Burritts (Rapids) Loop, Hutchinson Sector 32 review

First post, and frankly meaningful ride, since coming back from France. Weather has been shit to say the least, so when the forecast showed +5 and ~10kph winds, I seized the opportunity to take my Redline out for the first time in nearly 5 months.

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Despite punching out a stiff gravel run the day before I decided to ride one of my favorite loops through Burrits Rapids. Total ride was 69 km at a steady 2.5hrs.

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The route was slightly modified to cut about 15km of thawing/soft gravel along Paden/Harnett road. Typically it’s a FAR better option than the busy/shoulderless Donnelly Drive running along the northern portion of Rideau River.

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Riding across the Rideau River near Kemptville. As you can see we’re still well inside winter up here…

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Part of the historical Rideau Locks near Burritts Rapids dating back to circa 1832. After being in France for most of this winter, that’s not really old, but standards have to be reset back in North America. 😉

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This is a cool swing-bridge located in Burrits Rapids. In the summer you can see this in action, operated manually by a single individual.

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Back to my Redline, I forgot just how nice this bike rode. I’m sure the new Hutchinson Sector 32c tubeless tires contributed to the sense of speed & ride.

While quite narrow (31.7mm on a wide Pacenti SL23 v2 rim) they’re almost 100gr lighter than the larger (too large for my Redline) 35c Schwalbe G-One. The Sector’s rode super smooth & quiet on pavement and felt a good 2-3kph quicker than last year’s G-One. These tires are getting damn close to entry/intermediate road slicks IMO, I wouldn’t hesitate to take them with confidence on a fast roadie group ride. They’re possibly even a bit faster than the 28c Panaracer Gravel King slicks (w/latex tubes) I rode in France all winter. Where the Sectors gain in speed they lose a bit on rough gravel – understandable given the difference in volume.

With 1 scoop (~60gr) per tire of Hutchinson’s own Protect’air sealant, the Sectors aired up tubeless relatively quick (pre-stretched them for a couple of days w/tubes). I rode them at 50/55 psi (f/r) and it was just about perfect with no out-of-saddle pavement slop but still enough gravel cush. I’ve lost close to 20lbs since the New Year so my normal tire pressures will have to be reset a bit going forward.

They look to be a great tire to handle a bit more pavement/climbing duty than some of the more burly gravel offerings. I’m curious to see how durable they end up being. Depending on durability and riding tastes I might try Clement Strada USH next.

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With regards to new route postings, that will be it for awhile. I plan to commit more hours to trail/gravel running for a 50km race this fall. I’ll still document new bike routes but I don’t expect to do a whole lot of gravel exploring this summer.

In the meantime, I’ll take some time to load up pics from the archives – the rides before OttawaVelo came to be. Stay tuned, there’s some amazing stuff from all across the country!

 

 

 

France part Deux – Saint Maxime to Collobrieres & back

One last go before I pack up. I found what looked to be an interesting route so I held off on packing the bike until after the ride – and right before I left St-Maxime for home.

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My ride to Collobrieres would be an out & back, 82.3km, 5140 feet. As this would be my last outing in France, I emptied the tank – which was a nice change from the typical 70-80% cruising (in order to survive 2.5 weeks of daily activity).

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Being Sunday, the main coastal road was a little quieter. I’m not sure if it’s the cause or effect, but there’s a ton more roadies out on Sunday.

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This ride was a little more… green. The day before there was a ton of rain and near 100 kph winds (still 25-40kph on this outing). That precipitation seemed to have an almost instant effect to the vegetation.

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All the locals took the opportunity to enjoy what was a beautiful early spring day.

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The climb up to Collobrieres was a really nice sustained gradient. It felt good to put some sustained torque through those pedals.

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As usual, the excellent French regional road signs let me know where I was and how far to my destination.

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Near the summit I was surprised to see a perfect view down to the Golf of Tropez. The town of St-Tropez can be seen on the right side of the bay.

