Saturday, November 17, 2012

Pump Track update - more dirt!

Thanks to Jeff Mills in Almonte, we just scored a few more loads of dirt to enhance the pump track, which admittedly looks a little lame right now. Hey, it was two tri-axle loads of heavy wet clay and that was the best we could do on a hot summer day. No detailed plans yet, but we're going to be busy! Tune in to for updates and volunteering opportunities.

Almonte Riverside Trail

After two years of hard work, I'm excited to announce the opening of the Almonte Riverside Trail, a singletrack route for mountain biking, hiking, and cross-country skiing on the edge of Almonte. It's taken months of effort to clear brush, move dead trees, pull prickly ash, dig clay, and build stone bridges over muddy sections. A big thanks goes to the private property owners who've graciously allowed this trail to pass over their land, and to fellow mountain biker Phil Maier who has donated tons of time, materials, and now machinery to carve the trail. With more volunteers now offering their time, we are planning some exciting upgrades and additions to this trail to make it more entertaining for all users.

Even more exciting is the prospect of extending the trail to the Mill of Kintail. I'm in discussions with Mississippi Valley Conservation Area staff and landowners about access over their lands, which if successful could add another few kms to the Riverside Trail.

Check out the map and trail info.

For updates on the trail and more general info on adventure options in the Almonte area, check out our new website. I may move my dualsport updates to Almonte Outdoors so all the fun is in one spot. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Ride route - Almonte to Calabogie (paved)

Are you new to Ottawa and looking for a motorbike day-ride in the area? Here a classic route just west of the city, starting in my beautiful town of Almonte at the falls on the Mississippi River. I've made a few minor jogs to the better-known route so you can explore a bit more of the secondary roads and avoid more traffic. The pavement throughout is good to excellent so it's suitable for any kind of bike. I've even ridden all of it on a road bicycle too.

This route serves as a great jumping-off point for exploring the backcountry side roads--especially west of Hwy 511. There's a ton of great history in this area from the mid-1800's. The wilderness has reclaimed many visible traces of the hardy Scots who tried to make a go of it in this area. But if you know where to look, there is everything from old bush trails, ghost towns, abandoned farms, and old mines to discover. For a taste of the history of the area, you can download several convenient brochures here.

So maybe all that history stuff doesn't interest you. The scenery surely will. Once you leave Almonte you enter the southernmost edge of the Canadian Shield, leaving our Ottawa Valley limestone for rugged, hilly country with white pine, granite outcrops, and long sweeping curves that offers some great vistas. Watch for deer and other wildlife on the road.

If you find this useful, let me know and I'll post additional maps of rides in the area with more adventurous dirt/dualsport options that even the timid 1200GS rider can tackle comfortably on road tires.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Tips on suspension tuning

I'd suggest dialing dialing this one up to "11".

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Almonte Pump Track

A few weekends ago a few of us toiled in the hot sun (remember that yellow thing?) and roughed in a pump track at Almonte's Augusta St. park. Now, it's still a work in progress and I don't have a photo handy, but I encourage you to check it out if you're in the area.

What's a pump track, you ask? Well, basically it's a series of tuned bumps and berms that let you roll through fast without pedaling, by using weight transfer to build up a rhythm and speed. Sounds more complicated than it is, although there is definitely an art to it.

Don't laugh when you see our measly track compared to the one in the vid. Ya gotta start somewhere. And ours represents two tri-axle dump truck loads of clay. We know--we shovelled it all. Big thanks to neighbour Don Lowe who showed up with his little tractor to help rough-position the dirt. And a big thanks to Merv Logan of LBL who provided the dirt for free. A few more truckloads and we can build a destination ride.

Honda CRF250L XR650L NC700SA comparo

OK, lots packed into this somewhat misleading title, so bear with me.

Unlike the Canadian Honda site, where crickets abound, the US site offers an interesting comparison between the soon-to-be-released 250 and the venerable 650 dualsports. (You know you're desperate for any kind of insight on the new offering when you have to resort to the factory web site!)

Here I was thinking the 250 would offer significant weight savings. But 26 lbs fully wet seems hardly worth the sacrifice of power that the 650 offers. Plus, you can put the 650 on a diet and match the 250's heft without breaking a sweat (or bank account).

So what else do you get for the extra clams of the 650? Well, adjustable forks and shocks and a few inches more of ground clearance are tempting. A larger stock tank and aftermarket options for even larger tanks are also a bonus. Frankly, I'm finding it hard to justify the smaller bike when the larger one offers about the same range and more customizability. If the 250 had more range it may be a harder decision. 

One of these days I'm going to spring for the 650--as affordable as the 250 is. Too bad there wasn't a sweet 400 or 450 in the line-up, with a larger tank. That would be the perfect trail weapon for backcountry Ontario rides. 

In other news, Honda has also just released (depending on where you are--it seem to be in London but not Ottawa) a rather interesting naked street bike, the NC700SA. Other than nice styling, it offers the remarkable feature of a fake gas tank which is really a storage bin. The real gas tank is under the seat which implies a desirable low centre of mass. Too bad about the cast wheels, because otherwise the platform seems to have the right ingredients to become an interesting alternative to BMW's F800GS. Honda, if you're listening, please offer this bike in a dualsport version.  

Ride announcements on Twitter

Looking for a riding partner? I'm going to start tweeting my upcoming rides on @frankenbuffer. Road, trail, motorbike... it's a crap shoot.

No promises announcement will be much in advance (hey--it's hard enough finding time to ride as it is!) but hopefully some routine will emerge and make predictions easier.

Hint: I'm not a morning person. As much as I enjoy riding in the fresh, dewy morning air, the reality is by the time I'm done with the honeydew list it's more like noon before I'm able to head out. Weekends are open for epic rides, and I can occasionally blow off the late afternoon of work to go ride. Plan on 5 hours for a remote ride in the sticks. It takes an hour just to get to the trailhead.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Honda announces CRF250L dualsport

This looks like a pretty sweet little replacement for my dreadnought KLR:

I wonder how quick it is on the pavement? Nothing like getting ridden up the tailpipe by cottagers impatient to get to the beer store. Already I can imagine this thing being quite tasty west of Calabogie...

Launch date is May 2012. Canadian pricing to be seen. No reviews yet... any thoughts on this?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

New single track coming soon!

Where does the time go? Somehow I got derailed by work, building a house, and life in general the past two years, and had to pause my single track adventures. So I'm long overdue for something new here, and thought I'd share one of the projects I've been working on since last summer: new single track!

Soon I hope to open to the public a hidden gem of a trail along the Mississippi River just downstream of Almonte. I spent many a long, hot day last summer, fall and (yes) winter hacking through tangled buckthorn and prickly ash, digging up rocks, moving logs, and shoveling loam into what will eventually become some rather buff single track built on the IMBA model. So far I've cleared about 4 km through woods that haven't seen much human traffic in the last hundred years. By the time I'm done, there'll be a 5 km or so point-to-point route from Strathburn Street to James Naismith Way, winding through hardwood and hemlock forest, then sunny fields. The route follows a spectacular limestone bench system along the river valley. I'll be adding a loop in the middle which will give about a 10-12km out-and-back ride or hike from either trailhead, with shorter options for the less intrepid. It's a great route for trail running.

It's not officially open to the public because I still have to create the ends where people can access the main trail without disturbing either of the two private landowners who have generously supported this project. Once that's done I'll be sure to post directions.

Meanwhile, enjoy some teaser-trailer pics of what you'll eventually see along the way.

Oh, and I'm looking for landowner support to help build the next segment connecting James Naismith Way to the Mill of Kintail. Now that would amazing!