Words by Pauline Beaupre and Virginie Palermo // Photos by Michael Kazimierczuk
The beauty of cycling is in the way it puts you on the ground level of your environment. It often takes you off the beaten trail, onto the lesser-known roads.
Living in a major city, the desire to escape and venture onto these unknown roads comes every weekend. Escaping the city's hustle and chaos and venturing off into open country roads is something all cyclists have in common. But as the weather becomes more unpredictable and days get shorter, that escape gets harder.
As summer came and went in a strange blur, one final autumn weekend was planned before the indoor trainers get dusted off. We chatted and brought together a small group of four eager, strong women to get on their bikes and explore these lesser-known roads Ontario has to offer.
Riding your bike out of the city can get discouraging and repetitive. Busy streets, traffic lights, honking cars, and mundane bike paths. We tend to always be looking to escape, but the first 30km are usually the same. So with no faster way out, we beelined to Union Station and jumped on the first-morning train out of the city. We quickly forgot how dark and cold autumn mornings can be. Greeted with temperatures hovering slightly above 0°C, we boarded our train just after 7 am. Without much of an itinerary or set agenda, we loaded our 150km route and set off to see what Day 1 would bring.
Leaving from the train station by the lake, our route took us north. Continuously uphill for the first leg of the day. Weaving along farmer's fields and poorly maintained gravel roads. Southern Ontario is notorious for its colourful foliage during the autumn months. Every year it happens, every year you know to expect it, but yet every year, you are blown away by its beauty. And as we pushed further along the country roads none of us had ridden on before, the autumn foliage became even more present. Rolling hills of rich red and golden yellow leaves slowly falling to the ground. We embraced the views that made the bumpy gravel roads bearable. The kilometres went by, chatting and laughing on and off and other times, the only sound heard was each other's breath and dirt under our wheels. Stops were short and infrequent, as we didn't want to risk the possibility of getting cold once again.
A blazing pink sky in the morning was a beautiful surprise, albeit a warning. The rain was definitely on Day 2's forecast. We tracked the storm, watching the radar for when we may be spared. But it was inevitable, at some point, we would be caught. Despite our route heading back towards the lake, we still had a fair bit of climbing among the rolling hills to keep us warm in the 4°C weather. A little less dirt and more pavement kept using rolling fast. But not long into the ride, what we all dreaded finally came. Rain, slowly but surely it started coming down. Not easing up all day. We rode for hours through the rain, but legs felt good, and the desire to get back to our warm homes was strong. Cold, soaked, and one snapped derailleur cable later, we finally made it.
The bittersweet relationship we had with the weekend was all we could talk about while sitting on the train heading back home. Cold and wet, we laugh at the thought of why do we do this to ourselves day after day. Simply, we love cycling! Pushing your body physically and mentally to see just how far you can take it. Every time we surprise ourselves and always make it to the finish laughing, maybe even with a few tears. Getting to see the landscapes and what our home had to offer during the autumn made us all remember that summer is not the only season that can show us true beauty.
With all that said and done, we were once again back at the drawing boards. Planning another ride, another weekend, another adventure down lesser-known roads that will make us shake our heads but smile the entire way.