Vancouver Bicycle Club Logo

Road & Off-Road Rides
Social Events

Come cycle with us

Home About Us Ride Info Newsletter Rides Join Us Contact Us

Newsletter of the Vancouver Bicycle Club

The Dynamo

The Best of 2002

Fashion File

by Judith Beeman

Mountain Equipment Co-op has two brand new cycling jackets this season and they are in completely different styles. Available in both men's and women's. I am ga-ga over one and non-plused about the other.

The SPLASH CYCLING JACKET is as retro 70's as it gets. A smooth nylon exterior with elastic bands around the wrist (ick) and that definitive 70's stylin' w/lots of stitching around the zippers. The Splash sells for $65.00 but I mean really, you can find the original for 1/10 of the price at the Sally Ann and therefore *really* be in style (whether or not that matters to you but hey, if fashion is on your side without trying to hard, what the heck). I believe the selling feature is that the Splash will keep you dry. And is retro. Buyer beware.

Now this brings us to the other jacket which is a beaut. For $95.00 (ulp) the SAMURAI METAMORPHIC JACKET can be yours. If $95 bucks sounds like a lot (because it is...) then rest assured you get two items of clothing as the Samurai sleeves zip off to form a vest. This jacket is billed as Mountain Biking clothing and the heavy duty nylon (called Cordura methinks?) is indeed super sturdy (one would hope it would "give" a bit after a bit of use). I predict that club kidz will soon be wearing this garb throughout the city. It is that stylish. It looks like a motorcycle bomber jacket, complete with a moto-cross collar. One colour: rockundroll black! A subtle line of reflective trim across the back (one! but hey, that's fashion and this is for the woods, supposedly). I must admit I don't do much mtn biking. I wonder how breathable it is, being so heavy. 10 out of 10 for looks, tho and it will terrify car drivers. Even the MEC logo looks good (!).

Originally published March 2002

Why is cycling so appealing?

by Chris McPherson

Spring, finally, seems about to arrive. Buds are showing on the trees. Crocuses are out and daffodils are just beginning to bloom. The pink blossoms of the Japanese Cherries are gracing many of our city's streets. And with spring, a middle-aged man's thoughts turn to: Cycling? Well, perhaps not every man's (or woman's) thoughts, but mine do, inevitably. I wonder at that sometimes. I am sure my passion for cycling is vaguely irrational. Armchair psychologists would probably say that cycling is a substitute for something missing in my life. I am, no doubt, trying to overcompensate for my (relatively) recent 40th birthday. I don't particularly care about others' opinions concerning why I have passion for this sport. I just know I do. As irrational passions go, at least cycling is relatively benign. It might actually be beneficial. Sort of expensive sometimes mind you. Well, not as expensive as some other irrational passions. Golf, for example. Despite my Scots heritage, I subscribe to the view that Golf is a good walk, spoiled. I find it hard to spoil a good ride. And a great ride, well, precious few things in life are any better.

Why is cycling so appealing? While each of us has his or her reasons, some of mine are:

It makes me feel like a kid

Cycling has a way of releasing all of those pent up obligations of being an adult. None of them seem terribly pressing when the wind is rushing by my ears as I zip down a hill way too fast. I don't much care about next week's appointments as I slosh through the puddles on a muddy trail. My mortgage payments don't even enter my mind as I fly along at 40 km per hour, inches ehind my club-mate's rear wheel. Cycling is just plain fun.

It makes me appreciate that the earth is not flat

A car has a way of hiding the terrain. It makes little difference if the highway is flat or hilly. On a bike, I experience those climbs in my legs and in my lungs. Each descent is an exercise in speed. I feel the wind. My eyes water. The bike vibrates. I am not isolated from my environment. I am part of it. To me, little compares with the feeling of cresting a long climb just as gravity switches from holding me back to propelling me forward. That doesn't happen in a car.

Bicycles are Beautiful

All bicycles are beautiful. Those oversized downhill exclusive bikes that look like motorcycles without motors have an attractive look of brute strength about them. More typical mountain bikes, with wide knobby tires and straight handlebars are a superb combination of function and form. But road bikes: eight, light, simple tubes, a fork, a couple of wheels, a set of drops and a saddle. Perfection.

Cyclists are, well, eccentric

The best thing about cycling, though, is cyclists themselves. To a rider, they are offbeat. I don't think I have met a single cyclist that marches to quite the same drummer as the rest of society. We never quite fit in. Some of us are way out there. Some of us are just a wee bit quirky. We will forever be questioned about why we like riding lightweight machines over mountain passes or down twisting singletrack. Some people simply can't understand why anyone would load 50 pounds of gear on a bike and head off camping for a week. Too bad for them I say. We don't need to explain anything.

So, it is spring. The days are nice and long. The temperatures are slowly creeping up. Whether you want to head out for a gentle cruise around the block, or climb a mountain, cycling offers everything. I look forward to seeing you on your bike on one or more of the what, 15 or 20 different rides this month? Time to go cycling.

Originally published May 2002

In Search of the Perfect Ride

by Chris McPherson

It seems to me that it would be a worthwhile endeavor to seek out the Perfect Ride. I am not suggesting that it would be worthwhile to find the Perfect Ride, just to look for it. Finding the Perfect Ride would, I expect, be a very bad thing. Looking for it though - that is a goal worth pursuing. What are the elements that make up the elusive Perfect Ride?

