I don’t know when it started, but some time ago I started writing down my goals for biking.  I don’t think it really started as goals but more as a way of remembering ideas I had.  Many of these ideas would hit me as I was surfing Google Earth, looking for possible routes, both on road and off.  I do know that one of the goals/ideas, # 4 on the list below, precedes Google Earth by many, many years.  Essentially, the idea is to bike down Shoal Bay Road then bike ‘n’ hike to Bay Bulls via The Spout, then bike back on the old rail line that runs inland.  And funny enough, though it is probably the oldest idea on the list, I have never done it.

At some point I started writing “done” when I completed the ride and then at some point I wised up even further and started recording the date.  Here it is, completely unedited:


Cycling Goals
1. Tour Irish Loop May 24th weekend (DONE!)

2. Tour Cape St. Mary’s July 1st weekend (DONE!)

3. Irish Loop in one day

4. Mtn bike The Spout to Bay Bulls then
back to the Goulds offroad

5. Do a bikepacking trip (again) (DONE!)

6. Follow the dirt road I think leads to
Witless Bay Line

7. Bike the T’railway across NF (DONE!)

8. Ride The Great Divide Trail

9. Circumnavigate the island of NF by bike
and coastal boats (Can’t be done now)

10. Get to NS to mtn bike with Marc (DONE!)

11. Tour the Cabot Trail

12. Ride the Ronde Van Vlaanderen (Belgium)

13. Bike The Dempster Highway

14. Bike the north shore of Quebec

15. Evening mtn bike ride – bring light –
ride from supper ’til midnight – think of a good route for this.

16. Trans-Labrador highway (Probably not worth doing)

17. Irish Loop in Two days (KINDA SORTA DONE)

18. Bell Island day trip

19. Tour to Grates Cove (DONE – AND OFFROAD!)

20. Ride the Wunderstrand

21. Across south coast then back by trailway

22. To trepassey by bike and/or hike in late winter

23. The Spout in winter (DONE – March 15, 2014)

24. Get a fatbike (Ha! Wasn’t even on the list and I got it done)

25. Goulds to Fort Amherst offroad (DONE!)

26. Irish Loop offroad (Done – July, 2014)

27. Bikepack Burin Peninsula (Done – Aug 2014)

28. Bikepack Bonavista Peninsula (Done – Aug 2014)

29. Across NF in winter

30. Circumnavigate Miquelon by fatbike

31. Iceland

32. Renews to Fermuese on old track then back by Kingmans Cove Road in winter

riding on ice

If your trail looks like this:

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Then you want your tires to look like this:

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The past two weeks have been mild and wet and the snow is mostly gone.  The temperatures dropped the past couple of days leaving lots of ice.  Riding is no longer about floatation – it is about traction.  This is when studded tires come into play.

When it comes to studded tires you have two routes to go; buy ’em or make ’em.  Studded tires for fatbikes, like the Dillinger, sell for $225 each!  That’s a lot of moolah for a set of tires  Thankfully, there are thriftier options, and Slow:biker is nothing if not thrifty (Mrs.Slow:biker says I’m cheap, but that’s another story).

As I stated above, when conditions get icy it’s all about traction, not float, so an alternative is to use your mountain bike.  Studded mountain bike tires, like the Scwalbe Ice Spiker sell for $120, so you can buy two of these for the price of a single Dillinger.  But remember what I said about Slow:biker being cheap thrifty?  How would you like to have a set of studded tires for your mountain bike for less than 10 bucks?  Home-brewed tires are the way to acheive this.

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When the conditions are hard and icy you don’t need the float of a fat tire.

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Buy two boxes of these; one box of 1/2-inch and another box of 3/8-inch. The 1/2-inch ones will be used on the outside edge of your tire while the 3/8-inch ones will be inserted down the middle.

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This is what the screws look like. You want a head that is round and smooth so it doesn’t wear holes in your tube.

