A Tale of Worn Tires

Monday, July 16th, 2012 at 3:41 pm

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Filed under Bikepacking, Cycling, Tales from the Road

This past weekend was another bikepacking trip with my friend Mat. After a lot of uncertainty we decided to investigate a loop of about 160km of rail trail from Orillia to Midland, Pentang, back to Elmvale, Barrie and return to Orillia. Sounded like a fun trip and only having to cover 80km each day meant we could take it easy – a great advantage as the temperatures we’re easing up towards the forty degree mark.

With a late start (approaching 11:00) we rolled out the Uhtoff Trail, a nice little route partly hidden in the tree line at the edge of several farm fields taking us straight into Coldwater. This was where the route got a little dicey – some maps saying we could continue on rail trail, others saying we’d have to hit the road. Turned out that there is trail exiting Coldwater but it is topped with loose gravel big enough that I could feel my wheels twisting underneath as the surface shifted. Taking Highway 12 for a few kilometres into Waubaushene where we rejoined a now paved rail line all the way into Midland where we stopped for lunch.

Continuing on the trail out of Midland is now the road of a subdivision which quickly brought us into Penetanguishene. Leaving Penetang and heading south again we hit some amazing trail that had a whole network of mountain biking trail off the edges that would have been worth investigating had we not been fully loaded and on skinny tires. Being still fairly early in the day and having already covered 70km of our planned 80, we decided a detour was in order and headed in to Balm Beach to ride along the shores of Georgian Bay where the temperatures promised a little relief. Following Tiny Beaches Road along the edge of the bay is a great ride beside some under-used beach – this is practically the same beach as Wasaga but it wasn’t uncommon to pass public beaches that were completely empty despite being one of the hottest days of the year. Approaching Wasaga we turned against traffic and back over to our rail trail and into Elmvale for dinner.

Our plan was to continue riding along the trail after dinner taking advantage of a few more hours of daylight to leisurely look for a camp site. Despite the best efforts of a farmer who had plowed over the trail between seventh and eighth concession lines, we were quickly rolling down the gentle grade of the rail line once more. Quite quickly in fact. Instead of finding a camp site we found ourselves on the out skirts of Barrie before the sun set. Given that the end of this trip was only 30km of rail trail away from Barrie and we had decent lights with us, we made the decision to push on through the night and head north to do some off road riding on Sunday instead.

That was when my bike started protesting with my second rear tire flat of the day. Luckily I had picked up a spare tube in Midland after my first flat and didn’t have to try to patch this one getting us back on the road and through Barrie traffic before it got too dark. We thought we were home free rolling up a great stretch of rail trail I had previously rode on our way to Orillia and making good time, until my rear tire flatted again. This time there was no spare tube and we didn’t have enough light to make attempting a patch very feasible – especially given that it was a very slow leak. Since I was able to travel near a kilometer from the time the tire started getting soft to going flat, I tried just putting some air in it and continuing on. With only 25km to go, stopping a few times to air up a tire seemed faster than trying to patch it in the dark.

A kilometer later I was flat again and in the dark it felt like I had three broken spokes to add to it. This wasn’t going to work. We had a couple options though. Set camp where we were and either make a patch in the morning light or send Mat back to Barrie to get a new tube (or four) – or send Mat up the trail to Orillia where the truck was parked and come back to grab me and my now broken bike. We took the second option and Mat blazed up the trail as I walked my broken bike a few more kilometers until the rear wheel stopped turning all together. Carrying my loaded bike about five hundred metres got me back out to a main road but I wouldn’t get much further very quickly under my own power. And so I waited for Mat to return with the truck.

Standing for an hour at the side of this country road I was shocked to count 45 cars pass me at 1am – and a little surprised that out of those 45 not one stopped to ask if I needed help. Granted, a pseudo-fit, thirty-something man with a scruffy beard at the side of the road at 1am may not be the best person to judge how helpful people are as a whole, but as someone who always offers a hand to stopped motorists I found it a little surprising.

In the end we made it back to civilization that night and spent the night in Orillia. Mat had covered 183km in the end, about 170 of those being on rail trail, and when we got back to my shop and got a good look at my bike I turned out to only have broken one spoke but the tube was absolutely shreded. My rear tire had completely come apart over the course of the trip with ripped threads everywhere and quite a few patches thin enough to see light through. Given that these tires already had three years of bikepacking on them, including an eighteen hundred kilometer journey last year, they really don’t owe me anything. I guess the search now begins for new rubber – which is unfortunate because they no longer make my trusty IRC Mythos slicks in 700×42…

2 Responses to “A Tale of Worn Tires”

  1. Bert

    nice trip report, sorry about your mechanical

  2. Jamal Sansoucy

    Great article, Have you ever been to Muskoka? You should take a look at Tour Bracebridge, They have ton’s of Events listed on their website http://tourbracebridge.com

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