Gravel Pimp: The Missing Link…

10 05 2013
On a recon mission...

On a recon mission…

At the end of March I rode the dirt connector route I’ve been working on for a while between Lake Cowichan and Victoria. I’ve since ridden another leg of the Vancouver Island bikepacking route that I am working on. But I’ve told myself that I have to do at least a minimal trip report for the first trip before I do anything about the second trip report.

Route map - click for more details...

Route map – click for more details…

You can see all the trip photos here and if you want to get the backstory on how I  found this route click here.

I like it! :)

I like it! 🙂

It all started with a killer spring forecast for a great weekend on Vancouver Island in March. I couldn’t resist getting out on my bike.

Sharon rocking the purple Pugsley...

Sharon rocking the purple Pugsley…

Lake Cowichan to Kinesol Trestle via the Trans-Canada Trail [TCT]

Sharon kindly drove me to the start of the ride in Lake Cowichan. That saved me the hassle of doing a car shuttle so it was much appreciated. She decided to ride the first 15kms of the TCT with me. We enjoyed the sunshine and easy riding on the TCT which is an old railway line. We stopped for lunch on a wooden bridge after about 15kms and Sharon turned back towards the car while I headed for the Kinesol Trestle.

She picked a good time to turn around because I ran into several sections of blowdown after I left her. One was particularly big and I got a chance to carry the Krampus and do some gymnastics. 15′ above the ground! Besides the fallen trees the riding continued to be fun and easy.

I spent half an hour checking out the Kinesol Trestle a huge wooden rail bridge that was recently rebuilt for hikers and bikers to enjoy. I wanted to make sure I ate and drank regularly to avoid low energy blahs as much as possible.

The Kinesol Trestle marked the end of an easy 35kms of riding on the TCT. Next up I turned onto the logging roads near Koksilah RiverProvincial Park.

Team Lazy...

Team Lazy…



Typical TCT goodness...

Typical TCT goodness…

Kinesol Trestle...

Kinesol Trestle…

It's a tough job, but somebody has to do it...

It’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it…

Koksilah Park to Camp Day 1 below Mt. Lazar

The riding took a definite turn for the remote and the climby. In fact the majority of this leg is the climb up the slopes of Mt. Lazar on logging roads. The sunny weather was nice much of the time, but when I was cranking uphill at 5kph I started to bake. Happily there were many creeks to refill water bottles from and pour cold water over my head.

Eventually I got up top onto the rolling terrain of the mountains. It was beautiful riding with no signs of human life other than the road I was on and the occasional clear cut. I started seeing snow and had to ride through sections of the white stuff, but they weren’t sustained. This section of the ride had been reconed with my motorcycle and I recalled it being easy and fairly short. I remembered badly! It took a long time to ride and involved a lot of climbing. At least it was cool as the sun started to set.

I expected to camp down low on the far side of the mountain, but the setting sun meant I had to call it a day right on top after 40kms. Which was fine except I was carrying my light summer sleeping bag. I cooked up a camp meal and a cup of hot tea before bed. I drank my fill of water so I wouldn’t start the next day dehydrated. I enjoyed a brief campfire for some relaxation time and vainly hoped I could store some heat for later in the evening.

I woke up way early freezing my ass off. I had put on my thermal undies, long socks, toque, neck warmer and puffy jacket before going to bed. They helped, but didn’t solve the problem totally. On the upside I got an early start on the day’s riding! 😉

I knew I'd have the roads to myself after this...

I knew I’d have the roads to myself after this…

Long hot climb...

Long hot climb…

I look stupid, but I'm nice and cool for at least the next 5mins... ;)

I look stupid, but I’m nice and cool for at least the next 5mins… 😉

Clear cut...

Clear cut…

Early season mountain riding...

Early season mountain riding…

Home sweet home...

Home sweet home…

Yikes - cold night...

Yikes – cold night…

Riding with all my clothes on in the chilly AM... ;)

Riding with all my clothes on in the chilly AM… 😉

Day 2 – Riding to Boneyard Main

Riding down the mountain towards Boneyard Main was freezing and I kept my puffy jacket on most of the time. The Krampus loves to bomb downhill fast and the big wheels gave me tons of confidence that I could handle whatever came my way at speed – deep gravel, rocks or potholes?….no problemo!

This was the section of the route I had not actually scouted so I was not 100% that it went through. I had two route options 1) the high probability ride down the mountain to the start of the Boneyard Main logging road and 2) a shortcut along the hard to find Leech Main logging road. As I suspected  the later option didn’t exist on the ground even though it was on all the maps!

