Up North – A Ride for Kids

[grve_title title=”Ottawa – Timmins” heading_tag=”h1″ heading=”h1″ align=”center”][movedo_empty_space]

When a few friends came up with a wild idea of riding from Ottawa to Timmins to help show what’s possible on two wheels, nobody thought they would confront so many challenges on the adventure. Why would one take on a ride of such nature? The future of participation in cycling sits at the core of the individuals involved and a partnership with Cycling Canada to help raise funds for their HopOn program motivated them for the wild journey they would embark on. Their mission: getting more kids on bikes!

Was it going to be easy? No, but that was the whole point. Was it going to be fun? That was the plan! From terrible weather to unfixable mechanicals, perseverance and grit played a huge part in getting to the finish line.

Here’s how it went down. 

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[grve_title title=”Ottawa – Deep River” heading_tag=”h2″ heading=”h2″][grve_title title=”210.49 km – 812 m”]

The day started with drizzle and a forecast that didn’t look favourable. The group departed from the Ottawa War Museum, along with the usual Friday morning CE Rise & Ride folks. Once out of the city, they finally hit the gravel just outside of Carp, which winded them through the countryside to Arnprior. After a quick coffee stop at Jack and the Bean, they continued on a gravel path to Pembroke. The rain still hadn’t stopped. Cutting through backroads, between farmer’s fields, the muck continued to punish the bikes as it entered their drivetrains with no mercy. Pushing on, the rain got worse but eventually cleared up as they pulled into their motel in Deep River. 

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They cleaned and maintained their bikes for what would be another punishing day on their drivetrains. While some maintenance was happening over a pizza dinner, it was discovered that two bikes would not be able to roll out the next morning; they would have to return to Petawawa to receive maintenance and rejoin for the third leg of the trip.

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[grve_title title=”Deep River – Temiscaming” heading_tag=”h2″ heading=”h2″][grve_title title=”210 km – 2771 m”]

There’s nothing like standing on a motel room walkway that’s providing just enough coverage to avoid the rain, staring into a torrential downpour on tarmac, knowing that there’s only one direction you need to go while scarfing down a breakfast of oatmeal. Before the group could even roll across the motel parking lot, they realized there was already a flat tire. Little did they know, this flat tire would foreshadow the toughest day on a bike for the group. Once the tire was repaired, the group continued on the transcanada highway in the torrential downpour. 

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It only took a few minutes to be drenched down to the bone and the only thing to do was laugh it off. What else was there to do? No complaining allowed! They finally departed the highway to enter a gravel road, only to be faced with a locked fence and nowhere to go. Another omen foreshadowing the arduous day ahead. Back on the highway to soak up more of the rain, the crew crossed into Quebec across the stunning 3 Pont Rapides Des Joachims bridge and eventually got back onto the gravel. 

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The gravel road quickly turned to rougher gravel and questions started to be asked. Is this even a road? Well, it was more of an ATV trail than anything. The riders later found out that a mountain bike race takes place on this road. Their bikes took on the challenge and the rain continued to come down, it was only a matter of time before things didn’t go their way. The mechanicals started. A flat, two exploded derailleurs, shifting cables coming loose, broken derailleur hangers and bars that came loose from the rough terrain. It seemed like the group couldn’t catch a break. Just when the crew thought they could, the roof rack had come loose on the support car, sliding off and ending up on the roadside. Could they catch a break? 

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The weather let up and the sun came out, along with the deer flies nearly the size of golf balls. The riders were a tasty treat every time a stop was made for one of the many issues that had sprung up on the day. They continued on the journey, finally making it to the end of the rough road, thinking all of the troubles were over. Surprise! a flat tire on the support car! Just another wrench in the spokes but they were back on it within no time at all. Would it be smooth sailing from there?

