“The Worst Retirement Ever” … 😂

I’m spending too much time on YouTube, but it has its benefits 😂

Phil Gaimon was a professional cyclist. He retired in 2016 to find a real job (he wasn’t that good apparently), and developed a YouTube channel called The Worst Retirement Ever, where he travels the world trying to earn KOMs on the worlds toughest climbs. A formidable task, and the worst ever retirement.

Or is it?

I learned of Phil when he visited my hometown to attempt the Triple Crown. We have 3 local mountains, and each year there is a race up each of them in succession. Phil attempted to KOM each of them. I don’t know if he was successful or not. I haven’t found the video yet but it got me thinking.

I identify with Phil.

I’m retired, and all I really want to do is train, and cycle. I’m nowhere as fit, or fast, but then again, I’m also a lot older. By a long shot. And, I never raced professionally. No, I’m a recreational cyclist with an obsession. Instead of chasing KOMs around the world, I chase local PRs. It’s encouraging to see that even at my age, I can improve.

So maybe my blog needs to be renamed from PedalWORKS to The Worst Retirement. Certainly most people my age are not interested in pushing themselves physically the way I do. But I look at it differently.

What is more important than your health? My health?


Cycling gets me out the door, challenging myself, and engaged. What more could I ask for?

There is something.

Warm weather all year round. When we are done with COVID-19, I hope to spend the summer months at Camp PedalWORKS, and the winters in Arizona 😃

Chance encounters …


I am always surprised by the people I meet when I am on my bike. Perhaps it is because I am travelling slower, and see more. Maybe I am more relaxed, and open. Whatever the reason, I have met some of the most remarkable people while cycling.

When I travel in the car, there are few opportunities to stop, and it is usually to fill up, take a pee, or find food. On a bike there are innumerable opportunities to stop, listen, and talk. At street corners, in the local parks, and on the road while overtaking other cyclists.

My chance encounters with interesting people could fill a book. The young couple I met on a ferry in the Cyclades islands that had just travelled across Europe on bikes. The school principal I met in Quito that offered me a job to help pay for my trip. The distraught woman I met on a park bench in Stanley Park that I helped find a new job. The intriguing young woman I met in Douglas Park that was in transition. And, all the cyclists I met on long climbs that offered words of encouragement.

The most memorable encountered occurred 20 years ago. I was working in a small mill town in the interior of British Columbia. I had flown there with my bike, and used it to commute each day to and from the mill office. It was a short commute, 10 km at most. On sunny, warm days, I would cycle back into town for lunch at a popular cafe that boasted an outdoor patio with a scenic view of the mountains.

One day, as I sat outside with my customary black coffee and sandwich, an elderly Englishman rolled up on a vintage steel frame touring bike with fully loaded panniers, front and back. This man was heading somewhere. Curious, I asked him to join me.

After he got his tea and muffin, he sat across from me in the afternoon sun. We sat for an hour, maybe longer, as I listened in awe. I never asked his age but I would have guessed 75, maybe older. He had a small but athletic frame, and looked like a seasoned cyclist. Several months earlier, he had lost his wife of 50 years. It wasn’t unexpected but, nevertheless, devastating for him. They had been inseparable their whole lives. He had 2 grown children but, as he was quick to tell me, he didn’t want to burden them. No, he was a proud, stoic, and independent man looking for one last adventure.

He had always wanted to cycle across Canada. Since immigrating to Canada as a teenager, he never had the time, or the money for such a luxury, as he called it. After his wife’s passing, he wondered what he would do with himself, and his house. He wanted an adventure. He wanted to do something different, he said. He was healthy for his age, and had saved up a little money. It was time for a change, he thought.

He rented his house. He would decide what to do with it later. He tuned his bike, loaded his panniers, and headed off across the country. Alone.

If you have never visited Canada, you have to understand it is big. 6,100 km from coast-to-coast. And, it has a very substantial mountain range on the west coast. The Rockies. This is not an easy crossing for anyone, let alone a 75 year old on a fully loaded bike. When I met him, he was half way across the mountain ranges, and looked no worse for wear. On the contrary, he was having the time of his life. He wore a wide, permanent smile and laughed easily. I’m sure he had difficult days. But on this day, he was in a good mood, and anxious to share his adventure.

I never saw him again. I have no idea if he made it. This was before the internet, blogs, and cell phones. I regret not staying in touch, and have been curious ever since.

This gentle man has been an inspiration. Because of him, I realize you are never too old to chase a dream; that travel by bike is more enjoyable, and enlightening; and, when you have a chance encounter like this, always exchange contact information.

I have had numerous chance encounters like this. One day, I’m going to write them all down. Somewhere nestled amongst them is my epitaph.

In the gym …

I am in the gym more these days training on the spinning bike.

I like the spinning bike. In 45-60 minutes, I get a good workout. Together with my Suunto M5 heart rate monitor and the power meter on the Keiser M3 spinning bike, I can monitor the work rate and set realistic goals.

