Yesterday I went out for one of those rides that was supposed to only last an hour or two. I had a hard time motivating myself to get off my ass and could have quite contently sat in Tim Hortons all day drinking coffee and eating Timbits. However, it turned out to be one of those rare spectacular days were I felt absolutely amazing once rolling on the bike. The sun came out and I ended up riding a solid 180km around my old training grounds. It was one of those days where I wanted to keep going and going. Every corner I came to where I could have turned back home, I opted for the other direction. You gotta love those days.
On a solo 180km ride you do a lot of thinking. Most of my blog posts come from my scatterbrained thoughts during my rides. I came across this sign and it got me a little excited and I interpreted it as the progression that Calgary has made towards cyclists and motorists.
Then, not 100 meters down the road I come across this sign which curbed my excitement:
Note the nice shoulder almost 2 meters wide that could fit 2 cyclists side by side with no problem. Good thing I was alone. After checking into this, riding single file is in fact the law here in Calgary and many other places in Canada. No wonder group rides have a hard time existing here. (update: apparently the Wednesday Night Jam has risen again (Hell Ride equivalent) and I’m pumped to check it out)
Seeing this sign got my thoughts centered on how different riding is here in Canada than it is in Melbourne. It made me think of this sign on Beach Road in Melbourne that pretty much says it all:
Weekend drivers on Beach Road in Melbourne are overrun with cyclists. Drivers know this and cyclists have pretty much made their mark here. If any less than 2 lanes of the road are taken up by cyclists it’s a slow day. You gotta love it.
Other than the road rules and popularity of cycling there are many other differences between Australia and Canada as well. It makes me think of the Seinfeld episode “Bizzaro World”. For every cyclist I encounter, there’s the exact polar opposite on the other side of the world. I have buddies here in Canada and mates in Australia who fit this phenomenon to a tee. For example, I have a buddy in Canada who is as hard as nails and is bound to prove it every time we hit the road – it’s torture to ride with him. In Australia I have a mate who “acts” hard as nails and then turns into a pussycat as soon as the pace lifts up or a cloud covers the sun. I have a mate in Australia who has all the ceramic bearings and toys you could ever imagine but barely ever rides his bike. In Calgary, I have a buddy who has all the bells and whistles you could dream of and has multiple national champion jerseys to show that he’s earned every toy in his garage. I have a buddy whose every ride turns into an adventure, most of the time tragic. I have a mate whose adventures always turn into those “epic” rides you never forget. The list goes on and on.
There’s also the coffee culture in Australia. You pay no less than $3.50 for a coffee and every person’s preference of their coffee is like religion. It is a sin to not stop for a coffee after a ride.
In Canada, Timmy’s rules the roost and it’s quicker to get a cup-o-joe in the drive-thru lineup than it is to simply walk inside and sit down. They charge about $1.50 for a bucket of coffee (there was outrage when they raised their prices 5 cents a couple years ago!). I do love my Timmy’s though and like the fact that I can get my caffeine fix so inexpensively. I got a full lunch there for less than $5 yesterday.
Unfortunately this is a typical latte you’ll receive from a coffee shop in Calgary. I’ve definitely grown to be a coffee snob.
There are also the obvious seasonal differences which are the exact opposite. I got this “what you missed this morning” pic from a reader yesterday:
“Went up to Bright this week and this is a pic going up Mt Hotham, -2, windy and wet! Turned round 20k up it….way too cold! 150kph winds and 78mm of rain+plenty of snow.”
In contrast, here’s a photo of my tanlines that I’ve been working on. I’m rather proud of these and think they illustrate the differences in weather between Down Under and Canada at the moment:
The differences between the cycling culture here in Canada and in Australia are stark but we all share passion for riding. Starting my cycling life in Canada has made me appreciate how wonderful it is in Austraila and I’ll never compain about a cold morning or a bit of rain every again (well, don’t hold me to that). Canada has toughened me up and thickened my skin and Australia has certainly made me a better rider with all of the talent that surrounds me. I can’t think of a better way to have progressed through my cycling life!
BTW, I don’t want to sound like I’m diss’n cycling in Canada. For 3 months of the year Canada has some of the most spectacular riding you can imagine. Like this gem that I just rode. Not a car in sight: