Riding a bike on Arthur Street during rush hour is difficult enough; embarking on a 64-kilometre trek through the country roads of Woolwich and Wellesley is another matter entirely. But on March 24, that’s exactly what cyclists from across Ontario will do as Cycle Waterloo’s Steaming Nostril kicks off at Elmira’s Lions Hall at 11 a.m.
The one-day race – one of the first of the Ontario Cycling Association season – will send cyclists across all terrains in the townships, including parts of the Kissing Bridge Rail Trail and other farm roads, before ending at the Woolwich Memorial Centre.“It’s been in the back of our minds probably about two years now,” said Malcolm Steven, a co-organizer with Cycle Waterloo. “We’re seeing a lot more trends in the Waterloo Cycling Club of guys who are riding all winter long. Great groups that will get out on a Tuesday night and a Thursday night and ride after hours with lights.”
Thus far, the race has attracted close to 200 registrants, and Cycle Waterloo anticipates between 250 and 350 participants once the day comes around, all on cross, mountain and hybrid bikes for the conditions. Registered cyclists are expected to come from as far as Quebec and Toronto. “Because it’s all on gravel and farm road, they look forward to the hardy, mucky conditions,” said Steven of the hard-core riders.
“Woolwich has over 80 kilometres of public trails for cyclists and pedestrians,” said Mayor Todd Cowan in a statement. “Hosting this race is a strong endorsement of the great trails in Woolwich.”
While cycling is traditionally thought of as a sport for warmer seasons, Steven said that there has never been a better time to bike off-season.
“I think there are more people riding all winter long. The equipment has gotten better, with warmer clothing for riders to wear. And I think the lights, too – the lights are lasting longer, and you can put fairly big headlights on your bike.
“Actually, that’s where the name of the ride came from, ‘Steaming Nostril,’” he continued. “We were all out for a ride one night on one of the back farm roads, and out in the distance there was a Mennonite horse-and-buggy with a light on the carriage, and with the light you could see the steam. That kind of stuck with me.”
And yes, 64 kilometres in gravel and mud is not exactly a cakewalk, but rest assured they’re going easy on you. “We’ve got some guys we ride with who want us to do 100, 120 kilometres,” laughed Steven. “You’re out in the middle of nowhere, you can get pretty heavy winds.”
Riders can register for the Steaming Nostril race at CycleWaterloo.com. A portion of registration fees will be donated to the Kissing Bridge Rail Trail for maintenance and improvements.