Cycling inside is different. Hotter! There is no wind to help cool you off. There is no traffic. No stops signs. No traffic lights. It is continuous pedalling. There is a flywheel which means no coasting. But the biggest difference for me is the integrated power meter.

Power is the rate at which energy is used over time and is measured in watts. Tour de France riders average 200-300 watts during a 4 hour stage. I have been averaging 225 watts over a 45-60 minute workout including a warmup and cool down. During a warmup I am pedalling at 90-100 rpm and expending approximately 150 watts. During climbs, I am pedalling at 70-80 rpm and expending 250-300 watts and, during sprints 400+ watts.

These are not great numbers compared to younger, more competitive cyclists but they provide a benchmark and give me something to work at and improve upon during the winter months.

I have worked out on the Keiser M3 Indoor Cycle for years. I prefer it over a trainer. For one, it reduces the wear and tear on my road bikes. And, I like going to the gym instead of spinning in the basement. There are others to talk to and learn from. A TV to watch if you want. And, other equipment to help vary the workout. But, most importantly, I can relax in the steam room afterward.

I train with a Suunto M5 heart rate monitor with an integrated coach. It tells me how frequently to workout, at what intensity and duration taking into consideration my age, weight, current fitness level and fitness goal.

Yesterday, the M5 recommended a 55 minute workout maintaining a heart rate between 110-125 bpm. For me, that was like a steady 5% gradient climb requiring an average 210 watts output. I could have worked harder but I am careful to follow the workouts recommended by the watch.

Today, my “coach on the wrist” recommended a “hard workout” – 35 minutes maintaining a heart rate between 130-144 bpm. It was like climbing one of the local mountains. Equivalent to a 12 km climb with a 5-7% grade. I completed the workout in 36 minutes, averaged 247 watts, burned 400 calories and maintained an average heart rate of 136 bpm. Again, I felt like I could have worked harder and gone longer.

These numbers are not precise. They are estimates at best. But they serve as a marker, a starting point for the next few months spent mostly inside on the spinning bike. The goal is to see improvement, particularly more power. I am following a 6-week training program prescribed by my “coach on the wrist” that is best completed on the spinning bike.

What is it with these M numbers? Doesn’t BMW market an M Series? Are Suunto and Keiser related in some way?

A 15 km climb …

The Triple Crown was raced yesterday, a local fund raising road race in support of cardiology patients at BC Children’s Hospital.  This 75 km ride includes a climb up each of the 3 local mountains – Mount Seymour, Grouse and Cypress Mountains.

My son and his partner have completed the ride each of the past 3 years.  In fact, my son is competitive in the race finishing 3rd the first year and, yesterday he was gunning to win it outright.

Last year, I climbed Cypress Mountain, the last of the three, ahead of them so that I could watch the finish of this gruelling event.  I decided to do the same this year.  It was my son’s birthday and, I wanted to be there to celebrate the win with him.

Cypress Mountain is a 15 km climb with an average grade of 5.7% but the climbing is steeper than that.  The first and last 3 km are relatively flat.  Perhaps a 2-3% grade and, the switchbacks level out as well.  So, if you take this into account, the average grade of the rest of the climb is somewhat higher.

The climb is a mental test.  I rode alone this year.  That makes it harder.  There was no one to spur me on or pace myself with.  When the going got tough, I had to dig deep just to keep turning the pedals over.

The climb took me just over an hour and I averaged 12 km/h.  There were portions where I reached 15-20 km/h and others where it was a struggle to maintain 9 km/h.  I know that when I slow below 10 km/h it is steep.  There were several sections like that and the last, of course, was at the 12 km mark, the worst possible time, right at the end of the climb.

I rode the steel-frame Roberts.  It is much heavier then the carbon-frame Garneau but I wanted to see if the compact crankset made a different on a long climb like that.  It did.  I had a few lower gears and was able to maintain a higher cadence much of the time.  Next time, I will swap wheels and put the Dura-Ace carbon wheels on the Roberts.  That will reduce the weight considerably.

“How did my son do?”, you ask.  Well, he was with the lead group of three following the first 2 climbs and then got a flat.  He lost considerable time replacing the rear tube and had to settle for a very respectable 4 hour finish.  There are no support vehicles on this ride.

I don’t climb this mountain enough.  It is a favourite with many of the local cyclists.  Now that I have done it several times, I am going to climb it more regularly in the hope of doing the entire ride next year.  It is a good cause and worthy of my Cycling Bucket List.

I climbed Mount Seymour

Uphill_by_E19Vancouver is fortunate to have 2 local mountains popular with road cyclists – Cypress Mountain and Mount Seymour.  Each has a 10+ km paved road to the top servicing popular ski and hiking facilities.  And, both are long, challenging climbs.

Several weeks ago I climbed Cypress Mountain and was very pleased to have completed it in approximately an hour.  Not fast.  I understand some climb it in 30 minutes or less.  And, last weekend I cycled up Mount Seymour in the same time.  Again, not fast but respectable for a “seasoned”, recreational cyclist.