I didn’t mind going the long way since I was stoked the route was going to work after so many recon missions.

When I finally reach the start of the Boneyard Main logging road after a nice 25kms of downhill riding I took a long break in the sunshine and hit my food bag hard!

Stopping to warm up...

Stopping to warm up…

This is logging country...

This is logging country…

Prime Gravel Pimp terrain...

Prime Gravel Pimp terrain…

Lazy Krampus action...

Lazy Krampus action…

Boneyard Main...

Boneyard Main…

Boneyard Main to Leechtown

Although I had a lot of riding left to do I was really happy at this point because I had scouted the rest of the route on various previous occasions so I knew it was going to work. I just had to turn the pedals. The ride up Boneyard Main was a bit of a slog as it climbed the whole way. The road followed the Sooke River which I was tempted to ford several times to cut off some distance, but I not only had to get my bike across the river I also had to climb up the far bank to the Galloping Goose MUP. I decided it was best to just ride to Leechtown and cross where the river was uber tame.

I got my first Krampus flat on this section hitting a large rock at speed and getting a pinch flat. The huge Knard tires provide nice traction and floatation, but this is still a rigid bike so you can only slam into rocks so fast before you get pinched. I patched up the tube and ate a snack.

It was getting really hot again so good time find a reasonable ford for the Sooke River. Getting across was no big deal. I just carried the Krampus on my shoulder. I did get wet shoes/socks which I hate, but going barefoot and falling or cutting my feet didn’t seem like a better option.

Once across I was on the Galloping Goose MUP which is familiar territory. I rode down to the Sooke Potholes and hung out at the red shelter we’ve camped in a few times on previous rides after ~122kms of riding. I ate a big snack before pushing off for the roll towards Victoria.

More big logging toys...

More big logging toys…

Dang a flat! :(

Dang a flat! 😦

Scouting the Sooke River...

Scouting the Sooke River…

Leechtown baby! :)

Leechtown baby! 🙂

Wet feet...

Wet feet…

Hunting for the Galloping Goose...

Hunting for the Galloping Goose…

The famous red shelter at the Sooke Potholes Park...

The famous red shelter at the Sooke Potholes Park…

Sooke Potholes to Victoria

I’ve ridden this section so many times I kind of dread it even though it’s quite pleasant. Rather than repeat a description of this part of the ride here is a previous report you can read.

Got her done - yeah! ;)

Got her done – yeah! 😉

I’m so happy to get a dirt touring route up island sorted out. This section from Lake Cowichan to Victoria is ~175kms long with less than 1km of paved roads. Best of all I wrapped up the trip on my birthday. Nice!

Next up the section from Cumberland to Port Alberni and on to Lake Cowichan. That will bring the route up to ~400kms of dirt bikepacking goodness. Here are some photos from the PA to Lake Cowican section that I just completed.

Keep ’em rolling! 😉



12 responses

10 05 2013
Micheal Blue

Vik, great pics. So…in the hindsight, would you say that riding your FS bike would be better? I was looking at the Cowichan Trail on the web, so I’m glad you write about it. You seem to live in a biker’s paradise. Would a tikit be able to handle the Cowichan Trail (I wouldn’t try fly over with my MTB)?

10 05 2013

@Micheal – you can certainly ride the TCT on a Tikit. You might go slow on some rough sections, but it’s a gravel/dirt rail trail so it’s easy riding. I only rode the south part of the trail. There is another part that heads north.

Although the TCT is nice I wouldn’t fly here to ride it. It’s not that interesting to justify a trip from TO unless you have other business on the island.

You could do a nice loop from Victoria up the Galloping Goose MUP to Sooke and then out the coast highway to Port Renfrew. Then up Pacific Marine Rd to Lake Cowichan and down the TCT to the Kinesol Trestle. From there you could head to the Mill Bay Ferry and ride back to Victoria or up to the airport depending which way you wanted to head.

Seattle is also an easy ferry ride from Victoria with a bike if you want to check it out.

My FS MTB is totally unsuited for touring – from the geometry to lack of space for framebags/gear. I could buy a FS bike that was a better touring choice, but a rigid bike is simpler and more reliable. If I had unlimited funds I’d have one bike of every flavour, but as it is the Krampus is a great dirt touring bike without any suspension.

The previous 29er touring bike I was using had front suspension and I don’t notice anything significant in terms of performance or comfort difference moving to the Krampus.

If I really wanted to I could put a suspension fork on the Krampus, but for the rides I am doing at the moment I don’t see any need.

10 05 2013

Nice report Vik – Looks like you had a great trip. Looks like hammock camping could be a good option there too?

