My Regina Saskatchewan Experience

Dec 31, 2014 at 20:28
by Garrett Thibault  
The following is a story about my experience living in Regina Saskatchewan. It contains no mention of epic alpine adventure or all day loamy single-track adventures. It focuses on my experience with the small but active cycling community in Regina and the surrounding area. All pictures are taken by different members of the community so the quality will vary. I have broken up the article into sections so that the mountain biking diehards among you can easily skip over the other types cycling adventures. You will need to scroll past a number of pictures though.

This article will include pictures of all types of riding Cyclocross being one of them. The picture above is from the Saskatchewan Cyclocross Provincial Race which was not without groms. Photo Sam Hill.
This article will include pictures of all types of riding, Cyclocross being one of them. The picture above is from the Saskatchewan Cyclocross Provincial Race, which was not without groms. Photo: Sam Hill.

How I ended up in Regina:

In July 2014, I accepted a 4 month work term that had me living in Regina, Saskatchewan from September to December. Before this, I’d spent the entire 20 years of my life living on the west coast and nearly all of that time riding bicycles. I was a little nervous to head to the prairies, so I spent my last couple months in BC asking everyone if they knew of a riding scene in Regina. They didn’t.
All hope was not lost though. A couple weeks before driving to Saskatchewan I sent an e-mail to a local shop called Western Cycle who replied right away telling me that I was just in time for the Cyclocross Season with the Regina Cycle Club. I loaded my Brodie Romax cross bike into the back of my Volkswagon Golf, drove through the Rocky Mountains, and then left the snowy peaks far far behind.

The Regina Cycle Club:

I arrived in Regina on a Thursday, joined the Regina Cycling Club (RCC) Friday, and went on a group gravel ride Sunday. The ride was called the Dirty Dozen. We rode a baker’s dozen of hills in Lumsden Valley, 30km North West of Regina. We road about 70km and did nearly 1000 vertical meters of climbing. Saskatchewan is pretty flat, but the locals know how to get their elevation. Ride one with the RCC marked the longest ride I had ever done. It also marked the first time I rode through a parade.
The following few weeks were the end of the gravel race season and the start of cyclocross. I did every race I could. My first ever cyclocross race was wet. My fenders clogged with so much mud that my wheels nearly stopped turning. The grip my low-tread tires had on the fender’s mud was impressive because it didn’t seem like they had traction on the muddy course. I was lapped and possibly double lapped by the more experienced riders, but I was eager to come back and try to figure this cyclocross thing out.

Not my first race but one of my earlier ones. There were over two dozen riders out in the nice weather and a couple of people taking photos. Photo Sam Hill.
Not my first race, but one of my earlier ones. There were over two dozen riders out in the nice weather and a couple of people taking photos. Photo Sam Hill.

A two day gravel race on the weekend was the total opposite in terms of weather. It was hot. I learned the hard way that drafting is very important and baggies give me the appearance and aerodynamics of a flying squirrel. Still, I had a lot of fun riding with the friendly group that made up the RCC. My overall 6th place finish gave me first pick of the prize table and I went home with a new set of aggressive looking cyclocross tires.

Breaking away for the sole purpose of being in front of everyone when this photo was taken. I had very little strategy and learned a lot the hard way in this two day race. Photo Pedro Elgueta.
Breaking away for the sole purpose of being in front of everyone when this photo was taken. I had very little strategy and learned a lot the hard way in this two day race. Photo Pedro Elgueta.

Now equipped with proper tread, and having borrowed tools from a neighbour working on his car in the parking lot to remove my fenders, I was ready for the rest of the cyclocross season. Race two went far better with real tread. I didn’t get lapped and was an actual competitor in a middle pack.

I spent nearly as much time on borrowed bikes as I did on my own bikes. I blew up my rear hub mountain biking on my cross bike. A fellow I hadn t even met lent me this Trek for nearly a month. I made sure not to mountain bike on it. Photo Randy Lewis http www.lewisimages.ca
I spent nearly as much time on borrowed bikes as I did on my own bikes. I blew up my rear hub mountain biking on my cross bike. A fellow I hadn’t even met lent me this Trek for nearly a month. I made sure not to mountain bike on it. Photo Randy Lewis.

