I headed out at 2:30 on Sunday with my Dad and Giles, expecting to be able to ride the whole route, and be back in about 4 hours. Here is the route - red lines are gravel, yellow is railway lines, and green is pavement. The total distance is 60km.
Long story short, many many sections of this were not rideable. The railway lines were much narrower than I anticipated, meaning there was no way to ride on the shoulder. You could ride between the two lines, but there was a ton of scrap metal and sharp rocks there, not to mention the noise from the rocks made it impossible to hear oncoming trains. There were a lot of blind corners, and I didn't want to get run over by a train moving at 100km/h. That meant we had to walk the first rail section, which was around 10km long. The following gravel road got rougher and rougher, until we were either riding in deep sand or rock gardens. A lot of this was rideable, but it was slow going and we got a number of flats. It started raining halfway through, turning the rocks into a slippery mess.
Eventually the road turned to double track, getting swampy as we entered a bog, and then finally into full-blown single track. As we made our way through the final forest section, it was getting quite dark. We had no lights, and I only had sunglasses. Yikes. I think we made it back to Ingolf by 9:30pm and still had to ride the road back to Caddy Lake.
After all was said and done, we got back to the car after 10pm, filthy and tired, but smiling none-the-less. I've never liked calling rides 'epic', but this was pretty close I'd say.
Here are a few photos from the route.
|Most of the people gave us friendly waves as we zipped around the gate and down the road. One guy gave us a hard time, but not enough to turn back.|
|The road started off with some minor washboard and a few steep climbs. This one was around 13%|
|The forest felt especially thick and dense here.|
|This is the closest thing to a wild animal on the trail. Last time we ran into a medium-sized black bear.|
|More loose hills!|
|This is where the first rail section begins.|
|Moment of truth. This suddenly feels like a bad idea.|
|I can't believe I didn't destroy my bike here. I was riding 35mm file treads, which were way to skinny. And those big chunks of granite were getting tossed into my wheel and drive train. I have a few big chunks of paint missing on my chain-stays now.|
|We had to walk nearly the whole section here.|
|In the middle of nowhere, these two cabins appeared. Must be nice to live in Ontario and get to build wherever you want.|
|The last two KM or so were ridable once the rail doubled.|
|Success! It started raining pretty good at this point.|
|The road was soft and wet, and got increasingly rough.|
|This is what most of the trail looked like. Not very favourable for cross bikes, but certainly ridable if you're light on the pedals.|
|This was one of the steepest descents, straight into deep sand, and back up a rock garden.|
|It was getting dark here, and admittedly we got a bit lost.|
|This is right before we hit the last 2km of the ride, which was rough single track through the forest before coming out at the tracks just East of Ingolf. There were many crashes in the dark.|
|Made it to Ingolf. 10km on the highway back to the truck.|
Not sure I'd go ahead with this as an actual Gravel Grinder, but I'd love to re-ride it on a mountain bike, and possibly as an over-nighter if there is interest.