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Use an old, worn out tire for this project like this 20 year old Specialized I had lying around or the equally old Fisher below.

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Drive the screws from the inside out, making sure you go through the lug. Use the longer screws on the outside edge, remember, and the shorter ones down the middle. A power screwdriver can really speed this up.

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Now, take an old tube, cut off the valve then split the tube along the inside using scissors.

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Put a little air into the tube you are going to use then wrap the split tube around it. This extra layer of rubber prevents the screw heads from wearing holes in your tube. Cram all this into your tire and inflate.

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The bead on the Fisher was too compromised and wouldn’t stay on the rim so I mounted up this Nokian 288 (that stands for 288 carbide studs) I had lying around. This, too, is about 20 years old, has seen some use, and is still fine.

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If/when you fall on ice it is your elbows and hips that take the hit. If you have armour for those areas, wear it.

I bought some Kahtoola Microspikes a few years ago for trail running and I cannot say enough about them. I use them when running, on lunchtime walks, on our icy driveway and I always carry them with me when hiking in the winter.  They are 59 bucks and will last a lifetime.  I also like to use them when riding on ice.  They work just fine with flat pedals and clipless pedals.

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If you are riding uphill and you stall out what do you do? You put your foot down. Putting your foot down on ice = slip sliding away. Microspikes overcome this. Some people will instead insert a few studs into the sole of their cycling shoe.

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The Microspikes stretch on and off in seconds AND make quite a fashion statement.

So – now you have no excuses.  Get out there and ride.

pump house loop

Pump House Loop

If you are looking for a good off-road loop to ride consider this one.  It begins at the pumping station at the junction of Ruby Line and Heavy Tree Road.  There is lots of parking there;  you’ll typically see trucks there as people use this as a place to begin an ATV ride in the summer or a snowmobile ride in the winter.

The loop is 30 km long and parallels the Goulds Bypass Road for about 8 km; a turn to the west then takes you past Bay Bulls Big Pond dam before you head further west into mixed forest and farm land. It takes you past Northern Pond and then Cochran Pond where there is an abandoned building should you need to take shelter.

The loop consists of gravel roads for the most part.  You have to cross a field of grass just before the 15 km mark and please remember to be respectful that these fields are being worked – stay to the perimeter as you make your way around.  After getting off this field the road is rocky for the next 3 km before it turns right back onto gravel road.  There is some change in elevation as you can see from the image below but there are no steep sections.

PHL Elevation

This can be a great loop to ride in the winter as it sees moderate snowmobile use and therefore gets well packed down.

If you would like the .kmz file of this route to open in Google Earth just drop me a line at theslowbiker@gmail.com.


terra nova redux

In a post last year I wrote about a trip to Terra Nova National Park.  Well, we found ourselves there again this year, albeit a month earlier (October) than last year (November).  The best part about being there in October is that the colours are SPECTACULAR!

A sample of the fall colours (a Marc P photo).

A sample of the fall colours (a Marc P photo).

What I really want to write about are the trails we rode, to update what the conditions were like, and to tell you about a trail I hadn’t blogged about before.

Sandy Pond – same as we found it last year.  A flat, 2km loop around Sandy Pond.  Scenic singletrack.  A good warmup before you hit Ocre Hill.

Ochre Hill – a little wetter than last year.  There were a couple of places where the trail was submerged by the pond.  This is always a group favourite.  The riding is good and the vistas are stunning.

On the way to Ochre Hill (a Marc P photo)

On the way to Ochre Hill (a Marc P photo)

Riding near Ochre Hill (a Marc P photo)

Riding near Ochre Hill (a Marc P photo)

The view from Ochre Hill (a Marc P photo)

The view from Ochre Hill (a Marc P photo)

Coastal Trail – the trail was, as always, the premier ride of the trip.  You can fill a day on this trail.  Start at the Marine Interpretation Centre at Saltons Brook and head toward Newman Sound campground and ride until you can ride no further.  Come back the way you came or incorporate parts of the Campground Trail.

