2012 Eastern Ontario Bicycle Tour Plans: Toronto to Ottawa via the Side Door!

See here for pix and details of the actual trip.

The classic  bicycle tour  from Toronto to Ottawa  follows the shores of Lake Ontario to Brighton, takes the scenic detour through Prince Edward County to Picton, and then heads to Kingston. The trip ends with a great ride  up to Ottawa with the Rideau Canal as the backdrop.  It makes for a glorious trip with some little-used country roads to cycle and lots of accommodation available at the end of every day.

Having cycled the Lakeshore road from Toronto to Kingston and on to Montreal a few times, I decided to approach Ottawa a bit differently this time- through the side door if you will- i.e. from the northwest.

600 kilometres of road from Toronto to Ottawa and back to Brockville

The planning for this trip started with the decision to take up my  friend Ed’s invitation to visit him in Bancroft.  I’ve only visited this part of Ontario a couple of times- and those times on cross-country skiing trips during the winter- so the route would allow me to  see for the first time in the summer a new-to-me stretch of Ontario.

More than a bit of nostalgia is also involved- I plan on cycling down the main street of  Peterborough and taking a first look at a town whose Trent University had been one of those on my list at the end of high school some forty  years ago.   And Ed in Bancroft? He had been my high school Chemistry teacher in 1968!

To add to the yesteryear feel, I decided to make Port Hope my first day’s destination with the intention of visiting Ken , the man who had hired me for my first high school teaching job in Scarborough in the mid-70’s.  He is also the guy I credit for getting me off my butt and into an exercise mode back in the day.

But wait- there’s more!  I’d get to overnight at my sometime cycling and all-around buddy Cyril’s in Kanata- when he was still living in T.O. we’d done a memorable ride from Sudbury to Espanola to Manitoulin to Tobermory and back to Toronto via Niagara Falls in 1991 . He said he’d grill something veggie for me!

And if everything falls into place, I’ll drop in to see how my canoeing partner Roy is doing. His wedding in Ottawa in the mid-1980’s is the last time I was there.  So the route was set- a nice blend of new geography and old friends!

Before I left I did google “Toronto-Ottawa bicycle trip” to see what other cyclists had posted online.  Among the many posts, I found this organized tour from Toronto to Ottawa offered by cyclecanada.com which is actually a pretty good deal, especially if you don’t want to be bothered with all the logistical details.  I also found a tour on their site- a ride from Montreal through the Eastern Townships and then up to Quebec City- that I have bookmarked as an interesting future possibility!

The Bike:

In the end my 1991 Miyata 600GT, a classic touring road bike,  gets to go again! I did an 1100 km tour of eastern Cuba with it in January of 2012 (if you’d like to find out how it went, click on this link- Bicycling Cuba’s Oriente– for the posts).

on the side of the road near Holguin, Cuba – my Miyata 600GT with front and rear panniers

I had been tempted to go ultra-light for this tour and take the sports car equivalent of my bike fleet-  my carbon fiber Trek Madone with the Dura Ace wheel set. However, the lack of a rear rack to hang the panniers on made me turn to the station wagon once again.  Here is the same touring bike barely clamped to the bike rack at the front of the GO Bus bringing me back from Hamilton on the Sunday before this trip. I had cycled the 83 km there as a warm-up. As you can see from the image, there is only one arm on the front wheel holding it down.  I was somewhat nervous about the wheels getting bent as the bus sped along. I’m glad to say the set-up works!

The bike rack set-up did not inspire confidence- but it worked out just fine!

Unlike my Cuban tour, this trip will not require the front panniers; a handlebar bag and the two rear panniers will provide all the space I need for my eight-day tour. Unlike on previous adventures, there will be no tent or sleeping bag or cook set along for this ride. My VISA card will be playing a much more prominent role! Before I left I pre-booked most of my accommodation.  Somehow I like knowing that there is a bed already waiting for me at the end of the day; all I have to do is get there!

Details About the Route:

The daily objectives are mostly pretty reasonable.  Check out the following summary of the itinerary and you will see that most days are under 100 kilometres. Given an average speed of, let’s say, 18 km/hour that means that most days can be done in six hours or less.

Sunday          Toronto-Port Hope                 100 km

Monday         Port Hope-Burleigh Falls         78 km

Tuesday         Burleigh Falls -Bancroft           72 km

Wednesday   Bancroft

Thursday      Bancroft- Renfrew                   128 km

Friday            Renfrew-Ottawa downtown    94 km

Saturday       Ottawa downtown to Kanata   25 km

Sunday          Ottawa-Brockville                    112 km

total: about   600 km

Monday June 11       VIA Train 51 from Brockville at  9:52 a.m.  arrive in TO at 12:57 p.m.

What The Weather Gods Have On Offer!

The weather forecast could look a bit friendlier than it does.  Here is the look ahead as far as wind and rain are concerned-

 These things change but right now it looks as if I’ve got two nice days with the wind mostly at my back- the first day to Port Hope and the ride from Renfrew to Ottawa.  The other days there is a good chance that I’ll be pedalling in the rain mostly into the wind! Not much point in worrying about this stuff until I’m there- it will probably turn out to be like the those steep hills you see coming at you in the distance. The closer you get to them the less steep they are.

