Gravel Pimp: Port Alberni to Cumberland Loop Part 2…

13 05 2013
Middle of nowhere...

Middle of nowhere…

Day 3 – Wrong Turn

I made a serious mistake on the last day. I didn’t question the Google Maps bike route enough. I was so close to PA I could taste the ice cream and I wasn’t thinking straight. I ended up paying the price.

How bad was it?

  • 2500′ and 3.5hrs of pushing my bike up Mount Horne
  • 30 degree C heat
  • limited water
  • not realizing it was a dead end until right at the top where I was expecting an awesome downhill run to PA
  • road down other side didn’t exist :(
  • 30mins of controlled falling down the mountain on my bike the same way I pushed up

I was totally crushed when I figured out the mistake in my route. I sat down and would have cried if I didn’t feel the need to conserve water! In my defence when I looked at the Google Maps satellite images it put a white line and road name for the imaginary roads. The white line looked just like a break in the trees which is what a logging road looks like. The only way you can tell the real roads from the fake roads is to zoom in uber close at which point the fake roads disappear and are replaced by trees. The real roads of course stay on the screen no matter how much you zoom in. Lesson learned.

The only upside was the cell tower at the top of the mountain meant I had 4bars on my phone so I could download satellite images and scope out a new route – very carefully!

After figuring out where to go next I had to head down the way I came. It was so steep I could barely ride safely and had to stop a few times to let my brakes cool.

Steep road...

Steep road…

and up...

and up…

thank God some water...

thank God some water…

my Sopranos look...

my Sopranos look…

Forgetting the climb for a second...

Forgetting the climb for a second…

at least the views are sweet...

at least the views are sweet…

and up we go...

and up we go…

My only reward...

My only reward an awesome cell signal… ;)

Back where I started...

Back where I started…

Day 3 – Heading to PA Finally!

4hrs of hard work and I was back where I started from. Bummer. :(

The safest option would have been to head back to the highway and ride to PA on pavement. Did I take it?

Hell no! ;)

I decided to stay dirty and recon a route around the bottom of Horne Lake on logging roads. This had some risks and since it was now the afternoon one more setback would mean another night of camping as I could run out of daylight. After tasting a bit of main road touring I felt the opportunity to ride alone on logging roads was the better way to spend my time.

Although I felt some trepidation passing another “Keep Out!” gate the road past the gate was pretty nice. Enough shade to help beat the heat and after hours of pushing uphill it was nice just to be riding my bike again. The road deteriorated rapidly and I feared it might dead end, but it kept going and I was rewarded with a connection to a well maintained logging road at the south end of Horne Lake.

I got a little cocky at this point and spotted a shortcut on the map if I was willing to hike-a-bike across a clear cut. It would save me a long logging road detour. So I went for it. As I rode up to the clearcut I realized it was really rough and uphill the whole way. Yikes! I just kept going. Looking back at the effort required to manhandle the Krampus up the clearcut I’m not sure it was easier than riding the long way around, but it was a unique challenge. After many hours of touring on this trip doing something new was refreshing even though it was really hard.

At the far end of the clearcut I thought all my challenges were over, but Google Maps screwed me one more time with a fake road. I thought I had a straight shot to PA. But when I showed up at the intersection it didn’t exist. A zoom way in on the satellite image revealed it was another faker. **sigh**

This time however there was a reasonable alternate route I could take so instead of an 8km ride to PA. I had to ride 14-16kms. Not the end of the world. I had been through enough that even though I was pretty burnt out I knew I would get to PA that night before sunset and be drinking a cold beer.

So I cranked down the last part of the logging road I was on and hit the Alberni Highway. I enjoyed a really long downhill that brought me to the PA city limits with barely any pedalling. I stopped for a sub, bag of chips and a cold Sprite. I was thrilled to be almost done the ride. Not knowing PA very well I didn’t realize I had some super steep hills to climb back to my friends’ house, but nothing could stop me now!

I rolled into their place at 8pm. I guess I didn’t make it for lunch! A shower, 3 beers and a hottub later I felt like a champion. ;)

Another gate...

Another gate…

Looking good...

Looking good…

What happened to the last guy that tried this route... ;)

What happened to the last guy that tried this route… ;)

Getting rustic...

