Lee Foote (Director, University of Alberta Botanic Garden) at the Aga Khan Garden, near Devon, Alberta.
Larry Wong / POSTMEDIA NETWORK
Really now, riding a motorcycle in Edmonton’s core is a lot like traversing a checkerboard full of short straight lines and stop signs. Had enough of cruising Whyte Avenue or puttering Groat Road? Need a ride that is further than Starbucks but closer than Red Deer? Here is help.There is a triangle of roads just west of town that is bounded by Highway 60 and Anthony Henday Drive on the east-west axis, and Highway 16A on the north down to Devon on the southern point.Here are my recommendations for a relaxing one-hour ride in this triangle. The first step is to turn off your GPS or Google Maps and just wander in this triangle without worry of getting lost for more than 15 minutes. For most of the area you can actually see the towers of downtown Edmonton on the horizon to the northeast so it is easy to stay oriented.Before you is a network of back roads that will carry you past the Bunchberry Nature Conservancy area, the Clifford E. Lee wetland reserve’s boardwalks (both free stops), the River Cree Casino where you could actually leave with more money than you started with if you are in that lucky 45 per cent!But my favourite destination for a stop and unwind is the University of Alberta Botanic Garden just six kilometres north of Devon on Highway 60.My disclaimer is that I work at the garden and commute back and forth a different route each day on my KTM 690 so I know all the potholes by name. It is about the perfect ride distance (35 minutes), thus very tolerable for pillions with limited seat-tolerance. The garden offers a coffee shop, clean washrooms, a gift shop and Alberta’s own Foothills Dairy ice cream cones. Entry fee is on par with a theatre ticket and a soda.The 110 acres of developed gardens create a remarkable stroll for a motorcycle date and will highlight your “sensitive and aesthetic” side. Do it! Thirty-five minutes out, a nice walk through flowers, a treat, then 35 minutes home by a different route and you are golden. Lots of festivals, date nights, outdoor movies too so check out the website for discounts, directions and details.The roads in the triangle are lightly travelled two lanes with the occasional pothole and are well known to the bicycling community so watch carefully for our fellow two-wheelers. Deer, moose, and coyotes are around so take extra care on morning and evening rides. There are remarkable yellow fields of canola, the smell of newly mown hay, an occasional impressive hemp field, and a few genuine sweeper curves (gasp!).Access this golden triangle of riding off the end of the Whitemud, the Henday or Highway 2A halfway to Spruce Grove. The Grove is also a nice lunch spot with restaurants of all types.Want a longer ride for a head-clearing two hours? A beautiful riding loop extends west on Garden Valley Road (Highway 627 west) then south on Highway 770, then east on 622 to Leduc then home past the Edmonton International Airport. You can do it after work and be home in time for a late and relaxed supper. Better yet, pick up supper in Devon, or Leduc while on your ride.Motorcycling in Edmonton is a utilitarian act of getting from Point A to Point B. It is full of traffic, delays, risks, waits, lights, and photo radar. Our road bikes are capable of so much more and it is nice air them out in sixth gear at a reasonable pace and just enjoy the wind.Edmonton city may make for rather mundane biking but the surrounding areas are a hidden delight.Lee Foote is professor and director, University of Alberta Botanic Garden.