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Using car-share to access Vancouver's stellar road cycling

Courtesy of Jordan Behan The roads at Iona Beach in Richmond are like a cyclist’s heaven: Rural, quiet and picturesque. For a road cyclist, there’s nothing quite like an open, well-paved road.
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 Courtesy of Jordan BehanCourtesy of Jordan Behan

The roads at Iona Beach in Richmond are like a cyclist’s heaven: Rural, quiet and picturesque.

For a road cyclist, there’s nothing quite like an open, well-paved road. One that is mostly quiet from traffic, where the ribbons of tarmac are laid out ahead, as if they were made just for you.

A lot of fuss is made about bike infrastructure in this city, and every year Vancouver moves closer to becoming a world class cycling city. But especially beyond the stop lights and urban streets, this is a fantastic place to pedal a bicycle.

Right next to our downtown core is Stanley Park, where cyclists have the right of way on the road, and many a lycra-clad warrior will do lap after lap. The North Shore mountains beckon, with their difficult vertical climbing and reasonably quiet roads in the summer months. Richmond has many kilometers of rural roads, and all of it not more than a few meters above sea level, so that even a beginner cyclist can put long distances on the bike without sore legs.

To a road cyclist, bike lanes and stop lights are just a means to an end. The tedious bits before the good part, when you won’t have to put a foot down anymore. If cycling around the city is not your thing, and the call of the open road is, there is a way to escape.

 Courtesy of Jordan BehanCourtesy of Jordan Behan

First bike is on and locked in place.

When a cyclist looks at an Evo, the black-and-blue Prius hybrids of BCAA’s car share program, they see the perfect support vehicle. With a Thule roof rack that can carry two bikes (and up to four sets of skis, if you like), a hatchback with easily collapsible seats and room for five passengers, they look almost exactly like a support car for a grand cycling tour. This is what cycling teams call their “sagwagon,” for support-and-gear. And this isn’t new territory for Evo, which were also the pacer cars for this year’s Gran Fondo to Whistler.

Courtesy of Jordan Behan

One last stop to get Amelie and her road bike before heading South to Richmond.

To test the usefulness of the Evo for just this very purpose, I drove it across the city to pick up a riding partner, Amelie Ha, and with roughly $8000 worth of carbon, aluminum, steel and rubber strapped to the roof, we made our way out of the urban core and into Richmond.

 Courtesy of Jordan BehanCourtesy of Jordan Behan

The Evo can take five passengers and two bikes, or as many as four sets of skis, depending on the style.

We could have just parked it in the home zone, the area around Vancouver where you can leave the car and end your rental, which extends to 49th Ave and all the way out to UBC. Or better yet, the Park-and-Fly parking at YVR would allow us to stop the meter as well. But then we couldn’t bring a pump, dry clothes and some snacks with us. Instead, we drove all the way to Iona Beach, a fantastic cycling destination, well-loved by local roadies. Once you are past the airport, you’re treated to views that are anything but urban. Industrial airport flatness becomes farmland flatness, complete with horses and cows, before it becomes beachfront flatness at one of the many places where the mighty Fraser River empties into the Pacific. Wind conditions at Iona Beach tend to determine whether the ride will be challenging or not, given that there are no hills to speak of.

 Courtesy of Jordan BehanCourtesy of Jordan Behan

Iona Beach. Just minutes from the city, a cyclist’s mecca.

We parked at the end of the road at Iona, and proceeded to take the bikes off the roof. Racking and removing the bikes is easy. Moments after we arrived in the parking lot, we were blazing up and down the open road, enjoying the tailwind as we rode toward the new outlet mall, before turning around and battling the headwind back. We saw many other cyclists doing the same, all giving that familiar, friendly nod that says “happy pedalling.” Just over 50 min later, we had completed two trips up and down the 6km stretch, for a total of over 24km. A few minutes of bike racking and changing of shoes, and we were headed back into the city in the warmth of the little Prius.

 Courtesy of Jordan BehanCourtesy of Jordan Behan

Sometimes you trade a beautiful beachfront view for a stiff headwind, but it’s all in good fun.

We didn’t need the floor pump and jackets that we brought, thankfully. And maybe we could have survived without the fancy doughnuts, or pairing my iPhone with the Prius’ stereo. But that didn’t mean that those things weren’t nice to have. All in, our support vehicle cost less than two hours of rental. My next move will be to plan a larger and longer group ride, and have the Evo driver act as a soigneur, a French word for the assistants who feed, clothe and escorting a cycling team during a grand tour. Just one more way that I can pretend to be just like the pros, which is what I’m doing most of the time anyhow.

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