Getting rustic…

and rough...

and rough…

and I'm golden...

and I’m golden…

Stunning views...

Stunning views…

more gates to ignore...

more gates to ignore…

One last challenge...

One last challenge…

A harsh push through an uphill clear cut...

A harsh push through an uphill clear cut…

IMG_5752

Halfway up…

Last section of gravel...

Last section of gravel…

The Alberni Highway...

The Alberni Highway…

Viktory!

Viktory!

The Mighty Krampus!

All Hail The Mighty Krampus!

The loop map - click for more details...

The loop map – click for more details…

Wrap Up

All in all it was a great trip despite the heat and the navigation challenges. I learned a lot about this part of Vancouver Island and about route planning with the tools at my disposal. The Krampus with Porcelain Rocket bags is a capable bikepacking rig.

I cleaned up the GPS tracks on Ride With GPS to remove any detours, backtracks or wrong turns so the routes are more useful to people that download them. Riding 200kms in 3 days doesn’t seem like much, but it was quite hard for me with a lot of pushing.

The great news is I know have ~400kms of dirt touring route mapped out from Cumberland to Victoria BC and I’ve covered a bit less than half of Vancouver Island so there is lots more to come! :)

Ride GPS data...

Ride GPS data…





Gravel Pimp: Port Alberni to Cumberland Loop Part 1…

13 05 2013
Bridge on the Log Train Trail...

Bridge on the Log Train Trail…

With a dirt bikepacking route sorted out from Lake Cowichan to Victoria I was eager to push northwards. I know the logging roads from Lake Cowichan to Port Alberni as I have driven them on my kiteboarding adventures. So I skipped that section and looked at how to ride from PA to Cumberland on dirt.

Route map - click for more detail...

Route map – click for more detail…

I have friends in Port Alberni so I decided to drive 2hrs north to their place and start the ride from there. I figured I’d just do it as an out and back or come up with some loop options once I had a feel for the terrain.

You can have a look a the trip photos here. I should warn you as a solo trip there are lots of scenery shots and not much in the way of biking action – sorry!

Me and the Krampus at the start...

Me and the Krampus at the start…

Day 1 – Port Alberni – end of the Log Train Trail

I got to PA around 1pm on the first day of the trip. Talking about my route with my friend Rob he suggested I should ride the Log Train Trail out of PA rather than the route I had planned. It sounded like a nice ride, but I would have to abandon my well researched GPS route and navigate on the fly. It sounded like a good idea given that I had some spare time in my schedule in case things took longer than expected. Before I could even leave Rob’s place my front tires went flat while we were chatting. Turns out a pinch flat I patched on the last Krampus tour had failed. Possibly as a result of running normal 29er tubes in the big 3″ Knard tire. I ripped off the old patch and applied a new one. which held the rest of the trip.

Rob took the photo of me and my bike at the start of the Log Train Trail above. The LTT was a fun dirt rail bed ride with quite a few rough spots and twists/turns. I got lost several times and spent a lot of energy backtracking and asking locals for directions. I had to ford a fast flowing creek where the trail had washed out and rode the Krampus through a mud puddle that ended up being deeper than the hubs/BB. :( I guess it’s time for an oil change in the Alfine 11!

The shoes and socks I was wearing were not designed to dry fast so I had wet feet all day which did not make me happy! I need to figure out some quick dry bikepacking footwear or carry a second set of lightweight footwear [ie. Vibram FIve Fingers for camp use and river crossings]. Since the day was extremely hot ~30 deg C at least getting wet was pleasant for its cooling effect. The LTT also had a lot of tree cover and I appreciated the shade very much.

I spent a lot of time covering the LTT. Much more than if I would have followed my planned route, but the riding was amazing and I was happy to have heard about the LTT from Rob. A quiet rough dirt track with a modest grade and some shade is bikepacking paradise!

Log Train Trail Map - click for larger...

Log Train Trail Map – click for larger…

flat Knard!

flat Knard!

Lovely countryside...

Lovely countryside…

Nice shade...

Nice shade…

Good landmark for navigation...

Good landmark for navigation…

Time for wet feet...

Time for wet feet…

Where did the trail go?

Where did the trail go?

Quiet riding...

