Kranking the K's: Pushing the Pedals in One’s 60th Year ...

For just over a year now, I've been enjoying a baby blue bike from Brodie, my beloved 2015 Romax. At age 59, I'm beginning to experience a few lower leg tendon issues, stemming mainly from a life-time of running. As a result, time on the bike has been my “go-to” exercise regime, with most days seeing 20-30 km rides in and around the city of Vancouver. These have been punctuated with occasional 55-65 km excursions and even one 100+ ride to Bellingham, Washington, from my home in Vancouver's Kitsilano neighbourhood. That was a one-way roll, with Amtrak conveniently providing the return, late in the evening. Bikes are only levied a USD $5 surcharge on the train (the fare itself is $20), so if an out-and-back isn't your desire, you can make the return via the rails.

Another time, a friend and I put bikes on the Skytrain, taking it to the outskirts of Metro Vancouver’s urban areas to Surrey's King George Station, thus shortening the ride to Bellingham to a very manageable 65 km. Skytrain cost on the weekend: CAD $2.75, with no surcharge.

As I've grown more comfortable with the Romax - an exquisite cyclocross machine (essentially a beefed up road bike with disc brakes) - I've yearned to go a little further afield, hearkening back to my twenties, when I managed a Vancouver-to-Calgary trip (10 days, with camping gear) and a Surrey-Whistler out-and-back (over 2 days, covering 340 km). However, work and not riding regularly have been easy excuses for deferral, until recently, when I embarked on a leave from my job. Without the 9-5 strictures, impromptu rides have been easier to accomplish, owing to more weather windows and schedule flexibility.

Riding to Calgary, 1983

So it was that on a Friday in mid-April, I got on my bike at 6 AM, thinking I might do another ride to West Vancouver's Horseshoe Bay and back (about 65 km), but in the recesses of my mind entertaining the possibility of continuing on to Lion's Bay, or maybe even Squamish ... or possibly  (shudder) Whistler!

I rode light, carrying only a flimsy windbreaker in addition to removable arm and leg sleeves, a couple of Cliff bars, a water bottle, and an iPhone. I knew that I had the option of bailing out en route and taking public transit back from Horseshoe Bay or Lion's Bay, with my bike, for the cost of a local bus ticket.

I enjoyed the quiet, scenic undulations of Marine Drive in West Vancouver and found myself above Horseshoe Bay, contemplating going on. That decision point led to another at Lion's Bay, where I refueled at the General Store with a date bar and hot chocolate. I continued north, now committed to Squamish. Timing myself on the nasty hill at Furry Creek, I noted that I was able to vanquish the incline in 7 minutes, bolstering my confidence. North of Squamish, more food and water at a local Tim Horton's in Garibaldi Highlands and then the slightly scary resolution to take on the challenging climbs between there and Whistler for my first time in over thirty years.

At noon, I was approaching Whistler's Creekside, by now on the sedate Valley Trail, but by this time also definitely "bonking" and groggily anticipating more food in Whistler Village, which would represent about 130 km of riding and cumulative elevation gains of close to 2000 m. I was doing the Squamish-Whistler stretch (675 metres of climbing over 53 km) with one Cliff bar and a bottle of water. Fortunately, the coolish weather helped to prevent overheating and too much water loss, but the engine was sputtering, nonetheless.

Whistler Village, this April.

12:30 PM saw me roll into Whistler Village, with the odd raindrop accompanying. A thousand+ calories later I was considering riding back as far as Squamish, thinking that the predominantly downhill run would give me bragging rights to an imperial century (i.e., 100 miles) plus more. However, the raindrops were still falling and the thought of getting caught in a chilly downpour in the Cheakamus Canyon, with its dearth of shelter and amenities was an effective deterrent. I decided to ride back to Creekside, just 5 km from the Village, and try my luck at hitchhiking, bike and all. Thanks to Dan in a canopied pick-up, Kristina in her Delica, and Lisa with her minivan, my Romax and I made it back to Vancouver by late afternoon!