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 ūüė¶
  • 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… ūüėČ

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. ūüė¶

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

Hell no! ūüėČ

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. ūüėČ

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… ūüėČ

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! ūüôā

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. ūüė¶ 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! ūüôā 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… ūüôā

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! ūüôā

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! ūüôā

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! ūüôā

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! ūüėČ

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! ūüė¶

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!.. ūüėČ

Spider Lake...

Spider Lake…

Private - keep out! - not...

Private – keep out! – not…

Really keep out!

Really keep out!





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! ūüôā

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…

Roadblock...

Roadblock…

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! ūüėČ

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… ūüėČ

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… ūüėČ

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! ūüė¶

Scouting the Sooke River...

Scouting the Sooke River…

Leechtown baby! :)

Leechtown baby! ūüôā

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! ūüėČ

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! ūüėČ





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! ūüė¶

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. ūüėČ

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! ūüėČ





Gravel Pimp – Railway Recon 1

23 07 2012

Sharon on her first recon mission…

JQ commented on my last Gravel Pimp Recon post that the E&N Railway might be rideable from the south end of Shawinigan Lake down into Victoria. If so it would be the most direct non-paved route you could ride so it seemed well worth a look.

Our ride in red – click on map for larger interactive version…

The E&N Railway line runs from Victoria to Nanimo and is currently not being used. There is some talk of reviving it, but the funding issues between Via Rail and the Provincial Government have not been resolved.

3 fat Gravel Pimps on the tracks…

Sharon has been keen to get some Gravel Pimping done, but she only has weekends off so this is the first time a recon mission and her time off coincided. I had reservations about taking her on this ride as I suspected it wouldn’t be the most pleasant one we’ve done, but in the end I figured the spirit of adventure would make up for some of the challenges on this ride. Sharon and I rode our Pugsleys and Scott rode his Jones. So it was a full-fat and semi-fat recon… ūüėČ

It’s not smooth riding!

We started in the north where the E&N tracks meet Stebbing Road just off Shawinigan Lake Road. The thought was that the gentle down grade into Victoria would make up for some of the hassle of riding on the tracks. The elevation drop is ~300m and is a consistent rail grade so you don’t notice it too much, but I am sure it helped us along the ride.

Scott takes the easy path…

The riding itself was fairly brutal. Don’t let these photos fool you. I wasn’t in the mood to whip out the camera when I was been beaten up by the non-stop WHOMP WHOMP WHOMP of the tracks. We rode on the edge of the tracks when possible, but that was probably less than 40% of the time and often there was only a 4″ sloped gravel/dirt margin to ride. So you had to stay very steady or end up sliding down the slope into the ditch. Something I did more than a few times.

Sharon taking the hard path…

Sharon is new to the Pugsley and less confident about her riding skills so she stayed on the tracks more than I did to avoid the nerve-wracking riding on the edge and the inevitable tumbles down to the ditch. I felt really bad for her as she pounded down the tracks, but there wasn’t much I could do other than be encouraging. We aired down our fat tires as much as possible, but the reality is that they don’t help all that much in this situation. Having said that I’m really glad I wasn’t on a rigid MTB with 2″ tires.

Feel the bump! This was 5 out of 10 in terms of the worst bumpy sections.

Scott hustling down the tracks…

The scenery is nice along the route with a remote feel that is welcome especially when you consider the tracks run fairly close to the major island highway. It’s mostly closed in with vegetation on both sides, but occasionally the trees on the left disappear and you get some lovely views of the Sannich Peninsula.

Nice way to break in that Pugsley!

Of course you spend a lot of time looking down and concentrating on not crashing so you don’t get to enjoy the views quite the way you might hope to.

Railway spike…

The railway lines looked to be in great shape other than the overgrown vegetation that obscured the track in spots.

Team Pugsley – still smiling….

Don’t let my lack of enthusiasm for bumping down the tracks make it sound like we had no fun. The adventure of exploring a new part of our island was keeping us stoked. Plus we figured the constant WHOMP WHOMP WHOMP action had to be firming up our butts making us hotter than ever! Hahahaha ūüôā

Does this bike make my butt look fat?

I refused to judge Scott and Sharon’s “who has the better butt?” competition.

Police State…

It wouldn’t be a recon mission without encountering the red gates of doom blocking us from entering the Victoria Watersupply Area aka the DMZ. Thankfully this time they were perpendicular to our route and we weren’t forced to find a way around.

