I woke up at 3:30. I was wide awake and staring at the bedroom ceiling, excited about my ride today but also dreading having my soul crushed. The steady rain for the last two days have made everything a soaking wet mess, and the cold is just going to make it tougher. I'm diving in head first, knowing full well that this will be one of those rides where throwing in the towel will cross my mind several times. I won't want to even look at a bike for the next week. I eat my breakfast and pack my bag, checking out the window every few minutes to see if everything had miraculously dried up. The cold window fogs as I breathe on it, looking at the wet road in front of my house. The weather forecast is -1 degree all morning, feeling like -8. I had better pack my cold weather gear today, and as much waterproof stuff as I own. And wool..... lots of wool.
I step out into the cold and dark morning with my bag in hand, its chilly out here. The truck warms up as I strap down my bike and throw my gear in the back seat. A little bit of windshield de-icing and I'm off, heading towards Indigo Lounge in Tillsonburg for the start. I'm there early, only three other people so far. It gives me a chance to chat with the mastermind of the TillsonBurn, Jeff Ward. He has put alot of work into planning this ride and it shows. The route map has thoughtfully put together loops that will get the most out of the local gravel roads and hills, lots of hills.
Everyone is rolling in now. I put on my gear and wait for the riders meeting, all while shaking like a leaf in the cold morning. I'm eager to get started and warm myself up, its just too cold to stand still. Before long we are organized into a group, arranged by speed / skill level. I keep near the back, knowing that I'll be stopping for photos and going my usual slow and steady pace.
We set out. Its a one hundred(ish) bike parade through town and out to the Participark. Its not long before we get into our first bit of real mud near highway #3. Its slippery goo and my CX bike is having trouble maintaining traction along this stretch of beat up ATV trail. I start to wonder if a mountain bike might have been a better idea but there is no going back now. I slog through it, using what grip I could get from the 42c tires, and eventually make it to the gravel roads. "At last" I think to myself but little did I know that my struggles were just beginning. Not long into the gravel and the hills started.
Once into the climbs, the mass group starts to split up into smaller groups of similarly skilled riders. I'm suffering on the climbs but a quick glance behind me and I can see the same on everyone else's face. At least I'm not alone. Chit chat along the route with my old friend Donny, and new friend Don, and they assure me that there are no more tough hills and that there are only a few more km to go. I know better and laugh it off.
With each passing climb the group breaks up more and more. Before long I find myself flying solo. I keep my head down and grind out the miles along the country roads, following the orange arrows and hoping like hell I don't miss one. I pass the odd rider and am passed by other in return. One thing I notice is how diverse the group of riders is today. There is everything from full on racing minded guys, to fat bikes, there is even some vintage iron out here today. Some riders are experienced veterans, some are brand new to riding and just trying to slog it out. One thing we all have in common is that we are having fun. And suffering..... lots of suffering.
Miles in and we drop in off the road into a field. Its a hard go in the soft muck but I'm doing the best I can to keep on top of it and moving forward. We enter the first real trail section of the day and the mayhem really begins. I go in following a fat bike, which has no problem riding the soft wet trail, who quickly drops me as I fight the bike to stay upright. I mash on the pedals frantically, trying to keep my lowest gear moving me forward as I'm bogging down in the muck. The Norco is great on mixed surfaces but has a really tough time with full on mountain bike type trails. Its slow in these trails but makes up for it everywhere else.
A little ways through the singletrack and I come across a rather tough looking downhill. Its steep and straight down, with a sharp corner at the bottom. The surface is battered and slippery. I have my first "fuck it" moment and get off the bike to walk down. I'm frustrated that I didn't ride the downhill out but the penalty for failure could mean that I don't finish the ride. I'd rather do the walk of shame then have to ride out in an ambulance.
Back out onto pavement and my legs are screaming at me. I'm doing what I can to spin them up and work the knots out, but the mental games are beginning. I'm working hard at mind over matter right now. I can't feel most of my toes in my left foot and I can't feel my right foot at all. My hands are killing me from being smashed by drop bars in the singletrack. The next road section of soft sand has my legs burning and my arms numb as I try to pick a line through the wet sinkholes along the way. My first thought of quitting crosses my mind. I'm near 40km in and just keep telling myself "only 10 more to go" even though I know its going to be over 60km by the end. I think of the shame I'd have if I quit now. I've got to keep moving on, I don't want to have to show up in Tillsonburg in the orange van of shame, the "quitter-mobile" I call it in my head.
