MY Account of the 2002 Rideau Lakes Cycle Tour
Note: If you would prefer instead to view the full set of my RLCT images (which has many more images than the narrative), click here
RLCT Map - Classic Route
Held every June, the RLCT is a two-day ride that takes place in eastern Ontario, between the Cities of Ottawa and Kingston. The event is two days long, and involves a 177 kilometre ride from Ottawa to Kingston on the Saturday, and a 177 kilometre ride back to Ottawa the next. The terrain is mostly flat, with a section of rolling hills of about 70 kilometres in the middle. If desired, cyclists can choose to stay at a dormitory room at Queen's University in Kingston. Saturday supper and Sunday morning breakfast are provided, again at a dining hall at Queen's University.
The RLCT offers three routes: The Classic, or standard route, is the oldest and most travelled route (177km). The Cruise route, a more southerly alternative, is also a 177km route of similar difficulty. For those needing or wanting something more, the Challenge route is offered, and is a variation on the classic route that adds an extra 50 or so kilometres (for a total of 225km one way). Maps of both the Classic and Cruise route are available within this presentation (see the 'maps' page).
The Classic route is fully supported, and includes rest and lunch stops along the way. Drinks are provided free of charge at lunch, and various vendors make snacks available at these locations for a fee. The Cruise and Classic routes offer very minimal support and no rest or lunch stops.
I first participated in the RLCT in 2001, on a rented tandem with Lorraine. We chose the cruise route, and, despite a fairly low quality bike, had a great time. This year my friend Markus and his sister Johanna joined us (all of us going solo - no tandems this time). The route for us this year was to be the Classic route.
Saturday morning registration
Saturday morning saw us at the registration area at Carleton University (in Ottawa) before 7:00am. We registered, dropped our overnight luggage off, and fastened our 2002 RLCT number onto our backs (I was number 755).
The day was turning out to be mostly cloudy, and the forecast was for a chance of showers in the Ottawa area during the afternoon. Not too bad. We pushed off just after 7am and were soon pedalling our way southeastwards towards the first stop along the classic route at Ashton, Ontario. Now, Markus, Johanna and I are not super-experienced with the ways of pack cycling or etiquette, but there were so many riders that eventually we ended up melding with several other cyclists. We soon fell into a two-row draft rotation, which none of us (except Lorraine) had any experience with. Eventually, with some coaching, we were all efficiently rotating around - and we were going at a pretty good clip - around 28 to 30km per hour on average. Markus had been convinced that he'd only manage an overall average of 17.7 km/hr, and so far we were well exceeding that. We arrived in Ashton in short order and our newly-formed group decided to stick together for the remainder of the day.
The ride from Ashton to Perth was fairly uneventful - the weather remained dry but cloudy, and our draft formation was working well. I started to feel a slight crick in my left knee, which I attributed to a slightly misaligned seat. However, I could not find a position that I felt comfortable with. I was a bit worried about this since we were less than 100 kilometres into a 356 kilometre ride, and I didn't want to have to give up and/or completely wreck my knee.
Johanna and the free stuff
We arrived at lunch in Perth before well before noon, meaning that we were making very good time (by our standards, anyway). We took advantage of the free beverages and had a leisurely lunch.
The next segment of the ride, from Perth to Westport, covered ground that gradually changed from the relative flatness of the Ottawa river valley to the rolling hills surrounding Westport. The hilliness of the road also increased, of course, but the pleasant scenery made up for it. We continued to make good time, and my knee soreness continued to get worse. I continually twisted my foot and seat and changed my riding posture in order to try and avoid it, but to no avail. Early in the afternoon we screamed down the famous 'Westport hill' (where I clocked my fastest speed for the ride at 63 km/hr) and arrived at the first of the afternoon rest stops (there were two). Continuing from there, more gently curving roads sprinkled with many short hills led to the final afternoon rest stop at a small crossroads known as Perth Road. Still my sore knee continued to worsen, and I was a bit worried about whether I'd be able to make the journey all the way back from Kingston the next day. I decided to take some anti-inflammatory (advil) to see if I could manage the soreness and whatever aggravation might be occuring.
I wanted to get some pictures which captured the impression of riding in a pack, so I carefully mounted my camera to the front luggage pannier on my bike. This way I could turn it on and snap a picture while I was riding in the draft group. I waited until I rotated around in the pack to the rear position, and then took several pictures. Figure 17 shows one of these shots.
All along the route it became obvious that the Ontario Provincial Police (the OPP) were marshalling and helping the ride. They had officers on motorcycles patrolling back and forth, attempting to keep cyclists from taking over the whole road but at the same time ensuring that the interaction between motorists and cyclists went well. They also had traffic officers in certain busy intersections helping cyclists through. In general they seemed 'on our side' and were much appreciated. This of course did not stop several passing motorists from getting quite angry with us (the cyclists in general), and we received our share of verbal lashings. I've even heard of one account where a motorist ran cyclists off the road.... and so as not to be one-sided, we also received some verbal abuse from other cyclists when we apparently were not far enough off of the road at one of our washroom breaks.
Kingston was achieved shortly before 4pm - excellent time for our mostly newbie group. We managed an overall rolling average of about 25 km/hr. Just as we rolled into Queen's University in Kingston, Markus' bicycle seat collapses - completely, and it is totally unfixable. After some frantic inquiries, we locate a bike shop that is open until 5pm, and Markus and I quickly cycle over to it. Markus buys a (to him) new-fangled split seat, but not without some trepidation. He is worried that it won't fit him right and that it will be too painful. It seems to be the best option that is available, so he goes for it (much to his later discomfort, as you will find out).
So, back to Queen's, and we all quickly sign-in and receive our room keys. Most of our rooms are in Victoria house, which actually has reasonably nice rooms and facilities. A quick shower and we are off to the University-style supper, served buffet-style at the dining hall. The huge hall is simply packed to the brim with cyclists. It is here that you really get the sense that 1400 people are signed up for this ride. After supper we wander downtown to treat ourselves to some gourmet ice cream (at an ice cream store called white mountain). While I am off of my bike I am not too sore, although I now notice that there is a soreness at the back of my heel. Just great. I really am a bit worried about being able to make it another 177km. I resolve to try and adjust my seat (this time by adjusting the height) and take a few more advil in the morning.