Cool tunnel…

We found one tunnel along the route.

Proof I was on the ride…

The tunnel was short so no lights were needed.

A very tall bridge…

There were 2 bridges on the ride.

Don’t look down…

I’m not sure how high they were, but it looked like a long long long way down!

Are we there yet?

After the first 10K I don’t think anyone was excited for more riding on the tracks and we started looking for a convenient exit.

A butt break…

Rest breaks were not for our lungs or legs – they were to give our butts some non-pounding time.

Plant Power!

The E&N kept us riding for something like 17 or 18kms before finally providing an exit onto paved roads in Langford.

The tracks are sinking!

The E&N’s few KMs provided some mud to keep us on our toes.

Sweet relief…

As well as some of the worst of the bumpy track sections, but also some of the nicest margin riding.

The end in sight…

I managed to ride over a wasp nest and got stung a couple times. That was painful, but it did take my mind of the bumpiness of the tracks for a while ūüėČ

The big picture…

A few KMs on Goldstream Ave took us to the Galloping Goose Trail and on to Victoria. If you were enough of a glutton for punishment you could ride the E&N all the way into downtown Victoria – which is ~34kms.

On the plus side you can ride the E&N Railway and it does connect the south end of the Trans Canada Trail [TCT] to Victoria. On the downside it’s not a fun ride. In fact I would only recommend it as a hike – probably quite a nice one actually! If you want to ride the E&N just for kicks once go for it, but I doubt you’ll go back for a second helping. We rode unloaded bikes with big soft tires and it was okay. Fully loaded touring bikes [racks & panniers] would struggle and would probably have to be walked most of the time. I could coax my bikepacking rig down the E&N, but I wouldn’t want to. Although this is the shortest most convenient non-paved route between the TCT and Victoria I think the longer logging road routes to the west are a much better choice for enjoyable riding.

I’m glad we took the time to explore the E&N and see what’s what, but I won’t be going back on a bicycle!

Update: looks like trains will be running along these tracks in full force in year or so when the repairs are done.





Gravel Pimp – Moto Recon 2…

13 07 2012

That’s what ~450kms and ~13hrs in the saddle of a KLR650 looks like…

It wasn’t what I had planned for my day on Wednesday, but I ended up on a long hot recon mission for that elusive bikepacking route between the Kinesol Trestle on the Trans Canada Trail [TCT] and the Galloping Goose Trail. I rode my KLR650 dualsport motorcycle which did a great job letting me cover ground fast and explore a number of possible routes. You can read my ride report here and you can see a larger interactive map of the ride here.

Straight of Juan de Fuca in the distance…

So what’s the score?

  • I found a nice route from the Kinesol Trestle past the Koksilah Provincal Park along Kapur Main and Jordan Main that spits you out just east of Jordan River on the Straight of Juan de Fuca. From there it’s a pleasant ~30km spin down the scenic Hwy 14 past the lovely French Beach Provincial Park to Sooke BC and the Galloping Goose Trail to Victoria BC.
  • It looks to me like both the Tugwell Main and Bulter Main route options will go as well since I’ve found well maintained roads at both ends that I’m pretty sure connect.
  • By riding the Butler Main option to Boneyard Main and then on to Leechtown and the Goose you can travel from Lake Cowichan to Victoria almost 100% on dirt.

Kinesol Trestle to Galloping Goose route options…

In the map above pink is the Jordan Main route I am 100% goes through from the Kinesol Trestle to the Galloping Goose Trail. Green is the all dirt route along Bulter Main to Leechtown. The red is the Tugwell Main route. I’m pretty sure the green and red routes work, but I’ll need to ride them to be absolutely sure.

Time to crank…

What’s up next?

The KLR was been a great help in letting me cover a ton of ground much faster than I could on my mountain bike, but I’d rather tour on a bicycle than a motorcycle if I have the choice. So it’s time to get back aboard my Scandal 29er and get some bikepacking done. I’ll probably ride the Bulter Main route to Leechtown to confirm the all dirt route. After that I have a promising dirt route going north from Lake Cowichan to Comox I want to check out.





Gravel Pimp – Moto Recon 1…

27 06 2012

My nemesis – the red DMZ gate!

With such a long ride out to Leechtown and each new option being a longer detour I decided to expedite the progress of our Gravel Pimp Recon missions with my KLR650 dualsport motorcycle. Click on the image above to read about my [mis]-adventures…;)





Gravel Pimp – Dead End Recon…

23 06 2012

Enjoying a ride along the coast…

If you haven’t read the Extreme Recon chapter of the Gravel Pimp Saga than click here and read it so you know what’s shaking.

