Text by Adrian Grant
Photos by messkit magazine / Adrian Grant
On Sunday, July 14 th , I will be participating in the inaugural grand depart of the Butter Tart 700 (BT 700 Bikepacking), a 700+ kilometer bikepacking event beginning in St. Jacobs, Ontario.
The route is approximately 85% gravel/rail trail (with some nice sections of unmaintained thrown in), and loops around rural southern Ontario west of Toronto, along the shores of Lake Huron and Georgian Bay, before it swings back south towards the start.
The region is known for its baked goods, particularly the ubiquitous butter tart, a uniquely Canadian confection that’s sure to fuel the most calorie-deprived cyclist. Unless it has raisins. God help anyone who adds raisins to a butter tart!
The route itself is relatively unusual, as southern Ontario’s high population density doesn’t lend itself to extended bikepacking routes. But the BT 700’s founder, Matt Kadey, an experienced adventure cyclist, appears to have strung together a loop that maximizes off-pavement riding, while taking advantage of the most interesting terrain and scenery the region has to offer.
This should be a great opportunity for folks living in Canada’s most heavily urbanized province to experience a long-distance adventure right on their doorstep, and I am looking forward to participating in what will hopefully become a successful annual event.
This will be my first time using the Katahdin for bikepacking, as most of my previous multi-day adventures have taken place west of Ottawa, where mountain or plus/fat bikes are often necessary to tackle the area’s steep, muddy and chunky ATV trails, forest roads and hydro line cuts. The level of isolation and overall difficulty of these backcountry routes often require that my friends and I be much more self-reliant, as shorter daily distances and less accessible resupply options mean we must carry significantly more gear. At the same time, with their sloping downtubes and suspension components, our bikes are often less spatially adept at carrying significant loads, often leaving us busting at the seams with the required equipment, with little room for the necessities. Like beer.
Conversely, I’ve found that while adventure bikes like the Katahdin allow for greater carrying capacity, gravel-based bikepacking generally provides an opportunity to pack less gear. Specifically, gravel roads are less technical and generally closer to civilization, allowing for big days in the saddle and providing access to multiple resupply options. Meaning you can do away with bulky items like a stove, filter, or excess food. In particular, bikes like the Katahdin tend to maximize the space in the frame triangle, allowing for an oversized framebag to stuff a significant amount of gear, eliminating the need for extra bags and decluttering my overall set-up in the process.
The following is a quick breakdown of my bike and gear for the BT 700.
As a product ambassador for Panorama Cycles, I will have the privilege of riding their new Katahdin gravel adventure bike. This carbon beauty will remain basically stock, with the only change I made for the trip being the addition of a pair of 700×45 WTB Riddlers tires that I will be running tubeless, in an effort to maximize floatation and overall comfort over the route’s long distance.
Bikepacking is still a relatively niche pursuit. So I tend to find that the best bikepacking bags are from small cottage producers, who are often able to make limited runs of unique, custom, or “near-custom” gear, right here in North America.
FRAME BAG – Rogue Panda Designs @smogear Double Decker full framebag. Based out of Flagstaff, Arizona, the company has developed the PandaVision process, which allows for the creation of a fully custom framebag simply by having the bike’s owner send a picture of the bike with a ruler taped to the frame.
SEAT PACK – went a little old-school with this one, electing to go with the Saddle Grafter saddlebag from @AtwaterAtelier, a new bag maker out of Montreal. Admittedly, if I didn’t have such a large framebag I probably would have gone with a more traditional seatpost bag. But as the contents will most likely be limited to a change of clothes, camp sandals, and rain gear, this bag’s ~11 liter capacity ought to be more than sufficient.
HANDLEBAR BAG – Porcelain Rocket Horton handlebar system. Porcelain Rocket (see @porcelainrocket on Instagram) is an established bag maker out of Calgary, Alberta, and the Horton their unique take on a minimalist handlebar bag. Designed with both flat and drop bars in mind, the cradle can accept up to a 15 liter dry bag, while the separate welded-seam weather-proof accessory pocket will ensure that I have quick access to smaller items (head lamp, camera, pain meds) that I don’t want to get lost in my framebag.
COCKPIT BAGS – the only downside to using a full framebag is losing access to your bottle cages. To address this issue, I will be using two Rogue Panda Designs Bismarck Bottle Buckets. These are essentially stem bags with integrated bottlecages, offering secure water retention and multiple side-pockets for snacks, bug spray and suntan lotion. My trusty Revelate Designs top-tube bag completes my set-up, and will be used to store power packs for my phone and more snacks.
*Sleep System *
Over the last couple of years, I have fully transitioned to a hammock as my main sleeping system. This includes a @HennesseyHammock Explorer Deluxe hammock with an extra-large tarp, and a few mods for ease of set-up, a Western Mountaineering down sleeping bag, and a Jack ‘R Better (Hulmeville, Pennsylvania) summer-weight down underquilt.