Quiet riding…

Day 1 – From LTT to Camp near Pear Lake

Leaving the LTT behind I hit logging roads heading north towards Comox Lake. This was part of my planned GPS route so navigation was easy and the riding was fun despite the heat and general uphill trend to the terrain. I stopped at every creek to throw water over my head and refill my bottles as needed. The logging roads did not provide any shade due to the lack of big trees in most places. That meant a lot of baking for me. Although my late start also meant that by the time I hit this section it was the late afternoon and the temperature was heading slowly in the cooler direction.

I’m not a fast rider and I stop frequently to take photos, eat and generally check stuff out. That works well in the heat because I am not pushing myself too hard and I can sustain a constant moderate exertion all day.

As I was riding along I spotted a tiny clearing next to a beautiful little lake. I rode in to investigate and found a lovely campsite with a stool made from a chunk of log and some firewood ready to light next to a fire ring. I had another 90mins of daylight and wanted to push on, but I also wasn’t confident I’d find an equally nice campsite further on and I was tempted by the almost ready to go fire so I could dry my wet shoes/socks. OTOH – if I kept going I’d be a lot closer to breakfast in Cumberland the following day!

After 15mins of deliberating I sat down and lit a fire. An hour later I had dry feet, dry socks and dry shoes! Yeah! :) I had sandwiches and perishable snacks with me so rather than let them go bad I just ate everything I had that wouldn’t last in the heat. That let me skip my usual dehydrated camp meal. The campsite was really peaceful and I enjoyed a good long chill out session by the fire until it got dark.

Last tour I camped up high with my lightweight summer sleeping bag and suffered a lot. This trip I brought the same bag, but temperatures were high and my camp was much lower. What I didn’t realize was that there were about 1000 frogs in the lake I was camped next to and it was date night!!!!! I’ve never heard frogs that loud before – amazing. Happily I am a solid sleeper so I only woke up a few times, but every time I did it was a shock to hear them. Funny thing was when I woke up the last time and the sun was coming up the lake was silent again and I never did see a single frog!

I should mention the bear situation since Vancouver Island is home to a healthy population of black bears. I ran into a couple bears that were on the road during the first day of riding. I don’t carry any bear spray or bear bangers on the island. Black bears aren’t aggressive and they are well fed here. So I just holler at them with a Mr. T impression such as “I pity the fool bear that tries to mess with the Mighty Krampus!” It works every time and the bear scampers away into the woods never to be seen again. I keep my food away from my tent at night, but close enough I can hear an animal trying to steal it so I can get up and shoo them away. I’m actually more concerned with rodents as they’ll quietly chew through any bag to get at a snack and they are harder to notice than a 250lbs bear!

We also have cougars on the island. I don’t carry any anti-cougar safety gear either. A cougar you see isn’t interested in you and will run away every time. The first indication that a cougar wants to eat you is when its jaws are closing around your neck. You aren’t going to get bear spray out and do anything useful in that case. Since a cougar attack is rarer than a lightning strike I don’t worry about it.

Logging road...

Logging road…

Positive message...

Positive message…

Cool water!

Cool water!

Dusty and no shade...

Dusty and no shade…

Cell service 50kms from nearest people...

Cell service 50kms from the nearest town…

Nice campsite...

Nice campsite…

Dry feet... :)

Dry feet… :)

Chilling...

Chilling…

Home sweet home...

Home sweet home…

Breakfast...

Breakfast…

Day 2 – Camp to Cumberland

The next morning was nice and cool so I wanted to make tracks for Cumberland before it got too hot. The road went downhill a long way to the lake which actually got too chilly so I stopped to drink some hot green tea I made at breakfast and was carrying in my framebag. That really hit the spot and I was soon greeted with lots of climbing as the road around the lake was very lumpy!

I should have looked at the elevation profile more carefully, but I was expecting a leisurely cruise around the lake to Cumberland. Instead I got lots of steep ups and downs. The kind you couldn’t use your momentum from the previous downhill to get up. So there was lots of sweating and some pushing involved. Since my pace was slow it got plenty hot well before I reached Cumberland. There wasn’t much I could do other than to keep going and think about the cold drinks I could buy when I reached town.

On the plus side the scenery was really nice and I had the road to myself like I usually do when riding BC logging roads.

