Is This A Logo??

Is This A Logo??

Thursday, 31 October 2019

Cannonball 300

So, on one of our regular Sunday Riot rides, Rick Ross mentions..."Hey, we should do the Cannonball 300 one day."

I said, "Yeah, we should.  But my gravel bike is single speed...could make me hurt."
Rick: "It's 300+km...everything is gonna hurt anyway."
Me:  "OK then...let's do it..."

So on Saturday October 19th at 6am...we headed out to challenge the Cannonball300 in one complete it in less than the day.  In case you are not familiar with the Cannonball, it is a 300km route connecting rail trail, gravel, waterfront trail, greenbelt, pavement, and single track.  The route never takes you too far from civilization, for water and is meant to be an introductory bikepacking route.  You can find all the details at     (It is actually quite interesting how the route earned it's name!)

My home is less than 10kms from the start of the route, so Rick and I actually started from my house.  So, at 6am on October 19th, it was minus 2 degrees outside, but it was supposed to get over plus 14 degrees in the afternoon.  We didn't want to be overdressed for later in the day, and be stuck carrying excessive clothing for the bulk of the ride, so we decided to deal with the cold discomfort and dressed more for the warmer weather.

And freeze we did.  The first 100km of the ride was almost all rail trail...which should have meant we could travel with some speed and eat up kilometres quickly.  However, the faster we went the colder we were...fingers and toes were freezing.  So, we kept the pace down...and stopped frequently to warm up...

2 - 3 hours into the ride we began to warm up, however we continued at a rather liesurely pace.  We stopped to talk to other bike riders, chat with locals, nature breaks...and to eat regularly to stay fueled.  Mostly, we enjoyed the scenery.

The second 100ish kms were along the shores of Lake Erie...from Port Dover to Port Colborne.  Literally along the shore; so close my garmin map showed us riding in the water...and the scenery was spectacular.  Lake Erie is as clear and blue as pool water...without the bleach and chlorine.  Nature's beauty.

As we got closer to Port Colborne the route included several stretches of very gnarly ATV trail...which kept our pace a little too slow.  Eventually, we realized we were going too leisurely, and we still had a loooong way to go.  So we picked up the pace...we were going to end up riding for a while in the dark.  But we were prepared with lights.

The route took us north from Port Colborne, through Welland...and a gravel route along the Welland Canal...the Canal is not attractive scenery....but it is very cool!

Anywhere can be considered paradise under the right circumstances...

Then trough Thorold and St Catharines...along gravel and cool single was now dark and getting tough to see.  In fact, Rick took a tumble as his front wheel found a rut in a gravel descent.  He was OK, but he broke his shifter.  We were now both single speed...and it was clearly time to have the lights on.

By now we were hammering as much as possible...eager to make up time.  Through campgrounds, and Balls Falls conservation area...being more careful on singletrack.  Then onto the pavement through the twenty valley winery area...I was a little worried being on the road, but we had blinky red lights going, and 1200lumen headlights blazing...and there was generous bike lane for the most part.  Rick was full on hammering in this section, I was redlining to hang on...Rick is one tough, talented endurance rider!!

A long climb out of the twenty valley, along Ridge Rd by Grimsby, still the dark...onto the Dofasco Trail...sketchy sections, especially on gravel bikes...but fun!!  Over to the Devils amazing lookout...the top of the escarpment overlooking Stoney Creek and Hamilton and Lake Ontario...spectacular.  We were within 30km of home...eager to finish...but we took time to enjoy the view.  Besides, my single speed power muscles clearly needed the rest, and stretch.

Then into some of the more climby trails of the Red Hill trail hammering in here...but then it came out onto the Escarpment Rail Trail...more opportunity for speed and cover kilometres here...into downtown close to home.  Before we knew it we were done...home!!!  320kms...15hrs of riding.  The strava data here.

Done the route, done physically, done mentally..much later than planned but finally home...

At least Lois was glad we made it home...

Seriously...just another amazing ride...with another buddy pushing my limits.

While it was a challenge to do this route in one day...especially at this time of year when the days are shorter..starting in the dark, and finishing in the was meant as a bikepacking route.  It would be a hoot to camp out along the shores of Lake Erie...or at any one of the many campgrounds along the route.  And to stop to enjoy the food and drink at any one of the local establishments.  To take the time to properly enjoy the views.  Next time...

Likely the last 'ultra-ride' of the season.  I hope...   I need to work on more intense, short ride that's the plan for now.  I think... ride at a time, especially at this point in the season.


Stay posted!!

Oh...and happy halloween!!!

