goals

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

newfoundland by bicycle – a guest post

Daniel and Jen are a couple from Vermont who toured much of the island of Newfoundland in July and August. We had lots of email correspondence, but despite our hopes to meet up on the trail/road this was the closest we came:

BonaBurin2014

Daniel floated the idea of writing a guest piece for the blog and I jumped on it right away. What better way to document more about the cycling opportunities here than through the eyes of someone visiting Newfoundland for their first time? So, I give you: Daniel and Jen’s Most Excellent Adventure!

Introduction

In July of 2014 we set out on what became a 5 week bike tour of Newfoundland, beginning on the west coast and making a clockwise loop around the island. While known for its icebergs, codfish and abundance of moose, Newfoundland is also home to a seemingly endless network of gravel, dirt and secondary paved roads. We opted for routes that would get us into the more remote parts of Newfoundland, places better suited to bike than car. Our efforts were repaid with a real sense of wildness, a fascinating combination of sea and sky, and the friendliest folks we’ve ever come across. For the adventure-minded cyclist, it doesn’t get any better than Newfoundland.

For those interested in the details of our trip we’ve provided information on routes, gear, logistics, etc. at the bottom of the page.

1

Here is a map of our travels.

 Before embarking on the T’railway, we loosen up our legs with some rocky doubletrack near Gros Morne.  Western Newfoundland has an impressive network of single and doubletrack, and no shortage of amazing views to match.


Before embarking on the T’railway, we loosen up our legs with some rocky doubletrack near Gros Morne. Western Newfoundland has an impressive network of single and doubletrack, and no shortage of amazing views to match.

Deer Lake to Huxley – Our first of many encounters with quads and quadrupeds.  Sections of deep, golf ball sized gravel made the first 30k a bit of a slog but we rode, and pushed on, hoping conditions would improve.

Deer Lake to Howley – Our first of many encounters with quads and quadrupeds. Sections of deep, golf ball sized gravel made the first 30k a bit of a slog but we rode, and pushed on, hoping conditions would improve.

Howley to Gaff Topsails – With railbed grades that rarely exceed 3% we forgot that we’d been climbing almost nonstop from Howley. However, diminishing tree height and increasing rain/fog/drizzle remind us that we’re gaining elevation.

Gaff Topsails – At 1554 feet up the weather lifts just long enough for us to get a glimpse of the famed Gaff Topsails.  Trail conditions surrounding the Gaff Topsails were generally rockier, and more technical, than any other section of our trip.

Gaff Topsails – At 1554 feet up the weather lifts just long enough for us to get a glimpse of the famed Gaff Topsails. Trail conditions surrounding the Gaff Topsails were generally rockier, and more technical, than any other section of our trip.

Gaff Topsails to Grand Falls-Windsor – Drying out after the wet and wild Gaff Topsails.

Gaff Topsails to Grand Falls-Windsor – Drying out after the wet and wild Gaff Topsails.

Gaff Topsails to Grand Falls-Windsor – The T’railway made clear the weak points in our bike kits.  A snapped front rack (shown), a demolished pedal, an abraded pannier, and a cracked water bottle cage forced us to spend a day repairing and rethinking our setup.

Gaff Topsails to Grand Falls-Windsor – The T’railway made clear the weak points in our bike kits. A snapped front rack (shown), a demolished pedal, an abraded pannier, and a cracked water bottle cage forced us to spend a day repairing and rethinking our setup.

Grand Falls-Windsor to Twillingate – Having rode the T’railway as far as Notre Dame Junction we decided to head north in search of icebergs.  The paved stretch from Notre Dame Junction to Twillingate was buttery and fast compared to the gravelly railbed, although the throngs of retirees wielding house-sized RV’s were a bit unnerving.

Grand Falls-Windsor to Twillingate – Having rode the T’railway as far as Notre Dame Junction we decided to head north in search of icebergs. The paved stretch from Notre Dame Junction to Twillingate was buttery and fast compared to the gravelly railbed, although the throngs of retirees wielding house-sized RV’s were a bit unnerving.

Twillingate – This iceberg was grounded just offshore . . . in waters 150 meters deep.

