (club) had 17 marshals.  Many have ridden for years and probably about half are retired.  Finding individuals who can ride 150km, have the mechanical skills and patience to work with participants can be difficult.

Interestingly the likelihood of having to help someone decreases as the ride progresses. In 2017, one marshal fixed 15 flats before lunch but none after lunch.  However, the number of riders needing motorized assistance (e.g. fatigue) increases after lunch.  On the second day, the pattern repeats itself.  Numerous break downs before the lunch break and some nasty hills that require lots of coaching, coaxing and the occasional leap-frog (e.g. lift) after lunch.

As a result, how do you manage an asymmetrical need throughout the ride and do you really need to ride the full distance to contribute as a marshal?

Full, Demi, Quatro, Ambassadors and Motorize Marshals?

One possible way to better deploy the marshals is to have more than one variety:

  • Full Marshal:
    • Rides the full distance over two days.
    • Estimated number needed, 4-8.
    • Cost: these marshals require overnight accommodation, full meals and the standard volunteer package (e.g. shirt, water bottle, etc.).
    • Skills needed: ability to ride and to help with the entire ride.
  • Demi Marshal:
    • Rides the full distance but only on one day.
    • Receives a car shuttle at the beginning or the end of the day.
    • Estimated number needed, 2-4 per day.
    • Cost: consumes snacks and lunch throughout the day, invited to the evening meal and presentation if riding the first day.  Invited to the wrap up BBQ if riding the second day.  Standard volunteer package.
    • Skills needed: ability to ride ~75-85km and help over this distance.
    • Additional costs: first day demi-marshals are shuttled back after supper.  Second day demi-marshals are shuttled from Leduc to Camrose on the first day.
  • Quatro Marshal:
    • Rides only to lunch on one day, generally the first day.
    • Estimated number needed, 6-12 on the first day and 2-4 on the second.
    • Costs: ibid to demi-marshal except no end of day meal.
    • No additional costs:
  • EBTC Ambassador
    • Non-riding members (1-2) would work check points, talk to the cyclists, welcome them, give them some positive feed back tips on riding and direct as necessary to the United Cycle folks.
    • Identify participants by having stickers to put on the Pinnie’s saying something like, ‘EBTC-We Talked’.  In this way, future ambassadors would be able to reinforce messaging.
    • This would improve the experience of the less-experienced riders while improving the ‘EBTC-brand’.
    • This will change the conversation from WHAT to DO to HOW to DO it.
    • Estimated number needed, two teams of 2-3 marshals.  The teams would leap frog each other particularly on the first day.  One the second day, one team is sufficient.
    • Costs: nominal
  • Motorized Marshal:
    • Drives the course and takes over from mounted marshals. This way the mounted marshal can be on their way.
    • Close the rest stops and sweep the challenge loops.
    • Leap frog marshals who have fallen behind and rest marshals.
    • Close the day by ‘tail-gating the last riders in’ (see my previous blog on this).
    • Estimated number needed, 1-3 on the first day and 1-2 on the second.
    • Costs: ibid to full marshal.
    • Additional costs: rental of a vehicle and gas costs (see an upcoming blog on how to cover this cost).

More Marshals, Less Cost for All

Breaking the marshals out into different categories has a number of benefits.  Firstly the marshal can commit to a short engagement (e.g. a half or full day) rather than to an entire weekend.  The marshal does not need to have the stamina or physical fitness to ride the full weekend.  This model can be used as a ‘pre-sales’ or ‘alumni’ ride model to either attract potential participants or encourage alumni of the ride to continue to contribute albeit at a reduced level.Finally, this is an opportunity for the club to teach and practice basic bike mechanics across a larger group of riders.

The society benefits in that they receive volunteers who are targeted to where the need is the greatest.  This has the potential of reducing the cost of putting on the ride while increasing the safety and improving the ride experience.

Team Marshal As Well?

A final consideration is to create a ‘Team Marshal’ to raise funds for the ride.  Ideally the team will cover the minimum the cost to support the volunteers.  An overall team goal is established (e.g. $2,000 for Team-Marshal) but with suggested individual amounts to be either raised or donated by the participants.  For example, the following could be the MINIMUM donations/fund raising for each type of marshal:

  • $2,000: Team Marshal 2018, over all goal.
  • $100: full-marshal.
  • $50: demi-marshal.
  • $20: quatro-marshal and ambassadors.
  • $250: motorized-marshal.

Mary as the Poster Child for the MS Ride

In 2012 I did my first MS ride and one of my memories was of a lady named Mary. She was a 60’ish lady on a fixed-gear, 30+ year old bike that Mary claimed had two speeds: sitting down and standing up. I stayed with Mary in the last ~15KM, put a bit of lube on her chain and shared a few laughs. To me, Mary is the poster child of the MS ride. Despite a disadvantage of age and physical conditioning (she was petite, slight lady); physical equipment (fixed gear clunker) and the bad weather that affected everyone – SHE FINISHED THE RIDE.

I loaded $3,000 bikes into the back of a reefer trailer handed to me by twenty something individuals who had the physical condition, the equipment and the same weather – AND THEY STOPPED RIDING.

Cycling as a Metaphor for MS

As a result, the MS ride should be a metaphor for the disease. There are good days in which things are not so bad and then there are bad days when things seem to have gone to shit on you. Mary was an example of an individual who persevered. How? She did it through personal stamina, determination and a little help from her friends, strangers and the Society.  EBTC can help draw a closer linkage between cycling and MS as a metaphor, for example, consider the following:

Theme Cycling MS
Daunting 150km is a daunting distance that most people will never complete in their lives; but those who do are stronger because of it. MS is a daunting disease that most people will never get; but those who survive can thrive and be better for it.
Knowledge Riding 15okm requires knowledge of how to deal with the distance, the physical discomfort and how to pace your self. Living with MS requires knowledge of what is the disease, how it will affect you and how to thrive until there is a cure.
Success Successful riders have three things: physical conditioning, good equipment and the right technique both physical and mental.

Riders get to 150km by incrementally training and improving the three things: better fitness, tuning their equipment, learning technique and realizing that they CAN ride 60, 80, 90 or more KM in a day

Those with MS learn to live with the disease by staying fit, having access to the right medication/ equipment when they need it and the right knowledge to deal with the physical and mental impact.

Those will MS get to a productive life by managing their own health, listening to their body and learning techniques to get them through a rough patch.

Support Distance riding means sometimes taking a break, calling upon a support network to rescue you and having knowledgeable people who can help you understand your personal limits: stopping today does not preclude riding further tomorrow.  Living with MS means sometimes taking a rest, having friends and community supports when the disease gets worse.  Having the society to call upon that can help the person suffering know what to expect and when they need to retreat so as to be ready for another day

Lots of Similar Rides – Only One MS-Ride

There are lots of similar charity rides an organization can become involved in.  A simple search yields eight in Alberta and over sixty across Canada.  The above model can be used/modified for any of the above rides.  Nevertheless I would encourage the EBTC to stick with the MS Ride.  It is generally well run, it is mostly organized by volunteers and it follow routes that the club would ride anyway.  Thank you to both the MS Society and the EBTC for a great event for a great cause, see you in 2018!

MS Ride 2017

On the weekend of June 10/11, 2017; I once again volunteered for the Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society’s Leduc to Camrose ride.  I got involved in the ride primarily through my involvement with the a local bike club, EBTC.  I have done a few different things for the ride including pounding signs for a few years.  However, what I did this year is what I enjoy volunteering for the most – Marshaling the ride.

Motorized Marshal

First a bit of context for the MS ride.  There are a number of volunteer roles one of which is being a bicycle marshal.  This involves riding the course, fixing minor repairs (e.g. flats), encouraging safe riding (e.g. no ear buds, ride single file, etc.) and watching for riders who need either encouragement, instruction or even medical attention on the course.  The marshals ride both days and the roughly ~150km.  They receive free meals, accommodation and access to the entertainment, etc.

Alas my fitness goals did not match with my timetable and so instead of cycling I drove my truck – and I am glad that I did.  I was better able to serve the 1,600 or riders who signed up and raised money for the ride.  As well, I was able to be the last man in (other than the safety folks) behind the final rider on both days.  As a result I was able to:

  • Sweep the challenge loop (an extra 20km section for those who want to push themselves).
  • Relieve marshals who had stopped for minor repairs so they could keep cycling.
  • Leap frog lost riders to join the main group of riders.
  • Leap frog marshals into the main group of riders; this allowed them to linger at rest stops to provide assurance and safety to riders.
  • Stop and discuss with tired or overwhelmed riders the options of taking a leap-frog or even exiting the ride.
  • Cheer on riders whilst sitting on my tail gate.

