Archive for the ‘Gravel’ Category

The Growling Beaver is a gravel ride in the Collingwood area that raises funds for Parkinson Canada. I rode in the inaugural event back in 2015, and although it was a very tough 100K, I really enjoyed myself. Now that I have a gravel bike, I thought it was high time that I rode once again.

Given that the forecast for today was rain about a week ago, we really lucked out on the weather. I heard several people remark that this was the best weather ever. The start and end was at Side Launch Brewing.

Six years ago, gravel bikes weren’t really a thing, and so there were a lot of people riding cross bikes. This time, it looked to be 90% gravel bikes.

Evan Siddall, one of the founders of the event, talks to us just before the 100K riders are sent off. The mascot is a new thing as well.

We were sent off in groups of 10 so as not to crowd the Georgian Bay trail that was the first 30K of the ride. Here goes the first group, nominally the fast people.

I joined one of the last groups to ride. Nevertheless, it was plenty fast for me. Thanks to all those who towed me along for the first 30K into a headwind.

First checkpoint at Meaford, just before the first big climb of the day.

These volunteers were putting supportive messages on bananas. There were more volunteers than back in 2015, and they were very well organized.

I took the opportunity to ask Evan for a selfie, and he remembered my name although I was just one rider six years ago. This absolutely blew my mind.

First climb mostly done. In retrospect, it was easy since it was on asphalt.

What a gorgeous day!

Near the start of the first major downhill on Old Mill Rd. In 2015, fresh gravel had been laid down three days before the event, and I had to take it really slow. Much better this year. This is at the 40K mark.

Lots of picture taking at this spot where the downhill switches from gravel to pavement and you get a spectacular view of the Beaver Valley.

Kimberley lunch stop. It was nice to have volunteers ringing cowbells to greet you. Lots of good food choices as well.

Just after this stop: my nemesis: Side Road 7B.

What it looks like on my Garmin.

Defeated once again. Although I was faster than in 2015, I still had to walk the middle section. What I’m finding is that with slick tires, I just can’t get enough traction on anything steeper than about 15% on gravel. At least I was not alone in walking my bike.

On the road to Duncan. Much better, and a tailwind as well.

The last checkpoint at Kolapore Corner.

Probably the best display of fall colours I saw all day.

I will note that the downhill gravel section starting around 90K in the Rob Roy management area was the scariest part of the ride in that the gravel was not packed down in parts, and I didn’t know what was ahead around the next corner. I had ride my brakes in this section. After that, the last 15K is paved, and much of it is downhill.

All done.

This time I managed to have moving average of 21.8 kph, and a total elapsed time of about 5 1/2 hours, which was much better than last time. The weather and the better road conditions had a lot to do with it, although the better bike certainly didn’t hurt. I felt a lot fresher after the ride than last time.

A hazy IPA really hit the spot.

Also some really good tacos from Mamacita Tacoria.

Evan makes a few announcements, thanking all of the volunteers. In addition he thanks the sponsors for their support. With this support, every dollar raised goes directly to the charity, which is terrific.

Just as I was about to leave, I meet Carol and Patrick from the Toronto Brompton Owners group. They weren’t on Bromptons today. Sorry Patrick, I only got a picture of Carol in line for tacos.

A great day of riding. If you ever want to be challenged by a 108K gravel ride while raising funds for a good cause, I highly recommend the Growling Beaver. It is very well run, and from the number of repeat riders that I met, many people share my opinion. I’ll certainly be back some day to take another try at Side Road 7B. If you are interested, the 100K route is here.

Finally, thanks to all those who pledged their support towards my fundraising goal.

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Gates Gully

I’ve been meaning to check out Gates Gully for a while since it has the reputation of being one of the more interesting gravel climbs in the city. I was particularly taken by this route on RidewithGPS. Here is a picture of the eastern part of the route.

Here are a few notes from my ride this past Sunday. The first non obvious bit comes after you turn north from St. Clair and go through a neighbourhood to Jeanette Park. The route tells you to turn just past the houses, and not onto the clear paved path across the park.

Turn north here.

Lo and behold, a path opens up through a field of wildflowers.

When you reach Brimley Rd, you actually have to jog to the left to join onto this path. I complimented the nice lady on her vintage Apple hat.

Crossing McCowan.

At the end of the path, you are directed onto Eglinton headed east, but it is not bad since there is one of those new lanes for buses and bikes.