Twillingate – This iceberg was grounded just offshore . . . in waters 150 meters deep.

Twillingate – Just north of Twillingate, on the road to the lighthouse, we found one of our favorite campsites.  An abandoned park named Sleepy Cove provided us with a full evening’s worth of entertainment: icebergs, a group of humpback whales, and spawning capelin.

Twillingate – Just north of Twillingate, on the road to the lighthouse, we found one of our favorite campsites. An abandoned park named Sleepy Cove provided us with a full evening’s worth of entertainment: icebergs, a group of humpback whales, and spawning capelin.

Twillingate to Gambo – On a whim, we decided to ride highway 330/320 which hugs the coast from Gander Bay to Gambo.  Although paved, this was one of our favorite rides of the trip.  The ocean was always in view, traffic was light, and we got invited to a birthday party (!!!).  Unfortunately our camera battery died shortly after and we discovered that we left the charger back in Deer Lake.

Twillingate to Gambo – On a whim, we decided to ride highway 330/320 which hugs the coast from Gander Bay to Gambo. Although paved, this was one of our favorite rides of the trip. The ocean was always in view, traffic was light, and we got invited to a birthday party (!!!). Unfortunately our camera battery died shortly after and we discovered that we left the charger back in Deer Lake.

Gambo to Goobies – Thankfully we were able to borrow a charger in Glovertown.  Back on the T’railway, we wound our way though the boreal forests just west of Terre Nova Provincial Park.

Gambo to Goobies – Thankfully we were able to borrow a charger in Glovertown. Back on the T’railway, we wound our way though the boreal forests just west of Terre Nova Provincial Park.

Gambo to Goobies – Though quiet and car-free, the T’railway offers little in the way of protection from the sun.  With temperatures regularly climbing into the 30s we often had to find some midday relief.

Gambo to Goobies – Though quiet and car-free, the T’railway offers little in the way of protection from the sun. With temperatures regularly climbing into the 30s we often had to find some midday relief.

Gambo to Goobies – Luckily there are thousands of rivers and lakes to wash away the heat and dust at the end of the day.

Gambo to Goobies – Luckily there are thousands of rivers and lakes to wash away the heat and dust at the end of the day.

Goobies to Fortune – At Goobies the T’railway continues east to St. John’s.  Given our timing and penchant for lingering we thought it best to leave the Avalon Peninsula for another trip.  With a cold and damp handshake, the fog welcomed us to the Burin Peninsula.

Goobies to Fortune – At Goobies the T’railway continues east to St. John’s. Given our timing and penchant for lingering we thought it best to leave the Avalon Peninsula for another trip. With a cold and damp handshake, the fog welcomed us to the Burin Peninsula.

Goobies to Fortune – At times Newfoundland is impossibly charming

Goobies to Fortune – At times Newfoundland is impossibly charming

Goobies to Fortune – The road down the Burin had relatively light traffic after 10am and a reliable southerly headwind.  If we could have seen through the fog, we’re convinced that the view would have been spectacular.  By the time we got to the bottom of the Burin Peninsula, the fog had lifted and the Atlantic, once again, came into view.

Goobies to Fortune – The road down the Burin had relatively light traffic after 10am and a reliable southerly headwind. If we could have seen through the fog, we’re convinced that the view would have been spectacular. By the time we got to the bottom of the Burin Peninsula, the fog had lifted and the Atlantic, once again, came into view.

Fortune to St. Pierre et Miquelon – From the southern tip of Newfoundland it’s only a hour and a half ferry ride to the French colony of St. Pierre et Miquelon.  We intended to say a couple of days.  Instead we stayed a week and even then were reluctant to leave.

Fortune to St. Pierre et Miquelon – From the southern tip of Newfoundland it’s only a hour and a half ferry ride to the French colony of St. Pierre et Miquelon. We intended to stay a couple of days. Instead we stayed a week and even then were reluctant to leave.

Miquelon – Though St. Pierre’s bakeries and cobbled streets were lovely, we were drawn to the wilder islands of Miquelon and Langlade.

Miquelon – Though St. Pierre’s bakeries and cobbled streets were lovely, we were drawn to the wilder islands of Miquelon and Langlade.

