It’s Better in The Bahamas

February 25, 2013 by  Howard Chang

Our first visit to the Bahamas was a few years back–to Paradise Island. I left thinking, “Wow, that was crowded,” and had not really considered the island chain again, not as a holiday destination and certainly not as a cycling destination. That was until our friends Ash and Mona introduced us to Exuma. Exu-what you say?

The Exumas are a chain of almost 400 islands and cays. The main island is made up of Great and Little Exuma. With a total population of around 5000 and the major “city” being home to a bustling 900 souls, Exuma is the perfect getaway for adventurous outdoor types who love water, friendly people and, frankly, not much else. However, the best kept secret to Exuma is that it’s a very nice place to ride. Yes, I am talking about bikes.

When Michele and I arrived at the Georgetown airport with our large plastic bike cases, we were met with strange looks and even gasps of horror when we mentioned we would be riding the small, rough and winding roads of the island. “Bahamians are bad drivers!” we were told. “The dogs will chase you,” said another. “Drinking and driving is legal,” chimed a chorus of concerned voices. Okay, we get it. By nature, cycling is a pastime that carries some risk–just as driving and crossing the street does. The key is mitigating that risk with local knowledge.

But first, let’s get to the water and Ash and Mona’s amazing place in Tar Bay. Ash and Mona were the ones who introduced us to the island and we stayed at their house, which is literally “on the beach” in front of the most beautiful waters we have ever seen (and I have lived in Hawaii and on the Sea of Cortez). With such fantastic accommodations so close to town, we did not even rent a car for the first few days, preferring to commute in by bike to shop and hit up the liquor store. One of our rides into town was a bit eventful due to a truck hitting an oil slick and taking out a 350-year-old stone wall in front of our eyes; but we escaped unscathed, negotiating the mayhem on our trusty cyclocross bikes.

I learned from the locals that Exuma’s main traffic is between the airport and town (an approximately 9 kilometre stretch). It’s busiest in the early morning as locals head to work. Well, that left about 150 kilometres of riding ground that is relatively car free!  After the morning “rush”, Michele and I loaded our bikes in a rental car, drove just past the airport and embarked on a 2-hour ride to the north end of the island. Yes, we encountered cars on the 2-hour ride: all three of them. Yup, that’s three cars TOTAL in 2 hours–during peak season. Wow, it’s tough riding in Exuma. Although not that hilly, we did about 190 metres of climbing; so it’s not flat either. What a great mid-winter workout. Did we get chased by dogs? Yes, twice all week; but being from Exuma, they chased us for a bit and then packed it in. Ah, island life!

Of course you can’t visit Exuma and not do a boat excursion with Sugar Adventure Company (a.k.a. Harris to his friends). We embarked on a full day tour with 7 other guests on Sugar’s super-smooth, 32-foot Contender powerboat thinking, “What will we do all day?” Well, it was a super-fun, action-packed adventure as we sped by islands owned by movie stars, tracked huge sting rays, collected and returned starfish, fed iguanas and swimming pigs, and even swam with sharks!

So, to all of you looking for a totally unique getaway that could even involve some bike riding, check out Exuma. After all, it is better in The Bahamas.

Morning Glory Cycling Club Fundraiser

February 22, 2013 by  Howard Chang

On Thursday February 21, at the Amsterdam Brewery, the Morning Glory Cycling Club put on a fabulous fundraiser benefiting the Pan Am 2015 Velodrome. With $5 million left to raise, the MGCC wanted to show what Ontario cycling clubs can do to help fund this game-changing world-class facility that will host the Pan AM 2015 cycling events in Milton.

Fraser Chapman, President of MGCC and a committee member for the Milton Velodrome fundraising campaign, orchestrated a movie night featuring the Bradley Wiggins Documentary – A Year In Yellow. (This movie is so new, guest of honour and ex-pro Michael Barry had to bring a PAL version from England and Fraser had it converted in order to play locally.)

A Year In Yellow is a fantastic movie–a real insider’s look into the world of a champion cyclist moving from being relatively unknown to being a sports superstar. Wiggins is mercurial, candid, self-aware and probably quite a handful for his team managers, but an intensely charismatic figure. The footage was beautifully shot and I would advise all of you to rent or buy the DVD when it comes to Canada legitimately!

As chair of the fundraising committee for the Milton Velodrome, I was asked to say a few words and help connect the dots between the predominantly recreational cycling audience and high-performance track cycling. Michael Barry and Fraser also did a fantastic job of explaining why the Velodrome will benefit all Canadians: it will lead to more participation in our sport, which will result in better health, better air quality, less congestion and a host of other benefits.

The event wrapped up with a great silent auction and if Michael’s Di2 Pinarello Graal TT bike actually fit me, I would be about $6000 lighter in my wallet today–whew! Congrats to MGCC and Fraser for a wonderful evening and let’s hope other clubs take up the challenge to do the same.

Find out more or make donations directly to the Velodrome at www.make-it-happen.ca.