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Ready to Crush Gravel? Or Let Gravel Crush You?

Taking the scenic route is part and parcel of the BT700 circuit of central Ontario. [submitted]

An off-road adventure awaits riders at the upcoming BT700 Bikepacking, which kicks off in St. Jacobs in just two weeks. A massive tour of the Ontario countryside, the BT700 will take riders through the green places of Ontario along a pre-prepared route that is not for the faint of heart.

The 715-km route was put together by organizer and Waterloo resident Matthew Kadey, with an eye towards taking riders off the beaten path.

“In the last couple years, I’ve been scouting and riding more of the trails and gravel roads in Southwestern Ontario, and decided to put together this big loop that people can ride,” says Kadey. The event is loosely structured, with riders able to join in at their leisure, or download the map and save it for another day.

“People can ride it at any time of year they like. It just happens that in July there’s kind of one big event where a bunch of riders are going to be leaving at the same time to try to tackle the route,” says Kadey. “It’s kind of cool, because it brings people from outside the area to parts of Woolwich Township that’s got some really nice riding.”

Riders will be taking their marks in St. Jacobs, before embarking on a tour that will take riders to the northern points of Port Elgin, Owen Sound and Meaford, and deep into the green interior in between. Even lifelong Ontario residents may be surprised by the places they discover as the route rolls through areas like Paisley, Walkerton, Flesherton, Mulmur, Mono and Palgrave.

The vast majority of the route is along trails and gravel, with the odd sliver of pavement connecting a few places along the way.

“I did a lot of scouting missions here and further up north… It took a lot of work to try to find out how to link all these gravel roads and trails and I guess what we’d call road allowances, or unassumed roads,” says Kadey. “As soon I was able to piece those all together, I just came up with the route website, and just started promoting it.”

In creating his off-road adventure, Kadey looked out for several elements, including natural beauty, interesting new towns and villages, and challenges that riders could be eased into. The earlier sections of the BT700 will take riders along mostly flat sections, allowing them to break in a bit before dialing up the difficulty with more challenging sections.

“Some people have already tried the route and say it’s really beautiful and really challenging,” he notes.

Kadey is a keen cyclist and off-roader, and says he was motivated to organize the event to share these seldom travelled trails with others. So last year, he began to put his plan into action.

“I realized that these types of tours and routes, like the off-road, there weren’t really anything in Ontario too much, or eastern Canada even,” he says. “It’s pretty much by Western North America. So I really wanted to put something together that would give people who live in southern Ontario something close to home that they could try as well.

“Not a lot of people have the effort or the time or stamina to put together a 715-km that doesn’t use too many paved roads, he says with laugh. So I thought I had a bit of time to do that, so that’s what I set forth to do. The feedback so far has been amazing. People are really happy to have something like this.”

The event is free to participate in, with riders being responsible for their own safety and lodgings. Kadey encourages participants to register, however, as he has created lists of places to stay along the route that he is willing to share. The tour can take between three to seven days depending on participants’ pace, so the list gives several recommendations where riders can stop and rest.

The BT700 – which stands for ‘Butter Tart 700’, for the delicious dessert that riders will see on offer along the way – departs from Block Three Brewing in St. Jacobs on Sunday, July 14. Riders can register online at www.bt700.ca.

But why butter tarts? Kadey explains: “I want a rallying point around this route, so I thought the butter tart,” he says. “Nowadays it seems so ubiquitous: any bakery or country store you go to along the route, it’s like butter tart, butter tart, butter tart. So it’s kind of a natural thing to rally around.

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