MS Bike Ride Vancouver

Welcome to Team Average Joe Cyclist, John Folka!

John FolkaWe are happy to announce we have a new team member for the upcoming Scotiabank MS Bike Tour in Vancouver on 10th August. We are honoured to be joined by John Folka, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the MS Society of Canada. John’s an SFU grad and works in senior management for KPMG.

MS Bike Tour

In 1999 a member of John’s family was diagnosed with MS, and since then they have been given invaluable support by the MS Society. By way of giving back, John has participated in the MS 100 Hole Golf Challenge and the MS Bike Tour. That’s him in the photo (on the left) powering up a hill while participating in the 2012 MS Bike Tour in Vancouver. In that tour he did the 60 km route AND the 30 km route. So John’s definitely a better-than-average cyclist. I look forward to seeing the back of his jersey as he leaves Maggie and me in the dust! If you want to support John’s fund-raising efforts, click here.

Welcome John! 

If you would like to join Team Average Joe Cyclist in the MS Bike Tour, please click here.

MS Bike Ride Vancouver

Raise money to fight MS while enjoying a scenic ride in beautiful Vancouver – the MS Bike Ride in Vancouver

Here’s a great way to have fun while supporting a very good cause . The MS Bike Vancouver Scenic City Tour is a family-friendly ride taking place on 10th August, with a choice of doing a 15 km, 30 km or 60 km route. Cyclists will enjoy cycling through the heritage residential neighbourhoods and scenic waterfront bikeways. Click here to find out more and register.

Or click here to join my team, Average Joe Cyclists, or to make a donation to help us reach our donation goal!

So far just Maggie and I are Team Average Joe Cyclists. We signed up today and will start training tomorrow. It’s our first ever fund-raising ride, and we have chosen the 30 km route. We’d love to have a few more people join our team!

Join the Average Joe Cyclist MS Bike Ride team

The MS Society of Canada was founded in 1948, and has been organizing these fund-raising rides all over Canada since 1989. Annually, over 10,000 cyclists participate in one- or two-day MS Bike tours between June and September.

Funds raised are used for two important things: supporting those living with MS in Canada, and funding research to find a cure. MS causes symptoms ranging from mild cognitive impairment, all the way to complete disability and death. Researchers still don’t know what causes it, or how to cure it.

It’s particularly appropriate to support the MS Society in Vancouver.

MS is the most common neurological disease affecting young adults in Canada, and its incidence is highest right here in British Columbia. It’s so common here that most of us probably know someone who has it, or whose life has been impacted by it.

I personally know a man who is the father of a young family and has MS, and it is heartbreaking to see what this disease has done to him and his family. It makes me think that those of us who CAN still ride, should get on a bike and help ride for a cure.

We can do it - bike MSYou don’t have to be an athlete to do the MS Bike ride in Vancouver – any average cyclist can do it.

If you don’t want to join my team, you might want to put together your own team of family, friends and co-workers to tour Vancouver with you. If there are any business leaders looking for a great team-building exercise this summer, I can’t think of a better one! If you’re interested in putting together a team and have any questions, contact Team MS coordinator Stephanie Mosher at 604-602-3208 or email her at stephanie.mosher@mssociety.ca.

You will have to do some fund-raising – but that’s the whole point, isn’t it? Adult entrants need to raise $300 in pledges, while youth cyclists only need to raise $75. The MS Society offers fund-raising tips on their site.

Apart from having a good time while doing something worthwhile, there are also some incentives. For every $500 you raise, you can get an entry into a draw to win a trip for two to anywhere West Jet flies. For every $300 you rise, you will get an entry for a chance to win two tickets to the September 13 Elton John concert in Vancouver.

For more information, contact Paula Duhatschek: Paula.duhatschek@mssociety.ca | (604) 602-3221

Or just click here to register!

Or click here to join my team or make a pledge!

 

Accept the MS Bike Ride Challenge

 

Welcome to the Seaside Greenway - Average Joe Cyclist

Vancouver’s Seaside Greenway – Opening Party!

Seaside Greenway Sign for Party - Average Joe CyclistHundreds of cyclists braved the rain yesterday to celebrate the completion of Vancouver’s Seaside Greenway.

The event was jointly organized by Vancouver’s HUB, the Vancouver Public Space Network, and neighbors of the area. It included music and food carts at Mill House Park.

The map below shows this new segment of Vancouver’s cycling infrastructure.

Seaside Greenway map - Average Joe Cyclist

The new Seaside Greenway

Seaside Greenway Separate Bike Lane - Average Joe CyclistThis great new route connects Vancouver’s Seawall and False Creek with Jericho Beach. The Seaside Greenway is partly bikes-only, and partly a transformed Point Grey Road, now one-way only, as well as local traffic only.

Seaside Greenway Shared Road - Average Joe CyclistI am sure this route now rates a AAA (All Ages & Abiities). A lot of children participated.

Seaside Greenway Family Cycling - Average Joe Cyclist

Safe cycling and walking for all ages

It was awesome to see very young children cycling in safety. Of course, it’s not yet common in Canada. I saw one little girl biking with her mother and looking quite confused. I heard her saying to her mother, “This is a ROAD for BIKES? Really?”

Here’s a very brief video of this family-friendly Seaside Greenway route, with the opening party in the background.

The opening party was at Mill House Park. We got some great takeout from the Nacho Average food cart .