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After yesterday’s rain, lots of water was coming down the mountain. A few sections had sand & gravel run-off as well.

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This region is known for their cork trees. Apparently the bark can be removed w/o hurting the tree.

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Collobrieres was a nice little quite town. Given the high standard of France, there was nothing fancy here – but it would easily be a tourist hotspot back in Ontario.

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Main square was busy.

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Back to the town that’s hosted me for nearly 20 days. Saint Maxime is such a different setup than Vence, it definitely has less history and more money, but it’s just as cool. That’s the amazing thing about France, you don’t have to go far to get a different vibe.

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All in all, it was an awesome trip, and a great way to spend a winter! I covered 470 km on this trip (including Spain) for a total of approximately 800 km. Not once during the ~50 hours I spent on these roads in France and Spain did I feel endangered. Drivers were respectful and patient. It’s a shame the same can’t be said for North America.

 

France part Deux – Le Sentier du Littoral

In an OttawaVelo first, and possibly not last, I’ll be posting some pictures of my trail run (16km out & back) along the famous coastal trail from St Tropez.

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Translated to English, Le Sentier du Littoral means ‘Costal path trail’, in this case around Cape St-Tropez. St-Tropez started once as a small fishing village. It soon became famous with artists and jet-setters to eventually become a bit of a ritz-y village.

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The trail starts after the cemetery located below the citadel.

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The first portion starts along beaches of the Mediterranean sea

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Eventually the trail works it’s way between million dollar mansions and the coast line.

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Being a MTBer at heart it’s easy to wonder if this trail is feasible by bike. While there were no signs indicating they weren’t allowed, common sense would quickly show that it’s not feasible. There were several obstacle-like portions along jagged rocks & elevated sections that I would hesitate to put any children through.

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Eventually it’s rounds the cape and the terrain becomes a little more raw. Wind and swells also increase as we leave the Golf of St-Tropez.

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Eventually the trail crosses a few beautiful but somewhat raw beaches. I didn’t bother with pictures as there were a few local women who apparently found it quite warm that day.

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Whenever the beaches ended the trail continued along some beautiful shoreline.

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Running out of legs, and time, I turned back at what I believe was ‘Tiki beach’. Had I had some means of a lift back to St-Tropez I would have continued down along the coast for another 5-10 km.

France part Deux – Vidauban Loop

This will likely be my last postings of this trip. I’ve covered just about every angle from St Maxime, and combined with heavy legs from trail running, my plans for additional long rides are pretty much done.

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Today’s trip took me 68km and 3,500 feet. It was also the first day I’ve experienced southern France’s infamous ‘Mistral’ winds, which were coming from the North West at about 25kph clip (gusting close to 40kph). I chose to ride clockwise and use the long decent to Vidauban to offset the headwind.

Here’s my view every time I head out the door.

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Once again, lots of cycling-specific lanes.

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The area is quite dry and warm, as confirmed by the plenty of cactus and what appear to be giant aloe vera plants.

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This route didn’t disappoint, there were plenty of beautiful twisty & quiet roads. Lots of cyclists were out doing the same, including some younger organized teams (complete with team car).

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Lovely quiet roads along vineyards.

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France part Deux -75km along the Riviera up to Antibes

My folks were going to Antibes for the day so I decided to ride out and hitch a lift back. It was a 73km ride with a somewhat surprising 2500 feet of climbing.

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It was a beautiful day yesterday. Little wind (most of which was a tail) and being Sunday the roads were light in traffic and plenty of cyclists.

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The terrain was varied, ranging from wide & flat marshy areas right to sea-side hills towering close to 1000 feet.

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Every town had a quaint little harbor. Despite this region being popular with tourists, many of these smaller towns were still working as they were for the past decades.

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Where there wasn’t a harbor, or expensive real estate, there were pristine beaches.

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Being Sunday, several towns had their market in full swing. This one was several kilometers long!

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The closer to Cannes, the lumpier the terrain became. This picture didn’t do the redness of the rock justice.

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Amazing view with the snow-capped Alpes in the distance.

