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Follow the Fraser
Permanent #126 Report
by Étienne Hossack

Étienne Hossack
Route #126 - Follow the Fraser! [New Route]
February 24th, 2014

This permanent was originally scheduled for the 23rd, but due to unforseen circumstances two had to bail, one was unable to cope with the cold (from down south you see), and the others had cold feet at the weather. I ended up with the cold feet in the end :-|

This was to culminate my school week off (riding week as I like to call it) with a nice fast fun 200. Of course the entire week was sunny and the weekend was forecasted to be rainy, but I could live with that. Of course, come Thursday, the forecast changed to snow. Saturday it started its thing, and we looked at the route I had originally chosen with some trepidation, so I created another permanent to be test-ridden with a safer, less elevation-y route. But by Sunday morning even I decided it would be best to wait until Monday (skipping a day of class teehee) and to go riding. This was of course at my friend's suggestion, but he bailed on me due to work. Love the friends!

So Monday morning I set out with high hopes that the snowing would change to raining and then the roads would clear. Alas. Luckily I had the clothing down pat and ended up almost entirely dry and warm by the end of the day. Except for the feet (see below). It ended up forcing me to be verrrryy slow.

Setting off at 7:30 from Siegel's Bagels, the first section out to Coquitlam was relatively straightforward, cold and a bit snowy, but nothing to bother. It was a cruise down the BC Parkway, and then the Lougheed Hwy -> United -> Bypass route to the bridge. Over the bridge and into Pitt Meadows was the first real indicator that it was REALLY a snow day. But ever-hopeful, I rolled up to the Harris Rd. Cinemas to get my card signed at Starbucks before pipping back off down Harris Rd. When I stopped for a bathroom break and ended up trudging through 2 inches of snow off the side of the curb, I knew it was going to be interesting.

Still, the bike paths were clear over the Golden Ears and up to the top of 172 so I was still hopeful. The route was to take the new South Fraser Perimeter Road all the way down from its start to Tsawwassen. This was for the better portion decent. On a rainy day, there isn't a ton of shoulder space as the grit tends to get washed and spread out, but having ridden it the week before with Alex Pope, I don't think it was too bad. The sections from North Delta down to South Delta proved... interesting with the snow. Shoulder space was limited and a bunch of time was spent hopping between tire tracks trying to maintain a clean route. Still, very doable.

There was one strange section of the road where the bike route exited and took an underpass, onto Ladner Trunk Road, and back on. I'm not sure if this can be skipped, but I would recommend looking into it as it wasn't very efficient.
Oh, and I should mention that since it was snowing a reasonable amount, the entire path was under half a foot of snow, so I dismounted and trudged uphill with my bicycle.

Rejoining the SFPR for the last section into Delta, I began to experience some gear slippage, but brushed it off as nothing. Turning onto 52, I was delighted to see the next km of my route covered under a similar 6 inches of snow, so I retraced my steps and rode up 56th instead, looping around Tsawwassen before happily stopping off in Petra's Coffee. Luckily, as I arrived the seat next to the fireplace opened up! Drying my things, sipping on a coffee, I planned the next section of my route with the oncoming snow.

Riding out to Westham Island and the Reifel Bird Sanctuary is a ride I do often with my mother, and I am no stranger to the route, but in the snow... well...
The main roads were fine, but as soon as I crossed the train tracks and went onto a side road, I was desperately searching for wheel tracks to ride in so I didn't slip about. Luckily a farm truck had just gone by so I had a relatively clear route out to River Road before turning onto the island.

The bridge to the Island is wood and metal, and should be ridden with care. I ended up having to walk it due to the snow. Oh dear.
Since there wasn't a ton of traffic on the island, progress was slow on top of 1cm of snow. I eventually made it out to the control stop, but couldn't actually ride to Reifel because there was just too much bloody snow! At that point I realised I might've been a little crazy :)

It was also at that point that I realised why my gears were slipping. Being new to the whole bike-thing this past year, and also being new to riding in the snow, I was suprised to see my lower cogs jammed up with snow. Aha! That was the problem! So I stopped to clear them out, but really never got it to work, and rode pretty much the rest of the route without the 12-13-14-15 options. Not terrible, but did lower my speeds on certain sections like River Rd.

