Spring has Sprung

Spring has Sprung

Spring is the time when most of us decide to get back into running, walking or cycling. I am not in this group as I ride year round. According to theories in Psychopathology normal people fall within three standard deviation points of the mean. They form a bell curve that incorporates into itself approximately ninety four percent of the normal population. The remaining six percent (us abnormals) flow out from the bell curve, three percent in either direction either positive or negative. I will leave it up to up you to decide which way I flow on that bell curve.

So for those of you in the ninety six percent that ride in the spring, summer and fall, weather permitting, read on. (If you reside in that three percent on either side of the bell curve you should read on as well as you are probably trying to get the ninety six percent out riding right about now.)

Get your ride ready. Don’t wait for that first sunny day to take your bike out of the garage, especially if you put it away without a bit of oil on the chain. Maybe you ended up riding a lot by the time the weather changed and didn’t notice that clicking sound that was trying to tell you you’re derailers needed adjusting. Maybe you didn’t notice that creak from your bottom bracket telling you that it needed tightening. Situations like this are amplified by storage over the winter, not to mention flat tires, rusted chains or frozen cables which can all change that first spring ride into experience that ends up in a trip to the bike shop for service. Much better to take your ride into the shop pre-ride for a spring tune up. Since this is probably not original thinking you should not leave that tune up for the day before your ride.

Get your body ready. Cozy living through the cold winter, accented by the feasting of Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter, and you may have put on a few pounds. Throughout the dark months of winter you, like most of the ninety six percent, cocooned or even hibernated throughout the darkened times with little exercise, so start out slow. Don’t just remember that last ride in the fall, after slowly building up your riding stamina, and just go for it. That could be a fatal mistake, like those who come out of hibernation to shovel the snow off of their sidewalk and driveway. Most hospitals register a spike in heart attacks right after that first big snowfall and I am sure that a flurry of spandexed patients fill emergency rooms on that first sunny day of spring as well. So pick an easy first ride and remember that the harder you ride the funnier your walk will be the next day. Set a schedule for your fist ten rides that gives you a gradient from easy to hard so call up your local cycling map service and plan your first rides accordingly. Once you are conditioned then you can take on whatever comes your way. So don’t start your first ride with one of us six-percenters who have been riding all winter because we don’t need the extra guilt when you fall off your bike clutching your chest. We have enough guilt already, which is usually what drives us to ride year round.

Get your mind ready. If you consider that your lying cheating body talks you out of riding when you should have, remember that it learned all it knows from your mind. Controlling your thinking is key to getting back into the saddle. You were wise enough to put away your bike through the dark and snow of winter, so your mind advises, getting back into the saddle can be put off by the habit of inertial from winter hibernation. Most seasonal riders deal with a spike in automatic negative thoughts the hours before their ride. (Google ANTs for more details) Each negative thought is connected to a following negative feeling. Each feeling which radiates out from our core is then the context for the next negative thought and so on. If unchecked your mind will soon give you the excuse your body wants to get out of the upcoming ride. If you are mindful in the moment and reframe these negative thoughts, like from I have to ride to I want to ride, etc. etc. you will change negative feelings into positive ones, which will make the approach of your ride a pleasurable anticipatory experience rather than one you dread.

So with your ride, your body and your mind ready to ride, get out there and enjoy the next three seasons. Also you may consider investing in some winter riding gear, some lights and more aggressive tires next fall and join the six percent of us who ride year round. Especially, if you live in the Vancouver area, where we get only one or two snow days a winter. You may need a snorkel on some really wet days but compared to Winterpeg or Ottawa we have it pretty good for year round cycling.

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Weak Link in the Chain

Watch out for that weak link in your Chain. Many times when counselling a client I observe that they want to talk about their strengths. I think this is good to a point but they didn’t come to see me because of their strengths. After giving them time to polish those strong links in their chain I bring them to the issue they brought them in to see me.

“We are only as strong as our weakest link,” I remind them. “We’ve spent enough time polishing the ones that never fail. Let’s talk about the one that seems to fail enough that you have chosen to see a therapist.” It is hard to talk about our weaknesses but until we do, we set ourselves up for another bout of failure. When this link fails we experience, divorce, getting fired, being expelled, charged with drunk driving…the list is endless but quite predictable.

