By Rejean Lavoie
There is a faction of cyclists in Edmonton that believe Edmonton needs much improvement, especially when it comes to commuting and safe sharing of roads. What I’d like to focus this article on, is the many positives of the Edmonton bike scene!
10. The Argyll Velodrome
This 333 meter concrete venue is open to the public to try for a mear $5, with bike and introductory etiquette briefing included. If you’re like me, you might be freaked out by the 33 degree slope on the end banks, and will need to gain trust that the bire tires could hold you up on the track. I soon got passed that and rolling around the oval became habitual. They say that the track is a safe place because there are no cars, no dogs or potholes, and your fellow cyclist are all given training instructions before riding. If this is your thing, there are scheduled practice times and a Thursday night track league. The clubhouse is well equipped with change rooms, espresso machine, couches and banquet area. The latest news circulating is that there is work being done to have a covered velodrome in Edmonton.
9. Great new spin studios in town
Spin studios allow you to train during the off season, or during extreme weather. For some, the group environment, music and instructors provide extra motivation. Research suggests the controlled environment and structured training programs of indoor cycling, can help you reach an intensity level that is surpasses regular road biking.
8. The River Valley
Edmonton is known for it’s beautiful river valley which also extends into the bike scene. Our trails are vast, extending from the Anthony Henday to the Yellowhead along the North Saskatchewan River. I personally enjoy the branch off on the Mill Creek ravine and the network around Terwillegar Park. Don’t stick solely on the paved trails. If you have a mountain bike there are some nifty offshoots, with a variety of rugged slopes, hills and natural terrain.
7. Cycling and Coffee go together
Edmonton has some pretty awesome coffee shops. I personally found a little diamond in the rough; Mike’s Bike and Bean on 82 ave and 88 street. It doubles up as a bike museum of sorts, with retro bikes, refurbished bikes, panniers and fixies. To boot, he makes a wicked cup of coffee. I love my competitive side of biking, yes, but I enjoy a “coffee” ride equally as much. There’s nothing like riding from the outskirts of town to the busy river valley road, climbing Fortway Drive hill, crossing High Level bridge and arriving at one of the many caffeine pit stops. People watch with a cup of java in hand anticipating the next part of the journey. I know this option caters to some of my more laid back riding buddies. And with one of these folding bikes, it makes it even more convenient.
6. The four quadrants around Edmonton
You can take an endurance ride in any direction around Edmonton. The Strathcona County often gets the nod for newer, well paved options. You can easily make a 60 km to 100 km loop in any of these locations.
- Strathcona County
- Morinville/Legal/Bon Accord
5. Great organized public bike events
My two favorite are the Tour d L'Alberta (not to be confused with the Tour of Alberta professional ride) in the welcoming northwest communities. It’s a steal of a deal compared to the now popular Fondos. The other is in support of the Children’s Stollery and takes place in Fort Saskatchewan early in the season called Stephie’s Ride.
4. Edmonton Master’s Cycling Club Wednesday night race series:
This is a little known gem of a race series for those at a Master’s level (30 years +) as these guys don’t believe in social media. That being said they do have an (outdated) website. They alternate between time trials, criteriums and road races each week. They tally points and award trophies at the end of the season, and they’ve been doing this for years. There is a huge focus on safety and they know that many of their members have to return to work or continue enjoying their retirement the next day. It is Inspiring to see some of these older riders still going strong.
3. Changing gears
Well that would be somewhat incorrect as the hipster community which is alive and well in Edmonton use predominantly the fixed gear (fixie) bikes. I live this life vicariously through my son Stephane. I admit I would know nothing about it if it wasn’t for his expertise. I do disagree with one belief he has - “no brakes”!! He assures me he can stop quicker without them. I still want proof of that without him running into a car!!
2. The Tour of Alberta Professional race
The Tour of Alberta professional race (now in its second installment) on September 5, 6, 7 and the International Triathlon Union World Grand Final coming to town Aug.26 to Sept 1!! We get to watch top international caliber cycling in our fine city!! A kudo to all the great cyclist that have come out of Edmonton - to name a few: Lori-Ann Muenzer, Tara Whitten, Marg Fedyna, Sean Barr and Jeff Barnes.
1. A healthy cycle-cross fall season schedule.
On top of the cycle-cross weekend events, there’s an interclub cycle-cross series on Tuesday nights for 7 weeks starting on August 19th. Another event similar in nature is the MEC / November Project #deadlegs race that incorporates many of the stairs along the river valley.
As you can see the Edmonton bike scene is vibrant and strong. There are many options for hopping on the saddle. So visit one of the many bike shops, join one of the bike clubs or just pedal away without a care in the world. It takes a little deciphering when it comes to clubs, licensing and insurance, but bottom line is to just get started.
As for the more formal races, you can get started by using a “citizen” license that gives you a chance to take on limited number of races. The interclub cycle-cross series and the master’s race series don’t require you to have a Alberta Bicycling Association license. They do require you to have an insurance policy which you can get independently or by joining one of the many clubs in town. I was reluctant to join a club, but I have found many other benefits since doing so. Clubs give you access to some great coaches , there is available equipment you can lend or rent, and you can join up with other bike enthusiast for a group training ride. A major bonus is that you get discounts at certain bike shops for being part of a club.
This article was meant to be inclusive for all, if I’ve missed any important points please send me a tweet @bikersk8ter or hashtag #yegbike and make your voice heard.