Friday, June 16, 2006

The Route, The Bikes, The Reason

The purpose of this blog is to document the joy and horrors of cycling from downtown Toronto to north Oshawa to get to and from work.
On June 19, 2006 I begin a 14 month contract with Durham College in Oshawa. I live in downtown Toronto and have no desire to move to Oshawa for this job. For reasons I will outline in subsequent posts, I refuse - at this stage of my life - to own a car, and while public transit is a worthy thing, I wish to avoid using public transit to get to Oshawa. This leaves me dependent on my own two legs and my bicycle to get to the workplace.
For various reasons, this suits me fine. I'm environmentally aware, which leads me to believe that walking represents one end of an environmentally aware (and moral) scale, and driving a car represents the other. I'm cheap, which makes me happy to cut down on public transit expenses; I'm stubborn, which makes me want to prove that cyclists DO belong on the roads; and I'm health conscious, which inspires me to undertake this commute to improve my fitness level. Also, I love cycling.
At the beginning of this adventure, my plan is to mix cycling with public transit, because I'm not currently in the shape I need to be in to do 130 km a day. This will work out to cycling to work Monday morning, transiting home that night, transiting to work Tuesday morning, cycling home Tuesday night, and etc.

The Rider
Having lived in downtown Toronto for several years, I have been a long-time cyclist in the city. My downtown workhorse is a Kona Hahana (a mountain bike with no shocks). While I bitch about the same things all cyclists bitch about (cars parked in the bike lane, taxis swerving in front of you with no warning to pick up a fare), I actually find cycling downtown to be second nature. I also got into long distance road riding a few years ago. I spent a few summers doing TBN's Sunday rides almost every weekend, and I also participated frequently in duathlons.
At the age of 34 I'm a year past being in what I would call "good" shape (i.e. competitive duathlon shape). At 165 pounds, I'm eleven pounds above the weight I've been at during my best racing days. However, while my legs are nowhere near as strong as they've been in the past, they do have a solid 65 kms in them, and the ride to Oshawa really has not been a problem in the practice rides I've done.

And why Tuco? The nickname I've been more popularly known by in my life is Goober (which was given me in my first year of undergrad). Tuco is a nickname from highschool, and I feel it is more appropriate for this blog.

In the old "Good, The Bad, and The Ugly" movies, Eli Wallach plays a character named Tuco, who isn't very bright, but is tough and stubborn and pretty darn determined to get what he wants (specifically, to find the gold and kill Clint Eastwood). I figured "dumb and stubborn" were appropriate characteristics for the kind of person I'll have to be to do this commute. P.S. Tuco was the "Ugly" one in the movie. : )

The Fleet
The primary bike I'll be using for this commute is something of a handmade bike I bought off my friend Smut (known to the real world as Duncan).

It's an aluminum Cannondale frame, roughly 15 years old, with downtube shifters. The fork is an Easton Carbon fork, the drive train is Shimano 105, and as my commute requires diving into gravel shoulders, and hammering along a torn up country road, I've put a 27mm cyclocross tire on the front, and a 25 mm Specialized Armadillo (the most puncture proof tire on the market) on the back.

The other bike I'll mention is my big investment of a year and a bit ago - a 2004 Cervelo Team Soloist. I rode it for my training rides to Oshawa, and because of the above mentioned "roughness" of this ride, and because I need to leave my bike locked up in Oshawa for short periods of time, I'm not going to be riding the Cervelo to work. However, I thought I'd mention it. Right now my girlfriend Annalise is riding it on the trainer, and if I ever do another duathlon I'll be doing it on this bike.

The Route

Well, the route sucks, but there's not much I can do about it. Of the whole 65 kms, only about 15 of it is at all enjoyable. Otherwise it's just a matter of gutting it out. The enjoyable 15 km is along country roads where horses and cows are looking at me, and the rest is just surviving downtown traffic on city streets and country highways.

For those who know Toronto, I take Queen east to Midland, north on Midland to Pitfield, which turns into Milner, and together take me east to Morningside. At Morningside I go up to Sheppard which has a bike lane that takes me east to Meadowvale, which has a bike path going along the side of the Metro Zoo and eventually takes me all the way north to Steeles. At Steeles, I go east to Sideline 26 (my first country road), which takes me north to the 5th Concession Road ( a country road which in parts is torn to hell and therefore necessistates the cyclocross setup). I then veer north on Salem Road to Highway 7 which takes me east to a town called Brooklin, where I turn south on St. Thomas and eventually turn east on Conlin, which finally leads me to Durham College.

SO - that is what I have to do to get a moderately safe ride to Oshawa. The most direct route would be along Steeles/Taunton Road across the top of Pickering, Ajax, Whitby and pretty much straight to Durham College in Oshawa. BUT..., this whole strip is sprawlurbia (more bitching about sprawlurbia to come in later posts) at its very very worst, and having done that ride once I'm pretty sure I'll be a dead man if I try it again. Therefore, I'm going at least half an hour out of my way to get a better ride.


Darren J said...

That is a seriously ambitious ride. It's great to hear you're going for it.

I'm all for picking a route that makes the ride more enjoyable. The more fun, the better. And you'll probably find better roads as time passes.

I've had a hard time riding through Scarborough before too. Did you rule out Kingston Road because it's bad? I haven't tried it, but have considered using it to get to places in Scarborough. Not sure if it's basically a mini-401.

Tuco said...

Kingston Road is relatively yucky. Though I should probably give it a try on the way to Oshawa sometime... it's a long long haul though on a busy, relentless, high traffic road.

Claire said...

Chris, can you post a map for us of your route?

Tuco said...

Claire, I would, but I have no idea how to do that - do you know how to do it? Maybe I should ask Mr. Mruss, he's pretty tech savvy.

Anonymous said...

What tires are you running for the 27mm's on the front? Are they tubular or clincher? I am looking for a 27mm cx clincher to put on my road bike. It just has a normal road fork on it. Any help is appreciated. Thanks.