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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PartsAlways a good idea to have a spare derailleur hanger when venturing a little further than usual...40$ (CAD)
All-Road touring*** If your size is currently 'out of stock' on our website, please contact your closest PANORAMA CYCLES dealer to know what they have on hand. Next deliveries are planned for Spring 2022. Please subscribe to our newsletter to be the first informed of when the pre-sale will be launched. *** The Forillon is your best ally for cycling around the world. It is designed to be ridden efficiently on a variety of road types, while remaining stable and easy to handle when loaded with all your luggages. Strength and reliability are highlighted in the choice of components. The 36 spokes double walled with reinforced eyelets rims paired with 700x50mm tires and the Microshift transmission offering an immense speed range of 585% are perfect examples. The Reynolds 525 steel tubeset as well as the 4130 steel fork have been selected to maintain excellent stiffness once the bags and panniers are added. Features such as the addition of extra spokes mounts, integrated kickstand plate, multiple mounts for bottles, front and rear racks and fenders make this a true Swiss Army knife for on-the-go travel bike.2,149$ (CAD)
Gravel Bikes*** Complete GRX 2x11 bikes are sold out, but we still have Katahdin framesets as well as Rival 1x11 builkits from our Anticosti left in stock. Contact us if you are interested in getting more information on this combo.*** The first generation of the Katahdin has proven itself both in races, gravel events and in bikepacking trips. For its second iteration, the Katahdin gets a makeover with progressive gravel geometry, new features to make it even more versatile and a Shimano GRX 2x11 groupset. A relaxed 70deg steering angle, longer reach, 75mm bb drop and 430mm chainstays increase the wheelbase of the bike and place the rider in a stable and comfortable position. The goal is less fatigue, and more speed for long outings and / or races. The internal cables for an adjustable seat post, the fork adapted to the use of a dynamo hub, a threaded bottom bracket shell and all the mounts necessary to install bags and accessories are among the features of the Katahdin. The frame is dressed with the Hunt 4 Season X Wide wheels fitted with WTB Venture tires as well as the complete Shimano GRX 2x11 groupset, which make for a versatile and efficient bike.2,699$ – 3,999$ (CAD)
Fatbikes*** Pretty much all of our fatbikes are already sold for fall 2021. If your size is currently 'out of stock' on our website, please contact your closest PANORAMA CYCLES dealer to know what they have on hand or will be receiving. Please subscribe to our newsletter to be the first informed of when the next pre-sale will be launched. /// Please refer to the component list below. Photos not representative of final buildkit. *** Opportunities for adventure are infinite with such a versatile bike. Let the Chic-Chocs carbon 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!4,099$ (CAD)
Fatbikes*** Pretty much all of our fatbikes are already sold for fall 2021. If your size is currently 'out of stock' on our website, please contact your closest PANORAMA CYCLES dealer to know what they have on hand or will be receiving. Please subscribe to our newsletter to be the first informed of when the next pre-sale will be launched. /// Please refer to the component list below. Photos not representative of final buildkit. *** Isolated in northern Quebec, located in the Arctic Cordillera, the Torngats Mountains are frequented only by those who have the real will to face the elements of nature. We do not get there by chance. It is a mythical place that imposes respect. An highly inspiring destination for the Torngat fatbike! We have included in this bike the features needed to make it completely versatile. Among other things, the frame is belt-drive compatible, it has an access for a dropper seatpost and is equipped with horizontal rear wheel dropouts. The Reynolds 725 high-grade steel tubing frame and the light, stiff carbon fiber fork accommodate the largest 26″ tires available, as well as the 27.5 x 4.5″. All you have to do is leave the house, get on the bike and explore the territory that is still unknown to you!2,999$ (CAD)
PartsThru axle for the rear wheel. Bolt-on type (no lever), install with 6mm hex key.45$ (CAD)
- Chic-Chocs: For 12x197mm hub. 220mm axle length. Thread pitch of 1.5.
- Torngat: For 12x197mm hub. 229mm axle length. Thread pitch of 1.5.
- Anticosti: For 12x142mm hub. 174mm axle length. Thread pitch of 1.75.
- Katahdin: For 12x142mm hub. 171mm axle length. Thread pitch of 1.5.
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.
PartsAlways a good idea to have a spare derailleur hanger when venturing a little further than usual...30$ (CAD)