2017 marks the third year that I’ve signed up for the Share the Road ride (Greg’s Ride). Each year in September SharetheRoad.ca organizes a charity ride to raise money to support their cause. I have previously blogged about the history of Share the Road here. Founder Eleanor McMahon has created an amazing program to support cycling awareness and infrastructure across Ontario.
When I first took interested in bikepacking, a Google search took me to a review of a bikepacking adventure by a guy named Miles Arbour. In 2016, he rode a system of trails and roads called the Central Ontario Loop Trail, or COLT. His article got me interested, and my brother Greg and I started to gear up in late 2016 in preparation for riding all or portions of the COLT in 2017.
I’ve been at my current day job for about six years, and when I started in 2011, the commute was a short 9-10 km distance that I didn’t cycle enough. I even had the luxury of secure bike storage, a shower, and the Grand River Trail. In March of this year, my employer moved to Guelph, and my commute jumped to about 22 km. Strangely, I’ve commuted by bike this year a lot more than in previous years when I had a shorter commute.
“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.
I am a cyclist. I’m a mountain biker, a roadie, a gravel cyclist, a fat biker. A commuter, a touring cyclist, and an occasional racer I ride 12 months of the year. In temperatures from as high as 35 C to as low as minus 25 C. In snow, rain, wind, sun, clouds. Up hills. Down hills. Fast. Slow.
Cycling is a pretty easy activity to prepare for. Really, all you need is your bike, a helmet and your cycling shoes. Other extras include water bottles, snacks, tools, gloves, sunglasses, but the essentials are minimal (it’s not like when I used to play hockey, when I’ve shown up to a game without a shin pad, or a skate or … my jock strap).
It’s been an odd summer. We haven’t had the normal heat wave, and it seems like we get a good rain storm every few days. I’m not one to complain a lot about the weather, but as a cyclist, I’m always paying attention to it. I’m finally at the point in my concussion recover that I feel like I can ride a little harder and a little further, and now, the limiting factor is my lack of fitness, rather than my concussion symptoms. I’m not entirely symptom free, but I’m feeling better with each ride.
In my hometown of Kitchener-Waterloo, we’ve been extremely lucky to have one of the best mountain bike trail systems in Ontario. The Hydrocut has been a favourite mountain-biking destination for many years, with as many as 40,000 riders visiting each year. I first rode these trails more than 20 years ago (around 1992) when I heard a rumour that there were some trails “behind the landfill”. After lifting my bike over a fence, I discovered a hidden gem of a forest with a confusing network of trails with elevated platforms built between the trails in some areas.
Last fall, the wonderfull staff at Arkel sent me one of their new products for my bikepacking adventures: the Seatpacker – a 15-litre waterproof seatpack. A couple of weeks ago, I went on my first over-night bikepacking trip with the Seatpacker, and here’s my review (Disclaimer: This product was provided to me by Arkel at no cost. This review is based on my use of the product as well as information provided on Arkel’s website).
In addition to cycling, one of my favourite outdoor activities is camping. Since I was a kid, travelling to different provincial parks in Ontario has been a big part of each summer. This past weekend, I spent a couple of days at Awenda Provincial Park, near Midland-Penetanguishene, on the shore of Georgian Bay. As usual, I took a bike with me to explore.