I block out the noise in my own head and all of my self doubt. I know I can finish this. I am able to hype myself up enough to get a second wind of sorts and hammer on. More miles grind out and I eventually arrive at the rest stop area. I enjoy a banana and some gatorade mix and get a chance to warm up my feet at the fire. Its only a short while before I can finally feel my feet again, its seems that my double wool socks and winter SPD boots are no match for some of the chilling winds out there on the open road sections. I'm back on the bike and into another trail section after the rest stop. I get through the singletrack and onto an old roadway that has been long forgotten and nearly taken back by mother nature. I stall out and walk the long gentle climb to Bell Mill Side Road. Some of the fastest guys running the 100km route are passing me now, they go by me like I'm standing still, which makes me up my mental game to keep from giving up out of frustration.
I emerge from the last trail section, knowing that there isn't far to go now. I pedal into the headwind back into Tillsonburg, the thought that the ride will be over soon it the carrot on the stick for me right now. My legs are shot, I've been running on empty for a while now. I feel like laying down on the side of the road and crying myself to sleep. I eventually cross over Highway#3 again and am in the town limits of Tillsonburg. As I ride down Simcoe St I get a renewed sense of vigor and attack the climb up Tillson Ave. I make it most of the way before completely bonking out and granny gearing it the next few blocks.
Pulling into Indigo Lounge, I am broken but smiling. I can barely stand, I'm out of energy and running on adrenaline only at this point. The endorphins and adrenaline, coupled with the sense of accomplishment, have me feeling a little euphoric.
I did it, I beat the TillsonBurn. According to my GPS the "50km" route was 63km. I've never done such a tough / long ride so early in the year. I guess all that winter fat biking paid off and kept me in somewhat decent enough shape to ride this out. I'm quite happy with myself as I've checked off the first box on a list of achieved personal accomplishments that I hope to fulfill this year. On the flip side, I'm so worn out and hurting that I don't want to even look at a bike for the next week. Its going to take a few days for my cement legs to loosen up anyways. The gravel roads, trails, and climbs have worn me down.
I'd like to extend my personal thanks to Jeff and all the other volunteers for the countless hours spent organizing such a great ride. His commitment to 'The Burn' and his fellow riders was easy to see today and he was happy just having people come out for the ride. His vision brought together a very diverse family of riders, making memories and stories for them that will be remembered for years to come. The ride was completely free of charge, but any donations made were going towards the purchase of a bicycle(s) for disadvantaged children. These selfless acts make him a champion of the local cycling community and I hope that he continues to put on this ride for years to come, I'll be there each time. Thank you Jeff!
I can't wait to bring on the pain again for TillsonBURN 2017!
Sometimes you need to go the hard way and test your metal, to see what you are really made of. This is why I've decided that I'll tackle the TillsonBurn ride this year. Its going to be the "short" loop for me, which is 50km or so of gravel roads and trails with lots of hills tossed in. We are less than a week away so I thought I should get a dry run in and and see if my metal is up to the task at hand come Friday. I hopped aboard my trusty cross bike and decided to make a loop of 50km comprised of road and trail to somewhat mimic what I had ahead of me.
I left Simcoe via the Lynn Valley Trail, one of my usual ways of getting out of town. The air was still cold and each breath was a could of steam from my nose. I imagined myself as a coal powered locomotive, puffing steam with each rotation on the cranks. The trail was quite as it was still quite early and cold for the dog walking and trail running crowds.
Once out of town I left the limestone pathway of the Lynn Valley Trail and onto the asphalt of Lynn Valley Road. My first test of metal was just ahead of me, a gruelling short climb up the North tip of Ryerse Road. I held each gear as long as I could, frantically downshifting just as I was about to stall out, until I reached my granny gear. I kept my legs turning and my eyes looking ahead to the crest, eventually besting the hill. The morning cold seemed to have burnt away while under full power and I was warm now, although breathing hard. I made my way down Ryerse Road pointed South towards the lake. A quick stop at Hay Creek for a water and pee break and I was in Port Ryerse before I knew it.
The next few miles along Front Road would be a tough set of short hills. The first of which was up and out of Port Ryerse travelling West, a short but punchy climb that had me sweating. A few miles of rolling hills and lake shore scenery and I was descending into Fisher's Glen which is home to the infamous descend-hairpin turn- cilmb of Front Road. The climb out of Fisher's Glen can be brutal, it seems like you go from the lowest point in the county to the highest in one short steep climb. I reached the top, gasping for air but exhilarated at the same time. So far my dry run was going well and I was crushing these climbs one after another.