My Perfect Ride has a mountain pass. I want to climb up to that pass for an hour or more, while my legs slowly tire - anticipating the eventual reward. I want to struggle just a bit. The Pass is challenging, but not painful. There is snow on the top (on the ground, not falling!). The trees have just thinned out to nothing. Above me is nothing but the rocky, ice covered peaks beneath clear blue skies. It was warm, perhaps a bit too hot in the valley I left an hour ago. The Pass is cool, not icy cold. Glaciated mountains surround me. It is just a bit too cold for the mosquitoes and black flies. I need the jacket I lugged up the climb. The only people around should be those with whom I ascended the Pass. Then there is the descent. The descent is fast, but not blindingly steep. There are switchbacks. Braking is only necessary as I approach each corner, and then only with a light touch.

I have never crossed the Perfect Mountain Pass. Some have been close. Washington Pass on highway 20 a few years back springs to mind. That was the year of the record snow fall. There were skiers on the slopes above the road (including, to my recollection, certain members of our bike club!). Windy Pass in the Chilcotin, this past summer, is another worthy challenger. It was, mind you, somewhat less than adequate in the blue sky department and perhaps had somewhat more mud than was strictly required. Starvation Mountain, near Winthrop has many of the required elements. The 20 kilometer single- track descent must be experienced to be believed - a notable lack of glaciated mountains though. Elfin Lakes, while not a "Pass" per se is probably the closest to a perfect climb that I have ever done. Rounding Paul Ridge with the rolling hills descending to the Lakes themselves and mountains reaching up in every direction is a sight that does not soon leave your memory.

The Perfect Ride must be on a day which you did not really feel like riding - at first. But, as you warm up, everything falls into place, so that you feel like you can go forever. You have to feel like the bike is just an extension of yourself. The pedals turn in circles. The curves float by. The climbs, while challenging, are not exhausting. The Perfect Ride takes places on one of those days when your cycling legs just feel perfect.

Perfect cycling legs are not enough though. The Perfect Ride involves a bakery. The breads and pastries must be made there, on site. The air must be thick with the smell of baking, and sugar, and coffee. The bakery must be on the OTHER side of that mountain pass. Quinn's in Squamish (no more, alas) fit the bill quite well. Savory Island Bakery in West Van works for me too. Horsting's Farm, which I had the pleasure of visiting this past weekend, is another worthy candidate.

The Perfect Ride has other elements as well. Weather is, undeniably, important. The Perfect Ride has a nearly cloudless sky, though a brief (very brief) splash of rain would not be amiss. It really must take most of the day. A short ride can never be quite perfect. No one should get lost, unless the whole group does and finds an even better route - by accident.

Finally, the Perfect Ride must be shared. A ride by yourself, even if it has a mountain pass, your cycling legs feel great, goes by a bakery, has wonderful weather, takes all day and find an even better route by accident, can never be perfect. So, I hope to see you on one of our upcoming rides. Many involve mountain passes, your cycling legs will only get better, bakeries abound, better routes always turn up and, just maybe, we might even get some good weather.

Originally published June 2002

3 Rivers Mudapalooza Tour 2002

3 Rivers MTB Tour

Mud-thick, sticky, earthy, pungent-coated everything. It clung to my bike, clumped up so thickly around the brakes and the wheels that they wouldn't turn; it oozed into my shoes and around my toes as I half pulled, half slid down the road; and it washed my face and clothing in a fine layer of viscous silt and sand. I'd gone less than 50 metres from the campsite.

Behind me I heard maniacal laughter. Chris MacPherson, his wheels equally incapacitated, had hoisted his bike onto one shoulder after failing to dislodge the buildup with a stick. Behind him, Berni, Sharon, Howard and Catherine were struggling with their steeds. Ahead of me the cluster of riders who'd managed to navigate the bog on two wheels-Justin, Emily, Dave, Ron-were all busily digging away with sticks, hefting chunks of clay from pedals and drive trains and saddles. Only Mike, who was driving down our gear, his new white Santa Cruz safely strapped to the back of the pickup truck, remained unmarked.

When we assembled at the Brookmere Campground in Cache Creek two days earlier, we could hardly have foreseen what lay in store. There, joined by Brian and Leslie, and our Prince George connection Thelma and Barry, we'd packed our gear and set off up the highway under pewter skies. Past the Historic Hat Creek ranch, we turned from the broad green Bonaparte Valley onto the rolling road that slices through the mountains en route to Marble Canyon and Lillooet. Up and down alongside grassy meadows and dry bunchgrass hillsides, we pedalled to the Hat Creek Road turnoff to begin our high-country ascent.

Up and up we climbed, gradually rising from the valley floor to a plateau, which offered phenomenal views of snow-capped mountains and long, broad undulating valleys. Here and there a farm dotted the horizon or abutted the road, but mostly we were surrounded by rabbit-brush and aspen, birch and Ponderosa pine. Following a network of roads, we climbed a series of switchbacks, swooped down into a valley and then crested the last pitch to arrive at the Three Sisters Recreation site, a sloped grassy hillside at the edge of a stream.

With the tents up and the fire going, Brian set to work constructing a deluxe tarp marquis to cover the picnic table, and we all kicked back to savour our site. A steady procession of deluxe meals followed, polished off with pies from Horsting's Farm and a log-riding display put on by Mike, Justin and Brian.

