Archive for the ‘Gravel’ Category

Today was another adventure club ride organized by some of the staff at Urbane Cyclist. It was a moderately paced no drop ride with a mix of road and gravel. I did a very similar ride with them about four years ago, along almost the same route.

Here we are at the meetup point across the street from Robarts Library.

There are some pretty interesting bikes here. This one was built up from this frameset. Note the Swift Industries bag.

Lined up and ready to go.

Pausing before the run down Milkman’s Lane. We are just reacting to the fact that a kid carrying cargo bike just started down the hill at a fair rate of speed.

Heading towards the Brickworks.

A regroup at the top of the switchbacks.

Headed north on the old railway tracks.

Regroup at the bottom of a steep downhill from the tracks to the MTB trails at Crothers Woods.

Pausing once again before a steep uphill from Taylor Creek up to Glenwood Crescent.

Regroup after the steepest part of the climb.

and again at the top of the hill. This is the only shot I got of Pascal’s sweet vintage Cannondale Panniers. Between that and Owen’s Avocet saddle, I am reminded of some of my own bike gear from decades ago.

Beer and snacks at Muddy York Brewing.

From here, the route goes down Woodbine to the Beach, and across to the R C Harris Water Treatment Plant, which was open today as part of Doors Open. Here we head towards O’Connor.

I peeled off of the group at Woodbine and Danforth. Thanks to Owen and the others for organizing today’s ride. For those interested, there will be more rides on the first and the last Sundays of each month during the summer. You can find notices on the instagram feed, but the best place for updates is on their discord group.

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7 Roads is a small company in Ukraine that makes a full line of bike packing bags. I heard about them from this review of their pogies. I was intrigued since the pogies were advertised as dual purpose, i.e they would fit MTB type bars as well as drop bars. I was not sure if they were still able to produce bags given the situation in Ukraine so I sent them an email. Elena responded quickly, along with the following note:

“Thank you for supporting Ukrainians! We just spent around 2000 usd on Ecoflow (compact power station), cause we need to keep working, no matter of electricity black outs after russians bombardments. “

Ordering through their website was very smooth, and they can make their bags and pogies in your choice of colour scheme. I ordered a pair of XPac fabric pogies in the colours of the Ukrainian flag. They were shipped in about 10 days after the order. Understandably the shipping was a bit slow, and they arrived yesterday after about three weeks.

Close up of all the stickers that came with the order.

The zipper makes it easier to install than the other pogies that I’ve had.

Comparing them to the Dogwood Designs, I would say that they sweep back about the same amount, but the Dogwood Designs have a lot more volume forward of the opening for the straight bars. This photo is a bit deceiving: the Dogwood designs pogies have a lot more volume.

Here they are installed on my drop bar gravel bike. Note the reflective trim that appears grey in this photo.

It took a bit of fiddling to get them in the right position so that the brifter levers didn’t drag on the lining. Here you can see that they don’t have a baffle closing the space around the wrist. This has the advantage that it makes it easy to get your hands in and out of the pogies. The lining and insulation are pretty close around the hand so I’m not particularly concerned. Of course it was +8°C today, so it wasn’t really a good test of how warm these will be. I’ll update this post when I’ve had a chance to ride these in colder weather.

Given the glorious weather, I took a quick spin out to the Etobicoke Creek Trail. There was ice and snow on the creek, but the trail was clear, having been heavily salted in the past week.

As an update, they have taken the fence down at the south end of the crossing under the QEW. I don’t know if this means that the trail is now official open, but riding across is pretty easy for any bike that isn’t a skinny tired road bike….

although on this particular day there were patches of slippery mud.

Just had to take a picture of the pogies at this particular spot.

Bottom line: I highly recommend these pogies. They are very well made, and I would argue that they look more solid than even the Dogwood Designs pogies that are considerably more expensive. Also the ability to choose your colour scheme is pretty unique at this price point.

I’m a big fan of buying high quality bike gear from small companies that don’t offshore their production, such as Randi Jo Fabrications, Kitsbow Clothing, Arkel, Atwater Atelier, Rockgeist, and Carsick Designs.

I’m very happy to add 7Roads to this list, with the added bonus that I’m supporting a small business in Ukraine that is operating under difficult conditions.

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G2G: Elmira to Monkton

I wanted to take advantage of the amazing weather to get in a long ride, so I decided to do a section of the G2G trail from Elmira to Monkton and back.