GPS Tracking: Check up on My Progress

You can follow me as I pedal along thanks my SPOT Connect, a GPS tracker that posts my co-ordinates every ten minutes (when it’s on!).  Another feature of the Connect is that it allows me to send email messages via satellite; admittedly, I won’t really  need to make much use of this feature given that wi-fi will be available at more than a few stops along the way.  (It has proven to be very useful on canoe trips where we were completely off the grid as far as cell phone or internet coverage are concerned.)

Where in the world am I? Click here to see my route and current location.

What I’m Taking Along: A List For Anyone Interested in Doing It Him/herself!

(not that you’d want to bring along exactly what I did! )

B. Handlebar Bag

inside plastic bag for waterproofing;

wallet;

iPod Touch;

maps;

headphones for iPod Touch

sunglasses and case

riding gloves

camera- I was going to bring my Sony A700 dslr along but is it ever bulky! I’ll sleep on it and decide before I go- my Fuji X10 may get the call!

C. Rear Panniers

Left Pannier Contents- 4.5 kg.

inside plastic bag for waterproofing

two spare 700X32mm tubes just in case

1 patch kit

3 tire irons (plastic)

1 Topeak Road Morph pump- it easily pumps up to 80 p.s.i which is what my Continental tires (Touring Plus) call for

1 Topeak tire pressure gauge

1 multi-tool with Allen keys

1 mini- rag

1 Swiss Army Knife

1 crescent wrench

the silnylon fly of my Big Agnes Fly Creek UL-1 Tent just in case!

1 container of Vega drink mix- 18 servings

1 bag with 500 grams of Vega Protein powder for post-ride shakes

7 Clifbars- 515 grams

2 emergency suppers- Backpackers’ Pantry pouches- 400 grams

sunscreen;

electronics kit- battery chargers; spare batteries; usb cable;

Right Pannier Contents-  4.5 kg.

inside plastic bag for waterproofness

breakfast kit- 750 grams five  instant oat meal packs; almonds; mix of dried cranberries and raisins; mix of chia and keep seeds; green tea bags.

Goretex jacket

three shirts- two short-sleeved and one long-sleeved-  560 grams

waterproof shoe covers just in case- 230 grams

long riding pants- 270 grams

apres-ride nylon  pants  – can double as riding pants 400 gms

2 pairs spare socks – 90 grams

personal kit – toothpaste/brush; ibuprofen; Benadryl;  250 grams

bike lock- small cable 140 grams

high visibility shoulder stripe- 100 grams

spare gloves- full fingers 110 grams

The Route I’m Taking:

Day One: Toronto to Port Hope- 100 kilometers/5 hours +/- on the saddle

I love starting my trips from Toronto early on a Sunday (8:00 a.m. is the plan!) because I know the city will still be sleeping as I put on the first twenty or thirty kilometres.  I’m out on the quieter roads beyond the city before the shopping malls are open and the cars are out in full force.  Click here for a Google map of my first day’s route to Port Hope.

Having followed the Waterfront Trail east from Toronto a few times, I now avoid parts of it as too indirect and dipsy-doodle-y and downright annoying at times. Sunday morning on Kingston Road and Highway 2 is really not a problem. The final stretch along Lakeshore Road to Port Hope is always a treat.

Day Two: Port Hope to Burleigh Falls- 80 km/ 4 hours

Today’s ride involves a  lot of Country Road 28 N- all the way up to Peterborough and then on through Lakefield to the night’s cottage accommodation at Merrick’s Landing, a short distance off of 28. Lunch in downtown Peterborough,  a few stops along the way to check out the Trent-Severn locks that happen to be nearby, a ramble with my dslr along the shore below and up to Burleigh Falls, and perhaps an evening paddle past the various islands at the east end of Lower Buckhorn Lake just above the falls.  What a great day! See the route here.

Day Three: Burleigh Falls to Bancroft- 72 km

Burleigh Falls is on the southern edge of the Canadian Shield in this part of Ontario. Time will tell what exactly this will mean as I cycle up to Bancroft. It is definitely a less populated stretch of road. Click here to see what the route looks like.

Day Four: R & R in Bancroft!

Day Five: Bancroft to Renfrew- 128 km

This is the biggest day of the trip- 131 km along a stretch of road that looks pretty empty of services.  I will stock up on lunch before I leave Bancroft. I’ll find out what the northern end of County Road 28- which runs into and becomes Highway 41 at Denbigh- is like as it pushes north towards Renfrew. Paved shoulders and not too many hills would be nice- but we will see.  Waiting for me is a plush room at the Renfrew Inn. Here is the road I’ll be on.

Day Six: Renfrew to downtown Ottawa- 94 km

Click here to see the route.

On to the nation’s capital! I’ve got a room at the Econolodge on Rideau Avenue in downtown Ottawa but the trip to get there is going to be fantastic. I am especially looking forward to the stretch along the Ottawa River as I get close to the downtown. Cyril tells me that my route from Renfrew involves some pretty quiet backcountry roads- all in all, a fine day’s cycling awaits with some good photo ops along the way.