I did finally reach Cumberland and without thinking I pulled into the first gas station for an ice cold Sprite and a bag of salty chips! I sat outside and devoured them as fast as I could before heading into the center of town.

Early morning downhill...

Early morning downhill…

Comox Lake...

Comox Lake…

A message...

A message…

Getting warm...

Getting warm…

Nearly done!

Nearly done!

Mar's on Main = breakfast! :)

Mar’s on Main = breakfast! :)

Day 2 – Cumberland

Getting to Cumberland was great not just for the food and beverages, but it meant I now had ~400kms of dirt bikepacking route mapped out all the way down to Victoria. Almost half the island. Nice! :)

First thing I did was find the LBS which is Dodge City Cycles. I knew it was my kind of shop when I saw a Krampus in the window and a well used Moonlander leaning against the counter. Not to mention loads of sweet mountain bikes. Dan and Chris were very kind to me letting me leave my bike in the shop while I walked down to Mar’s on Main for a delicious breakfast.

After eating I bought a trail map from DCC and they let me drop my camping gear in a corner of the shop so I could do some unencumbered mountain biking. Thanks guys! I spent a couple hours exploring the trails closest to town and barely even scratched the surface of the riding potential in Cumberland. Their trail network blows my mind and they keep building more and more each week.

Eventually the heat and the knowledge I had more miles to cover today convinced me to head back to the shop. I chatted with the DCC guys a bunch and then I went over to the Waiverly Pub for some cold beer and shade while I figured out the route back to PA.

I could have gone back the way I had come, but I was really burnt out from the heat and the idea of repeating the hilly, hot and dusty road along Comox Lake did not appeal to me. Looking at Google Maps I decided heading to the coast for a spin down the old island highway made sense. It was flat-ish and would be 10 degrees cooler by the water. I waited until late afternoon to let the temperature subside a bit before heading out. In the meantime I caught up on stuff via my smartphone and watched some hockey recaps on TV.

Dodge City Cycles...

Dodge City Cycles…

My Krampus taking a break at DCC...

My Krampus taking a break at DCC…

Cumberland tech...

Cumberland tech…

A fresh Krampus at DCC...

A fresh Krampus at DCC…

Fat skinny...

Fat skinny…

Cumberland Trail Map...

Cumberland Trail Map…

Heading out of town over the new highway...

Heading out of town over the new highway…

Day 2 – Cumberland to Roswell Creek Provincial Park

Riding to the coast I passed over the new Island Highway which is a 4 lane highspeed beast that sees most of the traffic up and down the island. That leaves the old 2 lane Island Highway on the coast much quiter for a bike tourist to enjoy! As expected the coast was much cooler than inland plus the fact it was late afternoon meant long shadows to ride in away from the burning sun. I was happy! :)

This section of the ride reminded me of my road touring days – for the good and the bad. The riding was easy with the Knards rolling well on pavement and there were lots of services along the way to fill any desire for food or drink. With people around to interact with the ride was a lot more social. OTOH – even this relatively quiet road had 1000 times more traffic than the deserted logging roads I used to get to Cumberland. The shoulder was wide enough that my safety wasn’t in question – just the difference between peaceful solitude and the hustle/bustle of civilization.

Given how sun blasted I felt I was happy to trade some remoteness for cool air, shade and the odd Sprite! ;)

I turned off the road near Roswell Creek Provincial Park [which doesn’t allow camping] and found a secluded campsite nearby on some undeveloped land. It was a long hard hot day on the bike and I had eaten a sub an hour back. So I just set up camp. Drank a lot of water to fight off dehydration and went right to bed. There was no frog symphony that night to keep me up!

The old Island Higway...

The old Island Higway…

Enjoying a rest stop break...

Enjoying a rest stop…

Seals...

Seals…

Shellfish shells...

Shellfish shells…

Time to camp...

Time to camp…

Day 3 – Camp to Wrong Turn

Waking up in camp near civilization didn’t make me hungry for instant oatmeal so I packed up super fast and hit the road. I almost rode past the last cafe I would see all day, but something told me I better stop so I circled back and went to town on a delicious brealkfast. Little did I know this meal would be all that kept me sane during mistakes that would occur later in the day.

After eating I rolled inland and got back on gravel roads. I made it to Spider Lake no problem and figured I was a short 28kms from PA. I’d be there for lunch baby!

