Cycling around the Hamilton Harbour

As I re-cycle this route and perfect it, I am updating this post.  June 7, 2011 was the first time I cycled around the Hamilton Harbour.  June 15, 2011 was the second time.  You’ll find each trip listed below with links to the maps of the various roads and trails I took.

June 7, 2011

Last Sunday, I took my cycling to a new level and decided to attempt a 35km route I had mapped out a few weeks back.  My goal was to tackle the route by the end of June but my cycling had been going so well that I felt ready to try it out now.  It was an absolutely awesome cycling route! Tough hilly areas, gorgeous scenery, lakefront and beachfront views…not to mention a nice mix of city streets, and off-road (gravel and paved) trails.  There were also some issues including major potholes and dead ends that weren’t present on my Google-mapped route…all of which I will share with you in this post.

As I say, I googled the route we would take but unfortunately Google doesn’t know everything (who knew??) and made some errors along the way.

Here is the route we took, errors and all….CLICK HERE

I plan to do this route again, but with some improvements.  A few major errors that Google made:

1) Beach Road – The beginning of this road wasn’t clear.  We crossed train tracks going north on Ottawa St N and immediately saw a sign that said Beach Road.  We both assumed it was the name of this path:

Nope.  The path went for a few hundred metres and then spit us out in a random neighbourhood.  We had to stop and check the map.  Beach Road was a little further north, running slightly diagonal.

2) Google also told us to take Dofasco Road (to Dominion, on to Strathearne and Pier 25).  None of this was possible as it was private property owned by Dofasco, gated and locked.

Once we got to Beach Blvd, all was good.

I plan to take this route again to attempt to perfect it.  I prefer avoiding main streets if I can so I’ll have to explore some random neighbourhoods on the way next time and note the quieter streets.

So, now that I’ve mentioned Google’s errors, let’s back up and start again….I took some pictures along the way but unfortunately I forgot to check my camera battery (which died almost immediately).  So, I took many shots with my Blackberry, not the best camera.

We headed out around 8:30 AM….

Up and at 'em on a Sunday morning!

… and almost immediately jumped onto the Escarpment Rail Trail, taking it as far as Wentworth…quite a lovely ride.

Escarpment Rail Trail

WARNING: At Wentworth, we turned left.  At the corner of Cumberland and Wentworth, on the east side, here is a *deep* dip in the pavement.  It is right after you cross train tracks and just as you’re attempting to single a right turn. Be aware and do your best to avoid it.  I survived but I could see a bike deciding to take a spill there.

We continued on and ended up on Dunsmure, where I took another shot.  It was so quiet.  Sunday morning was a perfect time to attempt this route.  Few people and little traffic on the roads.

Dunsmure

Due to the Google malfunctions, we had to cycle down Barton for a bit of a distance to get to Woodward, where we headed north to Eastport Dr and Beach Blvd.  Woodward has a bike lane most of way north of Barton, but if I had a choice, I would avoid Barton St…perhaps going south a bit to travel on side roads.  Barton St is busy, with fairly fast traffic…not to mention, we had to avoid two needles on the way. :S

So after some U-turns and remapping, we finally ended up on Beach Blvd, cycling along the Waterfront/Beachfront Trail.  I love cycling there.  The Hamilton side of the beachfront trail is paved and it is 16km in length, with each 200 metre section painted on the concrete to allow you to keep track of your distance.

Swans on the beachfront

The Hamilton portion of the trail ends underneath the highway at our ever popular lift-bridge.  At this point you have to carry your bike up the stairs, walk in across the bridge, and down the stairs on the other side.  I was concerned about dealing with stairs but luckily these had grooves so you could roll your bike up and down rather than carry it.

Steps heading up to the lift bridge...the bicycle grooves are at the far left and right.

View as we walked across the lift bridge

The Burlington half of the beachfront trail was just as lovely at the Hamilton side, with picnic areas and grassy areas to stop and take a break.

Along the Burlington Beach Trail

Burlington Beach Trail and baby geese! So cute!