I throttled down a bit and spun my way into Normandale and up to the dead end of Mole Side Road, the popular staging area for the Turkey Point trails. This would be the trail section of my "test of metal". As I rolled into the TP trailhead I met, by chance, with Russ who was heading out to do some training with his new trail dog Ryder. Ryder was super excited and bouncing through the woods along the trails. A little bit of chit chat and we went our own ways, each of us having spoken of our commitment to doing the "Burn" on Friday. I rode in on the Finn and Feather trail, then on through Dizzy Lizzy where I met up with the TPMBC gang. They were heading to the dump property and I decided to hang with the group as I was heading that way anyways.
The cross bike wasn't too bad at keeping up with the full on mountain bikes, although after being repeatedly jarred along trails like The Stroller and Methane my wrists were crying in pain. It seems that 42c tires and drop bars are not as pillowy comfortable as four inch fat tires and flat bars. We rode out of the dump and out to Motorhead where I really tested the limits of the CX bike on the big rollers, bridges, and minor jumps along the trail. This sure isn't the kind of bike you want to "get loose" on, some of it was downright scary. After Motorhead (during which I always have the song 'Ace of Spades' playing in my head, RIP Lemmy) I hit the road again for the ride back towards Simcoe.
Back on the road and I was moving North towards the four corners of Walsh. I moved quickly from TP to Walsh but was running out of steam now with about 10km or so to go before hitting home. I turned onto a concession road and was hit by a nasty headwind. It wouldn't have been so bad but I was really starting to feel the burn and the wind was kicking my ass. I found a good gear and just kept churning the pedals, I felt as if I was riding through oatmeal. Lots of effort with little payoff.
I put my head down and kept moving. Before long I was riding back into Simcoe along Evergreen Hill Road, just a few km through town and I would be home. My test of metal complete. Once I pulled into my laneway I nearly collapsed, my legs felt like huge rubber bands. My GPS says I did 49km, but it always reads lower than my bike computer for some reason (I've tested this on a few bikes, all the same results) so I'd have to hazard a guess that I was actually closer to 53-54 km.
My test of metal felt successful, I think I'm as ready as I'm ever going to be for the TillsonBurn but I'm sure I'll still have my ass kicked by the terrain and the weather. I'm really just hoping to survive the ride without having to call Mrs. Bric to pick me up along the route, and I want to keep myself from crying too. I don't mean crying the sense of "my brakes are dragging" either, I mean that I hope I don't give up and sob myself to sleep in a puddle of my own urine on the side of the road. That would be embarrassing.
Can't wait to have my ass kicked and my soul crushed on Friday! See you out there.
Picked up this beat up old 1st gen Karate Monkey recently. It needs some work and decals. I'm not even really sure what I'm going to do with it yet but the price was right for this cool old Surly. Lots of options here, disc or canti, clearance for huge tires, track end style dropouts, derailleur mounts and cable stops. I have to admit, Surly makes some super versatile bikes. Time will tell how this old project turns out.
I planned on a quick after work ride today if the rain held out. Things cleared up on my drive home so it was game-on. I decided that I would do a loop of the outskirts of town on my CX bike but the ride went from a high intensity 'TillsonBurn' training ride to an urban adventure ride.
I circled town then began my criss-cross pattern through it, discovering unique sights that were hidden in plain sight. I've lived in Simcoe for 6 years now, so there is still some spots that I need to explore. Rides like this take me back to being a kid and riding every inch of the little town of Delhi, leaving no street unridden, no bush unexplored, and no stone unturned. I swear that you could drop me anywhere in a 10km radius of Delhi and I could tell you where I am.
My journey through town started from Ireland Road along the Lynn Valley trail where I completed my outskirts loop and headed towards Memorial Park.
I shredded some singletrack aboard the CX bike in the Brook Conservation Area. This little area has all of Simcoe's 'Premier' mountain biking singletrack, which isn't all that much, but still good fun.
Once into town and along the Lynn River, there is lots to slow down and see. I found an old decommissioned trail bridge, a staircase to nowhere, and an old railroad overpass above Davis Creek.
Where the old railway ends is an equally dilapidated industrial area that some of which seems like time has forgotten about.
