Fun Grando and the Church of Bike
Dude, where’s your spandex! (Part 1)
My lovely bride and I roll gently north, heading up the bike route after crossing Kingsway. It’s still not 5AM and we are up early before the crack of dawn. The two of us are riding a couple of single speed cruisers with coaster brakes, kicking it old school. Modern USB rechargeable bike lighting illuminates the way. Other than the few remaining revellers from last evenings Friday night out, the streets are almost deserted. A cab scampers for a last fare, while early morning workers resolutely make their way along the main roads. The backstreets though are deserted, and we descend down from upper East Van and ride into the city.
There are a couple of good reasons why we are up and out on our bikes before the birds on a Saturday morning. Justifying this little bit of madness is the official #whistlergranfondo which departs at 7AM from the middle of beautiful Stanley Park. Amongst the throngs of spandex wearing, space age fibre bike frame mounting, shaved leg sporting, protein gel pack sucking bike riders is a very good friend of ours. He and a couple of more buddies are going to ride to Whistler on this beautiful late summer day and we are going to cheer them on.
This ride in the real early morning process allows my wing woman and I to sort of relive and renew a great experience from some SE Asian travels a couple of years ago. The city was Hoi An in Vietnam. In daytime it is a charming, chaotic, historic riverfront city jammed full of locals, commuters from outside areas and tourists from everywhere. Especially along the riverfront market areas, you cannot move about freely on foot, let alone even think of riding a bike due to the crowds. Somewhere in one of those travel related Internet forums my wife unearthed a nugget of advice. It simply stated that when in Hoi An, try getting up very early and see the city before it awakes. So we did, and it was a fabulous experience. Riding figure 8’s on the empty main market square as the sun rose over the river was just a small part of that magical morning.
Ever since then, it is something we have always wanted to replicate, especially in Vancouver. We stopped mid span on the Burrard Street Bridge to reminisce about our last such adventure and discuss our route for this new one. Down below us in the shadows, a full marina of pleasure craft bobbed gently on the False Creek tide. Ahead of us is downtown, it’s tall semi illuminated buildings beckoning us forward. We exit the bridge bike lane and start zigging and zagging the alleys and lesser streets of the cities core, purposely angling towards Granville. We sweep down off of Helmcken and take a left onto the original spine of Vancouver’s entertainment district. Disappointing to us, even at this early hour the street is starting to populate and the buses are running. We ride hard up Granville Street heading towards the mountains to the north, but there is not going to be any solitude and empty streets for our ride. There is also a deadline we must meet at Stanley Park. The Gran Fondo waits for no rider.
As we continue through downtown, we quickly realize we are not alone. The streets and bike lanes are filling with an invading spandex horde.
All riders are heading in the same direction in a migration like flow. As our riding uniforms are non conforming and our steed are obviously not going to carrying us to Whistler, none of the other riders pays us any attention. We do not belong to their chapter of the Church of Bike and everyone’s focus is on the 125 odd kilometres they need to ride today in order to arrive in Whistler Village. Fortunately, my co-cruiser and myself meet up with our buddies on the Hornby bike lane and we are able to pedal the remaining distance to the Brockton Oval mass start. As two members of this giant malleable bike gang, we have slipped inside the ropes and entered a cycling world both foreign yet familiar. While this ever expanding peloton of stationary road cyclists nervously congregate along the roadway, my lovely bride and I are at the halfway point in our mornings riding adventure. We wish everyone a safe ride and slip away to watch the riders depart from a safe vantage point. We break out a breakfast picnic and a flask of enhanced tea. So far this morning’s excursion has been pretty damn fine, and we still have to ride home. What more could you ask for on a pretty, early late summer morning in Vancouver