Sunday, July 13, 2008

Tour de Ontario - Part 1

I'm off this week and decided that as I made my way up towards the out-laws in Kirkland Lake, I should check out some new MTB spots.

Forest Lea

I've heard and read lots about Forest Lea up in Pembroke so I decided to check it out Friday afternoon.

It's a pretty simple spot to find, about 5 minutes off 17. From Ottawa, it was about hour and fifteen minute drive. Upon exiting the car I was instantly greeted by a dozen deer flies, and unfortunately that was the theme for the day.

Forest Lea reminds me a lot of Limerick with a bit of Bracebridge's Porcupine Ridge thrown in. There are several different sections which nicely flow into each other thanks to trail signs. The stuff closest to the parking lot (right side of the map) seemed fairly new. While the route was well laid out by taking advantage of the natural terrain, it was a little tight and bumpy to get much flow.

As I worked my way left on the map and further from the parking lot the fun quotient increased as trails opened up and seemed more mature (fast and hardpacked).

There really was lots of nice stuff in there, but unfortunately a hard workout meant I was sweating my bug dope off and eventually the deer flies literally drove me out of the woods. Thankfully I managed to grab most if not all the single track and was done in about an hour and 20.

With a little more trail work and traffic (especially in the stuff closest to the parking lot) this area can be quite the little gem and a nice way to break up a long drive. I'd love to go back later this fall once the flies are gone and now that I know what to expect.

North Bay

The next day took me to North Bay. I've been travelling through the area for years and always wondered why there weren't more trails. I heard there was a bit near the ski hill (Jack Pine) but nothing really extensive (or so I thought).

I recently read on - Eastern Canada sub-forum that there's a lot more stuff than previously though. The good stuff is further east (about 9 km out of town) towards QC.

X - marks the spot.

Fairly discrete Pipeline access road (look for the no dumping sign) about 3 km after the Nordic Ski Club off of Shore Road.

What I found was quite impressive. There's a HUGE amount of time invested into these trails. The trails were raked and even reinforced in places. It's all easy enough to ride for an intermediate, yet the damp and frequent baby heads make it challenging for more advanced riders at speed. A squishy fork is really appreciated here!

The trails are dark dirty hardpacked with a few roots and quite a few baby heads. The best comparison would be hiking trails around Gatineau Park without the extreme elevation changes. The trails had amazing flow and lots of fun little sections that used the natural terrain quite well.

In terms of layout, the network is based around a pipe line access road. It's a bit of a climb but nothing too steep or sustained. I pretty much did all the stuff to the right of the map: Jaret's Jungle, Trapper's Trail, Bridge over Water... Why? (that's the actual trail name, there's also Grampa's Gullies extending that loop which is not on the map), Bull's Loop, Higher Ground, Pearl's Garden, Dan-Don Valley Parkway, then Trapper's Trail back down, Dave's Murray Downhill run, finally finished with La Flume. Whew, all that took me just under 2 hours of fairly sustained riding. There's lots of stuff here folks!

Waterfall run (see it in the background)

Jaret's Jungle

Bridge over Water... Why? This trail was quite long.


After North Bay I finally headed up to Kirkland Lake - The Original Big Ring's old stomping ground. Nothing too exciting up here but I did manage to get 'lil Ringer out a bit in anticipation of this weekend's 8 hour 2-man in the Sault.

Riley chasing a fairly anorexic bear off the trail.

'lil Ringer grunting and clearing the whole climb up an old ski hill.

Rarely does everything go perfectly over a multiple day bike trip and even though my rig is quite new and maintained, I did get a surprise. I should have heeded the warning when Kent of Phat Moose said about 6 weeks ago "we'll see how long those new Raceface outboard bearings last" ...

Unfortunately in North Bay, I noticed that there was substantial resistance in the cranks and sure enough, the non-drive bearing seized.

The culprit, what a piece of junk!

The problem is that in KL, there's an abundance of booze, drugs, guns, and pick-ups, but no bike shops. I was screwed and had little time to replace the bearing before the Sault race in 5 days time.

Thankfully, a local rider and buddy of Craig and I came to the rescue. He had a brand new RaceFace Deus crankset with the X-type external bearings AND a wrench!?!? Seriously, what are the odds of that? A quick visit and the bearings & cups were swapped. U rock Glen!

Given RaceFace's bearing track record (and reviews) I realise it's not a permanent solution but surely it should be enough to last me this weekend before I toss the whole setup and go back to either square taper or SKF ISIS.

Stay tuned for Part Deux of Tour de Ontario where I post this weekend's race, some picks of Sault's lovely tight and twisty singletrack, and a stop in Sudbury on the way home to finally check out some apparently good stuff near Laurentian University.


Anonymous said...

go xtr!

Anonymous said...

Bugs! We have'm as well.
After hauling my butt around at the Grand Prix on asphault this past weekend, I took my SS into FP, PL then hit back on the 36 up the 4 to 1.
FP is pretty messy. The swamp like thing connecting FP, PL, MO is just bug infested!

Really gotta do something about that swamp. Maybe this winter I'll haul some lumber in there and build a bridge.

PL is just fantastic.
I haven't been in those trails in such a loooong time.
Friggen blast they are.

Heck, if we don't use them momma nature will! (already a lot of FP has over brush forming as momma nature is taking them over). Takes years and years to create these skinny little trails. Takes a big government agency a second to plow them down (make them a dirt road). Takes momma nature even less time to recover her forest floor.
Gotta use them not abuse them (as one big agency is, the one that claims to be conserving the forest...).

PL was a blast!

Peter M said...

Great summary Fritz. I'd heard those RaceFace BBs were wonky and you don't seem to have disproven the assertion. I need to quit my job and ride for a few years. Anyone want to pay my mortgage while I do that?

the original big ring said...

you should have gotten Glen to take you on some of the single track that we cut near the town. From what I remember it was a lot of fun - similar to stuff out in KL.

fritZman said...

Glen said the stuff was grown over... unfortunately.

As for the bearings, I'm probably going to use replacement non-ceramic bearings at $15/ea. Not only are they better than RF/FSA OEM, but at that price I really don't care if they die every 6 months.

Golonghardman said...

Cool bike tour.
Coincidentally after Solstice i found the driveside bearing seized on my RF Evolve , i assume the bb is RF also.
Good to know. Fritz i'll have to get the info for the replacement bearings your getting, they sound reasonable.
Note, i removed the crank set cleaned and greased , then after a ride the crank is spinning much more freely but i guess i'll have to invest soon anyway.

Kark said...

Fritz, I'm also in the
"x-type bearings-suck-ass" camp. I had one get crunchy on me with only around 150hrs on it.
The only upside is (as you found) that they can be replaced with better units pretty cheap.

fitzski said...

Dude! You were literally in Todd's backyard! He'll be very disappointed he couldn't take you around... he built most of those trails, along with his neighbour (who gave his name to a number of the trails).

Ah well - glad you had fun. You should have seen the trails when the guys were in full-on North Shore mode... yiii... scary stuff...

Shorty said...

funny - i have to drive to Pet every week, and i found out about forest lea and was curious...thanks for the info!