When I started my quest to have 50 memorable bike rides in my 50th year, I purposely avoided any specific goals. I also avoided the use of the word “epic”, since it’s relative. I simply wanted to have 50 rides that were memorable to me. And “memorable” could mean any of the following:
- A new (or old) destination
- A long distance, or new longest-distance achievement
- Riding in a new location
- A race or event
- Riding with new company
- A charity event
- Anything else that is somehow new or memorable
My original goal was to complete all 50 rides in the calendar year in which I turned 50 (i.e., 2016). However, after my crash last Labour Day weekend, I had to reset my goals when it became clear that I wouldn’t be able to attain 50 rides in 2016. Insteady, I focussed on rest and recovery and decided to complete my 50 rides before I turn 51 (in August). Through the first half of 2017, after I was able to make it ride 49 on my BC vacation last week, I knew I wanted to make ride #50 particarly memorable.
Since last year, I’ve been thinking about getting into bikepacking. I’ve wanted to take destination cycling to the next level and do some overnight camping while travelling by bike. After beginning my research, I realized that to get the necessary gear, it wasn’t going to be cheap to get started, so I thought I’d have to accumulate the proper gear slowly. My bro Greg and I took interest in this around the same time, so we shared research in to what to get.
I have four main bags – two homemade frame bags, custom-fitted for my fat bike, and two fantastic bags from Arkel , a Canadian company based in Quebec. They manufacture everything in house and it’s top quality My seatbag is Arkel’s SeatPacker – a new product that came out last year. When I contacted Paul at Arkel, he sent me a SeatPacker to test and I’ve used it for short day trips but this was my first overnight with it. For my handlebar, I’ve got the Arkel Rollpacker. This product is so new, it’s not even listed on their webpage yet. I’ve been in regular contact with Paul and when I won an Arkel pannier bag last year in a silent auction, I asked him if I could exchange it for the new Rollpacker, which he was happy to do. I just got it a week ago and it passed the test! It’s 25 litres and carried my tent, sleeping bag and mattress. It also includes a front pocket which held my wallet, phone, snacks and a few other little items.
I’ll blog in the future about my gear because I want to get to the ride!
Day 1 – Ancaster to Turkey Point
I left work at lunch to finish packing and drive to Ancaster and Greg and I hit the road at 3pm. We took the rail trail to Brantford then turned south towards Simcoe, where we stopped for water bottle refills. Just south of Simcoe, we turned off the rail trail and took roads towards Turkey Point.
We set up camp before dark and at dinner while we waited for park staff to deliver our firewood , which came at around 10 pm (they deliver for free!).
Total distance: 95.0 km, average speed: 19.3 km/h, nearly 5 hours of riding.
After breakfast and hot coffee, we decided to ride some of the singletrack trails at Turkey Point before making our way back to Ancaster. A couple of campsites away, we met a couple who is active in the Turkey Point Mountain Bike Club . They dropped off a printed map of the trails after we talked about mountain biking for a while. We only did about 5-6 km of their 75 km trail network but I was impressed by their trails. Nice, flowing trails.
We then made our way back along Front Rd. Most of the first 20 km was road riding to Simcoe, where we stopped for lunch before we connected with the rail trail.
This photo was a familiar site for me. Tobacco farms and looking up the road to Greg who slowed to my pace.
Greg was far enough ahead of me to take action shots of me riding through this tunnel near Brantford:
Total distance: 102 km, average speed 17.3 km/h
I won’t lie to you: it was a hard ride. Anytime you ride 100 km, it’s a good, hard ride. Doing it back to back is harder. Doing it on fat bikes loaded with camping gear is even harder. Plus (more excuses), these were my longest rides since last summer. The fitness is something that will come back slowly if I just keep riding. My head didn’t feel too bad, but it’s still not quite 100% as far as concussion recovery goes.
And anyone who says it’s really flat in this part of Ontario is uninformed or lying. The ride from the campground down to the beach is about 40 – 50 metres of elevation. The route we took had a few good climbs in and out of different valleys. Thankfully, my granny gear got me up all of them!
As for the bikepacking experience, the camping went well. I managed to remember all the essentials with the exceptions of: bug spray (lots of mosquitoes), sunscreen and shammy cream (long rides and all….), but Greg was more prepared and brought all that I forgot. I have pretty much all I need, but I could use a sleeping bag that packs smaller. For food, I had Stoked Oats for breakfast and for dinner, I had a Mountain House meal that was yummy!
Oh… and the flask was filled with The Macallan btw…
So 50 rides completed! In my 50th year. I’ll write some kind of summary at some point. And I’ll keep blogging about rides, advocacy and all things cycling that interest me!