My starting point was Bolender Park in Elmira. I was pleased that the restrooms were still open.

This section of the G@G up to Millbank is called the Kissing Bridge Trailway.

Beautiful day, but with a strong crosswind from the SW.

First detour is at Wallenstein, about 8 km west of Elmira. The signage at Yatton Side Rd indicates a detour to the left, but it is still possible to ride on in order to make a shorter detour.

Riding straight on, you end up at Route 86, and at this point you have to turn right for a short while before taking the first left on township rd 4A to get back to the trail.

I backtracked a bit to take this picture showing that indeed the bridge is out.

Next up: the detour at Millbank. This sign recommends a round about route.

However, if you ride straight on to Perth Rd 121, you can take a much shorter detour.

Just where you rejoin the trail, there is a rest stop set up by a local family. From the signage, it looks like they have refreshments available during the summer, and there is also an outhouse.

Next is a detour at Line 129, just a little before Milverton. This one is a little tricky as you turn left, then right, then left.

You can see that the detour is lower than the original trail.

Turn left here.

Then you turn right on this path by the field.

This will lead you to a bit of single track that gets up back up to the level of the trail.

Milverton seems to be a town that is not interested in the G2G trail at all. The trail actually disappears, and there is no way finding signage to figure out how to get back onto the trail. You can see this from my strava track, where I ended up taking different routes on the way back and forth through town.

This is as far west as I went today. Goderich will have to wait for another day.

Not a bad days work. Ironically, this was my longest ride of the year, and it was in November.

My other posts about the G@G trail are here:

Guelph, Elora, Fergus Loop, including the section from Guelph to Kissing Bridge.

A covered bridges ride with a different route from Kissing Bridge back to Guelph.

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Butter tarts and biking

Back in August, the Star published a story about the best butter tarts in Toronto, Eric’s Handcrafted Butter Tarts. Since that time, I’ve tried to buy one at one of the local vendors listed in the story. Today I finally scored during one of my rides on the way back from Port Credit, stopping by a charming little coffee shop called The Big Guy’s Coffee Shop, on Lakeshore between 4th and 5th streets. I had actually gone there before, and I was told that they get their delivery on Friday, and they usually sell out within a few days.

They had exactly one left that was plain. (I am allergic to nuts and all the rest were pecan). Although any butter tart tastes good after a bike ride, I’d say that this was perhaps my favourite. I favour tarts that have a relatively thin pastry shell.

Other places that I have tried recently:

  • Four Corners Bakery in East Caledon: too thick pastry shell for my taste.
  • Belwood Country Market: really good. They are mentioned in another Star article that appeared yesterday. The pastry shell is thin. When I got there, the plain had just come out of the oven and I was warned that they were really hot. The volume of filling was really high, if you like that sort of thing. The plain was great. I wasn’t as enamoured of the raspberry coconut version. Regrettably I didn’t take any pictures of the tarts that day.
  • Mattachioni on Dupont. They have that thin pastry shell that I prefer, and less filling than Eric’s, and I was told that they finish them off in their pizza oven, and they sprinkle a little sea salt on top. I’d rank these as equal to Eric’s, if a bit smaller.

The next time I’m cycling in Wellington County, I will have to try some of the other places mentioned in the Star article.

Eventually, I’d like to parts of the BT700 (butter tart 700), a gravel bike route that is 760 km. I admit I’m more interested in the butter tart aspect than the mileage, so I might warm up by doing one of the shorter routes that are described on that excellent website. I’ve covered some of the territory of the GNR route on several different rides.

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Belwood to Luther Marsh

I’ve been wanting to do this route from Belwood to Luther Marsh for a while, and today was the day I finally got around to it.

I actually started my ride at the Conservation Area at the very bottom of the map since I knew there would be a washroom there. From that point, the first thing you do is to cross the dam. Looks like fall colours haven’t peaked at this spot yet.

Heading across the dam. This picture doesn’t show that it was about 6°C and windy.

Once I got warmed up, it was pleasant riding on gravel roads with very little traffic.

The least fun part of the ride was this stretch along route 16 which had a decent amount of traffic. It didn’t help that it was into a headwind/crosswind and there was no shelter from trees.

I’ll note that the updated version of the route avoids this stretch, and also take advantage of more of the West Luther Trail.

Just north of route 109, you turn east onto the West Luther Trail.

It is overgrown a bit in spots, but it is flat and arrow straight for about 6 km.

