Recap: Toronto to Wiarton

Well, that was… long. My longest ride by almost 60km, in fact.


My wife’s family’s Thanksgiving in Wiarton has been an annual pilgrimage for me ever since I met her back in 2002. I’ve been there every year, including for the first several years before we were even dating. This year, with the cycling itch well entrenched in me, I decided to cycle up instead of driving with Caralin.

Knowing how long the ride would be, I decided to leave early to maximize the daylight hours available to me. After a solid laughable pre-ride dinner yesterday (tacos and half a pitcher of margherita) and plenty of relatively little sleep (5 hours) I left the house at just before 7am today for the trek up north. I figured it would take about 10 hours of cycling to cover the ~220km to Wiarton.

The ride started smoothly – the Toronto roads were quiet at that time of day, and after an hour I’d cleared the busiest of the Toronto roads, hitting The Gore Road (one of my favourite roads to drive along) just after 8am. The colours were lovely today – everything from regular green to deep red – and The Gore Road was possibly the best part of the ride, with huge houses paired with the Fall colours.

After heading west on Highway 9, there was a pretty long hill that started to tire the legs a bit – so I paused for a break and second breakfast at the intersection with Airport Road.

A few kilometres later, I hit a major downhill – nearly 2.5km of 6% decent. I averaged 55km/h down the hill, hitting nearly 72km/h at one point before having to brake as I caught up with a couple of turning cars and had to slow down. Sadly, that downhill was mirrored by a similar uphill on the other side… sigh.

For some reason my GPS had plotted a route that turned off the main road before hitting the next east/west highway. I was keen to get away from the long weekend traffic so went along with it… only to find myself on hilly dirt roads for the next 20km. The good news was that there were hardly any cars on the road… the road surface and hills weren’t a lot of fun for the next little while though.

After emerging back onto the asphalt, the next 20km along side roads were scenic and lovely. The section just after passing Shelburne was particularly nice, with countryside views paired with flat, fast terrain. I made good time there, and cruised into Dundalk – my scheduled lunch stop – around 12:45pm.

Unfortunately I couldn’t find any sit-down restaurants in Dundalk (I admittedly didn’t look overly hard), so I stopped at the local Foodland and grabbed a bunch of snacks for lunch. Key among them was Gatorade – I was already running low on my first bottle and didn’t want to attempt the last 100km with only one bottle.

The next stretch of the ride was scheduled to be a 77km stretch of trails, along the Grey CP Rail Trail. Unfortunately it lived up to its “more difficult” billing at the outset – lots of loose gravel, potholes and ATV furrows. It was very scenic and blissfully flat, but I was making very poor time and concerned about not making it to Wiarton in daylight, so after 15 very tiring kilometres I bailed back onto the roads and skipped the remainder of the trail in favour of the main road. It might have been nice for mountain bikes, fat bikes or ATVs, but not for my cyclocross bike.

The gravel trail had really taken it out of my legs and I was starting to feel really tired. My body was starting to complain about the level of effort in general and I was starting to get some stomach pains, likely due to my almost carb-free lunch and dinner yesterday (damn you, tacos). After about another 30km I pulled over for a break and wolfed down a banana and half a granola bar. That seemed to fix things up – I got a burst of new energy and the discomfort went away for the duration of the ride.

The rest of the ride into Owen Sound was uneventful. The downhill into town was glorious, although I wasn’t thrilled with the climb out of the town afterwards. I’d picked the route into town due to the trail so contemplated just skirting the city now that I was no longer on that route, but decided to just stick with the plan as I was feeling much better and less tired at this point.

From there the rest of the ride was pretty fast. I had enough energy to set myself a bit of a challenge for the last seven or eight kilometres – I needed to average 30km/h over that portion (which included a couple of small climbs) to finish in less than nine hours according to my Garmin (the Strava app on my iPhone decided I was moving for another 20 minutes for some reason). Part way through it I decided I should slow down as I wanted to feel good at the end of the ride, but my competitiveness got ahead of me and I pushed on, managing to finish a minute under nine hours according to the GPS.

Now, four hours after finishing the ride, my legs aren’t too happy with me but it’s just tiredness rather than anything else. A pretty epic ride overall; if I were to do it again I would make some route changes that I think would save me a fair bit of time, but I don’t know that this will become a regular thing.

Definitely fun today, though!

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The author

I'm a born and bred English guy - a Britnadian, if you will - living and working as EVP and National Practice Leader, Digital at Edelman in Canada. Outside work, my life splits a few ways: I'm a father, a cyclist, a video gamer and an explorer of the many ways that digital can bring companies and their stakeholders closer together. All of these bring me great enjoyment; one brings more pain than the others. Opinons are mine, not my employer's.