From afar, cyclocross looked a little silly to me: a bunch of grown men lapping around little orange flags in a public park while wearing colorful spandex and shouting at one another for incorrectly riding around the little orange flags. After my second race, I didn’t see this anymore though. It was a fun way to bring a bunch of like-minded people together to do something really enjoyable. It didn’t matter what anyone’s skill level was or what bike they chose to ride, they were welcomed.

Recap video of the Regina Cycle Club’s 2014 cyclocross season. Video: Bradley Kerr.

Cyclocross was something I got noticeably better at even after the initial increase in ability the new tires had given me. There was a race towards the end of the season that I managed to grab third in a sprint to the finish; beating a couple of guys I wasn’t even close to several weeks before.

After a slip out by the rider pictured behind me I was able to hold third for a large portion of this race. I wiped out in the last lap and only barely came out on top in a sprint to the finish. It was a huge improvement over mid pack only a few weeks before. Photo Jason Christason.
After a slip out by the rider pictured behind me, I was able to hold third for a large portion of this race. I wiped out in the last lap and only barely came out on top in a sprint to the finish. It was a huge improvement over mid pack only a few weeks before. Photo Jason Christason.

When city finals and provincials came around, I was feeling pretty good about my riding. City finals were on the Saturday and I registered for the CAT 5 race in accordance with my licence (note: with a Saskatchewan in-province race licence you can pick your category, something I should have looked into before assuming BC’s requirements). I left it all out on the track. Starting a minute behind CAT 3 and 4, I had caught a number of higher category riders by the end of my four laps. I close behind a friend at my finish, so I rode the additional three laps that the higher categories rode just for fun. Sandbagging at its finest.

CAT 5 started a minute behind everyone else. I took it as a challenge and really enjoyed picking riders off. I did the opposite the next day moving up a category and getting a good start in. It becomes an entirely different race when you spend it trying to maintain a lead rather than constantly pass. Photo Sam Hill.
CAT 5 started a minute behind everyone else. I took it as a challenge and really enjoyed picking riders off. I did the opposite the next day, moving up a category and getting a good start in. It becomes an entirely different race when you spend it trying to maintain a lead rather than constantly pass. Photo Sam Hill.

I was one of three riders who asked to be bumped up CAT 4 for the next day’s race. A really good start had me fighting for first with a fellow from Saskatoon until he slid out a couple of laps in. I rode with a pack of CAT 3 strangers from Saskatoon for most of the race and lost my lead at the start of the last lap to a fellow RCC member who had a whole lot more steam left than me. I hadn’t raced in 10 years, but I had a hard time remembering why. My competitors became my friends and the experience only motivated me to train a little harder in the future to come out swinging in CAT 3.

Aero is everything. I never learned. Photo Sam Hill.
Aero is everything. I never learned. Photo Sam Hill.

The last weekend of cyclocross in Regina was extremely fun, and one that I wish I had followed up with Nationals in Winnipeg the following weekend. A school assignment kept me home, but fortunately cyclocross wasn’t the only thing to do around Regina. Gravel grinders were big, I went on a road ride, and there’s also mountain biking (I’m getting to that).

One of the main guys behind the RCC s whole cyclocross season was Brad Kerr who finished second in Master s 30 at Nationals in Winnipeg Manitoba. Photo Pedro Elgueta.
One of the main guys behind the RCC’s whole cyclocross season was Brad Kerr, who finished second in Master’s 30+ at Nationals in Winnipeg Manitoba. Photo Pedro Elgueta.

The first Dirty Dozen ride didn’t stay as my longest ride for more than a few weeks. I trumped it with a ride out my back door through the farmlands south of Regina for 90km to and from the city of Rouleau. The more familiar name is Dog River. Rouleau is the town where the set of the Corner Gas TV show still stands. Seeing the set at the edge of town, the large grain elevator with Dog River painted on the side, and a number of familiar storefronts in the middle of town were the main reason I went. However, quiet dirt and gravel roads to spin on for a few hours made it an all-around enjoyable experience.

It was missing iconic signs but the set of corner gas was still a pretty cool thing to have all to myself. Photo Garrett Thibault.
It was missing iconic signs, but the set of corner gas was still a pretty cool thing to have all to myself. Photo Garrett Thibault.

