Another year, another Global Fat Bike Day. This one was special for me as it was my first ride back on the mountain bike (expect for a couple of very painful rides I gave up on in the summer) since my accident. It was also the first ride out on my resurrected fat bike.
The bike was everything that I hoped it would be when done. Fully rigid on 4" rubber, 1 x 10 driveline, loaded with simple and reliable components. It doesn't get much simpler than this when it comes to mountain biking, and its just what I needed. A reliable machine to get me back on the trails. Full spec below...
Feast your eyes.....
My good riding partner, Wide Open Willie, and I set out to do our own little ride at Turkey Point. We kept to the trails within the Provincial Park and did a nice loop that reversed back on a few trails. A great day to get out there. The resurrected fat bike did well, very well. It took everything in stride and kept me grinning ear to ear. I think its safe to say that I'm back in the saddle again and I can't wait to put more miles on.
Its been far too long and I've missed the sound of my huge tires humming along in the dirt, with the occasional click of the shifter or squeak from the brakes. Carving up the winding trails and attacking the short climbs put me back into my Happy Place that I've missed for months.
See you on the trails...
I rolled out of bed and wiped the sleep from my eyes, eager to stick my head between the bay window curtains and see what the overnight weather had brought us. To my surprise we didn't get as much rain as they were calling for last night, although it was a drizzle / fine mist at that point. I needed to ride and after a crummy week of being sick, it was time to push myself out the door and rack up some miles on the mountain bike. A quick series of text messages and I had myself a riding partner for the day. Now I was committed and couldn't chicken out due to weather. I packed my waterproof gear and headed out the door.
Jason and I arrived at Mole Road just before 10am. We suited up and headed off into Saudwinder to start our ride. This was only my third ride on the new RSD Sergeant, as the last couple of months have sucked for me riding-wise. Jason also had his new rig out, a nearly identical RSD Sergeant. It seemed that he liked mine so much he had to get one of his own. I can't blame him, its a great bike.
We carried on through the Burn, Dizzy Lizzy, Humpback, and Wedowmaker. I was feeling a bit sluggish as I'm still getting over being sick. Hopefully I bounce back from it pretty quick, otherwise the TillsonBurn (only two weeks away) is going to be a short ride followed by a long humiliation for me. Time will tell. We headed out to Big Mike / the Church property and back into the Provincial Park along the Ridge Trail / Lookout Bluff. I was done, legs shot. We got in just under 20km but it was all I had.
Although I'm tired and feel worn and sick, it was a good ride and the new bike really shined. Jason was also quite happy with his Sergeant and I think we will be riding them for a long time to come. We had the trails to ourselves all morning as the cold and damp likely kept everyone off the trails until tomorrow, which looks to be beautiful forecast-wise. Time to smash some miles in on the CX bike and get ready for TBurn4.
I'm going to start off being totally honest and say that rides in February and March have been nearly non-existent for me this year. I just haven't been feeling the urge to ride lately and a busy family life combined with a roller coaster of weather that we've been having this winter made it easy finding excuses to keep myself from riding. A nice sunny day and an unexpected early departure from work meant that I had no excuse to keep me off the bike this time.
I grabbed my trusty fat bike (wasn't sure what the conditions would bring) and headed to Turkey Point. The combination of me being off my game after neglecting the bike, and the slow rolling Surly Nate's, made the first few kilometers creep by at a snails pace. Once I got warmed up and my head into the right space, things started coming together nicely. The miles rolled by and I could feel the cobwebs leaving my mind, the dust blown off my tires, and my urge to ride coming back.
I've had times like this before where I just need to take some time away from cycling and focus on other things. It was a nice break but I realized that I really did miss the bike more than I thought I did. There is something about twisting through the trees and hearing the dirt under your tires that gets me in my "Zen" place and keeps my mountain-bike-mojo going. As my mother once told me "absence makes the heart grow fonder" and I realize that taking a break makes you realize how much you can miss triggering through gears, feathering the rear brake in a corner, and popping your front wheel up and over small obstacles in the trail.
Now that my bike mojo is starting to come back, I need to get serious miles in before the TillsonBurn on Good Friday. I'm no where near ready for it, and in much worse off shape that I was last year at this time. I can't help but think of it as a death march at this point. I need to grind out some 50km+ mixed surface rides over the next few weeks leading up to the Burn.
