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Dec 29, 2012

Urban Fatbike Adventures - COP Eastlands

It's no secret that we love exploring Calgary by bike. But come winter, many folks simply have to put away the bike and patiently wait for spring to come. Not us! This is the first in a short series of posts all about Urban Fatbiking in some of Calgary's wild places.

Come wintertime, Calgary's famous Multi-use Pathway System (MUP) turns into an epic snowy singletrack network the traverses this city in every direction. You can literally ride completely around Calgary on the trail networks.

Todays ride started in Edworthy Park, heading west along the tracks to the Calgary Olympic Park "Eastlands" cross country trail network, and back again.

Eastlands Trail Map
Starting into the Eastlands at its east end, at the parking area at the bottom of Sarcee Trail, the loop taken was basically, Slim Shady to Turtle Soup, to Supersize, to Ridgerun, Lame-o, Beater, Beaver Fever, to Jawbone, down Oasis, and back to the start.

Sticky snow.
The loop has been walked on by hikers so traction was quite good around the entire loop.  Climbing up through the ravine on Turtle Soup was really nice - no wind, no noise, just the crunchsqueak (that's my word for the sound fatbike tires make when they pack down snow) of my tires on the snow.  The only spot too steep for me to ride was Lame-o, which sometimes gets me in the summer too, so no biggie.

But once at the top of the trails the real fun began with the downhills offering nothing but slip sliding fun, snow covered bridges, and even a babling brook down the Oasis trail.

Dead car on Beater.
One thing I am learning (quickly) is that braking on fatbikes is a lot different than almost any other bike I've ridden.  The way you use the brakes reminds me an awful lot of how you use your brakes in cyclocross - which is to say, not much and not very often - you just have to surf it out and look ahead!

Once at the bottom I decided to head back the way I came out except instead of riding along the tracks I decided to pop into the Sidetrack trail which basically parallels the tracks but runs up high on a tight little single track.  There were other bike tracks present and it also looked like some folks have been working on the trail to open up the tight areas - cool!  They even created a new link about halfway along that smoothes out the trail no matter which direction you ride it.

The Eastlands Trails are easily accessed via the parking area at the bottom of Sarcee Trail and are a fine enough place to start.  The trail network can be ridden in a few different ways offering a couple loop options depending on where you decide to go.  

A Strava map of the entire ride is here.

We have a small handful of fatbikes available for rent - just call the shop for availability.

Dec 28, 2012

Top Bike Related Stories for Calgary in 2012

'Tis the season of lists - lists of the best/worst of everything under the sun are all aflutter this time of year.  What would list season be without a list of Calgary's Bicycle Related Stories, right?


Bike Share Debate - One of the more ambitious, expensive, and contentious action items in the Comprehensive Cycling Strategy was a BIXI-style bike share system for the downtown/Beltline area.  January saw this item land in the Transportation Committee and after debate was finished the idea was sent back to City Administration so they could plan how it would be implemented and paid for.  Hint - no City money will be spent on the system.  Hope exists that a private sponsor will be found to fund the system when it is finally ready for roll out in 2013 or 2014 at the earliest. The Calgary Sun weighs in here.


Downtown Bike Count Breaks 10,000 - Our city's bike advocacy organization - Bike Calgary - broke the news that for the first time ever bicycles travelling into the CBD (Central Business District) crested the 10,000 mark in 2011, proving to those of us that cycle regularly that indeed, more people were choosing to cycle and we weren't just hallucinating all those bikes we were seeing.


The Peace Bridge Opens - Much has been written about this beautiful river span and there is not enough pixels available here to cover it all, however, the bridge opened to people during this month and the celebration on the day was massive with thousands of Calgarians coming down to check out the bridge.  One of the cool features of the bridge is the bike lane running down the middle, separated from peoplw walking on the sides.  CTV News covers it here.

The Good Life Community Bike Shop Finds a Home - Every city needs a community bike shop and thankfully The Good Life found a home, at least over the summer, as it appears they are now on the hunt again for a more permanent space.


Calgary Hires First Bicycle Coordinator -  Arguably the most important item in the new Cycle Strategy was the hiring of a person to coordinate all the improvements called for in the strategy.  Finding that person was a challenge but eventually a fellow was found and imported to Calgary from Tuscon, Arizona.  Say hello to Tom Thivener - our new Bicycle Guru.

Another first for our fair city - the first ever Tweed Run It took us awhile to finally get one of these great rides up and running but better late than never, right?


Calgary's newest and already biggest bike festival - Cyclepalooza - returned for a second year of bike fun.  A whole new committee of volunteers brought the festival up to a new level of grand bikery and the events organized by Calgarians were better attended, more varied, and generally more awesome than 2011.  Let's hope 2013 sees the festival return with even more energy!

