It was back in 2003 or so, I had my new GT Avalanche and my friend Pete had his new Rockhopper. We were getting tired of riding the same old trails in town and wanted to venture out a bit so headed to the trails of "Barker's Bush" in Paris. It was a small area with lots of winding interconnected trails that where looked after by the long since defunct Brantford Cyclepath Bicycle Club, who also hosted an annual 8 hour endurance race there.
We arrived in the early evening and set out into the trails. Our pace was quick as we wanted to jam in as many kilometers as possible before dark and we weaved beautifully through the twisty overgrown singletrack. It wasn't long before we reached the far end of the trails and made a steep decent to the Nith River that had our early model disc brakes working hard a squealing loudly. I swear that I could hear water hiss and boil off my rotors in the little stream crossing near the end.
After a short break we decided to begin our ride back, the sun was setting and the forest was already starting to get dark. Along our way back we spotted a section of trail we missed the first time through and decided we had enough time to squeeze it in. I went in first, Pete was right on my rear wheel. After a few minutes of twisting and turning I realized that Pete has vanished. I had likely went through an intersection and he took an alternate route, not able to see me too well in the darkness that was setting in.
"Damn" I though to myself, "I'd better turn back and find him". I didn't want him or I lost in the woods at night. We had no lights or any sort and it would make for tough route finding back to the car. I headed back in the direction I came from, moving fast as to catch up with him.
Everything was going smoothly until 'it' happened. I rounded a corner and in a split second was able to make out a figure of a rider on a bike headed right for me in the dark. I slammed the brakes and turned to the right trying to avoid disaster. The bike stopped quickly but the mass of my body wanted to keep going and sent me over the bars and into the bushes, just narrowly escaping a collision with the other rider. I jumped back up to my feet and checked myself for injuries. I was ok.
"Are you alright?" Pete asked.
"Yeah I'm good." I replied. At least I had found Pete.
"Oh shit..... your bike." Pete's eyes lit up with half concern, half comedy.
"Faaaaaaaawk!" I picked my bike up off the ground. The front wheel was folded over and looked like something that had been driven over by a car. I started walking out, bike on my shoulder, back to the parking lot. The darkness had set in so Pete walked along with me.
Back at the car we had a good laugh over my misfortune. I had never destroyed a wheel so completely in one shot. It was a new record of sorts for me. I posed for a photo op with one of those old disposable cameras so I could document the moment. I felt like a hunter having a picture taken while standing over his prey. A few more laughs and we loaded the car for home.
The next day I headed into Brantford Cyclepath for a new wheel. I brought along the old one just to show the guys in the shop. I walked in the door, holding my kill in my hand with a smile on my face when Stu said something that I've heard many times since.
"There's no fixing that........ You break the most unusual stuff".
It was a good laugh, and I've broken tons of shit since.
The following is the last of three parts of "My Cycling History".
Spring came early in 2010 and I was riding hard by the end of March. Life started to get busy and cycling was getting pushed off to the side at times. I bought a house, got engaged, and became a foreman at work with new responsibilities. I didn't realize how time consuming owning a house would be. It seemed there was always a project to do, big or small, that ate into my riding time. It was at this point that I would have to learn to balance my time for myself with time at home and with my wife. I struggled at first because I still wanted to be that "kid" riding my bike around and exploring, but I also wanted to spend time with the future Mrs. Bric.
Time passed and new years started, I sold my '08 Avalanche in favour of something newer - a 2011 Cannondale 29er. The 29" wheels felt perfect, it was like riding IN the bike instead of ON the bike. That was the "gateway" bike to other silly things like singlespeeds and fat bikes which would come later.
I traded an old mountain bike for a Nishiki International, a top end touring bike in its day, and planned my first bicycle tour. I rode to each historical plaque in Norfolk and into Brant over three days. Touring was great, another way to explore by bike and capture the kid feeling again.
Life changed again when disaster struck our family. My grandmother was killed in a car accident. She was the first person to die who I truly loved. She always supported my cycling addiction and loved to see the photos I had taken of various places in Ontario I had ridden. Cycling became a coping mechanism for me, a way to escape from home and ease the pain of her passing. I took my emotional turmoil one day and one ride at a time, eventually healing myself and being able to forgive and forget. It was in her honour that I bought my Norco CCX3. That bike has become known, between my wife and I, as "Grandma's Bike".