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Almost. As the evening turned to night, the bugs had disappeared and it was only the lights from the cars that kept the roads alight and the crew riding. The humidity gradually morphed into a slight drizzle which eventually gave way into a deluge of rain, providing an experience nobody will forget. Soon, it was midnight, they were soaked and one by one, got picked off by the cold, only to leave a few remaining on the road back to the hotel. It was 1:30am before everyone arrived and were all able to get a hot meal into their bodies. Shortly after 2:30am, everyone  finally got to bed; it was time to rest for another 190 km+ of gravel the following day. 

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[grve_title title=”Temiscaming – Elk Lake” heading_tag=”h2″ heading=”h2″][grve_title title=”190.46 km – 2,603 m”]

It wasn’t exactly what you would call an early start to the day. Sixteen hours on the road from the day before left the crew tired, frustrated and unenthusiastic to repeat the efforts from the day before. Due to bike mechanical issues and injury from the gruelling previous day, three riders went home that morning. With group morale low, and time and distance to make-up, the crew decided to take the paved highway instead of another day of rain and wet sand roads.

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There was still another 190 km to ride before arriving in Elk Lake. Luckily there was less climbing than the day before but within an hour, the rain decided it hadn’t finished with them just yet. It poured. It was only moments before everyone was soaked but luckily found shelter on the side of the highway. With a little bit of food in and enough time to dry up just ever so slightly, back on the road they went, with the rain still coming down, the journey continued north. Country field after country field, the day crawled by, passing through Ville Marie and Notre-Dame-du-Nord, pushing deeper and onwards.

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Dialling in their snack and washroom breaks, they made up the time they had to, and got to Elk Lake after 7 hours of riding, with over 1000 m of elevation gained. The quaint Moosehorn Hotel welcomed them into cabins nestled just 50 yards from the water, just in time to enjoy the last hour of sunlight and a quick dip. After another long day in the rain, more rain coming later in the week, and no chance to get motel accomodations north of Timmins, the crew decided this evening to stop their trip in Timmins. One day, 162.42 km riding, 120 km of gravel, and 1312 m elevation to go.

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[grve_title title=”Elk Lake – Timmins” heading_tag=”h2″ heading=”h2″][grve_title title=”162.42 km – 1,312 m”]

Another late start to the day, but this time the sunshine had come out. The warmth of the sunshine tangibly boosted the group’s morale, heading into what was now to be their final day of riding. Setting off after a lazy breakfast at the Moosehorn Hotel, the riders embarked onto the highway for just under two hours. They then hit a loose gravel road.. The group recalled warnings from locals as they left the pavement, they would not see easy rolling roads until they were on the perimeter of Timmins.

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Wary of logging trucks and technical terrain, the day wore away on their bodies and minds. At least the weather was cooperating; mother nature got one last laugh and treated the group with a final early afternoon downpour. Nonstop punchy undulating hills chipped away at the morale and energy that was left in the group; the last stretch felt the longest. As soon as the group could gain a smidgeon of momentum, some riders couldn’t hold onto the back of the group, and the group was held back – they had to make it there together. The group’s morale and teamwork began to fade away as the sun started to descend on the adventure.

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They toured through the beautiful area, with rolling hills and stunning views of vast lakes and neverending lush forests, they could tell the region is a mecca for riding bikes and offered endless days of exploring the backcountry. As the sun lowered they began to see mile markers counting them down into Timmins. Eventually they hit the perimeter and pavement of the town of Timmins; the bikes gladly glided across the tarmac, as the group exhaled an audible sigh of relief. The gravel was behind them, and they left parts of themselves on those unceasing gravel roads. Passing a cemetery on the way into town reminded the riders that things could have been much worse. The crew made it in one piece and they mustered their strength for one last rallied charge towards their hard-earned burgers and fries. It wasn’t long before they were in bed, sleeping, hoping the next day would provide some modicum of relief from their back to back efforts. 

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[grve_title title=”Timmins” heading_tag=”h2″ heading=”h2″]

They had made it, yet all felt disappointed that the terrible weather hadn’t cooperated, foiling their plans and making things more difficult than anyone had ever imagined. There was only one thing left to do, and that was explore their destination. Just after breakfast, a break from the clouds and rain, provided just enough energy to see what Timmins had to offer. 

