Posted by: dave1949 | 2011/01/20

Brock Hill

As I wrote earlier St Catharines is laid out between the Niagara escarpment and Lake Ontario. This meant the city was essentially flat with only a few hills of any significance except the escarpment. Luckily one of the best ones on the escarpment is the one on Glenridge ave, that goes up to, or down from Brock University.

At the dawn of the industrial age when I was a child the university didn’t exist yet and the road was actually quite quiet as far as traffic was concerned. In fact the escarpment itself and the hill were actually outside the city limits of the day. I and most of the kids I grew up with used to go to this hill on occasion and climb to the top. We would then go back a couple of hundred yards and start racing to the top as fast as possible. Launch over the drop and coast as far and fast as we could down the slope and out into the city at the bottom of the hill.

When I got to high school and stopped riding I was quite a small boy. I wrestled on the school team in grade nine and ten at a 114 lb limit and was only a little over 5 feet high. In fact I was starting to despair of ever actually growing but like a great many boys grow I did. When I started riding again in grade thirteen, I had grown to 180 lbs and 6 feet tall.

One day I found myself up on top of the escarpment heading towards the Brock hill. I remembered the fun we used to have racing over the edge and the thrill of swooping down the hill and around the last bend and out onto Glenridge at the bottom. I stomped on the pedals and got the bike up to top speed. Over the edge and once again into a tight tuck to get the best speed and longest glide possible out of the pull of gravity.

In a vacuum things fall according to gravity at the same speed regardless of their weight. In real life, on the Brock hill, air resistance plays a part in the top speed attainable. a grown man on a ten speed with thin high pressure tires can go down this hill quite a bit faster than a small boy on a balloon tire single speed bike. This truth of physics became more and more apparent to me as I neared that final curve at what we figured out a few weeks later was better than 80 km per hour. The speed limit on the hill is 50 km per hour and unlike a lot of places in the country there is a pretty good reason for that slower speed on this particular little bit of road.

Since I’m writing this now you all of course have figured out I actually made it around the curve. I made it just barely. I certainly got the thrill I had been seeking. I got a bit more thrill than I had been ready for at the time.

Since then I have ridden the same hill hundreds of times and gone through it even faster. It’s quite doable on a good bike and as long as your prepared for it quite a bit of fun.

It was also the place I realized that coasting down hills was the reward cyclists get for hauling our silly asses up hills in the first place. It is still one of the best things there is to do on a bike. I expect to do a lot more of it again this summer.



  1. In Montreal, it’s Mount Royal. Cyclists train there in summer going up and down and up and down.

    On the way down they often swoop past the cars. Only problem is, there’s LOTS of traffic on that road. Someone’s gonna get killed one day.

    But at least he or she will have had a helluva ride!

  2. for us, it is the Gatineau’s, those are huge hills.

  3. Jazz I’m pretty sure that MountRoyal is higher and steeper than our little hills here. On our hill however there are actually signs now that cars must not pass bikes on the way down the hill. Never a problem for fools like me but sane people that like to slow their bikes down on the hill drive the motorists crazy having to wait that extra 20 seconds or so.
    laurel, Yes the lack of hills around here is often cited by the racing crowd as one reason they have a hard time excelling. Steve Bauer if from the area though and he made it up to wearing the leaders jersey in the tour De France so I guess it depends a lot on just how much you want it. THe gatineau are is gorgeous though. I’ve never ridden there in summer but have skied on some of the trails during the winter. Long long ago before global warming when skis were made of wood.

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