old school

Here is something I wrote back in 1997.  For those of you who remember,  I wrote this in the style of bike magazine;  in fact I even submitted it to them and they were kind enough to reject it. bike magazine was all about the culture of mountain biking, the joy of riding off road.  It is what you read to get inspired to ride.  It contained very few articles about gear but was all about “the stoke”.  Who among us who ever worked in a bike shop could forget Mike Ferrentino’s column “The Grimy Handshake”?  It was always the first article I read.


When I wrote this I may or may not have had my first set of SnowCat rims on my bike; I got them either in the winter of ’96 or the winter of ’97.  I called  Simon Rakower up in Alaska, explained what I wanted and gave him my shipping address.  He said he’d send them right away, didn’t mention anything about payment.  When I asked him about it he said “No problem, I’ll just invoice you and you can send me the money when you get them.”  Wow, I thought, that’s trust; people must be different in Alaska.  So I may or may not have had SnowCats on my rig, certainly the other two figures in the story didn’t and by that time we had been riding on snow for 10 years.


The trail we rode out to Bay Bulls on isn’t rideable any longer. It was part of an old railway line that ran “up the shore”.    The ATV’s really played havoc with it, turning long sections of it into deep bog holes. Then some beaver activity caused a lot of flooding in the area.  In addition, a bridge that crossed a small but very deep river is now gone.  The good news is that there is an abandoned pole line than runs parallel just west of this trail that snowmobiles use and that can be ridden.  The river crossing is usually frozen on that section, but sometimes, like last year, it is not and it means getting your feet wet so be prepared.


The other two figures in this story know who they are and their names have not been changed to protect the innocent; in fact they are guilty as hell of everything contained in this story. Especially Jim.

(click on image to enlarge)


hawk hills

The forecast was looking good for the weekend so I took Friday afternoon off work so I could go explore in the Hawk Hills which are just west of St. John’s. This is looking back on Goulds from where I live and started.

I wanted to ride as much as I could off-road. Sometimes you have to go through some water…

…and sometimes you have to go over a lot of rock.

I spent my first night at Butterpot Park and went to bed with the moon…

…and woke up with Venus.

Heading out as the sun rises.

When I got into the Hawk Hills the fog had rolled in so I waited an hour…

There! That’s better!

Looking south as the last of the fog burns off.

This is near Inside Hawk Hill. From here I needed to pick a route heading east to Mobile Big Pond.

That is Big Island Pond in the foreground; Mobile Big Pond is the one waaaaay back there. You can see it better in the next picture. From this point there was a lot of pushing, not peddling, the bike.

Mobile Big Pond getting close. That point of land with the island just offshore is where I camped.


Sunrise with Venus.

Riding the south shore of Mobile Big Pond.

I’m now at the end of the pond looking back to where I started, just beneath that high point of land. From here I rode out on a dirt road and then picked my way home on various trails.

trail day

Courtesy Mark R

(map courtesy of mark r)

In September Newfoundland got hit by Hurricane Leslie.  In the St. John’s area there wasn’t a lot of rain but the winds were destructive.  Many of our mountain bike trails were littered with blow downs and the damage didn’t end there – many of the blow downs also brought up the root systems that devastated the trail bed.  It was just two years ago that we were hit by Hurricane Igor and it seems like we only just got finished cleaning up that mess when Leslie hit.  Leslie clearly did more damage than Igor.

Mark R did a walk through of the area we call Richmond Hill and did a count – 116 trees down across the main trail route used. OUCH!  That’s a lot of trees.

So we had a trail day on Sunday.  Dave Mac and Leslie (not the hurricane) couldn’t show up on Sunday and were generous enough to go up the day before and do some work – many thanks.  I’m happy to say that all the blow downs are cleared from Escape Hatch (# 2 on the map), Ridgeline (#7), Slingshot (#11) and the unnamed run (#12).  There is still a lot of tread repair that has to be done and HydroTower will be the focus of our next chainsaw trail day.


Bikepacking: you ride your bike into the woods, find a cool spot, you camp. You wake up and you ride your bike farther into the woods. Repeat until you have to go back to work.

– from a photograph in gypsybytrade’s blog

bikepacking INTO THE avalon WILDerness reserve

Red = dirt road         Yellow = shoreline I rode

Pink = hike-a-bike     Purple arrow (barely visible) = campsite

Riding in Cape Pond Road was easy and only took 1.5 hours to reach the pond itself.  I took the time to explore little side roads and found this bridge that took me to a spot I’d like to camp at in the future.

Cape Pond is the source of LaManche River and it is dammed.  I had to cross the dam to get to the south side of the pond where I intended to ride. No, I did not ride this!

You can see the shoreline that I rode and in the background a feature called “The Drop”.

I found a great place to camp after another 1.5 hours of riding the shore.  This piece of land stuck out into the pond and gave great views.

There was also TONS of driftwood!

I had a great supper, one of my trail favourites; anybody who has ever hiked with me will know this one: macaroni, butter, Parmesan and bacon.  I like it so much I often have it for breakfast.

After supper I mixed up a rum and Crystal Lite, started a fire and enjoyed my surroundings.

The next morning I awoke to this.

Leaving camp I headed south overland to Mount Carmel Pond.

Looking back on my campsite.

Riding the shore of Mount Carmel Pond.  Note I am wearing my flash orange hat instead of my helmet.  The risk of getting shot (it is hunting season, after all) far outweighed the risk of falling and hitting my head.

I rode out Horse Chops Road and when I got to the highway I backtracked to Cape Broyle for food and, ahem, beer.  I then rode to LaManche Park which was closed for the season.  I camped on the beach next to the public swimming area.

I rode the next morning to the suspension bridge in LaManche to pick up the East Coast Trail which I rode to Bay Bulls.

From Bay Bulls it was a short ride back home aided by a lovely tailwind.

riding with a mainlander and thoughts on using a fat bike as a trail bike

I rode Torbay-Flatrock today with a fellow from Toronto named John who was here on business with my buddy Marc. He wanted to see what mountain biking was like here and this is a great trail to introduce people from away to how spectacular this place can be.  John rode my full suspension bike and I rode the fat bike as I wanted to see how it performed on the trail especially when riding with others.

The trail begins at the wharf.


You have to hike-a-bike a little bit up those stairs you see but soon you are riding along just fine.


Marc was lagging behind right from the start and he got a lot of razzing from me.  I had to take it all back as we discovered after 3/4 of the ride was completed that his rear brake was dragging!  Bummer.


A look back at the coast we just rode.



Here’s a good one of John bombing along near the finish.


I was really pleased with the way the fat bike rode on the trail.  I didn’t have any problem keeping up with the others and it gave me great traction on the gravelly uphills that characterize this trail.  The only downside to riding a fat bike as a trail bike comes a few hours later – man, do my forearms ever ache this evening!  My shoulders are tired, too.  The lack of suspension really gives your upper body a workout.

this is where it all begins

Though I’ve been kicking the idea of a blog around for a little while I’ve got Chris Jerret of http://chrisjerrettminatures.blogspot.ca/  to thank (or curse) for pushing me to do this.  I’ve been living in Newfoundland since 1983 and I’ve been involved with cycling in its many forms: as a roadie, a triathlete, a mountain biker, a commuter, touring and now fat biking.  I want to show people what can be done here on a bicycle, despite the often crappy weather, and the wonderful places you can go.

I hope you’ll follow along.