Relieving marshals, leap frogging riders and volunteers or performing extra sweeps are important but are not what I found the most gratifying nor what I believe added the greatest value as a ‘motorized marshal’.  Instead, I added value by sitting on my tail gate and talking to riders.

Particularly on the second day, many riders are exhausted.  They may not be experienced riders.  They may have danced a bit too much the night before or the traditional miserable MS Ride weather may have worn them down.  As a result, they are looking at a hard climb out of the Gwynn Valley or some of the other hills and are considering giving up.  To me this is a pivotal moment to help the MS Society achieve its priorities.

The MS Ride Priorities

The Leduc to Camrose ride is the largest in Canada and involves the coordination of 1,600+ riders, hundreds of volunteers and sites and logistics.  Ultimately this effort is to raise money for MS.  The society’s goal for 2017 was $2.2M for which it fell short by raising a little under $1.7M.

Learning About MS and Cycling from a Tail Gate

But back to the Gwynn Valley and a rider who is inexperienced or exhausted looking at a ~2km and 7% grade climb.  These riders are easy to spot.  They look a little frightened.  They may be with someone who is an experienced rider and who is trying to coax them up one more hill.  They are also close to giving up on the ride which would be unfortunate.  As a result my tail gate conversation often went something like this (after initial pleasantries and introductions were made):

  • FRANK:
    • So, are you very familiar with MS, do you know how it is an episodic disease?
  • RIDER: Ummm, no.
  • FRANK:
    • MS is a bit unusual in that it comes and goes.
    • One day a person is fine but the next day they may be unable to get out of bed.
    • Conversely they may be ill for a long time and then have a remission for days, months or even years, did you know that?
  • RIDER: No
  • FRANK:
    • This ride is about research and finding a cure for MS but it is also about understanding the disease and raising money so that someone who can’t get out of bed one day gets the support he or she needs so when the disease abates they can get back to their life.
    • Isn’t MS a strange disease?
  • RIDER: It is, I did not know that.
  • FRANK:
    • In a way this ride is a bit like a journey with MS, isn’t it.
    • You start out strong and then it wears your down.
    • There are people at rest stops and on the highway to help keep you going. However, there are some points on the ride when you may need a bit more help.
    • Perhaps it is just an extra cookie at a rest stop, perhaps it is a leap-frog to the top of the hill or may be it is a ride to the finish line.
    • Right now for you, how about just a leap-frog to the top of the hill?
    • You get a few minutes to rest, you will take a pass on this hill but you will be ready for the next one and the rest of the ride.
  • RIDER: But I don’t want to cheat, I want to finish the ride on my own.
  • FRANK:
    • I understand that but this is not cheating, this is about understanding MS.
    • When you get home and you think about this ride, imagine if the support vehicle was not there and you did not have an option.
    • You would have had to climb this hill on your own.
    • We are not going to drive you to the finish line, but for JUST this ONE hill, we are going to help you.
    • In the same way, just for that one day, the MS Society helps that person stay in bed and helps the family care for that person until they are better.
    • The ride to the top of the hill is not cheating
    • Instead a ride helps you to understand the disease and, more importantly, why it is so important that you are riding this weekend and raising money for MS.
    • The leap-frog isn’t cheating but it is a metaphor for MS.
    • For this one hill, can we give your ride until you are ready to take the route on your own?
    • Also, after this ride, if someone asks you if you finished you can tell them that you were glad to take a ride just like people with MS are glad to get help from the society?
  • RIDER: Thank you, I will take the ride and I will tell people the story of why I was glad to take a leap-frog to better understand MS.
  • [Editors note, my wife also suggested that they took the ride so I would stop talking.  No comment, author].

Finishing the Ride and Raising Money

Okay, maybe the conversation did not always go EXACTLY like the above but in the end I managed to coax about a dozen people to take a short ride when they needed a break.  More importantly, I believe that these 12 people finished the ride and left with a positive image of the ride and a better understanding of MS.

This is why sitting on my tail gate applauding people who go by or coaching some of them is critical volunteer role.  Hopefully by doing so the riders are more likely to come back next year, fund raise harder for the ride or contribute when someone asks for a donation.

Teaching Gears to Be a Better Manager

In the Spring I run a weekly program called ‘Wheeleasy Wriders‘ which teaches newbie cyclists how to go from a painful 20KM ride to thinking that a 60KM ride is a breeze. Although this is a hobby, the techniques that I use are directly translatable into a work environment and the reverse as well – Wheeleasy Wriders makes me a better manager – last week is a good example.

How To Explain The Round Gizmos On a Bike

Many new riders are scared of their gears.  Although a marvel of engineering, they do require a small investment of time to learn how to use them properly.  But using gears effectively is not what this blog is about (however the blogs listed below DO talk about such things).  Last week I took a page out of my work environment and did the following:

  1. I broke the riders into groups of three composed of 2-newbies and 1-experienced rider.
  2. I separated married couples into different groups (more on this later).
  3. My request was that each newbie explain to the other newbie how their gears worked on their bike (as if the other explainee-newbie was going borrow the explainer’s bike).
  4. After a couple of minutes they switched roles and the explainer became the explainee.
  5. The experienced rider was there to listen and provide additional information, corrections and encouragement.

Teaching Focuses the Mind

The result was that most of the newbies self-assessed their gear knowledge higher after the explanation than before.  Why, for the following reasons:

  • They had to actively recall past explanations and externalize the content and concepts.
  • Based on the recall, they had to match the explanations to what they were seeing.
  • There was a small amount of anxiety to get the explanation right.  This anxiety actually helps to better form memories.
  • Anxiety notwithstanding, the experienced rider represented a safety net.
  • The experience rider had to compare their own mental-model of how gears work into two different newbie explanations.  This conversion strengthen their own understanding of the gears.
  • I separated the couples because people who know each other very well can have a harder time communicating.  They use codes, shortened forms of speech, etc. that takes away from the effort to externalize and codify a complex topic (such as how bike gears work).

Giving Training the Gears

I use similar teaching methods at work when I need to train people.  Rather than standing around in a parking lot explaining bike gears, at work this is done through webinars and conference calls.  One of my ‘rules’ is that I actively encourage cheating on my exams. Thus, other audience members are encouraged to help the ‘trainer’ out. Because the audience knows they be asked next to provide an explanation, there is better attention and retention for the content.  I have learned a few cautions/guidelines though:

  • Always Build Up: This is not about ridiculing or embarrassing the person. Before asking the question, be reasonably assured the person can answer the question or be guided to the answer. Only use this technique (or select the person) if the person can feel more positive about themselves after they have done the activity.
  • Be Ready to Move On … QUICKLY: You may discover that you asked a person who simply does not know or is getting flustered by the attention.  If so, quickly move on so that person is not social embarrassed.  Moving on could include: providing lots of clues, going to someone else or changing the subject.
  • Gentle Humour Lubricates: use gentle and positive humour to help the situation. Be careful that the humour is not caustic or ridicules the person. A bit of self-depreciation works for me.
  • Mix Up the Couples: mix and match people who don’t know each other well.  This forces different levels of communication effort.
  • Bit Size the Learning: if possible, focus on only one to two key concepts in each session.  More than this will overload the person and create too much anxiety.
  • Summarize, Crystallize and Repeat the Learning: be sure to repeat the 2-5 key messages from the learning so that the memories can quickly form around these kernels. Memory and learning works best when there are mnemonic devices or conceptual construct to hang the details on.

Good luck with your efforts to train and explain in your organization.  Also, if you want to learn more about riding or how to use your gears, be sure to read:



2017 – EBTC Wrider Plan

I have a confession, I enjoy organizing riding events because I can’t subsequently talk myself out of the event if I need to run it.  In other words, it forces me to go on a bit of exercise without a handy excuse to back out at the last moment!