Miquelon – This remote island, two ferry rides away from the far southern coast of Newfoundland, had everything a cyclist could want.  Sweet (and a little salty) oceanside strawberries!

Miquelon – This remote island, two ferry rides away from the far southern coast of Newfoundland, had everything a cyclist could want. Sweet (and a little salty) oceanside strawberries!

Miquelon – A herd of wild horses!

Miquelon – A herd of wild horses!

Miquelon – And grassy singletrack!

Miquelon – And grassy singletrack!

St. Pierre et Miquelon to Bay L’argent – After taking the ferry back to Fortune from St. Pierre we began retracing our steps back up the Burin Peninsula.  Same road, same fog.

St. Pierre et Miquelon to Bay L’argent – After taking the ferry back to Fortune from St. Pierre we began retracing our steps back up the Burin Peninsula. Same road, same fog.

Bay L’argent to Burgeo – The outpost communities along Newfoundland’s southern coast are accessible only by passenger ferry.  Because cars are not allowed on the ferries, most travels we met were limited to an out-and-back.  With bikes, however, we were able to cross the southern coast from east to west and complete a rather elegant loop of Newfoundland.

Bay L’argent to Burgeo – The outpost communities along Newfoundland’s southern coast are accessible only by passenger ferry. Because cars are not allowed on the ferries, most travelers we met were limited to an out-and-back. With bikes, however, we were able to cross the southern coast from east to west and complete a rather elegant loop of Newfoundland.

Bay L’argent to Burgeo – Outpost communities, like McCallum, harken back to a time when fishing dominated the culture and economy.  Today the story is much different.  Declining poplulations, lack of employment opportunities and incentives to relocate are threatening the longevity of these coastal communities.

Bay L’argent to Burgeo – Outpost communities, like McCallum, harken back to a time when fishing dominated the culture and economy. Today the story is much different. Declining poplulations, lack of employment opportunities and incentives to relocate are threatening the longevity of these coastal communities.

Bay L’argent to Burgeo – After a morning’s ferry ride we had a chance to stretch our legs riding from Poole’s cove to St. Jacques.  With the McCallum-Francois ferry running just once a week, we took a few extra days to explore the towns (and hills) northwest of Fortune Bay.

Bay L’argent to Burgeo – After a morning’s ferry ride we had a chance to stretch our legs riding from Poole’s cove to St. Jacques. With the McCallum-Francois ferry running just once a week, we took a few extra days to explore the towns (and hills) northwest of Fortune Bay.

Bay L’argent to Burgeo – While biding out time between ferries, we spent the weekend at the South Coast Music Festival in St. Jacques.  We were two happy campers having found ourselves with an abundance of traditional Newfoundland music, fish cakes and wild berries.

Bay L’argent to Burgeo – While biding out time between ferries, we spent the weekend at the South Coast Music Festival in St. Jacques. We were two happy campers having found ourselves with an abundance of traditional Newfoundland music, fish cakes and wild berries.

Bay L’argent to Burgeo – The southern coast has a number of remote communities, each one worth exploring.  However, after a week of sailing on, or waiting for a ferry we were antsy to get back on our bikes.  Wolf River, pictured above, will have to wait for another trip.

Bay L’argent to Burgeo – The southern coast has a number of remote communities, each one worth exploring. However, after a week of sailing on, or waiting for a ferry we were antsy to get back on our bikes. Francois, pictured above, will have to wait for another trip.

Burgeo to Deer Lake – From the map, the Burgeo highway didn’t seem terribly inspiring.  However, this stretch of road was unexpectedly awesome.  Very few cars and a ripping tailwind made for a whooping and hollering kind of ride.

Burgeo to Deer Lake – From the map, the Burgeo highway didn’t seem terribly inspiring. However, this stretch of road was unexpectedly awesome. Very few cars and a ripping tailwind made for a whooping and hollering kind of ride.

Burgeo to Deer Lake – Views like this made us feel like we were passing by an unexplored landscape.  No roads, no trails – the Annieopsquotch Mountains are an adventure waiting to happen.

Burgeo to Deer Lake – Views like this made us feel like we were passing by an unexplored landscape. No roads, no trails – the Annieopsquotch Mountains are an adventure waiting to happen.