A metaphor I use is as follows, “When we stray off of our path and onto a divergent trail we follow it to the side of a nice river. There we find a canoe and a paddle that seemed designed to fit us perfectly. We push off and paddle around enjoying ourselves immensely until we begin to hear a distant roar of water. Now we begin to paddle upstream but to no effect and slowly are drawn towards the sound of the waterfall. Now paddling in earnest we still are pulled toward the inevitable and as we begin to tilt just before the fall we have a sense of being here before. Next comes the screaming, the crash and the consequences. We have done this before, maybe many times before. The problem is not with the waterfall, not the river, not even the canoe. The problem is leaving our path in the first place.

Our weakest link, when we master it, will become one of our strongest but that will never happen when we are in denial. We need to look at the cause of our failures not the reasons, the situations or the resulting pain and chaos. We can’t change the past and we haven’t screwed up once tomorrow but we can become mindful in the moment.

Have a destination, know the path that will take you there, acknowledge you weaknesses, whether it be alcohol, drugs, hate, love of money etc etc., and overcome them by being mindful in the moment and thus succeed in your life.

If your weak link in your chain hangs so low that it is submerged in your unconscious get help from a therapist. If it is an addiction that fails you when you need to be strong get into recovery. If it is a wound resulting from abuse in your childhood as an adult get help for your inner child.

Remember this though, your weak link that now leads you over that waterfall, when you are healed and have insight, will be one of the stronger links in you chain.

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Gasoline and Dynamite

Gasoline and Dynamite

When working with clients in counselling situations I use a metaphor of a smoker trying to quit smoking but doing it in a room filled with dynamite and soaked in gasoline. The consequences of failure are weighted to the extreme and not in the clients favor.

The Dynamite is the constant flow of negative self thoughts that flow up from their unconsciousness into their consciousness. Each is the byproduct of a chemical/electrical reaction within their brains. Since our thinking brain is linked to our reactive bodies these negative thoughts create negative feelings. Because negative feelings can increase the flow of automatic negative thoughts (Google ANTs or Cognitive Behavior Therapies) this can create a feedback loop similar to an electric guitar and amplifier. Both tend to get out of control quickly one uncomfortable for the ears the other uncomfortable for the psyche. Some people have hundreds of automatic negative thoughts a day, some have thousands but most people have more than they need to, especially if they ignore them. They then become like background music that we don’t even notice until it stops. This can lead to very uncomfortable feelings within our bodies and minds. It can be an incredible energy drain on us as well, like trying to jog in water up to our necks. We don’t notice it in our daily lives as it has been going on so long that it becomes the new normal.

The gasoline is the go fast chemicals that flood our bloodstreams daily as we live domesticated lives in denial of our evolved flight or fight systems. This system allowed us calorie conserving hunter gathers to respond with heightened abilities to threats or potential meals. Approximately every forty eight hours we had to run away from something that wanted to eat us or after something we wanted to eat. The rest of the time we wandered slowly gathering fruits, nuts and roots conserving our energy. Being in the middle of the food chain we had to learn how to discern a threat from a potential meal. When our flight or fight mechanism kicks in our adrenal glands and others pump an exotic mixture of go fast chemicals into our bloodstream like nitro into a dragster, giving us the ability to run away or run after. Domestication has taught us to ignore these primal urges, which may make us good citizens but this comes with a cost. These chemicals were meant to be burnt off as they occurred and are linked to a reward from our brain when they are. Spouses, bosses, traffic, bank line ups and more kick in these systems many times daily and we as good citizens just suck it up and stand in line. Eventually we are bathed in these chemicals and end up in Cortisol Response Syndrome, which leads to our immune system attacking us, with heart disease, arthritis, colitis, and other auto immune disorders, never mind anxiety and depression.

So when that smoker tries to quit smoking in a room full of dynamite and gasoline the consequences of relapse are far greater than just having a smoke. So when a client who attempts to quit smoking pot, stop using hard drugs, stop drinking, change their eating habits or deal with anxiety or depression the first thing we do is try to create a safer inner environment for them by getting rid of the dynamite and gasoline first and then worry about the presenting issue.

