Lately, I’ve been more selective about the cycling events I enter. Until this weekend, the only event I’d entered was Paris to Ancaster. However, when I got a message on social media that I’d won an entry to the 3rd annual Creemore SpringsTuras Mor in Creemore, Ontario, I was excited (Thanks Noelle W. from Pedal Pushers in Collingwood!)
There was some chatter about this event in previous years on the online forum of my local cycling club (Waterloo Cycling Club) and this year, several friends had already signed up. As the date approached, I debated about which bike to ride. Turas Mor (presented by Creemore Springs ) – which, according to the website, is Gaelic for “Great Journey” – is advertised as ” … a truly unique bike tour . Inspired by the vintage rides of Europe”. The organizers encourage (but don’t require) cyclists to wear vintage jerseys and/or ride vintage bicycles.
I have an old 1984 Bianchi in my basement that hasn’t seen the light of day in two decades, and a few days before the event, I brought it out to see if I could make it road worthy. I inspected the cables, wheels, tires and brake pads. They all needed replacement. Then, I counted the number of teeth on the “small” chain ring: 42. The six-speed cassette had a maximum cog of 25 teeth. This meant I’d have to climb those BIG hills around Creemore in a gear ratio that wasn’t suitable for the likes of … me.
Emails and discussions with my friends revealed that two buddies would be riding vintage bikes. Alain F. restored an old Peugeot with even harder gearing than my Bianchi (42:21), and Dave G. brought an old Panasonic (apparently they used to make bikes) bike with five (5!) speeds and rusted rims that not only looked vintage, they looked dangerous! Mark B. announced before the event that he’d be riding his fat bike. After careful deliberation, I decided to join Mark and ride my fat bike.
The event started right outside the Creemore Springs Brewery, with the reading of a poem, followed by bagpipes. After a procession around town, we headed to the first BIG climb of the day, Concession 5. This hill features 200 metres of climbing over about three kilometres with a maximum grade of over 10%. The sun was out and with no wind, the heat was … hot.
My WCC friends were way ahead of me by now (those vintage bikes required Alain and Dave to ride harder up these hills to keep the pedals moving). I found an easy fatbike gear and rode at a slow, steady pace. Most people who passed me were on cyclocross or gravel bikes, but I did see the occasional road bike and I even saw one tandem and one single speed bike!
After some rolling roads, there was a FAST descent that ended up at the first rest stop, about 18 km into the 60 km ride. Strava shows that the fastest riders averaged over 60 km/h down this dirt hill. I peaked at about 60, and averaged about 43 km/h on my fat, knobby tires.
The first rest stop featured green smooties, gluten-free brownies and ice water. I met up with Alain, Dave and Mark at this stop. Soon after my arrival, Dave and Alain left, followed shortly thereafter by Mark and I. On this course, their skinnier tires would be a lot faster than our fatties, so it made sense for Mark and I to ride together.
After the first break, we continued along a paved road for a short distance before turning into the woods, and back up hill. The Centre Road climb is a dirt road that also ascends about 200 metres, this time over a distance of about six kilometres. The trees provided a much cooler temperature than the first climb, until the top section that was in the sun.
Once we finished this ascent, we were rewarded with a fast downhill that started on loose gravel. On our fat bikes, Mark and I were able to race past cyclists on skinnier tires who didn’t have the same control (this was the only part of the course that favoured fat bikes over gravel bikes). As we continued down the hill, the road became paved all the way down to the town of Dunedin where we turned westward on to gravel climb #3. This ascent featured about 160 m of climbing over 4 km. Again, the sun beat down, and I was reminded of my long days in the heat on last year’s bikepacking trip of the Central Ontario Loop Trail. There’s something about the combination of heat, humidity and fatbiking that makes me suffer…
The reward at the end of this climb was the second rest stop and it couldn’t have come at a better time. I was nearly out of water and I needed energy. This rest stop featured freshly baked thin-crust pizza (cooked on the spot), butter tarts, maple-sweetened water and a wide range of charcuterie. There was a tent and comfy lounge chairs, and while we were enjoying the treats, I admitted to Mark that if the race had ended then and there, I’d be OK with that.
We did, however, continue on our journey. I’d heard from others that there was one big climb left. As we made a turn to the east, I could see it in the distance. Once again, it was a dirt road; once again, it was in the hot sun. This climb was less than 100 m of climbing, but it featured a section of about 500 m that averaged over 10% grade. Thank goodness for the 2×10 gearing on my fatbike. This was the first climb that I saw riders pulled off to the side out of sheer exhaustion. I was tempted, but Mark and I managed to keep the pedals turning to the top.
The rest of the ride was fun and mostly downhill back into the village of Creemore. Alain and Dave had finished well ahead of us and both revealed that they were able to pedal up ALL of the steep hills on their vintage bikes!
Our registration included: two beer tokens (Creemore Springs, of course!), a voucher for a meal that included three different salads and pulled pork on a bun, plus… a Creemore Springs sampler six-pack that I’m sampling as I tpye this.
Although Turas Mor is promoted as a vintage bike event (note: it’s truly an “event”, not a “race” as it is NOT timed), most people were on modern gravel/cyclocross bikes. About 5% of cyclists were on vintage bikes and a couple of us were on fatbikes. This is a fantastic grass-roots cycling event that combines three of my favourite things: cycling, beer and more beer! I highly recommend it to all levels of cyclists. There’s even a shorter, less-hilly distance of about 20 km for people who don’t want to suffer the climbs.
Big thanks to the organizers at Creemore Springs and MultiSport Canada, Pedal Pushers in Collingwood, my buddies with the Waterloo Cycling Club and everyone who rode and supported the ride! See you in 2019!