No I wouldn’t! :(

Then I hit a bunch of private roads around Horne Lake that were on my route. I just kept going and ignored the keep out signs. When I asked Google Maps for a good bike route to PA it suggested I ride over a 3000′ mountain on a gravel road. I thought it was a bold choice, but the route was short and seemed worth the climbing. I started to worry when I saw how rough and how steep the “road” was. I could barely get traction to push my bike uphill.

I should have known something was wrong…

To be continued!

Sandbar Cafe...

Sandbar Cafe…

Breakfast...

Breakfast…

Coastal beauty...

Coastal beauty…

Heading inland...

Heading inland…

Fight the giant robot for my bike!.. ;)

Fighting a giant robot for my bike!.. ;)

Spider Lake...

Spider Lake…

Private - keep out! - not...

Private – keep out! – not…

Really keep out!

Really keep out!





Surly Krampus Complete Problems?

11 05 2013
Photo: Gear Junkie.com

Photo: Gear Junkie.com

If you have bought or are going to buy a Surly Krampus complete bike in the next while you should read this blog post over at the Surly website regarding some minor issues that have cropped up. Nothing life and death, but worth being aware of.





Krampi have landed!

7 05 2013
Surly Krampus complete...

Surly Krampus complete…

I just noticed that The Fairfield Bicycle Shop has 3 Surly Krampus complete bikes in stock [small, medium & large] if you are Knard curious and on the island. The complete bikes seem very nice. If I was doing it over I’d be tempted to buy a complete rather than build a bike up from a frame to take advantage of the OEM cost parts.

I got my Krampus frame/fork and tires from Fairfield. They got my order sorted out quickly and the price was competitive with the US mail-order options.

The Krampus is proving to be a very fun bike to ride and Surly has managed to tweak the front end geometry so those big tires don’t suck the life out of the steering. In fact you very quickly forget you are riding an unusual MTB and just enjoy the great traction and comfy ride.

These bad boys are worth a test ride if you are in the market for a rigid 29er. :)





The Girlz ride Terra Nova Trail…

15 04 2013
Dead fall...

Dead fall…

Last time I went riding with Sharon and her friend J [fall 2012] we left with J having two broken hands and Sharon could barely walk. That was an easy paced chill ride… ;)

One of many water crossings...

One of many water crossings…

So when we all went riding again last week our mission was clear – everybody comes home in one piece!

I picked a trail that is as close to XC as I have near at hand to our home in coastal BC. Sadly that doesn’t mean buff endless singletrack. But it does mean you can ride your bike a bunch of the time without facing a techy obstacle at every turn and when you do face an obstacle you mostly have to get off your bike and walk. Walking may not be as fun a riding, but it’s safer…;)

Here is a solo ride report from the same trail last August when it was much much drier.

Sometimes you gotta push in the bush...

Sometimes you gotta push in the bush…

Our typical MTBing trails are what the kids call “all mountain”, which translates to steep and techy. I’d call it “Costal BC all mountain” which in my mind denotes a higher than normal density of the tech and often slippery conditions”. So although this isn’t a Colorado Buff trail this is a chill safe-ish MTB option around here.

Sharon riding her Pugsley...

Sharon riding her Pugsley…

I suggested that Sharon ride her Pugsley instead of her 6″ travel FS bike. Partially because this trail didn’t really need tons of travel and partially because I want her to get comfy doing easy MTBing trails on the Pugs to facilitate future bikepacking adventures.

J still smiling...

J still smiling…

Although Sharon has turned into a decent shredder she’s only been riding MTBs for 3yrs. Has really only ridden 1 MTB [Santa Cruz Nomad] and 95% of her MTBing has been in 1 bike park. So her skill set is good, but not broad.

She also has a lot of Baja sand riding experience, but that’s a pretty niche skill set not much use most other places.

Team effort...

Team effort…

For the first hour I got flack about suggesting the Pugs because she got pounded on a rigid bike trying to ride it like a long travel FS bike. Her FS bike has a dropper post so I setup her saddle at 70% normal height which she thought was too low when it was chill and too high on the few steep sections.

So she walked her bike a bunch when she could have ridden and complained a lot. I just told her that the bike she had at the moment was the Pugs and to get on with riding it…lol…tough love!

The mighty Krampus...