Mrs. Bric and I were happily married and I was thrilled to be spending the rest of my life with my best friend. It wasn't long after that we had our first child, Little Bric. He changed my life in a way I can't describe. It felt like being a dad was the purpose in life I hadn't realized until he was born. My cycling time had been severely cut back but I didn't mind, my little family was more important than getting that ride in. I started to manage my time better and rode once or twice a week, either with the sunrise or at night with my lights. Its hard to go out and be a kid when the responsibilities stack up at home. I had people to shelter and feed, that was more important than any bike or upgrade. My days of buying expensive blinged out bikes were fading away. I would have to be creative to afford my cycling hobby. I began buying bikes and selling parts as a way of affording replacement parts so my paycheque could be there to keep the lights on.
As soon as my son was able to hold his head up on his own, I strapped a helmet on him and plunked him down in the Chariot trailer and pulled him around by bike. At first it was mostly a way for me to ride, Mrs. Bric to get some relax time, and Little Bric to sleep. As he got older he began to stay awake in the trailer longer and would look at things passing us by, showing interest in these strange new sights. One of his first words was "bike". At two years old I could see the wonder on his face as we explored by bike together. I knew then that he would have the same need for adventure and exploration that I did as a child, and he most definitely had the same imagination that I did.
It wasn't long after my son was born that my grandfather passed away. A talented artist and loving family man, he gave me alot of guidance through my teens and early 20's and taught me about trust and patience. He also told me to follow my dreams and not give up on myself or anything I do. Thats something that stays in my mind everyday, never give up. Whether it be a tough ride, or an overwhelming project at home, or dirty jobs at work, I have not given up. This is something that I will pass onto my kids, to see something through to the end.
Cycling again became a coping mechanism and got me through the hard time following my grandfathers passing. I decided it would be good for me to ride during the snowy months, both for my sanity and that of my wife's. I saved enough money to buy a fat bike. The 4" wide tires would take me over snow and rough terrain like no other bike I've ever owned. I could not afford much as bills had to be paid, so I opted for a mail order bike opposed to one from a bike shop. It was great and was a hoot to ride in the winter. It kept me from my usual winter depression.
That spring my Cannondale frame cracked. It was under warranty and was replaced (after a 3 month wait) but I ended up selling the frame and parting it out, settling on riding the fat bike year round. Riding the same old trails on a bike as radically different as the fat bike made everything feel new again. The fat bike has a huge fun factor that brought the kid in me out again. The fat bike was alot quicker than people would think and I was able to ride the same pace I did before, albeit on a much heavier and simpler bike. It was a conversation starter among cyclists. I would get stopped and asked about it nearly each ride from cyclists and non-cyclists alike. You have to be a friendly ambassador of the sport when people stop to ask you about your "monster truck bike".
By now the TPMBC was in full swing and had a few years under its belt and a growing membership. More and more trails were being built and alot more riders were enjoying the hidden gem that I had been riding for the last decade. Turkey Point was becoming a mountain bike destination in Ontario. People were coming from hours away to enjoy the always excellent conditions and early spring riding at TP.
This area will continue to grow and will be one of the premier destinations to ride in Ontario. It is the home of twisty flowing singletrack. In all my travels of the province I have never ridden such well laid out, twisty, rolling singletrack. Sure, some places have more in elevation gain, or technical features, or down right gnarly riding but here on Ontario's south coast we are the home of 'flow'. Its an area that does not disappoint.
Last year my daughter was born. She is just like her big brother, an imaginative and happy kid. I can't wait to get her out in the bike trailer this spring along with her brother. I can only hope that the cycling bug bites my kids as hard as it did me, and hopefully somewhere between Ninja Turtles and trips to the library there will be time for the family to get out and enjoy cycling together.
This winter I was able to buy and sell enough bike related stuff to build another 29er so I can flip flop back and fourth between the fat and 29er. If you've been following My Winter Project you know what I'm talking about. It might be old, but its going to be fun, cheap, and reliable, something that is important when you have two children and a single income.