We tackle the dynamite through Cognitive Behavior Therapy. This begins with dealing with automatic negative thoughts, first through counting them, then naming them and then reframing them is one technique among many that will help them feel better within weeks. This then sets them up with hope to deal with core self esteem issues and more intensive therapies. If they have experienced abuse as children or young teens this is even more critical as they are probably attempting to self medicate their way through their inner pain.

Getting rid of the gasoline is best dealt with though an exercise program and diet. Burning off those go fast chemicals, getting in physical shape and adapting a healthy diet can also result in substantial changes in mood within a short period of time. I always recommend cycling or power walking but any anaerobic exercise program that they will stick to and perform at least three times a week will do. Introducing a more natural diet augmented with fish oils is a great start.

Once the room is cleared of these dangerous obstacles then the client can relax while they deal with their core issues. This is where the expression I often use comes from, “You won’t have to worry about those triggers if you first unload the gun.” Some clients see enough change with just the above that they are empowered to do more, while some are ok with just maintaining these strategies. I have never had a client who has after doing these strategies regretted it after the fact. All have reported positive results.

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Don’t worry about the Trigger, unload the gun.

Don’t worry about the Trigger, Unload Your Gun!

I have been working with the Dan Snook Foundation lately and after a radio interview have been amazed at the emotions at work in the field of working with young people who have experienced sexual and drug abuse. This organization knows first hand the dangers of not dealing with the root causes of addiction can be and is dedicated to making a difference to as many young people affected by sexual and drug abuse as possible and they need your help.

I have listened to many advocates who are worried about this and that trigger that could set off an addict into a state of relapse. There are as many triggers as there are addicts, actually more as each person who self medicates has many reasons to continue with their addiction if they do not deal with their core issues; the reasons they started self medicating to start with.

Nobody will take an opiate long term if they are not in some kind of pain. Most do not even know that they are tormented by inner pain. Have you ever been near a large generator or another piece of loud equipment and had habituated to the background noise? You eventually didn’t even notice it was on until someone shut it off and the silence was then staggering. Well that’s how an addict feels the first time the use.
You would not hesitate for a moment to accept an opiate in the emergency ward if you were rushed in with a broken hip but we expect street addicts to stop when their spirits or minds are screaming in inner pain.

So I have developed a philosophy over the years of working with addicts as a counsellor and I firmly believe that to truly stop the drug use you have to deal with the pain that they are using the drug to self medicate with. This is not popular with those preaching abstinence as they are constantly trying to get their clients to recognize their triggers to avoid another relapse but my approach has been to help the client unload their gun. It doesn’t matter who pulls the trigger if the gun is unloaded.

Part of healing is to relapse. Those preaching abstinence avoid this topic because it means failure to them. The problem is most clients do relapse and if they do not understand the dangers to them when this happens it can be fatal. Most addicts when they relapse use the same dose they were using when they stopped but that amount after they have been clean for a month or more will usually be fatal. They need to know this when they are going clean rather than have this information hidden because it is believed to be a part of their failure if it occurs. If the counsellor is helping them deal with their inner pain a relapse will prove to them that they are past the pain and self medicating will have a positive effect when it makes them ill. If they have this information given to them when they are dealing with their addiction they will hopefully survive their relapse and learn from their mistake.

So I have a goal now. To bring this knowledge to those working with addicts and to the addicts and their families. I truly believe that helping those who are self medicating to deal with their pain is the key to addiction counselling and to true long term remission.

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Watch Out!!!

Last night when leading a community ride, I was riding on a new bike trail on the Queensborough Loop and came across a hazard that seemed to be waiting for me. Right across the trail was strung a string used by someone who was working on the trail to line up some concrete work. It’s amazing how someone who would be building a bike trail could be so thoughtless when it comes to the cyclists using the trail that they are building. This string was invisible to me and the other riders and since I was leading the group I hit it. My only warning was the buzz at it went over the top of my front tire. I always ride with one hand on my back brake, just habit after year misses and this time it paid off. Between instant braking and my front tire hitting an incline on the trail I stopped just as the string stopped me. My back tire went up about two feet in the air. My bike handled it better than my body, which at sixty two does not handle stopping that quickly. Luckily I didn’t wipe out, luckily it wasn’t one of the more inexperienced riders who hit it or a kid riding home. This string was the kind that is as strong as a thin rope.