Seaside Greenway Food trucks at Party - Average Joe CyclistThe park houses Mill House, which is the oldest house in Vancouver, and is now a museum (entry by donation).

Mill House in Vancouver - Average Joe CyclistThe numbers would no doubt have been ten times better if it had not rained the entire day. But people rallied to the occasion in true Vancouver style, with tarps on the ground and colorful umbrellas over their heads.

Seaside Greenway Umbrellas - Average Joe Cyclist

All in all, it was a great event and a great ride. I am so happy to see Vancouver’s cycling infrastructure improving so rapidly.

Thanks to Vancouver’s HUB, the Vancouver Public Space Network, and neighbors of the area for organizing this fun event!

Seaside Greenway End of Trail - Average Joe Cyclist

City of Vancouver Seaside Greenway Completion

Celebrate the completion of Vancouver’s Seaside Greenway on 5 July

Come celebrate the completion of Vancouver’s Seaside Greenway, connecting downtown’s Seawall and False Creek with Jericho Beach for cyclists, pedestrians and rollers!

Saturday 5 July, 11 AM – 3 PM – fun events for all – read all about it on Vancouver Public Space Network here. Or visit the Facebook page here. And if you click on the pic below, it gets much bigger and shows you the route!

The Seaside Greenway

Urge Endur-O-Matic Helmet Side and Front 4 - Average Joe Cyclist

Urge Endur-O-Matic Helmet – An Average Joe Cyclist Review

Urge Endur-O-Matic Helmet Front and Side - Average Joe CyclistThe Urge Endur-O-Matic Helmet is intended mainly for mountain bikers, but it is being worn by an increasing number of commuter cyclists who just plain like the look of it. I know that’s why I bought it. And it’s the only helmet I have ever had that has caused strangers on the bikeways to say to me:

“That’s a great helmet! Where did you buy it?”

Urge Endur-O-Matic Helmet side by side with Bontrager helmet - Average Joe CyclistIt sure looks very different from most other helmets, as you can see from this photo of the Urge helmet next to Maggie’s Bontrager helmet. And if you REALLY want different, Urge makes a range of really good-looking, full-face helmets for rugged downhill mountain biking activities.

On the other hand, I know that some people very definitely do NOT like the look of these helmets.

I think it’s a mark of the Urge Endur-O-Matic’s uniqueness that people either love it or hate it.

Most of the time, people don’t even notice helmets. Given that this helmet provokes such a Love it or Hate it response, I decided to do a bare-knuckles kind of Pros versus Cons review. The Urge Endur-O-Matic Helmet has a whole lot of both Pros and Cons.

Pros and Cons of the Urge Endur-O-Matic Helmet

  • It looks great! (In my opinion)
  • BUT some people think it looks awful. Judge for yourself!
  • It’s a good, super-comfortable fit, with comfy internal pads. It comes with extra pads, of different thicknesses, to help with fit. The pads are removable and washable – a major plus for keeping your helmet non-smelly. There’s a comfy pad that rests on your forehead. Urge calls it a Gangsta Pad (yes, really), and it’s meant to wick up sweat. I just find it comfy.
Urge Endur-O-Matic Helmet Inside - Average Joe Cyclist

Look Ma, no cradle!

  • Standard adjustable cradle system in Bontrager helmet - Average Joe Cyclist

    Standard adjustable cradle system in a Bontrager helmet

    BUT just because this helmet happens to fit MY head well, this does NOT mean it will fit YOUR head well. This is because it does not have the complicated cradle adjustment fitting system found in most mid- to high-level helmets (as in the Bontrager on the right). In Urge helmets, there IS NO fitting system. So it either fits you, or you shouldn’t buy it. Which means that this is not a helmet to order online – you have to try before you buy. It comes in two sizes: S/M (54/57 cm) and L/XL (58/60 cm).

  • The huge ventilation holes (eight 30-mm circles) really do keep my head cool on hot rides. Urge claims the helmet channels air using the Venturi effect. The Venturi effect is a jet effect; as with a funnel, the velocity of the fluid or air increases as the cross-sectional area decreases. This the principle used in spray guns. On your helmet, it means a lot of air comes in through a big hole, and gets channeled over the surface of your head through increasingly narrow funnels in an accelerating blast, powered by the decreasing diameter. It DOES feel like I have strong blasts of wind keeping my head cool. (Adidas claims it is using the same system to channel air over my eyes, when I am wearing my Adidas cycling glasses. All in all, I must be riding with my head ENCASED in wind channels!)Urge Endur-O-Matic Helmet Top - Average Joe Cyclist
  • BUT the giant holes mean that this helmet is really NOT FUN in pouring rain. When I get caught in the rain with it, I forget about the Venturi effect, and just think about the soaking-wet-head-with-rain-running-down-my-face effect (note the holes are on the top, as well as on the side). Due to this, this is definitely a fair-weather-only helmet for me. I think of it as my summer helmet.
  • The Urge Endur-O-Matic Helmet comes with a good-looking visor, flexible and said to be almost unbreakable.
  • Urge Endur-O-Matic Helmet Visor with Giant Hole - Average Joe CyclistBUT the visor has a stupid great hole in it. I believe it is done to make it look good, but the effect is that I get sun in my eyes, and I really can’t see the sense of it. It’s like a rain-coat with an aesthetically pleasing big hole in the front – why would anyone WANT that?
  • It weighs in at an eagle-feather-light 336 grams.
  • BUT so do a lot of other helmets in this reasonable price range (around $100).
  • Urge Endur-O-Matic Helmet Back - Average Joe CyclistIt comes down low at the back and covers more of your head, protecting more of your precious brain stem. This is because it was developed for mountain bikers, but urban cyclists need even more protection, in my opinion. After all, there are no buses, drunk drivers or F-150s on mountain bike trails.
  • BUT… no buts on this one, this extra coverage is definitely a plus.
  • The lack of a cradle adjustment fitting system makes this helmet quick and simple to put on. You just put it on, do up the strap, and go.
  • BUT I find that the clasps below the ears tend to slip down. Also, because of the lack of a fitting system, I find I have to cinch the chin strap very tight. This sometimes makes me feel claustrophobic. And with all the wind tunnels on this thing, if you don’t cinch it down tight, the Urge Endur-O-Matic Helmet will bounce around like a bucking bronco on your head when you pick up speed.
  • It’s easy to wear goggles and glasses with this helmet, thanks to good ear clearance.
  • BUT it’s pretty much impossible to wear a helmet light or helmet cam, thanks to the unusual configuration of the holes on top.
Urge Endur-O-Matic Helmet Front - Average Joe Cyclist

