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Monday, March 22, 2010

Cullen Central Park and Heber Down

Warning: this post won't be very interesting if you don't live in the Durham Region of Ontario, Canada.

You've been warned!

OK then. You're still here? Good!

Normally, I equate mountain biking and trail running with a trip up to Durham Forest. There are acres and acres of trails to get lost on, it's wonderful.

But what about mid-week, when one has an hour to burn? What then?

Answer: Cullen Central Park and Heber Down Conservation Area!

Cullen Central Park

Recently purchased by the Town of Whitby, it is now open to the public free of charge. Gone is the miniature village, the mini golf, or anything that used to make this a tourist attraction.

Left behind? A small series of trails suitable for everything from hiking to biking.

Click here for a map.

If you're on a bike, it's possible to follow the top yellow trail across the creek right to the end of the arrow... keep an eye out to the north, and you can connect to Heber Down (via the Group Camping area). The town eventually intends to make this link more official.

Heber Down

Heber Down is a conservation area in north Whitby. Trees, trails, creeks, a taste of nature right next to the town.

Click here for a map and brochure

There are many trails in the park, mostly unpaved and suitable for hiking, trail running, and mountain biking.

The only caveat - many dog owners treat this as an off-leash area, despite the signage clearly stating dogs must be leashed. Take appropriate precautions.

Urban (and Suburban) Trails

Having been through various portions of the Toronto area, I know this is not entirely unique... sometimes a chunk of nature is right under your nose, you just have to find it. It may take a bit of exploration and a few dead-ends, but that's part of the fun! Happy Urban Trailing.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Race Preview: Tour of Bronte

The Tour of Bronte is a new road race in Ontario...

... with an important difference: gravel roads for 50% of the course!

I've never done a road race before, but the gravel roads add an intriguing dimension, so I'm going for it.

Things I'm Learning About Road Racing

  1. Categories - Unlike the other races I've done, they have categories based on ability and experience, not just age, and not everyone races together. Due to my age and lack of experience, I am in "Master 3" (M3). There are two categories above mine, M2 and M1, for more experienced and competitive riders.
  2. Gravel and Road Bikes Do Mix - I have always been pretty dainty with my road bike, but it seems a lot of people ride their road bikes on gravel roads. Most use 700x25 tires(instead of 700x23) and put a bit less pressure in the tire to get more grip and less risk of punctures.
  3. Drafting - I've ridden in packs at charity rides and in group rides, but I've been told that in a race the dynamics are quite a bit different, even in the beginner zone that I'm in. I'm expecting there to be more aggressive (and probably stupid) moves, so I'll have to stay sharp!
  4. Laps - I've never done a race with laps... this one has eight 8km laps. Many race directors will pull you off the course if you are lapped, so I'm hoping to race the whole thing but it's not guaranteed!

I don't really have any goals for this race, other than to enjoy it and learn what I can. I will try my best as always, and we'll see what happens out there!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Race Preview: Paris to Ancaster 2010

Paris to Ancaster. Ahhh.

Too muddy for roadies. Not technical enough for mountain bikers. Too long for cyclocross.

And yet, wildly popular.

Maybe it's because it's not perfect for anyone that it works so well as a race. One moment you're drafting in a pack down a long paved road, next moment you're dumped into a muddy field and bouncing over stumps and rocks.

I described the course in a bit more detail on this blog post from 2008, as well as some tips from previous experiences. If you're a first-timer, read it, carefully, and understand what you're getting into!

The bikes

I have seen everything at this race. And when I say everything, I mean everything...

Don't believe me? How about UNICYCLES? I kid you not, one year there were unicyclists out there. I'm just happy to have finished before them! Tandems, single-speed... a little of everything

For those taking a serious crack at the race, the right tool for the job is a cyclocross bike. I base this on the fact that they keep winning, year after year, and in all the pictures the front-runners are the cyclocross crowd.

This is to be expected given the long road and trail sections. A mountain bike is too upright to be aerodynamically efficient, and knobby tires would grab too much asphault. While the mountain bike would get you through the off-road sections quicker, they aren't very technical, so that alone wouldn't give you enough of an advantage to overcome getting dropped on the roads.

Still, the most popular choice by far is still the mountain bike. I suspect it's just a function of what people have in their garage.

I'm lost somewhere in between - I have a Gary Fisher Utopia, a hybrid. I use cross tires on it (700x32) which makes it roll nicely on the road sections, but the positioning is still as upright as a mountain bike. Not ideal, but I can't justify the cost of a cross bike for this one race per year where I'd benefit from it. (More specifically, I can justify it, just not to my wife's satisfaction... )

Looking forward to this year's edition of the race!