Saturday dawned warm and sunny. As Thelma, Barry, Brian and Leslie packed up to head back to Cache Creek, many of us hiked up the road toward Cornwall Hills. The pace deterred some, the snow others, but the views from the lower hills were lovely: 180 degrees of rounded mountain tops and verdant valleys. When Mike returned from dropping off gear in town, we headed out for a ride. We retraced our route to the Hat Creek Road junction then cruised along the valley heading toward Blue Earth Rec Site. A brief directional mixup had us lunching in a clearing amid two dilapidated wood cabins, but we backtracked through the clear-cut to reach the much-anticipated creek crossing. Mike was the first to dive in, barrelling across fast-flowing water without a second thought. Justin, Emily, Ron, Chris, Sharon and Catherine followed in quick succession while a few of us opted for the log crossing instead. Minutes later, however, we were all plunging into a second creek before racing up the bank on the other side.

From there we traversed open meadows, skirted a lake and some marshland and then squelched through ice and mud before reaching the first viewpoint over Blue Earth Lake. "Seen the lake," we all decreed, then abandoned the ride out to the rec site in favour of a return trip down the icy road. The adventure was just beginning. Seasoned veterans, we dashed through the first creek crossing, though the log crossing over the deeper second creek still beckoned a couple of people on the return. We sailed through the clearcut, and out into the broad valley, where Dave and Ron scared a black bear up a nearby treed embankment. Then Chris narrowly escaped the clutches of a fang-bearing dog that insisted on chasing him from the farm on both the in and out journeys. Past the last of the farms, we turned up the now-familiar gravel road for our return to camp. Halfway along, however, we were surprised to find a pickup truck making its way up the path with two grinning riders (members of our group) Mike K was one -editor and their bikes happily stretched out in the back!

By the time the rest of us reached our home base, the fire was burning and drinks were served. Snack foods made the rounds and we all relaxed in clean, dry clothes. More gourmet meals followed-anyone want some black bean sauce, please?-and Mike showed us his prowess eating with a serving spoon. What was that white stuff anyway?

Nothing, though, compared to Sunday's ride. The rain began around 1:30 a.m. and fell steadily. By the time we packed up our tents, the surrounding cow patties had rehydrated and the access road had taken on the consistency and the appearance of overprocessed chocolate pudding. Although Emily was game to try our originally planned route up to McLean Lake and down to Cache Creek, the rest of us voted for the less-demanding descent along Hat Creek Road and down to Highway 1. Within metres, we encountered the bog. The best part about heading for home is knowing that you can get as dirty as you like and it doesn't matter. So, within minutes, we were back on our bikes, flying down our exit road and flinging mud in all directions. Rivulets flowed down the gravel track, sending gushers of filthy water up our backs and into our faces. The faster we went, the more liquid trickled into our ears and down our necks. And as we sped by, we grinned at each other, then turned away and spat the grit from our teeth.

Somewhere on that descent the rain stopped. But the strong sweet smell of sage still filled the air. We'd wound our way down from the high lands, and the last wide turns swept across the normally arid grassland slopes, revealing ruddy sand and fields and fields of alfalfa across the highway. By the time I reached the bottom, my glasses were so caked with mud that I could barely see. What I could see was Chris and Sharon and Dave so heavily splattered that they were barely recognizable. The last kilometres back along the highway to Cache Creek took us past the Ashcroft Manor and the dump. But we had our sights set on the Esso service station, where we scared more than one trucker en route to the water tap. We hosed down the bikes-and ourselves-before riding up the hill to the campground and to hot showers. There, the mud-still thick, sticky, earthy and pungent-finally gave up its hold.

Post-descent Lucy Kenward

Originally published June 2002

So many ways to cycle

by Chris McPherson

One of the things that makes cycling such a great sport is that there is an almost unlimited number of ways to enjoy it. You can go out and hammer with a group, flying along in a pace line at 40, or meander down a bike path by yourself at 10. You can commute to work in traffic or ride along a quiet country road with no one but your fellow cyclists and a few bored cows watching you go by. You can take your bike to the market for groceries or go out with friends for a picnic by the sea. You can grunt up a mountain pass, looking forward to the thrilling descent, or spin along the flats seemingly without effort. You can load your bike up with panniers, food and camping supplies and disappear into the green for a few days or a week or you can take a few changes of clothes and end each day relaxing by a fire with a glass of red wine in your hand. You can even go out riding with a hundred other people to raise some money for charity. The choices are endless - all are worthwhile.

Hammering along with a strong, fit group is one of the joys of cycling. The speed, the effort and the feeling when your done make long hard rides a favourite of many. It requires some commitment to be sure. It is no fun at all to struggle just to keep up. Been there, done that. Once you reach the necessary level of fitness and bike handling skill though, a hard fast ride is worth looking forward to. The club, naturally, offers rides just like this. Check out any of our Saturday morning training rides. To see really, really fast riding though, make sure you get down to Gastown on 17 July for the return of the Gastown Grand Prix. You are sure to be hooked by the excitement of a pro level criterium. You will simply not believe just how fast that pack of riders negotiates the cobbled roads of Gastown. The women's race begins at 7 PM, the men's at 8. There is a special pie ride that night. Look for details elsewhere in the newsletter.

Going fast is far from the only way to cycle though. There is something special about a comfortably paced ride on a country road - particularly a hot, sunny day in the Fraser Valley or Whatcom County with no pressures to get anywhere in particular. Ice cream must, of course, be involved in such rides. Just as much fun is taking a few supplies on your bike and heading out for a picnic. If that is the sort of ride you want, the club offers a bunch this summer. July has not one but two picnics - Ambleside and Whytecliff Park. The Ladner Loop on the first weekend in August has quiet country roads in abundance. David Poon, the leader for that ride, could probably be prevailed upon to stop for ice cream.