Burgeo to Deer Lake – With rumors of an impending 3-day storm, we made quick work of the last stretch of the T’railway.  When the gravel got deep we dreamed of coming back to Newfoundland with fatbikes. . .

Burgeo to Deer Lake – With rumors of an impending 3-day storm, we made quick work of the last stretch of the T’railway. When the gravel got deep we dreamed of coming back to Newfoundland with fatbikes. . .

Burgeo to Deer Lake – On our last night a cold wind began to blow, a reminder that summer, and our bike tour, was coming to an end.  The following day we pedaled the last 80k back to Deer Lake and soon after we were on the ferry, watching Newfoundland disappear beneath the horizon.

Burgeo to Deer Lake – On our last night a cold wind began to blow, a reminder that summer, and our bike tour, was coming to an end. The following day we pedaled the last 80k back to Deer Lake and soon after we were on the ferry, watching Newfoundland disappear beneath the horizon.

The Bikes

33

Jen’s Surly Disc Trucker.

34

Daniel’s Surly Troll.

Daniel’s bike

Surly Troll
Revelate frame bags with a rear rack and small Jandd Mountain Pack Panniers

Jen’s bike
Surly Disc Trucker
Arkel rear panniers with a Revelate Tangle frame bag and Velo Orange front rack and bag

Both bike configurations worked well. The Revelate frame bags felt solid on the bumpy stuff, while the Arkel panniers offer almost bottomless amounts of waterproof storage. Our only complaint is the lack of waterproofing on some of the Revelate bags and the Jandd rear panniers. Days of rain, drizzle, fog kept our non-waterproof bags in a state of perpetual saturation. Non-waterproof bags work fine in a drier climate but in Newfoundland, waterproof gear is essential.
Jen ran 2.0 knobby tires while Daniel ran 2.2 knobbies. Tires with high volume but low rolling resistance worked well for our mixture of paved, dirt and gravel roads. The loose gravel sections of the T’railway were the most challenging and got us thinking of the benefits of fatbike touring. Though there is no perfect bike for this type of our, a rigid mountain bike with bikepacking bags or tight-fitting panniers would work well for most sections. As Malcolm has shown, a fatbike takes the edge off of the more gravelly sections, while less voluminous tires would make for speedier road riding.

Logistics

The ferries along the south coast have an irregular schedule so it’s best to call ahead to determine when each ferry runs. We found that the easiest way to do this was to call the ferry office (1-888-638-5454). Outside of the Avalon Peninsula the only bike shop we came across was in Corner Brook. We brought a beefy repair kit and were happy to have extra parts when the T’railway rattled our bikes. Extra spokes, tire boot, spare brake pads, an assortment of nuts and bolts, pipe clamps and dry chain lubricant proved to be very useful, in addition to the standard repair kit.

Route(s)

Our ride took us in a clockwise circle and the only backtracking we had to do was a couple of days on the Burin Peninsula. We came across a few other bike tourists (maybe 10 other people) but everyone else was riding across the island and returning by bus or ferry. In addition to our loop, we discovered another possible variation on this loop. A dirt road runs from Howley to Buchans and then from Buchans to the Burgeo highway. This would allow for an abbreviated loop or an alternative to returning west from the south coast.

cape shore & irish loop

Cape Shore

Our route. Yellow blobs mark where we camped.

Paul and I headed out recently to ride both the Cape Shore and the Irish Loop – 500 km in 4 days.  We were blessed with wonderful weather and often favourable tail winds.  Summer has finally arrived in Newfoundland.

CSIL 001

Leaving St. John’s I’d suggest riding out to Witless Bay and then cross the Witless Bay Line to gain access to the Trans Canada Highway. There’s less traffic, it’s more scenic and it leaves only 10 km of riding on the TCH.

CSIL 002

Next exit for Salmonier Line.

CSIL 003

I’d suggest Route 93 for Colinet vs. Route 91. Again, more scenic.

CSIL 006

In Colinet there is a store and nearby is this Newfoundland pony, a breed of pony unique to here.

Between Colinet and Placentia is 21 km of gravel road.  It's in generally good shape.  I've ridden it with 28c tires, fully loaded (the bike, not the rider, though that's not a bad thought), with no issues.

