Dark Light

With the hours of sunlight getting longer and fresh breezes sounding the return of Stratford’s feathered friends, I thought it was time to dig out my bicycle from its winter hibernation and prepare for a warmup ride around town.

Although my legs are ready to ride having put many kilometers on my indoor spin bike (aka “the bike to nowhere”), I always schedule spring maintenance to ensure my outdoor bike is in proper working order (a steel grey Norco Indie that I’ve had for years). I called up one of Stratford’s friendly bike shops and booked an appointment, where it was quickly diagnosed my bike needed a new chain. So, after a tune up, tire check up and a good cleaning to remove last years grime, I charged up my bike lights and was ready for a short spin.

Strapping on my helmet, my outing started at Front Street where I pedaled east along Lakeside, watching the geese and ducks lazily paddling in the early morning sun. Lakeside is a slower speed zone, and many fellow sports enthusiasts were already out for a lap around Lake Victoria. (Note: Sidewalks here are for pedestrians only, the City signs clearly state “Please Walk Your Bike.”)

I changed direction at Delamere, meandering north through a quiet residential area. I spotted several leftover holiday decorations competing for attention with brightly coloured crocuses and dainty snowdrops emerging in patches on front lawns. Plagues of grackles swooped and called across the neighbourhood, their squawks overlapping the trills and chirps of red-winged blackbirds and cardinals. What an auditory delight!

Detouring slightly off Cycle Stratford’s “Festival Route “, I pulled in at Brenda’s Place & Bakery and bought an irresistible butter tart to devour post-ride (and crossed my fingers it wouldn’t get too squishy in my pannier.) If you plan to stop at Brenda’s, check the hours before you go to avoid disappointment.

There was much more peddling to do before it was time for a break, so I doubled back to continue up McCarthy Road. This stretch boasts a well marked bike lane and relatively quiet road traffic, although there’s still a bit of gravel and debris on the road in the early spring. Here I gawked at the construction sprouting up across from the Stratford Rotary Complex and tried to figure out what kind of large bird was circling overhead. Tip: If you travel this route on a Saturday morning, consider stopping in at the Farmer’s Market . You will fill your pannier in no time!

Using the Plotaroute website to follow the directional cue markers (route mapped courtesy of Wayne Sjaarda), I quickly reached SERC (Stratford Education and Recreation Centre) which is just about the halfway point of this 12km itinerary. The next stretch took me westbound down O’Loane Avenue, where a multi-use trail separates cyclists and pedestrians from vehicle traffic. I gave a warning ding-ding of my bell to a walker and called out a courtesy “on your left”, although I still managed to spook an unsuspecting pedestrian. Crossing at Huron Street, and along the subsequent plaza entrances, I was careful to make eye contact with drivers before proceeding across.

I love the vista view along O’Loane, where a blue sky opened up over a broad expanse of farmland awaiting planting season. A groundhog popped up from the shadow of the road’s edge, and I turned down Cody Street to roll on through another quiet neighbourhood which borders the back of T.J. Dolan.

Passing some well mannered and impossibly fluffy dogs, I entered Avondale Cemetery where I detoured slightly for a quick lap around to say hello to some relatives. Here you can find many park benches, perfect to stretch your legs and grab a sip of water. This is an idyllic spot for a few moments of peaceful contemplation. Side note: If you are new or returning to cycling, or are planning a ride with smaller children, there’s virtually no vehicle travel and the quiet roads around the cemetery would suit anyone getting used to riding.

The last few kilometers of my ride included a few easy-to-follow zigzags, directing me downtown into Market Square. I masked up to buy a coffee at revel (I remembered my reusable mug!), peered through the window at the Alley Cat Café kitties, and people-watched for a few minutes from one of the brightly coloured Muskoka chairs lounging next to City Hall. If you need a rest stop, there are public washrooms conveniently available here too.

After a short break, I rode east along Albert Street and north down Front towards home, closing the loop and putting this first outdoor ride of 2021 in the books. Stratford’s residential streets offer a view often overlooked by most tourists – the quirky charm of little library boxes, delightful whimsy of lawn and garden ornaments – combined with the abundance of foodie stops and delectable en route treats are just a few of the reasons I love biking around town.

This ride was 13.5 kms and with my casual pace, took about 50 minutes to complete (stops excluded). A great warm up for the upcoming season.  I feel energized and excited for more outdoor riding to come!

Cycling Recommendations

  1. To save yourself from a figurative headache (and possible breakdown or injury), be sure your bike is tuned up before you head out. Consider checking out Totally Spoke’d or Ross’ Bike Works . Always ride with a helmet and bell, and remember to charge up or replace batteries in your bike lights. Safety first!
  2. Our region has many beautiful cycling routes ranging in distances and difficulty. Check out Cycle Stratford’s route list or 8 Cycling Trails in Stratford for a few ideas.
  3. Prefer to ride with friends? Cycle Stratford usually kicks off their Sunday morning and Wednesday evening group rides in May and offers destination rides for members who want to venture further afield.
  4. Savour your ride by adding a stop at a local café, coffee shop or market. With available vehicle parking (if needed) and racks to lock up your bike, consider Market Square as a start/end point. (Try the scones at Sirkel , you won’t regret it.) Another good spot to start the Festival Route and find parking is towards the east end of Lakeside Drive.
  5. Lastly, mark Sunday September 12th on your calendar for the 3rd Annual Perth County Cycling Tour (PCCT ). Last year’s sold-out cycling tour featured delicious local treats, camaraderie, and a delightful, well-marked tour through the region. You won’t want to miss it!

Written by Jennifer NickelRelative newcomer to Stratford, Jennifer is an avid cyclist who enjoys exploring regional bike routes and is a recent addition to the Cycle Stratford Board of Directors.

Related Posts

Stratford Audio Walking Tours

Explore our city and surrounding area at your own pace, or from home, with our complimentary self-guided audio…

Humans of Stratford

Introducing Humans of Stratford – a local take on the popular Humans of New York City series, featuring…

Pairing Culture And Cycling

Calling cyclists of all experience levels — add Stratford to your vacation bucket list this summer. There are…