Mount Seymour is the more difficult climb.  Had I known how difficult, I may not have attempted it.  It is marginally shorter (13.1 km) than the Cypress (15 km) climb but steeper with an average grade of 6.9% – half the climb between 7-10% and the other half 4-7% – and an elevation gain of over 900 meters.  According to Strava, this is an HC or “hors catégorie” climb.


Hors Catégorie

“A climb harder than Category 1 is designated as hors catégorie. Hors catégorie translates as “beyond categorisation”, and signifies an extremely tough climb.”  


Not bad for a “seasoned” cyclist.  Seasoned is a euphemism for older.  I don’t like thinking of myself as old but I can’t deny it.  I ride as much or more than in my 20’s.  I climb more hills faster and with less effort.  I may be old but I am not done and still capable of improvement.  In any event, I was proud of myself.

I wear a Suunto heart rate monitor and refer to the wristwatch as my “workout wife” telling when and how hard to train.  She is a motivator providing encouragement every pedal stroke.  I completed the Seymour climb in the saddle only getting out of it to rest the muscles.  I climbed most of the mountain with a heart rate in the range of 130-150 bpm.  When it exceeded 160 bpm I was definitely working harder but at no time considered stopping for a rest or turning back.

Climbing separates cyclists.  Everyone can cycle the flats no matter the age or conditioning.  Some will be faster but everyone can do it.  Climbing is different.  Not everyone has the power for steep inclines or the stamina for long climbs.  But hill climbing makes better cyclists of us all.  I look for hills to climb.  I live atop a mountain and do a 3 km climb most days.  Other days, I will do repeat climbs of the UBC Hill – NW Marine Drive from Spanish Banks to UBC to build strength and stamina.  The more I do, the more I want to do.

I had never climbed either Cypress or Seymour before this summer.  I always thought they were beyond my ability.  But a new carbon road bike and a supportive son changed that.  I can’t keep up with the 30 year olds but when I make it to the top, I am certain I feel just as exhilarated and satisfied.

Find a hill to climb.

I climbed Cypress Mountain

obsession-bikes-StackedSm-clrSome say I am obsessed.

Since getting a nicely equipped carbon road bike, I bike more than I ever have.  I continually challenge myself to longer, harder rides.  First, it was the Pacific Populaire, a 100 km ride in April.  Next, it was the West Maui Loop, another 100 km in May.  And, then The Canada Day Populaire (146 km) in early July.  Late in July, I cycled to Squamish, a 90 km ride taking the route we chose challenging ourselves to frequent climbs along Marine Drive and on the sea-to-sky highway.  And, last weekend, I climbed Cypress Mountain, a 15 km climb with an average grade of 5.5% – a favourite climb for local riders but one I have never completed previously despite living (and riding) here for 30 years.

I am particularly proud of this climb.  I wasn’t certain I could complete it.  Despite cycling to Squamish, a ride that includes two 3 km climbs that, in parts, are steeper, I wasn’t certain I could last for 15 km.  I surprised myself.  Despite working up a heavy sweat, the climb was easier than I expected.  I maintained a steady pace (12-15 km per hour) in my lowest gear – an hour of steady climbing from the highway to the restaurant at the top.  I wasn’t certain what to expect but, having completed the climb, I think I may be able to do it faster next time.

Between long, challenging rides, I train regularly – multiple laps around the Stanley Park Road at least twice a week;  repeat climbs up the UBC hill from Spanish Banks; and, 70 km rides out to Stevenson, around Richmond and back.

Despite my age, I am having some success.  The more I ride, the more I want to ride.  I am stronger and faster than ever.  I may not be able to keep up with the 30 year olds but keep up with the more “seasoned” bikers.  No.  Cyclists.  Road cyclists.  There is a distinction.  Bikers commute to work, shop and visit on their bikes.  Road cyclists ride to train; to climb faster and higher; to ride longer and faster.

Today, I came across the following slide deck, WHAT I CARRY.  It captures what cycling means to me and why, not matter how fast or far I ride, I consider my cycling efforts a success.

  1. I am humbled every time I clip into the pedals.  I am continually amazed how easily some climb and descend the local hills.  And, how beautiful this city is.
  2. I am filled with a sense of wonder every time I discover a new road, a new hill to climb and a new rolling, winding country road to explore.
  3. After every ride, I am filled with optimism, pleased with my efforts and looking forward to the next ride.
  4. I help others to ride and maintain their bikes.   I tell them it is good for their health, good the the environment and just plain fun.
  5. Every ride ends with a cup of coffee.  I search out new cafes en route and regularly end my ride at Bean Around The World on Main Street.
  6. When I am on the bike, I look inward.  I become introverted focusing on my inner dialogue and the bigger picture.
  7. I am agile on the bike narrowly missing pot holes and carefully choosing my line as I strive to descend faster.
  8. I am filled with energy at the end of a ride wanting to do more.
  9. Every time I straddle the saddle, I begin to whistle, a habit that annoys many.  I can’t help it.  It is fun.
  10. And, when I am rolling on two wheels, I work on my story, my unique experience in this place, searching for relevance and validation.