Southwest Brook – sadly, still unrideable.  Lots of blow-downs and parts of the trail submerged.

Louil Hill – another crowd favourite.  It is only a 2 km loop but it is fun!  We rode it clockwise and counterclockwise and couldn’t decide which way was better.  Ride it for yourself and see if you have a preferred direction! Around the halfway point of the loop there are stairs that take you to a scenic lookout.  I highly recommend going up!

On the Louil Hill trail (a Marc P photo)

On the Louil Hill trail (a Marc P photo)

The view from atop Louil Hill (a Marc P photo)

The view from atop Louil Hill (a Marc P photo)

Malady Head – here’s a trail we hadn’t ridden before.  This is a pretty good trail for riding but what makes it worth doing is the view at the end.  It is uphill going in so it is a blast coming back out.  Consider leaving your bike where the stairs begin and walk the remaining 5 minutes (I did).  Stronger riders will want to take their bikes all the way.

The view at the end of the Malady Head trail (a Marc P photo)

The view at the end of the Malady Head trail (a Marc P photo)

looking for a long mountain bike ride in St. John’s?

Following a post on Mountain Bike St. John’s Facebook page, where Chris B threw out the idea of riding every trail listed on their web page in one day, I suggested a preparation ride for such an undertaking would be to ride from Shoal Bay Road to Fort Amherst, piecing together a bunch of trails and dirt roads to make one continuous (virtually all) off-road ride.

I’ve tossed out this idea before: last year to Chris J who floated the idea on an email but I don’t think ever attempted (correct me if I’m wrong) and this year to Ross Y who attempted it with a crew but they had so many freakish mechanicals they aborted their trip in Petty Harbour.

Since this route was my idea I figured it was high time I tried it myself, so I set off Saturday morning to see if I could do it.  The route is approximately 45 km long and estimated time to complete it was in the 8-10 hour range.  The route is as follows: Shoal Bay Road to Petty Harbour; Petty Harbour to Kilbride via Old Petty Harbour Road; Kilbride to Richmond Hill trail using a mish-mash of trails/pole lines; ride all of Richmond Hills’ Ridgeline trail (starting at the repeater tower) and exiting via Slingshot; ride the fire road to Shea Heights; finally, Shea Heights to Fort Amherst.

Ride Shoal Bay Road until you reach the ocean (6 km).  Turn left.

Ride Shoal Bay Road until you reach the ocean (6 km). Turn left.

The car wreck marks the beginning of the hike-a-bike up over the headland in the background.  This takes 45 minutes.

The car wreck marks the beginning of the hike-a-bike up over the headland in the background. This takes 45 minutes.

A view of one of the headlands you will soon be riding.

A view of one of the headlands you will soon be riding.

On the way up you begin to get some stunning views of the coastline.

On the way up you begin to get some stunning views of the coastline.

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Let the riding begin!

Let the riding begin!

The best riding is around Motion Head.

The best riding is around Motion Head.

Close-up of Motion Head.

Close-up of Motion Head.

I stopped and had a feed of bakeapples...

I stopped and had a feed of bakeapples…



...and watched the fishing boats.

…and watched the fishing boats.

Petty Harbour.  The road to the right of center is Old Petty Harbour Road.

Petty Harbour. The road to the right of center is Old Petty Harbour Road.

It took me 3 1/2 hours to get to Petty Harbour and I seriously contemplated quitting at that point.  I was trashed from all the hike-a-bike, the trail was narrow and deep causing a lot of pedals strikes and it was terribly grown in which made for poor riding.  The only thing that kept me going was that I vowed I would NEVER ride this section again and that meant this was my only chance to complete the whole ride.  Fortified by two Pepsi’s, an apple flip and a Kit-Kat from the convenience store in Petty Harbour I soldiered on.