You continue to Kingston Rd, then Guildwood Parkway to the Guild Inn. Ride into the grounds past the building entrance and you will see an entrance to a path.

Note that the first part of the path had some switchbacks that were steep and tight enough that I couldn’t ride down with my gravel bike. I elected not to ride on the paths that cut across the switchbacks either.

This section of path was rideable but the eroded gully made it a bit tricky.

Shortly after this bit, you join onto a descending part of the Doris McCarthy trail. The next time, I’m going to descend on that trail rather than what was suggested by the GPS route.

Turning right at the lake, you are treated to some wonderful flat riding along the lake with great views of the bluffs as well.

After several kilometres you begin to see more people, and there is this sculpture called “Passage” that I’ve seen many times in photos.

Facing away from the lake at this point, you see Gates Gully.

According to Strava, it is about a kilometre with about 90 m elevation gain. It was easier than I expected although I certainly didn’t set any speed records. I will note for those of you that use climb detection on a Garmin that it behaved a little strangely. The first thing is that it announced the climb very early, including at least a kilometre of flat riding before the real climb. The second thing is that the climb segment ended with about 20% of the climb to go, which was a bit annoying since the last bit was steeper than the middle.

Looking back at the top.

I’m going to have to do a few more reps of this climb before I feel I’m ready for Side Road 7b.

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Today was my first ride with the Wednesday Wheelie group. Sadly, given the fact that their rides are on Wednesday mornings, and that the new academic year approaches, this will probably be my last with them for this year as well. I did have a great time.

Here is ride leader Dave briefing everyone. He mentioned that there are four John’s on the ride. He also said that I’ll be writing a blog post about the ride, so here it is.

It was a brilliantly sunny day with thankfully cooler temperatures and little humidity. There were two routes on offer: 69K and 81K. I elected to do a slightly shortened version of the longer route for reasons that will become clear later on.

Off we go.

The 81K group started distancing the other group, and at some point Ed organized the lead group into a double pace line.

As was not unusual, I was dropped by the lead group after about 30K, but I thoroughly enjoyed riding and chatting with Paul who had a beautiful Ti True North custom touring bike with S&S couplers and a Rohloff hub.

Here is where I planned to stray from the posted route. The first northbound road west of Airport Rd was gravel and looked interesting on Google Maps. Note that the street view track had a gap in it just south of Hockley Rd.

The view where the southern track ended didn’t look too bad.

Paul was up for some gravel riding as well so he agreed to turn as well. “No exit”

Beautiful gravel riding.

Here is where the road started to deteriorate. It became basically a steep downhill Jeep track, and it didn’t help that recent rains had carved a lot of trenches.

Nevertheless it was ridable for the most part. Paul did extremely well on much narrower tires.

Eventually we reached Hockley Rd, and turned right, thereby trimming about 5K from the long route. He went ahead while I paused to take this picture to complete my series of “Schitt’s Creek” riding photos.

Here is the common rest stop at the Hockley General Store, with that all important LCBO component. The next time I’ll stop to check it out.

However, on this day, just as I rode up a couple of riders from the 69K were leaving, so I bid adieu to Paul and decided to ride on.

Left to right: Connie, Pat, John and Nancy

Pretty much ideal riding conditions.

A roadside memorial at a level crossing.

Here we are at the end. Thanks to Nancy for leading us home.

Thanks everyone for a wonderful morning of riding. I’m going to have to make a point of freeing up more Wednesday mornings next summer so that I can join in on the fun.

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Today I decided to do an abbreviated version of a 100K route that I found on RidewithGPS that went from Hamilton to Caledonia. I started taking pictures at the north end of the Chippewa rail trail, on the northeast corner of Dartnall and Stone Church. (I rode this trail once before)

The signage gets fancier once you cross into Haldimand County.

The rail trail ends at Haldimand Road 66, although according to this sign a walking trail continues to the south. The route turns you to the left at this point.

A few kilometres on road brings you to this road, looking east from a traffic circle. At this point, you will have your back to a huge very unsubtle sign marking a new subdivision called “Avalon”. The road is gated closed, but you need to ride on.

Just a kilometre or so on there is the entrance to the Gypsum Mine Trail: yet another arrow straight rail trail.

The strava route turns you south on Stoney Creek Road, but I found myself continuing on the rail trail to see where it goes.

