Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Before the Falls

The story of our Niagara Falls trip by Brompton bicycle was that, unlike elsewhere, we were plagued by punctures. We set off from Toronto just after nine o'clock on 30 June heading through High Park for the Lakeshore trail. The plan was to take two days and cover approximately 100 miles.
The party consisted of Chaplain Clive (Garneau sports bike) and Jack and I aboard the twin year-2000 Brompton 'L' type five-speeds. Jack had fitted an extended seat post, brought from the UK, and was squeezed aboard the short-wheelbase machine. As we reached Clarkson there was the first sign of trouble. Oddly Jack's rear tyre lost about half the normal pressure of 80 PSI - the tyre was neither flat nor inflated. We borrowed a compressor from a friendly resident and were on our way. Was there dirt in the valve? A pit stop at Tim Horton's and the party was much cheered.
At Fourth Line and Lakeshore, west of Oakville, the rear tyre went completely flat. There was no option but to strip the bike down and change it. At this point the dogbone wrench broke in half! Fortunately the Chaplain was able to borrow an adjustable wrench from a work crew building a house opposite. The teamwork to change the inner tube was a sight to behold, and after turning the air blue we were on our way.
We reached Burlington mid-afternoon in hot weather. A stop at the delightful Lakeshore Coffee House, 2007 Lakeshore Road, Burlington, ON, L7R 1A1, for ice cream set us up for the final leg of the day. We shortly entered the secret world beneath the Burlington Skyway in a resort area, taking the Lift Bridge across the Burlington Bay Canal. A fellow cyclist guided us across the Red Bridge which crosses the Queenie and connects Lake Ontario Waterfront Trail with the Red Hill Valley Trail. If this wasn't the shortest route to our hotel it was certainly the safest. We slightly overshot the Comfort Inn at 183 Centennial Parkway. A quick shower and we repaired to Jack Astor's, 75 Centennial Parkway North. The beer was cold and the service was attentive and appreciative. Better than expected.
I was up early and lingered over breakfast, chatting to the friendly staff at the hotel. We departed in good order, choosing a middle way to St Catharines, not on the Lakeshore with noisy traffic nor climbing the escarpment. We took King Street to Highway 8 which turns into 81, pausing at Tim Horton's, then through Beamsville, stopping at Schrier Family Farm for cherries. A pitstop at Vineland provided a delicious drinkable yogurt.
We reached St Catharines across the Welland Canal, but after lunch at Subway we lost the bike trail and some height, so we had to climb Taylor Road to reach Thorold Stone Road. Here Jack punctured again. No mystery this time with a nail through the face of the tyre. We walked to a cross roads where we found a Tim Horton's and a Canadian Tire. While Jack bought snacks and blagged some disposable gloves, I raided CT for an adjustable wrench and a valve tool. We put the old tube in the bike, with known good valve, hoping it would hold. A navigational snafu took us to the Niagara gorge and while backtracking the tyre gave out again. Jack walked about two miles to reach the Best Western Cairn Croft Hotel, 6400 Lundy's Lane, Niagara Falls.
We had lost Clive on the road but we were all reunited in Doc Magilligan's Irish pub and restaurant. We returned to Toronto next day by bus to Burlington, then train to Mimico.

Total: 100 miles approx.
Plus Points: Great scenery, achievable distances, comfy hotels, great 'bush' mechanics.
Downsides: Punctures, poor signposting, lack of detailed map.
Learning points: This was a wake-up call to take reliable tools and spares (including valve tool and two inner tubes). Our previous good fortune had led to complacency. Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres a future option.
Overall: Generally well organised, good company, health benefits.

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