There are various odds and ends I’ll be carrying with me, including but not limited to a spare set of clothes, a rain jacket, camp sandals (never underestimate the value of happy feet), tools/repair kit (two spare tubes, tire plugs, multi-tool, pump and a quick link), camera, charger, lights/headlamp, various toiletries and medical supplies. I will be relying on my phone’s Gaia GPS app, which includes access to the invaluable Ontario Backroads Mapbook, for navigation, and two power packs to keep it charged.
The @BT700 is billed as an adventure — not a race. This is perfect, because I plan on enjoying myself. So while my goal is to finish in five days, I hope to complete any big mileage days at a leisurely pace by starting early in the day, and taking multiple extended rest stops at general stores, pubs, and breweries as required.
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Gravel Bikes***The Katahdin will be back in stock in Spring 2021 with a redesigned frame and a full GRX 600 2x11 groupset. Be the first informed of the availability by subscribing to the newsletter. Any questions, please contact us.*** We love to say that the Katahdin is our cottage bike. You'll guess that this gravel bike is really in its element in the countryside, perfect for all types of roads and paths that can be found out there. An industry first, the adventure composite laminate incorporates an advanced material, XANTU.LAYR ™, to make the Katahdin rock-solid. Learn more about this technology here. The curvy surfaces of the bike have become a canva for the very talented duo of Vancouver-based artists Pellvetica. They sign the visual of the frame, and thus give the soul to this amazing product. A 1x SRAM Apex group, WTB i23 Wheels, Easton EA50AX handlebar and a ton of frame and fork mounts for your short or long outings, makes the Katahdin so much versatile. Note that the cottage is unfortunately not included with the purchase of the bike 😉2,049$ – 3,199$ (CAD)
ClothingWhy stick to the already known paths! #Backcountrycycling has become over time the mojo of Panorama Cycles. Make it yours with this unique cap!
- 100% Cotton
- Leather adjustment strap
PartsThru axle for the front wheel. Bolt-on type (no lever), install with 6mm hex key.40$ (CAD)
- Chic-Chocs: For 15x150mm hub. 184mm axle length. Thread pitch of 1.5.
- Torngat: For 15x150mm hub. 184mm axle length. Thread pitch of 1.5.
- Anticosti: For 12x100mm hub. 120mm axle length. Thread pitch of 1.5.
- Katahdin: For 12x100mm hub. 120mm axle length. Thread pitch of 1.5.
ClothingSlow Travel is the state of mind we approach during bike journeys. It is taking the time to live each experience in its entirety, focusing on quality rather than quantity.
- 100% Cotton
- Printed by hand in Montreal
Clothing"S24O" (aka Sub 24h Overnighter) is, in the jargon of the bikepacker, an adventure of less than 24 hours including an overnight stay. The definition of micro-adventure!30$ (CAD)
PartsAlways a good idea to have a spare derailleur hanger when venturing a little further than usual...25$ (CAD)
Fatbikes*** The complete inventory was sold out within days of the announcement of the bike in fall 2020. We plan to offer the Chic-Chocs again towards the end of summer 2021. The best way to stay informed of the availability is to subscribe to the newsletter. If you have any questions, please contact us. *** Opportunities for adventure are infinite with such a versatile bike. Let the Chic-Chocs fatbike take you to the mountains, rivers or beaches you’ve always wanted to discover. At 29 lbs and equipped with tubeless 27.5” x 4.5” tires, this is a seriously fun bike to ride on newly discovered sandy, rocky or snowy paths. You’re into bikepacking? We’ll get along pretty well! In addition to 3 water bottle mounts, top tube bag mount and anything cage mounts on the fork, everything is ready for you to install a rear rack (if you prefer this setup versus minimalist frame bags). That way you can carry your skis to get to this remote backcountry spot, or bring some extras on your trip for a memorable night around a campfire. Your friends will thank you!3,899$ (CAD)
Gravel Bikes***We are now taking pre-orders for the complete Anticosti bike. The delivery is planned for end of June 2021. Framesets are currently available (Comes with the wheel axles. Headset and seat collar not included.). Frame color for 2021 is honey/yellow, brown is not available. Components shown on the photo differs from the actual build kit. Please refer to the component chart below. Any questions, please contact us.*** When you venture on the less traveled roads of the backcountry, sometimes, the beautiful road becomes much more bumpy than what was predicted. The asphalt becomes gravel, and the gravel literally becomes an off-road trail. It is for this kind of adventure that the Anticosti was created. The Anticosti bike is built with a bespoke selection of Reynolds 725 steel tubing, thinned where it is needed to reduce weight. A generous clearance allows you to install 27.5x2.1 or 700x50 tires with fenders. You will find all the necessary mounts to carry the equipment for a night in the tent, or for a more ambitious multi-day trip project. Do not let your current bike limit your desire to explore. Take the path you want with the Panorama Anticosti. Frameset: 1,699$ Complete Bike w/Rival buildkit and Hunt wheelset: 3,099$1,699$ – 3,099$ (CAD)