Ben's bicycle trip to Port Franks.
One of my passions has always been self-propelled trips. On foot, on skis, or on bike, I've had some incredible opportunities to veer away from the well-beaten path, and find adventures, moments of meditation, and camaraderie along the way. One of the things I love about touring on bike is that like commuting in the city, you can carry all your supplies with you. There's an element of self-reliance that makes the end of the trip just that much more satisfying.
Bikes travel leisurely at the high-end of human speeds (roughly what you can run in a flat-out sprint), and that's important, too. You can cover great distances in a single day without exerting maximum effort. This means that you see more on a bike than you would on foot, and still get where you want to go. It also means you can hear the cicadas and birds, smell the warm forest smells (and sometimes the fertilizers...), and feel in touch with your surroundings in a way you never get in a car, even with the windows rolled down. Bike touring is an experience, rather than a sport.
This past weekend I was invited to an old friend's cottage in Port Franks for his annual August celebration, and had no hesitation about getting on my bike and riding to the party. The road to the beach is a quiet mix of country roads, and city paths, with just a hint of a gravel road shortcut. The route I chose was 79 km one-way, which translates to about four hours at an easy and comfortable pace. One-way, I'd rate it as a "easy" trip (see below for details about my trip rating system) if you're comfortable riding a bike, you can definitely do it in a day. If you're looking to do it as a return trip, bump up the difficulty to "intermediate" and do it once you've had some practice with longer routes. On the way out on Saturday afternoon, I tried to count the number of cars that passed me, and lost count because I was passed so infrequently, I saw maybe 20-30 cars in total on the entire trip. It was a little busier with beach traffic on Sunday night, but not by much. Riding conditions were perfect, even if it was a little hot for my liking: virtually no wind, the sun was low on the horizon, and there wasn't even a sniff of an afternoon thunderstorm.
If you're new to bike touring, and/or unsure about your abilities, leave early, bring lots of water (and Gatorade!), and go slower than you think. Going self-supported means you should either a) have someone in your group who can repair minor mechanical issues, and b) have someone reliable to call in case something more serious happens, or c) both. Riding long distances isn't particularly difficult or scary if you pace yourself, and have a plan if things go wrong. Everything went perfectly on my day, and I arrived in 3 hours and 15 minutes after I left London, but even if I'd had an issue, there were safeguards in place to make sure I'd get to my destination, and not spend a night sleeping in a cow pasture. It was a fabulous day, and hope to go again soon!
If you ride it:
What: Port Franks Beach Route
How Far: 79 km one-way, 158 km round trip.
How Long: I did the trip in 3 hours, 15 minutes on the way there, 3 hours, 50 minutes on the way back (not including stops). The former was a bit of a push into the hot summer afternoon, the latter was a comfortable "casual" pace, that didn't feel like I was pushing hard. Both days were HOT (28C+) and into a mild headwind.
Elevation gain: ~300m total, mostly up and down river valleys.
Why: Ride to the beach! Nature! Adventure! Good Health!
Where: Take TVP to Springbank Park, turn left onto North Street, turn right on Baseline Rd, quick left-right onto Elviage Drive, quick right-left onto Gideon Drive, turn right onto Komoka Road (27 km straight section! woo!), quick right-left onto Bornish Rd, right onto hwy 81, continue on 81 through Parkhill, turn left onto Parkhill Drive/Route 18 (long 18 km straight section), quick left-right onto Port Franks Road. Beach.
ps - in case you're wondering, about my trip rating system (everyone has their own idea of what "easy" means), here's my experience. My background in self-propelled adventures is fairly extensive. I've been a guide for Backroads adventure travel company, and spent lots of time off the beaten path doing multi-day trips in Banff and Jasper National Parks. It's my guiding experience and observation of others' abilities that informs my five-point rating system of "beginner, easy, intermediate, advanced, and expert-only," rather than my own self-assessment and fitness level (which admittedly, could be better these days...). An "easy" route means "can be completed by someone who rides their bike about once a week, and has an ordinary level of fitness." An easy rating doesn't mean "this will be easy for you." Don't hesitate to reach out for more information if you're interested in riding one of these routes.