Now.... for the goodbye part. At the end of my ride I had a good look and noticed that my repaired and braced chainstay on the Nashbar Fat Bike was cracking again. I figured this would happen but tried to be hopeful. The chainstay just has too many little cracks in it and has fatigued. Looks like this might be the end of the line for my trusty old Nash-Fat. I might get a couple more rides in on it before it breaks completely, but should probably play it safe and use it as a paper weight at this point. The new RSD is itching to go, but it hurts to lose such a good old friend. Watch for the Nash-Fat eulogy in the near future.
The first snowfall of the winter is always a little bittersweet for me. It makes me happy because, just like and other kid trapped in a man's body, I get to bundle up and go play in it for hours on end with my bike. I get a little sad because it drives the last nail in the coffin and reminds me that I won't be riding in shorts for a few more months. I gave into my happy side and loaded up my bike and layered on the winter gear, then drove down to the familiar trails of good old Turkey Point. The sun was shining brightly and the trails were in excellent shape.
The light dusting of snow really highlighted the deer paths that criss crossed the singletrack out in the bush. I also came across some fox and coyote tracks.
I got out early enough that, save for one other rider and a group of trail runners, I was the first one out there. I followed the tracks of the other rider for a while before venturing off and hitting some undisturbed powder. There is something special about putting the first tracks into fresh snow, even if only a dusting like this.
The fatbike chugged along happily under me, almost as if it was excited to see snow again. Its running tip top after its big rebuild and the new rubber offers lots of grip that I had been missing with the old worn out tires. I can't wait to ride the shit out of this bike again all winter and leave it looking like a pile of broken parts picked out of a ditch.
By time my ride was finishing up there were lots of other riders out enjoying the day. As I finished on Saudwinder I noticed how many more tracks were cut into the white fluff compared to the one track on my way in. Early bird gets the worm as they say, or in this case the fresh snow.
My poor old fatbike had been hanging on the wall of the shop for months, having been decomissioned since the end of September due to worn out tires and drivetrain. The poor old girl had a ton of miles on her and needed some gentle love but bicycle-related cash flow (or lack of) was too low for a full bore refit. I tore it apart and slowly rebuilt with less-worn-out parts as I could get my hands on them.
I happened to have the used OneUP cassette adaptor and narrow-wide chainring that was on my Specialized Fatboy that I was smart enough to remove before I sold it a year ago, so I put those on with a good used cassette and chain to spruce up the drivetrain. I'm trying something a bit different with my driveline setup that I'm calling the "DingleX", its a 1x10 driveline with a 22T granny still installed on the crank. My main ratios are 30T ring X 11-42 cassette, but I can push the chain off the 30T narrow wide with my foot and run a 22T ring with the 11-42 cassette. Its not shifting on the fly but it will work for a 1X bike that will likely need some stump pulling gears come snow time. Let me illustrate below.
With the driveline sorted out I needed tires. After a bit of sticker shock from looking at a nice set of Schwallbe Jumbo Jim's, I went for a set of tried and true Surly Nates with an awesome retro looking skinwall carcass. The Nate's hook up alot better than the old Floaters that I had on the bike but also roll a bit slower and have a wee bit more self steer. I'm going to do some pressure tweaking in the near future to find the happy spot for these tires. The brown and green colour motif on this rig is a bit of a combination of the military and farm impliment look. I like it.
With my fat rig all fixed up I was ready to hit dirt, and with today being Global FatBike Day what better time. I headead out to Turkey Point for a ride and joined up with the TPMBC gang to ride out from Mole Rd. A group of (what I estimate was) 25 hit the trails and rolled over Big Mike and into the United Church property. I hung with the group for a while before heading off on my own to march to the beat of my own drum. Its not that I don't like group rides, I just prefer to be by myself sometimes and today was one of those days. I did some more riding out to the Lookout Bluff and back into some of the park trails. It was a good day, brought to an early end by some rain.
Now that the fatty is ready for a winter's worth of abuse, I can break down the Torrent for a disassemble / clean / lube / reassemble and keep it feeling brand new for spring. I've also had lucid thoughts of building a second wheelset for the fatty (650b+) and outfit it for bikepacking next year. We will see.
Crisp cool mornings, warm sunny afternoons, glowing orange landscapes, and the sound of leaves crunching under your tires... that's autumn riding at it best. If I had to pick, I'd say autumn is my favourite season to ride. To me, its everything from cold night rides where your foggy breath puffs out like a locomotive's steam, to sweaty afternoons shedding layers to stay cool.