Between Colinet and Placentia is 21 km of gravel road. It’s in generally good shape. I’ve ridden it with 28c tires, fully loaded (the bike, not the rider, though that’s not a bad thought), with no issues.

The section between Point Verde and St. Bride's is very hilly for 40 km.  You've been warned.

The section between Point Verde and St. Bride’s is very hilly for 40 km. You’ve been warned.

The roads on the Cape Shore are in good shape and have very low traffic.

The roads on the Cape Shore are in good shape and have very low traffic.

CSIL 022

The view as you cycle along the shore.

The view as you cycle along the shore.

Ship Cove.

Ship Cove.

These magical cows in Ship Cove produce...

These magical cows in Ship Cove produce…

Guinness!

Guinness!

Gooseberry Cove.  This is a provincial Day Park, though I've camped there without issue.

Gooseberry Cove. This is a provincial Day Park, though I’ve camped there without issue.

Gooseberry Cove.

Gooseberry Cove.

The long and winding road.

The long and winding road.

Near the turnoff to Cape St Mary's Ecological Reserve is this restaurant and campgound.

Near the turnoff to Cape St Mary’s Ecological Reserve is this restaurant and campgound.

We didn't go to the Cape this trip but it is worth a visit.

We didn’t go to the Cape this trip but it is worth a visit.

This is part of what you would see if you went there.

This is part of what you would see if you went there.

CSIL 045

This is where we spent our 2nd night, in Harricott.

In St. Vincent's, now on the Irish Loop, Day 3, where we saw lots of humpback whales.

In St. Vincent’s, now on the Irish Loop, Day 3, where we saw lots of humpback whales.

We spent our 3rd night in Chance Cove where it is free to camp.

We spent our 3rd night in Chance Cove where it is free to camp.

The road to the camping area is 6 km of gravel.

The road to the camping area is 6 km of gravel.

It is worth every km to get there.

It is worth every km to get there.

On the way out the next morning.

On the way out the next morning.

We spotted this caribou.

We spotted this caribou.

For those on the run.

For those on the run.

Tors Cove.

Tors Cove.

Random bits:

– we did this in 4 days but 5 would be more pleasant, especially if you were to take in Cape St Mary’s

– we saw moose, caribou, grouse and humpback whales

– resupply was easy as many towns had small stores

– traffic volume is low except when you get close to St. John’s

The Great Meltdown of 2014

No, I am not referring to the hissy fit I threw when I heard “America’s Next Top Model” was being cancelled; I’m talking about the weather (again).

One week ago I was doing this:

IMGP0295

Note the big, shit-eating grin. (A Darren McD photo)

Today it was this:

RR 002

Note the lack of a shit-eating grin. Also note the lack of snow. The two are related.

What happen?  The Great Meltdown of 2014, that’s what happened.  Last Sunday, the day after the Witless Bay Line Loop ride, the temperature hit a high of 11C. Then Tuesday it went to 7C, quickly followed by Wednesday (11C), Thursday (10C) and Friday (12C).  With those warm temperatures came a lot of rain and the snow didn’t stand a chance.

Snow pack

Check out the change in our snow pack – we went from a metre of snow on the ground to nothing. (Graphic from some CBC website. Used without permission. Sue me – I’ve got nothing to live for now.)

RR 003

While out riding today the only snow to be seen was in the ditch.

RR 008

This is Shoal Bay Road, a trail that was well packed down by snowmobiles and ATV’s. What snow remains is hanging on for dear life.

!cid_85CC5FF6-0929-4096-A188-C7D5E8A8E910

Conditions were reported to be good near Cape Spear – mostly bare trail. L-R are Dean, Loyal, Marc and Darren. (Marc K photo)

 

I know there are some local riders who only just got their fatbikes that are wringing their hands and fretting about their purchase.  To them I make these three points:

1) There is still plenty of winter left.  Good conditions will return.

2) Your fatbike can be used all year round.  Think gravel grinds, bikepacking, backcountry exploring, beaches, et cetera.

3) Consider your fatbike a long-term investment.  You will be riding that bike for many, many winters to come.