Last night I decided I’d dedicate all of today to a ride. If there is an issue with living in the GTA it that you need to ride for two hours to get anywhere decent to ride to. All of this came about because I read about a tour of the Ottawa Valley in this month’s Road Runner Magazine. When I took a good hard look at the route map attached to the article against Google Maps well it came up a little to beige for my tastes. I mean they stuck to the highways for Pete’s sake. How can that be fun?
Now a good friend of mine recently moved to Ottawa and he’s just started riding a cruiser so the Ottawa Valley plus a bit of Algonquin Park was going to be a good two day outing. And I suppose the Road Runner Mag’s route would be a good way to get a novice’s feet wet on a longer trip. Screw that. The only prerequisite I use when route planning is finding the twistiest roads on the way. Otherwise why bother? I’m not big on scrubbing your tires flat. I like to wear the edges off. I do realize however that my idea of a regular day, is not in the comfort zone of others. So I’ll be refining the route over the next little while.
But the research did reveal a lot of windy twisty roads within a few hours of home. A few clicks of the mouse and some tapping on the GPS and I had a nice ten hour day of riding. Or as I like to put it, a short day of riding.
My wife works Saturday right now and she’s up by 5:30am, I lay in bed till 5:45am and then got myself rolling. She thought I was crazy (I’m not disputing that). I threw on my PUG long johns and a long sleeved sweat shirt, some rugby pants I’ve ripped the rear pockets off of and went downstairs to grab the rest of the gear. The secret to cold riding is of course layering but the real secret is a Balaclava you can wear under the helmet. On go the Acerbis waterproof boots (rain was forecast and I hate wet feet – more on this later), then the Joe Rocket Meteor pants (old enough I’ve forgotten what version they are), the Columbia Titanium jacket (of course) and the High Viz Tourmaster Jacket. A quick cup of Peppermint tea and out the door I go.
The plan was simple. Ride out to Cobourg, head North past Peterborough, all the way up to Lower Paudash Lake, zip by Crystal Lake down to Pigeon Lake then cut West to Barrie and back down the 400 to the 401 and home.
Traffic was light on the 401 out to Cobourg and as is usually the case Mississauga and Toronto are fairly or should I say relatively warm but once you’re on the other side of the GTA the temperature plummets and even with my grip heaters on full blast, the cold started to creep in through all of my layers. Even the boots which have been rock stars up until now, were getting a little chill. There is really only one solution for this problem. Find a place to grab some breakfast and wait for the sun to warm things up a bit more. About fifteen minutes up route 45 I found just such a place. Its parking lot was well stocked with local’s cars, always a good sign. For a Hot Chocolate, Three thick slices of French toast (without Cinnamon) and two eggs over easy. Everything was great and not swimming in grease as I’ve come to expect from most of the roadside eateries and it was cheap at $7.75. I left them a Ten.
Warmed up inside and yes, the outside air temp had come up as well, I got back on 45 and headed North. At Asphodel, I got onto 7 heading roughly East, up to this point, the turns had been nice and easy, you just had to watch out for sand and minor amounts of loose gravel on the road surface. At Havelock, I turned North once again on CR 46 which runs ruler straight until it turns into CR 44 and then it gets interesting with nice elevation changes and it’s suitably twisty to work the kinks out as it doubles back West. I followed its serpentine track until I hit Stoney Lake Road which was more or less another straight section up to Northey Bay’s Road which started out more of the same but who’s back half wound itself up nicely to entertain me.
I did come across this beached boat moldering away in Havelock. She must have been a pretty one in her day.
And that is how it basically went for a good chunk of the day until about ten kilicks outside of Gooderham, I came across the I and BO Rail Trail. I zipped by it a first but something in my head went, “Hey there were tire tracks on that trail!” I doubled back. Yes there were tracks and it was good to go for bikes, ATVs and Skidoos. Sweet. It looked like dirt. I like dirt, my bike can handle dirt, no really, I know they say it can’t really but I’ve done lots of stuff with things they say can’t do that. Besides, have you seen my tires? Down the trail I went. At first glance it’s a dual track but more realistically, it’s a track and a half. It started off dirt with a bit of gravel and cinder with the odd jutting root for bad measure. Then it got dippy, nothing major you just get up on the pegs and surf the humps. The Strom has a good range in first and enough torque not to lug and it was fun as hell to be on some decent dirt for a change. With the river to my left at the bottom of a steep bank it was very picturesque and then the dirt went away to be replaced by sand.