Thursday, 24 October 2019

GNR 350 - Grand Nith Route

So, on September 29th the Turkey Point Fall Ripper was on...a ride to celebrate the fine Turkey Point mountain bike trails.  I did not sign up but several friends did, so that morning RickRoss and his spouse Chris and myself set out on our cross bikes to stop in at Turkey Point, say Hi, and ride back home.

It made for a very nice 217km ride.  Rick is an exceptionally strong and talented mtb/gravel rider..even more impressive is that he is diabetic, requiring monitoring his blood glycogen levels, and constantly (literally, constantly) eating to maintain those levels.

Anyways, along that ride we discussed long rides we had done, and I mentioned having done the BT700 in July.  (I posted a blog about the BT700 here.)  That led to discussing that Matt Kadey (the progenitor of the BT700) had recently put together a new 350km route.  The GNR (the Grand Nith Route); a route tracking along the Grand and Nith Rivers.  Apparently Rick's friend RobF wanted to do the GNR, so Rick and I determined that the three of us would do it.  As it turned out...we would do so on the next weekend!

So, the GNR officially starts and finishes in St. Jacobs...however, the route passes within 5 kms of my house.  So, on Saturday October 5th Rick, Rob, and Riot departed from my home at 7am to get onto the GNR route on Sydenham Road in Dundas...and onto the Hamilton-Brantford Railtrail.

I was riding my 29+ hardtail with 3 inch tires (I thought it would make for a smooth, comfy ride); Rick was on his 29er hardtail with 2 inch tires; Rob was on his commuter, a hardtail with 33ml commuter tires.  The intention was to do the route over 2 days and be back home Sunday evening.

The route took us up through Paris where we stopped for a sit down lunch and one Adam Frederiksen met us and guided us through the local trails that were part of the route.  Glad he did....could have been confusing otherwise...the trials followed the Grand River, but there were various offshoots and side trails.  (Adam had also ridden the complete GNR...and Cannonball...earlier in the season).  I have to emphasize the Paris trails were great!!  This was my favourite part of the route...the trails a great combination of technical, twisty single, roots, and punchy 29+ was perfect for these trails.  Adam had limited time to ride with us though...and soon we were on our own again.

The route took us north through the town of Ayr, then west up to a bridge that was out and impassible across the river, so we had to take a bit of a detour.

The route then turned north, following the river...some trail but mostly gravel roads.  Daylight quickly began to wane and we were soon riding in the dark.  It was time to find a place to camp for the night.  That ended up being at Nith River Campground...more of an RV park with seasonal camping but there was a day camp site right near the washroom/shower facilities that ended up working out great.  172kms into the route.

It was supposed to rain overnight, so we quickly set up camp...cooked some dinner, and hit the hay...with the intent to get going again by 7am.

I woke at 5am to the sound of a couple of intermittent rain drops.  I quickly packed up my camp which was only a tarp, sleeping pad, and bag...I don't like the hassle of a tent for single night set ups.  Rick and Rob both had tents and got wet while the rain fell as they packed their tents.  I hid out in the large covered porch of the facility next to us, and cooked a warm breakfast and coffee.  The rain poured for over an hour then began to let up as I finished packing everything back on my bike.  Rick and Rob took a while to pack while trying to dry their gear but by just after 7:30am we were back on the gravel.

And mostly gravel it was...all the way to St Jacobs...where we stopped for a sit down brunch at the Eco Cafe.  There was some pavement on this part of the route link up gravel bits.  Rob put the boots to us with his skinny tire commuter set up on the pavement on gravel...but we made sure he paid for it when we hit trails.  We are kind like that...

Off of some technical (rocky, rooty, climby) riverside trail 
where the single track veered off through a meadow, so we stopped to eat 
and wait for Rob to catch back on.

The part of the route from St Jacobs through the Kitchener-Waterloo region included a load of double track that wound through many of the local parks and camps along the riverside.  Very, very cool riding....but very, very climby!  Long steep climbs...followed by long swoopy after the other...literally a series of hill repeats.  The long flowy descents though, almost made the hill repeats fun...almost...on loaded bikes after almost 300kms of riding.  (Keep in mind if we had started this ride from the 'official' start point these trails would be closer to the beginning of the route.)

A flat bit...

We were joined by Ana Maria Bogatan...a local mtb-er to help guide us through a stretch of these trails.  It was great to have friends join in.  Especially locals familiar with the trails...thanks Ana and Adam!!

Part of these trails led through a cattle pasture.  And today the cattle were directly on the trail...sitting peacefully chewing away...tossing us the occasional gaze as we rode through...even the big guy.  This was so cool!!

