Millbrook Gravel Challenge : 62 km
Whatever you’re looking for in a mixed surface ride, this is what you’re looking for.
The inspiration for this ride happened when I took a wrong exit off the 115 this past winter, said to myself “Whoa! what a great road.” and kept on driving.
It incorporates bits of other rides we’ve done in the past but bundles them up in a new way that’s greater than the sum of its parts.
NOTE: You can absolutely ride this from Peterborough. The full distance would be about 110-115km depending on the exact route. The extra distance will mostly be on gently-graded, paved country roads and you skip the climb out of Millbrook.
ALSO NOTE: I made a small alteration to the route which adds 2km and a bit more climbing, but makes the last section of the ride even better.
ALSO NOTE +1: I stopped to take way to many pictures. That's why a 60k ride took 4 hours.
After any number of compaints about the Hwy 32 section from my riding partner (even though the shoulder is perfectly ridEable), I’ve altered the route to take advantage of an ATV trail misleadingly called Wilmont Rd. which takes you up to the very Western end of Sandy Hook Rd.
More gravel, more climbing. What more could you ask for?
The original route is still at the bottom of the page.
- Park at Needler’s Mill, in the community centre parking lot. This is just to the south of the very cute 1 block downtown that harkens back to the last century. The CBC regularly uses Millbrook as a filming location. Murdock Mysteries is one example.
- You start with the toughest of the 4 climbs out of town. The one to the west is actually rated as a cat 4 but that’s more due to its length than steepness.
- 7.8 km - Gravel section 1: Right on to 10th Line which exists mostly to provide access to Ganaraska Forest trailheads.
- Oak Hill Rd. provides a climb that actually spirals up a drumlin and then a beautiful view of hills and descent on terrible pavement.
- 25 km - Gravel section 2: Concession Rd 8, another trail access road. When I was plotting this out on RideWithGPS before the ride it showed a stiff little climb somehow in the middle of the 1.2 km distance with a 7% grade! Must be bad topo data I though. Nope. The climb is there and it’s tough!
Also, I picked exactly the right day to ride this, it’s the classic Ganaraska 2" of sand and was just moist enough from the rain a few days ago to be firm. It’ll be even more of a challenge when fully dry.
- You can see the downhill ski slopes of Brimacombe from the tops of the hills on the paved section of Concession Rd 8. You can actually ride right over the tops of the slopes on Ganaraska Road one concession to the south. Cycling Anciens know it as the Kirby Ski Hill and even the PBP veterans of Randonneurs Ontario mention it in hushed tones whenever it comes up as part of a brevet.
- As you cross the 115, you can see where they're putting the final touches on the 407 extension. Nothing good will come of this.
- The climb out of Leskard is on pavement, but it was so sand covered from the winter that it felt like gravel.
If you want to cut a bit of climbing and distance off the ride you could head north up Best Rd., 1 concession east, rather than descending all the way to the village crossroads.
- 36.1 km - Gravel section 3: It doesn’t look long, but the gravel up Best Rd. was the trickiest bit of the day due to the fresh grading and fact that every car in the county decided to drive up it at the same time as I was riding. WHO DRIVES UP THIS ROAD? It goes from nowhere to nowhere.
- Now comes the least pleasant part of the ride, Highway 35. Fortunately it’s only a few km and it’s usually not too busy. It has the Ontario standard 6" of pavement to the right of the white line. You can ride that if you’re feeling stubborn or stick to the large dirt shoulder (since, hopefully, you’re on a bike that doesn’t mind dirt).
I wish there was a way to cross the highway at the 35/115 junction and get on Wilcox Rd. which would be another great forest road section up to Boundry Rd. The Oak Ridges Trail crosses underneath the highway about 600m to the south, I’ll have to investigate that at some point.
- At the corner of Hwy 35 and Boundry Rd. (County 20) are the only services on the ride, a gas station convenience store and a chip truck.
- You could, as an alternative at this point, head east on Boundry Rd. cross the 115 turn north on Sandraska which becomes a forest road over to Glamorgan. DO NOT DO THIS ON A WEEKDAY OR YOU WILL SURELY DIE. This short section of road is the direct route to the 115 for gravel haulers from the nearby quarries on Boundry Rd. west of 35. The road is narrow, twisty, rises and falls, and is in all ways lovely but it encourages speeding like crazy. Bad enough when it’s just impatient GTAers heading to the cottage on the weekend.
UPDATE: Rode the section of Sandraska to Gamorgan early Aug 2019. Deep Ganaraska sand & rutted ATV tracks. Barely rideable on 38 slicks with much roostertailing. Going north up Porter to Famers and east on Farmers to Glamorgan is much nicer.
- 42.8 km - Gravel section 4: Sandy Hook Rd. is great. It’s sandy and there’s a hook at the bottom. It's a shame that the name has become synonymous with an American mass shooting. Sigh... If you're tired of dirt, just continue along John St. into Pontypool and head down Pontypool Rd.
- I took 21 back into Millbrook, it was getting late, cloudy and cold, but suggest that if your legs and the weather agree that you head south on Glamorgan Rd. to Zion Line, east to Carveth Drive and then north to Millbrook. Zion is a great road. Nothing wrong with 21, but Zion is just that much nicer,
- The Pastry Peddler in Millbrook is a good place to have post-ride food/beverage. They’re not just cycling friendly, they’re cycling passionate. Who else would have a bike parking corral right out front in a tiny little hamlet?