The trail ends at Haldimand Road 9, and you can turn right towards the river. There is a nice wide shoulder.

As you approach the Grand River, you pass through the village of York. The road dead ends at Front St. Turn right, and then just about 500 m there is a turn off to the Rotary Riverfront Trail. It is not well marked approaching while riding west. This picture was taken looking back east at the turnoff.

Great to see this family biking the other direction.

After passing a paved section through the hamlet of Sims Locks, you are directed onto the main road, but there is a trail that parallels this busy street.

A bit of a steep slope takes you down to the trail.

The route continues on River St, and then more trail. The trail ends at Seneca St, and then you take some side streets through Caledonia.

You are directed north out of town on Argyle St, and then turn left onto a Service Road that is gravel. It turns out that this stretch is where the city stores some road construction materials, and it is probably not good to pass through during working hours. Here is the road passing under the HWY 6 bypass.

When you reach the end at Mines Rd, you might have to lift your bike over a fence.

Going a short distance south on Mines Rd, you are then directed onto a very rough path just past the railway tracks You can see it to the left on the photo below. Note the huge potholes filled with water.

It had rained quite heavily the previous day, and there were a lot of boggy bits. I should have taken this abandoned jeep as a warning.

Here is one of the more ridable sections.

I managed to make it to a gravel extension of Harrison Road, and then there is an ATV track marked as providing access to some hydro towers.

I had to walk up this bit. (also visible in the photo above)

At the top, in the middle of nowhere.

Once I reached Onondaga Townline Rd, I bailed on the continuation of the ATV track. There was quite a bit of sticky mud that I had to clear from my fenders. I eventually rejoined the route on Mulligan Rd.

The remainder of the loop joins onto the Hamilton-Brantford Rail Trail. You can read about my previous ride on this section here.

The bike was credibly dirty at the end of the ride.

I do admit that close fender clearance is not ideal for muddy conditions, and I am also reminded that having the fender stays running inside the fenders is not ideal. But at least the fenders kept most of the mud off my clothes.

Strava says that this was “harder than your usual effort”. A good day nonetheless.

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Today was another bike ride with good friends P&T. The goal was a 45 km round trip to Port Dover, starting partway along the Delhi Rail Trail. Here they are at the start with their nice gravel and touring bikes, along with our tandem.

Off we go.

The trail ends in Simcoe about two blocks from where you can access the Norfork Rail Trail that passes through Simcoe. The trail is marked as blocked between Davis and McCaul streets, but in actual fact, the only real blockage is construction on the bridge at Queensway East.

Up to you whether you want to take the marked detour, or to take as much of the trail as possible, and just work your way past the construction which is confined to the bridge on Queensway.

T has a flat, apparently his very first on the front with this bike.

At Port Dover.

Thanks to the gentleman in the Brant Bicycling Club T shirt that took this group photo.

Back along the Delhi Rail Trail towards our start point at Nixon Rd.

Afterwards, we had a pleasant dinner at the New Limburg Brewing Company which was just 500m off the trail on Nixon Road. They had a large patio set up in the back. The beers were very good, and they had a variety of Dutch bar snacks such as bitterballen and frikandel which we ordered because they sounded like fun. They also have a full menu but we were warned that since everything was made from scratch that some items could take a while. Pizzas, beef stew and grill shrimp were all good and arrived within half an hour.

After dinner, given that we were only about 7 km away from one of the three velodromes in Ontario, I dragged our friends up to take a look.

The Win-Del velodrome has definitely seen better days. It is in need of some serious weeding, for one.

I couldn’t resist so I borrowed T’s bike to have a go.

T having a go, and going considerably faster than I.

A nice way of capping off a great day of biking with good friends.

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Covered bridges ride

I wanted to try out this route that was posted in the Ontario gravel and adventure riders FB group that started and ended in Guelph but extended as far west as the Montrose covered bridge. I actually did an abridged version of the ride since the bridge at Winterbourne was reported to have been blocked. My chosen starting point was a Tim Hortons at the corner of York and Victoria Rd. Just south of this intersection is the entrance to a multi use path that went along the river.

After 2.5 km, you reach the first of the two covered bridges on this ride.

I like the wooden pegged construction.

The MUP continues through Royal City Park.

There’s a short bit along HWY 7 as you cross HWY 6, but at least there’s a bike lane.

Turning onto Woolwich Guelph Township road. Finally gravel.

