At 235km, this was my longest ride yet. Since I’ve been riding much more this past year, it’s been fun to push myself and see just how far I can go. I’ve started enjoying the much longer rides; 8-9 hours in the saddle gets me to that specific type of zen that is hard to get to otherwise. Also, I was following the Tour Divide a bit closer this year, and watching the racers pull 2-300KM days in the mountains was so inspiring.
I started this ride 2 hours later than I had planned as I missed my alarm. The original plan for this was to reach Derek and Diane’s house in Val-David by lunch time, and we would hang out with their kids and go swimming, etc. Anyway, I guess 2 hours extra sleep never hurt anyone.
Leaving at 9 (instead of 7) meant that I had to ride with rush hour traffic while I was still in the city, which wasn’t great, and it was already starting to get pretty hot. I took my normal route up to Laval, but I took the railway bridge (“Bordeaux Railway Bridge”) that Jean-Roch showed me last time we went riding together. This was a much more pleasant experience than Pont Viau, which google maps thinks is the best - it means you get to stay on a nice bike path along the water on the Montreal side and it puts you right on the north-bound paved rail trail that takes you to the top of Laval.
Last time I rode back from Val-David, the worst part about the route was a few kilometer section in Sainte-Therese that is basically like riding on a highway. I pulled out the Route-Vert maps to see if there was a way around this, since I was surprised that the “Parc lineaire” in Laval didn’t connect to the Petit Train du Nord. Sure enough, they’ve though of everything, and I found a nice little 10-15km detour that takes you along some nice suburban roads in Rosemere. From there, I connected with the paved part of the Petit Train du Nord, which is a nice little ride.
There were a lot of people out and about on the path which was lovely to see at 10am on a Wednesday. However, it was at this point that I started hearing an annoying squeek coming from my saddle. The last ride I’d taken was through a massive rainstorm, and since I don’t have fenders on my road bike, my saddle took the brunt of the damage. I figured something had gotten a bit rusty. On the petit train du nord path they have amazing trail angels who ride up and down the path looking for people who need help. I flagged one of them down and got a bit of lube from him to see if I could get the squeek to go away. As he was getting the lube out of his bag, I flipped my bike upside down, and accidentally thwaked him on the head with my wheel… Oops. He was fine, and we had a good laugh about it.
I continued on my way, but the squeak remained. I mostly decided to ignore it as I didn’t really want to stop and fiddle with things since I was already late, and my legs were feeling good.
Before hitting Saint Jerome, I hung a right off the petit train du nord to go towards some of the more interesting terrain that I’d ridden in the rain a few weeks earlier. This path took me through some battery chicken farms tucked between churches and synagogues, and some very attractive looking stables. Heading uphill and into Sainte-Calixte, I took my first stop to refill my water, empty my bladder and chug a large chocolate milk. The mountains here aren’t super-steep, but there was a big climb outside of Saint-Calixte-Nord that gains a few hundred meters elevation in only a few KM. Then you get a glorious downhill all the way down the the Lac de L’Achigan, where you can ogle at the beautiful houses and wonder if you should stop to jump in…
I continued on after passing by a bunch of newly laid asphalt which stuck to my tyres, and I got scared that I might rip a hole in them. Luckily that didn’t happen, and I ended up at Espresso Sports in Mont Rolland where I refilled my bottles, stretched a little, and bought some rehydration salts. It was pretty hot, and I was quite hungry at this point, even though I could still feel the weight of the chocolate milk potentially curdling in my belly.
After Mont-Roland and Saint-Adele, I joined the petit train du nord again. Out here it isn’t paved, and is ever-so-slightly up hill. To the point where I felt like somone was pulling on my brake cable. I think this was the hardest 20K of the ride - I knew I was almost there, but I’d already ridden about ~120K without any real rest, and it was very warm.