I outdid the Rouleau ride with 96km gravel ride with five other RCC members starting an hour’s drive south of Regina. There was one long section descending through a beautiful valley that I will fondly remember for a long time. There was also a 30 minute climb not long after that was into a steady 50km head wind that is less fond of a memory and one I’ll probably remember for longer. Watching a friend’s bike get blown out from underneath him while riding perpendicular the wind on some loose gravel is another mini trauma I also won’t soon forget.

There are some beautiful areas in Saskatchewan. They did require a bit of traveling outside of Regina to get to though. Photo Dave Van Zeyl.
There are some beautiful areas in Saskatchewan. They did require a bit of traveling outside of Regina to get to though. Photo Dave Van Zeyl.

A 117km gravel/road ride through the Big Muddy Badlands (2 hour drive south of Regina) was what I left with as my longest ride. It featured a landscape I never thought I’d see in real life and was the first time I really experienced bonking. The main landmark in the area was a 70 meter high mountain of clay/sandstone called Castle Butte (I climbed to the top of as soon as the ride ended). A sun bleached road running through a small valley that looked like it had come right out of a Need for Speed video game was the next thing I wrote home about. Lastly, there was a long loose gravel descent to finish the ride with decently sized clay/sandstone hills in every direction. The descent ended in a ranch with a hundred bulls running beside and across the road. As for the bonking, after 90 km I was out of food and water and was not feeling too hot. Fortunately, 100km marked a little town called Big Beaver where we ate expired ice cream sandwiches from a freezer outside the closed convenience store and refilled our bottles at the community building. I’ll bring a backpack if I ever try to beat this distance unassisted.

Just don t wear red make eye contact or call them cows. Photo Dave Van Zeyl.
Just don’t wear red, make eye contact, or call them cows. Photo Dave Van Zeyl.

These rides weren’t really RCC events, just posted onto the RCC page by members. Before the snow fell, members usually posted at least one casual ride per week on the RCC Facebook page that was open to everyone. They were always a good time and were sometimes followed by food and drinks too.

I think food and the food and drink following this particular ride was at a small town s gas station. It s about the journey not the destination. Photo Randy Lewis http www.lewisimages.ca .
I think food and the food and drink following this particular ride was at a small town’s gas station. It’s about the journey, not the destination. Photo Randy Lewis.

An actual RCC event that wasn’t cyclocross or gravel racing that went on while I was in Regina was called the Alley Cat Race: a scavenger hunt around downtown Regina. It was a real challenge for this out-of-towner. I basically just followed the locals who weren’t hard to spot with both bikes and body covered in reflectors, glowsticks, Christmas lights, and brightly colored spandex. The race was followed up with a costume ride through a local pub, free pizza, and a bunch of prizes.

The RCC also puts on a Tuesday night road racing series (plus the occasional time trial) through the summer, but I missed out on the season.

It s not all cross gravel and hooning with the RCC. Road gets attention through the summer months. Photo Dave Van Zeyl.
It’s not all cross, gravel, and hooning with the RCC. Road gets attention through the summer months. Photo Dave Van Zeyl.

The Regina Cycle Club was very welcoming to this temporary resident. I made friends, borrowed both a bike and tools, and won a bunch of swag from the supportive local bike shops Western Cycle and Dutch Cycle. The group is not huge, but it is very welcoming to new members and makes an effort to accommodate all skill levels.

Everything is a serious as you want it to be. Even if you take it seriously RCC club president Pedro Elgueta will probably still beat you. Photo Dave Van Zeyl.
Everything is a serious as you want it to be. Even if you take it seriously, RCC club president Pedro Elgueta will probably still beat you. Photo Dave Van Zeyl.

Mountain Biking:

The RCC is not the only club in town. They were the only club that was still doing a regular race season by the time I arrived though. There are weekly mountain bike races in a city park through the summer, and triathlons with mountain bike sections if that’s your thing.

Welcome to the prairies where there is actually some great mountain biking around some of the valleys Photo Jocelyn Mariel Froehlich.
Welcome to the prairies, where there is actually some great mountain biking around some of the valleys! Photo Jocelyn Mariel Froehlich.