Here is a short edit of one of the events on the calendar - The Crowbomb!


Not much happened in July, except dressing up like cowboys and cowgirls and going for a bike ride!


MacLeod Trail to get bike lanes? Not quite. - One of the worst stretches of road in Calgary for people walking and people on bikes is the MacLeod Trail corridor.  Non-existent bike infrastructure is coupled with narrow sidewalks and parking lots separating the businesses along the roadway from the sidewalks makes this road perhaps the worst stretch in Calgary for people.  On top of that, crossing this roadway is a nightmare no matter where along its route you try to cross.

The plan being floated by the City does not indicate bike lanes on the roadway proper - it is actually more about creating space for people walking and people on bikes where the sidewalks currently are.  We'll see what city administration comes up with for this corridor but honestly anything would be better than was is currently (not) there. 


3-1-1 Online Updated with Bicycle Specific Reporting Options - 311 is a great tool here in Calgary for reporting all manner of city related concerns and this year the system was upgraded with more bicycle specific options to help keep bike riders rolling all season long.  Again, Bike Calgary did some amazing work with the City, where would we be without these hard working volunteers?


Calgary to Prioritize Bike Lane Snow Clearing -  While the title of this seems like a really big deal, and believe me the bike hater crowd sure thought so, it was perhaps the biggest non-story of the year.  Sure, it sounds great that the City will be telling snow plow operators to push the snow to the curb instead of into the middle of the lane but reality in the bike lane is a different story.  Not much has changed. 

Calgary's First Separated Bike Lanes Announced - This was probably the biggest bike news story of the year for Calgary.  2 lanes will be installed in Spring 2013, one going north through the downtown and one going south, eventually linking up to a wider network of separated lanes criss-crossing the downtown, where they are needed most.  Thankfully, the expected backlash to the story was muted, perhaps we'll need to wait until the lanes are installed to feel the full force of the bike haters.


Community asks for bike lanes, then doesn't want them. What a weird and wonderful world we live in.  The southwest community of Lakeview had some utility improvements installed and as part of the reconstruction efforts the local Alderman, Brian Pincott, worked with the community to have new bike lanes installed at no extra charge by the contractor.  However, soon after the lanes were installed people in the community started complaining about them, eventually asking for them to be removed.  Thankfully that didn't happen but it does sound like they will be reduced in size at some point in the future.  While not on the scale of what happened in Toronto (removal of the Jarvis Street bike lanes) this situation showed how important it is to work hard to get everyone on board with new projects.

On a fantastically positive note, Alberta Transportation responded to concerns from Bike Calgary that the current new driver handbook needed to be updated with more accurate information on the rights and responsibilities of cyclists on the road.  Recommendations were made to the Provincial Transportation Minister and all were accepted.  Score one for the good guys!


West LRT Opens - On the face of it, how does the new C-Train line qualify as a bike news story?  Well, because of this!  In my opinion, this is one of the biggest bike news stories of the year for a couple of reasons - 1) it shows that the City is very serious about improving bike infrastructure and bike/transit integration and 2) the City installed our first ever "bicycle superhighway" in Calgary right beside the line.  I blogged about it here - lets hope that the City continues this precedent when new train lines and bus rapid transit roads are built in the future.

In fact, talk is already happening about trying to retrofit another bicycle superhighway along the existing south line.  It will be interesting to see if this happens in 2013.

Will 2013 have as many positive bike stories?  Let's hope so!

Dec 19, 2012

Bicycle People Know How to Have Fun!

Bilenky Bicycle Works is a custom bike manufacturer based in Philidelphia PA and for the last few years have been organizing what might be the only cyclocross race in the world where you need a tetanus shot to compete - the Junkyard Cyclocross. 

I don't know about you but to me, this looks like it is right up my alley, erm, junkyard!


Dec 17, 2012

Fatbiking the Goldilocks Loop

Another free weekend, another fatbike ride at West Bragg Creek.  This time out I decided to ride the "Goldilocks Loop" which uses new trails that were built specifically for mountain bikers.

These cozy rock seats offer a great view of the valley west.
The loop uses 3 trails to complete the loop.  Starting at the parking lot the trail heads south and immediately heads straight up the Ranger Summit (South) trail for about 45 minutes of lung busting climbing to the summit, pictured above.  I found the climb to be quite challenging but almost entirely rideable bottom to top.