Drive in church service. I found it interesting that many people were staying in their buggies, but parked them in front of the preacher.

My second visit to the Montrose Covered Bridge this month.

If you are riding the G2G trail headed west out of Guelph, the first bridge that is out is at the Grand River. Just east of this point, you have to descend these stairs off of Katherine St to access the trail.

The last visit was with friends, and it was a chore to get our tandem down the same set of stairs. Much much easier with a single bike.

Headed back to Guelph.

Nice well packed gravel. It was also great to get some shelter from the wind today.

A note about the distance markers. The one to the left is different than the one to the right by 7 km. It turns out that the left hand sign shows the greater distance to a theoretical starting point for the G2G trail, whereas the other sign counts down the distance to the existing trailhead somewhat west of town.

At the trailhead, looking back west.

Facing the other way, you see that the G2G trail does not go further. However, there is a hiking trail through the Marden tract.

Some very pleasant riding through woods. A narrow tire road bike might have some issues with this part of the ride.

The trail ended at a gate, and beyond that I took the left fork and then followed the red blazes along the trail. It was not clear if this bit was private property as it looked like I was skirting the end of a farmer’s field. After a short ride you make a sharp turn to the right onto what looks like a fire road that follows a power line running southeast.

The road was rough, but there was a nice display of wild flowers. This was one of the highlights of the day.

At the end of this section you turn left on Woodlawn which is quite busy. Once you pass the Speed River, watch for this trail entrance off to the left.

Another nice trail, although this part was more crowded because of its proximity to the city.

Crossing Victoria Rd N, the trail is now signed as a mountain bike trail.

The route stays on the main trail, and eventually you reach a reservoir, and you turn right.

Part of the trail that rises to lake level. At this point you are about 6 km from the finish.

A fun ride with a good variety of terrain. Thanks to Ed who posted the original route.

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A little over a week ago, I took some photos of the single track near the lighthouse in Tommy Thompson Park. I rode by today to see what the city had done. It was heartbreaking.

Everything has been bulldozed flat leaving a desolate moonscape, and somewhat of a road that will turn into a mud pit when it rains.

For some reason I was most upset by what happened towards the south end. There used to be a nice ridge of gravel that had a narrow path that had been worn smooth by footfall and cycle tracks. For some reason, they decided to rip up the ridge, leaving ugly mounds of gravel.

It’s almost as if what was left behind was deliberately made as unattractive as possible. Certainly there was no attempt to restore things to any kind of “natural state”.

The other thing I noticed was two new very ugly mirrors placed at two intersections.

It would be nice if the city put these where they were needed, for example at the intersection of Brock and Florence.

July 2021 update: enough riders have been passing through so that there is now a smooth path through what used to be the roughest gravel section.

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It was announced recently that the city is going to remove the built single track that is a little east of the lighthouse, starting Monday March 29. The stated reason is that there are some “hazardous structures” that could pose a danger to the public. Since it is going to rain on both Friday and Sunday, and the spit is a madhouse on Saturdays, I look a little time off this afternoon for one last ride.

Here is where you take the unassumed road that is the alternate route to the lighthouse.

Just before the road meets up with the main paved road, you go off to the left at this point.

Turn right at the shore, and here you go.

Lots of lovely little paths to choose from.

This feature is out of commission.

This is the south end of the trails. Beyond this point, there is a straight path along a gravel ridge.

Nice detail here.

Every jump has a detour around it.

Three kids were hanging out in this hut.

None of the people that I talked to were aware of the fact that these trails were scheduled for demolition on Monday. In fact, an older woman who had hiked in was so upset that it sounded like she was ready to lie down in front of the bulldozers next week. She said that the fellow that put this together had been working on it for over ten years, and that it was one of her favourite spots in the park.

Did I mention that it was a lovely day?

Thanks to the unnamed artisan who put all this together. Rest assured that your handiwork provided much joy to others over the years.

Update: coverage about the removal on Blog TO

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I am a big fan of fenders on bikes; all of my bikes have fenders save one. I was informed by a very experienced local bike shop owner that I probably didn’t have enough clearance install fenders on the back of my Naked gravel bike, given the volume of the tire that I was using, and the position of the integral fender mount. Thus I put off my decision, also thinking that almost all the gravel bikes that I’ve every seen are fenderless. Getting dirty just seems to be part of the image.

