Yellow Bike, White Snow, Callingwood to Downtown via the Edmonton River Valley — Let's Go

January 26, 2024
Yellow Bike, White Snow, Callingwood to Downtown via the Edmonton River Valley — Let's Go
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We call our posts Expert Advice from Pros, but let's be honest — even experts get things wrong at times and this ride does have some ups and downs. Mostly ups! But with some big fast and fun downs.

I am a long time road bike commuter with two decades on two wheels rolling over pavement. This fat bike is very new, a little daunting, and a little under prepared for my needs ... but I'm an ... expert. Right?

The Fat Bike Funday Route

We are at Callingwood Twin Arenas on an absolutely beautiful Sunday morning with temps around -11C at the start and warming as we roll. Snow falling and a fresh layer dumped over night, the ride begins late morning after spending time with Ringette For All — an adapted ringette program for children 5-18 living with developmental and/or physical disabilities.

They are desperately looking for athletes looking to experience an ice sport for perhaps the first time (pssst, pass it on — follow and share with yours).

Map of Edmonton with red line showing route through river valley from Collingwood to Downtown.

We get the only road section out of the way first, taking the long route on 69th Ave straight to the famous Wolf Willow Stairs. We will remain on mixed use path/trail the rest of the way. As one can clearly see, we don't need roads where we are going!

Being a demo from the store, and something I grabbed last minute before heading out on Friday, this Trek Farley 7 while pretty in yellow, is not kitted with clip-less pedals or panniers. So my regularly efficient push/pull style will only be able to push.

NBD he thinks to himself....
Narrator: It is in fact a big deal.

First incoming hot tip: Don't wear a 20lb backpack on a two plus hour bike ride.

SLR camera, lenses, gimbal, food and even just a small water bottle add up to a lot of weight on ones back. Learn from my mistake; front/rear rack with a pannier or two is the way my friends — something I normally take for granted.

Terwillegar Park Footbridge

One of Edmonton's newer bridges and quite stunning, we obviously have to pause to take some frames. The bridge is a main pathway for a number of uses in the area, and for us today, it is our connection to the south side of the river path system heading north east toward Hawrelak Park — currently under construction. Yup, Edmonton even has a park construction SZN.

The Farley 7 is fitted with Bontrager Gnarwhal 27.5"x4.5" fat bike tires without studs. Not ideal without studs, but certainly manageable with the options on our route — even with the large amount of snow having just fallen the last 24-48 hours.

Another incoming hot tip: If your ride starts with a large road section, begin at 20psi ... then let that air out for the snowy paths. Make it squishy for the soft stuff!

After biking 12+ KM out to Callingwood on fully inflated tires in the AM, it was on the footbridge I softened the ride and improved grip by letting some air out; trails were going to get softer ahead post pavement getting into the River Valley.

River Valley Ammenities

Use what is in place, and the Edmonton River Valley is loaded with bathroom and water facilities. Familiarizing yourself with facilities is a great way to improve the quality of your ride with a pit stop for washrooms or to fill up on water.

We really like to have the Discover YEG Map open, with washrooms and other options selected when planning routes. Makes for a nice visual aid. Knowing I have Keilor here at 1/3 of my way, and Emily Murphy Park 2/3 of my route, I am able to carry a small 1L flask that I refill.

I'm in marketing, of course I have to climb up and out of the River Valley for a photo at the end of the world with the other tourists. When in Rome as they say.

Heading back down into the River Valley we hit some wide hard packed stretches, drop into some single track that looks like it can handle the stud-less Narwhals, and only ended up having to hike a couple steep sections that are simply too soft and deep with my limited skills on this ride.

This roadie is learning that I ride with a lot of weight forward; as I find myself hanging off the back of this Trek Farley 7 like an outboard motor to keep weight to the rear, and traction on the ground. The lack of clip-less pedals was likely making this more effort than it should as well shifting my weight and force forward only.

The Walterdale Bridge

We are not on a bridge tour per sé, but we are definitely interacting with some bridges today. The Walterdale Bridge is a primary artery that many riders utilize for north south travel over the river, or cross under. It also has a bonus of quite pretty in photos.

The remainder of our ride is on mixed use path behind the power plant and over to the funicular which takes us back up and out of the river valley. Completing this not quite Gilligan's Island three hour tour.

Despite taking a bike that isn't kitted like my typical ride, and having to lug around a bunch of camera gear on my back, the Trek Farley 7 on these Gharwal tires — without studs even — really makes for an enjoyable day with effortless riding for most of it out in the falling snow.

Next time however, my Shimano SPDs are coming with me when I borrow a bike from work!

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