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Once in the outskirts of Cannes, the main road along the beach was closed to traffic. It was packed with runners, families, roller blader’s, and cyclists.

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Some of the amazing beaches around Cannes, this is looking back South-West at the terrain I just rode.

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Cannes was certainly busier than my previous trip in January.

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Shortly after Cannes I arrived in Antibes. I was surprised just how nice it was. Smaller and a little less glitzier than Cannes, there was no shortage of views and history.

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Another market in the heart of Antibes.

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Beautiful wall lining town. Makes you wonder if it was ever put in use to keep the baddies away…

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France part Deux – Tour around St-Maxime & Roquebrune Sur Argens

After a tough day of trail running yesterday I wanted to do a shorter ‘spin’ around St-Maxime. Despite heavy legs, I managed a 59km ride with 3800 feet of climbing.

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The route start along the Mediterranean Sea. Despite the view, the road can be quite busy/noisy/stinky (LOTS of diesels in Europe!).

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After a short ride along the water I veered north into the hills.

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Despite having some amazing road riding in this area, Mountain biking seems to be nearly as popular around here. There’s a spot in St-Maxime and ‘Azur Bike Park‘ a little further east.

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The start of this ride was along some open, somewhat boring roads. Nice biking shoulders as usual. It’s not really needed at this time of year, but during the summer months this region apparently becomes insanely busy.

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Approaching the town of Roquebrune Sur Argens. In the distance the “Rocher de Roquebrune with it’s distinctive red hue.

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Oldest part of this village dates back to 983 but there are apparently signs of pre-history “Bouverian culture” in nearby caves. I LOVE the tiny streets of these Medieval towns.

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What’s left of the town’s defense walls – destroyed in 1592/3 by Duke D’Epernon’s troops.

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Soon I turned onto yet another quiet forestry road. Neat to see some of the old bridges still intact.

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The Mimosa trees were in full bloom.

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Climbing higher into the park. This road skirted the edge of the valleys while maintaining a very consistent grade for close to 10km.

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Near the top the grade simply reversed, offering kilometers of easy coasting.

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Eventually I turned onto some quiet local farming/vineyard roads. You couldn’t build more beautiful cycling roads if you tried!

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France part Deux – Barcelona, Spain!

I’ve never been to Spain, and this trip was my chance to finally visit Barcelona and add this country to my list of places ridden.

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When searching which route to take I did my usual MapMyRide, Strava, RideWithGPS sites. Most of the ‘epic’ routes recommended climbing the mounting overseeing the city to the west, and the gravel climb up to Begues. This would be a 82.82km ride with 5,500 feet.

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First off, Barcelona is a GREAT cycling city! Lots of designated lanes in the main (and massive!) Boulevards and side roads.

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Separate lanes, complete with bike traffic lights.

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In no time I was climbing the mountain butting up to the West of the city. As beautiful as it was, pollution was evidentially visible (and could be smelled within the city itself).

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Further up the climb there were several signs reminding motorists to respect a cyclists space when passing.

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Once you crest the summit, there’s a bit of a decent and then you climb for a bit more.

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Eventually I rode a nice decent (no surprises, open’ish turns and nice pavement w/o crazy grades). I crossed the valley and a fairly industrial region to start climbing the next mountain further to the West.

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My route took me through a national/regional park. The roads were wider than the one I experienced in France, but traffic was still minimal.

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Several quiet roads where included in this route. Nice to see some Spanish vineyards.

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While I didn’t really enjoy the day’s route (too much of it was urban/industrial), I really appreciated the accepting culture towards to cyclists. I felt just as safe biking in Spain as France.

France Part Deux – Grimaud, St-Tropez, St-Maxime

I’m back in France, and damn did I miss it! This second stay is about 1 hour’s drive further west, right along the French Riviera in the Town of St-Maxime. There’s not as much elevation as Vence, but still plenty of lumpy hills to make me work hard.

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This ride was 2 parts (stopped for lunch in Grimaud) for a total 97.22 km and 5000 feet.