The following is my plan for the Edmonton Bicycle and Touring Club’s 2017 program.  It is here really as a reminder for myself and to help with the 2017 planning process and will involve the following events:

  1. Cranky’s Early Season Bike Event & Beginner Ride
  2. Wheeleasy Wriders
  3. Pigeon Lake Inner Loop
  4. Ad hoc Rides
  5. Old Home Target the Tour *NEW
  6. Call a Newbie *NEW
  7. Trip Leader Mentoring *NEW
  8. Grading the Grading (evaluating a proposed cycling grading system). *NEW
  9. MS Ride Marshall *NEW
  10. Some Links Worth Mentioning (and Clicking)

1. Cranky’s Early Season Bike Event & Beginner Ride

Event Title: Righty-Tighty, Lefty-ARRRGGGHHHHHH!

How is your bike looking?  Air long since left for a lower-pressure job?  Chain feeling a bit rusty?  Drive-train looks more like a Drive-Caboose?

If this describes your bike or if you are a ‘fix-a-phobic’ this 90 minutes is for you!

Andy Phelps from Crankys will cover the basic of bicycle repair.  During this session you will learn such basics as:

– How to quickly check your bike and realize that you REALLY should not go riding today.
– Why even more oil is a bad thing for a chain and how much is a good compromise.
– What are all those screws and gadgets on your circlely thing by the back wheel and when to turn them (and why you should leave well enough alone)

If at this point you are a MS Ride Repair Recluse, you can still come out and contribute.  We will pair the ‘terrified of all things mechanical’ with those who know the difference between a Robinson and a Philips screwdriver.

Send Frank an email at wriders@myorgbio.org (really a courtesy for the Crankys so they know how many donuts to buy).

If you do come out, be sure to also consider joining the “Where the H*** did I put my bike? – Early Ride” (see the calendar of events or the next EBTC email).

Event page on Bikeclub.ca:
April 1 Beginner Ride:
Crankys Website: http://crankys.ca/

Where the H*** did I put my bike? – Beginner Ride

I think I own a bike; ya, it is in the garage somewhere….

If you have a vague recollection that you once owned a bike and some fleeting memories that you even rode it last year, this ride is a way to shake out those cobwebs and start the 2017 season!

Or if you joined the bike club with things like the MS Bike Ride in your future, this is where you can meet EBTC’ers and start the journey to a saddle sores (I mean cycling joy!).  Registration not required, just show up and we will go.

Details are below.  Note that if you want to do a longer ride off of this trip (e.g. a loop to CFB Edmonton or a Villeneuve Ice Cream Run), reply all to this event and see if there is interest (and more importantly a trip leader to sign people up).

April 1: 0900-1030h – Crankys Bike Repair Refresher:
April 1 Beginner Ride:

2. Wheeleasy Wriders

This is a Thursday night program run from 6-7pm from April 27 to June 29 weather dependent.  The program will generally and intermittently follow the content described in the blog, the Art of Riding Bikes.

Weekly Wheeleasy Wrides! Huh, what is a WWW? It is always three rides in one. A beginner ride for those just getting started; an intermediate ride by playing Beat Frank; and a fun learn-about-cycling experience.  The details are as follows:

  • Meet at the Victoria Park Oval at 6pm (note, watch bikeclub.ca, EBTC-FaceBook and EBTC-email for changes in venue)
  • Depending on the wind direction we will do: Victoria Park & Environs
    We will be Wheels Wrolling at about 6:05pm.
  • The ride will be about an hour or twenty’ish KM in the river valley‎

3. Pigeon Lake Inner Loop

2076-06-17 – Pigeon Lake Ride – Pigeons, Putzs and Pleasures‏‏
10:00 – 17:00
The Pigeon Lake ride is a classic and there are two options!  The first is the outer loop run by Anne-Marie and the alternative is the inner loop lead by Frank Potter.  The following are the details.

Outer loop (Anne Marie)

About 60KM long on secondary highways and led by Anne-Marie Adachi aadachi@telus.net Pigeon Lake. Because of the remoteness and highway travel, this ride is rated as an intermediate ride; there is no cap for registration.  A road bike is ideal for this route.  Anne-Marie will provide a map and directions at the start of the ride.

Inner loop (Frank)

This is a GREAT RIDE  that takes you along cottage roads, provincial parks, a nasty highway and a few surprises.  We will be riding at a cruising pace which gives everyone a chance to chat, kibbutz and enjoy the promise of summer coming.  A hybrid bike is ideal, a road bike is okay and a mountain bike for the more fit can be used.  The route is ~60KM and about 40% is on hard packed gravel or trails.  There are not a lot of services en route.  We will stop in Ma-Me-O Beach but the shop there was closed last time.  As a result, please plan to pack sufficient fluids, a snack, etc. for the route.  By way of safety, please have a well maintained bike.  If you have a break down you could be waiting hours in a remote rural area for a rescue or a taxi from Wetaskwin.  There are few tricky corners so generally we ride as a group.  Those who want to add about 10 km are encouraged to play ‘beat-Frank’ on two designated sections.

Email Frank at wriders@myorgbio.org for more details and to claim your spot; please note that registration is caped at 15 riders.

Meet Up Details for Both Rides

We will meet at Mulhurst at 10am and will be wheels rolling by 1015h.  Mulhurst is on the east side of the lake an is accessible from Highway 2 and highway 616.  If you need an address for your GPS, use 5402 Lake Drive, Mulhurst Bay AB T0C 2C0 or see the attached map. *** CAUTION *** This address is NOT Correct in Google Maps.  We should return to Mulhurst between 2-4pm depending on the groups’ progress.    The inner loop’s return time is highly UNPREDICTABLE, please plan accordingly.Please park on the side streets, etc. but our actual departure point is the Cedar Crest Inn Restaurant & Lounge, 5402 Lake Drive, Mulhurst Bay AB T0C 2C0.  This is also were we will have a late lunch.  The food is pretty-good (bar food) and the terrace over looks the lake.  For more information, visit: www.cedarcrestinn.ca/home.htm.  Please note that they are generally expecting us but if you want to reserve a table as you are riding, be sure to call them at: (780) 389-2272.

4. Ad hoc Rides

Weather dependent, these will follow routes noted either on the Wriders Wride Wlog or perhaps some new adventures.

5. Old Home Target the Tour

NEW for 2017 – I will organize about 3-6 Target the Tour events but with a twist.  These will be in our old stomping grounds of Morinville and will follow the past Tour de l’Alberta routes.  The rides will be graded according to difficulty and the 50KM distances will be semi-supported (e.g. have a sweep, leader, maybe even Beat Frank!).

Note these will be supplemental to the traditional target the tour rides run by the club.

6. Call a Newbie

NEW for 2017 – I will commit to making about ~20-40 phone calls over the season to new members.  The calls will seek to accomplish the following:

  1. Welcome the member to the club and determine what are their personal goals and expectations for EBTC.  Direct the member to one or more rides applicable to their level.
  2. Follow up with some members (typically at the beginner level) after their first’ish ride to see if the club is meeting their expectations.
  3. Provide feedback, perhaps anonymously, to the executive from the above.  Use the above feedback to potentially change my program or influence EBTC’s programming

7. Trip Leader Mentoring

NEW for 2017 – Support new or perhaps unsure trip leaders in becoming more comfortable in their role.  This can be potentially through the following:

  • Attend the new trip leader training session.
  • Run early and mid trip leader check in rides.
  • Run one or two trip leader tune up and training rides.

8. Grading the Grading (evaluating a proposed cycling grading system)

NEW for 2017 – Evaluating a proposed cycling grading system and adapting it to EBTC as required.

9. MS Ride Marshall

New for 2017 – Not really a ride but something I want to keep track of.  I plan to be a ride marshal but I also plan to ride dead last sweep.  The reasons for taking on this role are as follows:

  • The emergency folks never know the last rider, when they see me – they will know the end of the course.
  • The end riders have a degree of comfort they are not been left behind.
  • There are fewer tires to change…. maybe.

10. Some key links are as follows:

On this Site:

External Sites

EBTC Volunteer of the Year

I found out this week that I was honoured with the Edmonton Bicycle and Touring Club‘s (EBTC) volunteer of the year for 2016. I would have found out eight weeks sooner had I read the email from the club president a bit more carefully.  Setting aside the dangerous of skimming emails, I thought I would take a moment to think about the bike club and how it has master the art of promoting its volunteers and also its mandate of hope.

A Club Sans Drama

It may be that I am blissfully shielded from such matters as a worker-bee-volunteer, but the EBTC is blessed with a lack of petty-drama.  That is small people making big deals out of inconsequential matters of little interest to anyone but themselves.  I have been in enough volunteer organizations to know how much of a blessing this is.  Nothing kills the volunteer spirit faster than inconsequential bickering.

