At first I considered circling Hamilton, arriving there from the north and then following the coast back home, but I also wanted to explore the landscape around Kleinburg. A week or two earlier I had noticed a promising route out of Toronto following the Humber River. In the Google Maps satellite view, a verdant swath of land clings to the banks of the Humber as it winds its way between Vaughan and Brampton. Wanting to explore this further, I opted for Kleinburg.
But this route to Kleinburg is only about 34 kilometres, so I decided to use the town as a starting point for a longer foray into the countryside. A loop up through the Hockley Valley looked like just the ticket. The pictures I found online looked beautiful.I’d take Nashville Road/ Countryside Drive over to Airport road, follow that north to Hockley Valley Road and cross back over to Country Road 50 at Loretto, before continuing back down to Countryside Drive via 50, Old Church Road and The Gore Road.
I also decided that I would use the BC Randonneur’s cue sheet template to get used to following a cue sheet. The week before, Google Maps instructions had proven difficult to read and, besides, I thought, I should get used to reading a proper cue sheet in the lead-up to my first 200 kilometre brevet at the beginning of September.
On Saturday morning I woke at 4:00, an hour before my alarm, so I decided that I’d head out early and avoid the heat of the day. After eating breakfast, drinking a mug of coffee and doing a last-minute check of my gear it was just after five. I snapped a photo of the moon and clouds before getting underway.
I got to Wallace and Lansdowne before noticing that I didn’t have my cycling computer. My absent-mindedness was hampering my early start. After heading back home and finding my computer, I was underway for the second time at 5:24. Good.
One thing many Randonneurs suggest having is a headlamp to see your cue sheet and computer in the dark. I didn’t have one, but wasn’t worried since the dark part of my route would be in the city under streetlights. One look at my cycling cockpit proved the folly of that assumption.
I headed east to the end of Wallace to the West Toronto Rail Path and took that north. It was deserted at that time of the morning and I enjoyed the 800 metres between Wallace and the end of the line. From there I wove my way up to Albion road, which eventually led me to the upper section of the Humber Bike Trail. The city was quiet, so brief sections of Davenport, Keel, Weston Road and Albion where fine.
The sky started to brighten as I followed the winding Humber River. Wisps of mist hung over the grasslands and the sky was streaked with beautiful oranges. I took a lot of pictures on this six kilometre section of bike path, which slowed me down a bit, but I’ve been guilty of not taking enough in the past. Along with these photo delays, I took a few wrong turns, so I was a bit behind schedule when I finally emerged from the path and found Islington, my road to Kleinburg. But the sun was rising and I was leaving the city behind me, so I my spirits were up.
I arrived in Kleinburg without incident. Islington is a major thoroughfare, but it was still early, so I had a quiet ride. I made a note to myself that this quietude would be gone on my return journey, but that wouldn’t be for several hours.
During my brief photo stop in Kleinburg, two men on racing bikes sped by me and turned left on Nashville. I caught up to them at the first intersection ready to draft, but they were really slow getting started, so I sped by them. They caught up to me again at a set of lights and we chatted as we waited for a green. They lived nearby and were sticking to a flatter landscape than I for their 100 kilometre ride. I rode off ahead of them when the light turned green. We were riding southwest, so I could see one of their shadows as he drafted me until the next intersection. After that I lost him. I think they headed south.
The day before I had bought a new squeezable water bottle, allowing me to easily rehydrate as I rode, so I took advantage of this. By Mono Road, about 8:20 a.m., I was ready for more water and a snack, so I stopped at a gas station. The hills I’d be climbing up the Niagara Escarpment where coming into view, which provided further motivation to stop for few minutes.
As I laboured up this series of hills, I thanked myself for my nutritional/ hydration foresight. The sun was getting hotter and the trees at the side of the road afforded little shade. Storm clouds were collecting in front of me, which seemed to raise the humidity level considerably. The engineer who designed Airport Road clearly wasn’t concerned about the grade of the hills. I had climbed the Escarpment a few weeks before on a tour with MM, but this ascent from Burlington had been gradual by comparison. And each time I crested a hill, the next one would come into view.
Now, hill climbing is physically tough, but it’s more of a psychological test. Hills want to screw with your mind. On this particular ascent I would make it to the top of one steep climb only to have another come into view. But you need to be tougher than the hill. You need to make sure they don’t get under your skin. The trick is is to ignore all the external stuff. Don’t allow frustration to overtake you. Focus on the road directly in front of your wheel. When you’re successful at this, you enter a kind of flow. There were a few moments during this climb where I almost let the hill crush me, but I managed to keep my emotions at bay.
By 9ish I was in Mono Mills. I had depleted most of the water I bought half an hour earlier, so I bought some Gatorade and got back on the road. Hockley Valley road was still 10 kilometres away. I was partially repaid for the morning’s climb with a wild curving descent into Hockley Valley. However my joy at this descent was tempered by the realization that I’d have to make up this altitude again coming out of the valley. I was also more than a little concerned that I wouldn’t be able to slow down from my top speed of 69.6 kmph in order to make the turn onto Hockley Valley Road.
I managed, however, to make the turn. It was nice to get away from the traffic. Within minutes I was in Hockley, where I took my first wrong turn of the trip, climbing the steepest hill yet before realizing my mistake.
y legs were sore, but the rest of the trip through the valley flew by. In Loretto I stopped for a break at an abandoned-looking baseball diamond. I had been eating and drinking as I rode, so I was in good shape for my return trip.
To my great relief, there weren’t any steep hills to rival the one I’d descended coming into the valley. Unfortunately the consisted of rolling hills for most of the way back. There weren’t any great descents down the Escarpment either. The rolling hills were really getting to me, but somehow the trip back to Kleinburg went quickly. I stopped at a Subway in a strip mall south of Kleinburg and ate a six-inch sub.
With all the afternoon traffic the trip back along Islington wasn’t as pleasant as my morning’s journey and the Humber Valley segment was all-too-short before I found myself in uptown Saturday afternoon traffic. Either way it’s a relatively short ride compared to other routes I’ve tried. I seemed to hit every red light, though.
In the end I rode a total of 170 kilometres through the hilliest terrain I have faced as a cyclist. My time in the saddle was seven hours and 15 minutes and the trip took a total of 9 hours (almost to the minute). This time I was successful keeping myself hydrated and fed, so I was feeling pretty good when I got home.
I had hoped for a total time of less than 8 hours, but in retrospect, the hills would have made that hard. Maybe next year. Now I’m setting my sights on the [Mean Streets 200 kilometres brevet] in a few weeks with perhaps one more training ride next weekend.