Day Seven: downtown Ottawa to Kanata- 20 km

Today I get to cycle back along the river along the path I used yesterday to get to downtown.  Same, same…but different!  The Ottawa area looks like it is well-equipped with bike paths so it should make for some stress-free riding as I head to Cyril’s in Kanata. I’m going to make this a leisurely ride if I can. Here is a crop of a very informative 2016 The Official Cycling Map for Ottawa-Gatineau (click on blue to access) put out by the National Capital Commission that shows some of the possibilities and my intended route into downtown Ottawa and then back to Kanata.

Day  Eight: Kanata to Brockville- 112 km

Another Sunday- and another great day to put on some early kilometres!  In retrospect, I could have made Kingston the end point and made a point of following the Rideau Canal all the way. Maybe next time! Click here to see the very nice route I get to do.

Day Nine: Brockville VIA Station to Toronto Union Station 

Homeward bound- the easy way.  The mid-morning train takes baggage so for an extra $20. I get to put my bicycle into a box which VIA provides and then sit back for three hours as we zip back to Union Station in downtown Toronto.

Post-trip correction: this particular VIA train apparently has a bike rack so you are not required to box your bike.  It still costs but at least you are spared the need to take off the pedals, loosen and twist the handlebars to the side, and remove the seat. It means that when you get to your destination you can wheel the bike right from the platform with no fuss.  See here for the Via list of routes where you do not have to dismantle your bicycle before putting it in the baggage car.

A  Possible Trip Focus- Waterfalls!

Thanks to an afternoon spent with a copy of Waterfalls of Ontario– text by Mark Harris and photos by George Fischer- I am motivated to come back home with some shots of the waterfalls and rapids that I will be passing by or cycling over.  What follows is a list of places I will be looking for:

Day One: Ganaraska Rapids- just in from the shores of Lake Ontario

Day Two: Burleigh Falls

Day Three:Haultain Cascade; Marble Rapids- in Appsley

Day Four: High Falls  on the York River north of  Bancroft- a day trip on my day off

Day Five: Egan Shute;  McArthur Falls- McArthur Mills on the Little Mississippi River;   Highland Falls on the Lower Madawaska River near Griffith on 28N; Second Chute- on Bonnechere R. – Arthur Street in Renfrew

Day Seven: Rideau Falls- Ottawa

Post-Trip Note: Well, the trip is history! The post describing how it went is here.  The wind and a bit of rain presented challenges to deal with (i.e. accept!). The day-by-day plan was pretty well stuck to except for the stretch from Bancroft to Renfrew.  I ended up splitting it up into two half-days, leaving Bancroft at 1:00 and getting to Denbigh around 5:00 one day and then rolling into Renfrew around 2 the next afternoon after an 8:00 a.m. start.  It made for a leisurely bike tour through a scenic part of  my own province that I had never really looked at before. It was an enjoyable little bike tour.

7 thoughts on “2012 Eastern Ontario Bicycle Tour Plans: Toronto to Ottawa via the Side Door!

    • Paul, the trip has just begun! Spent the afternoon being shown some of the beautiful old houses and streets of Port Hope. Tomorrow I cycle through Peterborough and spent the rest of the day at Burleigh Falls. Should be a good photo op!

  1. What a great trip!

    Question: we’re hiking in Iceland next week – do you know where to get Backpacker’s Pantry foods in Toronto?
    J. Hiker

  2. Hi, a friend and I were thinking of planning a bike trip from Toronto to Kingston this summer and were hoping to hear a bit about your experience as well as how you planned the trip! Thank you!

    • Ashkan, totally do-able in three or four days. Two essential ingredients – both of you in decent shape and with dependable bikes. It helps if it is a road bike but it doesn’t have to be. You have ten weeks to get trip-ready.

      Work your way up to a few 60 to 80 km rides before this summer. I don’t know where you live but I live downtown and love the Lakeshore run to Port Credit or Oakville and back on a Sunday morning along the Lakeshore.

      Day 1 – Toronto to Port Hope or Coburg
      Day 2 – Port Hope to Picton
      Day 3 – Picton to Kingston

      By the way, the route is pretty much flat all the way with very few hills if you go along the shore of Lake Ontario. A five or ten speed bicycle will be all you need. Check out this Google Map link to see a possible route – https://goo.gl/maps/w0wfg

      I splurged on motel rooms each night at about $100. a night. You can divide that between the two of you. Or you could bring tents and all that. I like some comfort after a day on the saddle!

      When you get to Kingston you can put your bike on the VIA train and come back to Toronto. You have to pick a train that takes bikes on it. They used to require boxing but these days they have bike stands on some of the trains. See this VIA website for info – http://www.viarail.ca/en/bike

      Check out this site for the best route info –

      http://www.waterfronttrail.org/2014-10-31-13-04-56/interactive-map

      All the best on your bike trip. If this is your first, hopefully you will find it to be very addictive – and it won’t be your last. It is a great way to see our province – and the world!

      Send me an email if you have any more questions.

Your comments and questions are always appreciated, as are any suggestions on how to make this post more useful to future travellers. Just drop me a line or two!

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