BEECHVILLE-LAKESIDE-TIMBERLEA (BLT) TRAIL
Getting there: Once Metro Transit gets with the program and puts bike racks on all its buses, you will be able to take route 21 to Lakeside Park Drive, then walk up the street to the trailhead. Until then, you'll either be driving or riding along St. Margaret's Bay Road (Highway 3 off the Rotary) for about 7kms until you reach the Lakeside Industrial Park on your right. The 9.5km trail starts beside the Coca-Cola plant.
What to do: Do the whole trail or just parts (the trail follows St. Margaret's Bay Road pretty closely in parts). Longer-distan-ce riders can use the BLT to get to the 32km-long St. Margaret's Bay trail, which in turn connects to the Chester Connector trail. You can ride your bike all the way to Bridgewater on this baby!
Condition: Graded trail, with fine crusher dust after a couple of kilometres.
Cool stuff: Keep a lookout for amethyst in the rocks around Six Mile Falls, about 3kms in.
The Coast says: BLT is a great name. For a sandwich.
HEMLOCK RAVINE TRAILS
Getting there: Cruise along the Bedford Highway until you see a small round white rotunda on the Basin side. Opposite this is Kent Avenue, which will take you to a parking lot and map of the trail system. You can also access the park from the surrounding subdivisions.
What to do: The park is riddled with trails of varying difficulty, so even beginners should be able to find a suitable route. Just show up at Julie's Pond (a heart-shaped pond built in the late 1700s by then-resident Prince Edward for his lover, Julie St. Laurent) near the entrance, and there's a map to fill you in. There are picnic tables in the summer, so pack a lunch for two and soak up the romance.
Condition: Regular maintenance by HRM keeps these trails in good shape, though the ravine can get slippery when wet, so be careful.
Cool stuff: Like the name says, these trails are packed with hemlock trees, some over 80 feet tall and 300 years old, even pre-dating Julie and Edward.
The Coast says: Almost 200 acres of protected parkland is definitely OK by us, especially when it comes with a slightly sinful past.
SALT MARSH TRAIL
Getting there: By bike, you can get here most safely using the Bisset Road Trail (see below). By car, head out of Dartmouth on Cole Harbour Road, then make a right on Bisset Road. There are two possible trailheads (the second has less parking, but is wheelchair accessible) about 3kms in, on the left. You and your bike can get a lift part way there with MetroLink route 169, which lands at the Portland Hills terminal on Cole Harbour Road. (All MetroLink buses have been equipped with a rack for carrying two bikes.)
What to do: Ride along the old railway bed that runs straight through Cole Harbour. The first 4kms are straight through a huge salt marsh and the last 2.5kms are through a wooded area.
Condition: Smooth start and end, with packed surface and fine crushed rock. In the middle there's a stretch with larger gravel.
Cool stuff: You can watch the tide come in and fill up the marsh as you cycle along. Also, you can pass by the area currently featured as Sunnyvale Trailer Park in the Trailer Park Boys. Just look right as you head along Bisset Road towards the trailhead.
The Coast says: It's nice that Cole Harbour can be known for something besides racial tension and suburban sprawl.
ATLANTIC VIEW TRAIL
Getting there: This 7km stretch picks up where the Salt Marsh Trail leaves off on West Lawrencetown Road, but it you're looking for a place to drive in and park, head to Lawrencetown Beach right off the 207 (Cole Harbour Road/Marine Drive). The parking area and beach house are about midway through the trail, so you can go west toward the salt marsh, or east toward Three Fathom Harbour road, where the trail ends.
What to do: Stop along the way to swim, watch surfers, or surf. If Lawrencetown is too crowded for your liking, try heading for Conrad's Beach. The trail crosses Conrad Road about a kilometre in from West Lawrencetown Road. Turn up towards the ocean and peddle for about 3kms until you can see the boardwalk to the beach. Stay off those dunes!
Condition: Well-marked trail, with some benches along the way.
Cool stuff: Surf boards and suits are available to rent from the Happy Dudes mobile van overlooking Lawrencetown Beach.
The Coast says: Wetsuits are for wimps.
BISSET ROAD TRAIL
Getting there: From Dartmouth, head out along Pleasant Street towards Eastern Passage. Right after passing the Shearwater base, look for Hines Road on your left-hand side. Take Hines Road until it turns into Caldwell Road. A few hundred metres after that the trail branches off to your right.