Our last attempt to pioneer a dirt route between Lake Cowichan and Victoria BC failed when we were diverted by a security zone around the Victoria Water Supply Area [aka The DMZ]. Not to be deterred we retreated back to Gravel Pimp HQ and reviewed our maps then plotted a new route.

Pink is the new route – click for larger…

The map above shows our planned route in pink. The green route is what we had hoped to ride last time when we were stopped. As you can see the new route is a significant detour, but better a few extra KMs of dirt than riding pavement home. Where the pink and green tracks meet at the bottom of the map is Leectown and the top of the Galloping Goose MUP.

Our bikes ready to roll…

Trying to schedule a ride between everyone’s work obligations and weather was a challenge, but finally we found a window that worked. A-Man couldn’t make this edition of Gravel Pimping, but he has a sweet Moots 29er ready for next time!

Carbo-loading…

We had a¬† few beers to adequately prepare for the rigors of the ride….;)

Scott enjoying some sunshine…

Rolling down the Goose MUP was pleasant as always.

My trusty steed got a new frame bag that actually fits!…=)

Our first night’s goal was modest since we didn’t want to try any of the hard route finding until the AM. So in true Gravel Pimp style we detoured to a pub and enjoyed some additional beers as well as some burgers.

Home sweet home…

We took advantage of the Barnes Station Shelter, but threw up the mesh tents as bug nets. You can tell spring is here when you can snack just by riding with your mouth open!

Is it morning already?

Scott was super keen to get rolling so he kicked me out of my sleeping bag at 5am. Breakfast was a variety of cold snacks I had stuffed into my front pouch [aka the Feed Bag].

You can’t bitch about the scenery – Sooke River…

Our first goal was finding Leechtown – an old mining settlement that would mark the start of the hard route finding.

Scott finds Leechtown…

Finding Leechtown was just an easy few km spin up the Goose MUP to its end. Although we realized we were on the wrong side of the Sooke River so we needed to do some ‘schwacking!

It’s all gone green…

We followed some forest tracks to the river.

There was a bit of walking…

A little hike-a-bike never hurt anyone.

Even Scott had to walk…

The nice thing about finding your way next to a river is that you can’t get lost!

Crossing the river part 1…

Although the Sooke River is pretty intense further downstream it was broken up into a few manageable creeks where we were trying to cross.

The might Sooke River has been tamed!

The ‘schwacking continued after the water crossing.

Need any spare parts…

We started to see derelict machinery, but we never did see any old buildings.

Denied by the DMZ again!

As we scouted out route options we encountered the first dead end at the Evil Red DMZ Gate. These gates are all around the water supply area. Happily the guards didn’t notice us and Scott wasn’t beaten half to death this time.

Checking out some equipment we may need later!

Denied by the DMZ we tried some of the logging roads that ran west along the Leech River.

Scott is thinking about a kickstand for the Hunter…

But, before we did anything hasty it was time for a snack break.

I like snack breaks!

I streamlined my food supply – leaving three elements at home – fruit, sandwiches and M&Ms. Mistake! Next time I will have all three with me. Recon work is tough and I got hungrier than I thought I would. I didn’t run out of food, but what I was putting in my mouth just didn’t seem to satisfy me as well as it should.

Steep loose gravel…

After the DMZ gate our first attempt was a rough double track that was clearly made with a bulldozer and never improved for frequent vehicle traffic. The big chunky rocks were hard to ride up and scary to ride down. It was fairly “climby”, but it had a nice remote feel that would have made for a great bikepacking route.

It was good – until it ended!

Sadly the road just ended. We don’t mind a hike-a-bike, but not 30kms of it over a mountain range!

Guess what?

As we backtracked we tried a side trail that had some potential, but it ended as well.

Clear cut…

We ended up back at Leechtown and headed west on a well used logging road on the south side of the Leech River. This was shown on our map as connecting up with the other logging roads we needed to get to further north.

Yup…it’s true….denied again!

But as we found out that was a lie. The road just stopped at a scree slope that was hard to walk across let alone carry a bike across.

Overgrown double track…

Although it didn’t go anywhere this section of the ride had some super fun overgrown double track to pedal. Life could be worse than riding your bike in the forest looking for promising bikepacking routes….;)

Hmmm….why is Scott walking back?

