The ride to Champlain Lookout in Gatineau Park is the standard weekend ride for most Ottawa cyclists. Gatineau Park, in the province of Quebec, is right across the Ottawa River from Ottawa. It is closed to traffic until May 1st and every Sunday morning during summer, making it a cyclists’ paradise.
The return ride from our house is a little under 90 km, making it the perfect training ride to get back in shape after a long winter. Today was our first longish ride of the season despite temperatures that hovered below 10 degrees all day.
Gamlin parking lot is the starting point if time is short and you need to drive. Today there was lots of room – last weekend (when the sun was blistering) it was standing-room-only.
There are a number of variations on the routes to Champlain Lookout, but all take the climb to Pink Lake, a beautiful greenish-blue jewel nestled in forest. Why “Pink”? Well, it was named after the original family of settlers in the area…
The Pink Lake climb is a good aerobic workout to get things started. I was warm enough at the top to take off my wind jacket, only to put it on again 3 kms down the road. It was cool today.
In total, the ride from Gamlin to Champlain Lookout is about 20 km, most of it uphill. We practiced standing on a couple of the climbs – first Mary would stand, then me. What we found (nor surprisingly) is that the most important factor for standing is to have a heavy enough gear. If there is not sufficient resistance on the crank, the seated rider experiences a very jerky pedal stroke. The other important factor is for the stoker to not grip the handle bars tightly. The pilot must retain control of the balance of the bike, otherwise you drift erratically and uncontrollably. We had practiced this on the CompuTrainer during winter, so we had some idea of what we were in for.
At the top of Champlain most cyclists take some time to recover and enjoy the stunning view up the Ottawa River valley. On a clear day you can see about 50 km in the distance, and in autumn the colours are spectacular.
Back down we went, braking on the descents due to assertive crosswinds. By the time we were over the river and homeward bound we were flagging – even the Garmin gave up at the Experimental Farm. Both of us were glad to reach home. Mary has been recovering for 3 weeks from womanly-type medical procedures, so her capacity to contribute was somewhat restricted. I of course (puff-of-chest) was able to bring us both back home, whereafter (exhausted exhalation) I wolfed down a greek salad and found a bed for a nap.
‘Tis the start of the season.