cycling · fitness

Sam and Sarah’s fall gravel riding adventures begin

The Guelph to Goderich Rail Trail is now complete.

Here’s their vision statement: “To develop and maintain a continuous, safe and fully accessible G2G Rail Trail Experience that is 127 KM of linear, multi-use green space from the 401 corridor at Guelph, Ontario to the shores of Lake Huron at Goderich, Ontario. G2G Rail Trail is a natural, historical and culturally significant conservation corridor that supports community recreation and active transportation, promotes health and well-being and brings awareness to rural agriculture, heritage and the environment.”

Goderich to Guelph Rail Trail

Part 1 of my 5 part fall fitness plan is getting out and exploring the countryside on my Giant adventure road bike. Between gravel roads and rail trails, there are lots of options. The G2G trail was completed on August 2020 so this seemed like a good place to begin.

The original plan had been to pack our panniers with light weight camping stuff and camp along the route. But the camping options weren’t great. There are places 20 km out of Guelph–too close–and places 20 km out of Goderich–too far, and nowhere in the middle. And the weather started to get colder and we rethought our options. Given the weather, on and off rainy with overnight lows around 3-4, I’m very glad we weren’t camping!

Where stayed instead: I booked two nights at the Auburn Riverside Retreat. It’s mostly RVs but they have some cabins. They’re pretty rustic, no running water, but with washrooms and water nearby. They did have electricity and heat. Also, a fire pit and a BBQ. If you think of them as large pine tents with heat you don’t worry so much about the absence of washrooms. We were toasty warm. We had lots of space for bikes and gear. And we loved the roaring fire at night.

We planned to ride into Goderich from Auburn for lunch.

We set out on Saturday once we thought the rain had passed. Wrong! But it was warm and the rain did end before we got to Goderich and we were warm and dry for the trip home.

The trail was lovely except that the bridge over the first river we encountered was out and there was a detour. The website had warned of the detour and it was marked on the trail.

What wasn’t well marked was the route you were supposed to take instead. We ended riding through some gorgeous countryside, rolling hills, and with trees that formed a canopy over the road so were were protected from the rain. We spent some time back on the main paved road after that and shortly after we got back on the gravel ran into a group of cyclists doing a group gravel ride. They said that sometimes they crossed the river in ankle deep water carrying their bikes to avoid that detour. Not an option when cold! But they were happy to lead us back to trail since that’s where they were headed.

We did some tricky (for me) and technical (for me) riding. I did notice that some of them were on actual mtb bikes, not cyclocross or gravel bikes.

Clearly we’re both road cyclists at heart. At one point seeing deep gravel I yelled “gravel” to Sarah who was behind me. Isn’t it all gravel? she corrected. Yes but that was extra gravelly gravel. Our bikes–mine is billed as an adventure road bike, Sarah’s as an actual gravel bike–were good through the gravel, as expected but we still weren’t certain how’d they’d behave through mud or deeper gravel. Fine as it turned out.

I love climbing on mine. It has much better, more forgiving, gearing than my road bike.

The trail into Goderich–once we were back on it–was smooth and easy going. The only challenge were all the wiggly gates to prevent cars from entering the path when the path crossed a road. They open up the gates in the winter to allow snowmobiles to use the paths. We’re wondering now about fat biking on them though we don’t want to get run over by snowmobiles. That might be an interesting user dispute in the winter months.

We saw a lot of riders out there on the trail. Some were pretty wet and muddy but there were also lots of big smiles. “Nice day if it doesn’t rain,” sang out one older gentlemen. There were some groups of cyclists riding fast but also lots of kids and parents out on bikes together.

The bike/pedestrian bridge into Goderich is beautiful. We got to the town in time for late lunch on a patio and an impulse butter tarts purchase for after (the joy of panniers!) The weather was still pretty unsettled. We stayed dry (mostly) and Sarah, for the first time, got a “waterspout watch” on her bike computer. 😳

In total we rode about 50 km on the trail and off on Saturday.

Sunday we had planned to ride in the opposite direction, toward Blyth for lunch at Cowbell Brewing but the weather had other ideas. We skipped out after lunch and headed home to Guelph. We followed the rail trail along the way though, partly in case the weather perked up and partly to scope out the next section to ride. We’re making plans.

Last year the Toronto Hustle organized a group ride in support of the completion of the @G2GRailTrail! 85 riders took to the trails for the Toronto Hustle @cowbellbrewing Gravel Run, riding from Guelph to Blyth, landing at the beautiful Cowbell farm for food, drink and celebration.

We plan to ride the whole thing in sections between this fall and the spring. See you out there!

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