The mighty Krampus…

It would have helped morale if I was riding my Pugs as well, but it was at the LBS getting my Rolling Darryl rims built into wheels. I was riding my Krampus which was rigid and semi-fat so I didn’t feel guilty for flying along on a cloud of high-tech suspension!

Gloomy forest singletrack...

Gloomy forest singletrack…

The good news is that after an hour the complaints went away and Sharon started shredding the rocky climbs and other challenging sections. Then she even commented how easy it was to climb the Pugs on rough or slippery terrain and how it rolled over river rocks like they weren’t there.

Mission accomplished! :)

Splish Splash!

Splish Splash!

I’m not one of these guys that thinks fat bikes are the best MTBs for just about every kind of riding. I like my other MTBs plenty and for a lot of the riding I do they are miles better than my fatty…BUT…for ‘xploring poorly maintained trails in wet conditions big fat rubber is pretty sweet and the Pugs has a great geometry for this kind of riding.

I’m glad Sharon came to that conclusion on her own. Especially riding an unloaded bike on a short trail ride. This will make the leap to carrying some camping gear and having to mountain bike a lot easier.

J charging the creek...

J charging the creek…

I’m happy to report J made it back to the car un-broken and smiling. :cool:

Racing the setting sun back to the car...

Racing the setting sun back to the car…

Of course Sharon did have some criticisms of the BB7s for MTBing compared to her Nomad’s hydros as well as a few other upgrades. I pointed out that the Pugs was a bike worthy of upgrading and when she wanted to spend some $$ we could tackle anything she liked…:D;):thumbsup:





Blessed Silence!

5 04 2013
What noise?

What noise?

As I was pounding along last weekend I suddenly realized something was missing from my usual ride experience – noise! My MTB has a Hope hub that sounds like angry bees making love when I coast. It used to make a lot of noise from chainslap as well, but I cured that with a clutch derailleur – although I still get various shifting noises when changing up gears on the Nomad.

My 29er bikepacking bike has an Alfine 11 IGH in it and horizontal dropouts. That means the chain is tight all the time and can’t really move around or make any noise. The A11 coasts and pedals silently. Even the shifts are accompanied by only a very soft click.

I’m so used to my bikes making a lot of noise that it’s a bit of a surprise to experience the peacefulness of a silent drivetrain.

That silence leaves more room for me to hear what’s going on around me and let’s me get lost deeper in my own thoughts.

There are times when making noise to give bears notice I’m coming through is a smart move. However, I’d rather attach a $4 bear bell to my bike when needed. It makes noise anytime I am moving – rather than just when I am coasting and I can take it off when I don’t want to make a racket.

There are loads of good reasons to use an IGH and specifically an Alfine 11, but at the moment silence is what I am appreciating the most.





Gravel Pimp – Got her done!

2 04 2013
Getting up while the moon was still bright in the sky...

Getting up while the moon was still bright in the sky…

I spent a lot of time last year doing recon on a dirt route from Lake Cowichan to Victoria. With the Galloping Goose MUP mostly dirt from Sooke Potholes Park to Victoria it seemed straightforward to just find a route from Lake Cowichan to the potholes. As it turned out that wasn’t so easy after all.

First try...

First try along the cyan line above…

At first it looked simple to run down the Trans Canada Trail [TCT] and along the east side of Sooke Lake down to Leehtown and then hop on the Goose MUP to Sooke Potholes Park and onwards to Victoria. The trouble was Victoria takes its water-supply very very seriously and has blocked off any access through the area we wanted to ride with gates, fences and guards. Click on the map above to read what happened.

E&N Railway route...

E&N Railway route…

We tried riding the E&N Railway corridor from Shawnigan Lake To Victoria which is quite a bit to the east of our previous route. It worked, but riding on the tracks was pretty brutal so I couldn’t really recommend it as a bikepacking route. Not to mention it was almost too easy with no real grades and such a straight shot to Victoria. The Gov’t keeps threatening to reactivate the rail service along this line, but so far it hasn’t happened. It you don’t mind getting bounced around a lot and want to check it out it’s a viable option.

What roads?

What roads?