It’s interesting to note that after Petty Harbour I only took one more picture. I got into a bit of a zone (read: zombie-like trance) and just wanted to get the mission accomplished.  Old Petty Harbour Road starts with a killer climb but once at the top is pretty easy.  Then onto Ridgeline/Slingshot which is a workout in itself, let alone after 4+ hours of riding.  I made it to the store in Shea Heights where I got a Gatorade and a Vachon cake to fuel me to Fort Amherst.  Then it began to rain.

Last known picture of the writer.  Yes, I was as tired as I look.

Last known picture of the writer. Yes, I was as tired as I look. At the top of Shea Heights.

I made it to Fort Amherst 7.5 hours after starting.  God bless my lovely wife for picking me up and ordering me a fish ‘n’ chips for supper.


* I’m glad I completed it but I can’t say I’d recommend it.

* Petty Harbour to Fort Amherst would be a good trip.  That eliminates all the hike-a-bike which really trashes you.

bike ‘n’ hike

I did a bike ‘n’ hike recently – you know, where you bike part of the way and then hike part of the way.  This was a bike ‘n’ hike to The Spout, a geyser of sorts in the rock along our coast.  You see, there is this hole in the rock that goes all the way down to the ocean.  And down this hole flows a stream.  So, with a bellows-effect the ocean blows the fresh water of the stream up into the air like a geyser.  Like a whale spout.  The Spout.

One way of getting to The Spout entails using Shoal Bay Road, which is about 7 km long and pretty boring to hike. I like to ride Shoal Bay Road as far as Queens River Bridge and then hike the East Coast Trail the rest of the way.  It is a funner (is that a word?) way to travel Shoal Bay Road.

Shoal Bay Road is used by a lot of different people; hikers, bikers, hunters, loggers and lots of fellers just out on their ATV’s for a run.  The traditional use of this road certainly belongs to the loggers and the hunters as is evidenced by this:


A couple of shotgun blasts to the signage.

The first real view of the ocean comes around the 3 km mark.  Did I mention that this can be a very wet ride?


Yep.  That’s the trail.  Here’s another look at the trail another kilometer or so further down:


Once you get to the coast it is spectacular.

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I hiked along the coast for about a half hour or so until I got to Long Point, where you can get your first look at The Spout.  It is that plume of water in the center of the next two pictures.

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From here it was another 45 minutes to The Spout and I was feeling a bit lazy so I turned around.  Heading north you get views like this:

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I got back to my bike and had a little boil-up of hot chocolate with some crackers and cheese before riding up Shoal Bay Road again on my way home.

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terra nova

Our annual November trip took us mountain biking to Terra Nova National Park (TNNP) this year. Terra Nova is located about a 3 hour drive from St. John’s and is about equidistant between the towns of Clarenville and Gander. The park is a wonderful meeting place between the boreal forest and the long inlets or “sounds” of the Atlantic Ocean.

The November trip has its beginnings back in 2001 when it actually took place in September (if you can follow that!). That is when my friend John and I did our first hike together on the East Coast Trail and decided to make it an annual event. I suggested we start doing the trip based around the Remembrance Day holiday of November 11th and we did just that in 2002. In 2003 Marc and Gerry joined us and it has been the group of us ever since. We backpacked the East Coast Trail for a lot of years until that grew stale and then we hiked Cape Chignecto in Nova Scotia. In 2009 the trip morphed into a mountain bike trip (to Terra Nova) because we had all been getting back into mountain biking and we were running out of places we hadn’t hiked. This year we found ourselves returning to Terra Nova to ride.

Click to enlarge image

Terra Nova National Park is a great place to ride in the autumn. During the summers the trails are just too busy with hikers. Though the trails are designated hiking trails the wardens have always been OK with mountain biking in the off season. We have always let them know in advance (via a phone call or email) that we were coming out to ride and they have always approved it. We encountered a warden on this trip who made a deliberate effort to turn his vehicle around to talk to us to make sure we knew that he was OK with us riding in the area but wanted to caution us about the hunters that we might encounter and for us to be safe (TNNP has recently introduced moose hunting in the park to help cull the high moose population).