I've been very fortunate this fall so far, I've had the chance to spend some amazing days in the backcountry of Turkey Point, as well as some riding in places like Muskoka and the Ontario Escarpment. I keep thinking to myself "this must be the last day of the warm weather" but this November keeps on delivering. I was able to spend a few fall hours out in Turkey Point recently and the views are just stunning, the forest has a vibrant almost-neon glow to it and the gentle breeze brings down the brightly coloured leaves at a steady pace. Being in the woods right now makes you realize that just like the squirrels foraging for a winter's worth of food, the forest is also going into hibernation.
Moving further along into the pine forest and the leaves are replaced with a blanket of pine needles covering the sandy soil. Every once in a while you can catch a wiff of the fresh pine needles baking on the warm sunny sand, the best smell in the world (followed closely by fresh cut lumber and weathered leather).
With each passing day of awesomeness, the cold of winter lurches closer and soon enough we will be covered in snow and the fat bike will be pulling extra duty. This is the time that my riding addiction goes into overdrive and I have to ride every drop out of this autumn weather. Be it on singletrack or a rail trail, I'm riding out this fall to all its potential and embracing the change of the seasons.
Ride on! See you out there!
Not many words today.
Its been years since I rode at Kelso and was itching to get back into the gnarly rocks of "X-Tream Trail" and "Rough Trade". Having not been in a long time, there were some re-routes that I was unfamiliar with but everything flowed together nicely. The fall colours were in full swing and there were lots of hikers on the trails. The view from the top of the escarpment was beautiful.
Kyle and I put our technical riding skills to the test battling the rocks and roots. A couple of small wipeouts and a shoe malfunction were the only unplanned accidents of the day.
After a few hours of toughing out cottage traffic the family and I arrived at the cottage of my wife's cousins. We had made the plans earlier in the year to have a weekend on the lake visiting her extended family and there was no way I was going to leave my bike at home with all the great riding I could do up there. Saturday was a nice day at the lake followed by a Turkey dinner, but Sunday morning was my chance to sneak out for a few hours.
I was out the door and running immediately after breakfast. I had my sights set on getting out to Buckwallow (which was only 10 minutes from the cottage) as I had not been there in over five years. I pulled into the parking lot and was immediately greeted by the owner Mike, who was genuinely interested in talking about trail conditions and what my plans to ride were. In no other pay-to-play trail system have I ever been met by the owner and had a quick chat, maybe its the Muskoka-Friendly attitude or that life moves a little slower up there.
After paying my $10 fee I set out to battle the rocks of the Canadian Shield. I had forgotten over those five years just how tough and technical these trails are. I had to quickly adjust to the unfamiliar terrain or suffer greatly.
I'm not going to lie, the terrain here is steep and brutal at times. I was glad I had the extra traction of the full on fatbike with me but still had the occasional loud howl of my four inch wide tires sliding across the rocks when I would grab a little too much rear brake. All the rocks also made for plenty of opportunities to tear my big tires to shreds, although I did make it out with just a little bit of sidewall rash on the rear tire. These 3 year old Floater tires are darn reliable.
I got deeper into the trails and onto old Buckwallow classics like West 'D' Nile and The Missing Link. These sections are an odd mixture of pleasure and pain. I have to come clean too, I did have a few hiccups and colourful language while out there. I also had to be careful not to go down too hard, as the saying goes about "an unstoppable force meets an immovable object", I'm sure I would have had broken bones if I pushed too hard.
After a few hours of beating myself and my bike senseless, it was time to call it in. I had ridden everything that Buckwallow had to offer, then some sections over again for added self-induced trauma. I headed back to the cottage and enjoyed lunch, then sat on a comfy chair on the dock and relaxed the afternoon away while watching the family enjoy the boats and water skis. It will likely be another five years before I ride Buckwallow again but it will be well worth the wait.
I've had this certain ride on my "biking bucket list" for a while now. I wanted to ride from home out to the long closed up Little Lake Conservation Area and explore the area a bit. I was up nice and early on a Sunday morning so it seemed like the right time to check it out. I really enjoy Hay Creek (another closed camp ground) and the trails / old roads within it and thought Little Lake would be worth the look. I was out just after sunrise, leaving town via the Waterford Heritage Trail. At this early hour I had the entire trail to myself.
I really enjoy the Heritage Trail. Its a short (10km) ride from Simcoe to Waterford where it brings you through the old Co-Op silos and the Black Bridge, an old train trestle where you can get a birds eye view of the Waterford Ponds.
