After riding the cannonball route twice last year in one day I thought it would be a good warm up for the bikepacking season to do this type of route with such little elevation. Since the original 300km route is more suited to single day adventures I started playing around with extending it out to St Thomas and Port Stanley with some more railtrail and flat gravel roads. It wasn’t until the Monday before the long weekend when it was decided to take a crack at it and with campground still closed Matt’s other camping plans couldn’t happen, so he was able to come along.
Packing has become fairly routine with a couple years of camping trips so it was just a matter of organizing where everything was going to go. I had a new bigger frame bag which meant no water bottle would fit so I had to switch to a water bladder. I had rigged up a retractable keychain onto a 3D printed handlebar mount to hold the hose when not drinking.
This was also the first real test of my front rack that I had built. Other than a few planned modifications I was extremely happy with it and have some other ideas for the future of how to expand its versatility.
Rounding out the kit was my Arkel seatpacker 15, small top tube bag and the tool kit under my downtube. Fully loaded up with water the bike weighed in at 45lbs. Both Matt and I decided on 700c gravel tires since the route was mostly railtrail and paved roads.
We decided to get an early start on the weekend and leave as soon I was done work. Matt and I met in Victoria park and we set of down the trail dodging the hordes of walkers until we eventually got south of Cambridge where things cleared up. Things were uneventful all the way to Simcoe except for getting stuck in a construction site in Paris because we chose to go around the fenced off trail instead of taking the detour. Friday night we were camping in my parents’ yard halfway between Simcoe and Delhi. As planned, we got there just after dark and after setting up the tent (and bivy) and a rinsing off the gravel dust with the hose we went to bed. My Dad is a bit obsessed with his grass so it would have been soft enough to sleep on with out the mattress. The coyotes were quite active and nearby overnight so I got woken up a few times by the howling and barking before they would go silent again to start hunting.
The next morning after packing up and having a quick breakfast we set off back onto the railtrail towards Delhi. We did a little loop in town then headed north to pick up another trail that would take up straight to Tilsonburg where I grabbed a second breakfast and some coffee. We then had to fight the headwind on 30km of dead straight gravel roads. This wasn’t the worst thing because we knew it would be a tailwind once we turned around at the lake.
It started to rain just as we were coming into St Thomas and there were a few trails I wanted to try out north of town. They started off decently ridable but as we got further in it turned into a muddy hour long hike a bike section. Eventually we came to a road and then stuck to pavement to get into town where the fritter shop provided some much-needed energy.
The gravel roads between St Thomas and Port Stanley were a bit fresh and with the rain also a little soft. Gladly the sun came out a little bit before Port Stanly and things stared to dry out. After a sourdough bagel sandwich for lunch, we turned our bikes east and the tailwind and fresh pavement made progress super quick. The views along the lake are stunning and the low traffic and bike lane most of the was made the afternoon very enjoyable. Every town had somewhere to top to refuel with the best being twins ice cream parlor in Port Rowen.
The plan for the night was originally going to be a warmshowers host who was willing to let us camp at their place in Port Rowan but with how fast we were moving (30.5 km/h average since port Stanley) I got in touch with some family friends in Port Ryerse who let us camp there instead. It was a much quieter night other than the nearby windmills. Gladly the skunk that lives under their deck decided to leave us alone.
Sunday started with a quick ride into Port dover then we picked up the original cannonball route. As always, the lakeshore road was spectacular, and the tailwind helped move us along.
The ATV trails just past Dunneville were complexly dry and ridable, and after slogging out the Wainfleet railtrail we arrived in Port Colbourne. After refueling at 711 and grabbing some lunch we got onto the paved trail along the canal all the way up to Thorold. With the headwind I pretty much sat on Matt’s wheel this entire section. He seemed to have a much easier time with the aero bars. Luckily, we had a bit of a cross tail wind back west coming off the lake so the stretch though Niagara wine country all the way to Hamilton went by without any issues.
Matt had planned to get picked up in Hamilton because of a sore ankle so after a great lead-out I was on my own for the rest of the trip. I made dinner in a park before getting to the trail out of town and thought I would find a spot to stealth camp for the night. Maybe it was the large dinner or all the fireworks along the trail, but I was feeling great, and I started toying with the idea of riding home that night. Armed with only my small headlamp I pushed on into the dark dodging rabbits and deer. I had to stop in Brantford to buy some more batteries for the headlamp and some other supplied to keep me moving.
My top speed was limited to around 25km/h because I couldn’t see far enough ahead.
Eventually I got back to Cambridge then took paved roads back to Kitchener then the Homer Watson trail back home getting there right around 1:30 for a 320km day.
I was very happy with how the weekend turned out and glad matt was able to come along to provide some company. I highly recommend this route if you want some long cruisy days with great lakeside views. It is quite the contrast to The BT700 with less than half the elevation and far less technical road and trails. Full Route here Cannonball XL - A bike ride in Kitchener, Ontario
Looking forward to whatever the next adventure will be. Perhaps the Log Driver’s Waltz.