Not to be deterred we returned to Sooke Lake area and tried to go to the west of the Sooke Lake drainage. Both my print maps and electronic maps showed logging roads leaving the Leechtown area and heading west then north to join up with roads around the Koosilah Provincial Park. Sadly these roads were fictional. They exist only as a cartographer’s dream! :(

Another dead end...

Another dead end…

About this time I realized that riding a bicycle out to Leechtown and back for every route recon was taking up too much time and frankly riding the Goose MUP so many times was getting boring. So I broke out the KLR dualsport motorcycle. I plotted another route uphill out of Leechtown that looked promising on the map [pink line above], but I only got as far as the burgundy line on the lower right before I hit a water-supply gate and the rest of the mapped roads stopped existing.

More moto recon...

More moto recon…

Next time out I burned a whole day on the motorcycle going in and out of various logging roads as I kept running into more locked gates or dead ends. I managed a loop from Victoria out to Port Renfrew then up to Lake Cowichan before heading back home. The good news is it was a fun day on the moto and I learned a lot about the local logging road network. The bad news is I still didn’t have a route that went all the way through, but I had narrowed down the options enough I thought it was time to take another chance with the bicycle.

Getting down to the last few options...

Getting down to the last few options…

With a lot of recon done I figured one of the two connectors shown above in pink and green would work. Obviously I’d rather ride the shorter pink route. Especially because the green route features a ton of altitude loss as you head south and a bunch of fresh climbing as you head back north on top of triple the mileage. Locked logging gates stop me on my motorcycle so it was time to start pedalling again to finish the route off.

Finally it got done...

Finally it got done…click image for GPS info…

This past weekend I headed out from Lake Cowichan and rode my bicycle down the TCT to the Kinesol Trestle and past the Koosilah Provincial Park. I headed up into the mountains on the Kapur Main logging Rd and connected with the West Jordan Main logging road. That took me to the [supposed] junction of the Butler Main logging road and the Leech Main logging road, but once again the Leech Main [the pink short cut in the map 2 above] doesn’t actually exist on the ground. So I rode south on Butler Main dropping altitude fast and connected with Graveyard Main to head north again to Leechtown. I knew I would make it at this point, but the landscape had changed at Leechtown since my last visit with logging equipment gone, vegetation grown and creeks running hard with snowmelt. I had to poke around a bit until I found the bushwhack across the Sooke River to the Goose MUP. Once I rolled up to the familiar red shelter I’ve slept in a bunch of times I was really happy to finally put that mission down as a success in the books.

Sooke River...

Sooke River…

The GPS says it’s 175kms from Lake Cowichan to Victoria along my route. Those numbers don’t sound impressive, but when I look back at all the time I spent pouring over maps, riding my motorcycle and pedalling my bike it was quite a job to figure this route out. I had decent maps and a bunch of dirt roads available for me to use. I didn’t have to do one lick of trail building or mapping to find this route. So I am even more impressed with all the trails I’ve ridden in the past and the effort the folks have put into finding them or building them. Thanks!

Phase 2...

Phase 2…

Now that Phase 1 of the Vancouver Island Bikepacking Route is done I’ve got plans for Phase 2. The next part of the adventure is to map a route from Cumberland/Comox down to Lake Cowichan. The green segment on the map above goes from Port Alberni to Lake Cowichan and I’ve been down all those roads in my truck so I know they are a sure thing. The cyan segment at the top of the map goes from Cumberland to Port Alberni. It looks pretty straightforward, but I’ve said that before! I’ll do an initial run with my motorcycle this spring to confirm the route from Cumberland to PA works and is a decent one to ride. Then I’ll come back with my bicycle to enjoy it by pedal power. ;)

My goal for 2013 is to get that far.

Phase 3...

Phase 3…

You can see from the map above that Phases 1 & 2 get me a little better than halfway up Vancouver Island. I’d like to go all the way to the top on dirt, but my knowledge of the north island is limited and it will take 3-4hrs just to get to the bottom of that area on my motorcycle so there will be some serious time involved in that part of the recon. I’d like to get at least one moto recon session in the books for 2013 so I have a lay of the land in my head to help me situated data I glean from maps.

Keep on rolling...

Keep on rolling…

I’ll get a trip report for the latest ride posted later this week or next – here are the photos for now. I’m excited for another great year on the bike with lots of new roads and trails explored.

Keep those wheels rolling Gravel Pimps of the world! ;)