These trails eventually lead to the Cambridge area where a bit of road and gravel took us through the Puslinch trail system  (Puslinch is a great trail system, a mix of flowy twisty single track, and gnarly challenging punchy technical climbs...built on a gravel quarry so the recent rains drain and dry up quickly).  The GNR route takes one mainly through the fireroad/double track that leads through the centre of the trail system.

From the Puslinch trails the route is gravel and pavement to the LaFarge trails.  The LaFarge trails...double track/fireroad.  But if you want some of the steepest, loosely gravelled, rutted from the rain climbs on a loaded bikepacking you are.  Challenging, tough, exhausting on any bike...

Then its a road blast down Middleton was now dark, and getting late...we pushed it hard..very hard, on the road sections to get 'er done...and to limit road riding in the dark.  Middleton road lead into the Christie Lake trails.  The trails here were still soft from the rains (it looked like it rained much more here than it did at our camp site) we stayed off the soft trails not wanting to cause trail damage, especially with Rob's skinny tires.  Instead we sped through on the fireroad that leads through the trail system.  We were almost done!!

The Spencer Creek trails lead to our end of the actual GNR route (to the point where we jumped in)...and from there it was a quick 5km road blast home!!  Where our spouses had met to wait for us.  (I use a SPOT device that has a share page so friends and family...and whoever else...can track our progress on these rides...).

A 188.5 km day...we were done!!  The Strava data for the day here.

We were whipped...exhausted...done...toast.  But we had completed the GNR.

Thank you Rick and Rob for the ass kicking!  Thank you to our spouses for letting us come back home!  Thank you Adam and Ana for the guiding!  Big thanks to Matt Kadey and Tabi for putting together amazing bikepacking routes...this has to take unimaginable amount of time and effort!!

So, what's next?

Yeah...there is more.  Another post to come...soon.

Stay posted!!

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

8 Hours of Hurtin'

So yeah, I have been very neglectful, lazy, maybe even a bit of procrastination...

especially considering there have been a couple of topics that I wanted to post, chat, shout out about.

Anyways...I'm putting off procrastinating until later, so get ready for a couple of quick posts over the next few days...I hope...starting with this one.

As I have mentioned in past posts...if you can remember that far back, I entered this season with the intention to back off from racing, and just to get back to enjoying riding.  The events I did enter, like the Spring  Epic 8 Hour, the 24 Hours of Summer Solstice, and the Quebec Singletrack Experience, or backpacking the BT700, I approached with the the same enjoy the ride.  Those were the major events I planned to attend this season; along with a whole lot of just plain non-event riding...and then this came up.

And this event was intriguingly super-cool for a number of reasons.  First super-cool reason: It was being run\promoted by MarcWS.  Marc ended up inadvertently, unexpectedly, last minute supporting me for the 24 Hours of Summer Solstice...and did an amazingly, totally over-the-top job of it.  So I felt compelled to support his venture.  Plus Marc is a single doesn't get any cooler than that.

Second super-cool reason:  It was a gravel race.  I have done many 8 hour mountain bike races, but I have never heard of an 8 hour gravel race...I was very intrigued!  Especially considering my gravel bike is single speed...which leads to the next super-cool reason:

The course.  A 27 kilometre loop...with over 300m of climbing per loop.  On an almost closed course.  The course was basically a fireroad.  A single lane (real one lane...fitting one vehicle), linking the odd nearby cottage and the abundant ATV/snowmobile/mountain bike trails...which meant almost no vehicle traffic.  I think I may have seen two vehicles the entire day...almost certainly locals driving with cautious attention.  The surface included rocky hardpack, loose gravel, and the odd bit of sand where road work/culvert installation had recently been done.  Super-tough...but super-cool.

Fourth super-cool reason:  An aid station every 5 kilometres!  Because cell coverage on course was sketchy at best...mostly non-existent, there was always an aid station with in close walking proximity.  And every aid station was super supportive...with at least two volunteers heartily cheering you on at every lap!  Very motivating...especially as the day wore on and the single speed legs started getting rubbery.

Anyways, I could go on with great reasons to do this race, but these were the main ones. I went to Haliburton.  I stayed at a buddy's (thanks ChrisB!!) cottage for the weekend...a ten minute drive from the race venue.  Lois came along too (that never happens) for a relaxing weekend in the Haliburton forest.  My friend JohnL also attended the race.  We were both on Kona Ti Roves...but his was geared.  I was set up with a 40-13 single speed, and I was running 29x1.8 old school mtb race tires (Specialized Renegades)...29x1.8 equates to 700x45 in roadie terms.  I ran them softer at between 35 and 40 psi to help soak up some of the bumps, lumps, and chatter...hopefully float better over the sandy bits, and make for a more comfortable 8 hours.

