Tour of Scugog – A Route in Progress

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“Bicycle, bicycle, bicycle… I want to ride my… bicycle, bicycle, bicycle… I want to ride my bicycle… I want to ride my bike… I want to ride my bicycle… I want to ride it where I like.”

Bicycle Race, Queen

I’ve been obsessing a bit lately.

When I’m not riding my bike, I’m thinking about riding my bike, about where to ride my bike, and what new and exciting places I can explore.

I don’t know what it is, but the freedom of the open road and seeing sights unseen brings out a thrill in me that’s basically beyond words.

It was while obsessing one night that I decided to try my first gravel route build, and with that, I bring you the Tour of Scugog – A Route in Progress.

The Tour of Scugug starts in Port Perry, about an hour northeast of Toronto, home to some of the best gravel around, with epic hills and the views that make it all worthwhile.

Amongst other things, Port Perry is also the start of all three Durham Destroyer Routes, plus many more fantastic gravel loops that my friend Mike at GravelRoad has introduced me to. If you’re not familiar with the area, all I can say is it’s definitely worth the drive.

If you’re interested, you can read about a couple of those rides here, Durham Destroyer – The Rookie, and Durham Destroyer – I’m Not Worthy.

The goal for the route build… a loop around Lake Scugog, keeping to as much gravel and rail trail as possible, while at the same time avoiding major roads at all costs.

Building the Tour of Scugog

I was going to write a whole blurb here about how I went about building the route, the tools I used, why I chose them, offering any tips and tricks I’ve found along the way, but it turns out that’s a much larger post I should save for another day.

In the meantime, I’ll leave it at this:

  • GravelMap – The best resource I’m aware of for finding gravel roads in Canada.
  • Ride with GPS – Produces a TCX file that creates turn-by-turn directions for my Garmin Edge 530.
  • Komoot – Maybe it would be okay, but produces a GPX file, which doesn’t generate turn-by-turn instructions for my Garmin.
  • Strava – For reasons I don’t understand loading the routes onto my Garmin is a pain.

The Tour of Scugog Overview

Tour of Scugog Ride with GPS profile including the route map and elevation profile.

The Tour of Scugog is currently a 110-120km loop starting in Port Perry. The loop itself starts with some light hills before transferring to Trans Canada Trail a little over thirty-five kilometres in, followed by the southern end of the Victoria Rail Trail, and finally some intense hills and gravel roads for the final fifty-five kilometre stretch to the finish.

I call it a route in progress, simply because I foresee many different options are possible for the final route build, for instance, if I push the route to a hundred and forty kilometres, I can extend the route out to just past Omemee and the Doube’s Trestle Bridge, or perhaps, from a pure endurance standpoint it’ll make more sense to ride it in reverse, getting the worst out of the way early, offering an easier push to the finish.

The route is mainly hard pack gravel and should be rideable for almost anyone with tires in and around 35cc and up.

I will note, as we get later in the year, the Victoria Rail Trail south of Lindsay, may dry out to the point of being a bit to sandy for a fast ride.

I should also note that the turn west is intense. When I first crafted the route, I took Ballyduff the whole way, and if you continue past Porter road, it turns to ATV track, as rough as it comes. The route noted above avoids that, so the option ultimately will be yours.

Tour of Scugug Leaving Port Perry

My inaugural ride took place one Saturday morning in April 2021.

My goal for the day, start early and get back home to the family by 3:30, giving me about six and a half hours on the bike, requiring a pace of a little under twenty kilometres an hour.

Foggy Old Simcoe Rd near the start of the Tour of Scugog.
A Foggy Start on Old Simcoe Road North of Port Perry

I parked at S.A. Cawkers Public School, and was off, heading north on a foggy Old Simcoe Road for the first forty-five km push into Lindsay.

This first part of the route follows gravel roads north from Port Perry, with a brief jaunt on Simcoe Street, before rejoining gravel north of Scugog, and ultimately the Trans Canada Trail into Lindsay.

I wanted to stop and take pictures, so many pictures, but with a pace to maintain and familiar roads ahead, I decided to push hard and bank time for later, only stopping for a snack and a quick call home twenty-three kilometres in at the boarded up Zion United Church.

