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Ramblin’ Round

July 15, 2011

Ride: 103km—Hamilton Mountain and Burlington (all in the big ring)

Weather: Sunny

My father had a collection of Lonnie Donegan singles on vinyl when I was little. On the “B” side of “The Comancheros,” which peaked at #14 on the UK charts in 1961 (thank you, Wikipedia), “The King of Skiffle” had recorded a somewhat melancholy “Ramblin’ Round,” which, for some reason I recall vividly and of which I was reminded on today’s ride. “Ramblin’ round your city; ramblin’ round your town,” began the chorus, which is what I did—up the escarpment and just beyond the city limits before riding the escarpment line—with panoramic views of the city below—before descending and heading out the other way to get a similar vantage point from the other side. (Of course, the next line is: “I never meet anyone I know as I go ramblin’ round.” Which isn’t accurate, since I ran into a former neighbor by Carluke’s Orchard, she on her bike, too).

In retrospect, this is a poor way to start. Today’s ride was a tour of Hamilton, however, and a bit of a ramble all over town. I typically prefer the surrounding countryside, and today’s ride reaffirmed this affinity as I worked my way through suburbia, strip malls, and industrial parks on the mountain before settling into more urban residential settings, Hamilton’s downtown core, and then bayfront neighborhoods in Burlington. I’ll take the drumlins and farms west and north of here over that. The first part of the ride was fine, though, riding through farms on the fringes of Ancaster. Nice, smooth roads—will definitely have to revisit these again soon.

Hamilton is a steel town. A depressed, industrial city, looking for its way in newer economic times. It’s also fairly green, as evidenced by the pictures below. It’s also a city full of waterfalls, which can be pretty and—I was told when interviewing at McMaster—has more kilometers of trail per person than any other city in Canada. This topography—important for making waterfalls fall—makes for some great cycling. The 2003 World Road Championships were held here.

Hamilton's steel works. Note Burlington Sky Bridge in distance, roughly center right.

So, a good city to be outdoors in. Which is nice, because I like to be outdoors. But a city that has seen its share of hard times.

Hamilton's downtown center hardly inspires visions of commercial affluence.

Riding through downtown and out the other end, I had a quick energy bar on the waterfront in Burlington (the green on the horizon in both the pictures above). The bayfront properties are among the most desirable in the area, so there was a disconcerting contrast between riding through urban decay and out into countryclubland.

View of the Burlington Sky Bridge from the other side.

Good sensations on the ride. I didn’t drop down into the smaller ring at any point, but the only significant climb was up Wilson at the beginning—when I was fresh—and a fairly easy 5-7% over 1.5km (although I don’t have to power over the last couple of steps of Valley Rd. at the end of the ride). I took a couple of wrong turns along the way, but nothing serious, although I find it amazing how exhausting that discovery can be; both times—neither of which added substantial distance to the ride—I found my legs feeling more tired than they had at any previous point in the ride. It’s all in the head, I guess…

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