The race started with a light cool rain...but the weather warmed up nicely as the day went on.  The 27 kilometre loop took me about an hour for the first couple of laps...but the repeated climbing, quickly caused that time to stretch out.  The course was basically roller after roller...with a couple of the climbs just long and steep enough to cause me to slow speed grind just to barely make it over the top (I guess the fact that I am currently weighing in at over 200lbs doesn't help...).  The descents were fast and somewhat sketchy into loose gravel and sand....a couple of them around sharp curves.  It took me three laps to learn to slow down around the curved loose descent at km 13...yeah I overcooked it three times in a row having to ride it out in the ditch of long grass...luckily surviving intact each time.  (Ya...slow learner...).  The cheering volunteers at each aid station were a very welcome motivation.

There were also great photog volunteers on scene...

Thanks for the great pics Jean!!
(Photo creds: Jean Horsely)

As it turned out I was the only solo single speeder, so there wasn't a single speed category.  I went into the race hoping to get in 5 laps...mostly worried about my tall gearing, and the extensive climbing...but as I rolled in to finish lap 5 I realized I had time to complete another lap.  I pulled up to my pit/cooler (ya the solo pits were right at the finish/transition zone), and realized I was out of water, and wasn't smart enough to reload at one of the aid stations.  However, as every good mountain bike knows...there are always beers in the cooler.  So one of those beers went into a water bottle and off I went.  None too one hour lap times had stretched into almost 1:15 for lap 5.  However, I went out for every lap with a grin on my face (that doesn't always happen in a mtb 8 hour).  The course was just so much fun....the climbs were just enough of a grueling challenge, the descents were high speed fun, the other racers were heartily pleasant....everyone was enjoying this unique event!  And the volunteers were amazing!!

As I finished lap 6 I was totally cooked.  I had about another hour to get in a 7th lap...but there was no chance of that happening...I was done.  The climb muscles were totally toasted...

But, I had come in 5th out of 21 solo males.  I was happy with that.  (My buddy John had managed 7 laps...awesome performance!!).

And I am already stoked (you can't have a mountain bike blog without the word 'stoked' in it at least once, right??), to do this race again next year!!  8 hours of gravel...amazing course, great people...nothing but pure fun!!

If you are looking for something different...and you enjoy a fun, tough have to do this thing in 2020.  I have a feeling this event is going to become another popular classic!!  Be part of it!!  I'm sayin!!

So there ya have it.  8 Hours of Hurtin' in Haliburton.  Just the first of the blog posts I need to catch up on...ya, I know...about time!!  So what's the next one?


Stay posted!

Thursday, 22 August 2019

Quebec SingleTrack Experience - A Race, A Ride, An Adventure's been almost 2 weeks since we got back from QSE (Quebec SingleTrack Experience) so I figured I'm overdue, as always, to put a review of the event into a post.

QSE...a 6 day mountain bike stage event, unlike most other stage races.  Each day a unique mountain bike experience, each day in another exceptional mtb destination.  I posted daily details of the experience on my facebook page  For all the exciting details, check out the facebook page.  However, in order to keep this post from becoming a novelic saga, I will keep this to a briefer review.

packed and ready

We drove up with NewfieSteve and PowerPaul

Home was a college residence for 7 nights.

At the HUB

The event centred itself around a permanent base camp (called the HUB), including a covered stage, bar, information/kit/clothing kiosk, seating, firepit, massage stations, yoga site.  Compared to other stage races that require daily relocation, the permanent base left one time to rest/recover, or visit the many nearby historic sites.

Lois loved the event as much as I did!

Lois attended with me...she did the tourist thing each day as I rode the event.  The event included extra activities and excursions, and with the HUB being within walking distance of the old city there were literally unlimited options to keep Lois busy.  (She absolutely loved the experience, and is as excited as me...or go back!!).  This really was our vacation...I planned to enjoy my rides, not so much race them...and come back every afternoon/evening so Lois and I could hang out together.

The event included a night ride of the Old City, the night before Day 1

At the Citadel with JennR and PowerPaul

Getting ready to roll Day 1 Vallee Bras-du-Nord

But mostly....the sucesss of the event centred around the quality and variety of the trails.  Trails that are genuinely world class...including the only permanent stage on the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup circuit for the last 30 years.  I've always felt fortunate to live in south-central Ontario (is that where we are??), to be so near such a variety of great trail options...but the trails at QSE are so much above and beyond what we have here.  After all, we were in the mountains...and the event included a daily shuttle out to another daily unique experience.



A quote from my daily facebook page post during the event sums it up nicely...