The trail ends at Luther Townline where the route turns north again.

Across the street is the Upper Grand trailway. My thought at this point was that I’d have to come back to explore it at some point.

As I approached the marsh, at one point the route turns off the gravel road onto a trail. At this point, I met this nice gentleman who advised me that it was hunting season, and that it would be inadvisable for me to travel through the marsh. I decided to play it safe and backtrack to where the Upper Grand trail went further east.

Can’t really complain about the biking on these roads with next to no traffic.

As you can see from several pictures back, the Upper Grand Trailway is groomed like a true rail trail, and it was easy to blast along this section with the wind at my back. 10 km of easy riding.

Crossing the Grand River on 13 Line.

I did make a detour to Belwood to get some of the excellent butter tarts from Belwood Country Market.

The lake level was really low.

From this point, you take the Elora Cataract Trail to the conservation area. I posted about this trail a few years ago.

Here is the truncated version of my ride which ended up being about 70 km.

Further investigation reveals that waterfowl hunting season goes between Oct 1 and Christmas, and deer season is a bit more complicated.

This brings me back to the days when I taught at Michigan State, and it was well known that you didn’t schedule a midterm on opening day for deer fun season. I guess that I’ve been living in the city too long.

You can find out location specific information for Luther Marsh here.

At any rate, something to keep in mind for late fall gravel riding….

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The Boundary Bay dyke trail in Delta, BC runs along the northern shore of Boundary Bay, extending west and then south to the village of Beach Grove near the US border at Point Roberts. I first became aware of this trail when read this news story about a conflict between cyclists and farmers using the same route. I was in the area and so I wanted to check out the trail for myself. Here is the entry point off of the southern end of 72 St.

Here is a sign indicating that farm equipment have right of way on the trail which is totally reasonable.

The eastern end of the trail is in Mud Bay Park. The trail loops in the park, and the northern branch is not very scenic as it runs along HWY 99, but the southern branches have some nice views of Baker and the bay.

Here is the sign at the trail entrance from the park parking lot. Now I’ll head west to Centennial Beach.

Some wildflowers along the trail.

Nice scenery.

Just before the entrance to Beach Grove, I see some horses out on the mud flats.

Here is the entrance off of 16th St.

After a short bike along Beach Grove Rd, you reach the entrance to the continuation of the trail in Boundary Bay Park.

Centennial Beach.

From this point I wanted to venture further south to get close to the US border. Here is the southernmost beach access point.

I was advised that I shouldn’t go past the yellow sign indicated by the arrow.

I backed up, and went west a block or two and then rode south to the border, which is the fence behind this dentist’s office.

On the way back I see that this cafe is popular with cyclists. Lots of gravel bikes in evidence, but I was on the only Brompton 😉

A pleasant ride with good views of Mt. Baker.

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This morning I was out for a ride, and my intention was to just do my usual out and back to Port Credit. However at Ellis and Lakeshore, FB friend Yann pulled up beside me, and after we rode off in different directions, I had remembered that he had posted some notes on a less accessible section of the Etobicoke creek trail. Inspired, I decided to try to bike the trail south from an entrance point mentioned in the FB thread.

Here I am crossing the Ogden Rd bridge. Still falling apart and partially fenced off as per usual.

On Dundas St eastbound, just crossing back into Toronto. The entrance is supposed to be just past the sign.

Here it is.

There was actually much less of a descent than I expected.

Easily rideable trail along the creek.

Someone has built a little lounging area.

Suddenly, a rather abrupt uphill that I had to walk up.

Several ups and downs, and then I am crossing under the rail line.

The trail climbs to a point where you can bail on the north side of The Queensway.

However, there is a trail that continues off to the right at this point, and you spend some time paralleling The Queensway before a rather steep descent as the trail swerves to go under the bridge. Here I am at the underpass.

Although I am a fan of Spy vs Spy, this spot would violate the #Biketag rules since I would not consider it as easily accessible. I also chose to walk under the bridge as the trail was “paved” in irregular rocks about the size of my fist or bigger.

After passing under The Queensway, you reach this point. I took the left fork for a bit, and it looked like it would lead me uphill to the other side of The Queensway, so I backtracked to take the right fork. I should have taken the hint that the left branch was much more popular.

Looks like I am crossing a dry branch of the creek.

More trail.

This leads to parts of the creek that I have never seen before. Very pretty.

You can see a small bridge ahead.