Is it just me or is this helmet chanelling Star Wars just a bit?

 

Bottom Line on the Urge Endur-O-Matic Helmet

You will probably either love or hate this helmet. If you love it, the approximately one hundred dollars you spend on it will be money well spent. The price is very comparable to other helmets of similar quality. Personally, this is my favorite helmet, despite all its cons. Here it is, waiting on my bike, to protect me on my (sunny) morning commute!

Urge Endur-O-Matic Helmet  on my  bike - Average Joe Cyclist

 

Winvan Paving on BC Parkway

Paving done on BC Parkway!

BC Parkway (also known as the 7-Eleven Trail) could be a great trail, but it really isn’t. It has three main problems:

  1. The paving is ruined by tree roots, making the trail so bumpy you have to be careful of doing yourself an injury.
  2. It is atrociously badly sign-posted – the first time I used it I had to follow someone, just to figure out the route. Which was unfortunate, because I think I inadvertently scared a young woman cyclist.
  3. Occasionally one is expected to fly over obstacles, such as at Nanaimo Skytrain station, where the route simply disappears on one side of the street, then picks up again on the other side of the road – with a Skytrain station, a bus stop and dozens of pedestrians in the middle.

Freshly paved BC ParkwayImagine my happy surprise this evening to find that someone is doing something about problem no. 1.  Behold this newly-paved splendour! It’s so fresh that some of the tar was melting in the afternoon sun.

This part of the BC Parkway,  parallel to Rumble Street, used to be one of the worst offenders in terms of bumpy rides. Riding along there, I thought I could empathize with an egg being egg-beaten. And the only alternative was to join fast-moving traffic on Rumble.

Part of BC ParkwayThe map shows the spot I am talking about. The route depicted (in red) is one I did last week, when the route was closed, and I was forced to bike along Rumble.

But now the green route above it is complexly repaved and a pleasure to ride on. Turns out they closed the trail in order to fix it!

Thank you whoever did this! BC Parkway could be a wonderful route. Parts of it are quite sweeping and majestic, but ruined by the bumps. I hope this is Step 1 towards turning it into the wonderful commuter route it could be.

Adidad Ty Pro L 2 Cycling Glasses

Adidas Cycling Glasses – An Average Joe Cylist Product Review

Adidas provides some of the greatest cycling glasses in the word. With my recent purchase of prescription Adidas cycling glasses, I might just have found the perfect cycling glasses.

I researched long and hard before I bought a pair of cycling glasses, because good cycling glasses are not cheap – and if you want them to be prescription as well, be prepared to dig very deep in your pockets (as in $500 or more). I tried on just about every pair of Oakleys and Ryders on the market.

I wanted something light, comfortable and with ample clearance over the eyes (because my biggest problem with cycling glasses is that my eyes water, the fluid somehow gets on the lens, and then the whole world looks like a blurry mess). I also needed something strong enough to be almost invulnerable, because I have a tendency to drop my stuff off bikes, step on them, etc. I didn’t want to spend a fortune only to have delicate glasses that would break within weeks.

I ended up choosing a pair of Adidas Tycane Pro L cycling glasses. I asked for progressive lenses (they change color according to lighting conditions) and I also asked to have my prescription put into the lenses. (Not an insert for the prescription – actually in the lenses.)

Why I chose these cycling glasses

I chose these Adidas cycling glasses for four reasons:

Adidad Ty Pro L 2 cycling glasses are water resistant

  1. They are just about invulnerable. The optometrist showed me how flexible they are: one can bend them or snap off the ear pieces, and then just fix them. If you somehow manage to break the ear pieces, you can just replace them. He told me they were tested by Californian life guards in rough beach/surf conditions. Apparently they are made of high-end SPXTM material.
  2. They are so light it’s ridiculous.
  3. My optometrist told me that these glasses have hydrophobic lenses, and are the very latest and best in terms of repelling water and preventing water streaks. As I cycle in the great rain forest we call Vancouver, that is a major plus.
  4. They have this kind of wrap-around vision effect, because I now have prescription glass even wrapping around the outer edges of my eyeballs. Maggie found it odd when she tried them on (she has almost the same prescription as I do). However, I found it awesome right from the start. I feel like I have acquired Lizard Powers!