Wood Fungus! B, my love, this is for you! 😉

 Once we arrived in Burlington, we headed west on North Shore Blvd.  I didn’t take any pictures at this point but I think that was my favourite portion of the ride!  (Well, except for the ice cream break that’s coming up! Hehe)  North Shore is hilly, just hilly enough to get your heart going.  I felt as though I was doing interval training.  It was fun and the views were gorgeous!

The end of North Shore spat us out (not literally of course!) onto Plains Road near the Royal Botanical Gardens.  I know the area quite well and I knew that the upcoming Spring Garden Road/Valley Inn Road was going to be the biggest incline of the route.

So….in a case like that…what do you do?  You stop for ice cream!

Sitting at Easterbrooks with a scoop of Chocolate Peanut Butter ice cream! Yum!

The interior of Easterbrooks - Don't think it has changed since the 1930s!

After some leisurely ice cream intake…we tackled the hill! I didn’t really get any pictures of this…as I was huffing and puffing my way to the top!

The final obstacle?  Carrying my bike down the staircase on York Blvd, which attaches to the waterfront trail, again a staircase with grooves so not a huge obstacle.  Lots of stairs though 🙂

Heading down the stairs at York Blvd

So, in hindsight, aside from some dead ends and route re-mapping, I consider the trip a huge success!  36 km in 3.5 hrs, including an ice cream break, plus a few other stops along the way to eat a bit and stretch…AND I could walk the next day! 😀  Unlike the first time I took out my bike this season and spent the following two days limping around.

After all was said and done…I arrived home and immediately went out for a treat!

Treats for the tired cyclist!

I definitely plan on doing this trip again!

June 15, 2011

Well, today I cycled this route again with some variations in street choices.  I didn’t take any pictures this time around, pretty much the same as above.

The map for today’s route can be found HERE.

I decided to try using the ‘pipeline’, a paved trail that runs diagonally through residential neighbourhoods between Ottawa/Main and Kenilworth/Barton approximately.  All went well except for….construction!  I suppose it’s the time of year for it so I shouldn’t be surprised but I had to skirt around or through three different construction sites in Hamilton alone this morning.  I also took Melvin Road going east a few blocks.  Turns out Melvin is a busy road with a rough surface and a crappy, bumpy shoulder…even though it’s supposedly a bike route….so I wouldn’t take it again by choice.

Aside from that, it was a great ride.  As you can see on the map, I made a few stops in Burlington…headed to Brant Cycle to buy sunglasses and met a friend for lunch…I also avoided the Spring Hill/Valley Inn Road hill today…by that point, I was really feeling it.  I think stopping for lunch gave my leg muscles a chance to take a breath and say “WTF?” LoL.

Anyway, this route shall be attempted again.  I already have another route in mind…for those who know Hamilton, I’m thinking I will take Lawrence (which runs behind Gage Park) to its end, near the Red Hill Creek Parkway.  Apparently there are a few access points to the Red Hill Creek Recreational Trail around there.

And, as a sidenote, that is a trail I’ve been trying to check out.  A couple of days ago, I biked up the escarpment along the Rail Trail to Albion Falls and planned to use the Red Hill Creek trail to head back down….but I couldn’t find it.  I spent 45 minutes searching for it, asked 6 people …fail.  Perhaps attacking it from the mid-point at Lawrence would be more successful.

Anyway, that’s the future plan, even though today’s route was quite good and straightforward.

Long Weekend Cycling Kicked my Butt! (And I liked it!)

This weekend, B and I finally kicked off the cycling season!  The weather had been so crap that I hadn’t the desire or the energy to pull out my bike and be rained upon so I held off going for any extended rides…until now.  This weekend brought with it the lovely sun.  B and I  took full advantage!  Well…after a few setbacks.

First off, Friday night we went out for dinner and ate at WASS Ethiopian Restaurant.  I have been there a few times.  Amazing staff, incredible food!  Be sure to plan a stop if you’re ever passing through Hamilton!