I'm riding less now that I have a family to worry about but cycling is still a big part of my life. It has made me test my personal limits, helped me through rough times, and gotten me out of the house and away from TV and video games. These days I don't do much road tripping and I ride early in the morning on weekends with the odd after work ride here and there, and I've started riding to work recently to get more ride time in and hopefully lose some weight. I'm planning some big things in the near future, an overnight tour with my son, taking my son and daughter along in the Tour de Norfolk, being more involved with the TPMBC, and just generally riding as much as I can and enjoying it. I can't wait to see where cycling takes me over the next 30 or so years and as long as it stays fun I won't complain. The bicycle has already taken me many amazing places in life, with more to come I'm sure.
So whats your cycling history?
The following is the second of three parts of "My Cycling History".
While my cycling was becoming more serious all the time, other parts of my life were changing now as well. I graduated High School and left my grocery store job to pursue an apprenticeship as a Truck and Trailer Mechanic. I was making more money and bought a newer vehicle to take me further in Ontario without having to worry about breaking down on the road (which did happen during some road trips with the old Cavalier).
The first trip I took with the new car was another one to Hardwood Hills. While it was great, I decided I needed to see more of Ontario. I also visited Albion Hills, The Hydrocut, Boler Mountain, Kelso, Hilton Falls, Guelph Lake, and many more. I was road tripping to ride almost every weekend I had off, a full tank of gas with my bike on the truck rack, I would consult "Rider Mel's Mountain Bike Guide To Ontario" for new riding ideas and hit the road. Some things that stuck with me from my early travelling days were riding all of Radical Trail at Hardwood, the tunnel under the road from Dalewood to Patterson Park, doing two laps of Fanshawe Lake for the first time, getting lost at Mansfield, and destroying my front wheel at Barkers Bush.
I began doing some light racing here and there. I did the Lake to Lake 50km twice, a time trial, The Dairy Capital Stampede, The MS 8 Hour Relay Race in Paris, and a few others. While it was fun, I was not really competing. It was more or less a fun mass group ride with other riders and I got to test myself.
Racing came and went, I started to focus more on having fun filled group rides. I began riding the park trails at Turkey Point Provincial Park with singletrack trails sprouting up here and there as the years went on. It was the work of the early members of the TPMBC before the club was formed.
Turkey Point was in the beginning stages of becoming the mountain bike mecca that it is now. There were a few twisty well worn trails through the forest with some overgrown bushwhacking type trails to get you out into the deep woods. It was the first area I could ride for hours on end getting lost in the forest and finding myself again. It seemed that there was never a bad weather day to ride out there, the sand just soaked up all the rain that could possibly fall and was ready to ride within minutes after the rain. It became my mountain biking "home base". Most of my memorable rides are from Turkey Point, whether it was alone or in the company of others. I just felt at home out there.
In '08 my trusty GT Avalanche (2003 model) was growing old. The frame was now out of warranty and looking pretty battle scarred. It was a true best friend that needed retirement to a "once in a while" bike status. I replaced it with a 2008 GT Avalanche, a bike that would be a "new" best friend.
The '08 Avalanche was new school sexy. Integrated headset, 100mm fork, hydroformed tubes. It was sweet. It was another bike that took me on some very memorable rides and more new places. I felt like a little kid again, but now instead of exploring the streets of town further and further from home I was exploring the province, each time getting further away and finding new terrain.
It was in 2009 that my trusty old '03 Avalanche cracked a chainstay while in "once in a while" retirement. It was the most upset I've ever been about a bike broken. I would never be able to ride my old friend again. GT stepped up in a big way and replaced the broken frame even though it was out of warranty. I was working at my local bike shop at the time (which likely helped the warranty case) and I got to be the one to destroy the frame and photograph it for GT as proof that it would not be ridden again. The replacement frame came the next week but it just wasn't the same. I did get to keep the bottom bracket shell that I hacksawed out of the '03 frame as a memento, which I still have on a shelf today. That old bike had something that all the others didn't. It had a soul, as silly as it sounds. The memories, the fun, the suffering, everything it had gone through with me and never complained. Cutting that frame up was like putting down a good dog. It just didn`t seem right.
2009 came and went like any other year, I rode as much as I could and didn't think about much beyond that. Things were about to change.............
The following is the first of three parts of "My Cycling History".
A recent email got me thinking about my personal cycling history and where bikes have taken me over the last 30 years. I realized that cycling has always been a big part of my life, whether I realized it at the time or not. I'm not going to list all the bikes I owned, that would be too much. I will mention the ones that were important to me and took me on memorable ride. This is more about my experiences than the bikes.
