Biking from Boston to Montreal

June 7, 2018

Last year I buried myself in the architecture licensure exam study books, and after 15 months, I finally passed all exams in March.  I realized, in all my studying, that I dis-engaged from my community, which had a negative impact on my mental sanity and happiness. So, I’m launching back in with the effort to have a positive impact and make change around me. If anything has taught us in these more trying political times, it’s that we need to step up and take action for the things we care about. Joining the Boston Cyclists Union’s fundraising and awareness campaign to bike from Boston to Montreal is just the first step in my personal mission to DO MORE.

(Side note: My trusty Jamis bike I was going to ride on the trip was smashed by a truck a few weeks before the ride. So I doubled down on my research to find a new steed. With many friends’ help, I settled on a custom build of the All-City Space Horse, with a crankset more geared towards climbing, cable actuated hydraulic brakes, and fatter-than-I’ve-ever-ridden tires. The tires proved to be invaluable on Vermont’s many rough roads and the rooty, rocky trails. I first rode the bike a week before the trip, cutting it real close, but the Space Horse proved it’s gracefulness on the varied terrain and made me a more confident rider.)

Biking the 400 miles to Montreal from Boston in five days was a transformative trip for many, including myself. For me, it was about conquering fears/doubts of ability of tackling trail obstacles (slippery roots, rocks, logs), plowing through mud, steep uphills, loose gravel and wicked fast descents. Making split second decisions about what line to pick, where to put your weight, how much to brake or let the bike go. And learning all this on a new bike – which ultimately gave me the confidence I needed to relax and just go at it. The new bike is good at fast descents, rock hopping, and mud bogging. I was definitely on edge in many moments and practiced breathing, concentration and focus. I never fell and managed to pop over logs and quick steep uphills that used to stop me.

Camping also throws its challenges your way, from the wet, the cold, and the biting bugs. At times I did wonder why I liked to camp, but then that night the temp stays above the dew point and the views of calm lake waters sparkling in the early sun all make it worth it.

The off road parts we did were mostly on the West River Trail in VT. I don’t have any pictures of the super gnarly trail because I was too busy trying to hold on! I definitely gained more confidence and the beauty of difficult things like long climbs is that you put your head down and eventually you get to the top!

The last riding day -110 miles from Burlington to Montreal proved to feel the fastest and strongest for me. It was hot with rolling hills and flatlands. A glorious tail wind helped and my legs were ready to kick into machine mode and consistently hold a quick pace. It was the first time I’ve felt that way and felt so good to be strong after 4 other tough hilly days. Maybe it was the dip in the chilly Lake Champlain waters that cut the lactic acid from my muscles.

Riding in Montreal was also transformative. I kept expecting the infrastructure to end, to die out and dump you on a narrow road like it does in most places in the US. But it didn’t! It continued and the network was connected and allowed you to just keep going! Seems like a simple thing but it made traversing the city a smooth and joyous experience. We also had a mini seminar with bike advocates from VeloQuebec and the Montreal Bike Coalition and learned more about the history of the cycling infrastructure movement in the city.

Another valuable aspect of the ride, aside from personal achievements, is that of meeting new people, expanding the friend circle and seeing friends improve over the week. The kindness and sharing I saw throughout the week was also amazing. And having no cell phone service was great (tho not for checking weather radar). There’s nothing like biking in 50s and rain to make you appreciate any kind of food, especially the most amazing peanut butter cookie cream sandwich I had at some small country store. The worse some things become, the better others are.

Thank you SO MUCH to all my campaign supporters! YOU made this possible, and certainly lessened my stress (It was raising the money that stopped me in previous years!) Your gifts will be made in the next few weeks – I promise! Now I can weave stories from the trip into them 🙂

Here’s a few pictures from the ride:

 

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