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It wasn’t long before we were adventuring in the forests surrounding Charlebois Lake that offered hard packed gravel with rolling corners and climbs. Tall trees met small lakes with pristine beaches that could be enjoyed all day. If only the crew had brought their bathing suits! A couple of hours passed and so had the group’s remaining energy. 

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The group headed back to Mark’s house, his parents would host them for the evening where the win was celebrated with zeal. Laughter came easy as stories quickly emerged from the days that had passed and sighs of relief emerged after all agreeing that everyone had come far enough and their riding was done. It wasn’t long before ideas of the next adventure were blurted out. Their spirits were high as they imagined together what could possibly come next…

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[grve_title title=”The truth” heading_tag=”h2″ heading=”h2″]

This was probably one of the hardest, most challenging rides any of the crew had done. Did we want to continue at times? No. Was that an option? Not a chance. Would we do it again? 100% yes.

Sometimes things don’t go as planned or unfold as expected. It’s about rolling with the punches and overcoming obstacles. We struggle, we learn, improve, and repeat. Cycling can be hard, just like life, and that’s why the two go hand in hand, in so many ways.

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The adventure wouldn’t have been possible without the help of the amazing team behind the scenes, driving the support cars, preparing food, filling bottles, cheers and good vibes. John Large, Natalie Novak and Kayla Numainville are some of the most amazing people you’ll ever meet and are what made this journey possible. A huge mention for Vincent Bombardier who captured the moments for our upcoming film, stay tuned for the release! Secondly, we would like to express massive gratitude to the sponsors who contributed to offering items up for the raffle to help raise money for Cycling Canada’s HopOn program. Thank you! Lastly, a huge thank you to everyone who donated to the cause, you’re amazing and the team owes you everything to help provide the motivation to make this adventure possible. Until next time, cheers!

[grve_title title=”A huge thanks to the sponsors!” heading_tag=”h2″ heading=”h2″]

Without the support of our sponsors, we would have had more trouble than success. A big thanks for the support on this epic adventure!

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[grve_title title=”The raffle winners!!!” heading_tag=”h2″ heading=”h2″]

A huge thanks to everyone who donated. All items will be ready for pick up at Velo La Shop, located in Gatineau, QC. 

1. A 2021 Specialized Jet 24 kids bike courtesy of Velo La Shop: Carlens Faustin
2. Mike Woods autographed EF jersey: Gene Villineuve
3. A bike fit at the The Movement Co: Doug Corner
4. Woven Percision Handbuilt voucher for $300 (x2): Rudolf Lang, Matthew Ladd
5. Woven Percision Handbuilt socks (x2): Alain Villineuve, Annick Desroiers
6. Woven Percision Handbuilt water bottles (2 sets of 2): Hana Merhi, Tyler Brown
7. Cycling Canada toque x2: Jay Heins, Benjamin Cohen
8. Cycling Canada hoodie: Joshua Verch
9. Cycling Canada socks: Anna Linegar
10. Cycling Canada t-shirt (men’s and women’s): James Ellwood, Laura Wilson
11. Coffee box from Brown Bag Coffee Roasters featuring a Keep Cup, Aero Press, Hairo Grinder and sample coffee kit: Benjamin Healey
12. Specialized Evade helmets x 2 (size mediums): Jennifer Tran, Pamela Roddick
13. Common Empire membership (x2): Dave Clements, Aileen Terrien
14. Common Empire socks (5 pairs): Brae Walker, Eric Newcombe, Rafik Rezzik, Judy Wiesinger, Michelle Murphy
15. Specialized RBX jersey (men’s size large): Gagandeep Singh
16. Common Empire jersey (men’s): Tommy Grouev
17. Common Empire jersey (women’s): Janine Gorman
19. Common Empire water bottles (4 sets of 2): Faris Nour, Maria Pospelova, Melanie Clarke, Elisabeth King

1200 851 CommonEmpire
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