There’s also a general mountain bike community and mountain bike trails just outside of Regina! From what I found, there are 3 mountain bike spots to choose from: Buffalo Pound, Wacana Trails, and Turnbull Trails.

Many of the trails around Regina are smooth ribbons of trial. It might not be the best place to become the next Steve Smith but it is a great place to make friends and have fun. Photo Jocelyn Mariel Froehlich.
Many of the trails around Regina are smooth ribbons of trial. It might not be the best place to become the next Steve Smith, but it is a great place to make friends and have fun. Photo Jocelyn Mariel Froehlich.

All three trail centers offer the total opposite of what I’m used to with the big three in Vancouver. On the Shore, there’s the constant complaint of “dumbing down” as volunteers work to cover roots and navigate steeps to have smooth trails usable by all skill levels. In Saskatchewan, trail builders need to work hard to find roots, rocks, or steeps to challenge the riders.

Not a whole lot to dumb down. You really need to get crafty to use as big of a bike that Matt Froehlich insists on shredding. Photo Jocelyn Mariel Froehlich.
Not a whole lot to dumb down. You really need to get crafty to use as big of a bike that Matt Froehlich insists on shredding. Photo Jocelyn Mariel Froehlich.

Saskatchewan is known for being very flat. As a result, all the trail centers here utilize a part of a valley for elevation. Both the downs and the ups are pretty short, and sometimes got uncomfortably steep. It made for challenging little bursts of speed both up and down. Twists and turns mean you need to keep your head up while you put your power down too. Smooth ribbons of trail flow all around. It’s great for group rides because your trail choice is never really limited by technical ability. Speed or distances do get limited, but that’s easy to get around this with a fox hunt and second helpings.

Flat doesn t sound very stimulating but I rode this trail a dozen times and always appreciated the view. Blasting through the three massive rollers ahead never lost its touch either. Photo Jocelyn Mariel Froehlich.
Flat doesn’t sound very stimulating, but I rode this trail a dozen times and always appreciated the view. Blasting through the three massive rollers ahead never lost its touch either. Photo Jocelyn Mariel Froehlich.

Buffalo Pound Provincial Park is home to a very well established trail network. Some of the last weekends before the snow, the parking lot would have 10-15 cars in it. It was really easy to see people riding around the trails, and even having barbeques in the parking lot. All skill levels were out, but no one seems to get in anyone’s way due to the layout and relaxed nature of the riders. I thoroughly enjoyed the trails here, and would still choose to ride them if they were part of a trail center in BC. When ridden fast, the tight twisty single track was a real adrenaline inducer. It was a different feeling than what I’ve felt back home because descents were shorter, smoother, and narrower. I was pedaling all-out a majority of the time both up and down. Nearly every trail at Buffalo Pound has a Strava segment which encouraged full speed even further. I know there’s a lot of hate in BC towards Strava, but in the prairies there doesn’t seem to be any hate for anything but motorized vehicles on the bike trails (there was motorized vehicle incident in the four months I was here). Buffalo Pound is also home to the one true jump trail around Regina, complete with berms, a rooty shoot, and ride arounds. All of the trails here are fairly well maintained and are a blast to ride.

Buffalo Pound should become even more of a destination in the next few years with government and local investment is going into expanding and improving the trail network. The local bike shop Boh’s Cycle and the group that generally organizes trail maintenance The Moose Jaw Pavers are also getting a bike wash station put into the parking area. Buffalo Pound is about an hour drive west from Regina. The town of Moose Jaw is much closer to Buffalo Pound with roughly 30 minutes of driving separating them.


Trailforks.com

It should also be noted that there s an annual downhill race at Buffalo Pound in September that had sounded like a really good time but I missed it due to only having a cross bike with a blown free-hub at the time. Photo Jocelyn Mariel Froehlich.
It should also be noted that there’s an annual downhill race at Buffalo Pound in September that had sounded like a really good time, but I missed it due to only having a cross bike with a blown free-hub at the time. Photo Jocelyn Mariel Froehlich.

