I was getting a little twitchy that I hadn’t done a bike tour this year. Not that I can complain…I’ve done lots of bike riding and lots of camping this year…just no bike camping! Aaron is a local LHR rider that I’ve met up with a few times for coffee and to chat bikes. We discussed a quick overnight tour out to the Sooke Potholes campground. The weather forecast was a bit gnarly, but we decided to go for it…a decision I was later to regret somewhat.
Our tour started ~430pm when Aaron rode from his job at the Rus Hays Bike Shop. He was riding his 700c LHT and I was on my 20″ wheeled Bike Friday New World Tourist…Aaron dubbed it the Laurel and Hardy Tour because our bikes looked quite mismatched.
First off I should advise you that the pics in this post are not going to match the text very well as most of the ride was at night or in the pouring rain so I didn’t take many photos. Especially since I’m sure this ride will happen many times as it is so conveniently located to my house and I’ll photograph it when I’m less wet!
We rolled out of my driveway and jumped on the Galloping Goose MUP which is very near my house. I usually ride this MUP into town so going the other way was new to me. My first surprise was the fact the pavement ended within a few kms from my house. Most of the 110km round trip was dirt, rock or gravel. I had selected my NWT because it had a dynohub and light which are useful when your first day is actually a night ride. This bike runs 40mm Greenspeed Scorcher slicks which I’ve used on some short dry dirt sections, but never on a dirt tour and never on a dirt tour in what was to be pouring rain.
The night ride was a lot of fun. We stopped early at about KM 10 in the town of Langford for some asian noodles and beer to fortify us for the more remote sections of the trip. From Victoria to Langford the MUP rides through some fairly developed areas and crosses roads frequently. However, once you are done with this necessary hassle the Galloping Goose is a very quite forest track the rest of the way to Sooke. There had been a big wind storm the night before our ride so there were lots of leaves and branches on the ground as well as 4 or 5 large blow downs closer to Sooke that we had to lift our bikes over.
Aaron used two high power battery lights and I had my dyno light as well as one of my Dinotte 200L-AA battery lights blazing. As we rode side by side chatting we illuminated a nice swath through the forest. After Langford we had the MUP to ourselves which made for a very quiet peaceful ride. Being able to roll along at a comfortable pace without traffic or other cyclists and pedestrians to contend with was very relaxing and I was really pleased this trail was right at my door step.
Aaron had a slow leak to contend with on the ride out. We decided to just pump it up and keep rolling. He was able to ride several kms before more pumping was required and that was fine since we took the chance to snack. The ground was damp from the previous night’s storm with many puddles. I was pleasantly surprised how well my Scorchers handled the less than ideal traction situation…especially on steep downhills or steep climbs. I didn’t lose traction once or have to worry.
When we got to Sooke we had a tough choice to make…ride an extra 3kms uphill [and then back] to a pub for a few pints and nachos or keep going and finish off the last 10-15kms to the campground? Aaron repaired his flat while we pondered these options. Eventually we decided to skip the pub and keep riding.
The last section from town of Sooke to the campground was the roughest and most remote part of the trail. I really enjoyed it and was impressed how well my smalled wheeled Bike Friday was handling things. I pretty much forgot I was riding a folding bike and enjoyed a very beautiful night ride to the campground. When we got there the whole place was empty and may in fact have been closed. We found a huge shelter to set our tent underneath and tried to start a campfire. The damp wood was not cooperating and I was sleepy so we settled for a hot cup of tea before crashing soundly in our sleeping bags.
I woke up several times during the night to heavy rain and fell back asleep hoping it would abate by the AM. When I woke it wasn’t raining which made me happy! We had a quick breakfast and many cups of tea before loading up our rigs. Sadly just as we were ready to get rolling the rain started coming down in earnest again…=-( Not much we could do so we pt on our rain gear and headed back down the trail.
I don’t love riding in the rain. Riding on a rough gravel and dirt trail in the rain is less fun…especially with poor drainage that results in huge deep puddles across the whole trail. I was trying some new rain gear out which worked okay except for my feet. My NWT has these funky travel fenders that work okay for light rain on a paved road, but were overwhelmed by the sheer amount of water I was riding through and they dumped a bunch of it into my poorly chosen footwear.
The silly thing was I had a pair of waterproof Keen light hikers that would have been ideal for this mission, but somehow I had overlooked my feet and the likelihood for rain. I won’t make that mistake again!
I also made another dumb mistake in under estimating my need for food and forgetting a bag of apples on my kitchen counter when I packed. Being cold and splashing through water and soft ground on the way back I plowed through all the food on my bike very quickly. Aaron was better prepared so I started in on his snacks! One thing that made me very happy was that even in these sopping wet conditions the slick 20″ tires on my NWT were giving me lots of grip. On the 55km ride how there were two or three muddy spots were I slide a bit, but the rest of the time I was rolling along like it was dry.
Not shockingly as we neared Langford we started homing in on a warm dry restaurant that would serve us copious amounts of food. We ate, we laughed and we dried off a bit.
The sun finally made an appearance on our last few kms so we broke out the camera for a few pics.
Notice we are smiling like fools? Food and sunshine will do that to a bike tourist.
Aaron offered me a fine post ride beer at my turn off on the Galloping Goose before he headed further into town.
All in all I had a lot of fun riding bikes and hanging out with Aaron. I re-learned some valuable lessons. Had I been wearing waterproof boots and had twice as many snacks I would have had a lot more fun. I’m also now highly motivated to install the full coverage Planet Bike fenders I bought for my NWT over a year ago! We’ll be doing more tours this winter, but we’ll be sticking to paved roads when there is rain in the forecast…=-)