It soon became apparent that even the walking trail had largely disappeared. I did manage to find the trail again, but it was obvious that this section was not intended to be passable by bike.

Just past this point was the roadway that connected to the Middle Rd bridge.

If you go west across the bridge, this leads to Sherway Dr, and then you can bike a few blocks to the bike lane along The Queensway. If you go the other direction, then you will see a paved path that leads south to the rest of the Etobicoke Creek trail. Of course the underpass at the QEW is still closed.

This climb puts you back onto Sherway Dr, just by the edge of Sherway Mall.

At the top of the hill, you can take Evans Ave and then turn south on Gair Dr, and then Bisset to the southern portion of the trail.

Rewarding myself with an ice cream stop at Marie Curtis Park.

Here is a map of what I describe in this post.

Overall, I would say that the trail down to The Queensway would have been much more fun on a mountain bike. I would characterize it as very narrow single track, but totally doable. I was riding my gravel bike, and I was running 38mm wide slicks, so not ideal for the terrain. I did have to dismount maybe four or five times, whereas on a MTB, there was perhaps one point that I would have had to dismount. The other thing is that would not recommend going further south than the trail fork that I mentioned. Taking a closer look at the Strava map, I can see that I should have taken the left fork, and that would have allowed me to bypass the portions of the trail nearer the river that were not rideable.

All in all, a fun exploration of a piece of the valley that I had not seen before.

Update: August 20: The section of the trail under the QEW is still under construction and is officially closed, but it is now much more passable than before.

Here looking south.

Looking south under the bridge.

Looking north after I biked under the bridge. No problem with the gravel bike, although it was a bit muddy.

At this point, there is still some construction debris, and you might have to walk your bike around the fence to get to the rest of the trail southbound.

Who knows? Perhaps the connection will be finished before the snow descends?

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We have spent an extended weekend in Woodstock NY, exploring the town and also enjoying going to concerts, and squeezing in a bike ride or two.

We were actually here to see a concert given by Nexus, a percussion ensemble marking their 50th year of playing together with a show in Woodstock, at a unique venue called Maverick Concerts. The concert hall is hidden away in the woods, and is pretty much what you might expect of Woodstock.

This is the stage where 4′ 33″ was premiered.

In this setting it makes a lot of sense, since the piece is actually not about silence; it is about experiencing the sounds of the ambient surroundings, which in this case includes the rustling of leaves in the wind, and many bird calls.

After the concert, we were lucky to have dinner with the performers.

I got to hear some war stories from Paul Winter, and there was also an incident where Phillippe Petit pulled a coin out of my wife’s ear. Didn’t know that he was a magician in addition to being a high wire artist.

But where is the bike content? Well, the first ride was on the Ashokan Rail Trail which runs along the north shore of the Ashokan Reservoir. Here is the trailhead near the midpoint of the trail.

Off we go.

Most of the trail was in the woods, with only intermittent views of the water.

A bridge near the Boiceville end of the trail, which is the western end.

The Boiceville trailhead.

The next day, I decided to do something a bit different. I rode out to the same trailhead, but I wanted to ride around the end and travel along the south shore as far as the Reservoir Road bridge that roughly bisects the reservoir. Here is the connection of the trail to Route 28A.

I wasn’t thrilled to see that 28A has no shoulder. However, it being relatively early Sunday morning, traffic was light.

A free library that is an entire building!

The turn off for the west end of the causeway on the South shore.

This looks promising.

Stellar views.

On this narrower section, you get a better sense of how much work it was to create the berm defining the south shore along this stretch. I was told that after 911, this road was closed to car traffic for security reasons, since the reservoir is an important source of drinking water for NYC. No swimming or boating allowed, BTW.

Now approaching Reservoir Rd.

So apparently it is also a source of hydroelectric power. This bit reminded me of the Crystal Springs reservoir south of San Francisco.

Looking back west at the stretch I just rode.

Beyond this point, motor traffic descends and connects with 28A, but you can continue along the causeway.

The eastern end, with parking and portapotties.

Now headed back to the bridge across the reservoir.

Some fellow cyclists enjoying the weather and the spectacular views.

Across the bridge to the north shore.

This was my route for the day.

In all seriousness, if you only have a short time to ride in the area of the Ashokan Reservoir, rather than taking the rail trail, I would recommend driving to one end of the causeway on the south shore. It is only about 5 km end to end, but the views are great, and it is car free except for the crossing at Reservoir Rd.