There was a turn off from the main road that went higher and we hoped got around the rock slide. So we cranked uphill and found that it did go a bit further, but it also dead ended despite being shown on our map as continuing onwards.

Scott immersion testing his Rohloff!

So defeated yet again we rode back to Leechtown to regroup. Our time and energy levels were running low as we still had a few hours of riding back home to Victoria. The most promising option was straight up a mountain north of Leechtown and neither of us could handle the thought of 15kms of grinding uphill only to be denied. So we decided it was time to roll for home.

Nearly road kill…

Scott bunny hopped over a snake on the Galloping Goose so we stopped and herded him off the trail so he could live to slither another day!

Another snack stop…

The roll home was pleasant, but to be honest we’re over the Goose MUP. It’s a convenient way to get out of town on dirt, but after you’ve ridden it 12 times in a year you want to load a movie on the iPhone just to stay awake! Don’t get me wrong it’s far better than hoovering exhaust fumes on the side of Hwy 14 while dodging trucks. I’m just a spoiled whiner!

Pink was the theoretical route – dark red the actual GPS track…

All told the ride was ~145kms long with ~1200m elevation gain. Progress was slower and harder than those stats would indicate with a lot of walking & talking to workout what to do next. While it wasn’t successful in finding a route north to Lake Cowichan we did expand our knowledge of the area and confirm that the maps we have are “optimistic” when it comes to the logging roads. You can click on either map to enlarge them.

Our full route – click for larger…

So what’s next?

  • Craig Main is a logging road up a mountain north of Leechtown that connects through based on our maps. It would provide the most direct route so it’s the next priority for recon effort.
  • Butler Main is a logging road that heads west, but offers the potential of then branching north where we want to go. It’s not very direct, but if Craig Main doesn’t go it’s next.
  • After those two options are explored if we aren’t successful I think our next move is to go back to the north side of the route and explore south as far as we can. Eventually we’ll have GPS tracks for everything reasonably close we can ride and we can figure out if an extreme bushwack is possible to connect the route.

Of course my hope is that there is a nice logging road through to Lake Cowichan, but so far such a beast has been elusive. Time will tell!





Gravel Pimping ain’t cheap…

12 05 2012

My On One Scandal with Porcelain Rocket bags…

On our recent bikepacking recon adventure Scott mentioned that the white fabric used in my Porcelain Rocket bike bags was really, really, really expensive and that folks that were ordering their bags with that fabric based on seeing my bags here on this blog might be shocked at the extra cost.

So I’m letting you know that if you want to rock the white uber cool Gravel Pimp look it’s gonna cost you!

Same bags on my Surly Pugsley…

If you are on a budget he’s got a ton of different fabrics and can steer you towards something equally awesome, but considerably cheaper.

Personally I was a little shocked when I found out what the bags cost in white, but after having them in my hot little hands for a few months I’d spend the $$ and do it all over again. I definitely advise anyone wanting bike bags to skip basic black and consider a vibrant colour or camo.

Black is so 2009!….=-) It’s time to party like it’s 2012 baby!





Gravel Pimp – Extreme Recon

8 05 2012

The plan…

The plan was to ride our bikepacking rigs from Lake Cowichcan along the Trans Canada Trail to an abandoned mining town called Leech Town. This is shown on the map above in green. This would allow us to jump on the Galloping Goose Trail just below Leechtown and ride home 90% on gravel/dirt. Even more importantly this would give us a critical link in an ambitious Gravel Pimp route that would ride the whole of Vancouver Island from top to bottom. The problem with our little slice of paradise is that it’s a narrow island with mountains that funnel you along certain routes whether they are going the way you want or not. So an efficient dirt route from Lake Cowichan to Victoria would be key for further¬†exportation¬†northwards.

What actually happened – click for larger version…

Things did not go as planned and I am sad to say we ended the day with 170kms on the GPS and no dirt route home…=-( What I can say is we tried really hard, but were denied at every turn! Don’t let anyone tell you the life of a Gravel Pimp is all professional photographers, diamond studded water bottles and bikini clad ladies. It ain’t true!

Staying toasty by the fire…

Sharon was kind enough to drive Scott and I out to the Municipal Campground at Lake Cowichan. The place was almost empty this early in the year so we grabbed a spot by the lake and lit a fire to hang out at while we drank some beer and solved all the problems in the bike industry!

Scott’s narrow room with a view…

Scott has a luxurious 1 man tent that packs up small.