" A mountain bike Mecca. Today’s route required a gondola ride to the top of the mountain to the start line. From the top the route had us descend and climb the mountain twice. Sooo much tech. A brand new $150,000 trail, with so much high speed burmed flow the momentum threw you into technical stuff before you could second guess. So often I cleared a portion of the trail thinking “There is no way I should have attempted that on any bike!” Drops. Air catching jumps landing in roots and/or rocks. The climbs no less crazy. Looong rocky rooty steep climbs. Not ideal for the ribs I injured yesterday. My poor Raijin (Ti hardtail 29er) didn’t know what hit it today. I went in planning to adopt my 8 hour solo pace to play it as safe as possible. And I mostly managed to accomplish that. I rode with friends instead of raced them. Friends like Julie Rossal, Rick Ross (also on a Ti hardtail), the team of Steve Mcrossan and Mary Quinn. So many friends from Team Ontario are smashing the leaderboard!! I was happy to just stay upright. Such a great day, amazing trails, what a venue. Friends. MTB. Adventure. Ending each day back with Lois. "

And this went on day after day for 6 days!!  Ridiculously long, steep, high tech descents...high speed flow...4-5km least 2 each day.  Amazing mountain vistas.  Each day, a unique experience that left you exhausted physically and mentally, but so enjoyable it left you wanting more...

More Newfie

I have so many pics...trying to choose ones to include is a challenge!

Just one of the climbs

Another little injury on Day 3 
(Not the rib injury I took on Day 1)

Just one of so many unique features.

Just one of so many amazing sights...

If you think I am being overly positive about this event, I am...because it is totally warranted.  It really is that good.  However, there are a couple of things I will do different next time.  Yes, there will be a next time...we will be back again for QSE 2020.

I will consciously make every effort to not get injured on day 1.  Busting/bruising ribs on the first day made for overly cautious riding for the remainder of the event.

A couple of weeks later...blood from the 
injured ribs pooled in the hip before dissipating.

This year we treated the event as a vacation...I rode to enjoy the trails.  In 2020, we will go back twice...once in the spring as a vacation, where I can ride, and re-ride trails, and take a little more time to enjoy the Quebec culture with Lois.  Then again to attend QSE 2020...where this time I plan to treat it more as a race.  I will train for this, hoping my current endurance training/fitness, with a little bit of work, will translate into stage race (2-4 hrs/day) fitness.  One great thing about Quebec is that it is close enough (compared to BC) to drive or take the VIA train in less than a day.

I will have a different bike...a bike more properly suited for these type of trails.  My Kona Raijin, with it's hardtail XC race geomety, and 100mm travel fork was not enough...and the steep head angle made the descents challenging, if not almost treacherous (especially on the Enduro stage on day 5!).  The Raijin may have been OK on any given day, but over 6 days it took a beating...and so did I.  A bike with minimum 130mm full suspension travel would be much more that is the plan for next time.

RobR...podium finisher!

There was a rain/mud day, but the trails held up great!  
Mike VanDenBlender...smokin' fast podium finisher!!

JennR on rain day.  
Also smokin' fast 1st place podium finsher, 
3rd place women overall...gave the pros a run!!

KarenD...mud day...yet another podium finisher!

Bevin, Riot face??  This was Bevin's 3rd QSE...
one of the most respected mtb'ers around.  Skill, speed, and character.

Bevin has been adopted as the face of QSE...and multiple year podium finisher, 
this year was as a team with GaryS


Steve and Mary, teammates on and off the trail!

Kim, one of the toughest ladies on the trail...and podium finisher.


JulieR...tough, fast, podium finisher!

I told you I had a ton of pics!!

Even a pic from the bus/ to another stage...

A final point...the friendships.  New ones made, current ones cemented.  When you get a bunch of like-minded people...specifically a group of mountain bikers, out to enjoy an experience.  It was such a positive energy flowing through the very enjoyable.

A group dinner evening...

Drinks on the deck

The official group pic

So there you have it...there is so much more I could write about.  The details of the individual stages and trails, the organization, the food, the comaraderie and friendships, how well individuals from our 'Team Ontario' did on the leaderboard.  There was so much...

Forever, a Que-biker
There was also an amazing post event party with an amazing live band...
but I'm not allowed to post any pics from the fun...except this one.

So...if you are looking for another event to add to your calendar, this one is so worthy.  You could not package together your own vacation for the cost of this event.  And so many memories...

Eventually, we had to make our way home...

Anyways, I could seriously go on forever on this one...

Feel free to text, message, email me if you have any questions.  Check out the website...

In the meantime...

Stay posted.