Last weekend, myself and 5 friends participated in the Rideau Lakes Cycle Tour (RLCT), which is a supported bike ride from Ottawa to Kingston, and then the next day, from Kingston to Ottawa. Click ahead to read all about it!
Rideau Lakes Cycle Tour 2017
What: An organized, bike tour from Ottawa to Kingston, and back
When: June 10-11, 2017
What is the Rideau Lakes Cycle Tour
The RLCT is a yearly organized bike tour held by the Ottawa Bicycle Club. There are a handful of routes available ranging from 200km to 420km over the weekend. The classic route, the route that I took with my friends, was 170km each way.
You can read about all the various details on the RLCT Webpage, which includes maps for all of the various routes, and a bit of history. The classic route was originally organized in 1972, making this year the 45th annual Rideau Lakes Cycle Tour.
Previous Biking Experience
As many of you can tell from my site, I do a fair amount of biking. Typically, however, my biking consists of shorter weekend adventures and a whole lot of commuting. I am not part of any cycling club, I had never (before this weekend) ridden in a close formation peleton, I have never raced, and I don’t actually own anything I would call a road racing bike. (I have a fast bike of course, but it’s no race bike – my Giant FCR1)
I have ridden on a handful of longer distance rides – last year I rode from Ottawa to Montreal in one day along la Route Verte on the Quebec side – a total distance of about 220km. Last year I also biked the RLCT classic route solo, in early October, to Kingston and back (188km each way from my place).
This was the first organized cycling event that I’ve participated in.
The Good Stuff
The Ottawa Bicycle Club was very organized. When the doors opened for registration at 6:30am on the Saturday, Anna and I were able to get our bib and luggage tags very quickly, and it was clear where to drop off our luggage.
On the route, there were unobtrusive signs indicating the correct route at intersections, and there were volunteers with radios stationed every so often (It seemed as though there was someone available every 20-40km or so).
There were planned stops with washrooms, drinks and food at 4 checkpoints (33km, 72km, 117km and 142km).
There were also RLCT patrol cars carrying spares for mechanical failures. One member of our group got a flat tire about 50km in, and a van had pulled up within 10 minutes of us pulling over to the side of the road. The volunteer that jumped out helped us out by providing a full-size pump – a much appreciated assist.
In Kingston, check-in was quick, with each of us receiving a small envelope with a voucher for the dinner buffet, breakfast buffet, and a key to our room (Queens University Residence).
The dinner and breakfast were both plentiful, if uninspiring. Basic, healthy options were available, and the quantity was certainly not lacking.
This is pretty much a race, or at least that’s what it felt like. Our group of 6 (2 fast hybrids, a touring bike, 2 steel road bikes, and a carbon endurance road bike) was, by a large margin, the slowest group out of the 2000+ cyclists that participated. We averaged 21km on the way, and 23km on the way back, but I would have to say that the great majority of cyclists that participated were averaging closer to and higher than 30km per hour and travelling in closely knit peletons of 10-15 cyclists.
Our group had 2 flat bar bikes, and I’m pretty sure they were the only 2 we saw all weekend. There were a lot of serious cyclists with some seriously racy equipment that weekend.
On the way, I would have liked to stop more often to enjoy the view (Which there were many nice ones) and take a few more pictures. It would have been nice if there were free snacks available at the stops as well. On the way back, Anna and I took our time and stopped more often which made the whole trip infinitely more enjoyable.
At $200 each to participate in this event, the 6 of us could have easily rented a whole house, eaten at an actual nice restaurant, gone out for a huge breakfast, saved some money, and taken our time on the road, enjoying the picturesque hills of the Rideau Lakes area.
Instead – we rushed to Kingston, ate cafeteria food for two meals where quantity was obviously more important than quality, stayed in student cubes, and then rushed back to Ottawa. (But we did get a t-shirt)
To really enjoy the event the way it is, you’ll want a fast road bike, a few energy bars in your jersey, and a large group to maintain high speed with for 170km. It’s not about the journey, make it about the destination and that t-shirt. It’s clear that many cyclists raced down to Kingston only to drive back to Ottawa the next day.
For me, however, since I prefer touring instead of racing, I would have to give this event a big “meh”. Save some money – do it on your own, take your time, and enjoy it. It really is a nice part of Ontario to bike through.