Purpose, Affiliation and Experience – the Currencies of a Volunteer Experience

Next the club has nailed the three critical ways to pay volunteers: Purpose, Affiliation and Experience.  I described these in an earlier blog on volunteering – which funny enough was inspired by going to an EBTC brunch in 2013.

  • Purpose: This may seem easy but even for a club seemingly focused on one thing, cycling, it has its perils.  Does cycling mean racing, touring (supported or unsupported), the Tour de l’Alberta, training, mentoring, etc.  While never perfect, the club has reasonably been as many things to as many cyclists as possible without diluting or killing itself.
  • Affiliation: This is sense of belonging that starts with a purpose but requires people who fundamentally like each other enough to hang out.  Having a low-drama-quotient helps but implicit and explicit cultural rules are also is critical.  The club has managed to gently nudge would-be-drama-queens out the door while guiding others toward correct behaviour.
  • Experience: Finally the easiest one, experience.  hundreds of individual rides over a wide span of abilities is the foundation for the success of the club.  As important, members have opportunities to improve their riding skills through these events.

Hope – the Clubs Main Product

The merits described above are because of strong cultural traditions and an even stronger executive and a good ‘product‘:

The Edmonton Bicycle and Touring Club (EBTC) is a recreational not-for-profit volunteer-run group dedicated to facilitate its members to cooperatively run bicycling trips during the spring, summer and fall, cross-country skiing trips in the winter, and social events all year round. 

However, these are all based on a more profound product which is also germane to most volunteer organizations: HOPE.  Hope is when a strong rider wants to maintain or improve their skills. It may be an out of shape rider hoping to find her activity or a family seeking an activity sans phones and distractions.

EBTC and Spreading Hope to a Larger Community

The club is doing a great job at its core functions and with its current members.  Nevertheless, the following is a list of possible challenges for EBTC to take on to become not only a better club but also contribute to a better member of the YEG-community.  The risk, of course, of taking these on is that the club may drift from its core mandate.  The benefit of considering these (or other ideas) is that the club improves the purpose, affiliation and/or experiences EBTC can provide to its members.

  1. Family Centric Riding: Currently the club focuses on adult ridership.  While this makes sense from a logistical, risk and legal perspective – it does mean that the club relies of chance to cultivate new memberships rather than a pipeline that promotes from within.  Children are dangerous creatures for volunteer organizations but this may be where partnership with existing organizations (learn to ride, Scouting, etc.) may be easier than building EBTC’s own program.
  2. Lower-income Riding: how can the club help families and solo riders who can ill forward groceries let alone a good bike?  One method would be to encourage low cost bike maintainance or facilitating the sale or loan of bikes from members.
  3. Sharing the Land Riding: how can the club attract members of the first nation communities?  Rolling across a quiet road has some parallels to what a person may have experienced in times past.

Good Intentions and Execution

The above are food for thought and the only good idea is the executed idea.  This is where the club volunteers come in and once again I was honoured to be selected by my peers.  Hopefully time, energy, circumstances and good fortune will continue to allow me to volunteer.

Cycling on a Grade – Part II of II

In a previous post, I introduced Cycling on a Grade, a method to estimate the relative difficulty of a ride.  The primary factors for this first portion were ride distance and relative speed.

This blog addresses the secondary factors that make a ride difficult, things like elevation gain, weather, road conditions, etc.  Another blog will introduce ‘suspect math’ that will support scoring for these factors.  This blog introduces the factors (mostly to make sure none are missed or any are not needed) and provides the base or an ‘allowable’ number for each of the secondary factors.  For example, for each of the ride levels introduced in the first blog, an elevation value is provided.  This amount is the number of metres of elevation gain needed before the impact of an additional metre is considered.  The base simplifies the calculation somewhat but also recognizes that a rider who is at the red level should have little difficulty absorbing 500M of cumulative elevation gain.  But what about the 501st metre; when do secondary factors turns an otherwise ‘blue’ ride ‘red’ or a ‘red’ ride ‘black’?  This is where these secondary factors and their impact come in.

Primary and Secondary Factors

As noted above, there are 2 primary factors: distance and speed.  There are also 13 secondary factors which either contribute an absolute amount or an amount based on distance.  The following table lists all 15 factors, provides a brief description and a range of impacts on a ride.  The Parent field provides a grouping of like determinants, namely:

  • Route: relating to the area being traveled.  For example, distance, elevation or trail head.
  • Weather: the climatic conditions when the route is attempted.  For example wind, rain or temperature.
  • Cyclist: The abilities of the individual relative to the route and the conditions.  For example comfort riding unsupported or the quality of the bike owned.
Factor Parent Factor Description Notes
Distance Route Primary Total distance traveled from the trail head and returning to the starting point. Distance in km of the route.
Average Speed Route Primary The ride speed measured in km/h. Generally the faster the ride the more difficult it is.  Speed is used to calculate total ride time. Excludes breaks
Elevation Gain Route Secondary Elevation straddles the primary and secondary factors and is the cumulative number of metres of elevation gained less the base allowed per each level. Descent is not factored to simplify calculations and that the benefit of descent is seldom equal to the effort of ascent. Total metres climbed less base.
High Grade Distance Route Secondary In addition to elevation gain, the number of metres of distance traveled over a grade greater than 12%.  This is included to recognize that significant climbs adds to the difficulty of a ride.  The distance of the maximum grade must be at least 250M.

If a precise calculation is not possible add 100 points to each significant climb (e.g. > 12%) longer than 250m.

Likely calculated in increments of 250M with the actual grade factored in.
Route Quality Route The quality of a route impacts its relative difficulty.  A smooth ride on relatively new asphalt is much less difficult then the same ride on loose gravel. Quality of road surface:
0=Smooth Ashphalt
1=up to 2″ Cracks, some gravel
2=50/50 Gravel asphalt
3=Hardpacked Gravel
4=Loose Gravel/Rock
This measure reflects the worst section at least 5km or 10% of the ride.
Traffic Route Traffic and road surface greatly increases the level of attention needed to ride and thus its fatigue.
0=Quiet trail, no traffic
1=Quiet City street or bike lane
2=Busy City street, no lane
4=Busy Highway, shoulder
6=Busy Highway, no shoulder
This measure reflects the worst section of least 5km or 10% of the ride.
Trail Head Route The distance needed to travel to the start of the ride contributes fatigue.  Thus driving for three hours and then riding two hours is more challenging that the same two-hour ride out of one’s own front door.  This factor is based on the distance from YEG city centre (or hub if on tour) expressed in hours driving less a base. Minutes of driving time less 100 minutes from the YEG city Centre.
Route Finding Route Route finding adds to the relative effort of a ride.  Notwithstanding backtracking and ‘long-way-rounds’, checking the map against landmarks requires effort and skill.   Route finding expectations:
0=No route finding needed, signed tour or group ride in familiar area.
1=Group ride in unfamiliar area with experience guide.
2=Map of roads
3=Map of trails, off-road
4=Ad hoc route finding in natural area
Applies to the portion of the distance for which the route finding is relevant.
Wind (steady) Weather  Air resistance has a greater impact on a rider than rolling resistance and thus wind is the bane of the cyclist.  A tail wind is welcome but does not come close to compensating for a steady cross or head wind.  As a result, one third of the wind velocity is taken as the contributing factor and added to score of a ride. Wind (W) in km/h, less base (Wb) amount X Ride hours (R) divided by 3
Precipitation Weather  Riding in the rain is disheartening.  Beyond the psychological drag, it also wrecks havoc with drive trains and can add weight to clothing and gear.  precipitation:
0=None or light showers
1= > 50% time light showers
2=Steady light rain
3=Steady rain / light snow
4=Heavy rain/snow
This is applied to the worst weather lasting for a duration of at least 25% of the ride.
Temperature The Goldilocks temperature differs for most people but is generally within an ideal riding range of 5-25C.  Colder than this can result in numb fingers and toes.  Warmer temperatures leads to excessive sweating, high fluid needs and exhaustion.  The ideal ride temperature for an EBTC ride is set at 15C.
Equipment Beyond a bike, having to take equipment on a ride adds weight, requires higher levels of skill on the part of the rider and imposes a psychological cost.
0= < 5km from start/transport
1= Local transportation is available (bus, train, taxi)
2= Sag wagon provided
3= Self supported, group ride
4= Self Support, solo ride with significant (>20km) distance from aide.
 Applies to both single day and multi/ overnight rides.
Repair Knowledge

Equipment must have a score > 2 before this is a factor.