There are those times, though, when a spin along a country road just doesn't seem quite enough. Every now and again, cyclists tend to develop a hankering to climb a mountain. I am not sure what draws cyclists to mountains. It might be the challenge. It might be the fun of the descent. Or it might be, as Mallory is said to have once observed, because it is there. July has our ultimate mountain challenge - all three north shore mountains in one day. The ride is about 140 km long, climbs about 3000 meters and takes the whole day. If that sounds like it is for you, mark 14 July in your calendar.

Despite the fact that bicycles are primarily marketed as racing machines (whether on roads or trails), they are so much more. A bicycle is just as handy for grocery shopping as it is for going fast. One of the unique pleasures of cycling is that you can head off, somewhere, anywhere, loaded up with all of your gear. Who needs a car, much less an SUV? We have lots of self supported tours on tap - just check out the touring schedule. If you are more inclined to sleep on a bed than the ground we have a number of "B&B" type tours as well. There is a week long tour to Hornby Island in early September and a weekend in Pemberton towards the end of that month.

As if all of those options are not enough, the club is once again participating in the MS ride in August. This is a great chance to ride as a club and raise money for a worthy cause. Look for details in this newsletter.

With all the choices open to you, I am sure that every member of the club will find something that appeals this summer. I look forward to seeing you on one of the rides.

Originally published July 2002

Bicycling and the media

by Chris McPherson

Like many cyclists, I have been avidly following the Tour de France over the last couple of weeks. My medium of choice has been the internet (especially and since the TV coverage is so minimal. Every year, I wonder why there is so little coverage of cycling. There are at least two full-time sports channels on Cable but neither carries much coverage. Every time you flip onto one of those stations it seems that some "junk" sport or another is being featured. I mean, really, what is the attraction of "American Gladiators"? Is it just because I am a cyclist that I want to see some bike racing? I don't think so. Bike racing would seem to be made for TV. Visually, it is stunning to see the pack, with a rainbow of brightly covered jerseys, riding across the countryside of France. There is an endless supply of interesting characters. While we can't expect a North American audience to have the attention span to watch a four hour race, there are lots of highlights, like attacks, or climbs or the intermediate and final sprints. There are intriguing team tactics and remarkable individual efforts. The best rider in the Tour is even an American. But, there is little interest.

I guess the lack of interest in cycling is symptomatic of North American Society's love of the automobile. This shows up every time I ride my bike. Vancouver is, by all accounts, relatively bike friendly. But, even here, cycling on our streets is an exercise is risk management. Despite the gains of the last few years (and there have been many), cyclists are still considered a fringe group. Normal people don't leave their front door, throw their leg over a bike and head out for a bit of exercise. Normal people get in their SUV'S, use up ever more of the planet's limited fossil fuels and pollute the air on their way to the gym to get a bit of exercise. Even more unusual to the general public is that some people actually use their bikes to go to work or to the store. Cycling to work or the store is certainly not practical for everyone. The length of the commute might be just too much and it is not very practical to carry a week's worth of groceries for the whole family on a bicycle (mind you, I once saw a person, in China, carrying a sofa while riding his bike!). For shorter trips, however, a bicycle is the perfect vehicle. It is often even faster than a car. As more and more people take up residence downtown perhaps, cycling will become a little more mainstream and more people will cycle and, I suppose that might lead to more interest in bike racing.

There are some signs of greater interest. Alison Sydor occasionally makes front page news. Though, for some reason Roland Green, probably the best mountain biker in the world does not. The Gastown Grand Prix (I refuse to call it the Tour de Gastown - that is just silly) has roared back to life. As the many VBC riders that I saw at the race on 17 July will attest, it was terrifically exciting. As interesting as the Tour de France is on TV, there is nothing like watching a race in person. As the pack roars by, you can actually feel the wind rushing along with it. And the speed! It is down right terrifying to watch 100 riders blast around the corners. You cannot help but admire the skill and fitness of these riders - even if none of us can imagine riding like that.

And you know, it is quite unimportant that so few are talented and dedicated enough to ride the Tour de France, or the Giro d'Italia or even the Tuesday night criterium at UBC. We can still draw inspiration from these athletes. Watching Lance Armstrong climb Mt. Ventoux in the baking sun can be that little bit of incentive that leads a cyclist to climb up Mt Seymour, or even better, to put the car away and ride to work or to the store.

Originally published August 2002

Chris McPherson's last President's message

by Chris McPherson

I have been pondering about the content of this, my last President’s Message, for some time now. When I accepted the position, four years ago, I certainly did not expect still to be president today. A lot can happen in four years. Clubs, inevitably, change over time. The Vancouver Bicycle Club is no exception. My main goal has always been to offer as many different types of rides as possible. A club like ours needs to offer something different than the other clubs in the City. For me, that meant we needed more than the weekly pie ride and leisure and medium rides on Sundays. I wanted us to try new rides, while maintaining the fine traditions of the oldest cycling club in Vancouver.

Looking back, success has been mixed. A lot of new riders joined the club, but a number are no longer active. Indeed, the greatest disappointment I have felt is that among our 150 or so members, no more than 40 seem active. Those 40 have tended to be riders who want to go out and do the longer, faster rides. I often have seen, or heard about, new riders who come out once and then are never seen again. This is a pity, and it highlights one of the main difficulties with the club – finding riders to lead the “D” and “C” rides. A quick glance through the schedule finds a plentitude of “B” and “A” rides, a few “C” rides and almost no “D” rides. At times we have tried to combine “C” and “B” rides, but that never seems to work terribly well. The few times that it was successful were when there were separate leaders for each ride, perhaps meeting up for lunch. Often though, only a few riders would show up and it was not practical to split up the group. The ride ended up being too slow for some and too quick for others. One of the reasons that this was so is that I like the hard, fast rides, so those are the ones I organize. In order for the club to be attractive to a wider cross-section of members, I believe the club must cultivate that vast number of cyclists who would rather go out for a couple of hours to a scenic spot than hammer along for four hours at 25 or 30 km per hour. Of course, that does not mean that we should stop offering the “A” and “B” rides. But, those rides are easy to set up. There is a pool of leaders out there who are happy to organize them. It is the “D” and “C” rides that require attention.

