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PAINFUL TRUTH: Hitting the limit on Zero Avenue

Sometimes you push your limits a little bit too far
Cyclists in the Tour de White Rock – cyclists going considerably faster than the author of this column will ever ride. (Scott Robarts/BC Superweek photo)

Want to know a secret about Langley? There is one spot within this community where you can see the ocean.

If you head west on Zero Avenue, and pause at the very crest of the hill where the High Point houses sit, and look straight west, on a clear day, you can spot a sliver of water, near Peace Arch. It’s easier in the winter, when the trees are bare.

After several years of relatively short bike rides, this year I’ve been getting back into cycling.

One of my big goals was to ride up to that spot, and from there, to keep riding west, out to White Rock and back. To see the ocean, and get there and back under my own power.

It’s a lovely ride, with a mixture of hills (we’ll come back to those) and some flat stretches, and as you wind past Peace Arch and the two border crossings, you get multiple views of the ocean. Then you climb up into the hills to enter White Rock, and the ocean is spread out in front of you.

READ MORE: Cycling news from around the Lower Mainland

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It’s nice, but it’s also a fair bit of distance for me. I’ve been working my way up to it slowly since March, taking on progressively longer rides, slowly working my way up bigger hills, getting a little stronger.

There are still plenty of cyclists around Langley, often 10, 20 years older than I am, who zip past me, but I was pleased with my progress. I felt like I was up to riding out to White Rock, so on the long weekend, I tackled it.

Guess what? I wasn’t quite ready.

The actual ride there? No problem. Even with the hot weather, I started early while it was still cool, and closer to the water, there was a nice breeze. I was slathered in sunscreen. I was loaded down with water and some snacks.

But heading back, I ran into an issue.

Very few people drive directly east from the 176th Street border crossing onto Zero Avenue, so you may not be familiar with the local geography, and particularly with the elevation.

The problem is that Zero Avenue from 176th Street east to 200th Street is all uphill. That’s three miles of climbing without a single centimetre of coasting.

Was I in shape for the hills of White Rock? Sure. How about the slopes in and out of South Langley? No problem.

For that climb up Zero Avenue?


I got to the top unhurt, nothing strained, no pulled muscles.

But by the last turn of the pedals, I was drained. Snacks gone, energy depleted. I had nothing left for the ride home.

Unfortunately, I still had to actually, y’know, ride home. Which was a considerable distance. I may have had some choice, unprintable words for my own idiotic decisions.

I drank a lot of water and then slept half the afternoon.

And then on Monday, I got back on my bike, and went for a (much shorter) ride.

I felt amazing. I felt faster.

I would not recommend flinging yourself at a hill that is actively malevolent. But sometimes, testing your limits also expands them.

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Matthew Claxton

About the Author: Matthew Claxton

Raised in Langley, as a journalist today I focus on local politics, crime and homelessness.
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