This page is an account of my 2003 ride of the Rideau Lake Cycle Tour - an annual event organized and run by the Ottawa Bicycle Club. Roughly between one and two thousand riders sign up for the ride each year, which runs between the cities of Ottawa, Ontario and Kingston, Ontario. The RLCT is has a 2-day weekend format, with the ride from Ottawa to Kingston occurring on the Saturday, and the return ride back to Ottawa on the Sunday. Three different routes are available: the 177-km 'classic' route, a 225-km 'challenge' route, and a 177-km 'cruise' route. This report was done on the 'classic' route.
Saturday, June 7
6:00am - 7:00am (Ottawa, Carleton U.)
After preparing with a less-than-recommended 700 kilometre pre-RLCT riding season, the day arrives. I'm always a bit nervous about this tour; after all, for most people, even driving on the 416/401 in a car from Ottawa to Kingston takes a long time. And that's at 120 km/hr! It just seems impressive (and daunting) to travel somewhere so far away under your own steam. And then to turn around and do it all again in reverse the next day?
My trusty steed
However, having done this twice before (2001
) helps quite a bit. So, I loaded up my new touring bike (from Pecco's) and cycled from my house to the registration area at Carleton University. This year I was going to be riding with a mixed group of friends - some new to the RLCT, and some not.
We'd all arranged to meet at 6:30 am... earlier than usual. We wanted to leave nice and early so that we could avoid feeling time pressured, should we stop more often or have incidents or what-have-you. The day started out cloudy and grey and shortly after arriving at Carleton it started to rain. To which Markus responded with talk about how this was all very normal RLCT weather.
By 7:00am our little group had all arrived and were ready to go: Pu, Myself, Markus, Caroline, Dave and Jen. Pu had managed to snag the highly notable number 666, which in Chinese is actually quite lucky. I explained to him that in some Western beliefs the number was, um, shall we say, not quite so lucky. I half-thought about calling him the Pu-beast for the rest of the weekend, but thought better of it.
(Ottawa to Ashton)
With all of our overnight bags dropped off and a quick group photo, we were off just after 7am. The rain had stopped and the ground was only a bit damp. Some of our group had not done little or no pack riding before, and so we figured we'd leave the intro-to-pack-riding until after we
had cleared the lights, bumps, and traffic of city streets. A bit of practice and were riding in a smooth twin-lane six-pack.
Soon we were out into the country west of Ottawa, heading for the village of Ashton, where the first rest stop is located. It started to spit, then drizzle, then rain, with spray getting everywhere and making it difficult to ride close to another rider. Reluctantly I stopped and put on my rain gear. Things wern't looking too good weather-wise... although the forecast was still pretty good.
Fortunately, not long afterwards (just before Ashton, in fact), the rain let up, and dry pavement reappeared. Which was a relief to me. I have heard too many stories about the infamous RLCT of 2000 where a cold temperature and continuous rain made for a completely miserable ride and perhaps not a few cases of near-hypothermia.
We arrived at the Ashton rest-stop at 8:48am. Things were going reasonably well. The weather had returned to cloudy but dry and comfortable; everyone was in good spirits. For some reason, there was a large lineup for the porto-bathrooms and no lineup for the regular bathrooms inside the little concession building. Are porto-bathrooms that fun for most people? ugh. I chose the regular bathroom.
9:11am - 11:07am
(Ashton to Perth, Perth Lunch Stop)
From Ashton it was a relatively flat 30 or so kilometres to Perth, where the "lunch stop" was located. We had joined up with a good bunch of folks just before Ashton and we had decided to stick together, forming a larger and more efficient riding pack. One very nice aspect of the RLCT and of pack riding is that as you rotate around, you get to ride side-by-side with someone new. Striking up a short conversation bounded by the time spent in that position in the rotation is kind of interesting. When it is your turn to rotate, you say good-bye to your current partner and rotate into position next to someone else, and a new conversation starts up. And if the group isn't too large, you can pick up old conversations when you finally rotate back to someone you've talked to before. And on top of all that you get an amazingly easy ride while not at the front. I really like pack riding!
The kilometres flew by, and soon we were nearing Perth, the last major obstacle being a 2km stretch of muddy gravel road that routes the RLCT away from some major highways. These types of roads are not kind to riders with fragile wheels/tires, it seems. There were quite a few people stopped fixing tires along this stretch.
I zoomed ahead shortly before Perth and captured our group coasting into the park where the lunch stop area was located. The RLCT provides drinks as part of the service here; Sandwiches and snacks are available for a price from local charities.
I'm quite happy with my new touring bike and with clipless pedals... seeing as I am having no joint pains at all. This is in stark contrast to last year, where, riding on a borrowed bicycle and using toeclips with sneakers, I suffered painful knee and ankle problems.
(Perth to Westport)
We are out of Perth at 11:07am and on our way to the next rest stop at Westport. This is where the ride gets hilly, with the road gently undulating through Canadian Shield scenery. Lakes and Rocky outcrops are everywhere. Turns out that just about everyone in our group has a different< pace in hilly terrain, and our little group begins to break up. We eventually agree to formally split up but to meet at the rest stops.
The beast climbs the hill
Just before Westport the road drops off what appears to be an escarpment (the steepest hill of the whole ride), and from there it is a short cycle through town to the rest stop. The weather is improving... to the point where it is still cloudy but bright. Just the kind of weather where you can get a sunburn without even realizing it.
We all reconvene at the rest stop at about 1:15pm - everyone seems to be doing well, and we are only about 60-ish kilometres from Kingston at this point.
(Westport to Perth Road to Kingston)
The ride to the Perth Road stop (last stop before Kingston) is really nice - more gentle hills and nice scenery, along with good riding weather: not too hot, no major wind, and dry. Markus and I look forward to chocolate milk at the store at Perth Road. mmmm... just thing after a long day of cycling.
At Perth Road, I once force Markus and Caroline to do some flybys on the bike (after the chocolate milk break, of course) so I can get some neat panning shots.
The final 30 or so kilometres to Kingston are uneventful. Markus, Caroline, and myself form into a group of three and steadily make our way towards Kingston. At this point I'm quite looking forward to, in order, a shower, dinner and [of course] the downtown ice cream run afterwards!
Interactive trackmap with photo points - RLCT Ottawa to Kingston - click map to view