The closest trails to Regina are Wascana Trails. The trails are about 20-30 minutes north west of the city. The trails see heavy foot traffic and can become crowded on the weekend, but it was great for both night rides and snow rides. The trails are a little flatter here as a lot of them lie inside the valley instead of on the hillside. It’s still flowy and fun, there are just fewer descents to get the blood flowing than the other two trail centers. Overall Wascana’s certainly worth getting out to, but I was willing to put in the extra drive time when I thought Wascana would be busy. One of my best rides at Wascana was a last second solo ride right after work in the snow. I hadn’t ridden for a week after not riding for a week and it felt so good to sneak out. The flatter trails allowed me to actually go pedal around and do a decent ride in the slippery snow.

When I showed up at Wascana Trails I asked the first guy I saw about the jump . He took me here and took a picture.
When I showed up at Wascana Trails I asked the first guy I saw about “the jump”. He took me here and took a picture.

Turnbull trails is the furthest from Regina, but offered the most technically challenging riding. The trails are on private property over an hour from the city, but it wasn’t too hard to figure out how to get my wheels down on the goodies. The trails are narrow, occasionally off camber, and felt kind of like home. There was basically one way to go through the 13km loop of, and if you were feeling good you could do two laps.

Turnbull trails didn t look like home but it felt the most like it. One needed to be extra careful around all of the eye level branches too. Photo Garret Woynarski.
Turnbull trails didn’t look like home, but it felt the most like it. One needed to be extra careful around all of the eye level branches too. Photo Garret Woynarski.

Because the trails are so smooth here, you can pretty much ride whatever bike you want. I rode a clapped out freeride hardtail, my cross bike, and a few fatbikes. I rode with guys on full carbon XC hardtails, big enduro bikes, 29+ bikes, and everything in between. If you’re driving through Saskatchewan and have any kind bike with you, it will be well worth your time to stop and check the trails out.

Any bike will do out here. Come enjoy the smooth flowing trails Photo Matt Froehlich.
Any bike will do out here. Come enjoy the smooth flowing trails! Photo Matt Froehlich.

Fat Biking:

The second weekend of November brought snow (and really cold weather). The trails around Regina were all covered in about an inch of snow that only accumulated. I went out on my mountain bike a couple of times and was still able to ride, but did need to walk steeper ascents and found myself involuntarily drifting most corners. I still enjoyed myself and planned to continue until I stopped being able to move.

It gets cold and snowy around Regina in the winter. If I lived here permanently I d own a fatbike and probably a pair of cross country skis. Photo Sam Hill.
It gets cold and snowy around Regina in the winter. If I lived there permanently I’d own a fatbike and probably a pair of cross country skis. Photo Sam Hill.

Fortunately, I never ended up needing to slog my Steely around in the snow. The cycling community is very hospitable around these parts and I had made fatbiker friends. They were happy to have someone around who wanted to ride. I ended up borrowing a large Salsa Mukluk setup tubeless with 5” tires and a 1x10 drivetrain (complete with a N/W front ring and OneUp dinner plate in the back). In other words, it was in my size and I wouldn’t have changed a thing about the set-up. I was thoroughly impressed by the amount of grip I had. I attacked the trails much harder than I expected in all directions: out of the saddle uphill sprints, fast leaned over corners, and adrenaline inducing descents. The borrowed fatbike was super fun, and got in 50km of riding the two days I had it.

The first fatbike I borrowed in Regina out at Wascana trails after a melt refreeze. I was thoroughly impressed by the amount of fun I had in a variety of conditions so long as I didn t need to get through anything too deep and heavy. Photo and bike Jeremy Erdmann.
The first fatbike I borrowed in Regina out at Wascana trails after a melt/refreeze. I was thoroughly impressed by the amount of fun I had in a variety of conditions, so long as I didn’t need to get through anything too deep and heavy. Photo (and bike) Jeremy Erdmann.

The next fatbike I borrowed was a 15” Salsa Mukluk with 4” tubed tires and a 2x9 drivetrain. It was less of an ideal test bike, but it was lent to me for longer. I was very comfortable on the fatbike that fit me more like an obese BMX and continued to really rip on the trails. I even earned myself a couple of KOMs on Strava aboard the borrowed fatbike which came as a great surprise to me.

Of course, this isn’t what fatbiking is all about. It’s more about getting out and just enjoying the exercise. I did this too and still found it enjoyable, but I was impressed by the fact that I was able to giv’r if I wanted to.