I’m debating the merits of getting a Krampus & moving the Ogre on but not too sure as of yet…

& Happy Birthday dude!


10 05 2013
Micheal Blue

Thanks, Vik, for the travel tips, I wrote them down.

10 05 2013

@Ian – I think you’d be very happy with the change from the Ogre as long as you don’t want to load the Krampus down with 4 panniers and a bar bag with 100lbs of cargo. For that the Ogre would be better.

Hammock camping is ideal in BC. I was thinking I need to try to use my hammock more. On the Island a suitable hammock spot is 98% likely. I really need to spend 3-4 nights in a row in the hammock to get a solid feel for how I enjoy it.

Sleeping in a tent is a known quantity for me and my 1 man tent is smaller/lighter/easier to pack than my hammock.

11 05 2013

The mid island tour photos are great, would like to read about it. Some beautiful looking places. Do you ever run into bears or cougars? Bears are more often around my house, often when I’m outside,then when in the forest where I expect them to be. They’ve even come into the house and we managed to shoo them out. So bears don’t bother me, but I have encountered a few stressy mother bears and been chased. I encountered a cougar at dusk once and not something I care to repeat, but have read stories about them chasing cyclists.
Are these routes more for mountain biking, or could one have Jan Heine rando bike fantasies? I am one of the unlucky ones that gets itchy arms riding down bumpy roads, so extensive logging road riding is out for me.
I do love pouring over maps and coming up with hiking or biking routes, maps are often wrong with roads and trails not existing at all or not where they should be.

12 05 2013

@Heather – I do run into bears. There are no grizzlies on Van Isle and black bears are timid so I just yell at them and they run away.

I have not seen a cougar.

You could ride the route I’ve mapped from Cumberland to Victoria on a cross bike or a drop bar touring bike. I think a MTB would be the most fun as the roads are rough and there are sections of deeper gravel, but I would say anything with 35mm+ wide tires would be fine.

I’ve never heard of itchy arms from bumpy roads….that would definitely rule out much logging road riding or MTBIng.

Maps are a good start for planning followed by looking at satellite images and talking to other folks or reading their ride reports if they’ve been to the same areas.

12 05 2013

@Michael – if you use GPS or just want to see these routes on Google Maps for planning purposes here is most of the route I was suggesting:

Galloping Goose MUP:

– the Goose extends further east into downtown Victoria
– it also connects to the Lochside trail which goes to the Vancouver Ferry and the airport
– you can camp at Sooke Potholes Park [~52kms from Victoria]

Sooke to Port Renfrew to Lake Cowichan

– there are campsites along the coast and at Port Renfrew

Lake Cowichan TCT to Mill Bay Ferry

– we started at LC and rode the TCT
– we went down to Mill Bay, but didn’t take the ferry [need cash!!]
– once across the ferry you can head north to airport or Vancouver ferry or south to Victoria

13 05 2013
Gravel Pimp: Port Alberni to Cumberland Loop Part 1… | The Lazy Rando Blog...

[…] 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. […]

16 05 2013

Itchy arms-it’s a strange oddity that I can see absolutely no evolutionary advantage for. Some people’s bodies are so sensitive that any jiggling causes histamines to break out and cause itchiness and hives!! Imagine being on some remote logging road and covered in hives, hot and scratching all over and no idea why. It took awhile of searching on forums to figure it out. It’s fairly common, but I had never heard of it. It only happens downhill, but I get it walking and running too which is super lame. I haven’t found a solution that works other than walking down hills on rough roads. I used to do a lot of xc biking and when i moved to the sunshine coast I thought I’d be in heaven, but no such luck. I’m fine on the trails and smooth clay or dirt roads, but the logging roads old and new are covered with gravel and chunky stones.
Yeah, black bears are usually timid and run off. I feel more badly for disturbing them and that they seem so forlorn being yelled at all the time and forced to leave yummy dandilion or berry patches. I’ve crossed path with bears on my bike, at night, no worries. My landlord does horseback grizzly bear watching tours in the Chilcotin and he says they aren’t anything like they are demonized to be. The cougars on van isle are known to be particularly aggressive, but attacks are still ridiculously rare…just curious if anybody EVER sees them. But dogs…good grief.

28 05 2013
Lake Cowichan to Sooke… | Vancouver Island Bikepacking

[…] You can read my ride report here and check out photos of this segment here. […]

1 07 2013
vikapproved | Mike & David Ride The Missing Link

[…] & David dropped me a line about riding from Duncan to Sooke, BC along The Missing Link Route that I had posted GPS data for. I was keen to join them, but having just come back from LA last week and heading out again towards […]

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