It all started when I was a young child and I got a black and gold Huffy with training wheels for my birthday. I learned to ride on that Huffy, doing countless laps in the laneway with the neighbour kid and my brother. It wasn't long before dad took off the training wheels and turned me loose at the soccer field in Delhi.
I graduated to a bigger bike (20" wheels) with a handbrake and rode along the sidewalk of Orchard Ave from one end to the other. I just had to remember to watch for cars in laneways and not pass the busy garage at Wills Motors. As I got braver with this bike I could pop the front wheel up an inch off the ground while using the cracks and bumps in the sidewalk to get there. This bike took me places, I also had my first crash on it. I remember trying to jump a booster seat we put on the sidewalk and going over the bars, skinning my knees and elbows, and running into the house crying for mom. This was also the first bike to go along with me on the family camping trips to Port Burwell, where I would wander the Provincial Park for hours and ride along the trails on the park that lead to the beach.
I was getting bigger now and needed a larger bike. My parents bought me a department store mountain bike with 26" wheels. A Triumph Sahara in silver. I loved this bike. I was now riding beyond the street we lived on and around the southwest part of town. Along the way was a convenience store called Mike's Mart where we would stop to buy Double Bubble sticks (5 cents each) that came with X-Men stickers. My yellow Bell helmet was soon covered with characters from the comic / cartoon show featuring my favourite heroes. It was this Triumph bike that led to my love of mountain biking. I was with my dad fishing along Big Creek at Dick's Hill (I wasn't much of a fisherman, but I liked being in the woods) when I saw someone ride past us on the trail on a bicycle. Great idea I thought and the next day I rode my bicycle down past the soccer fields to Dick's Hill to get my tires dirty. I had a blast and opened the door to my obsession for the next many years - the mountain bike. I thought I was inventing a new sport, this was great. One day at Dave's Variety I skipped the comic book rack and went looking at magazines, I found an issue of Mountain Bike Action. Wow, other people ride on dirt too. I bought that magazine and drooled over the bikes featured in it for the next 3 years. I mowed lawns and saved money and eventually bought a cool looking mountain bike from the Sears catalog, a Free Spirit.
It wasn't long before I reached the limitations of the Free Spirit, riding Dick's Hill and the Swimming Hole trails every chance I had. I needed a real mountain bike. In 2000 I bought my first REAL mountain bike, a Giant Rincon SE. This bike carried me thousands of kilometers over 2 years. Its one of the few bikes I wish I still had. I started going further from home on this bike, trips out to LaSalette, Pinegrove, even road riding to Windham Centre and Norwich.
Before long I convinced my parents that it would be a good idea to spend my lawn cutting money on a really nice bike, worth over $1000. My parents thought I was nuts but took me anyways to Hamilton to buy a used Klein Mantra. This bike was incredible. Light, fast, tough. By this time I was in high school and working in a grocery store part time. The Klein frame cracked shortly after buying and I replaced the frame with a Barracuda A2R, a killer bike in its own right even if a little dated.
The Barracuda was fun but was pretty old and built around a 63mm travel fork. I wanted more. I worked my part time job and saved enough money for a brand new 2003 GT Avalanche Disc. This bike took me even more places. I got my drivers license and bought a $700 1990 Chev Cavalier Z24. That heap of crap car took me and my bike to places like Hardwood Hills, Hardy Road, The Pines, and Fanshawe Lake. That GT was the first bike I was able to rail on and carve singletrack. It made me feel like a hero on dirt. I took that bike, in 2003, to Hardwood Hills, my first mountain bike road trip. A friend and I rode there for 3 days while camping at the Barrie KOA, eating lots of Kraft dinner and Quaker oatmeal. It was my first trip to a "trail center" of this sort and opened my eyes to the riding that was available to mountain bikers in Ontario. It would be the first road trip of many to come in the following years while I explored what Ontario has to offer by bike.
The trusty Avalanche went through a plethora of upgrades and different setups. It was the bike I owned the longest from 2003 until 2008 when I retired it in favour of a new 2008 GT Avalanche.
The Bric...._ mountain biker, road rider, heavyweight gear abuser. Built like a brick sh*thouse. No bike is safe.