I hate sand. Sand likes to wash out your front tire, it likes to suck out your rear and bury it up to the axle. Sand is not your friend. Worst of all, I have little experience riding in it but one guy did give me some advise, “Go faster.” If this was a flat track, I’d have opened her up but I did mention this was a very dippy trail. So it’s up on the pegs, knees on the sides of the tank , keep the arms loose and moving with the bike. I’m correcting on the up and down side of the dips. Going up the wheel wants to wash left towards the river. Going down the other side, I’m washing out to the right and she keeps wanting to tuck under me. Hard on the throttle up, ease off on the top and hard again at the bottom of the next dip. If they were deeper and longer and not just about a bike length and a half this would be so much easier. But the go faster thing really works and were doing well.
Then I see the cabin to my left. “Must be weird being next to a trail like this I think.” My eyes left the trail and tracked the dark green wood siding for a second we were on a flat section (yes, my bike and I make a, “We,” I don’t get into this sort of trouble by myself) and I was doing okay speed wise. When my eyes returned to the track they see that the section in front of me is washed out. It’s about five feet across and about two feet deep and it’s too late to brake. The right side looks a little shallower so I aim for that. Which means of course I hit the middle of the other side of the hole. The front forks go to full compression as do my testicles on the bridge of the seat. The back end drops in and I give her throttle to get me up out of the hole. The skid pan grinds over the lip and I’m up and out the other side. I stop and look back to see what chunks of the bike I’ve left behind.
My Support the Canadian Military Ribbon is a flash of yellow in the sand of the trail. Once again the skid pan has done it’s job and protected the oil cooler and filter and all it cost me was some paint on it’s underside and some sore balls. I collect the ribbon and slap it back on my tank. I’m hoping there aren.t any more washouts to deal with but I’ll be taking it easier just in case. Of course the sand gets deeper and the dips dippier. The last quarter mile its a fight to keep the front end from washing out in every drop. Though the was a twelve foot water crossing that was pretty fun. If it had rained, the trail would have been easier. Finally I see the end of the trail and the road that will join back up with my route. The sand in the last twenty feet is the deepest of all. My rear wheel is about five inches deep in the stuff but I just give it loads of welly and with a rooster tail of debris shooting out behind me I push it up to the road proper. I’ll need more practice if I’m going to get good at that.
I’m low on fuel so it’s time to drop the gas in my Rotopax fuel cells into the tank. The real point of today was to test distance I can cover with full fuel. My main tank hold five gallons and the two Rotopax units hold two gallons each. I’d made it about 360Km on the main tank, the extra fuel should be good for about another 250 to 300Km of extra range. As it was, it worked out to about 280Km. The cells were easy to get off the bike and fill up my main tank with and carrying the fuel’s extra weight had not been an issue. I was on the back leg of the days ride and it was still fun.
A sideline about my rain gear though.
About two weeks ago, I discovered my Sidi Rain Gear had no crotch in the pants. This of course downgrades it’s effectiveness against that most dreaded of motorcycle riding conditions, “Soggy crotch,” caused by the puddle of water from the rain running down your front in a rain storm. The non functioning Sidi stuff was binned and I purchased a new one piece rain suit from GP Bikes made by Oxford. I like their heated grips, I figured the MADE IN CHINA stamp on the side of the package was fine as what isn’t made there these days. Today of course was the first time I tried them on. Now as any rider will tell you the best way to stave off the rain is to put on your rain gear before it starts to drizzle. This will effectively piss off the rain and it will bugger off letting the sun come out to then stew you in your own juices. The rain will then hide round a corner to pounce on you once you take off the rain gear because you’re too hot. Well my new rain gear had issues. It fit well across the chest, the arms were just the right length, even the waist was good but the legs. Well they weren’t proportional cause they came to the top of my boots. Water would be deftly aimed by the legs into my boots not over and around as they should. I’d bought a set of rain knickers.
Thank you Chinese QC guy, you rock. If only you could read a tape measure.
It never did rain on me.
Overall I covered just under 700Km today and it took me just over ten hours with breaks and photo stops to do it. It was a good way to spend a day and I got to scrub some of the flat off the tires.