In the news lately were a couple of incidents where cyclists were caught up in similar foolishness. One guy hit a cable strung across a trail and was scared more than hurt but ended up with a nasty bruise and contusion. Another rider hit some tape strung across the road on his way to work and broke his jaw, neck injury and other breaks when he crashed. Both of those were set ups by sick people while mine was more likely some dope smoking grunt on a construction crew who left the string when something else distracted him, at least I hope so.

I found a sign lying around close by and put it up at the string to warn the next cyclist of this hazard and then contacted the city who hires such clowns to do their construction projects.

Don’t get paranoid on me, keep riding but watch out for such hazards when out riding. It does seem to be happening a lot lately and hopefully it doesn’t become thing to do when some non cycling bike hater wants to express himself. It bad enough when mother nature hangs a blackberry branch out to change your day as you ride by but to have to anticipate some psychopathic anti cyclist who is nuts enough to string something across your path is not in anyone’s interest.

Ride on but watch out!!

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Bike Share in Vancouver

Bike Share in Vancouver

I have watched with interest as a bike friendly city council has made great changes for cyclists all around Vancouver. They have angered many people who want to drive their cars unimpeded around the city and who resent any pedestrian or cyclist who gets in their way. Some of the most virulent protesters of their new bike paths would run down a cyclist who would slow them down on their way to their tower of power or when returning to their mansion in West Vancouver. But sometimes when you have to fight foolish resistance to change you also can push over the very people you are trying to help.

The bike share program is one of those things. It is based on lousy bikes, riding without helmets and will threaten many of the small business that make a living renting bikes. They have even engaged in myopic philosophic thinking, like attempting to influence provincial politicians to rescind helmet law so that it would help them attract tourists who may not want to mess up their hair by wearing a helmet when on one of the lousy bike share bikes. It goes something like this, “more people will ride if we let them ride without helmets which will end up with a healthier population even though a percentage will be brain damaged cycling head injuries.” I say do not rescind the law; …change it! If you want to ride without a helmet do it but if you are hurt you will not be covered by the provincial medical plan. I can just see desperate relatives rushing to the accident scene and trying to put helmets onto the smashed noggins of their freshly brain damaged kin to avoid the hundreds of thousands of dollars of medical bills coming their way.

Another part that I think stinks is the money. Local bike advocacy programs are offered city grants to tow the line and promote the bike share program. The city is putting up over six million dollars to set it up and are expecting to put in five hundred thousand a year to keep it running and that is if it is successful. My research has not found one successful bike share venture to date and some are complete financial disasters, underused and money sink holes.

I manage a bike rental system in a neighboring city, New Westminster. I am wary of city governments investing huge amounts to compete with my business while all the while telling me don’t worry be happy. Some of the rental shops in Vancouver are getting bike share pods right beside their businesses. We all operate on small profit margins and anything taking a few percent off our bottom lines will be fatal.

So like a happy bumbling idiot the city government of Vancouver got over excited with cyclist’s praise for putting in adequate bike paths and in that spasm of joy it squeezes to death those who make a living in the trade by putting in a bike share program. Idiots are not known for their discernment.

I will wear my helmet, not because of the law but because I am a responsible adult and I will do what I can to protect myself and the society I live in by not exposing them to my medical bills that I could have avoided by acting responsibly.

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Bike Share in Vancouver

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Perscription, One Bicycle, Use three times a week.

Prescription: One Bicycle; use three times a week.