Degree of expected technical knowledge in case of bike malfunction.
0. Ready access to transportation (e.g. bus, train, SAG wagon) in case of incident.
1. Riding with a group that has experience repairing most minor problems (e.g. flat, small adjustments, etc.).
2. Riding solo or with an inexperienced group.
Similar to food, this factor seldom has an impact because of the typical proximity of rescue means, available repair knowledge and the fact that most beginner riders are oblivious to the needs to conduct repairs.
Food Stuffing a few granola bars into a map pocket or buying a chocolate bar at one of a number of gas stations is one thing.  Carrying a day or more food is another matter.  Food:
0. Partial day ride and/or food is readily available en route for purchase.
1. Full day ride with limited or no purchase options.
3. Multi-day ride with limited or no purchase options.
 This factor seldom has influence except for rides in remote areas.

But What Are They Worth?

The next blog will discuss the algorithms for each of the above.  Prior to going down a rabbit hole of cartesian factors a more important consideration is whether the right secondary factors are being considered.  Drop me a note or a comment on the above factors.  Have I missed a big one, included some questionable ones or are the above really irrelevant when planning a ride for a club?

Cycling on a Grade – Part I of II

One of the challenges of leading cycling trips or belonging to a club is describing how difficult a ride is.  Someone you have never met asks: “Do you think I can do this ride?”  A difficult question to answer given one would need to know the individual’s abilities, the condition of their bike as compared to the route planned.

There are rubrics that attempt to do this.  While I have not looked at them exhaustively (and some are listed below), in general they suffer from the same problem – they are written for cyclists who can already ride well.  In other words, for a middle-age out-of-shape newbie, knowing that another 500 Metres of elevation on a 160KM ride will add 2KM of distance is irrelevant.  What is relevant, is whether that person could survive a 40KM ride if they barely completed a 20KM ride.

Cycling on a Gradient

To attempt to address this, I am proposing a Cycling Grading chart.  It is composed of two parts.  Firstly, it has a colour coded series of rides inspired from skiing.  At the beginning is the baby-bunny – a ride suitable for a young child.  At the top is the Pro which includes a distance of two full centuries (320KM).  In between is the rest of us.

Steps of the Cycling Gradient

Steps of the Cycling Gradient

The level is the relative ranking (starting at the baby bunny and going from there).  The numeric values represent the primary factors under optimal conditions:

  • Distance: how many kilometres the ride is.
  • Score: the relative ranking at this point. Note that generally the light score is about 1/4 of the next colour band’s score (e.g. Green-Light is 80 or about 25% of Blue-Light).
  • Speed: the expected average velocity over the duration of the ride.
  • Hours: the number of hours in the saddle.  Generally Green and Blue rides are half days; Reds start into the full’ish days and then one gets into the full day Black rides.
  • Climb: the cumulative elevation gain in metres that is expected (and therefore not counted) within in a ride.
  • Notes: some general comments for those thinking of riding.

The second part, and the subject of the next blog – Part II, is a series of factors that determines where a particular ride will land.  The usual suspects will be there: distance, elevation and wind.  I have added a few more factors that affect the speed or mental well-being of a cyclist – particularly an inexperienced rider.  For example, a 20KM ride on a quiet trail is not nearly as exhausting as the same ride on a busy highway.

The Effort Curve

At the heart of this model is the effort curve shown below.  To the casual reader this would seem to be a data driven mathematical construct – it is not.  Instead it is my guess-tamation of how difficult a ride is relative to the starting point – the baby-bunny. From the table introduced above, the distances are under optimal conditions.  The reason the curve is not linear is that a person struggling to ride 20KM under ideal conditions does not struggle 50% more to ride 30KM; they struggle A LOT MORE.  The formulas for the curve is provided as part of the graphic and all that I ask is that you don’t laugh at my math.

Uses for the Cycling Gradient

This is not a precise tool (although I do believe that people smarter than me could make is ‘less unprecise’); instead this is a contextual tool.  If you are running a ride in a club and you want to describe how difficult it will be, it does that fairly well.  It should be noted that the scale works better going up then down.  For example, a rider may have to work hard going from Green to Blue rides.  However, a rider comfortable in the Red Zone may find both of them ridiculously easy.

Cycling Gradient Curve

Cycling Gradient Curve

In communicating my rides I plan to rate them on this scale.  I will use the algorithm to get an approximate sounding of the ride relative to the scale.  From there, I will use judgement as to whether the ride is easier (e.g. less blue – more greenish) or harder.  Hopefully in time and use, a consensus will form such that there is more or less generally agreement that this ride is a solid dark green – unless there is wind, rain, heavy traffic, etc.

Other Gradients Found

A non-exhaustive list of other gradients can be found below.  They have been selected as much by stumbling on them in Google then be any definitive analysis.  Feel free to comment and add your preferred measure that you have found useful.



Effect of hills on cycling effort


We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Gears

This week I ran a cycling program for my bike club called: “We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Gears“.  I have talked about gears and cycling for a number of years but this is the first time I pulled together a program that dealt with the topic en masse.

Audience and Do we Need Another Post?

A quick Google search indicates more than 500,000 hits on this topic – so why another post?  Firstly as a reminder for me when I do this instruction in person.  Secondly because the audience for this post is the person who is keen to learn but is trailing behind in a 20KM ride and the thought of riding 50KM seems absolutely daunting.

As always, if you have improvements (e.g. Phrank has no idea what he is talking about, don’t listen to him), comment away!  As well, take a read of the 500,000 or so other resources on the internet; including some of the better ones I stumbled across, see the conclusion section below.

The Big Gear is Connected to the Little Gear

Bikes typically have two sets of gears: front and back.  The front one is called the crank or the chain rings and the rear one is the cassette.  The numbers of gears vary: 2-3 front rings 5-9 cassette rings are common.  Looked at on angle, both sets of gears look like a cone with the top loped off.  The front one has more lopping and a wider base and the rear one less so on both accounts.

The little gear on the crank is the first gear or number 1 with the reverse for the cassette.  From there the numbers ascend until you run out of gears to count (e.g. 3 on the crank and 9 on the cassette).  The chain connects the front and the back and transmits the power.

You Can Count on Your Gears

If you look at a bike, the first gear in the front, the small one, is closer to the bike.  From there the second and third are further away from the bike.  Just like in a car, a first gear is good for climbing hills.  Similarly, the first gear on the rear is also number 1 and it is also good for climbing hills.

Here is the tricky bit, watch carefully….

If you look at the rear cassette the cone is reversed or inverted from the front.  That is the big gear is close to the rim and the small (first) gear is furthest away from the bike.  This gives the bike its mechanical advantage.  For example, if you divide the number of teeth of the front gear by the number in the back you get a ratio of roughly how many fully pedal strokes it takes to turn the rear cassette once.  The following graphic does a better job of showing this ratio.  Assuming this configuration exists, for every turn of the front crank, the rear hub would turn somewhere between 0.8 and 4.0 times.

Mecahnical Advantage of a 3 ring crank X a 9 ring cassette.

mechanical Advantage of a 3 ring crank X a 9 ring cassette.  This gear configuration is for illustrative purposes only, your gear ratios will likely vary from the above.

The Missing Gears

The good news is that you paid extra for that 27 speed bike… the bad news, using all 27 is inadvisable.  Chains like to run in rings that are mostly parallel to each other.  They can handle a bit of an angle but not too much.  A cross geared bike will not only wear faster but is more susceptible for the chain jumping from one ring to another.  This is why it is important to get used to shifting through both the front and rear gears – so you can maximize the 27 gear POTENTIAL of your bike.

Proper and Cross Chain gearing. Image courtesy of REI.com.

Proper and Cross Chain gearing. Image courtesy of REI.com.

Cadence, Torque and a Little Downstroke will Do Ya

In an early blog, The Art of Riding Bikes, there is a discussion of the importance of cadence over torque.  Torque is the big strong guy grinding up the hill.  Cadence is the 90lbs lady passing him on the hill pedalling in a seemingly effortless manner.

You do need to apply torque to the pedal, some force is needed.  The analogy I use is: ‘apply as much force to the pedal as you would to a soccer ball being kicked to a two-year-old’.  Now, unless you like kicking balls hard at small children, this means a relatively light amount of effort.