Along with the disappointments, there have been some great memories over the last four years. I will not soon forget some of the rides that I have been on. I remember my first tour – Harrison and the “Spa Motel”. The weather was atrocious, pouring rain and cold winds, but that hot water sure felt good at the end. Then there was the first mountain bike tour I went on - the Galloping Goose. That was before the watershed was closed to cyclists. I have fond memories of the three times I have done the Three Rivers Tour – twice on the mountain bike and once on the road. The little problem I had on the ’98 trip (that would be the concussion and broken wrist) was more than outweighed by the astonishing ride in ’99 with its picture perfect weather and the mountains still covered in snow. This year’s ride is also likely to go down in the history books. The rain and mud on the last day turned it into a true epic. And then there are rides like Washington Pass – especially that spectacular descent into the Methow Valley with, of all things, skiers telemarking on the slopes above the pass – in June! Or, Starvation Mountain, near Winthrop – a 13 MILE singletrack descent. It is best just not to think about the grunt up the gravel road before the fun begins. The list goes on and on: circling Bellingham Bay on a warm spring day – Mt Baker rising out of the haze to the east; Mt Baker itself and that blazing, twisting descent around switchback after switchback; the Fraser Valley, Belcarra, Mission, Whytecliffe Park, Furry Creek, the Triple Mountain Challenge, the VBC triathlon (ride, canoe, hike), Pitt River Hotsprings, Elfin Lakes. My personal favourite? I would say the mountain biking in the Southern Chilcotins. Those trips have had everything: strenuous climbs, mud-caked descents, glorious sun, freezing rain, scavenging bears, thieving minks – and some of the best mountain biking on the planet.

These memories are the ones I will take with me from my term as president. I hope that whoever takes over will help make more memories for all the members of the club.

Originally published October 2002

Cycling wisely!

by David Poon

This article is dedicated to those people I have met on the road on bikes and their experiences they had kindly shared with me. They made me a wiser cyclist. I would like to share those experiences with all of you.

1. Cycle philosophy.

Cycling interests determine financial needs. Do you really want more bikes or do you prefer something simpler? People I had met on the road rode the bikes that they felt met their needs. Sure, they had wants. They went through that so did all of us. But eventually, we settle down on something simple. A bike that does what we need usually get kept long. A bike that does what we want, however, usually doesn't get kept for very long and not too mention how much lighter our wallets felt. What works for you? Do you have enough bikes or do you need more?

2. Cycle money.

If you have discretionary cash, it gives you choices. But to have choices, you may have to make some other choices. Cyclists are drawn into spending lots of money. The hype that surrounds us to buy the latest bikes. A carbon fiber bike or a titanium can make you a better climber? Or an aluminium bike rides harsher than a steel bike? It is a myth. It does sell bikes however. The truth of the matter is, the rider commands the performance of the bike. Presuming that you have a good bike, climbing hills should be no problem. To give you an example, I met a 61 year old lady on my last Tour BC and she rode up the Kootenay Pass with a run of the mill bike, averaging 12km/h!! Some people with their shiny-off the showroom Trek 5200-5500s and Litespeeds were averaging 5-7km/h! As you can see, light bikes don't make you a Lance Armstrong overnight! That 61 year old lady, as modest as she was, was a good example of money put in the right places. She told me that she scrutinized the wants that the bike community suggests are needs. She made me appreciate where I should put my money towards my needs to improve cycling and not my wants to become a fad rider.

3. Cycling myth.

There are a lot of myths surrounding bicycles. One of them is, you should have a touring bike to go touring with. If it is not a touring bike, then it is not a qualified bike to tour with. I personally don¹t see it that way. Any bike can be adapted to do touring. You just have to know what you need to make the necessary changes. I met a couple while I was cycling on Mayne island with bikes that some people would call them unqualified for touring. Husband rides with his son and mother rides with her daughter. They ride very strong with 1 Cannondale MTB tandem on knobbies, towing a BOB, and the mother on a hardtail with knobbies towing a kiddie trailer. Impressive, but it gets better. They rode 1200km from Port Mcneill to visit Mayne all on these heavy loaded setup and on back country roads and not on HWY 19/A. I mean, I have every respect for them expecially when it comes to the hills. These guys were great climbers and I enjoyed climbing along side them, only to find out later on that they were former professional national MTB racers!! The husband and wife were former BC downhill and cross country MTB racers in the mid 80s to early 90s. Husband still races, while the wife does very little expecially when they have 2 very active kids. As night fell, I chatted with the husband further and learned that a bicycle is a tool to a means and not a tool to an end. The means to cycle better with more comfort is to train yourself to become fit gradually.

4, Cycling for fun!