Returning was really a bit of a challenge, and once again a slow walk over the Westham Island bridge.

Riding into Ladner, I made a quick stop in Save-On-Foods to try and melt the snow off my cassette to get those gears - this worked for a bit, but I still didn't have them again after 62nd.
Left onto 64 to go under the highway I realised that I would be riding on bikeways that hadn't a hope in heck of being cleared. As you can see from the picture... yeah. So I shouldered my bike and marched along until there was enough road showing back on 64th to ride again. Still slow going until River Rd.

River Rd itself was a bit of a mess. Absolutely no shoulder, snow pouring down and lots of traffic passing VERY close. Not sure that was the safest, but I had all three of my flashy rear lights going. My front dynamo light quit about then though. It had had enough.

Reaching the bridge, I had another fun time taking the old River Rd exit/bike path in 3inches of snow before a brief (but very dry and thankful) respite under the Alex Fraser itself. I followed the route up until the bridge start, but then my walking began. I did not want to risk riding on the bridge that already gets super slippy in the rain.
Interestingly, on the walk over, I noticed that my bootie covers let in snow on the sides, and the snow travels up inside the bootie, so that at the top of the Alex Fraser, I stopped to empty out the rain covers, with their coating of snow on the inside. Hmmm.... I guess nobody expected that to happen?

They were suprisingly dry though, until I walked through some slush on the way down. Darn. At least my two pairs of wool socks kept me warm. Also, some dude passed me riding his bike on the way down the bridge? Talk about fearless....
The last bit over the small Annacis bridge I rode. Very slowly. Dodging snow chunks, and careful not to slide. Boy was I glad to get on Boundary road!
The ride down River Road was thankfully fast again, and after pausing at the info control by the bridge, I rode over, up to 70th to begin the trek past UBC and to the start!

This was the only section I can say I didn't enjoy (who knows why the rest was fun, but... it was?Yay!) The roads were narrow with excessive snow. Night was falling fast, and with my main Dynamo light out, I had to rely on my battery front light low to the ground (which was useful for sure).
Marine was cramped with the snow-piled shoulders all the way along, with honking drivers and puddles galore. When I finally reached the double-lane section, it was dark and the lack of street lights made riding along a bit freaky - only because of hours of training did I know which sectionsof the road to avoid since the shoulders were out of play with the snow. The last lip around UBC was pitch black and verrry slippy. I was just praying I would make it round.

The completionist I am, I decided to finish the descent of Spanish Banks, and ride Marine to the end. That last section I CRAWLED along and basically no speed whatsoever, relying only on my light during the descent and flat section, riding on the snow, never seeing bare road. Would not recommend :)

Finally after that loonnng section (since it is my daily commute, it really felt like forever. Also, I had just ridden 190km in the snow....) I reached 4th again, which I happily rode until turning onto Cornwall and its seaside way. Siegel's was a sight for sore eyes (and snowy everything!). Home was downtown, but the Burrard Bridge bike path was covered in snow, so for once, I opted to hop on the bus and enjoy the toasty warmth for the last kms back home.

BC-12, I will earn you yet!

Strava for you social media folk:

Go to: Permanent Results


February 25, 2014

All 12 of Étienne's photos:
(His captions below)



1. Pre-ride packing
2. Snow begins at Harris Rd
3. Bike & Cinemas
4. I dismounted. What fun
5. Snow beginning to be a real threat in Tsawwassen
6. Riding side roads is a challenge
7. I'm at Reifel and there's too much SNOWWW
8. Pathway under the highway, I need to portage the bike!
9. Check out the snow on my rims hehe
10. another: Gotta love walking on the bridge...
11. Somehow I'm still smiling?
12. DONE!