Not all cycling glasses can be retrofitted with prescription lenses

I also chose these cycling glasses simply because I could. Not all great looking cycling glasses can be fitted with prescription lenses. For example, most of the ones that do not have a frame on the bottom of the lens cannot be fitted with prescription lenses, as they are relatively heavy and have to be held in place. Also, many cycling glasses with impressively curved lenses cannot be fitted with prescription lenses.

To my happy surprise, it turned out that these impressively curved, wraparound cycling glasses could in fact be fitted with my fairly complicated prescription. It did require sending them to Israel, because apparently an Israeli company called Shamir is the only one in the world that can do this. I had to wait three weeks, but they came back done to perfection, with a silver Shamir card that looks like a credit card, contains my complete prescription, and also serves as a warranty. Very cool.

I had also asked for glasses that double as sunglasses, and they did this too. They call it progressive lenses. It’s super subtle and very effective. They never go extremely dark – they just subtly get a little darker when I go outside, cutting out all the glare. I never notice the progression, but it happens over a period of about twenty seconds. Also, even without the progressive treatment, these glasses have a polarized lens that is supposed to eliminate uncomfortable reflected light and intensity colors.

Packaging and accessories

Adidad Ty Pro L 2 Cycling Glasses with caseMaggie and I were disappointed when we bought Oakley prescription sunglasses and they arrived in nothing but a cloth bag. These Adidas were packaged much better. They came in an attractive Adidas hard case, which can be closed to varying degrees depending on how you want them. They also had the usual cleaners with them, as well as a cloth bag.

Adidad Ty Pro L 2 Cycling GlassesFinally, these Adidas glasses come with a little strap that you can use to secure them around the back of your head (if for example you need to drop your bike and run into the surf to rescue someone.) I have not actually tried the strap because Maggie thinks they make me look like a dork.

Performance

Cutting to the chase, how do these Adidas cycling glasses perform on a bike? In a word, awesomely. I have never had such good vision on a bike. Thanks to my new Lizard Vision I feel safer on my bike. And apparently the lens is a q10 base curved polycarbonate, which provide great vision because of a UV 400 filter, a light stabilizer, a contrast booster, a color balance and a compensation prism. Of course, I cannot vouch for any of that, but the vision does seem crystal clear, inside the house or on my bike.

I have worn these twice in light rain. Unlike other cycling glasses I have worn, I did not have to stop to take these off. The rain drops beaded, rather than running down the glasses, so I could still see. Obviously, I could not see as well as when there were no beads of water on the lenses. I have not yet used them in heavy rain, but I suspect I would have to take them off.

I have worn them about 50 times and only had a problem once with tear-smearing on the lens. This was when my allergies were acting up, forcing me to go back to my Bolle Tactical goggles (reviewed here) for a brief time. Usually, I don’t have a tear-smearing problem with these glasses, because the clearance from the eyeball is generous, due to the curved lenses.

Of course, there is the usual problem of fitting the ear pieces under your helmet. It varies depending on which helmet I am wearing. In general, though, it is not bad, and certainly not uncomfortable or painful. A word of advice though, is to take your helmet along when you try on the glasses, just to be sure they work for you.

Ventilation

These glasses have a ClimaCoolTM ventilation system, which keeps you cool thanks to the ventilation holes. These are little rectangular holes between the lenses and the frame, on the outer edges. I don’t particularly notice the holes, but I do feel cool wearing these glasses.

Appearance

Not cycling glassesI think these are very good looking cycling glasses, and I have had several people ask me where I got them. On the other hand, one guy said they were awesome because they made me look like Jordi from Star Trek. So … best to see what you look like in them, and judge for yourself.

Bottom Line on Adidas Tycane Pro L cycling glasses

These are expensive cycling glasses. But the quality is unbeatable – if you are willing to spend a few hundred dollars, and you bike a lot, and you value your eyes, they are worth the outlay. If you want to spend a bit less money, click on the link below.

 

 

Galloping Goose Trail donkeys

Galloping Goose Trail – An Average Joe Cyclist Trail Review

Galloping Goose Trail, Vancouver Island

Galloping Goose Bike Trail on Vancouver Island

The Galloping Goose Trail is a world-class trail with world-class views. It’s entirely off-road, so the only unpleasant parts are the road crossings – and most of those are fine. Adding the cherry on the top is the fact that almost the entire trail is on gentle gradients.

Constructed on the abandoned CNR (Canadian National Rail) railway line that once linked Victoria and Leechtown (now a ghost town), the trail covers a total distance of 55 km (34 miles). It’s named after a gasoline train which used to transport passengers back in the 1920s. In 1987 the rails were transformed into this spectacular trail.

Galloping Goose Bike Trail on Vancouver Island
Horse riders and cyclists share the Galloping Goose trail peacefully

Much of the dramatic beauty of the trail derives from the fact that it was once a railway line – this gives you the opportunity to do amazing things, such as bike on very high mounds, and cross spectacular wooden bridges.

Galloping Goose Bike Trail on Vancouver IslandThere are wonderful sights to enjoy on this trail, including wildlife and farm life: wild rabbits, eagles, deer, sheep, pigs, and horses. There’s also a glorious diversity of birds, and plenty of botanical interest: all manner of ferns and moss; Douglas firs; Arbutus trees; Hemlock and Cedar; as well as shasta daisies, foxgloves and  blackberry bushes.