This part of the petit train du nord has a lot of memories - Myrill and I came here on one of our first dates and wild camped in the woods out here. When I realized that it gave me a good boost of energy. The path itself is extremely beatiful, and it follows the Riviere du Nord for quite a ways. Here there are a bunch of rapids and waterfalls that sound really nice alongside the sound of gravel under wheels.
I finally made it to Val-David and found the house that Derek and Diane were renting which is at the end of a beautiful cul-de-sac with a view of only hills and trees from the back deck.
Derek plied me with delicious carbs, the best tasting apple juice ever and some more carbs. I played with Cassia and Leora for a bit. Derek did a bad thing and told me he could drive me back to Montreal the next day if I wanted… It sounded pretty tempting at that point, but I declined, I was a sweaty smelly mess and I kind of wanted to stay that way.
We got the girls ready to go riding and stuck Leora in the trailer. That’s when I discovered that my saddle was almost no longer attached to my bike. Aha! So that’s where the squeaking had been coming from all that time. I tighened it back up, but my seat post has probably the worst saddle attachment I’ve ever seen, and it makes it impossible to make the saddle sit straight. I did my best.
We rode to the Mouton Noir, where I got some caffeine and a san pelegrino arranciata. I was still feeling a bit dehydrated so I added some salt to it, which was surprisingly delicious. Kind of reminded me of salty lemon soda in India. It really did the trick.
Derek rode with me for about 10K down the petit train du nord, and turned around at the beautiful public beach on Lac Raymond. Cassia wanted to ride with me all the way to Montreal, which was very cute.
The lovely part about this route is that almost the whole 100KM home were downhill. I first stopped at Espresso Sports again to try and adjust my saddle, but in the end got frustrated with it, got grease on my jersey, and carried on riding.
The gravel path after Sainte-Adele was delightful, with every corner bringing some new scenery or some new interesting terrain to follow. This is an old railway line, and while I was lamenting the fact that it is no longer a train (imagine if they’d turned this into a passenger railway instead of a bike path! - being able to get to the Laurentians from Montreal would be fantastic!), today I was happy that it was a bike path.
Most of the ride home was just cranking. When I got to down to the Blainville portion of the path, I was super tired. On a slight incline another cyclist took over. I pushed into a lower gear and caught his wheel, and he pulled me all the way to Laval. We didn’t get to talk much, but after I’d told him how far I’d just ridden (probably over 180K at that point), he brought me basically all the way to the bridge over the Riviere des Milles Iles to Laval.
From there it’s a straight shot down to Montreal and the Bordeaux bridge again. The sun had started to set and I had found a second wind, so I took Avenue Graham through TMR to meet up with the des Carriers bike path.
This is where things almost took a turn for the worst. Kind of like when you get off the highway after driving all day and you are just used to going at a certain speed, I was going way too fast on this path to be safe with all the other cyclists and pedestrians around. One bike merged from the left, and at the same time, the bike in front of me was turning left. I got stuck between them as I was trying to overtake everyone at the same time. I had to skid to a stop. Luckily I didn’t hit anyone, but it could have been an uncomfortable end to the day. They say most accidents happen within 10 minutes of home!
When I finally got home, I did a celebratory whoop, texted all the interested parties, and promptly got in the shower.
Even though I think I managed my hydration pretty well throughout the day no matter how hard I tried that night, I had cotton mouth until I fell asleep. It did hover above 26 degrees most of the day, and I know I was sweating for a lot of it, but for next time I think I need to do some more research on how to keep myself well hydrated. I’ve documented what I drank and ate during this ride below, maybe someone reading this has some suggestions!
This was almost twice as far as I’d ever ridden, and it felt like a real accomplishment. Thanks to Derek, Cassia and Leora for feeding me half way through!
A few stats
- 4.2l of water (some with Nuun, some without)
- 1l of chocolate milk
- 330ml San Pellegrino augmented with salt
- 1 espresso
- 1.5 glasses of delicious Quebec apple juice
- 1 bowl steel-cut oats with maple syrup
- 1 banana
- 1 bowl of pasta that Derek made me
- 2 Cliff bars
- 6 ice cubes