Garbage bag with a view…

My bivy sack packs small, but isn’t very luxurious.

Scott’s Rick Hunter 29er…

Scott always manages to pack more gear into less space on his bike and have it all look so tight.

My Scandal 29er…

I’ve got half the stuff and my bike looks like it’s¬†bulging¬†everywhere it can…=-)

Excited to start the pimping…

We rode into Lake Cowichan and found the local grocery store was open early. Surprisingly it had excellent espresso which got us off on the right foot. Next up was getting on the Trans Canada Trail [known as the Cowichan Valley Trail to the locals].

This is what we came for…

The riding was sublime. Gorgeous country to ride through Рeasy rail grade undulations and nobody else in sight.

Pumpkin Pimping…

Several wooden bridges along the way gave us great views of fast running creeks.

Warming up…

The trail varied from dirt to gravel and back with wide open sections and narrow overgrown bits.

oh yeah!

It was so nice we let our guards down and the smack-down that happened later in the day took us by surprise.

Adding a bit of air for faster rolling…

We were on the trail early and cranking along at a good clip. So good that it seemed sure I’d be home to watch the hockey game in the early afternoon.

Kinesol Trestle…

The Kinesol Trestle is an impressive structure. The highest wooden trestle in Canada apparently. I kind of wished we had spent more time there to photograph it, but some times I feel like a slacker and sometimes I feel like I was born to ride. On this day I had ants in my pants!

Cruising the Kinesol Trestle…

South of the trestle we had another pretty chill section of gravel to pimp. Chit chatting and laughing our way along the route little did we know of our impending doom.

Stopping for a snack…

Peperoni, gummy bears, granola bars, M&M’s…you name it – we ate it!

Scott admiring his handiwork…

As we reached the end of the Trans Canada Trail we had a short 15km section of route finding we needed to do so we could link up with the north end of the Galloping Goose Trail.

WTF?

Back in Calgary Glenmore¬†Reservoir¬†is part of the city’s water supply. You can’t swim or let your dogs thrash around in it, but nobody cares if you walk, run or bike around it. So when we saw that the lake we needed to skirt on our connector was part of the city of Victoria’s water supply we figured they wouldn’t let you through with an oil tanker, but we didn’t think the would mind us pedalling through.

Scott assuming “the” position!

We were wrong. So wrong. Like Totally wrong. I figured even with a locked gate we could sneak past on bikes, but that was simply not going happen when we reach the DMZ.

Take no prisoners….

Scott wasn’t about to let a sniper in a guard tower and 2 dobermans stop him. He launched over the fence and asked me to throw him the Hunter. Before I could a black van rolls up and 6 masked security thugs jump out. Scott levelled 3 of them with his Porcelain Rocket Kung Fu, but the other 3 and the 2 dogs took him down in an EPIC bitch slap. At least when they threw him back over the fence I was able to catch him to stop further injury.

Happier times…

I didn’t have painkillers or a first aid kit so I treated Scott’s wound’s with gummy bears. They seemed to do the trick!

Time to work on Plan B…

We just didn’t have the firepower to break through the DMZ’s defensive¬†perimeter. So we could either give up and go home or explore the missing map section and hope to find a route around the DMZ back to Leech Town. Battered and bleeding Scott would not give up so we headed north to loop around the DMZ [shown in pink on the maps above].

Logging road pimping…

This meant a significant amount of backtracking along the TCT, but the sun was shining and the skies were blue so our spirits were high. If you look at the map towards the top of this post showing our actual route the red line that heads south and stops is the start of the DMZ. The red line that heads west is our attempt to loop back around the DMZ, but as you can see there wasn’t much looping going on. Eventually after some¬†brutally¬†hot dusty climbing we realized that finding a way around was unlikely. If we had a topo map of the area our decision would have been more solid, but sadly I left that critical bit of the map book at home.

Lots of dead ends explored…

The valley we were in headed directly west towards Port Renfrew which would have got us home, but not without another night of camping. So it was time to turn back. Although that meant another round of backtracking it was beautiful country with very few encounters with other humans. Exactly what a Gravel Pimp craves.

It’s not hard to enjoy this…

As my trip computer on the GPS was climbing towards 100kms I was starting to realize that there was no way to make this a quick ride home.

Checking out a clear cut…

My bike was working well. I had added a longer stem for a stretched out position and the Porcelain Rocket bags allowed me to ride without having to accomodate my camping gear and food. So a few more hours in the saddle seemed like reasonable proposition.

