Thursday, 11 September 2014

Cycling in Jasper National Park

Riding your bike in the mountains certainly gives you great surroundings to focus on even if you are punishing yourself up a climb.

As we headed out this past weekend to ride some of the climbs around Jasper, we were met with beautiful blue skies and perfect vistas to admire.  My riding partner commented that he hadn't ridden in a while and the climb would be tough.  After climbing for a bit, he said he thought about turning around but it was just too beautiful not to climb up the mountain to see the views and enjoy the day. He did a great job putting the pain out of his mind and getting up to the top.

Great roads, blue skies, and the perfect backdrop

We could hear the Elk rutting in the distance all around us.  It's the time of year when they are in a frisky mood and are willing to compete for the best mate.  We're happy that we didn't run into any excited animals.  We did however, see some very excited riders coming down off the Marmot climb encouraging us with their excited hoots and hollers as they bombed down the mountain at 70+ km/h. We were climbing a grade of 11-12 % at the time and their excitement gave us extra energy and it also made us look forward to going the other direction soon.

As I was crawling my way up the mountain, it made me think of the pro riders who fly up these grades and make it look easy.  I thought: I need to train more, lose about 10-15 more pounds, drink less beer, and maybe train some more.  Unfortunately, this silly thing called work keeps getting in the way of training and keeps me wanting to drink more beer.  Not to mention everything else that interferes with life and prevents us from doing all the things we want to spend more time on.

Patricia Lake - small climb.  Worth it for the view. 

Thinking of the pro riders flying up the climbs also made me think about the Tour of Alberta.  The Marmot road climb is a category 2 climb from what I've read, but at the end of a long road stage, it would be a decent summit finish.  It is about 12 km long and an average grade of 5.5% with max gradients of 18% (according to Strava and my Garmin).  The stage could start at Maligne Lake and go to Marmot basin for the finish ... that would be epic.  Not to mention, there is some great terrain around Banff for a stage as well.  There would be plenty of hotels and restaurants to accommodate the teams and media as well.

All alone on the roads near Pyramid Lake.

When we arrived at the top, I felt like I had achieved a pretty good climb with pretty good energy left over.  My mind went to that place where you ask yourself ... should I try the Mt. Edith Cavell climb today as well?  It is another 12ish km climb with an average grade of about 4% right at the bottom of the Marmot climb.  My legs and lungs then had a conversation with my brain, and said it would have to be another day unless a motor was going to be involved.

Top of the Marmot climb.

It was an incredibly busy weekend in Jasper and there were lots of people in town, but the mountain roads were super quiet.  It felt like we had the mountain to ourselves which is always a treat.  My riding partner made the observation that we really should do this more often, and I agreed wholeheartedly.  If you are heading to Canada for any riding, make sure you see Jasper National Park on your bike.  Not only are the roads for miles, but there is mountain bike terrain to make any rider happy.  Epic day long rides, short trail rides, or gnarly technical stuff to challenge the pros.  You get so much more out of the experience when you hear the animal sounds, feel the wind, smell the crisp mountain air, and see the peaks rising around you.  It is a magical place.

It would be criminal of me not to mention Snow Dome Coffee Bar in Jasper as well.  Yes, you can wash your smelly clothes and shower there because it is also a multi-disciplinary business, but the coffee and baking are second to none.  Do not miss it!!

Tell me where I should go ride in North America.  What are your favorite places to ride?  What do you think about the Tour of Alberta heading into the National Parks?

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