Dogs and fatbikes go well together. Distances and speeds are kept lower with the wide wheel bikes and reduce the chances of running a pooch to its limits. Photo Kris Abrahamson.
Dogs and fatbikes go well together. Distances and speeds are kept lower with the wide wheel bikes, and reduce the chances of running a pooch to its limits. Photo Kris Abrahamson.

The third fatbike I borrowed was one of the originals: a Surley Pugsley with low-profile tires. The bars were quite narrow and curved back somewhat like a cruiser bike. More slippery snow conditions and a cruiser style fatbike meant I had no choice but to chill out and just enjoy the exercise. I went for a couple of long distance rides on frozen lakes/rivers and was still able to have fun, but I missed the more mountain bike style of the newer fatbikes.

A lot of the time mountain bike geometry wasn t essential. One can get along just fine out here with whatever. That being said I d buy something a newer if I were in the market. Photo Jeremy Erdmann.
A lot of the time, mountain bike geometry wasn’t essential. One can get along just fine out here with whatever. That being said, I’d buy something a newer if I were in the market. Photo Jeremy Erdmann.

Fatbikes can’t ride on anything. I had an amazing night ride on a fatbike on 4” of fresh powder, but certainly started to see the limitations as the buildup continued. One ride on the frozen lake through about 6” of fresh snow was ridden like a road ride, where each member of the group took turns pulling and putting a fat track through the powder. As the snow continues to fall, the fatbikes become limited to trails that have been packed out by snowmobiles and snowshoes. It never got too deep while I was in town and I was able to ride wherever through the city and along the lake, but it was certainly a little nicer to ride the dedicated fatbike trail that had been packed out.

Packing out the fatbike trails. It s never too early to start. Photo Alan Sales.
Packing out the fatbike trails. It’s never too early to start. Photo Alan Sales.

My last ride in Saskatchewan was with four other guys on fatbikes around the Moose Jaw Valley in the dark. There was a mix of flowy single track, icy climbs, frozen river riding, hiking around open water, and a bit of urban adventure. We all finished the ride with big smiles. In my four months in Regina I never stopped being impressed by the inclusion of the entire cycling community across all disciplines, and that all rides ended with big grins regardless of disciplines and skill levels. It was refreshing to really see that the most valuable thing a rider can possess is an eagerness to ride.

Fatbikes aren t kept away for just snowfall. There s a sand dune area a few hour s drive outside Regina that the guys will occasionally get out to. Unfortunately I missed the trip that happened while I was in town. Photo Kris Abrahamson.
Fatbikes aren’t kept away for just snowfall. There’s a sand dune area a few hour’s drive outside Regina that the guys will occasionally get out to. Unfortunately, I missed the trip that happened while I was in town. Photo Kris Abrahamson.

Moral of the Story:

If you find yourself in Regina, bring a bike and join the cycling community. If you’re there in the winter, get yourself a fatbike and some very warm clothes. Most importantly, make it well known you want to ride your bike. The extremely friendly prairie folk will take care of everything else.

First time I d met most of these guys and they served me chicken wings that they BBQ d right after the ride. They weren t the only hospitable ones either. I d been loaned tools bikes and given free rides to the trail head by many members of the community. Great people go a long way to making Regina a wonderful place to ride a bike. Photo Jocelyn Mariel Froehlich.
First time I’d met most of these guys and they served me chicken wings that they BBQ’d right after the ride. They weren’t the only hospitable ones either. I’d been loaned tools, bikes, and given free rides to the trail head by many members of the community. Great people go a long way to making Regina a wonderful place to ride a bike. Photo Jocelyn Mariel Froehlich.


6 Comments

  • + 2
 Thanks for spending the time to write up an article on the Saskatchewan cycling community. The Saskatchewan hospitality is legendary,the cliche is true, they will give you the shirt off their back if you need it.
  • + 1
 Oh man. I remember riding "urban" at nights in Regina in 2002(?) Good times. There was a shop that also sharpened sawblades, still around?
  • + 1
 I'm not sure about the shop, I didn't have any saw blades that needed sharpening.
  • + 1
 awesome write up garrett!
  • + 1
 Nice article and it was great riding with you bro! Keep in touch.
  • + 1
 Great write up, hope to see you again sometime out here.

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