Text by Adrian Grant
Photos by messkit magazine / Adrian Grant
Day Three. The typically one of the hardest days of any long-distance bike trip. It’s when the initial euphoria that can carry one through the first couple of days is replaced by general discomfort, occasional knee pain, and the realization that your pathetic attempts to hand wash your kit had done nothing to combat that particular odour emanating from your bike shorts.
Day Three on the Butter Tart 700 (BT 700) for me was no different. It was also the day when the climbing began in earnest. That’s not to say that the first two days were a walk in the park. While according to the route’s elevation profile, a significant portion of the first 300k consisted of a gradual descent to Lake Huron, followed by a (mostly) flat ride to Owen Sound, the reality was that while there no significant climbs, the rolling terrain, open fields, slight headwind, heat/humidity, various rugged unmaintained sections, and long days in the saddle combined to make this initial portion of the route a real slog. So much so that for many riders (including myself), the planned 150k ride to some wild camping spots south of Georgian Bay on the second day was aborted, in favour of a well-earned beer (or three) and the relative comforts of an $80 motel bed in the town of Thornbury.
Meanwhile, the planned route for Day Three included the start of the Blue Mountains portion of the trip. While the term “Mountains” is most certainly a stretch, the amount of climbing – approximately 2,000 meters over the course of a single 140k day – was enough to give me pause. I’m not afraid to admit that serious consideration was given to sleeping in and taking the most direct way to the next campsite, which was less than 15k away along a rail trail, thereby avoiding that day’s climbing altogether.
Alas, the route prevailed, as it always does. And so began a series of punishing ups and downs, followed by the inevitable cursing directed towards my lack of climbing gears, my failing legs, various deities, the route organizers (with sincerest apologies Matt Kadey and Tabi Ferguson, the wonderful organizers of the BT 700), and especially the hordes of deer flies, who extracted their pound of flesh during each arduous climb. Meanwhile, the amazingly fun and fast descents afforded by these hard-earned climbs were tempered by the knowledge that I would soon have to earn back every meter of lost altitude.
The day ended with a brake cooking descent off-route down the Niagara Escarpment to Craigleith Provincial Park. Expecting quiet site nestled beside the shores of Georgian Bay, I was instead greeted by a park nestled beside a busy provincial highway. Using my cell phone’s white noise app in a vain attempt to replicate the outdoor sounds I was missing, I spent a restless night comforted by the roar of heavy truck traffic.
The next morning included more of the same – except with the added bonus of an additional 260 meter climb back up the Escarpment over the course of three kilometers, just to get back to the main route. I was also treated to a humid fog that blanketed the route for much of the morning, adding a sauna-like quality for the first half of the day’s ride, as well as several more sections of rocky unmaintained roads and singletrack (much of the latter I admittedly bypassed in favour of the approved gravel road alternatives).
Day Four was also the day I became reacquainted with the old adage “a bird in the hand”. After satisfying my mid-afternoon hunger with a grilled cheese from the Hockley General Store, I was tempted to pick up another couple of sandwiches to go (along with a beer or two, natch), before riding the remaining 20k to the village of Palgrave and my eventual campsite for the evening. However, I decided to forgo the additional sandwiches and beer in favour of dinner in Palgrave. Much to my chagrin, it turned out that the only restaurant in town – a charming church-pub conversion – had been permanently shuttered for some time, leaving only a small variety store to forage for my evening repast. Turns out that a man can survive on Pringles and Slim Jims alone…
Lesson learned, the next morning I eagerly set off the final day of the BT 700, during which I learned another valuable lesson – I’m not good at taking lessons to heart. So yes, after cycling 20k in the morning heat, I decided to forgo stopping at one of several nearby convenience stores located in the bustling town of Caledon, and instead pushed on to the small village Inglewood, a further 10k away. After all, Google Maps had assured me that there was a single general store in which to replenish my dwindling water supply. No prizes if you guessed that this store also had all the appearances of having been closed for some time. Thankfully, much of the remaining route was on mellow rail trail all the way back to St. Jacobs, where a cold beer at the Block Three Brewing Company and a hearty congratulations from Matt awaited.
This was my first bikepacking trip using the Panorama Katahdin and overall the bike acquitted itself admirably throughout. The bike handled the rough and rowdy unmaintained sections with aplomb, with much of the credit going to the bike’s ability to clear the 700×45 WTB Riddler tires. It also helped that the stock rims allowed me to run these tires tubeless, as I saw several riders with pinched flats over the first couple of days. I also found the bike very fun to ride, even strapped down with all my gear, and extremely comfortable during my long days in the saddle. In hindsight, the only thing I would have changed prior to the trip is the chainset or rear cassette, as some wider gearing certainly have been appreciated on the third and fourth days of the trip.
And a special thanks to Matt Kadey and Tabi Ferguson, the creators for the BT 700 for developing such a fantastic and challenging route!
SHOP OUR PRODUCTS
FatbikesIsolated 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 ans 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". High performance and durable components from Race Face and a 12-speed SRAM NX Eagle group complete this machine. All you have to do is leave the house, get on the bike and explore the territory that is still unknown to you!1,349$ – 2,399$ (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
Gravel BikesWe 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)
ClothingA fully equipped fatbike ready to take off. Bikepacking pure and simple.30$ (CAD)
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)
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
FatbikesOpportunities for adventure are infinite with such a versatile bike. Let the Fat Bike Chic-Chocs take you to the mountains, rivers or beaches you’ve always wanted to discover. At a little less than 28 lbs and equipped with tubeless 27.5” x 4.5” tires, this is a seriously fun fatbike to ride on newly discovered sandy, rocky or snowy paths. You’re the bikepacking type? We’ll get along pretty well! In addition to 3 water bottle holders and the anything cage anchors 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 more than your camping essentials for a memorable night around a campfire. Your friends will thank you!2,299$ – 3,399$ (CAD)
Gravel BikesWhen 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 700x45 tires with fenders. Finally, you will find all the necessary mounts to carry the equipment for a night in the tent, or for a more ambitious globe-trotting trip project. Do not let your current bike limit your desire to explore. Take the path you want with the Panorama Anticosti.1,199$ – 2,199$ (CAD)