I get back onto the paved trails through town and leave the history behind me. Any ride where I find new things is a great ride in my books. Riding can't be all twisty singletrack and carving corners, sometimes you just need to pedal into something unknown and lose yourself for a bit. Exploring and finding new interesting things is what keeps me going, otherwise I get stuck in a rut of the same old ride, new day. Next time you ride past that faint little offshoot of the trail or old road, turn around and check it out. Even if its a bust, you won't regret it.
It was a super beautiful day yesterday. I got out just before noon after the temps had warmed up (and I finished painting my kitchen) for a great ride at Turkey Point. I think its safe to say that the cat is out of the bag now regarding the fantastic early season conditions that are typical of Turkey Point. The parking areas at each end of Mole Rd were stuffed full and the core trails quite busy. Back when I first started riding here, about 15 years ago, if you saw another tire track in the dirt it was a busy day. Now you can't swing a 26er without hitting another rider. Its nice to see everyone getting out here.
I got to take the Torrent out for its first ride since December. I'm still amazed at how awesome the b+ wheel platform is. This bike rips. My good old fatbike has had alot of miles put on and the drivetrain is shot, might be a spring project to freshen her up a bit.
The new trails at the Dump are in good shape, I took advantage of the weather on Wednesday as well and rode all the new lines out there. Lots of good work being done and the "Ladies On SingleTrack" (LOST) Girls did a fantastic job on the trail "Hot Flash". Anyways, here are the obligatory ride photos.
As everyone knows, sometimes life gets busy and the little things get pushed aside. Last weekend started out like that for me. I was stressed and worn down, too many things on my mind. I knew that a ride would blast the cobwebs from my brain.
I finished breakfast and started to get ready to head out the door, it was a particularly nice day as well and would make for great riding weather. As I passed through the living room I spotted my son staring out the bay window at the start of a beautiful day. I felt like spending time with him was one of those things that got pushed aside all week and had a brilliant idea.
I asked "Hey buddy, you want to go for a mountain bike ride?" His eyes lit up and with a big smile said "Yeah" as he jumped from the window to follow me out the door.
The entire short car ride to the trails was a conversation with him about what trails we would ride, how much fun we would have, and what kind of treasure we might find. Once at the trailhead we unloaded quickly and were off into the woods. He would hoot and holler as we rode small obstacles and snaked through the twisty singletrack. Each time I looked back he was smiling ear to ear.
I think its safe to say that Little Bric has been bitten by the cycling bug. We have been on countless rides together, pulling him in a trailer since he was 10 months old. He has enjoyed all of it, making an adventure out of each ride and learning new things about the outdoors along the way.
Its hard to know if cycling will stay with him and be a part of his life as it is mine. If it does, thats great. If it dose not and he finds his own passion for something else, thats great too. For now he is my best riding buddy. The Trail-A-Bike is our new toy as the trailer is getting a little cramped now with his sister and he is on the verge of growing out of it. This year will see some rides with just her and I as she needs that one on one time with dad too.
We kept riding singletrack, Little Bric would often ask about the "next level" which was his way of asking about the next trail we would ride. The kid couldn't get enough riding in. To him, each little hill climb was a mountain and the downhill was a perfect excuse for the shouting of "here we go...... weeeee". Each tough section we cleared I would tell him "Good job buddy" to which he would reply with either a laugh or "Good job you too dad". At the end of each rest stop he would say "Me got a great plan...." then outline what trail we would ride and how fun it would be. He loves riding the trails out here at Turkey Point, or as he calls it, "Chicken-butt Mountain". Thank Grandpa for that phrase.
Little Bric is quite resilient too. We had a gnarly crash on a patch of ice, he jumped up and immediately said "me okay" with a big smile. A high five and a fist bump later and we were back on the trail like nothing happened. We did manage to break a pedal on the Trail-A-Bike in the crash. Good excuse for some upgrades.
It wasn't the fastest ride, or the toughest, but its always fun with my little riding buddy. His wide eyed excitement brings something new to the same old trails and he always seems to notice (and remember) unique things along the trail. He never backs down from an obstacle either, whether its his bravery or lack of knowing any better I'm not sure but he takes everything in stride.
I cherish these rides together and time spent outdoors. I hope these "memories with dad" will stick with him and be remembered for a long time. I know that I'll never forget these rides.
The Bric...._ mountain biker, road rider, heavyweight gear abuser. Built like a brick sh*thouse. No bike is safe.