Undoubtly, what we want to achieve in cycling is the fun of exploring every little pocket of interest slowly and surely. You get to know people better because you get to stop and talk to them. Driving a car maybe fun for speed and getting to places quicker, but you'll always miss out the little details that you might have not with a bike. I was a driver and never a bike commuter. I used to hate cycle commuters. I thought they were a nuisance on the road. One day however, one of my co-workers got me introduced to cycle commuting. I was reluctant to commit at first due to a fear cycling again after a horrific BMX race crash in my teens. Gradually however, he made me feel that cycling is not a competitive sport -- it is for fun. I believed at that point, he got me hooked! From there on, things naturally progressed with the help of good people like Jim R., John S, Lois S, and the rest with single to multi-day tours. Naturally, I decided that I should give back to the club what they had given me in the past by running my own small tours. From what I can see so far, the turnout from these small tours have been immense. There is definitely a lot of interest in the club from members that want to have fun cycling. It has certainly encouraged some members, after being with my tours, to go ahead and do some more longer fully loaded tours of their own.. I see this as a good sign of things to come.

In conclusion, I must say, though, that I have now seen lots of people tour using the most unlikely gear and the most unlikely bikes, that it is the personality on the bike that¹s important, not the bike itself.

Originally published October 2002

Galiano & Pender island

(June 23-24th, Aug 3-5)

by David Poon

From the glossy pages of one of my BCAA travel guide magazines, the beauty and the serenity of the southern Gulf islands which they featured every spring ­ Galiano caught my unduly attention. In the featured article, the Bellhouse Inn was mentioned to be one of the great places to stay on Galiano. When I went to check what they want for the night, I looked and then politely flip to the next page. I guess they won¹t be getting my business for awhile. After an exhaustive accommodation search through the net for my budget conscious traveller, I found what I was looking for! It was the Hawthorne house. Its elegant wood construction with a touch of luxury and a feel of serenity with its 10 acre nicely groomed back yard was just such a place. It also makes my wallet very happy indeed. To make the cost of staying in such a gorgeous place more exciting, I decided to see if VBC club members who might want to tag along with me to Galiano, come, stay and share the rental cost. So after posting the ride on the web (thanks to Bob B.) and eventually on the newsletter, calls started pouring in. A lot of people wanted to go. My waiting list for the trip grew so I decided to cap it at 11. Having 11 members riding with me on Galiano proved to be an enjoyable experience, with a diverse mix of cyclists with some socializing while riding to some riding with the outmost rocket power precision. They just melt those hills at Galiano like a hot knife slicing butter.

On Galiano, some people went to explore Pebble beach, while the rest cycled to the north end of the island, to the marine park. Having lunch and dinner at Montague harbour against the backdrop of the calm harbour and blue sky brought a closer bond to our group. That bond provided the foundation for our next planned trip to Pender for the August long weekend.

10 came along for the trip and we stayed in tent cabins at the Otter Bay Marina, which from our initial observation, proved to be very sound luxury structures indeed.

For the 3 days we stayed there, we cycled, ate and cycled a bit more. To some, it was a memorable experience, having cycled 2 Gulf islands in 2 Months!! To most, it will be a repeat of good memories again come this September, where we will again have more fun on Denman and Hornby!

Originally published October 2002

Don't Put That Bike Away

Winter Riding in Vancouver

by Lois Sommerfield

As winter approaches, cyclists on the roads dwindle like autumn leaves. Lotusland residents who gloated to Easterners about wearing shorts in October resign themselves to umbrellas, antifreeze, and an extra layer of insulating fat.

It doesn't have to be that way. Winter cycling is, after all, essentially the same as in the summer. You pedal. You sweat. You get rained on, sometimes. You carbo-load with other cyclists. Those endorphins make you feel great.

The main difference is in how you dress for the occasion. This winter, the layered look is in again. Good-quality long underwear next to your skin wicks away sweat, and leaves you so comfortable that you'll want to cycle all day. Over that, insulating fleece adds to the look and feel of a well-dressed winter cyclist. With several layers, you can peel off and put on as you warm up and cool down. An outer windbreaker layer helps keep the chill away.

A Great Invention of our times is underarm zippers. This ventilating feature provides many degrees of comfort for your hard-working body.

Of course, you need rain gear, too, but that's true in any season. To find out what works best in this department, simply go on a group ride when it's pouring rain, and after a few hours, conduct a survey. Gore-Tex, while popular, isn't the only game in town-Ultrex, some highly water-repellent fabrics, and even plastic have their fans.

The extremities require special care. While plastic bags are still seen on some cyclists' feet in the rain, you can purchase booties for cyclists for about $30. Depending on the type, they'll keep your feet somewhat dry (waterproof packcloth) or cozy-warm (neoprene). Eclectic fashion is in for the hands-try various combinations of gloves and mitts. To keep your head warm, wear a scarf of a thin tuque under your helmet (real men can wear scarves these days), or, if that isn't your style, Mountain Equipment Co-op sells fleece helmet liners.

Concerned about money? Think of it this way. Booties and a helmet liner cost less than a month bus pass, so if you cycle to work for one month, you'll have enough money to pay for them. If you drive, the money saved from not operating a car could buy you even a Gore-Tex jacket pretty fast.

The advantages of winter cycling are as numerous as hills that go down. A bicycle doesn't need antifreeze. (It does, however, need hosing off after riding in city snow, to wash away corroding salt.) A bicycle doesn't refuse to start on cold mornings. (Its owner might be less predictable.) A bicycle never keeps you waiting in the cold while you shiver at a bus stop. A bicycle facilitates the production of endorphins, which, unlike car windshields, don't freeze over in the winter. Even without endorphins, you can feel high just from braving the elements.

And if you keep riding, you can still feel smug about Life in Lotusland.