I usually don’t drink beer at lunch, but after a ride I imagine it is OK.

I’ll close with two more shots of things seen in town. One is some memorials for local people who died of COVID.

and finally this: “All dogs that don’t eat wax are welcome”.

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The David J Culham Trail in Mississauga goes from the vicinity of UT-Mississauga to Streetsville. I have a regular loop of about 60 km that goes from the High Park area to Streetsville. Today I thought I would detour on the trail to add a little gravel riding for variety.

Heading north on Mississauga Rd, I turn east on the Collegeway, and after a short distance I see the trail entrance off to the right.

After a fairly quick descent into the valley, the trail crosses some parkland, and just past a very large picnic shelter is the first bridge.

This is bridge number three. So far the trail condition is very good.

Parts of the trail are really wide.

There’s a bit of an uphill as you approach Burhamthorpe.

Rather than climbing all the way up, you can turn back towards the river and continue on the trail.

From this point north, there are a fair number of sections that appear to have been washed out, and are in the process of being repaired. The trail is in poor condition, but still rideable with a gravel bike or a mountain bike.

Another quiet section through some woods.

You climb out of the valley and then there is a section running along the 403.

Approaching Wellsborough Place. Note the signs that defend the neighbourhood from those dangerous trail users.

Snaking through a few side streets, and then there is another trail entrance.

The descent is pavement (a little rough) and then there are some really nice trail sections.

Another short section of washout.

A bridge just as you cross under Eglinton.

This section is cantilevered out from a steep bank. It looks like some of the renderings that have been proposed for the Humber River Trail Gap, but it was much narrower, so it would have been much easier to build. The city is insisting that for the Humber River project that any trail section must be able to accommodate a Ford 150 pickup.

Trail exit at Barberton Rd, which intersects Mississauga Rd a bit south of Streetsville.

All in all, a fun detour, and a bit of gravel close to the heart of Mississauga. If you want to see a route that starts from Runnymede and Annette, it is here.

Two other short notes. On the way back along the Eglinton MUP, I saw my first Helix folding bike in the wild.

I was also testing out some new gear. One thing was a lightweight wool blend jersey which was fine even in 28 degree heat.

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Uxbridge to Cannington

I’ve been wanting to explore the Uxbridge to Lindsay Rail Trail for a while. I decided that for my 500th consecutive day of biking that I would treat myself to my first out of town gravel ride of the year. At the same time I was wanting to explore the Beaver River Trail as well. I decided in the end to do a bit of both.

Here is the ride with GPS map of my route.

The recommended start point in Uxbridge is the Herrema soccer fields where there is plenty of parking. There is also a pavilion there with restrooms, but they weren’t open. From the parking lot, there is a gravel path called the Barton Trail that will take you to the rail trail.

About a km of single track before the rail trail.

Here is the junction with the rail trail. I decided to turn left to ride to the nominal start of the trail.

Here is the start of the trail. There is signage directing you to the historic trestle, but when you ride over it just about 100 m from this point, you actually can’t see it. It looks like just another bridge.

After Lake Ridge Rd, the trail quality and signage improves as from this point it is officially part of the Trans Canada Trail.

There was a map that shows much of what I ended up riding.

This wayfinding was curious. I wonder why they point out gas stations, but perhaps this is for the snowmobilers. Also note the directions to Neverland.

The trail was in good shape. This was the worst spot I saw.

Here is the fork where the Beaver River Trail takes off to the north.

There are concrete blocks making it clear that dirt bikes are not welcome.

I turn north on White Rock Rd today. The continuation east to Lindsay will have to wait for another day.

Nice smooth gravel, and very little traffic.

I can tell I have a tailwind headed north.

I did notice that most of the limited traffic that I saw along this stretch was gravel trucks. Just before I turn west on Black School Rd, I see the reason for this.

Lovely gravel most of the way to Cannington.

Not sure what this sign means.

Here is the turn off to the Beaver River Trail.

The first kilometre south of Cannington was not in great shape, but the trail condition improved markedly past Side Rd 16.

The section through Sunderland dumps you into a parking lot, and then you are supposed to take a dirt path on the east side of Rt 12 to get back on the trail.

I haven’t seen this before: a kiosk soliciting money for trail upkeep. Clever to put it just after the worst section of the entire trail.

Back to the junction with the Trans Canada Trail.

Do I look like I am enjoying myself?

All in all, a good day on the bike, with lovely weather. About 78 km with the detours that I took.

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