There are also some friendly human beings, often accompanied by interesting companions, such as the couple at the top of this post.  We met this  couple out for a walk with their two miniature donkeys, Lola and Frosty. They told us that miniature donkeys guard against deer, cougars and bears – who knew?

In general, the first 30 km (20 miles) of the Galloping Goose are a mix of urban and rural, but the further you go, the more you are in actual wilderness. This means that the views just get better and better. This video shows  you the kind of spectacular scenery you can expect to see from about the km 35 mark. It’s not my most professional video (as it was taken while riding with one hand and trying not to plummet over the cliff), but it should be enough to whet your appetite.

How to Find the Galloping Goose

The easiest way to find the Galloping Goose Trail is on your bike. Come over on the ferry from Vancouver to Swartz Bay, and then follow the bike trail that leaves directly from the ferry. This is the Lochside Trail, which is a lot of fun it its own right, and which I have written about elsewhere. After about 32 km (20 miles), the trail splits, with signage indicating one way for Victoria and the other for Sooke. If you head for Sooke, you will immediately be on the Galloping Goose. (Or you could divert a few kilometres to have lunch in the beautiful city of Victoria, before doubling back and rejoining the Goose.)

Once you are on the trail, it is intermittently marked with beacons that tell you how many kilometres you have come. These are useful markers, if somewhat erratic.

What to Take with You

The Lochside Trail is 32 km (20 miles) long, and the Galloping Goose is anything up to 55 km (34 miles), for a grand total of 87 km (54 miles) depending on how far you go. It’s therefore wise to go prepared. I would suggest taking the following:

  • bike repair kit
  • plenty of water
  • Scooby snacks to prevent hitting the wall
  • lights in case something goes wrong and you end up being out there after dark
  • bicycle bell, as you are in bear country from around km 35
  • wet gear, as island weather is very changeable
  • a cell phone, as you are often quite far from civilization
  • bike locks – we only take one cable lock with us, but that’s because we only stay at bike-friendly B&B’s, where our bikes are safe overnight. Follow your own comfort level with this one.

Facilities along the Way

Washrooms on the Galloping Goose: There are only three washrooms on the entire 55 km length of the trail, so unless you actually LIKE peeing in thickets of blackberries, don’t cycle blithely past any of them. The first one is at around km 5 of  the Galloping Goose, the second at km 35, and the last one at km 45, at the entrance to the Sooke Potholes Regional Park.

Other washrooms:

  • At km 12 there is a Tim Horton’s at Old Island Highway and Wales Road. Even if you don’t particularly care for Timmies, it’s a wonderful place to rest, grab a coffee, and of course, use the washroom. There is bike parking right outside the window, so you can keep an eye on your bikes and panniers while you relax.
  • At km 16 you are in Langford. As you cross Brittany Road, there is a shopping mall a block to your right. I have never actually detoured there, but there must be a washroom in there somewhere, if you’re desperate.

Bike Shops: There is a bike shop, called “The Bike Shop,” close to the Galloping Goose at Glen Lake and Sooke Roads, at km 18. This is your only chance to get mechanical assistance along the way. Note that this is a very busy intersection on the trail – it’s advisable to use the pedestrian crossing at the traffic lights to cross over, whether or not you are going to the bike shop.

Kids’ Play Area: Ihere is a kids’ park at km 8. This spot is also suitable for a picnic break.

Places to stay

  • Arbutus Cove B&B Guest House: This wonderful B&B is situated right on the trail at km 37, near Sooke. It’s hard to find the superlatives to describe it. To reel off just a few of its attractions: perched right on the edge of the Sooke Basin with stunning views; safe bike parking; yummy breakfasts; friendly but unobtrusive hostess; everything you could possibly want supplied, so you don’t have to bring it on your bike (including hair dryer, bottle opener, toiletries); fridge and microwave; basic TV in the rooms, plus big screen satellite TV & DVD player in a large comfy sitting room/dining room; hot tub with views; beach access, lovely big rooms (ask for # 2, which is the very best); and all at reasonable prices.
Our bikes safely parked just outside our room at the Arbutus Cove B& B Guest House – overlooking the stunning view of Sooke Basin
  • Cycle Inn: At km 17.5 there is Cycle Inn, beautifully situated on Glen Lake, and also right on the trail. We have decided that the next time we cycle to Sooke, we’ll stop over there on the way to Arbutus Cove B&B. It’s 65 km from the ferry to Arbutus Cove, and we found that last 20 km to be KILLER – we’re so busy wondering “are we there yet?” that we forget to enjoy the spectacular views. Also, we did not make it before dark, which is a bit dangerous.
  • Comfort Cove Cottage on the Sooke Basin is a cozy, oceanfront, pet-friendly, self-catering cottage, with great views and its own private dock. It’s just ten minutes off the Galloping Goose: great for relaxing in comfort after a hard day’s ride, or for a romantic stay with your favorite cycling companion – so go ahead, spoil yourself!
  • There are also  many other B&B’s close to the Galloping Goose, and a campsite at the Sooke Potholes Regional Park.

Cautionary Notes

  • Watch out for slugs and large piles of horse scat.
  • Watch out for bears after km 35.
  • Don’t be out on the Galloping Goose after dark if you can possibly help it. It’s unlit, and in many places there are very steep drop-offs on the edges.
  • Although the trail mainly has only gentle climbs and descents, there are a couple of exceptions. Between km 35 and 36, you will suddenly encounter warning signs of steep downhill and loose gravel. Take them seriously! The first downhill and then uphill is very steep, and the second (between km 36 and 37) is even worse. For skilled cyclists only – others should dismount.