We left town Saturday morning and were riding by 1 PM. We decided to start with a loop around Sandy Pond which is flat and about 3 km in length.

Sandy Pond

After that we crossed the highway and started up the long grind toward the trailhead of Ochre Hill, a wonderful 8km trail that swoops and swerves past ponds, through boreal forest and to a stunning look off toward Clode Sound.

Ochre Hill trailhead

The view from Ochre Hill

Les boys.

These two trails together took us about 3 hours in total to ride. We then headed to our cabin on loan to us by a friend of Marc’s that overlooked Sandy Cove.

The view from our cabin

The view inside our cabin (a Marc Pike photo)

The view inside our fridge

The preeminent mountain bike ride in TNNP is a combination of the Coastal Trail, Blue Hill Pond, Buckley Cove, the Campgound Trail and the Outport Trail. This combination of trails can easily take you 5 hours to ride and it is a wonderful mixed bag of riding: singletrack, boardwalks, stairs, bridges, Oceanside, riverside, and boreal forest. Everyone comes back from this with a big grin and a good kind of tired. Our dear friends Dave and Leslie joined us for this ride.

All together (a Dave Mac photo)

Yep – that’s snow

Snow on the boardwalk doesn’t slow Marc down

The bridge near the Marine Interpretation Centre

The Campground Trail

Picking up the deadfall, Coastal Trail

Coastal Trail (a Marc Pike photo)

Monday found us exploring the trails around Sandy Cove where we were staying. We rode the Old Trails that lead to Salvage for a few kilometers until we came to a small waterfall. This trail was right up my alley and I can’t wait to return to explore the entire length of it. We also rode the beach of Sandy Cove and then took the old road to Happy Adventure (a 2 km ATV trail) and hung out and relaxed on the wharf and chatted with some fishermen getting their boat ready to go fish herring. It was interesting to learn that the herring would be sold to lobster fishermen in Nova Scotia as bait for their traps.

Beach riding, Sandy Cove

Sandy Cove (a Dave Mac photo)

Sandy Cove (a Dave Mac photo)

Gerry on a happy adventure in Happy Adventure (a Marc Pike photo)

Between the trip in 2009 and 2012 we have explored all of the trails in TNNP and here is a summary of what we have discovered:

Louil Hill (4 km loop): fun, fast single and double track. There is an opportunity to hike up to a look off – take that opportunity!

Sandy Pond (3 km loop) : fun, fast single and double track. Very flat. There are sections of boardwalk that can be slippery when wet or snowy. Some very pretty sections.

Ochre Hill (8 km loop) : Mostly single track that goes up, down and all around. A crowd favourite. Some spectacular scenery. Combine this with the Sandy Pond loop.

Dunphy’s Pond (10 km in and out). Double track, a long gradual climb at the beginning (but a fun downhill at the end). Nice scenery at when you reach Dunphy’s Pond. Do it once just to say you’ve done it and that would be enough. This is the only designated bike trail in the park.

Platters Beach (10 km in and out): starts in the community of Charlottetown. We tried this in 2009 and it wasn’t rideable.

Southwest Brook (6 km in and out) : a lovely trail, through some nice forest, along a brook and out to some great views over the water. Sadly it was closed this year due to windfall from Hurricane Leslie.

Old Trails (12 km one way) : Not part of TNNP. The trail runs from Sandy Cove to Salvage. What we rode I liked and I want to try the whole thing.

Trailway/Trans Canada Trail: The Trailway (a rails-to-trails project) runs near TNNP. There is the potential to ride a 60 km loop like this: start on the Trailway where Northwest Arm of Clode Sound meets the Trans Canada Highway (TCH). Ride west to the community of Terra Nova. Ride from Terra Nova to the TCH on the dirt road. Ride the TCH back to where you started. Just an idea I’m throwing out there – I’ve never ridden it.