Exploring new gravel roads

“Gravel grinder” is a fairly new cycling term to me.  It was about five years ago when I started seeking unpaved roads for cycling adventures.  Saturday morning rides started by gathering friends via social media to ride any gravel roads we could find.  The rides started in the fall after road riding was done and mountain bike trails were often too muddy, and we rode into the winter as long as it didn’t get too cold or if roads had too much snow or ice.

These gravel rides gained in popularity among local riders and we often had twenty or more riders show up.  We learned where to find all the best gravel roads in the Region and we found routes that took us to remote (nearly) car-free roads that allowed us to explore the countryside.  These weekend gravel grinders became club rides with the Waterloo Cycling Club and different ride leaders emerged with new ideas and routes.

This past weekend, my friend Matt led a group of about 15 of us on a 110 km gravel adventure on roads and across bridges from New Dundee, through Ayr, a stop at a bakery stop in Innerkip, along the Pittock Trail to Woodstock, north out of Woodstock on the Hickson Trail then back to New Dundee along more gravel roads (and into a nasty east wind, the laziest wind) .

We met in New Dundee (southwest of Kitchener) at 9am and headed south towards Ayr, where we crossed the Nith river over a couple of nice old iron bridges:

Crossing the Nigh River near Ayr.

And we rode gravel roads I’d never been on:

Riding new gravel roads and falling off the back of the group again.

And one final bridge before the final push back to New Dundee:

Bridge near New Dundee.

Pittock Trail near Woodstock was fun, but fairly busy with pedestrians. A bell is recommended when cycling on this trail.  It’s paved in spots, and very wide. Hickson Trail north of Woodstock was fun, but rather bumpy in spots (not great for my concussion recovery, but I managed to get through it). It would have been better for me on a mountain bike, but others seemed to manage just fine on gravel,cyclocross bikes.

And here’s a cool video of the route we took.  It was a great ride, thanks to everyone who pulled me into that headwind (I’m thinking of you Doug, Taryn, Andy, Joel who led me in Group 2, plus Kari, Jacquie, Mike, Rene, Matt, Bill, Joel R., James, Del, Dave who took turns leading the group – plus anyone I may have forgotten).  This was my longest ride in over a year, the weather was perfect (except maybe for that wind) – cool, sunny, and the company was fine (and the buttertart in Innerkip hit the spot at the half-way mark!).

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