Doors of Opportunity

by Lois Sommerfield

When I joined the VBC in 1992, I had no idea where that step would lead me. Still, it was an exciting time. While I was learning about bikes and cycling and discovering the fun of pedalling farther and farther with endorphin-pumped co-members--and getting pumped up myself--I was becoming aware of what a great group I had joined. Beyond the joking around and camaraderie on rides was a history of shared experiences, and a depth that comes from really knowing one another. Coupled with that was an openness towards new members.

I wanted to get to know this group more, so I looked for a way to get involved. By this time I was doing Medium rides, but my introduction to the wide world of cycling had come with Leisure rides, so they were a comfortable place for me. I decided that the Leisure Ride Coordinator had the best job in the club. I figured that she probably knew that, and would hold on to her treasured position. Soon after that, though, I heard that the position was available. I expressed my interest, but I was surprised to find out that I was the only one who had. That's when I began to see how volunteering works in the VBC. You show interest, and you've got yourself a job.

The doors of the club began to open wider. Having up to a dozen or so phone conversations a month with scheduled and prospective ride leaders, including those who said no to my request, meant that I talked to a lot of club members, most several times a year. Some became friends. I had also become a director, and volunteering as part of this team led to a new working relationship with the other directors and other involved club members. Rides and tours developed a new dimension. I now knew and had some history in common with my fellow cyclists.

Look at the doors of opportunity for VBC volunteers as revolving doors, and you will see that there is room for you. Especially now. Our club needs people to fill the places of those who, for various reasons, are not involved in the VBC any more the way they once were. We don't want to overwhelm you with all the possibilities, but if you keep reading The Dynamo, you will read about others. If you don't read about something that you'd like to do, let one of the directors know. New ideas and people help the club--and its members--to thrive.

Where would you like to start?

Originally published November 2002

Getting Around in Shanghai

By Ernest Chan

I am currently in Shanghai, one of the most modern and exciting cities in China as well as in Asia. But it has also been attracting so much attention from around the world, too.

I left Vancouver a couple of weeks after I finished my 200-km bike ride for the 2002 BC Lung Trek for Breath and Life.

Despite six or seven years of travel experience in Shanghai in the nineties, I must admit that I now have a totally different vision of this city, and perhaps about the whole of China during my recent trip. My appreciation of a clean environment and a simple life is met with horrific pollution and overconsumerism. The air quality is much worse than before. Since I arrived in Shanghai in the last week of September, I have never seen a decent clear blue sky. "Asian Brown Clouds" are just the norm each day. And they have been lingering for more than a month so far.

You cannot leave your apartment windows open all the time because of the dust and dirt that always invades your living space! I have been spending hours every Saturday mopping the floors and cleaning everywhere inside. The amount of dust could easily gather so fast and so much that you couldn't possibly imagine. In order to have at least a bit of so-called "fresh air" when I get up, I long ago decided to open a couple of windows each morning for five or ten minutes at most and then close them again for the rest of the day.

I thought I would be doing regular cycling here every weekend like I used to do in previous years. But after I checked out my favourite route and the rural area recently, I made up my mind that no way would I consider cycling again in this deadly polluted city. Just no bloody way.

Now I have to resort to a stationary bike for my exercise!

Not only has the traffic become busier and crazier, the clear blue sky I used to experience is long gone. I doubt very much that I will risk doing any outdoor exercise. It is rather sad that China has been suffering some of the worst environmental degradation at present among other developing countries, all in the name of prosperity and growth.

We know everything is going global these days. Therefore, I am not optimistic any more that anywhere else on earth will be isolated and won't be affected by the actions of another country. One day perhaps we might get the Asian Brown Clouds over the sky in Vancouver, too.

In local newspapers, inside the subway stations, on signs on rooftops, and in the government propaganda that I watch on television almost every night, there are strong and unmistakable messages encouraging people to own a car, a way to demonstrate your next step to have a better standard of living.

Foreign car makers are jockeying for their positions in pursuing their aggressive business plans and fighting for their market share. Car shows accompanied by attractive hostesses posing their curves next to the shiny hoods or trunks are almost the daily rituals in shopping malls and exhibition centres. Banks are now promoting generous car loans to the public as the easy-to-get mortgage lending they have been offering in recent years in the real estate market.

Imagine that in a country with 1.3 billion people, even half of the people are going to own vehicles. No wonder all the foreign car manufacturers are so attracted to this market for the next ten to twenty years. What about the environment?

I have approached some of my close contacts here recently sounding out my wish to bring in our Canadian experts to help the locals raise their awareness in conservation and environmental protection. I am also trying to introduce the David Suzuki Foundation to the municipal government in Shanghai with the help of my associates and friends here. In addition, I am planning to go to Beijing in the next while to explore what I can do about it.

It may not be viable for me to stay here longer as before even though I am involved in a consulting assignment in Shanghai. I have to care more about my personal well- being. I do have to survive with clean air and clean water too. I am not asking too much. So far for these past weeks, I have been sustaining myself on expensive bottled water, including the water I use to brush my teeth.

I will keep you posted and let you know whether I can convince the locals to do something more concrete and sustainable than just building a few more little neighbourhood parks and planting a few more trees and shrubs along their new highways.

All the best to you all, and I hope I can see you again back in Vancouver soon. I miss you guys at the Vancouver Bicycle Club, and I miss the clean air, and clean water...