Saturday was gorgeous…high 20s, sunny and almost too hot but I’m not complaining since it was the first ‘almost-too-hot’ day of spring.  About time!  We headed out with our bikes securely attached to our rental car and stopped by Mountain Equipment Co-op. My new bike rack required some extra bits and pieces before it would attach properly.  I also had some items to return and other stuff to buy, including a new set of panniers!

Over an hour later…purchases were made and we were on our way!  I’ve noted the equipment I bought at the end of this post for those interested.

Sad to say…we didn’t actually get to bike that day. By the time we made it to Kelso Conservation Area (which took longer than normal due to the fact that I thought it was somewhere…where it wasn’t! Ooops) clouds had piled high in the sky, rain was threatening, and there was a queue at least 15 cars long waiting to get into the park.

So we gave up on biking for the day and headed over to Crawford Lake instead.  I’ve been there a few times but B hadn’t so we hiked around the lake, a meromictic lake (as B would say to me, look it up :P), and visited the reconstructed Iroquoian Village.  Awesome place to visit if you’re ever in the area!

Sunday, we finally got to go cycling.  We did a 7km route that we have biked in the past.  Fairly flat with a few hills, enough to kick my butt as my first ride of the season.  I have mapped the route on Google pedometer HERE.  It’s a lovely ride around the bay.  A good chunk of the route is part of the Waterfront Trail and is quite scenic with numerous benches along the way (and porta-potties for you brave souls!)

On Monday, we mounted our bikes onto our rental car and I drove us out to Hamilton’s Beach Trail (also mapped on Google’s pedometer), another lovely paved trail that runs along the shore of Lake Ontario between Hamilton and Burlington.  Very scenic and very flat, so quite an easy ride.  The only drawback is that it is a popular spot and you have to be well-aware of all the people sharing the trail: walkers, rollerbladers, other cyclists, dog walkers, lovebirds etc etc….It’s a multi-use trail after all! 🙂

We cycled an 8km length of trail to the ends and back, so 16km overall.  Sure, as I said, it was a flat easy ride…but for me, the one who hasn’t really biked since last summer (when I maxed out at 20km), those 16 flat kilometers kicked my ass.  It is presently Tuesday evening and I am still having trouble walking up and down stairs!  Hehe

Of course, it’s a good hurt.  It means I pushed myself a little further than normal.  Which, I plan to do again and again.

The goal?  To cycle THIS 35km route by the end of June.  From there, who knows??

So, overall, our first cycling weekend was a great success, albeit with a slow start.  We had a good time, took in some lovely scenery, spent time together and got some exercise…not to mention kicked it all off with some fantastic Ethiopian food!

Now to plan for next May’s long weekend! *wink*

MEC BIKE EQUIPMENT

For those interested, here are the items I bought for my bike with a short commentary on each one…

MEC Micro Wedgie Cycling Seat Bag

I love this little bag.  It fits perfectly under my seat and is just large enough for my Blackberry, small wallet, keys and camera.

MEC PF-2 43L Cycling Panniers
So far, I’m really liking this pair of panniers (I bought the grey/black style).  They have a number of small pockets and are a good size for my purposes.  I haven’t packed them full yet, still getting used to having them on the bike.  They do add a little bit of weight, while empty probably a couple of lbs, but overall SO much better than having to don a backpack while cycling.

MEC Seatstay Rear Cycling Rack

This rack is awesome for carrying weightier bags.  Not to mention, the price was right at $15.  Installing it though, was quite the pain in the ass, as B can attest.  The screws that came with it had heads that were so big, they would have interfered with my chain so the guys at MEC gave us flatter headed screws (not to mention they had to saw off about 1/4″ since their replacements were too long).  I also had to buy a separate bag of hardware as the metal clips that secure the rack weren’t long enough to reach my bike frame.
Regardless, for $15 I definitely think this item was worth the trouble.  I think B would agree since I’ll be the one carrying all our stuff when we pack up the panniers! 😉

MEC Bicycle Frame Bag

B used this frame bag over the weekend.  Another great buy!  It isn’t huge but is just big enough for a few necessities.  The one downfall I’ve noticed so far is that it interferes slightly with my water bottle holder, which is also placed on the main frame of my bike.