In a perfect world, you and your bike could get to Hines Road on one of the buses that patrols Pleasant Street and Eastern Passage Road. Metro Transit is reportedly working on getting the bike racks on all its regular buses. Call your city councillor to find out how the project is coming along.
What to do: This trail is more of an A-to-B-type thing than a spectacular ride in itself, but it's a heck of a lot more enjoyable than navigating, say, Portland Street. Use it to get to Bissett Road and from there, to the Salt Marsh Trail (just across the road), or to Rainbow Haven Beach (turn right and pedal down another kilometre or so).
Condition: Rough old railbed, but relatively level, so not a difficult ride for just over 5kms.
Cool stuff: Rainbow Haven is a provincial park with all the beachside amenities you could ask for (change rooms, showers, lifeguards and a summer canteen) so you can stop, have lunch, swim, and get back on your bike clean and dry for the ride home.
The Coast says: Come on, Metro Transit, it's about time you got those racks on the buses.
ROCKINGSTONE PARK TRAIL
Getting there: From the Armdale Rotary take Herring Cove Road (keeping right at the fork) for about 5kms until you come to Greystone Avenue on your right. Follow Greystone to the end. This is where the trail starts.
What to do: Go in search of the 162-ton granite rock known as the Rocking Stone. While you're at it, go for a swim in Kidston Lake. This trail is only 2kms end-to-end, so you have plenty of time for a picnic and some off-trail exploring.
Condition: Well-worn. Riding along Herring Cove Road could be rougher.
Cool stuff: People have been coming to take a crack at rocking this stone since at least 1828, when it was first written about. Awesome!
The Coast says: Don't let Herring Cove Road fool you with its plazas and strip malls, Spryfield is all about the nature.
For more info on local trails, read Tim Bousquet’s guide here, or visit: www.halifax.ca/recreation/TrailsHRM.html and: www.trails.gov.ns.ca.
DIY bike mechanics
Even if your bike is working fine, you should give it a solid once-over before riding off to the beach. Not only might you prevent problems later in the season, but you'll have a chance to get familiar with how your bike works. Knowing what a bike in good working condition looks like is step one for DIY bike repair.
Actually, this applies to almost anything you want to DIY, be it a bike, a car, a kitchen sink or an electrical panel. Look at it when it's working. Be curious. Notice things. Now, when something breaks you'll have half a chance of seeing the problem.
Here are some things to look for when conducting a once-over of your sturdy steed:
Tires: Pressure! Make sure you have some. Not enough will slow you down and, well, eventually stop you. There should be an ideal range printed on the side wall of your tires. Pump up to the high end of the range for fast, smooth-surface biking, and lower for rocky, off-road trips. Also, check over your tires for wear.
Wheels: Hold up either end of your bike and give the wheels a spin while looking at them head on. They should spin true (no wobble), freely and without too much noise. If you do have a wobble, you'll want to get it trued as soon as possible. Also, check that the wheels are on there nice and tight. You won't regret it.
Brakes: Squeeze your brakes and make sure they grab well. The brake pads shouldn't be too worn down and they should grab the rim when you squeeze them, not the tire. Brake cables should be in good shape moving freely through their housing (the plastic tube the cables run through).
Chain: Keep the chain well-lubed, but not dripping with grease. Keep on the lookout for damaged links (any one that stands out from the rest is probably damaged). Eventually, the chain will need replacing, that's just the way it goes. You can measure the links to see if yours is ready to go. Start at the centre of one link and measure 12 inches across the chain. If the 12-inch mark matches up nicely with the centre of a link, then your chain is fine. If it's 12 1/16" to the next link, you should think about replacing it. A measurement of 12 1/8" means your chain is wearing down the (expensive) drive-train components, so get a new one now!
Shifters and derailleurs: Squeeze the shifter to make sure the front and rear derailleurs are moving properly. Check the housing for cracks and kinks and the cables for corrosion and fraying.
Pedals and crank: Pedals should be lubricated and move freely around the crank, but not too loosely. The crank arm bolt should be tightened. If you hear creaking when you're pedalling hard, you'll need to tighten this bolt.
If you're willing to invest in some tools and do your research, you can probably fix most things that go wrong with your bicycle. But DIY doesn't have to mean doing everything by yourself. Depending on you and your bike, DIY might mean learning to true a wheel, or it might simply mean keeping your bike clean, rust-free, lubricated, and knowing what to ask for the next time you walk into a bike shop.
For info. on workshops and training on bike care, try Bike Again: email@example.com or the Community Bike Project: firstname.lastname@example.org
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