The friendliness of the people on the Galloping Goose makes me long for a world in which everyone is walking or cycling, so we can all be friendly with each other – gentler, more humane times. Competing with the happiness of being among friendly human beings is the sheer cycling pleasure of endless tree-canopied trails, with the rich smell of trees in your nose. Feeling exhausted? Sit back on your saddle and suck in that beautiful clean air!

Some parts of the trail are both paved and tree-canopied – so that it’s just the sound of your tires and birdsong, as seen in this short video.

From km 37 of the Galloping  Goose, you can expect wonderful, increasingly dramatic views, on a steady but gentle upwards incline. However, do NOT cycle this section in the dark. There are dizzying drop-offs, and no barrier rails. In fact, on this video, you can hear me whoosh when I almost go over the edge while taking the video: Don’t do this on the Galloping Goose!

At around km 40 you will encounter Sooke Road. Just down the road is the fabulous Fuse Restaurant, which I have written about previously. Next to the Fuse you could rent a canoe or kayak and explore the wonderfully peaceful and unspoiled Sooke Basin. You could also detour five km down the road to visit the interesting town of Sooke.

Sooke Road at km 40 used to be the worst road crossing on the entire Galloping Goose. Cars screamed down this hill at over 100 km per hour, while cyclists scurried across the road like terrified rabbits. Fortunately, they have now put in a pedestrian crossing.

After km 40 the ride just gets better and better. It becomes obvious that you are on a disused railway line, as you cross impressive wooden bridges of staggering heights.

There are many of these magnificent  railway bridges on the Galloping Goose

Impressive workmanship went into constructing these bridges, which are now about 100 years old, and were restored around 50 years ago. The view from these bridges is dizzying – my camera could not do justice to the old growth trees that manage to tower over the bridges, despite the fact that the bridges are often more than 100 metres high. These are trees that awe you.

Looking down the side of the railway bridges you can see magnificent workmanship

Watch out for bears!

This section of the Galloping  Goose is bear country, as is apparent from the piles of bear scat, and the occasional bear spoor. So take a bicycle bell or a loud voice with which to sing lustily. The day we cycled this route there had been a recent sighting of a mother bear with two cubs, so we pretty much wore out our thumbs on our bicycle bells.

Sooke Potholes

At around km 44 you will find the entrance to Sooke Potholes Regional Park, and a very welcome washroom. Another 3 km on are the Potholes themselves. These are accessible only by going down steep rock steps. However, there are excellent viewing platforms that are accessible.

The Sooke Potholes – it’s impossible to do them justice in a photo – get out there on your bike and see them for yourself!

At this point of the trail you are less than 10 km from Leechtown, a ghost mining town where the Goose ends. Gold is still found in the area, and it is said to be a very interesting area to bike through.

For many more great bike trails, see Average Joe Cyclist – Great Bike Trails.
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Jaybird headphones

JayBird Headphones – Average Joe Cyclist Review

JayBird Headphones for Cyclists

cats hate bath tubsBlueBuds X Premium Bluetooth Headphones are the Best Cycling Headphones! And yes, I know that some people react like cats at a brimming bathtub at the very IDEA of cyclists wearing headphones. The idea seems to be that cyclists must focus every ounce of our faculties on watching the road, while it is OK for motorists and pedestrians to do their nails, text their friends, Facebook and eat breakfast.  Even Maggie (Mrs. Average Joe Cyclist) does not believe in cycling headphones.

It’s OK if you Only use ONE Ear

However, in my (non-medical and non-legal) opinion, using just ONE ear, judiciously, is fine. Many long distance cyclists could not imagine spending several hours on a country road without at least one ear listening to something. Personally I find with just my right ear plugged, I can still hear everything that is happening on the road with my left ear (I also have a rear view mirror).

I just find that listening to music elevates my bike commutes to a higher level of pure joy. True joy-riding.

They are also ideal if you want to clean your bike, grease your chain or whatever, while listening to music. You can do this with ease, without worrying about getting a cord tangled in your drive train (and yes, this has happened to me, and the headphones lost the fight).

So which Cycling Headphones are the Best?

The first decision to make is:

  • Corded Headphones

OR

  • Cordless Headphones (Bluetooth Headphones)

The Problem with Corded Headphones

iphone 4sMy experience with corded headphones was NOT good. I was always fussing with threading the cord through my jacket. Annoying, but the clincher was when the cord caught on my brake lever, jerking my beautiful iPhone 4s out of my pocket and sending it skidding across the pavement. I was crossing an on-ramp to a highway at the time. I stopped at the other side and was relieved to see that my iPhone still looked fine. But then I looked left and saw an army of cars approaching at increasing speed.

I briefly weighed up the value of my life against my iPhone, and reluctantly conceded that it was not worth throwing away my life – not even for an iPhone 4S.

So I got to watch in horrified silence as the first car clipped my phone, sending it flying into the air, coming down STILL in one piece and near the edge of the street. Amazing phone! I felt a ray of hope – but then a second car clipped it, and a third car crunched it. By the time the army of cars had passed, I picked up my iPhone 4 in 4 pieces (giving a new meaning to the name iPhone 4). And I started to think about buying Bluetooth cordless headphones. (Although first I had to buy a new iPhone – apparently being pulverized by cars is not covered in the warranty.)