Stopping for a snack at the Zion United Church on the Tour of Scugog Gravel Ride.
Stopping for a Snack at the Zion United Church

Forty minutes later, I turned onto the Trans Canada Trail for the quick push into Lindsay. This section of the Trans Canada Trail starts in Uxbridge, travels to Lindsay, before ultimately heading north to Haliburton, east to Peterborough, or like me today south to just past Bethany. I’d also like to call out that my first big century ride and my introduction to bikepacking/touring was in 2019 when I rode Haliburton Wolf Sanctuary to Home via the Haliburton and Victoria Rail Trails.

About forty-five kilometres in, the first part of the ride wrapped up with another snack break, this time at the Canada Day Memorial Flag in Lindsay, or at least that’s what I’ll call it since nothing seems to come up about it online.

Massive Canadian Flag in Lindsay, Ontario.
Canada Day Flag in Lindsay

Turning South onto The Victoria Rail Trail

With the first part of the route now behind me, it was time to venture into the great unknown, a thirty-kilometre stretch of the Victora Rail Trail – South Corridor, followed by a final forty-kilometre gravel road push to the finish.

Access gates to the Victoria Rail Trial - South Corridor, south of Lindsay.
Entering the Victoria Rail Trail in Near Lindsay

It’s funny how perception doesn’t always equal reality. When I think back to the route that day, I seem to recall the Victoria trail being damp and somewhat sandy. Not a bad trail, but not the hard and fast trail I was hoping for.

Looking back to my Garmin files, I can see my perception was off, by no means was it as fast as the initial push into Lindsay, but with a pace around twenty kilometres an hour, it wasn’t terrible either.

Now it wasn’t as bad as the few sections like this below, but it didn’t feel much better either.

Massive puddle on the Victoria Rail Trail while riding the Tour of Scugog.
Puddles on the Victoria Rail Trail

Although not as fast as I had hoped, there was some fantastic views along the way, such as this one of a few kayakers paddling away on Fleetwood Creek, halfway between Lindsay and Bethany.

Kayakers paddling Fleetwood Creek, half way between Lindsay and Bethany, off the Victoria Rail Trail.
Fleetwood Creek, Victoria Rail Trail – South Corridor

The Push Home on Ballyduff Road

When I planned the day I knew it was on the turn that west that the real work would begin, with the bulk of the elevation gain occuring over the final forty kilometres.

What I didn’t account for was a three and a half kilometre stretch of Ballyduff Road, located between Porter Road, and Wild Turkey Road, otherwise known as hell.

I will note, that in the route I shared above, that I’ve bypassed this section of trail, but I will leave this to you, as a choose your own adventure, maintain speed by heading north, or take on the challenge of the Ballyduff ATV trail.

Road Not Maintained sign, on Ballyduff Rd, while riding the Tour of Scugog.
Choose Your Own Adventure, Stay Straight for the ATV Trail of Ballyduff Road, Or Bypass to the North

Sometimes pictures just don’t do things justice, when I look at this picture now, the hill looks rideable, but the sand is deep, sucking your wheels right into it, killing any chance of momentum.

If it was that bad now, I can only imagine how bad it will be, come summer.

In fact, it’s safe to say that I’ve seen only one thing like it, Byers and Boundary Roads, when I rode the Durham Destroyer – I’m Not Worthy last September.

Rocks, gravel, sand, and hills on Ballyduff Rd.
Soul Sucking Sand and Hills on Ballyduff Road Between Porter and Wild Turkey Roads

Three and a half kilometres and thirty minutes later and I was done, taking a final look back at the third stretch of road that will be permanently etched in my memory (Byers, Boundary, and Ballyduff).

Looking back at the hell at was Ballyduff Rd, while riding the Tour of Scugog.

Although this isn’t it, I was later informed that there is a lookout spot on Ballyduff just east of Wild Turkey, the route map above now contains a brief detour to the lookout. This shot was taken just down the road, and as you can see the views were fantastic.

Epic view of lush green country-side from Ballyduff Rd.
Looking North From Ballyduff Rd.

Taking the Highway Home

When I planned the day, I anticipated a six and a half hour day. After that last stretch of Ballyduff, my margin of error had basically evaporated. Without knowing the conditions of the road ahead and fearful that Ballyduff had only given me a taste of what was to come, I cut my losses, braved the traffic, and followed the paved roads of Highway 35 and 7 for the final thirty back to Port Perry.

As I sit here writing this now, I see that, based on satellite maps, the worst was behind me, with country gravel roads the rest of the way back.

The route is still a work in progress, many options remain, but it’s still a good day on the saddle for whoever may be interested.

Thanks for reading,

Cory

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