Recreating Recess: Exploring campus on two wheels

Trois-Pistoles is a small Quebec town that borders the Saint Lawrence River and whose residents, for the most part, speak mostly French. It was named Trois-Pistoles after three coins were discovered in its river by Portuguese explorers, or at least that was the story someone told me when I was there a couple summers ago.

I was in Trois-Pistoles for a summer French program, which meant that my time there was mostly engaged in schoolwork. But the inviting summer weather and excitement of living in a new place were all I needed to go exploring whenever there was free time.

At the start of the program, everyone was given a bike in order to transport themselves to and from classes or to get around the town. After biking around Trois-Pistoles, however, I was in search of a bigger challenge.

Then one day, one of the teachers mentioned a lake not too far away from the town. When I asked how long it would take to bike there, he did not give a specific time but rather casually answered that the ride there should not take that long.

That lake was called Saint-Mathieu and, for the record, the bike ride there was quite long.

When biking to Lac Saint-Mathieu, you begin by climbing up a steep hill that takes you out of Trois-Pistoles. Once out of town, you ride through the countryside, past lots of open green space and animals grazing in the fields. After about an hour plus of biking, you finally reach Lac Saint-Mathieu.

The ride back also begins with climbing a hill and I remember on the day I rode back that there was quite a bit of wind, so the total time spent biking was upwards of two and a half hours.

Still, that ride remains one of my most memorable experiences. That’s why this week’s recess is to ride a bike and explore campus.

Riding a bike offers an experience that is distinctly unique. With the same energy exertion, you can go further with a bike than you can when you run­­ — and unlike when you are in a car or bus, you are actively moving as you push down on the pedals.

In retrospect, owning a bike in a town like Trois-Pistoles is what made the experience so memorable. Biking allows you to explore not just the town but also the surrounding geographical area, like the farmland and lakes, which adds perspective to the town itself so you can better understand its culture.

That is why biking can be a huge asset for those who want to become more familiar with UBC campus and its surrounding areas.

Now to ride a bike, you first need to own one. For some students this may be an issue, but there are rental bike options available for relatively low prices, as well as bike stores nearby if you are looking to buy one. If you do purchase a bike, I strongly suggest buying a bike lock as well.

Vancouver is notorious for stolen bikes and, if possible, try to keep the bike in your room when you are not riding it — especially if it is a new bike.

As for possible bike routes around campus, the best is a loop that starts at Walter Gage, passing the first-year residences and takes you into Wesbrook Village before it ends back at the Nest for a possible post-ride meal.

Depending on the weather and time of day, you may also be able to look out over at the Burrard Inlet when you pass the Museum of Anthropology on your route.

With that said, there are lots of routes worth biking that will allow you to become more familiar with campus.

If you are not on campus, then the challenge can be to either bike to work or, if that is not possible, bike to somewhere you’ve never been. This could be a nearby lake, forest or even just a neighborhood that’s eluded you.

You can plan a route if you wish, but, from my experience, sometimes the best rides are the ones where you don’t know where you are going and just bike until you want to go home.

Last but not least: safety is sexy so remember to wear a helmet and use bike lights when riding at night. U