Back on the bike and riding further than ever!
I love biking! I always have! It’s been an activity that I first started when I was very young and have continued to enjoy over the years.
When I was a kid, my family and I would go biking everywhere. Trails, paved and gravel roads, along campground and Ontario Parks’ roads. Anywhere we went, I just had so much fun riding my bike!
I continued to ride over the years, but then around my early 20s there was a time period where I hardly rode at all. Life got busy, I was working, and I had sold my old bike and not yet replaced it, so I had to borrow someone else’s bike when I wanted to ride. I was lucky if I got out for a few rides a year during this time.
In 2018 I had changed jobs, which allowed me to actually have the summer off work for the first time in many years. Although I did not have any big plans or far away trips lined up, I was really looking forward to just getting out and enjoying some summer activities that I hadn’t got too do much the past several years. One of those activities of course was biking!
I went out for a few rides around town, and took my borrowed bike a couple times to our local Ontario Park, Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park. We, myself and my biking partner, would spend a good part of the day riding around the park roads, stopping at the beach or at other spots to look around. It was great! It felt like being a kid again riding along the park roads!
We had done this a couple times the year before, brought our bikes to the park to ride around for the day and then drive back home after. The park is only about a 15 minute drive away from home, so a perfect distance for day trips.
I started looking around on Google Maps one day and wondered if instead of bringing our bikes to the park in our vehicle, if we could actually ride our bikes to the park. It didn’t seem like it would be too far of a distance. So I started mapping out a route to the park from town, that cut across the country roads to avoid having to ride along the Trans Canada Highway.
After I had figured out a route that would bring us around to the west end of the park and only involved about 1km of riding along the highway, I showed it to my biking partner. After they took a look they asked something that I had not even thought about, “How long is that route?” I had no idea, I didn’t think it was that long. So I mapped out the route on Google Maps and in the end it came to 37km!
Now, 37km might not seem like a lot for some people, but for us it was! We had never biked that far before. Probably the longest distance we had ever biked in one day before was maybe a little over 15km. No where near this distance. Could we do this?
After some thinking we decided to do it. We would be able to bring everything we needed in our bike bags, we were familiar with the route as we had driven it in a vehicle many times before, and if something happened we did have cell phone service the entire route and could call someone to pick us up.
We chose a day to do the ride and ventured out one afternoon. It was quite an adventure! The route was a mixture of gravel and paved roads, there was several hills, and we kept worrying that it was going to rain because of big dark clouds overhead. We kept going. Every time we reached a new spot, kind of a landmark that we were familiar with, such as a particular road or bridge, there was a sense of accomplishment. We had made it to this spot, that we had only ever been to before by riding in a vehicle.
As we rode along, it wasn’t as difficult as we thought it would be. There were a few mistakes we made along the way, we stopped too long for breaks, found out things we had forgot, and started to talk about how we would do things differently if we ever did this again.
After a few hours we arrived at Samuel de Champlain! What an amazing feeling! We rode through the park to the Bagwa Day Use Area which was where we were going to end our ride and get picked up.
We finished our ride. 37km complete. How amazing was it that we had accomplished that! We just rode our bikes that far!
The next day we were wondering what to do and my biking partner suggested going for another ride. At first I wasn’t sure if I wanted to after the long ride the day before. But then I got thinking about it and we went on Google Maps and starting mapping out another route. We found one that we thought might be nice to ride. It was 40km! Were we really going to do this again after riding such a long route the day before? You bet we were!
We completed the 40km ride on the very hot sunny day and enjoyed every bit of it. We felt great! We had just ridden almost 80km in one weekend!
That was the turning point right there. After completing these two rides, the feeling of accomplishment from covering that distance and knowing that we were capable of such a thing, and the things we had seen and experienced along the way, we were hooked! From now on we would ride our regular shorter distances, but we would continue to try riding the longer distances, and push ourselves further and further.
By this point, I was pretty clear that I was going to be doing a lot more biking again, so I bought a new bike, and some new bike bags and gear that I would need.
We looked around more on Google Maps to see what long route we may attempt next. The next reasonable option would be a one way ride to the town of Bonfield. I checked the distance, and it was only a little over 40 km. That would be a good route to try I thought, but then I started looking a little further. The city of North Bay wasn’t really much further. Mapping it out, I found that it would actually be 80km along the back country roads!
Right away it should have been a no decision to this distance. That was much too far for us at this point. Or was it? My biking partner and I looked over the route. It was tempting. Now that we had seen it, mapped it out, we almost had to try it. The thought of trying such a ride was exciting!
The decision was made. We would attempt to ride the 80km to North Bay! We would follow a route that included a short section along the Trans Canada Highway, gravel country roads, paved side roads, and part of the Kate Pace Way Trail through North Bay.
We set off in the late morning and after about 7 and a half hours of actual riding time, we made it to North Bay! What a ride it had been! It had been an awesome experience from start to finish. Along one section of the ride we followed along part of the Voyageur Cycling Route.
During a section around the middle of the ride I had started to struggle a little when I was feeling weak, but a stop to eat and drink in Bonfield perked me up again and the last half of the ride was smooth sailing.