When I was thirty-three I was overweight and at just over 250 pounds had developed unseen heart disease. My life pump was weak and plugged with plaque. Once my doctor had figured out what was wrong he gave me two choices. One was for open heart surgery using a medical form of roto-rooter and then pills for the rest of my life, which he predicted would be shorten greatly by my condition or get a bike and start riding.
I took the second suggestion, lost the weight and never looked back. My body healed itself once I gave it a chance with regular exercise and a better diet. Now I am sixty two and still ride three times a week or more. I operate a bike rental shop when I am not with a client as a counsellor. Now cycling and therapy have merged in my blog www.cycle-therapy.ca. I have gotten hundreds of clients cycling over the years as their first step towards physical and mental health. Along with cognitive behavior therapy and sometimes even medications my clients have seen amazing improvements in both their physical and mental health as they have taken control of their personal lives through exercise and diet. Counselling helps and sometimes even meds are needed by without exercise and diet all the counselling and meds in the world would not have helped them.
We live in bodies that have evolved over the last few million years with systems that we have developed to keep us alive so we could get our genes into the next generation. If we were eaten by lions or starved to death our contribution to future generations could be limited. Those who survived passed on their genes to us and made us who we are today. So don’t be in denial, you are an advanced highly evolved animal, so get over it and move on with this knowledge. Your fight or flight mechanism is a fine tuned system that evolved over the eons to keep you alive. Your gene pool could never have predicted modern society which has developed over the last few hundred years. You probably haven’t been chased by a lion for a few days and you also have not had to search for food lately either. But you have been stressed out by your boss, wife, children, traffic and bank lineups which your body interprets no differently than been harassed by lions and your fridge, full of calories, is always waiting only a few steps away. This has resulted in most of us having our systems flooded with the go fast hormones our body creates from stress combined with an endless supply of calories. This unique combination has given us diabetes, obesity, heart disease, arthritis, immune disorders as well as anxiety, depression and sleep disorders.
You can do something about this and it’s never too late. I recommend cycling or power walking for exercise as running is tough unless you are already into it. Start slow and expect it to be uncomfortable until you form the habit and become addicted to it. Your lying cheating body will try to get out of it with sudden aches and pains but ignore this, unless it is chest pains, and get on with it.
When you exercise regularly (anaerobically) you will not only burn off excess calories but also the go fast hormones you created through stress. When you eat what you need versus what you want you will find your tastes will change. Avoid red meats, eat more chicken and fish, and base your food intake around nuts, fruits and vegetables. Once you get these two areas under control you may still need to see a cognitive behavior therapist to help extinguish negative behaviors and thinking. Some may even need to use SSRIs or other prescription drugs but if you do what you can with exercise and diet you may need far less interventions from therapists or doctors. It’s up to you, deal with these issues by handing control over to doctors and therapists or take control over your life and then you may only need them to tweak your new found improvements.
You can do this! I have and hundreds of my clients have. I have watched this process in myself and others for almost thirty years and I plan on doing it for awhile yet.

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Riding in the Heat

Riding in the Heat
We are made to ride in the heat. We evolved on the plains of Africa with the ability to run down big game. Those who still hunt this way can run down a deer. These prey animals can have great bursts of speed but we have endurance. While they run away fast, so that the Lion is lost in their dust, humans just trotting behind them and tracking them could eventually catch up to them and make the kill. This could take hours or even days but we humans were designed to just keep on going, eating up the miles before getting to eat up the deer. There are still cultures in Africa and the Americas that pride themselves in being able to run what we would consider ultra marathons. But even in our modern culture of automobiles and skytrains we still are proud of our athletes who can run for miles and look good doing it.
Cyclists have the advantage of an evolutionary body that is built to run and one of the greatest inventions of humankind, the bicycle. This amazing machine in its modern form can give you the endurance training your body really wants as well as making you comfortable and efficient as you fly down the road. The bike takes the stress on your body that you get from running and turns that into motion. Rather than putting pressure on your knees, hips and feet, not to mention your spine, from the impact of running a bike, especially one with shocks and one that is fit right, will let you go for miles where only blocks were possible before. So now a person who is in shape can ride a hundred kilometers while on foot they may be able to do a third of that. With proper gear you can ride year round.
Riding in the heat is not a matter of gear but using your brain. Some people believe in sunscreen, so if that’s your thing slather it on. Personally I think all the chemicals in sunscreen give you cancer and stops your body from making Vitamin D but that is an opinion. But what most people underestimate is the amount of water you need on a long hot ride. Because the sweat is evaporating off you as you ride in the wind you create you may not notice how hard you are sweating until you stop. I personally don’t use a camel back as I have watched numerous friends make themselves sick because they didn’t keep them sterile. I use a water bottle and fill it regularly throughout the ride if I can. If I know that drinkable water will be scarce I pack a few extra water bottles and make sure a full one is waiting for me at the end of the ride. Most of the exhaustion, headaches and nausea people feel from riding in the heat are because of dehydration. Another issue people have is dealing with glare from the road and from the grit that comes from the dust when the landscape dries out from the heat. Sunglasses can really help with this. Of course you are wearing a helmet; just make sure yours has a sun visor on it.
I worked and rode in Cuba for five years and really put this to the test. I never had issues if I planned my ride, ensured my water source and paced myself. Some days there I rode a hundred km but nearly always twenty or more.
So enjoy the weather, use your muscles and your brain and you will do much better riding in the heat.