Also, there was the issue of which fenders I should pick. I am partial to metal fenders, and there were lots of choices out there, most of them pretty spendy.

However, I came across this blog post, describing a fender set sold under the old brand Bluemels, even though they were actually made by SKS. Given that they were not that expensive, I thought I would give them a whirl.

Generally I buy stuff from one of my local bike shops, but none of them stocked this fender, and so it was off to Bike24 GmbH.

A couple of weeks later, I get this huge box in the mail.

At the very bottom of the otherwise empty box.

Yes, the fender clearance on the back is very tight.

My fork has an integral mount as well, so I remove this bracket.

Fender in fork.


Fender lines are not perfect, but I think I will ride it for a while like this before further fiddling.

As a finishing touch, I installed a John Cage by simworks. Swapping a US made king cage for something a little heavier, but quirky and made in Japan. They are stocked locally at Urbane Cyclist.

One additional note: a while back I bought a steadyrack rack to hang up the bike. I paid a little extra for the fender compatible version, but I was a little doubtful about how well it would work, since it didn’t really work with my tamarack. However, with these fenders, it was perfect.

Here’s hoping for another week or two without snow so that I can get some miles in before putting this bike away for the winter.

Spring update: some more fiddling with the fenders.

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A couple of weeks ago, someone named Yann posted an interesting looking loop around the Dundas Valley, and what interested me was that he climbed the escarpment going west from Chedoke along the Bruce trail. I’ve climbed going east from downtown towards Albion Falls as part of the Hambur Loop, but this was new ground. I put together a short ride that featured that climb, and looped back along the Hamilton-Brantford Rail Trail for the section between Ancaster and Hamilton (which was the only section of the trail that I had not done).

ridewithGPS link

I started in West Hamilton in the Fortino’s parking lot. Technically the rail trail is routed through this parking lot, and here is where it exits on the east side.

A quick ride to the east for several kilometers brings you to a point where you are skirting the north edge of Chedoke Golf Course. Turn south on Beddoe Dr, and there will be a bit of climb ahead of you (this is the small steep bit that you can see on the altitude profile on the map).

At the top of the hill there is a parking lot, along with stairs leading up the rest of the way. There is also a trail entrance leading west.

A very nice multi use trail.

At the top, you can connect to Scenic Drive on the left. However, if you want to continue to Ancaster, take the left most gravel trail.

Nice and smooth.

The bridge over the 403.

A little disappointed that the west end of the bridge has stairs.

After a bit of riding on Filman Rd, you cross Mohawk here, and the trail continues a bit off to the left.

On the other side of Mohawk, you turn right onto Hiawatha which leads you to the Ancaster Radial Trail. It is straight shot to Wilson Ave, and then I went down Jerseyville Rd until I reached Ancaster Lions Outdoor Pool. Turning right into the parking lot.

Just on the other side of the building is the trailhead for the Spring Valley Trail.

Lots of nice gravel. A bit muddy in spots, and with all the fallen leaves making it a bit slippery, I might have been a bit more comfortable on a mountain bike. At points I wished that I was not running slick tires. However, if I had bypassed the trails, I would have missed out on scenery like this.

From Spring Valley I joined the Headwaters Trail, and then at one point, turned off onto Gravel Pit Road. Here is Gravel Pit Rd intersects the Hamilton Brantford Railtrail.

After the somewhat technical trail riding, the railtrail felt like a superhighway.

About 7 km from the end of the trail, there is a visitor centre. There are bathrooms here if you need them.

The rest of the ride into Hamilton was uneventful. I did detour a bit out of my way to take this picture of the intersection of Rifle Range and Whitney Ave. This was the site of Prince Phillip School, where I did kindergarden to about Grade 6. At the time of its closing, there was some unhappiness about having a school closed in this working class neighbourhood.

One of the only artifacts that I’ve kept from my time at this school was a camel that I made from asbestos modeling clay. Things were a bit different back in the day.

If you finish your ride in this vicinity, I will note that there are two brew pubs nearby. One is Fairweather, and other is Grain and Grit. Alas I had to drive back to Toronto, so I elected to take some beer to go. I’ll hit the other place next time.

If you wanted to do a similar ride without some of the trail riding, you can continue along Jerseyville Rd out of Ancaster, and eventually you will reach a point where the road intersects the rail trail. Then you can come back east along the rail trail, and the whole 39 km loop would then be doable on pretty much any road bike.

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