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There are a little more vineyards in this region. Here’s your typical French countryside home. Love the colorful shutters.

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Super roads. Quiet, smooth, and fairly narrow to make it quite intimate.

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Here’s a view to the north, it gives a good perspective of the terrain. It gets quite a bit more lumpy closer to the coast.

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After an awesome lunch outside on a terrace (18-20 degrees C), I set off for a 70km leg. There’s quite a bit more elevation on the trip south to the coast. Thankfully the wind was subdued.

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The start of the route was nice and flat, perfect to get the legs warmed up.

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After ~30km I turned into some kind of national/regional park. I only saw maybe 2 cars over the next two hours?

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At the top I finally saw the Mediterranean Sea. Beautiful!

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Below you can see the road winding its way down to the coast. It was a really nice decent, fairly open turns, smooth pavement, and 4-6% grade to keep the speeds in check.

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The coast line was quite rugged but beautiful.

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Lots of designated cycling paths in the region. It comes in quite handy during peak traffic.

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Fat Biking Gats… Wow!

This would be my first time (legally) riding Gatineau Park’s ‘Snow Bike’ trails. Total ride was 2.5hrs, 27km, 1700feet. 27km was a clockwise ‘loop’ including several out & back sections.

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There’s been a shift in National Capital Commission’s (NCC) mindset over the past couple of years with regards to bike use in Gatineau Park. Much credit of this new-found access goes to Ottawa Mountain Bike Association (OMBA) for working with NCC.

2016 saw NCC open access to new:

  • Summer trails: “Following discussions with the mountain biking community in the region, the NCC is increasing the mountain biking offer by adding 7.8 kilometers to the shared trail network in Gatineau Park. This is a pilot project (ending on November 30, 2016) on trails 3, 14 and 33 as well as on trail sections 2 and 32.
  • Winter Fat Bike trails: “In addition to snowshoe trails 64, 65, 66 and 67, snow biking will also be allowed on trails 70, 71 and 72, still as a pilot project this winter. The National Capital Commission is responding to the growing demand among snow biking enthusiasts.”

Below is a map to the original 2016 pilot loop which I have yet to try. I’m hoping to ride/document it in the coming weeks as it’s only minutes north of downtown Ottawa.

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For my first official ride I decided to take the 20 min drive north from Ottawa to try the upper/northern route. I selected this loop in anticipation of lighter traffic on what was a perfect day to be outside.

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The north loop offers two parking spots (P15 & P17). I opted for P15 because it was about 5 min closer and figured it would be a quieter parking lot than P17 Wakefield (it was).

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P15 Crossloop parking lot, only a few hundred meters off Highway 5 (take Crossloop exit #24 and drive West over the highway).

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Trailhead and box for trail pass payment, $7.50. Early bird season pass is ~ $50, I’ll be getting one next year. Be sure to have the trail pass visible.

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Rules & recommendations to Gatineau Fat biking:

Only winter bikes, also known as “fat bikes”, equipped with tires at least 9.4 cm (3.7-in.) wide will be permitted.

  • Required outdoor temperature: 0 °C or less
  • Required depth of snow cover: 5 cm (2 inches) or more
  • Recommended tire pressure: 10 PSI or less
  • Get off the trails:
    • If your tracks are deeper than 2.5 cm (1 inch);
    • If you have trouble steering in a straight line;
    • If you have to walk your bike up small, easy hills.

My PLUS bike only has 3″ wide tire which was perfect for all but a short section of the #72 upper loop (challenging but still rideable w/o making 1″ track).

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Plenty of signs to direct you along.

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I started in a clockwise format riding #70 to the end. #70 was hard packed, 2-3 track wide trail, and felt like an autobahn. Be mindful around blind corners as there were quite a few snow shoers.

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Near the end of the trail you pass Healey lodge. You’re now up with the XC skiers (massively popular). After a short jaunt on a multi purpose ski/snow shoe/Fat bike trail you jump onto narrow single track for ~500 meters.