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Cycling in New Westminster and Beyond

Cycling in New Westminster and Beyond.

New Westminster is the hub of cycling for all of the lower mainland. Most bike routes go through New West. Surrey, Richmond, Burnaby and Coquitlam all have routes that pass through New West on three major routes, the BC Parkway, the Central Valley Greenway and the Queensborough Loop.

The BC Parkway is the oldest dedicated bike route in the lower Mainland. It connects New West with Burnaby and on into Vancouver. From it you can access the outlying cities of Richmond, Surrey and Coquitlam. It needs an upgrade and better signage but it is a great ride if you are looking for a two hour ride from New West to Central Park in Burnaby and then back. It climbs all the way up to Central Park and then descends all the way into East Vancouver and then links to the downtown area. It parallels the original Sky Train route and was built at the same time for World Fair. Great as it is, it does have some problems, especially around the 22nd street Sky Train Station. When the Alex Fraser Bridge was built Stewardson Way and the Queensborough Bridge were also rebuilt, which improved this bike route but also complicated it. To make matters worse, even though they spent millions on improving this bike route with its new links, which use the tail end of the Queensborough bridge, they failed terribly by providing no or inadequate signage. Most of the maps can help cyclists but without signage most cyclists end up taking the old route which leads either onto 6th avenue or on to the wrong side of Stewardson with the confused and terrified cyclist facing oncoming traffic. Until signage is improved by Translink follow these simple directions. When descending from Burnaby into New West turn down towards the Queensborough bridge just before you get to the 22nd street station. Follow this trail past the dog park and on to the tail end of the Queensborough bridge and then take the first right and descend off the bridge. This will swing you back under the bridge and onto Stewardson heading east and right down to the Quay Boardwalk. Those riding up from New West to Burnaby ride up under the bridge and ride up the ramp to the bridge, then follow the tail end of the bridge towards 22nd street and then up the BC Parkway to Central Park and beyond.

In downtown New West the BC Parkway connects to the Central Valley Greenway right at River Market on the Quay boardwalk. This route then heads north on Columbia right past the Pattullo Bridge (there is your link to Surrey) and into Sapperton where it goes right by the Royal Columbian Hospital. It continues through Hume Park before it follows the Brunette River west passing by Burnaby Lake all the way into Vancouver. This new route was finished a few years ago and is a great way to get into Vancouver, avoiding most of the hills and giving the rider lots of scenery on a dedicated safe bike trail.

The Queensborough Loop is a great twenty kilometer circle ride beginning at Pier Park on the Quay in New West up and over the Queensborough bridge and around the North end of Lulu Island. This is an easy, scenic and safe ride that also links to the BC Parkway into Burnaby or into Richmond via the Westminster Highway. It also sets you up to get to all of the links to Delta and beyond.

Cap’s Bike Rentals is now located right on the Central Valley Greenway at the original Cap’s Bicycle Shop at 434 Columbia and at their new location Cap’s Bike Rentals at River Market located right at the junction of the Central Valley Greenway and the BC Parkway. Cap’s is now working with Fraser River Bike Tours to provide rental bikes and tours for all of these great rides, especially if you want to ride them the first time with a guide. Cap’s Rentals can set you up with a great rental bike and helmet and a Fraser River Bike Tour’s guide can make what seems complicated in words or on a map the first time you ride it a cycling delight.

If you want to try riding any of these trails yourself, you can download all of these cycling maps and more at www.fraserriverbiketours.com. Cap’s and Fraser River Bike Tours is committed to getting you out on a bike exploring the amazing investments our local governments have made to make cycling safer and more fun for you and your family. Find out what you like first by renting and then when you are sold on cycling Cap’s can outfit your entire family with affordable and quality bikes. Use Fraser River Bike Tour’s guides to learn these great rides and relax as a qualified guide, with first aid and detailed information on the local flora and fauna show you not only the trails but all of the scenic sites, the history and wildlife along the way.

For cycling advice and maybe a little motivation check out www.cycle-therapy.ca.

Get out there in the fresh air and sunshine on a great bike on our amazing local cycling trails this summer. Just go for it.

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