Time for a soda break…

We hit 100kms as we reached pavement again. Our options now were either head for the Mill Bay Ferry and then ride down the quiet west side of the Sannich Peninsula or climb the heights of the Malahat with traffic roaring all around us and next to no shoulder.

Hmmmm?

We went with the ferry option as Plan C. On our way we stopped for a cold soda break. I gapped that the seasons were changing so my only top was a long sleeve wool zip neck. That would have been great 2 weeks ago, but on this hot day I was baking. Hence a cold sugary soda made me very happy.

Why is Scott angry?

Reaching the ferry should have been a happy time for us. We’d get a well deserved rest and the ride home along the far shore was topographically unchallenging.

But….

The fine print can be a bitch…

Neither Scott or I can be called rich, but we can afford the $9.20 ferry ride from Mill Bay to Brentwood Bay. Of course having spent our last $20 cash for coffee and food we only had credit cards and bank cards. No cash and after being beaten up at the DMZ Scott wouldn’t let me pimp him out to ferry passengers for a free ride.

So that left the Malahat. **sigh**

A little ‘schwacking…

To get to the Malahat we had to grind up a long hot steep climb from the ferry terminal and then bushwhack cross country  so we could jump a concrete barrier.

Not paradise for cyclists…

All that sweat and tears got us onto a busy 4 lane highway with gnarly shoulders. The photo above is the best part and far better than most of it. Not to mention if you look at the elevation profile on the map near the top of this post that last big ass hump is what awaited us.

Did I mention it was hot and we were riding during rush hour?

**sigh**

The only good part of the Malahat was looking over and seeing some ice cold water running down the rocks next to me. I stopped and poured handful after handful of water over my head. Washed my face and gobbled everything I could find in my bar bag.

That got me psyched for the last push over the top and the uber narrow shoulder on the high speed descent down the other side.

A Gravel Pimp happy to be home…=-)

At the bottom of the Malahat we stopped for another cold soda and a couple donuts at Tim Horton’s. That gave us the energy to crank back down the Galloping Goose to home.

Ride Stats:

  • 170kms ridden [173kms for Scott who rode home from my place]
  • Ride Time 12:15hrs
  • Stopped Time 3:28hrs
  • Avg speed 19.4kph

On the plus side we had an epic ride with great scenery and no traffic….until the Malahat! On the negative side we haven’t found a good gravel/dirt rout from up island back to Victoria.

Sharon confirming my loaded bike was indeed heavy…

A recon mission is only a failure if you don’t gather new info to plan future operations. By that standard we succeeded. We confirmed the DMZ presents an impassable obstacle and we confirmed that a reroute around¬†isn’t’ straight forward. We also found out that if you want to ride the Mill Bay Ferry you better bring cash!

We still need a verified dirt route to Victoria so…

  • we could ride bikes north from the Galloping Goose to Leech Town and try to recon a route to the active logging road we were on. Going from less used to more used routes is always easier than the reverse.
  • we could continue down the active logging road we were on towards Port Renfrew and then ride back to Victoria. That will work, but it’s long-cut not a shortcut home!….;)
  • I may try riding the logging road on my dualsport motorcycle checking out every turn off that might go where we need to go. There were a few low¬†probability¬†routes we didn’t explore due the the climbing req’d. I don’t mind twisting the throttle for a few hours even if the chances of success are slim.

Until next time – live large and prosper!





Gravel Pimping…

16 02 2012

The Gravel Pimps at Oak Bay Bikes Westshore...

Scott and I have been talking about getting out and doing some bikepacking on the south end of Vancouver Island, but life has been getting in the way. So we decided to make a break for it when we saw a window of good weather Monday. With both of us busy with work our departure got pushed back until 4pm. In December that would have meant a 100% night ride our first day, but just a few weeks later we still had nearly 2hrs of daylight to enjoy from the saddle. We stopped in at the Westshore location of Oak Bay Bikes just to say hi and check out what they had on the floor.

What else would I rock for bags?

It got dark soon after we left OBB on the Galloping Goose Trail. We both had about 900 lumens of LED firepower at our disposal which we didn’t use at¬†full-power¬†given the easy terrain and our sedate cruising speed. ¬†We wanted to hit up the 17 Mile House Pub on Hwy 14 for beers and burgers so I stopped a few times to check my iPhone. I don’t like riding with a GPS on my bars unless absolutely necessary so I had to stop and¬†retrieve¬†my phone each time.

