First Ride (2007)

Saturday March 10th, 2007

Every winter the anticipation builds as the snow piles up, the long wait for the warmer weather. Many cyclists ride all winter long, myself I take time off, and that time off rekindles my spirit of cycling to the point that come late winter its unbearable. The bike show normally happens before the first ride, and this year was no difference. But the second weekend in March finally provided the right conditions for riding.

Just a couple of days beforethere was a storm, high winds lots of snow, but on March 10th it was finally time to hit the streets. Not technically my first ride of the season, since I was on my bike Jan 1st and 2nd, but it was the first ride of the cycling season for me.

Sure the roads were wet, covered in old grey snow that matched the colour of the sky. Snowbanks reduced normal cycling corridors into tight spaces between curbs, parked cars and moving traffic. Two months of rust on the cycling in traffic skills compounded the smaller cycling space. Soon enough everything will be back to normal, the war for space will be reduced to the usual battle, for now I'm happy to be on the road.

It was time to test the legs, months off the bike can be felt in the sluggish circles your legs make on the first ride. Never mind that. The dearly missed feel of the open air and wind in your face distracts you from the reduced speed.

Wanting to prove myself, I made my way towards the steepest hill I know, in the neighborhood around High Park. The hill looks innocent enough, a third of the way up, around the corner you see the rest of it, more of a wall, than a hill. Itís steep, and always longer than you think it is. At the top is a church just incase you need a place to keel over and die. After months off the bike, the legs still get me to the top, huffing and puffing and turning over slowly. Not in the style of Lance, but then even in my best shape I huff and puff up that beast.

First ride of the year, calls for the first flat of the year. At the crest of the hill, in the shadow of the church I fixed my first flat, rusty and out of practice I fumbled about with my tools, greasy hands and my pump as locals walked by snickering ever so quietly. At least I think they are snickering, I would, but I'm a jerk.

Off again, down towards the waterfront, and the realization that the bike paths are covered in snow, the same realization I make every year during the first ride. So I stayed on the Lakeshore, taking the full lane to avoid puddles, even though the fenders do a good job of keeping my feet dry. Puddles have that nasty habit of hiding massive pot holes and there are 3 other lanes for the motorists. Surprisingly no honks, no intimidation for taking the full lane.

There's bridge work in on Cherry Street, another detour and a stop for pictures of lake freighters along the way. The English River, one of freighters the company I work for owns was there. I was just talking about that ship the other day and was not expecting to see it down there. The whole area was pretty quiet, none of the normal buzz of activity. I was alone and undisturbed as I snapped a few pictures.

It was time to head on home, but along the way I decided to find a few new roads, a pedestrian bridge I had heard rumours about and by the time I am home I was covered sweat and cold at the same time. The front of my bike is encrusted in a hard mixture of salt, sand and other assorted road crud. I'm sure my bike hates me.

The next day I was out again, spring is here.

Below: The English River at Lafarge's Cherry Street Silos. Essrocs Stephan B Roman. The Alcobay. Under the Gardiner Expressway, Toronto.

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