So which Cordless Headphones are the Best?

Having decided on Bluetooth cordless headphones, I did a lot of research before buying. I ended up deciding that JayBird headphones were the best.

Comparison of Jaybird Freedom Sprint Headphones and JayBird BlueBuds X Premium Headphones

My first set of Jaybirds was the Freedom Sprint (the ones that were eventually eaten by my drive chain). They were pretty awesome, freeing me from the hazards of wires winding around my body. They also delivered awesome sound. But they did have a couple of flaws, which caused me to upgrade to the BlueBuds X Premium (that, and the drive-train-eating-the-Jaybirds incident). What a difference! Here is a table that compares the Jaybird Freedom Sprint with the Jaybird Bluebuds X Premium. It shows how the problems with the Jaybird Freedom Sprint are  solved on the Jaybird Premium:

Jaybird Freedom Sprint JayBird BlueBuds X Premium
Battery Time: Battery time is only about 4 hours, which can leave you high and dry in the middle of the day with no sound These headphones get exactly the time the manufacturers claim on the box: 8 hours. And this is even after months of use. This is a very decent length of time from one charge, and will get most people through the working day
Bluetooth Connection to your smart device: Connectivity problems. Often when walking around downtown with them, I would find the sound cutting in and out JayBird has improved the technology, because with the BlueBuds X the connectivity is outstanding. Apparently the improved connection is due to  JayBird’s patented system “Signal Plus,” which delivers skip-free connectivity. It definitely works – I only start to lose signal if I leave my phone at my desk and go about 4 offices down the hall. With my phone in my pocket I never get intermittent connectivity, even downtown. Now I can keep my phone safe on bike rides (and out of the rain) by tucking it safely into my pannier (my excellent Arkel Bug pannier reviewed here). Even while my phone is in a sealed pocket of my pannier, I get perfect reception on my headphones
Low Battery Alert: When the batteries got low, my Jaybird Freedom Sprint headphones would warn me with an ear-splitting BEEP. The first time they did that, I almost fell over in shock. Then, to add insult to injury, they continued to BEEP every minute or so for the entire 20 minutes of life left in the battery. DUMB! This basically took 20 minutes off the battery life, because you cannot enjoy music when you keep having a deafening beep in your ear. I understand having a repeating alarm when something potentially catastrophic is happening, such as a wing falling off an airplane. But this level of intense nagging about the fact that your headphone battery is dying is ridiculous With JayBird BlueBuds X Premium, instead of a never-ending intrusive beep, a rather lovely, mellow female voice tells you that “Battery is low”, and then she SHUTS UP about it. This gives you another 20 minutes of listening time, before she sweetly says “Power off.” Apparently this voice is called Jenna
Hand Controls: Very tiny on the Jaybird Freedom Sprint Much improved on the X Premium – I can even control them with cycling gloves on (summer weight, not winter weight)
Communications: With the Jaybird Freedom Sprint you have to figure out status by trying to see tiny little lights. It is often hard to tell if the headphones are on, or if they are connected to your smart phone. With the Jaybird Freedom Sprint, I was always peering at the teeny lights, trying to figure out what was going on. Not something you want to be doing on a bike The JayBird BlueBuds X Premium communicates with you via the voice of Jenna. She tells you “Power on” when you switch on, and then “Headphones Connected” when they’re connected, cutting out the guesswork. VAST improvement

Jaybirds packagingThings I Like about the Jaybird Headphones

Packaging: the packaging feels very premium, with a nice little hard shell case to keep all the bits in.

Size: The manufacturers claim they are the world’s smallest headphones. They are very tiny, yet deliver amazing sound.

Guarantee: They  also claim to offer a lifetime sweat guarantee.

alien apple earphonesFit: Jaybird claims to have a patented secure fit. I do find that they stay in my ears pretty well, but not perfectly. But then, no headphones do (note that although Jaybird calls these headphones, they are actually earphones, as they fit INTO your ears, not over your head). In fact, the fit is pretty darn good – and a lot better than the new earphones Apple is packaging with its iPhone 5. Have you tried those things? They prove my long-held belief that Apple gets its superior technical products direct from aliens – those earphones were not made to fit in human ears! So whose ears were they tested in? Think about it …

The sound: Bluebird says on their web site: “Through perfecting a custom implementation of the native Bluetooth SBC codec, which we call Shift™, we deliver a level of purity and sound that rivals and challenges the very best in wired headphones.” Their website also tells us this interesting fact:

“Don’t listen to flat music. Surprisingly, that’s what iPhone, iPod and iPad deliver by default. The new operating system from Apple has new Equalizer settings which deliver a greater music experience. Go to Settings > Music > EQ and tune your sound just the way you want it.”

I don’t really know what all this means, but I CAN tell you that the sound is better than any corded earphones or headphones I have used. (I am talking about below $200 ‘phones.)

Phone calls: Occasionally I do actually use my phone for phone calls. With these earphones I can take calls by touching the center button, and when the other person hangs up, my music comes back on automatically. Magic!

One-hand near-the-ear controls: I can adjust sound on my bike with the controls on the earphone, so I don’t have to get my phone out of my pannier. I can also backup one track or go forward one track.