Because the effort is less, something needs to compensate to provide power to the bike – this is where cadence and gears come in.  Try to keep your cycle strokes the same with a consistent force allowing the gears to compensate for the terrain or wind.  How many strokes?  Aim for anything between about 70-120 per minute with an ideal of about 90.  Your legs will tell you if you have too many revolutions per minute or if you can add a few more to the mix.

Put the Peddle to the … Little Metal Thing on your Cycling Shoe

The peddles are how we convert the up and down motion of your legs to the circular motion of the gears.  What is the best pedal to use, the answer is one you are comfortable with.  Before you stick to the tried and true flat pedal (available on kids bikes everywhere), to think about and consider adding toe clips, baskets or cycling cleats to your pedal ensemble.  They will help you transmit more energy with very little or no additional effort on your part.

At this point in the discussion I usually get dubious looks about attaching a bike to the bottom of one’s shoe.  To start, you will probably fall over due to unclipping at least once (ish) and it will take practice.  Some very good riders I know have forsaken the clip and they do fine.  A basket or cleat will take you further but you have to comfortable and trusting in the relationship.

A Shift in Cycling Style

Putting all of the above together takes practice.  Shifting needs to become simple muscle memory that you no longer think about.  To do this you need to get on the bike and start riding and shifting through the gears – both the front and the rear.  On a flat stretch, consciously practice working from the first gear front/back to the highest gears (e.g. 3/9) in the rear.

By becoming comfortable with shifting you can then better anticipate and be shifting up or down an instant or two before you need to.  By doing so, you can maintain that constant cadence and torque discussed above which in turns allows you to cycle for longer time periods and thus distances.

Alas you will run out of gears on some future hill that is a bit too steep.  At this point you have one of three choices.  Firstly get off and walk.  Due to a missed gear, a steep hill or other reasons (my dog ate my homework and so I had to walk my bike); sometimes the walk is the best answer.

Your second option is to traverse the hill.  Assuming the path way is wide enough, cut an angle back and forth across the hill rather than straight up it.  This will add some distance but cut down the angle of attack.

Send Your Nether-regions a Post

The final hill climbing technique is the post.  This is where you stand in the pedals and lift your tender bits off of the seat.  As an added bonus, the method also allows for blood to return to the pelvic floor thus reducing the discomfort of a allow a saddle to come in contact with your No-Sunshine Zones.  Posting is a short-term solution as you are switching from low-torque-high-cadence model to a high-torque-low-torque model.

Conclusion, Further Reading and Good Links

Once again, this post is meant to be used as a memory jog for me and a learning aid for the people I am standing in front of.  If you want to learn more, the internet has a plethora of material including posts that are a lot more technically accurate than the above (including strange algebraic symbols).

See you on the road!


I ripped off their graphic so the least I can do is point out an excellent article on their website: https://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/bike-gears-and-shifting.html

Coach Levi

Very good article cover many of the same topics as in the blog:


When in doubt, what have the wiki’ites to say about the topic:

Still More Links!

Bike Gears: How Do They Work


Are you using your bike’s gears efficiently?

Gearing 101 Tutorial: A bit technical and much more detail then the above.  http://www.cyclingsite.com/lists_articles/gearing_101.htm



SCRUBBED!  – For Safety Reasons, this session has been cancelled

This is the third of about twelve snowshoe events I will be running for EBTC.  The weather forecast is VERY WARM, -1C with light winds.

The Objective

  • Snowshoeing on a variety of terrains including through the trees.
  • How did the snowshoer crossed the road? (Answer, carefully).
  • Enjoy the legislature lights before they are taken down; bring your camera!

Where are We Going and How to Get Back

  • Meet at the skate shack at the SOUTH end of the legislature grounds (look for an ATCO trailer topped by a giant snowman); if you need an address try: 9515 – 107th Street Edmonton.
  • We will remain on the south lawns of the legislature grounds, don’t worry though – lots of adventure awaits!
South Legislature Grounds

South Legislature Grounds

What to Take

  • Snowshoes (duh!) and poles (optional).
  • Clothing appropriate to the weather.  Noting that I tend to run hot, I am plan to wear/bring:
    • Hiking boots
    • Lightly insulated shell pants
    • Long sleeve cycling jersey and a cycling shell (shell is shelved fairly quickly)
    • Fleece neck warmer
    • Cycling beanie and/or a baseball cap
    • Full fingered cycling gloves
  • Headlamp (generally these will be off but just in case we need them).
  • Backpack to carry/stow clothing
  • 0.5 – 1.0 litre of water

Books, Where to Buy and Other Resources:

EBTC – 2016-01-19 – Counter Revolutionary Snow Shoeing

This is the second of about twelve snowshoe events I will be running for EBTC.  The weather forecast is great -11C with light winds.

The Objective

  • Fumble and stumble through setting up potentially new equipment for the first time.
  • For absolute newbies, get used to the experience of walking on big aluminium boots.
  • Evaluate how much/little clothing is needed relative to the weather and physical exertion.
  • Practice basic hill skills including traversing a slope.

Where are We Going and How to Get Back

  • Victoria Park, meet in the parking lot for a 6:15pm start.
  • We will be walking on the skate part of the groomed cross-country ski trails in addition to going off trail a bit.

What to Take

  • Snowshoes (duh!) and poles (optional).
  • Clothing appropriate to the weather.  Noting that I tend to run hot, I am plan to wear/bring:
    • Hiking boots
    • Lightly insulated shell pants
    • Long sleeve cycling jersey and a cycling shell (shell is shelved fairly quickly)
    • Fleece neck warmer
    • Cycling beanie and/or a baseball cap
    • Full fingered cycling gloves
  • Headlamp (generally these will be off but just in case we need them).
  • Backpack to carry/stow clothing
  • 0.5 – 1.0 litre of water

Books, Where to Buy and Other Resources:

S(p)in City – Cycling Vegas: Hoover Dam and the Loop

Visiting Hoover Dam has been on my bucket list for a long time.  In fact, after visiting Vegas in 2010, I said that I have only two reasons to ever return: visit the dam and hike the desert.  On this ride I got 50% of my reasons to return.

Blogs and Key Links

Staging Point – Equestrian

Located near the Clark County Museum (a reference only fans of Pawn Stars would get); this is a large parking area in the 8-o’clock position of the River Mountains Loop Trail.  As it turns out, it is also a relatively high spot on the trail (635m) given the descent we experienced and the grinding ascent later in the day.

2014-10-31 - Equestrian Staging Area

2014-10-31 – Equestrian Staging Area

Descent Into Boulder and the Dam Ride

Riding clockwise along the River Mountain Loop, our general direction was toward Boulder Nevada.  The descent into the Hoover Dam saw a loss of more than 150M down to 387M at the top of the Dam.  En route, a section of the trail doubled as a flash flood spill way (aka skate-board turn pike).

2014-10-31 - Descent into the Hoover Dam via the spill way (aka turnpike)

2014-10-31 – Descent into the Hoover Dam via the spill way (aka turnpike)

The actual descent toward the dam included by-passing the new bridge, clearing a security check point and seeing the US-federal government fineness pull over a seemingly innocent looking car.  Both the ride and K-9 units were quite exciting.

2014-10-31 - The New Bridge

2014-10-31 – The New Bridge

2014-10-31 - Descent and the K-9 Unit

2014-10-31 – Descent and the K-9 Unit

2014-10-31 - From the Arizona Side

2014-10-31 – From the Arizona Side

Ascent Out of the Dam – the Climbing Begins

For every descent, there is usually an ascent; and despite delaying at dam level, we began to make our way up again.  Fortunately a parking garage and elevator shaved five-stories of climbing off of our return to the River Mountain Loop.  Unfortunately the rest was either ride or push; including the initial ramp from the parking garage to the Tunnels Trail.

2014-10-31 - Start of Tunnels Trail

2014-10-31 – Start of Tunnels Trail

Historic Railroad Tunnel Trail

According to its website, the Historic Railroad Tunnel Trail:

… the gravel Historic Railroad Tunnel Trail hugs the hills on the southern shoreline of vast Lake Mead. The rail-trail offers panoramic views of the manmade lake and snakes through five railroad tunnels on its way toward Hoover Dam.  After the dam was completed in 1935, the railroad ceased operation, and in 1962 the tracks were removed; the trail opened in 1995.

Riding on the rail way bed was fun but we were glad to be descending rather than trying to climb through the loose gravel.  Five tunnels give a brief respite from the heat and vistas down to Lake Mead were around most corners.