Scott warming his hands...

During one of these stops I found myself at the top of a set of stairs [click here for a photo from the next day’s return trip]. Scott wisely backtracked and went down the trail. I of course had to do a stupid human trick and decided to ride down the stairs. Now normally this would be no problem, but at night with a new bike loaded for the first time with gear and backpack, my weight distribution and inability to get back off the saddle because of the seatbag resulted in an over the bars endo/vault. Thankfully not very fast, but nevertheless I ended up with two sore palms and a bashed up¬†elbow/knee on the left side of my body.

**sigh**

It’s been years since I’ve been even moderately hurt on a MTB so I don’t feel hard done by, but what a dumb way to get banged up. No heroic story of a 6′ drop off a skinny wood bridge while being chased by a cougar…just operator error!

Got gravel?

Luckily I was able to find a hand position on my bar ends that wasn’t terribly painful and we cranked along the rest of the way to the pub. Several pints of beer and many dead chicken wings later I was feeling better. I climbed back on my bike gingerly and we cruised the rest of the way to our destination for the night.

A room with a view and no doors!

I had spotted this shelter last time I was up this way biking with Aaron. Since only crazy people go camping in early February on Vancouver Island we had the place to ourselves and simply ignored the no camping signs. Yeah we are bad asses!

Low rent, hardwood floors and indoors bike parking - score!

The shelter was spacious and clean with great protection from wind and the inevitable rain that was to fall that night. Bikepacking bags only let you carry the bare essentials so we didn’t get up to much upon arrival beyond setting up our sleeping bags and munching on a few snacks. When it’s dark and cold I find myself very quickly jumping into a down¬†cocoon! I told Scott he could yell and kick me if I was snoring too loud and with that I passed out.

Black and white On One Scandal 29er...

I woke up in the middle of the night and did a quick inventory of my aches and pains. Everything was feeling pretty good except for my left hand which was very tender and swollen. Not great, but at least I knew I could bike home with 4 out of 5 contact points on the bike feeling decent. Back to sleep I went.

Rohloff'd Hunter 29er...

I wish I had a watch in my sleeping bag as I got up at 6am [according to Scott] to pee and went back to bed because it was still dark. Had I known it was 6am I would have probably made a move to get rolling. After a certain point sleeping on a hard surface with a thin thermarest doesn’t provide much additional benefit.

It's alive!

It started to just get light at 8am so I got rolling. I fired up the stove and made a random dehydrated meal I found at home and some green tea. It was less than gourmet, but it hit the spot.

Minimal, but effective...

Water is plentiful in the rainforest so dehydrated meals are very handy if not the most delicious thing you can eat…=-)

Clean well stocked toilets...

Although we didn’t make much use of the campsite infrastructure there were lots of tables, water and clean toilets close at hand. Nice to see tax payer $$ going towards something I cared about instead of fighter jets!

Sooke Potholes Regional Park...

There was an old mining town a few KMs north from us and I had hoped to spin up there and check it out, but my hand was really sore and I decided it was best to make tracks for home, painkillers, ice and beer!

Scott loading my bike bags...

With one bum hand I was having issues loading my gear back into my bike bags. Scott was kind enough to help me out. Lucky for him I hurt my left hand otherwise I would have needed some assistance in the toilet as well….hahaha! =)

One last look back at our hut...

The scenery up this far along the Galloping Goose Trail is stunning something you can’t appreciate riding it at night.

Pointing our bikes down the map back towards home...

I was sad to miss the mining town, but it will be there next trip. This run up the Goose is our entry pass into a vast network of forest service roads. So unless we drive our bikes to a different starting point all our bikepacking rides will pass this way.

One of the many wooden bridges on the Goose...

My left hand wasn’t terribly happy, but as long as I lifted it off the bars before any major bump was encountered I was able to tolerate light pressure as I gripped the bar end.

Scott keeps it in first gear...

We rode down the Goose slowly in a light rain. Scott kept his back brake on the whole time just to get a better workout…=-)

Yo - check the Pimp rig...

Happily the wide 29er tires rolled well over the gravel/dirt trail surface making it an easy task to spin back towards Victoria.

Another killer view...

The spectacular views helped me keep my mind off my aches and pains!

My bike not looking so clean...

I was happy to roll into my yard and pop a couple Tylenol as I took a swig from an ice cold Corona! Despite my stupidity it was still great to be out on the bike on the South Shore of Vancouver Island. This ride let me figure out some things about my bike and how to best pack it for future adventures.

