After a relatively sedate July, August went a bit nuts. First up was the longest bike ride of my life*, undertaken with the Vancouver Bicycle Club. I met up with the few hardcore members (of the club, I mean) taking part, on the far side of downtown Vancouver. We headed through Stanley Park and up onto the Lions Gate Bridge, trying to make the most of the cool morning air.

On the downtown side, the bridge juts out from a lofty cliff and the ascent from there to the crest of the span is short and fairly innocuous. On the north side, though, you’re confronted with a steep, kilometre-long descent which disgorges you onto the shoulder of a busy freeway. We shot down it at ludicrous speed, the river two hundred feet below on the one side and 60 km/h traffic on the other, wheels thudding over the expansion joints and holding on for dear life. Having screwed my bike together myself, I had absolutely no confidence that it was going to hold together. How would it fail, I wondered? Would the bars come off in my hands? Would a brake cable snap? It was an interesting time: tyres humming, wind roaring in my ears, outraged pedestrians backed into the barriers and every clenchable part of my anatomy at maximum clench.

We whipped down onto the freeway shoulder intact, regrouped, and doubled back under the bridge onto the rolling coastal road to Horseshoe Bay. The sun gradually warmed things up, and I was sweating freely into my ludicrous new shorts by the time we careered down an equally terrifying hill into Horseshoe Bay itself. The 40-minute ferry ride to Langdale over on BC’s Sunshine Coast let us decompress a bit, and we set off again at a more sensible pace once we arrived.

The Sunshine Coast is nice little place, a strip of leafy coastline northwest of Vancouver which easily conforms to my “all picturesque scenery must look like the Scottish Highlands” test of aesthetics. It’s on mainland BC but the intervening terrain is too rugged for roads and so it’s accessible only by boat or floatplane. According to the guys on the ride, the inhabitants are mostly retirees, farmers, holidaymakers and a few demented Vancouver commuters. We stopped briefly in the town of Gibsons to refill our water bottles — it has a public well dispensing the one-time best drinking water in the world — and also so that I could have a brief, cathartic rant about the obvious lack of a bloody apostrophe.

We stopped for lunch at a place called The Gumboot Café. The nearby town, Roberts Creek (named, happily, after a man named Roberts and not the result of some typographical butchery), was once a staunch hippie hangout, and the smell of good old BC weed still filled the air of the patio. We sank a couple of beers and headed home as the sun reached its peak, shaded at times by overhanging trees, but otherwise sweating like bastards at each hill. I crawled into the apartment’s parking garage having done about 80 kilometres over the day, knackered but as smug as hell. Then I emailed Andy Birkett about it, and he told me that he averaged 65 miles per day for three weeks to cycle from Land’s End to John o’ Groats. My smugness evaporated.

Cycling’s an odd sport/hobby/pastime. Although everyone rides together, it’s difficult to chat much because of the need to stay in single file, and the hills inevitably mean that the train gets broken up as the faster and slower riders spread out; then, everyone stops for a break and the pent-up chat just tumbles out. It manages to be competitive and cooperative, personal and social all at the same time. In case my incessant writing about it hasn’t already made it clear, I kind of like it that way.

* This is almost the last Vancouver+cycling related post. I promise.