Riding into the town of Callander it was pretty cool to see Callander Bay along Lake Nipissing. We got there just in time to see a stunning sunset.
The ride took an interesting turn once it got dark and we rode along the city streets. We stopped for a minute outside the Galaxy movie theatre. There was something about riding up to the entrance of the Galaxy that really made me feel as though I had just accomplished something big. We had been there to see movies many times before, but we had always got there in a vehicle, and it had taken us nearly an hour’s drive from home. Here we were, standing there outside the theatre, with our bikes. We had actually rode our bikes to the North Bay Galaxy!
We picked back up on the Kate Pace Way and rode around to the Gateway of the North. The Gateway a large stone archway that had been erected in North Bay in 1928. It is a well know landmark in North Bay, and it was where I had wanted to end our journey. It was now dark, but we stopped and took lots of photos posed with our bikes under the arch.
This was it! We had really made it to North Bay now. Our ride wasn’t over though, we biked another km or two to the North Bay waterfront area where we met up with our ride that would take us home.
If you thought for a moment that that would probably be enough riding for us for a while, well apparently it wasn’t. We did another short ride or two during the week after the North Bay ride, and then exactly a week later we attempted yet again another 80km ride.
This time the destination was to the town of Powassan. We would be following the same route up until Bonfield and then we would be heading south west to Powassan. This ride ended up being an entire different adventure than the one the week before. During one section we had a dog run out from a house and chase us down the road, almost causing my biking partner to fall of her bike, we had a deer and a bear cross the road in front of us, an extra wide load transport truck drove by us on a narrow loose gravel section of road. It started to get very cold as it got dark and the last at 10km were ridden in complete darkness along a country road.
Then by time we rode into Powassan it was Christmas!
It was only mid September, but as we rode towards the main street we saw Christmas lights and trees set up at a gas station. We were a little confused at first and stopped across the road from the gas station. A man came over the talked to us. Apparently he was part of a film crew that was in Powassan filming some scenes for a Hallmark Christmas movie called ‘A Veteran’s Christmas’. How cool was that? Right at the end of our 80km ride to Powassan we rode right into the film set of a Hallmark Christmas movie! An exciting end to an interesting day, we met up with our ride who was waiting nearby and we went home.
During 2018 we went on several other rides, none as far as 80km, but lots of fun shorter rides, I also did quite a few rides on my own during day trips to Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park. One ride that was particularly fun was a ride one day to a local golf course. We rode our bikes about 18km to the golf course, and then we played a round of golf in the Ladies’ League Night after.
In 2019, although I did get out biking on my own quite often, usually at least a couple times a week, the majority of the rides were less than 20km, the longest being 40km. It was a busier summer, and also my biking partner had been suffering with some knee pain, a combination of both put an end to any long rides for the year.
For this year, 2020, one of the things that I really wanted to do was to try and get out on our bikes are early as we could in the spring, and try to ride often. I also wanted to try and do things the more correct way, a slower start at the beginning of the season with shorter rides, and working our way up to longer and longer rides as time went on. I didn’t want to do too much too fast, have an injury occur or not enjoy a ride by taking on too much too soon.
We managed to get out for a very early first ride on April 6th. Cold weather and snow came back a few times off and on, but as it started to get warmer and roads dried up more, we were able to get out more often. Our first ride was a short 13 km. Over the past couple months we’ve been able to get out for lots of rides, our longest being 50km just recently, which interesting enough is now our third longest ride to date!
The situation with the COVID-19 pandemic actually allowed us more time this spring, and a great opportunity, to get out on our bikes more. Earlier on in the season, when trails and parks and other things were closed and some of us were not able to work at our jobs due to the virus, riding our bikes was one of the few things that we were still allowed to do and it was a great way to get out and about in our local area, while staying away from other people.
Things are going great so far this year. We are finding the rides not too difficult, we’ve been going a lot faster and handling the hills better, and often feel as though we could continue to ride for much longer by the end of a day. We’ve been trying a lot of new local routes and roads, and have already started to map out a number of much longer bike rides that we want to attempt in the coming months. We are looking forward to a awesome season of riding this year!
We may even try some winter fat biking this coming winter! Fat biking was something that I have wanted to try for a while now. Last winter the weather and our schedule didn’t allow us to give it a try, but next winter I hope to be able to rent some fat bikes one day and ride some trails. If I find out that I enjoy winter fat biking, riding my bike might one day turn in to an activity that I can do all year round.
There are so many more reasons why I love to bike now! There’s the exercise part of it, it’s a great activity to help stay fit. There’s the awesome feeling of covering long distances using only your own ‘human power’. There’s the challenge and sense of accomplishment of pushing yourself to go further and further on rides. There’s the enjoyment of looking at the beautiful landscapes and scenery as you pass by, at a much slower speed than you would in a vehicle. There’s the adventure of it, the unknown of what you may come across, the interesting experiences that you have while riding. But most importantly, the main reason why I love to bike, is because I just have so much fun riding my bike! Even after all these years, further distances, more challenging rides, more hills, it’s still fun, and it always will be!