Your cycling pal,

Originally published December 2002

Fraser Valley Plus (FVP)

October 20, 2002

By John Joyce

For the benefit of readers in Ottawa, Edinburgh, Galway, or Hampton Court, the Fraser Valley stretches 100 km east of Vancouver. Some of its communities are Sumas Prairie, Yarrow, Cultus Lake, Sardis, and Chilliwack. It is a delight for cyclists since there is beautiful scenery, and there are few cars, and opportunities for disputing the planned route.

Nine elite cyclists descended upon a coffee shop off Whatcom Road early one Sunday morning for the annual FVP, Fraser Valley Plus, presented by the Vancouver Bicycle Club. We were delighted to be met by The Fox radio station Community Cruiser driven by Charis, who gave us gifts at Hougen Park. After this, we sped to Cultus Lake via Yarrow, maintaining a cadence of 96 and heart monitors at 137. When not watching the latter, we saw hazelnut trees and many caterpillars crossing the road.

We power lunched at Cultus Lake, which seemed forlorn and resting after a busy season. We tried to locate Teapot Hill somewhere up there as we enjoyed water, mountains, and clouds, all in a southern diffused light pattern. What music might a classical guitarist play on the dock? Some Francisco Tarrega, or could they play an unplugged version of “Wonderful Land”?

On the secret route back, we stopped at Birchwood Dairy, where serious ice cream was for sale. One of the customers was a writer from Altus Arts. This was the seventh year for this 88.31-km ride, and some returnees had hoped for a new trip report, but alas! The Fraser Valley has much to offer cyclists and innumerable routes to explore.

Originally published December 2002

Bumbershoot or Bust

By Judith Beeman

Every year over Labour Day weekend, Seattle holds a spectacular arts and music extravaganza known as Bumbershoot. Right in the downtown centre, where the Space Needle sits, this huge four-day festival has to be seen (and heard!) to be believed. Once in the gate, there are dozens of music, film, dance, and art events simultaneously taking place at many venues. In a word, it's a hoot. I try to make it to Bumbershoot every few years or so, and this year I cycled there.

I had biked to Bellingham before, but never further. Lucky for me, I told Barry Bogart about my upcoming trip during a Pie ride, and he said he would bring some info for me the following week. Well, not only did Barry bring maps by "Road King" and the like, he also brought me a personalized detailed map of the route, made using Microsoft Street and Trips (which sells for about $50 before rebates). The info laid out was terrific for my journey, and apparently one can download a 30-day trial. The route map showed every veer and turn, it gave daily start and stop times and trip distance in klicks, and it divided the route into two days.

As usual when heading to the US, I took the bus to White Rock and rode to the border (about 20 minutes). From there, it was backroads to Bellingham. I usually meander on roads such as Kickerville—it works. I didn't follow the Microsoft map to get to Bellingham as I thought I'd recall my regular route to town.

Once in Bellingham, I chugged through the Fairhaven district and then took a left onto Chuckanut Drive, which goes on for ages. This beautiful, winding two-lane road has the ocean on one side and is a not-to-miss riding experience. It felt a little tight on the extremely narrow road, but the cars go very slowly, so everything balances out. Of course I was wearing my "force field" bright orange safety vest, which makes me feel confident that drivers will swerve before ploughing into me, as long as they aren't looking too deeply at the sea, as I found myself doing. Eyes ahead, everyone!

After Chuckanut, most of the ride was on roads with names like "Old Hwy 9" and "Pioneer Hwy." These were all relatively traffic free, and downright lonely in some spots. (At more than one point I was sure I'd missed a turn somewhere.) I stayed overnight in Burlington at a "cheap" hotel ($43 US with tax) and was in bed by 8 PM, as much conked out by nervous excitement as by pedalled-out exhaustion. According to the map, from the border to my stop should have been 5.5 hours, and it was exactly on. I figure it was about sixty miles.

The second day was a long one. I can't blame the map because it got me to Seattle and the route was great. I can't blame myself (heaven forbid) because I didn't feel I was pedalling much slower. I can say, though, that I was on the road for much longer than I expected—roughly eight hours of biking compared to the estimated 6.5. Coupled with stops at a few thrift shops and a quick lunch, it was turning dark and I was on the verge of becoming unpleasant when I hit Seattle. I suppose the longer day was partly because of a lot more stops and turns, and more city driving. And a couple of huge hills. It was all fun and the weather for both days was warm and sunny. I guess it was an 80-mile day.

Barry's map worked out great, although there was one blip which had me wind up on a major freeway for under a mile (and no kidding, at least three people shouted at me in that short time) before doing a zig-zag back to the correct road. At another point on a quiet road, a truckload of teens drove by and called me a "faggot," and when they realized my gender, followed up with appropriate obscenities. I kept my tongue in place and continued on.

I was very impressed with the scenery of backroads Washington. There were cow farms and sheep and much nature whoda thunk? Lots of greenery and lots of nothing in particular, too, which was a fair tradeoff. It's just so nice to be somewhere you've never been before. What really saved the second day was coming to a red light in Kenmore (I think that's the name), a Seattle suburb, and seeing a sign for the Burke-Gilman trail. At this point it was 12.5 miles to Seattle on the trail, and while I'm sure it would’ve been about the same distance on the road, it would’ve taken me much longer due to stops/turns and map reading. This was my first time on the trail and it was much fun (hoo-hah there are a lot of very wealthy people with amazing waterfront homes—I pedalled by miles and miles of the good life). It was a rewarding end to a second near-perfect day of cycling. I stayed with my friend and Bumbershoot was as good as ever.

If anyone would like the detailed map for this trip, I promise to dig it up and pass it on. Email me at beeman AT

Originally published December 2002

Site Meter