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(Close to) Car Free 200 - Pre-ride Report
Ride date will be Saturday, October 14, 7 a.m. start
by John Oswald

This past Sunday Eric Fergusson, Malou and I met at JJ Bean on Cambie just before 7am for the AGM 200 pre-ride. We had an ambitious route on paper with a lot of different sections that each of us had never ridden before. The weather was gorgeous and we had plenty of food and water. What would follow was probably the most fun 200km route that I have ever done...but when it was all said and done, 13 hours and change later, we all agreed that it was not appropriate for a late season ride.

The original route that we pre-rode had sections of the Trans Canada trail along Barnet Highway that turned out to be single track (including one 30%-ish hillside section covered in pebbles that was hard to walk up--I rode down it on the way out). Cougar Creek Road has a short 22% gravel descent that is covered in leaves. Riding these and the other gravel sections (Pacific Spirit Park, and the Trans Canada Trail in Burnaby Heights) on a road bike had me flashing back to my days riding single track on my Apollo ten speed before I could afford a mountain bike! Malou even cleaned almost all the single track on her new Granville rando bike with 650bx32mm tires—the way she used to on her Free Spirit 10 speed!

Indian River Road in North Van turned out to be as close to a Tour de France hors categorie experience as we can get in the Lower Mainland. We also had great views of the city and region including sunrise from the Seaside Bikeway, the Belcarra picnic area, the Panorama Park picnic area in Deep Cove and the wharf at the end of Indian River Road. After I stopped to help a woman with a concussion in the Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve we had a chilly and stressful ride out to the dam after sunset. We finished up by blasting down through Lynn Canyon, sprinting across the Lions Gate Bridge and up the Ontario Bike route to the finish. Quite a day out on the bike!

As we sat in the comfy lounge chairs at Biercraft Bistro, the reality check hit: If it took us 13+ hours, it probably isn't a brevet route for the masses!


A complete re-routing was called for and we have swapped the order of the ride sections so that no one will be stuck in the forest after dark like we were. We also eliminated the non-road bike friendly off-pavement sections. The new route now goes around Stanley Park, out to UBC, through Pacific Spirit Park and over to Deep Cove where Malou and Eric will be waiting with a full-service food control. After that you'll head up to Seymour Dam before crossing back over the Iron Workers' Memorial Bridge. Despite it's incredible tree-lined road with its swoopy turns and switchbacks (and the view from the wharf), we have removed the Indian River Road section because it was a big time sink and the early part of the ride already has a lot of turns and lights.

After North Van, the ride will take the well maintained sections of the Trans-Canada trail up Burnaby Heights, around Capitol Hill and out to the Barnet Highway. In Port Moody we take the bike paths around Rocky Point to Ioco road and then a stiff climb and sweet downhill into the Belcarra Picnic Area where Eric and Malou will have more supplies. Then you are off to the Traboulay Poco Trail under the Pitt River Bridge, and then back into the city via Mary Hill and the Central Valley Greenway—a flatter and better-lit finish than ours was. You still get many of the best views and the (Close to) Car Free experience without as much pain and suffering.

I would still like to do this ride in Audax-style social groups. There is a lot of navigation and if you ride the route with me and/or Chris you can relax and enjoy the (ample) scenery. I think the terrain of the new ride could allow us to ride together until the serious climbing starts in Deep Cove. After that we could do two groups.

(Close to) Car Freedom Ain't Free

To enjoy this ride as much as we enjoyed the pre-ride you would be best served if you have:

1) Low gears. While there are many flat bike paths on this route you'll be climbing up to UBC, up to Seymour Dam, around Capitol Hill and over Anmore to get to Blecarra. You won't regret riding the bike with the triple or slapping on a >30 tooth rear cassette cog.

2) Wide tires. There is quite a bit of gravel with the odd steep climb and descent on the trails. You'll be more comfortable over the long haul if you bring the bike with the widest tires you can fit.

3) Well adjusted brakes. There are some screaming downhills in the Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve, Capitol Hill and Belcarra

4) Lots of food and lots of water carrying capacity. This is not a fast route. While you will have two full service controls, you'll be better positioned to stay with your group if you can be self sufficient and not need stops outside of controls.

5) Layers of clothing to match YOUR riding conditions. If you feel you might be waiting for other riders occasionally, you need to dress differently than someone who has to ride the whole time to keep up with the group. Another thing to consider is that this ride is in the trees a lot (there's less cars in the forest!). Even though it was sunny we rode in full tights, vests and long sleeve wool jerseys all day. It got cold fast after the sun went down. Sunset will be at 6:23pm on Saturday.

Go to: (Close to) Car Free 200 Event Page (Database)


October 11, 2017