Though the drama of the cobbles gets us through our wet and chilly springs and the pain and excitement of cyclocross carries us into winter, as cyclists we almost all yearn for the drama of June and July. But as the Giro, Tour de France and Vuelta come to a close we’re often left with a certain feeling of emptiness.
How to fill this void? That’s the easy part – You ride.
Unfortunately, after the grandeur of the Alpes and the majesty of the Pyrenees oftentimes your regular routes may lose some of their lustre – The challenge then becomes where to ride…
But the search for endless climbs, smooth, gently sweeping tarmac and awe-inspiring vistas need not take you overseas, but rather into our backyard… The Alberta Rockies.
Although one may argue that vacationing 45 minutes from your front door can’t possibly feel like you’re getting away, I beg to differ. That’s the magic of the mountains… They envelop you. Everything that exists beyond their reach fades into the background of your mind.
Prior to firmly deciding our location we had a handful of requirements:
- Minimized travel time – Maximizing the time spent on the bike was important… With a pair of children each and two very understanding wives holding down the fort at home, we didn’t want to extend our vacation and overindulge our time away.
- Affordable accommodation – We weren’t looking for 300 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets and claw-foot soaker tubs (well, at least I wasn’t), just a couple beds and a kitchen of serviceable quality. The nice thing is that almost every level of accommodation was available to us – From hostels and camping to world class luxury living.
- En-route amenities – Not wanting to carry a full day’s ration of food and water, nor willing to pay for a follow car with supplies we wanted to ensure our routes had acceptable access to sustenance.
Given the wish-list above and a desire to enjoy a slightly more ‘chill’ vibe we ended up settling on Canmore, AB. It provided some epic scenery for our base-camp, with plenty of access to some pretty outstanding rides as well as ample access to quality accommodation, great cafés, restaurants, pubs and local culture.
With only four days to jam as much riding in as we could, our rides were strategically planned to explore the beauty of the Rockies, provide a good physical challenge, but not wreck us for subsequent days.
- Day 1 – Canmore Ramblin’
- Mainly just an initial effort to open up the legs and explore Canmore a bit, turned out to be a nice sightseeing expedition. We even ran into some of the Edmonton crew gearing up for the 24hrs of Adrenaline. Per usual, this initial ride exposed a few shortfalls in Sheldon’s bike maintenance, so we planned to hit Rebound Cycle prior to heading out the next day.
- Day 2 – Highwood Pass Attempt
- Despite our best efforts to crest the the highest paved pass in Canada, it was not to be. Summer flooding in Southern Alberta had left a large stretch of the highway completely washed away. With the road closed to everybody (including cyclists at threat of a $287 fine) we headed into the heart of Kananaskis and toured the picturesque Upper and Lower Kananaskis Lakes. The trip got a little more interesting after climbing to the Nakiska Ski Resort when my rear tire completely blew out (tube & tire). We had to ‘MacGyver’ a $5 bill tire boot, but it got us home, with ~40k remaining.
- Day 3 – Banff to Lake Louise & Beyond
- A great roll down the Bow Valley Parkway… The skys were clear, the weather glorious and we felt like we had the roads to ourselves – What limited traffic we did encounter were courteous and gave us plenty of room when passing. We had a stupendous side trip down a semi-closed road to Moraine Lake and even managed to soak in some wildlife on the way home with an up close, massive elk and black bear sighting. Hunting for the 100-mile marker that had eluded us the day before, a last minute climb to the Mt. Norqway Ski Resort pushed us over the edge :-) This day ended up delivering both the single most miles ridden and feet climbed in a single day, by either of us – monumental to be sure.
- Day 4 – Canmore to Banff
- A quick little breakfast run to flush the fatigue out of the legs and wrap up the trip in style. Enjoyed a great cappuccino and croissant at The Wild Flour Bakery in Banff before heading back to Canmore and wrapping things up.
Past summers almost always included some type of epic stage race like the Transrockies or Furious3, but this trip was certainly a welcome change of pace. It was nice to contrast the aggressive challenge of these stage races with a more relaxed and mellow experience. No 6:00am start times here, no more lines for showers – We rolled how and when we wanted to roll. And while I sense that there will undoubtably be more stage racing in our future this was exactly the type of trip we were looking for.
All the images from our trip can be enjoyed on Flickr.