2014-10-31 - Leaving one Tunnel and Starting Another

2014-10-31 – Leaving one Tunnel and Starting Another

A quick snack at the campground just off the River Mountain Loop Trail brighten our spirits, fluids and energy levels.  Little did we know how much we would need of all three over the next few hours.

2014-10-31 - Lake Mead from the Campground

2014-10-31 – Lake Mead from the Campground

River Mountain Loop Trail

After the campground, civilization quickly fell away (well except for the excellent asphalt trail we were riding on) to be replaced by desert vistas and rocks.  Also making its presence known were long hill climbs up and out of the Lake Mead valley.  Making the effort more challenging were the +30C temperatures which saw water being sweated out faster than it could be consumed.

2014-10-31 - The Desert and the Ascent

2014-10-31 – The Desert and the Ascent

Completing the River Mountains Loop Trail

Six hours, about 4 litres of water and 74+ km later, we returned to our starting point.  Dehydrated and exhausted – we still had enough energy to hit the Vegas strip during a very crazy Halloween Night.  Supper at Gordan Ramsay’s Burgr Bar and stroll afterwards capped off an excellent day of riding and bucket list kicking!

RTC - Bike Map - detail of Day 1

RTC – Bike Map – detail of Day 1

2014-10-31 - Lake Mead Overview

2014-10-31 – Lake Mead Overview

S(p)in City – Cycling Vegas: an overview

I started writing trip logs (a much more manly term than scrap booking) on adventures about 20 years ago.  I have tried a few different formats such as a log book, word document, and a desk top publishing tool.  Given that I have yet to re-read many of the trip logs, perhaps a blog is way to go as a method to remember where I have been and what I did once I was there.

By way of a note to myself, because this blog will be available on the www (including to spammers and nasty people who visit my site); I have purged most personal details and tried not to post too many pictures showing faces, focusing on landscapes instead.  Look to Facebook and secure to see more personal content.

With these caveats in place, here it goes, my first blog-trip-log!

Cycling Vegas – an Overview

Las Vegas, sin city is also Spin City.  Unknown to many visitors, Las Vegas and environs is a cycling destination. Beyond the Strip, bike lines, canyons, the Hoover Dam and desert vistas await. The Edmonton Bicycle and Touring Club (EBTC) ran a 5 day event that combined 3 days of riding and a bit of what Las Vegas is best known for. The trip left on October 30, 2014 with a November 3 return.  Using a hub/spoke model from the Green Valley Ranch in Henderson Nevada (GVR), this trip was an intermediate ride meaning a moderate level of physical condition and cycling experience.

The trip details are available and Frank’s Packing List – Vegas 2014 for the trip are provided (mostly) for my future reference and so I don’t need to go and find that lost log book of adventures.

Blogs and Key Links

Getting There

Billed as an EBTC ride, (un)fortunately, only the two organizers, Frank and G., signed up.  They travelled to Las Vegas via West Jet on October 30 and picked up their rental van.  As a turns out, the Dodge Caravan was a great investment as it both permitted transportation and a safe place to stow the rented bikes.

A great place to stow bikes and cruise the Vegas strip.

A great place to stow bikes and cruise the Vegas strip.

The bikes were were rented from J.T.’s Bicycles in Henderson Nevada at a cost of about $150USD for each – which included an emergency repair kit (tube, multi tool, C02 pump) and putting on the pedals and saddles that we had brought with us.

2014-11-02 - Our Trusty Steads

2014-11-02 – Our Trusty Steads

Both G. and I liked the bikes although the smaller frame and bent handle bars took some getting used to on my part.  I was hoping for a third granny gear on the front sprocket for hill climbing but was this was not available.  As a result, G’s powerful lungs carried him to the top of the ascents where as I huffed and puffed my way up, typically having to traverse the trail or road to reduce the hill slope.

With bikes, a van to store them and place to sleep (read on for my Tripadvisor.com review of GVR) – we were ready for our first day of adventure, Hoover Dam.  But where to cycle, time for a quick overview of riding in Vegas.

Riding in Vegas – An Overview

There are a LOT of bike and shared trails in and around metro Las Vegas.  I looked for an exact number (and could not find it) but did discover, there are lots.  This trip focus on three different sections of these trails: River Mountain Loop, Red Rock Canyon and the Wetlands/Lake Las Vegas.

Three Cycling Days - 2014 Las Vegas

Three Cycling Days – 2014 Las Vegas

G and I rode primarily in the eastern portion of the metro-Vegas area with the exception of Day 2, Red Rock Canyon.  There are still lots of the bike trails to explore including numerous Rail to Trail routes.  It looks like my bucket list just go bigger!

Day/Date Ride Distance and Elevation
Day 1: October 31 Hoover Dam and the Loop 74 – kilometres
6:19 hours
4,014 feet of gained elevation
Day 2: November 1 Red Rock Canyon 27 – kilometres
2:21 hours
1,859 feet of gained elevation
Day 3:November 2 Wetlands and Lake Las Vegas 68 – kilometres
5:24 hours
2,569 feet of gained elevation
Totals 169 – kilometres
14:04 hours
8,442 feet of gained elevation

OK priced, clean, safe and very far sans auto

Trip Advisor review of Green Valley Ranch
I stayed at GVR for a 3-day bicycling holiday over the 2014 Halloween weekend; so yes, there is more to do in Las Vegas than gamble away your kid’s college fund. Assuming that you have a vehicle or that you plan to spend the entire trip depleting your child’s educational future, GVR is a good location for accessing points throughout Las Vegas due to the proximity of the freeways.
The hotel was clean and grand in that Las Vegas faux reality sort of way. The staff were all friendly with nary a grump in the bunch (even the tie and jacket security guys would give you a nod hello). The pool would keep the kids entertained for a few days and there is a small garden beyond the pool in which the freeway noise is only a low throbbing. I did not see any signs of soccer, a playground set or the like – so other than the pool, GVR is at best neutral on the kid friendliness scale.
Keep this scale in mind if you don’t have a rental car because you are otherwise kinda stuck at GVR. There are some high-end shops nearby but the expect to cab, drive (or bicycle) to a nearby non-trendy grocery or drug store.
In side the casino there is a food court that seems surprisingly over priced. The buffet is a good value, at least for the two breakfasts we head there. $8 for all you can eat with a good variety and quality short beats a $20 cab ride for a box of corn flakes.
Overall, GVR seems to occupy the market space between the fancy strip hotels and the low-mid econo-casinos that dot Vegas.
Overall, I rate it “OK priced, clean, safe and very far sans auto”.
Stayed November 2014, travelled with friends

How to Beat Frank (and Everyone Wins… Even Frank)

This is a cycling blog that also has a leadership lesson.  ‘Beat Frank’ is a solution to the problem of keeping a cycling group together when it has disparate fitness and speed levels.  Or, more generically, leading a team with different abilities while maintaining group cohesion and supporting individual goals.  Or, more historically, how do you prevent the chubby Scout from getting discouraged and the fit Scouts from getting bored?

Lessons from Chubby

You see, Beat Frank was born about 20 years ago back when I was actively involved in Scouting.  Here is a typical scenario, you are out for a Saturday hike with your troop composed of ~20 or so boys (later boys and girls).  They ranged in age of just barely eleven to nearly fifteen.  Some of the boys were athletic and some were decidedly not.

Boys being boys, the fourteen-year-olds would race ahead, the eleven-year-olds would try to keep up and the chubby kid would plod along in the back.  When poor Chubby got to a rest point, the fourteen-year-olds would declare ‘ITS ABOUT TIME’ and immediately take off with eleven-year-olds in tow.  The older and fitter boys were constantly resting while poor Chubby, the one who needed the break the most, was constantly plodding without respite.

Over time, Saturday hikes lost their appeal.  The fit Scouts would describe them as being ‘boring’ because they were constantly waiting.  Chubby saw them as torture and got discouraged.  The opportunities to lead, teach and develop the Scouts through a Saturday hike were lost.

Learning from Chubby

Funny enough, I sometimes found the same thing cycling with adults.  I remember one particular group in which some twenty-something guys and gals were grumbling having to wait for the fifty-something laggers.  The source of their grumbling was that the twenty-somethings were getting cold and bored waiting.  In the meantime the fifty+ were riding way over their comfort level and getting discouraged.

Beat Frank is Born!