I left Waterford after a nice break / photo op and continued my quest North. This section from Waterford to Brantford is not as heavily used as the more Southern end of the trail and makes for a nice escape from the general population. I didn't see another soul for the entire ride from Waterford to Concession 3. Once at Concession 3, it was time to hit the open road and turn West towards my destination along the quiet back roads of Norfolk.
After grinding along I finally reached my destination, the old Little Lake Conservation area. I remember driving past this camp ground when I was younger and it being open. I'd have to guess its been closed for just over a decade, although I can't remember exactly when. I headed into the gate, hoping to find lots of neat abandoned roads and campsites. I did come across the foundation of the old camp office, but the roads where so overgrown it was tough to get anywhere. I tried pushing through but the brush was too thick. I'll have to come back one day in the fall / winter when the brush isn't so thick. It was a disappointment.
I left the camp ground and began my southern route back home. I took the opportunity for more photos in Teeterville at the Teeterville Pond, a man made reservoir with a dam on Big Creek. I have canoed this pond many times with my father and brother when we were young.
Just a bit more South from Teeterville is the little Hamlet of Windham Centre. I checked out the closed up Windham Public School where I attended middle school, which has stood empty for a number of years.
The crown jewel of Windham Centre is the WinDel Park. A baseball and soccer field that is heavily used. Out at the very back of the park though is another abandoned slice of history, The Windel Velodrome. Built in 1972 but it has been unused for many years, its one of the only Olympic Size velodromes in the province and the only outdoor one. The sad old velodrome is in bad shape, its asphalt cracked and weeds growing out of it, the surrounding grassy area over grown, and the lane markers barely visible. I cranked up the good ole CX bike and tore around the track like hell, dodging the renegade shrubbery as I tried to keep my speed up enough to ride high on the banked corners. I was surprised how much speed I was carrying and held a line just below the red center marker. It was a fun sprint but I decided that a few laps were enough as I still had some distance to cover back to Simcoe and my water was running low, not to mention my legs felt pretty heavy at this point.
The rest of the ride through Rattlesnake Harbor and Nixon was a nice quiet country stroll followed by some rail trail back home. I ended up riding nearly 60km and was back home for lunch, it was great. Even though Little Lake was a bust, I had a good time wandering the lonely roads. I've already formulated a plan in my head to get back to Little Lake CA on my fat bike when the brush is thinner in the fall so I can explore the old campground and beyond (Google Earth shows some promising looking stretches of dirt in the bush nearby). It was a typical Sunday adventure.
I was out the door by 6:30. I planned on a ride to Dover and back with some breakfast at the pier but shortly after leaving town on the LVT the forecasted rain started. I hoped I would beat it but luck was not in my favour. I decided to cut it short and bail on my plans, hitting the road at the next crossing. I headed back towards Simcoe along some back roads and came into town through some of the old industrial area. The rain had let up some and I was plodding along slowly taking in the scenery of the derelict buildings when I came across one particular gem that caught my eye.
I took a walk around the outside of the building, looking for anything interesting to photograph when I came across an exterior door that was just ever so slightly opened. I approached the door, hidden by dense bush but with a "deer path" through the vegetation up to it, and pulled it open slowly.
It was pitch black inside and the only things I could see were building debris illuminated by the sliver of sunlight that the door granted passage. I had no flashlight with me to explore any deeper so I decided that the best I could do was step into the dark and use my camera flash to see inside, seemed smart at the time but looking back it seemed more like one of those stupid mistakes that the person about to die in a horror film makes. Two steps in the door and I took a photo in the blackness with the camera flash bursting a moment of light into the black. I looked down at my camera screen to see what I had caught when I heard a sound.
I froze in my tracks as I heard a faint whistle, the kind you use to try and get someones attention. I was standing in the pure black darkness, crippled in fear by the whistle when the muffled voices started, followed by footsteps. I panicked and turned around running out the door and through the bushes to my bike. I stood there, twenty feet or so from the open door, waiting for someone to come out of the abyss inside. It felt like an eternity I stood there waiting. No one ever came out but I had the feeling of being watched from within the darkness. I jumped on my bike and began riding away through the abandoned area, looking back expecting to see someone, but only felt eyes on me. What person or dark force had I disturbed? The feeling of dread was lifted from my shoulders as soon as I had left sight of the door.
I rode back through town to home, reliving the experience in my mind over and over. In all likely hood I only disturbed a vagrant or another would-be explorer, but I don't care to ever go back in that door again.
The Bric...._ mountain biker, road rider, heavyweight gear abuser. Built like a brick sh*thouse. No bike is safe.