Winter Ride to Ridley's Cycle

After a recovery day yesterday, it was time to head out and do a significant ride up and over the hills on 14St which runs around the east side of Nose Hill Park, a favorite walking and mountain biking hill.

I decided to ride over 96th Ave, through the construction on my Trek Navigator 2.0 which has quickly become my winter commuting bicycle because of studded tires that allow safe cycling over ice, through loosely packed snow up to about 3" thick, and over hard packed snow and ice. The reason I mention these specifics is because on semi-packed snow it doesn't matter what kind of tires you have because you are going to slide when the packed snow breaks loose underneath your wheels.

I started walking up to 96 Avenue NE because of loosely packed dirt and a slope of about 60-70 degrees with some deep snow drifts. 96th Ave goes west and connects onto Harvest Hills Blvd which is essentially an extension of Centre St if you're driving a bus. Don't try to drive a car from Harvest Hills Blvd to Centre St or vice-versa because that car trap has trapped many a car and pickup!

Even though the dirt on 96 Ave is soft in places, I had no trouble cycling west onto the pathway running north/south on the west side of the Harvest Hills Boulevard. From there it is a steep down grade to Beddington Trail overpass and over a small bridge. Turning right one goes up a steep climb where the Trek hit a deep patch of snow that stopped me dead in my tracks... so I walked up the remaining hill over rough ice that could easily twist an ankle while wondering why steep pathways don't get priority snow removal like roads do.

Looking East from the North side of Beddington Trail

(This pathway is very steep (around 12-14% grade)

Since this pathway lies in the shadow of Beddington Trail, it does not get much sun to melt the snow off. The warm weather lately has caused the bottom layer of the snow pack to melt and form very rough ice which is treacherous to walk or cycle on. It was a real mess cycling and walking up this pathway. Eventually I reached Birkshire Blvd and began my trek (pun intended) to 14th St.

As a cyclist new to winterizing bicycles, I was quickly acclimated to studded tires and confident in the traction provided. Newly fallen snow was easy to ride through when only a few inches cover the ground. Cycling in cool weather isn't something that motivated me to cycle someplace. Its usually the promise of a coffee stop somewhere on a short ride which works wonders for my motivation. Once underway, even cycling in cold weather is enjoyable.

With some hesitation, I undertook today's ride with a goal of going easy on myself in the cold morning air. This plan fell apart somewhat when I began climbing hills. Having climbed 14th St several times during the summer, getting used to a bicycle with energy robbing studded tires and lower gears was going to take time. After an hour's effort and a moderate pace I had only climbed to the top of 14th St. Leaving two hours early for what would normally be an hour ride during the summer turned out to be a good idea.

Eventually I made my way through some lights onto a pathway which lead over to 19th St which took me down to Second Cup on 16th Ave for a coffee to warm up and take care of some business nearby. Then it was time to head south and cut east along a pathway just south of Sunnyside Station which leads through SAIT over to 10th St. I was surprised to see at least a half dozen or more bicycles at SAIT. From SAIT I followed 10th St south on the bicycle only marked shoulder. I scooted down the hill and took a quick right onto 3rd Ave and a quick left over to Ridley's Cycle where my Trek was purchased. Even on short notice they were able to do a quick adjustment on the bicycle to correct minor shifting problems. After about a month or two of use, cables tend to stretch and thus require adjustment.

I left the bicycle in their capable hands after picking up my free gift certificate and went for breakfast just down the street a short distance where I spent some time on Twitter tweeting how the ride was going. When I returned back to Ridley's, I discovered the tuneup had been done for free... no charge. When you find a good bicycle store where you get good service, stick with them and help make them successful. Come spring, I'll be heading back to purchase some touring gear.

After picking the bike up and heading home, the shifting was once again right on par. Not only that, but Ridley's had found some slop in the bottom bracket and also fixed that problem without me even having to ask.

Compare this customer experience with my experience at another bicycle store last April. Bought a bike. The bike had two defective rims so it had obviously never been inspected. It took a month trying to have the bike repeatedly fixed. Every time the bike came back it had other things wrong with it like cables not being routed through guides etc. and the list of what was screwed up by whoever worked on it goes on and on like a jammed chain in the three speed hub caused by pulling the chain out too far no doubt. At the end of the 30 day return policy the bike had more scratches and so much work had been done to it that I returned it for a cash refund. I couldn't buy good service then. After returning the bike I was banned from the store which actually saved me a lot of grief in the long run from previous issues with deceitful staff installing the wrong size tube on my other bike which felt like a bent rim when cycling on it. Had I not kept looking for good service after unsatisfactory service from three different bicycle stores in Calgary over the last decade, I never would have tried Ridley's.

Leaving Ridley's Cycle, I reversed my route, heading back through Sunnyside Station and up 10th St to SAIT. While climbing the hill to SAIT I noticed snow had been plowed into the bicycle lane. Having read a twitter comment about cities using bicycle lanes for snow storage, I decided to take a photo and twitter that Calgary is also storing snow in half of the bicycle lane. With more money now available from City Hall to fund better pathway plowing, let's hope scenes like this will be a thing of the past.

Heading up 10th St I had to share the bicycle lane with a bank of ice and snow plowed into the lane.

Back over 14th St hills, I raced down hill on Birkshire Boulevard and at the end of my journey decided to cycle down the side of 96 Ave. Along the side of 96 Ave is a graded switchback that connects to a park. Since snow was quite thin near the edge of the switchback it was possible to cycle all the way down. After the descent I felt much more confident in the Trek's ability to handle unusual terrain.

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