Wednesday, December 9, 2009


The sharp sound of scraping ice from windshields, the spine twisting toss of heavy snow to free your trapped vehicle, the smear of salt and sanded snow spray as your wipers drag and push, these joys of winter are unknown to the winter cyclist.

With frosty plumes of warm breath punctuating their progress, these most hardy of souls pedal year round, thumbing their cold noses at arctic temperatures and fluctuating gas prices.

A psychology professor at McMaster University, Reuven Dukas skirts his 2005 Corolla in the driveway as he settles onto his mountain bike for the 5 kilometer ride to work from his Dundas home. Matters not if the winds howl and the snow swirls.

“If it's not ski-able, it's bike-able,” is his motto. He puts on fresh “aggressive, off-road” tires in December to traction his way through the cold.

“Cycling enables me to be outside everyday, which I like, and I get my daily exercise”, says Dukas. So important is his daily ride, that he researched bike routes to his work when looking for a home.

Sure, it's not for everyone, pedaling through snow drifts and over black ice. Yet despite the perception of snow-bound Canadian winters, there are many days when roads are dry and clear, which leaves riding in winter largely a matter of bracing for the cold.

Daunting double digit drops below zero may strike fear, but novice riders may find themselves overdressing for the cold. Advances in gear technology mean keeping warm and dry on a bike is easier, and sleeker, than ever if you are willing to invest. And why not? A good waterproof, breathable, reflective cycling jacket and pants can keep the elements out, all for a little more than a year's worth of oil changes for your car. Throw in some extra protection with a thin fleece cycling balaclava to fit under your helmet, special “lobster claw cycling mitts, and maybe even some waterproof shoe covers to keep your toes dry, and you are practically climate controlled.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Hiking Hamilton to Dundas

Last fall, not long after I moved from Dundas to nearby Hamilton, I took a hike along the Bruce Trail from Dundurn Street in Hamilton to Governor's Road in Dundas. It was a sort of connecting pilgrimage that I felt I needed to do at the time, a way of saying, it's not that far, I can walk there. Well, that, and the inviting beauty of the trail that helps transmute the daily noise of living into a long, solitary, and highly enjoyable hike.

I did the same route today, this time a summer walk in glorious sunshine, and it took longer to reach my destination as I was able to linger without the threat of a chill. In all, I was walking for a little over five hours. Well, walking and snacking, taking photos, dipping my feet in a forest stream, stopping for lunch at Sherman Falls, etc., but alone, mostly walking, and trying to be present while letting the stresses of life fall to the wayside.

Not having anyone with me was just right today. Sometimes I just like to set my own pace, and not have to worry about talking or adjusting my response to another's needs. Being able to find your natural rhythm is by definition not a group activity.

The route takes me from Hamilton, through Ancaster, and into Dundas, with distinct natural habitats encountered along the way: deep forest streams, open fields, escarpment bluffs.

When I got to the end of my route through the woods, I went to a bus stop to wait for a ride back to Hamilton; after a few minutes a friend drove by, saw me, and pulled over to offer a ride. It was a great way to break the silence.