Four Feminist Philosophers and the Welland Canal (Group post)

Sam, Christine, and Catherine.
Sam, Christine, and Catherine.

We’re at the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences 2014 this week, held this year at Brock University in St. Catharines. We’re each involved in a bunch of different sessions–Sam gave a keynote on feminism and fitness to the Canadian Society of Practical Ethics and also organized and presented in a panel on the ethics of obesity.  I co-organized a panel for the Canadian Philosophical Association’s Equity Committee.  And Sam and co-organized and are both presenting at a panel on blogging.

But it’s not all work. St. Catharines is in a beautiful part of Ontario, near Niagara Falls, the Welland Canal, and the Niagara Escarpment. It’s a great place for cycling.  And so this morning at 7:15 a.m. we headed out with guest bloggers Christine and Catherine for an easy ride along the Welland Canal. Here are four perspectives on our outing.


This morning I met Catherine, Samantha and Tracy at the Schmon Tower of Brock University and we headed toward the canal in Thorold for a ride. I was intimidated by their very professional gear, clothing and clipping shoes. I already knew that they were more serious riders than I with my hybrid commuter/riding cycle. Thank goodness I was wearing running shoes because of the chill rather than my summer usual sports sandals!

Anyhow, the pressure was on for me not to linger behind. After all, I was to lead the way. It an odd experience for me. I am not used to think about other riders and leading a pack. It made me more mindful of a number of things. It was quite enjoyable to try to adjust my pace with others and to have a chat on the way. The weather was so beautiful, I wish I was still out there riding right now!


As usual I was approaching the group ride with my usual trepidation and insecurity, full of managerial disclaimers ready to launch at a moment’s notice. To my great pleasure I didn’t need any of them– the four of us just rode in natural pairs (all combos were used), enjoying the scenery, chatting, and in my case getting to know everyone better.

Lesson learned: trust. Trust myself, as I in fact know how to and enjoy riding immensely. Trust others, as we were all committed to a lovely and fun ride together. Trust the bike– it continually amazes and pleases with with what it can do if I just give it the gas and get out of its way.

One thing I shouldn’t trust, though: my judgments on directions. I confidently directed us past our designated turn back to town, and down a scenic but steep and winding long downhill, followed by a STEEEEP 12% grade uphill. At the end of which we had to turn back around, sail down the steep hill and go back up the windy and long uphill. Such is the way of group rides. However, it was very good fun, and I’m looking forward to more tomorrow.


This morning was my second ride of the season, my fourth ever on the road bike.  I’m always a bit nervous before these rides–I’m new at it, so not all that confident about my skills yet.  I’m also painfully aware that I’m slow (when I rode with Sam last week, she spent the whole time either coasting or waiting).  But this time I was also excited to get out with a group of feminist philosophers.  What a treat!

Christine warned us that she was a slow rider, but she blasted out in front with Sam as soon as we hit the road. I held up the rear for most of the ride. It was a stunning morning — sunny, with just the right amount of cool in the air.  We encountered little traffic on the way to the canal. We rode right past Christine’s house and then picked up the bike/pedestrian path along the canal.  We took it easy, chatting and soaking in what felt like the first truly perfect day for cycling of the season.  The canal route is easy, relaxing cycling. We went about 20km to Welland. Stopped for a quick coffee (well, I had a tea), and then headed back, stopping along the way for a photo op.

It was on the way back, when we left Christine’s house, that things started to go awry.  By this time, I was feeling quite comfortable with my clipping and unclipping.  Heck, I even thought back to the time when I hadn’t yet figured it out.  No need to fall over anymore, I thought. I’ve got this clipless pedal thing all figured out.

Well, no need to get cocky.  Sam and Catherine were stopped ahead at a light. I did my usual thing of unclipping well ahead of the actual need (this is my practice at the moment). And don’t ask me what happened but as I pulled up behind them I felt myself toppling over toward the side that was still clipped in.  There is really nothing that can be done at that stage other than to fall over.  Bam.  I hit the ground and my chain ring hacked up the back of my leg (looks worse than it is, I’m sure).  Biggest bruise of all: the ego.

And finally, we got lost.  I don’t mind getting lost. It was a lovely detour that took us down a dramatic, winding road (which was our first clue that we were lost, since we definitely hadn’t climbed that hill on the way out earlier–but as we flew down that hill, there wasn’t a lot we could do).  Then up that 12% grade. I had to walk my bike up half of it.  Wrong turn. We had to go back down and then up the other side . Thing is, you kind of have no choice but to go with it.  I did my best.  I had to walk the bike up part of the way and am pretty sure I went faster when I was doing that than I would have had I attempted to keep grinding up the hill.

I learned a lot.  Sam is a great teacher, full of excellent advice and tips. Turns out Catherine is too. Between the two of them I picked up some new skills today, including (in theory) how best to climb a hill.

Loads of fun. Can’t wait to go out with these women again!


I love riding my bike in the Niagara region. For a number of years I’ve vacationed here with my partner and our bikes, sometimes with friends and their bikes too. It’s spectacular riding country. I loved the Gran Fondo Niagara last year, http://fitisafeministissue.com/2013/09/16/riding-not-racing-the-niagara-falls-gran-fondo/, and I’m sorry they’re not repeating it.

So when I knew Congress was to be held at Brock, I started pitching the idea of bringing bikes and getting some riding in. I know Tracy is a bit nervous about riding with cars and has some apprehension about hills, so the canal path seemed like a great ride to start. Christine who teaches at Brock and lives near the canal offered to meet us and lead the way. Fun!
The canal path is lovely, paved and wide, and mostly clear of dogs, roller bladers, skate boards etc. If we’d just done that, it would have been an easy, pleasant 40 km morning ride. Instead we got lost on our way back to campus and hit some of the Niagara region’s famous hills. That added adventure and some hill training to our day. It was beautiful and fun and we did it. Whee! Zoom! Have I mentioned how much I love riding my bike, especially with friends. Thanks Christine, Catherine, and Tracy.
Tracy, Catherine, and Christine on the shore of the Welland Canal.
Tracy, Catherine, and Christine on the shore of the Welland Canal.

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