Gravel Cycling near Kitchener-Waterloo

First: a brief history of my cycling life.  Like many kids back in the day, I had a banana-seat 3-speed (I wish there were some photos of that bike).  In high school, I got into road cycling and bought a nice Bianchi in about 1984 (I still have that bike, but I’m looking for a buyer). In the early 1990s I bought my first mountain bike and through the 90s and into the 2000s, my passion was mountain biking.

However, in the early 2000s, I bought a used road bike – something a little more up-to-date than that old Bianchi.  And I joined the Waterloo Cycling Club.  From about 2003 on, I mixed my rides between mountain biking and road riding. Then in the early 2010s, I started riding on gravel roads.  I started on these rides on my mountain bike, but I found I couldn’t keep up with others who were on cyclocross bikes (I couldn’t have been me; it must have been the bike).  I built up an old hard tail frame with cyclocross wheels and that became my gravel bike before I eventually bought a cyclocross bike.  I’ve since moved on from that first gravel bike.

My first gravel bike: Hardtail mountain bike with 26″ wheels converted to 700cc wheels and tires. Rigid fork added. I still have this lovely Frankenbike!

I do some road riding and fat biking, but it is my gravel bike that gets the most mileage. I also have a mountain bike that I haven’t been on in about two years.  Mountain biking has lost its appeal for me for a couple of reasons.  First, the local trail system has evolved into something that no longer inspires me to ride there.  Second, if I want to ride nice trails, I’d have to drive somewhere else.  And finally, with my concussion history, the constant bumps on trails can bring upon symptoms, which is no fun.

That’s a long introduction to this post, but I want to provide a list of some of my favourite gravel roads and trails in the Kitchener-Waterloo-Guelph-Cambridge area, where I live.  This list is, by no means, complete, but at some point, I hope to create routes of various distances for gravel rides from KW, but for now, I’ll just post some of my favourite roads.

A few years ago, I started making my own map of gravel roads, in an effort to connect as many gravel roads when I make my routes.  I used Google Maps and spent a lot of time drawing gravel roads and paths:

Then… I discovered! This is a website that does the same thing, but allows anyone to add gravel roads.  It’s a good reference for making routes and the map is growing due to the increased interest.

Here’s a list of some of my favourite roads around the Region of Waterloo

  1. G2G Trail from Guelph to Milverton: This is a rail trail that starts at the north end of Guelph and is well groomed and maintained westward until past Millbank.  The complete trail takes you all the way to Lake Huron in the town of Goderich for a total of 127 km, but west of Milverton, the trail is still being developed.  The latest grooming has been done from Millbank to nearly Milverton.  There’s a good webpage for donations and maps here.
  2. Manser Road, Lichty Road, Chalmers-Forest Road, Road 116 (Twp Road 20):  These four parallel roads run southeast to northwest (although I usually think of them as running south/north). They start (in the south) to the west of the town of Wellesley.  Manser Road, the furtest east of the four roads, is paved north of William Hastings Line.
    1. Hidden Gem: At the south end of Chalmers-Forest Road, there’s a bridge across the Nith River that is closed to motorized vehicles.  Cyclists and hikers can cross this bridge.  Also, part of Lichty Road is closed, north of William Hastings Line.
  3. Hackbart Road: This north-south trending road is over 10 km long and although Waterloo Region will never be referred to as “hilly”, this road features some of the nice rolling hills in the area.
  4. Schummer Road: This road runs NW-SE and is about 7 km long.  Towards the north end, it crosses the G2G trail between Linwood and Millbank
  5. Lawson Line – Lavery Road – Posey Line – Powell Road: These roads include two east-west roads and two north-south roads, forming a network just west of the Conestogo River at the town of Wallenstein.  The G2G trail also passes through this area on its way west towards Linwood.
  6. Jigs Hollow Road/Peel Street/Letson Drive: This little network of gravel roads is one of the gravel gems of Waterloo Region for a couple of reasons: (1) it’s close to KW and (2) it leads to West Montrose, where the famed covered bridge crosses the Grand River.  On Peel Street, there’s an old iron bridge across the Grand River near Winterbourne.
  7. Weisenberg Road: This is another of my favourite gravel roads, and it runs NW to SE for about 8 km.  At the NE end of this road, there’s another iron bridge across the Grand River. It’s closed to cars, but cyclists and hikers/walkers can cross without any issues. The G2G trail crosses Weisenberg near the SE end of this road.
  8. Maryhill Road, Halm Road, Cox Creek Road, Lundy Road, Durant Road, Maple Bend Road:This is another little network of gravel roads just east of Winterbourne and West Montrose.  They provide good connection from Bloomingdale and Winterbourne to the G2G trail.

This map below shows the gravel roads from this list, numbered with approximate locations.  As you can see, this list is far from complete, but I’ve tried to highlight some of the gravel roads close to Kitchener-Waterloo.  I’d like to build a library of routes in the area, so look for that post in coming weeks.

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