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The second lodge, and end of #70, is Herridge lodge. IMO I wouldn’t bother doing that last little part from Healey. The track is too narrow and the traffic too heavy to get any kind of flow. Best to turn back down #70 at Healey lodge. The fun is not over yet!

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About 1/2 way back down #70 you’ll see #71 heading north/left.

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This portion of the trail is pretty damn epic. Single track, fairly hardpacked, and LOTS of ups/downs/turns.

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As you ride further north on 71 the climbing/descents get significantly more difficult. These are some more tame pictures.

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Once you pop out at the lake the technical bit is done (not the climbing though!)

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Eventually you join #72 towards the town & parking lot of Wakefield (P17). There appears to be less snowshoe traffic (more Fat Bikes) on this end of the loop so sections were bumpier and/or softer.

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Once you get to the Wakefield parking lot you can ride out a couple hundred meters, through 2 roundabouts & under Hwy 5, to get to Timmies for refueling.

Back on the trail you’re quickly greeted with a grunt of a climb (all rideable). Continue up 72’s north/east clockwise leg and your HR will quickly get pegged with climbing.

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The only thing I’d like to see is some effort from NCC to place temporary wooden bridges over the several creeks that bisected the trail.

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All in all I was thoroughly impressed with what I rode. This is getting close to caliber of Canmore’s Highline trail in terms of length and epicness.

I’ve always said that if Gats opened up to Fat Biking I would purchase a proper rig. My PLUS rig easily handled these hard packed conditions but a proper >4″ tire will cover a broader range of conditions.

 

An afterthought on France – why road riding is so much better there than in North America

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Barely 48hrs later I’m back on familiar ground. Today’s long and straight road gave me time to think about the trip, and somewhat ironically helped me realize why I enjoyed riding in France so much.

Back on Dec 28th I posted: “Biking in France is one of my top 3 favorite type/places to bike (Gravel & Fat biking are the other two). It is one of the only places I’ve consistently enjoyed road riding over the years.

Prior to that statement I never really put much thought into why I felt  road riding in France is so much more enjoyable to me than in North America. All I knew is that whenever I came back home I would try to continue road riding but my interest would dwindle after only a few months… On this trip I was determined to find out why.

After careful consideration I believe these observations are the foundation to my love of riding in France:

  • French roads have more elevation changes, are more twisty, and generally less ‘dumbed down’ than in North America. In Canada there tends to be more earth movement, or relocation, to make roads as level and straight (read: boring) as possible.
  • French roads tend to have lower rural speeds. This is likely due to  large population, confined spaces, or the aforementioned snaking roads. I rarely saw zones above 70kph. In Canada we have a LOT of straight roads which allow for 80-90kph limits (read: 100+kph).
  • The French are more patient when behind the wheel of a car. I drove quite a bit on this trip and was quite amazed at how willing everyone was to cooperate for the better of mass movement.

All of this means that road riding in France offers a MUCH more engaging experience without feeling like your safety is compromised. Whether it’s the scenery or constantly changing direction of the road, zoning-out on a ride in France is pretty damn hard to do. Frankly speaking death is not far away if you don’t pay attention over there, in many ways it’s similar to a mountain bike trail at speed. Having said that, safety is much more in your control because drivers are far more patient to pass, if at all (it’s not hard to match/exceed posted speed limits on the frequent descents).

PS: The amazing thing is that despite the positive experience my bike didn’t allow me to maximize the potential on this trip. My Cannondale CAAD10 is old, beaten up, and equipped with tired parts that I could never sell. It’s an awesome bike, but it’s seen a lot of HARD miles, and that’s after I purchased it used from a racer up in Quebec city. I really couldn’t get around to fully trusting my bike (read: brakes) on most of the descents which was a bit of a buzz-kill. Personally I would have LOVED a stiff disc-equipped bike that had clearance for a fat & fast 30mm tubeless tire (Schwalbe S-One). In fact, the new Felt VR4 has caught my eye…