Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Winter Bicycle Commuting and Thoughts Of Summer.

Let me preface my posting by acknowledging the kindness of Mother Nature and the relatively mild winter thus far this season. It's been nice being able to commute wearing standard shorts, leg warmers, MTB shoes  and without excessive layers for the most part. Throw on some snowboard gloves, a toque, earwarmers and (for the early mornings) a balaclava and I have been generally comfortable for my short 5km route.

Chilly this morning the day improved to -4C with blue skies and sunshine by quitting time and since I was not in any rush I decided to recon out my expected route for this coming Summer. In winter I generally take the most expedient route in the mornings as I leave early and miss rush hour traffic. Depending upon the weather conditions I do the same when homeward bound. Once Spring arrives I will often add distance to my commute just to get more saddle time and take advantage of the day. With that as an agenda I decided to piece together my planned route based upon my choice of bicycle. With my venerable Devinci destined for the boneyard I have been commuting this winter on my Norco hardtail. A solid bike it has been my commuting tank of late. I hope to purchase a cyclocross bike in 2012 which will enable me to use groomed trail but will be more efficient for pavement - the perfect commute bike.

There have been some infrastructure changes over the last couple years that have facilitated me avoiding some of the busy city streets, namely the Rails to Trails converted railway trunk and the new Bayers Lake connector with Clayton Park-Fairview.

Rails To Trails

I pick up the trail just off of Joe Howe Drive, about a 3 minute cycle from my workplace. Initially it is paved till the Northwest Arm overpass where it then converts to hard pack gravel. The biggest issue can be volume of traffic as it is a multi use trail but since I am on it prior to 7AM and mid day by 3:30 PM it is not a real concern. Other than my grievances with dog walkers who seem to think they are exclusive users and can take the whole lane I think it is a great way to avoid the traffic of Joe Howe Drive and St. Margaret`s Bay road.

Once past the Northwest Arm overpass it is generally clear cycling to Bayers Lake until you exit at Suzie Lake Crescent.A nice stretch of ascending un-technical trail although this time of year it often has sections of ice and snow to add some challenges.

As soon as you leave the trail and enter the roadway you pick up a bike lane that continues past the Empire Theatres, under the Bi-Hi, then upwards to the top of Main Avenue. I`m not sure what it is actually called so I refer to it as the Bayers Lake Connector.

Bayers Lake Connector

Essentially the top of Main Avenue was extended down to Bayers Lake. Carved into the side of the hill the extension has bike lanes and brand new pavement. Until recently I would end up cycling through Bayers Lake then on to Lacewood to get home. Now I can avoid the traffic by climbing up to Main Avenue while also getting the side benefits of some hill training.

Summiting the climb by the CBC radio tower I then take the steep descent towards Dunbrack Street but veer off onto the Powerline Trail before reaching the intersection.

The Powerline Trail gives me an option to head towards Clayton Park West or, in my case, down to Willet Street via Westridge Avenue and home.I have no idea the distance since I do not have a computer on the Norco but it definitely adds length to my commute. More importantly it enables me to avoid the usual Halifax traffic bottlenecks while getting in additional saddle time.

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