Canadian Cycling Magazine
Curb Your Ambitions
It doesn’t hurt to knock it back a notch, if it makes things more fun
This past summer I had a great idea. (They come to me every so often.) My family and I would go bikepacking, or cyclo touring. Honestly, I don’t know what to call it sometimes. At the risk of sounding like an old curmudgeon, I remember when it was just called touring, and there were racks and panniers. Maps were on paper even.
My big idea was to go bikepacking right from our front door. I confess, I actually got that idea from a past article by writer Molly Hurford. (She’s back again with new bikepacking advice, as well as tips from Matthew Kadey and Sarah Hornby, on p.24.) It would be the perfect introduction to riding and camping for my wife and my seven year old. We’d use the bags we had and a bike trailer. It was important to me that we didn’t drive somewhere to start our adventure. Sure, driving would allow us to skip the city streets and the sprawl. But I wanted to avoid the darn car. The four-wheeled vehicle is new; call it a pandemic purchase. I was so proud to make it to middle age without having owned a motor vehicle. Now that we do, I’m trying to use that beast as little as possible. Also, I wanted to keep the trip simple, something for a weekend.
Since we live in the west end of Toronto, I looked farther west for our destination. Years ago, I pedalled to Bronte Creek Provincial Park and then onward to Niagara Falls to test my touring setup before a bigger ride. I liked the idea of all of us heading to the provincial park more than 40 km away, nestled in the suburbs. It would definitely be a challenge for the kid, but doable. Maybe. (Niagara would be for another time.)
I did a reconnaissance ride one morning. It was partly along roads that would be bright on any heatmap. As I looked at them not as routes for a road ride of a few hours, but for a long family trek, I saw that they were too intense with fast traffic. The Waterfront Trail Trail was
“My big idea was to go bikepacking right from our front door.”
an alternative, but it’s too noodly. It was the same with suburban streets, which aren’t designed for getting anywhere. The crescents and cul-desacs are for cars as they meander to their garages. The final run-in to the provincial park is on some really busy roads. The whole ride would be a slog for the kid. It wouldn’t be a fun ride for us. I was at least glad that I scoped things out. Still, I was bummed.
My wife has since come up with a better idea for a family bikepacking adventure this year that meets all our requirements. What makes it better? It’s less ambitious. And we think, more fun. Our friends live about 12 km away. The route there is mostly along trails, through parks and by playgrounds, perfect for breaks. There are a ton of places to stop for snacks. Our friends have a postage stamp-size backyard with room enough for us to pitch our tent. After only half a day of “directed” riding, the kiddo would probably tap into those energy reserves that activate when other kids are around: she’ll likely ride some more with our friends’ kids, just messing around.
I guess we should let our friends know we’re coming over.