Nothing a quick hose down can't fix...

The Alfine 11 IGH and the 29er hardtail bike is proving to be a fun versatile machine that’s ideal for lots of different adventures. I’m going to take a few days off the bike to let my left hand rest and then I’ll be back hard at work wearing out parts…=-)

BTW – in case you are wondering about the title of this post we decided that “Gravel Grinding” sounded too boring for a couple wild and crazy guys like us – hence we coined the new term “Gravel Pimping”. You have our permission to use it as you wish!





The Rocket goes Pimp!

27 05 2012

Scott’s new bar bag…

I guess my white Porcelain Rocket bikepacking bag bling was so hot Scott decided to make some for himself.

Scott’s pimped out Hunter 29er…

He works incredibly hard making bags for other cyclists so he¬†deserves¬†to rock some sweet gear himself. I think he’s showing some restraint by keeping his old black frame bag.

A lovely white seatbag…

Fresh bikepacking gear looks silly. Time to get that stuff dirty!





Highline Trail Time Trial – Sedona, AZ…

4 03 2012

Dave, owner of the Sedona Fat Tire Bike Shop, tweaking his Ibis Mojo HD…

Dave invited us to a weekly ride starting at the Bike and Bean Bike Shop every Friday. I knew it was going to be a hard ride and on my 2009 Sedona trip I went on 2 shop rides that kicked my ass both times. So I was a bit reluctant to accept the invitation, but I figured they’d show us some cool trails we might not otherwise see.

A-Man decided to test how tough he was on our morning ride to Coffee Pot Rock by going over the bars and body slamming some slickrock before making love to a small tree! Needless to say he made the smart move and stayed in the hotel where there was painkillers, beer, ice and TV…=-)

My view from the back of the pack…

I was able to maintain contact with the main group for the first part of the ride and started to get a bit cocky thinking it wasn’t going to be as bad as I had¬†anticipated. However, when they turned up Highline Trail I knew I was in trouble. I didn’t have the¬†fitness¬†and tech skills to rocket down the narrow ribbon of trail on¬†the¬†side of a cliff.

The group waiting for me on Highline Trail…

We ended up completing a loop on Highline similar to what A-Man and I rode earlier in the week. Except this time we did it in 2hrs rather than 4.5hrs!  The group waited for me at the infrequent stops along the trail, but I had to ride at the edge of my puke zone the whole time to catch up.

I didn’t really even notice the scenery on this ride as I was focused so heavily on what was coming up and trying to get over all the tech as quickly as possible. Sections of the trail we stopped to play on for 20mins last time out were obliterated in a few seconds on this ride. It was an impressive pace [for me], but I don’t think I’d want to ride like that more than¬†occasionally.

Anyone see that Canadian fall off a cliff?

On the plus side I did get to ride a couple new sections of Templeton Trail and some unnamed connector trails. My Santa Cruz Nomad was working perfectly for this high speed riding over all the rocks and drops. I was even climbing pretty good until I was dead tired at the end.

Lending out my Santa Cruz Nomad to a rider who had one on order…

I shared my Nomad stoke with one of the guys on the ride who had a Nomad on order and wanted to check out how it rode. Of course he came back all smiles – don’t let the¬†photograph¬†fool you…..I had just told him I wanted my bike back…=-)

The only proof I was actually on the ride…

Sadly my beloved 15yr old Dirt Rag jersey got snagged on a tree and got ripped. I’m going to have to see if Scott “The Gravel Pimp” Felter can help me cut the torn sleeve off and mod the damaged jersey to show off my muscular arms…hahahaha!

Dave on the move…

Dave is a fast strong rider who crushes all techy gnar in his path…so when he hung back with me at the end of the ride to ensure I didn’t get lost or just keel over and die that was a very considerate move. It was a bit pathetic to watch him barely pedalling ahead of me as I was driving my pedals as hard as I could and he still pulled away!

The post ride beer and pizza tasted sooooooooo good!

The ride ended on a high note for me for 4 reasons:

  1. the last part of the ride blasted downhill on the curvy Slim Shady Trail singletrack.
  2. the ride was over!
  3. there was pizza.
  4. there was beer!

Jimmy, on right, put on the ride and supplied the post ride refreshments – thanks!

Thanks to the Bike and Bean Bike Shop for organizing the ride and providing such tasty post-ride refreshments. Nothing makes you forget the pain of a hard ride like a cold beer and warm slice of pizza.