From both experiences, I refined a game called of ‘Beat Frank’.  Here is how it works.  On a set course, the group naturally separates into the Fitties, the core group and the Frank .  The Fitties go like hell to a turn around point.  For cycling, ideally this is at least 5KM ahead and is fairly obvious (e.g. the first stop sign, t-intersection, etc.).  When the Fitties get to that point, they turn around and return whence they have come.  Once they have passed the last member of the group – typically me (the Frank) – they turn around and give chase.

I ask them to give me head start (this amount varies but ideally at least a minute or up to 50% of the difference between the turn around point and when they have passed me).  Once the first Fitties passes me, I speed up, pass as many of the core group as I can and race the Fitties to the turn around point.

The final part of ‘beating Frank’ does not involve a Frank but instead is a competition between the Fitties to see who has racked up the most clicks on the route.  So while I might have cycled a distance of 50KM, the most fit may have ridden 60 or 70KM.  The result is rather than waiting  5, 10 or sometimes 20 minutes for the group to catch up; the Fitties, the core and the Frank all get to the turn-around/collection within about 2 minutes of each other.  Thus the group stays together, the core group rides to their ability and the Fitties get a great work out.

Different Names – Same Game

In Scouting, the name varied and evolved.  Generally though the Fitties were tasked to run ahead and come back with ‘Scouting Reports’.  The fifteen and eleven-years old in tow would run back and forth screaming and having great fun… while increasing the distance they traveled.  Chubby was now the intelligence Scout; he was expected to listen to the reports and report what he had heard to the group once it had assembled.  Often the intelligence scout had observations about the hike that the faster kids had missed while running around like mad.  Everyone had a role to play that appealed to their strengths and with a result that achieved the learning objectives.

In Scouting and cycling, the competition and cooperation created greater group cohesion and a better experience.  The fast Scouts had a good run and then heard a summary of what they observed or what they missed but was seen by the slower kids plodding along. The cycling adults cheered on the Frank or the fast cyclists to the finish line.

Beyond Chubby and Cycling

Beyond the Scout Troop or cycling trip, I believe that there is a lesson here for organizations.  Too often organizations either leave behind their chubbies or hobble their fast cyclists in an effort to create organizational harmony.  This ‘tyranny of mediocrity’ satisfies no one and fails everybody.  By taking a bit of time and a bit of structure to find a role for everyone and at their own pace – the organization, Scout Troop or cycling trip can have a better experience.

Thus by Beating Frank, everyone wins – especially Frank.

The author, his cycling physique which is why he likes to play 'Beat-Frank'

The author, his cycling physique which is why he likes to play ‘Beat-Frank’

The Art of Riding Bikes

Full Disclaimer: I am not an expert on cycling.  I have never raced, mountain biking seems like too much bother and I don’t ride in -40C.  Nevertheless, I am passionate about cycling because it has allowed me to see things and meet people in contexts that generally promote conversations, beer drinking and long-term memories (okay, the last two sometimes clash).  Before reading on, insert the standard caveats about checking with a physician before starting a physical exercise program.  This blog is not intended to replace medical advice.  Use at your discretion and always employ common sense.

I like to share this passion and this Spring I am running a how to ride program entitled the Westend Wriders.  One individual from the program asked the question about whether she bought the right bike and why she seems to be so slow.  I responded in email but to help to thwart the eventual hardening of the brain cells (too much cycling and eventual beer drinking), I thought I would throw the advice out here to for public consumption.  If you are a super-duper expert on bikes, feel free to weigh in (but please correct me gentle).

The Three Things to Keeping Up with the Group

Riding with a club gives you a chance to see the super-duper triathlon types and the newbies who simply want to keep up.  This advice is more for the newbie in which 40km seems daunting and 80km or more seems impossible. So, to keep up with the group you need to focus on three things: physical conditioning, equipment and technique.

Physical Conditioning

Guess what triathletes, you have this one nailed!  In the other corner are folks like me who discovered a winter bulge where one did not exist last fall (or at least I was better at ignoring it).  To ride with a group, the better fitness level the better but most people who can walk for a few hours, climb moderate hills, etc. can do well on short to moderate (40-80km’ish) rides.  So even if you have mystery winter bulges, carry on to the next two things.

Well Maintained Equipment

To bicycle you need, well, a bicycle.  Myself I tend toward the touring hybrid variety as I like to carry stuff in panniers (saddle bags), water bottles accessible while riding and fenders for my commuting bikes.  Like anything in life, the more you spend, the better quality you get and the less you will experience in break downs, etc. A reasonable starting price for a new hybrid is about $500 and a good one can be had for the $750-1,000 mark. If you are now experiencing sticker shock, remember how much a golfer pays for a good set of clubs. As for where to buy, MEC is a good starting point or any local bike shops (a plug for my local shop, Crankys in St. Albert). My experience is avoid department stores, chains or anywhere where the mechanic looks like a high school student working part-time.

Alternatively buy a very good used bike.  Pay a bit of premium by buying it through a reputable bike shop or a club sponsored bike swap, such as this one – bike swaps.

A word of caution though, bikes are like mushrooms, before you know it your one bike will soon be 2, 3 or more!

Buying the bike is only the beginning, maintaining it is even more important. Bikes are remarkable bits of machinery, they can be forgiving but when the fail – they generally do so as far from home as possible.  As a result having some basic knowledge is critical. In particular you should know how to: change both tires (front and back), wash your bike, clean and lubricate a chain and do basic lubrication of the bike. Adjustments, bearings, etc. I leave to my friendly bike shop.  If you are like my wife, you can also leave everything to your husband.

Where do you learn these skills, back to joining a club, taking part in a cycling 101 such as the one offered by the Edmonton Bicycle and Touring Club, Westend Wriders and talking to people who pretend they know things about cycling (like me!).

Six Central Techniques

Okay, you are at least minimally fit and you spent your kids college funds on a new bike – now you can keep up, right?  Maybe but probably not.  Cyclists are generally a lazy lot who like to get places while spending as little energy of their own energy as possible (and looking dazzling in spandex).  As a result, the following six techniques are critical.

Technique number one, cycling is about RPMS, not torque.  You may have seen the big guy grinding his way up a hill while a petite young lady zips past him.  If you have, you have seen the difference between revolutions per minute and torque.  When riding, you want to ideally be spinning the pedals at the same cadence (revolutions per minute) and with the same effort (light, think of gently kicking a soccer ball to a 3-year old) whether you are on the flat, the up or the down hill.  To do this, you must know how to use your gears so that your cadence and torque can remain consistent.

Technique number two – be kind to your delicate bits.  Get a comfortable saddle, riding shorts and then take the time to let your more delicate parts get used to it.  ‘Time in saddle’ is something you have to do each and every cycling season.

Technique number three – Learn to post.  Post means getting up on the pedals and riding for a distance with your delicates hovering over the instrument of torture.  Posting a few times an hour (or thereabouts) allows the blood to flow back to the pelvic floor and other nether-regions (not to be confused with the Netherlands).

Technique number four – pedal baskets or shoes.  There is only one point of energy transfer between you and the bike – the pedal.  The conventional pedal is a mediocre connection device as most of the force is only spent in the 1 to 5 o’clock position of the down stroke.  With baskets, shoes, etc, the energy transfer is possible through the entire rotation.  As a bonus, posting is alot easier with your feet attached to the pedals.

Technique number five – jettison weight.  I have to admit, I have a hard time with this one as I like to carry tools, extra water, a snack, a second camera, clothing (well you get the idea).  Unfortunately every gram of weight has to be paid for by your effort.  If you can leave stuff (and winter-bulges) behind.

Technique number six – Hydration and Nutrition.  Thanks to Joe who provided the advise below.  My own rule of thumb is to only snack on rides (e.g. no big lunches) and lots of fluids.  Joe’s advice is even more targeted:

Proper hydration and nutrition come into play long before you get thirsty or hungry. Start when you leave the parking lot and take a sip every 15 minutes, consider a quality sports drink or easily digestible carbs to conserve your glycogen. Do not eat at least 2 hours before the ride starts, since it takes that long to stabilize your blood sugar, otherwise the insulin will rob you of energy at the start.

Ride, Ride and Ride

Finally, like anything else, get out there and ride.  Not only will it reduce your winter surprises, give you time in saddle – you will also get to meet interesting people, go places – and hopefully drink some beer.

Thanks to Other Contributors

Garet H, reminding me about the benefits of posting and Greg P. reminding me about my weight (errr, carrying weight) and Joe M. about hydration and nutrition.