What a great feeling to wake up, spend an hour preparing food and equipment and clothing and then slip out the door knowing you have all day to ride. The weather is warm again – it goes from -10 to +15 in less than a week and if you’re not sick you’re out riding.
My route is open-ended today, so there’s no pressure, but I aim generally SE from Montreal, ticking off the miles on Route Verte 1. Can I sing the Route’s praises enough? It’s really amazing to have a trail system this comprehensive.
The day starts poorly, getting a pinch flat popping over a railway track on the way down St Jacques. I pull up by a youth shelter and go about my business. I’m a 7 minute tube change guy, so there are plenty of curious on lookers by the time I’m done, oily hands and all. Have learned to take off my jacket, slow down and just go step by step. Used to stress me out to change a tube, now I want to try it blindfolded!
There’s few people out still at 8am (Montreal is a late-rising city) and I have the Atwater Canal, the old cobblestone streets and the Jacques Cartier bridge all to myself. There’s a good wind already, and I don’t go more than 20kms before stripping off the jacket, changing the beanie for the cap and pressing on.
There’s the usual missed turned and map checking gibberish, but not enough to be hardly more than a single line’s noteworthiness.
Chambly is a very charming town and lakeside recreation area where I pause to take a couple pics. There is air for bikers, and in a few weeks, will be a well-stocked maintenance check-in area right on the water front. From there the riding is really amazing – riding hard packed gravel trails from Richeleau all the way alongside the canal. It was once a working canal, but now it’s an historic site now and very well maintained. I’m on 700 x 25 tires and have no problems whipping along at 100 psi.
For over 20kms am on the water’s edge which is a real pleasure. Flocks of birds, tourists, locals working on their houses all make for a sense of well-being and simple good living. The riverside trail ends at St Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu and is a good spot for lunch, or in my case gummy bears, cashew nuts and a bar from the Couche-Tard.
The trail heads east over the river and once out of the small town enters a 20km stretch of wooded lanes, open farm country and quiet pine forests. It’s really beautiful – the trail is quite well packed, but some spots warranty extra care – it only takes a couple inches of sand to wash out on road tires. It’s probably a good mtb trail, but it’s a good technical challenge on a road bike – think Forest of Arenberg, but without such gnarly cobblestones or investigating mayors.
I find a place for lunch in Farnham, inhaling an Hawaiian pizza like a warrior at a luaua and then it’s time to head home.
This town is about 30ks from the US border crossing I used last fall when I rode to Jay’s Peak. Crossing at the back country Morse’s Line gate is a great option for bikers. Next time will tie this into a circular route from Montreal to Jay’s Peak and back again up the Champlain Parkway. Great riding.
The wind is intense on the way back and the following morning I have my first sunburn of the year. 6 inches of red raw wind-burned skin on my forearms. It’s good to be a biker. Somehow I haul ass into the headwind, clocking up faster splits than the outbound journey, with enough zap to drop the Toguri paceline I encounter on the last few kms. It’s childish I know – but I just can’t help grinning as I pop back in with a cheery see ya!