Highway 26 – a Metric Century

Yesterday, Sunday June 27, Mike and I tried a new route. We rode to St. Francis Xavier and along Highway 26. I have pictures but I haven’t taken the time to take them off the camera and post them. Later. Not today. It’s election day and I am working for a campaign. Check again in a couple days for blue sky and green fields shimmering in the summer sun.

We had started to look at this route when we began to talk about a long ride, to Portage la Prairie, and we had started to think of the best way to reach Highway 26 without being blasted off the road by semi-trailers. Highway 26 intersects the TransCanada Highway, and from a map it would look like getting to the junction involves riding about 10 k along the TransCanada. As we searched our memories of driving from Winnipeg to St. Francis and points west we realized that the TransCanada has a paved shoulder from Winnipeg to Headingley. Just west of Headingley, the old two lane black top TransCanada survives as a service road, parallel to the modern highway.
Highway 26 is an asphalt road. In places, it has paved shoulders and in places there is no shoulder at all. But it is very lightly travelled. It is open on the north side, with fields extending to the horizon. The south side, or the river side is divided into long narrow lots, and is relatively well treed.
We had talked of an early start but started at 9:00 AM. We stayed off Portage Avenue and took side roads to reach the West Perimeter, and rode the shoulder of the TransCanada to Headingley, the service road, and Highway 26. We kept going until the odometer read 50.5 k and turned around. We returned to Headingley, crossed the river and then returned by Roblin Boulevard and Charleswood. In the end we rode 104 k.
Since it was a pure road ride, I had dusted off the Apollo again. I had put it on the road again this year with new tubes & tires, brake pads, and chain, and improved it with a new seat post, rear rack, clipless pedals and a low-end cycle computer.
We took lots of water. I had two bottles on the frame and two more in a pannier. Mike had the same. It has been a cool spring with many cloudy days and we almost forgot sunscreen, but we remembered in time. The UV indexes for the day were 7.5 or 8.
It was mainly sunny day, with cumulous clouds building during the day. The wind was from the west most of the time although it was coming from the north by early afternoon. The wind seemed to be about 25 k, with gusts to 35 or even 40. We were able to keep a pace of about 23 k into the wind. On the return, we generally were doing about 30 but would pick it up to 33 or 34 if the wind gusted. At one point the wind was really strong and we sprinted. My speedometer read 47.5.
It seems to be popular route for cyclists. We saw several other riders, alone, in pairs and in packs. Some cyclists ride from Winnipeg to St. Francis and turn around, and others ride for distance.
There are no stores or service stations after St. Francis. We were fine because we had water, snacks, rain shells, tools, spare tubes etc (although Mike realized that he didn’t have a pump to fit a Schroeder valve on his Marin hybrid and my pump is for Presta valves. I favour a rack with a rack pack and a pannier to carry a little gear and a camera.
It was the first 100k ride for me this year. Steve and I did one last year, to Selkirk and back. I think I have to look back 23 to 25 years for the last century before that.
The Selkirk ride last year was hard because the wind shifted and we had a strong wind in our face all the way home. It’s hard to compare those rides. I am more fit this year. Having a strong supporting wind on the way home makes it seem much easier. I am feeling very fit this morning, without any undue tightness in the legs or joint pain. I had some numbness in my wrists from gripping the handlebars for 4 and half hours.
This is definitely a ride to repeat. It’s hard to avoid wind on the prairies. We may be able to get a little less adverse wind by starting earlier. This road runs to Portage, and it allows for distance options of less or more than we achieved on Sunday. It’s just a matter of where we turn around.


One response to “Highway 26 – a Metric Century”

  1. eric dalmijn Avatar
    eric dalmijn

    By coincident I stumbledover your essays.
    I read them all from April till now.
    I hope I will see you when I visit Winnipeg with my wife from September 30 till October 5.

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