What I don’t like about the Jaybird Headphones

Jaybird headphone ear cushionsEar cushions: They come with these funny little gadgets they call ear cushions. They are supposed to hang onto your ear and prevent the headphones falling out of your ears. I found they did not help at all. Worse, I had been wearing them for days before I glanced in a mirror and saw that the gadgets were sticking out vertically from my ears, making me look like a giant demented bat. I threw them out immediately. I had been under the impression that I looked like the guy below who is wearing Jaybirds JF3 with ear tips – but sadly, not so much.jaybird earphones - man looking good with ear tips

Jaybird headphones chargerUSB Charger: The charger is completely different from the Jaybirds Sprint charger, so I could not use my old charger as a backup. Not only that, but the charger just died on me after a few months, and I had to buy another one.

Website: The Jaybirds website is a bit annoying. It’s one of those websites where you are bombarded with Flash, and struggle to find what you actually need.

Products on the Website: When you have to buy replacement accessories for your Jaybird, you will discover that although Jaybird is very smart about product technology, they are incredibly stupid about accessories. When you get your Jaybirds, they come with three sets of ear tips – small, medium and large. (The ear tips are the littly foamy bits that fit into your ears.) It’s OK to get three sizes with the original kit, because you get a chance to figure out which size fits you best. But when you want to re-order – you have to order another set of small, medium and large! I find that incredibly stupid. Basically you have to buy two sets that you don’t need, in order to get the one set that you do need. WHY can’t I just buy the ones I want (medium)?

Shipping Rip-Off for Non-Americans

Worse still, Jaybird hoses Canadians on shipping. There are no alternatives – you have to pay $30 for ANYthing you order, even a $9 set of foam ear tips that weigh about as much as a dog whisker. I was tempted to buy from Amazon, where the shipping costs are about $7, but then I could not be sure I was getting a compatible brand.

So I ended up holding my nose and ordering from Jaybird USA. I paid $30 for shipping; then to add insult to injury, FedEx billed me $14.65 for GST, PST and something they call an “Advancement Fee” that they claimed to have sent to the Canada Border Services Agency.  So, a total of $45 in shipping for a $9 plastic packet of cheap ear tips. And in that packet were two sets I didn’t want (the small and the large) – so I paid $54 for two tiny, foam ear tips. If they ever drop off again while I am cycling, I will park my bike and scour the earth till my fingertips BLEED. So if you see someone on his hands and knees on the bike path, with a magnifying glass, swearing – that’ll be me.

These must be the most expensive ear tips in the world. They cost me so much that I think I should add them to my estate and bequeath them to my children.

But seriously, for this reason alone, when these Jaybirds die, I will never buy another pair of Jaybird headphones again (unless they appoint a local distributor for parts). This was just too ridiculously expensive.

Bottom Line on the JayBird X Premium Bluetooth Headphones

These headphones will give you great hands-free listening with excellent sound. They are quite robust, will go for 8 hours, and take only an hour to recharge from completely flat. So despite the $190 price tag, I would say Jaybird X headphones are good value for money.

But on the negative side, when you need to replace accessories such as ear tips, you will be in trouble – especially if you don’t live in the USA. And if you use them on a bike, you WILL lose ear tips. They fall off occasionally, and are impossible to find. So you will end up either being ripped off by Jaybird’s shipping fees, or having to buy generic from Amazon and hope for the best.

So I would say think it over very, very carefully if you are not in the USA, because the shipping costs are nothing but gouging. Even if you are in the USA – you will still be forced to buy products that you don’t need. For example, if you want medium-sized ear tips or ear cushions, you will STILL have to pay for small and large. Ridiculous! So it is one of those situations where the product is great, but the after sales sucks.

Think about that before you buy.

Stupid obstacles in bike paths

Fly or Die? Stupid Obstacles on Bike Paths

Bike paths are so often made dangerous by obstacles – why is it so hard for people to understand that bikes cannot fly? The photo above was taken in Minneapolis and is courtesy of @ARTCRANK and @kStafki. As @ARTCRANK said, while we cyclists appreciate the sentiment, the placement – not so much.

I come across this kind of thing every day – places where cyclists seem to be expected to just fly over obstacles in the bike path.

Hornby bike path in Vancouver blocked by police carsSometimes it’s the very people who are supposed to help us – flag people standing in the middle of the bike path, or police cars parked in bike lanes – as I saw in downtown Vancouver last week (see pics above and below). I don’t know what was going on, but one thing is sure: people were parked and standing all over a major downtown bike lane, at rush hour, seeming not to care if they were putting cyclists in danger. I guess they thought cyclists could just FLY over them.

Hornby bike path in Vancouver blocked by police carsThis is not just a pet peeve. This kind of stupidity leads to cyclist injury and death.

I am feeling sad today because a cyclist was killed yesterday at Beta and Lougheed – my old neighbourhood. He was leaving Brentwood Mall, heading down the very steep part of Beta towards Lougheed Highway. The part of Beta where he was killed is typical of Burnaby planning: it seems to assume that no one walks or bikes ANYWHERE.

If you’re not in a car, you’re crazy anyway, and you’d better just fly or die.

On the bright side, Brentwood Mall is being redeveloped, and part of the plan is to make the area more pedestrian-friendly, with road narrowing and crosswalks. There are also rumors that the area will be made more cycling-friendly. Well, it could not be LESS pedestrian and bike friendly, and this is highlighted by the death of this cyclist.

If nothing else, I hope that the Brentwood Mall planners will be motivated to provide safe infrastructure so that no one else has to die after shopping at the Mall.

A Blog for Average People who love to ride bikes

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