Once at the top the trails basically heads straight back down along Strange Brew and Boundary Trails. The trail back down was so much fun!  Berms, switchbacks, jumps, and swooping singletrack take you all the way back to the parking lot.  I wish I had brought some eyewear or goggles for the descent though since the cold temperatures werer causing my eyes to sting and water, hardly a bummer but noteworthy for next time out.

Looking west from the summit.
Conditions in West Bragg are great right now.  In fact, for fatbiking, I'd suggest that Mother Nature needs to "get busy" and dump some more snow in the area.  The trails I rode were well boot packed and easy to ride on, in fact, I'd suggest that many of the trails could still be ridden on a regular MTB.

The completed loop.

Once I was back down to the parking lot I ran into Brett and his buddy Chris who were also just finishing up a ride on Bragging Rights and Long Distance.  It's obvious that the West Bragg Creek trails are THE place for great fatbiking close to Calgary - could it be our very own fatbike mecca?

Strava info here - Goldilocks Loop.
(Looks like I placed 17th on the downhill segment, not bad considering I've never ridden that trail before and it was snow covered!)

Dec 5, 2012

Calgary's First Bicycle Super Highway?

The much anticipated west leg of Calgary's light rail transit system is due to open on December 10th and along with it, many improvements to Calgary's bicycle network.  There is a comprehensive list of the improvements here but one of the most exciting components is a new multi-use pathway (MUP) that runs parallel to the line from Westbrook to 69 St.

69 St station head with the new high school and parking garage in the background.
In the past, if you lived west of Sarcee Trail and tried to cycle from there east towards the inner city you would run into the very bicycle (and people) unfriendly corridor that is Sarcee Trail.  Getting across this road required that you either A) detour north to the Bow Trail area B) try to navigate the wretched intersection at 17th Avenue or C) detour south towards the pedestrian overpass near 26th Avenue SW.  All of these options were not the best and made cycling and walking between these areas difficult.

It's all downhill from here! And look at the view!
The new MUP is a very direct route, almost a bicycle superhighway (ok, I know its only a couple miles, not 11) and provides great access to all the businesses along the 17th Avenue corridor including Westbrook Mall and West Market Square.  Running along the north side of 17th Avenue for its entire length it connects the communities on either side of Sarcee Trail to each other and makes it possible to quickly and safely walk or cycle between these areas.  For bicycle commuters, there is now a very direct route to downtown (if used in conjunction with other West LRT bike improvements).

Westbrook station head in all its post-construction glory.
I bicycled the route this morning from the 69 St station down to the Westbrook station, a Strava map of the route can be found here.  And just for the fun of it, here is a video of the new line from the City of Calgary. The official opening isn't until December 10th however on December 8th there is a celebration going on during the day at all the new stations - details of the celebration events can be found here.

Perhaps the City can look at adding these same sorts of bicycle superhighways when designing the South East and North Central lines in the future?

Dec 3, 2012

Fat Biking the Telephone Loop

Mukluk's at rest, Telephone Loop, West Bragg Creek
Conditions were perfect to head out to the mountains so we could run our Salsa Mukluk demo bikes through a long ride on XC Ski trails in the West Bragg Creek area west of Calgary.

Hommie and Krocker were up for the challenge so we loaded up the bikes Sunday morning and drove west into what we hoped would be epic winter conditions and lots of sweet single track.  Both were eventually found - as well as a new desire to get out to the mountains in the wintertime on something other than skis. Arriving at the trailhead and were surprised to see a little less snow on the ground than what we had in Calgary, would the fatbikes be overkill?

Front range of the Rockies in the distance.
Once we were organized and ready to go it was decided that Telephone Loop would be the trail of the day.  At 15 kms long and not maintained right now (logging is in progress along part of it) we guessed it would take about 2 hrs of riding to complete.  We also knew that there were no really steep and long sections on the trail so we figured it would be a good option since fat bikes can still have a hard time on steep, snowy climbs.

The trail itself was really fun for fatbiking.  The entire loop had been hiked on so there was a slightly packed down boot trail to follow in the deeper snow usually found in the open meadows.  We had to employ our Jedi balancing skills to stay within what was basically a 12" wide trough (I cannot explain how hard it was to stay in that trough!) through the open areas but once we were back into the trees the trail was usually wide with a little less snowpack and easy to pedal on.

The absolute best part of the ride was the look on xc skiers faces as we pedaled past them: How do you adequately convey the look of jaw hitting the ground?  All three of us would burst into belly laughs when passing these ghastly looking faces, so funny!  

Nature being rather natural.
I recorded the loop to Strava and you can find the info here.

If you are interested in trying out one of these amazing bikes book your test ride with us.  We have 4 bikes available for demo - but be careful, you will want one!