2020 Ontario Randonneurs O-12 Award by Ken Jobba

When I first read of the new “Ontario Randonneurs O-12 Award” in the 2020 Award Dinner Blog, I thought that it was a worthy challenge.  And set my mind to completing the O-12 with all rides in Ontario. 

I was not completely naive about this goal.  I had completed the Frosty 200 from Tillsonburg in January 2018, so I had some experience and confidence about completing mid-winter 200km rides. 

Fortunate for me, Timothy Ormond had requested a Permanent, The Gentle Start 200, for the end of January.  It would be great to have someone to ride with.  Unfortunately, Tim had to bail out at the last minute due to family priority, but, undaunted, I set out from Oakville in late January on the first of my O-12 rides.  It was below freezing, but the roads were dry.  Two memories stand out.  When I reached St. George, my toes were freezing cold even though I was wearing warm wool socks and neoprene booties.  I recalled reading about wrapping toes in aluminum foil to preserve some heat.  So when I stopped at a St. George sandwich shop, they obliged me with some aluminum foil which really did help.  And my second memory of this ride was stopping at The Trail Eatery for a delicious, sugar loaded, slice of pecan pie that got me to the finish. 

Tim and I got together to ride The Six Nations 200 Permanent in February.  It was very cold, and we had to battle a very strong wind riding west to St. George.  I had learned from my January experience about cold toes, so I had inserted some Toe Warmers in my cycling shoes.  They made all the difference.  And I had brought some extras with me that I was happy to give to Tim when his toes were going numb with cold.  Still a bone chilling trek until we made it to St. George.  We stopped into the re-named Tansley’s Coffee Emporium to get warmed up knowing that we would soon be turning around in Paris with the wind at our backs.  We actually felt reasonably warm with bright sunshine and no longer fighting the wind heading back to Oakville. Don’t know that I would have completed this ride without Tim. We finished with broad smiles.

Ken and Tim, still smiling at the end of a very cold 200k in February

COVID-19 reared its ugly head in March, and the OCA imposed ride restrictions.  I chose to ride the Grand River 200 as the route passed through Ancaster, where I live, on both the out bound and in bound legs.  With permanents, we have the latitude to start/end anywhere along the route.  So I started the ride in  Ancaster and stopped again at my home mid-ride for food and drink avoiding stops anywhere else.

COVID-19 precluded any sanctioned rides in April and May, but I wanted to continue my string of monthly 200’s.  In April I cycled 200km on my rollers.  But I didn’t think that really qualified, as the rollers offer little resistance – I averaged 40km/h.  Being hard headed, I did another 200km on my trainer. That was a worthy effort.   And in May, I rode an unsanctioned 200km ride from my home on a route that I have proposed, The Grimsby Circle 200.  The thing I remember about that ride was dense fog for about 30km in the early morning.

Finally in June, we could again resume sanctioned rides but with appropriate restrictions.   I cycled the Niagara Plateau 200 out of Brantford.  It’s a flat, out and back route to Port Colborne with no places to refuel on the route.  Otherwise a nice ride, save for the extended, drenching rain on the last half of the return leg. Still, finished a happy cyclist.

July was my favourite ride of the year.  And the hottest.  A scorcher.  Much Ado About Nothing out of London.  I had ridden this route a couple of times before with the Huron Chapter to take in a play at the Stratford Festival.  Good memories.  I carried a picnic lunch that I enjoyed at the park surrounding the Festival Theatre in Stratford.   Despite an early start, there was no avoiding the heat.  The heat max’d out at 39C on my bike computer.  Drank lots of fluids.  Kept the pedals turning.  And made it back to London before the late afternoon thunderstorms.

Ken in a July scorcher

By mid-year, I determined that I did not want to repeat any routes on my quest for the O-12.  August was Tour of the Valleys.  For September, I chose St. Thomas-Paris-St. Thomas except that I started in Paris which is closer to home.  I was almost completing a 200’s in under 8h’s, and set out with that objective in mind. Just kept rolling, except for the one and only flat I got on the way back to Paris.  No mind, still finished in just over 7-1/2h’s.  Best ever time.  Surprised myself.

Rode another sub-8h permanent in October – Frosty 200.  Normally starts in Tillsonburg but I began the ride in Port Dover which is closer to home.  Nice riding in Norfolk & Oxford Counties and along the roads that skirt the Lake Erie shoreline back to Port Dover. 

Only two left to go, but weather could start to become a real impediment to finishing.  No bother, I was determined now to get the O-12 one way or another.  Fortunate for some reasonable conditions for the Niagara Ramble in November.   On the morning of the December ride, Castle 200, I wondered if I ought to postpone.  There had been snow the previous day.  And very strong winds were forecast, but at least the temperatures would be above freezing for most of the ride. And I knew that weather was likely to get worse later in the month.  So I set off prepared for a long day in the saddle.  I encountered some snow, slush and icy roads on the escarpment above Grimsby.  Bike handling skills from trying out cyclocross in the last few years were put to use.  And those winds – sustained at 40km/h with gusts up to 70.  Felt like I was hardly moving at times going south to Port Colborne.  Blown from there to Fort Erie, but then virtually no respite from the energy-sapping wind until the last northbound leg down back to Grimsby.  Even got blown off the road once by a strong gust, but manage to stay upright.  Otherwise, just a tough slog but happy to endure with the end of the O-12 at hand.

Did it!  Set out to complete the O-12 with an All Ontario set of different routes.  Never had in mind that all but one ride would be solo, but that’s how it worked out with COVID-19 restrictions.  Keys to success: Determination.  Perseverance.  And most important, Love & Enjoyment of Cycling. Thanks to Randonneurs Ontario for setting this challenge.  Great motivation in the year of COVID19.

We don’t have any patches for the O-12, so here is a virtual one. (I used the moon to signify months) Congrats Ken!

Imperial Rouge — a New 161km populaire in the Toronto Chapter

Still a little snow as you head out of Toronto (just south of Taunton/Steeles Ave)

Imperial Rouge is a new populaire route for the Toronto Chapter. It is Imperial because it is 100 miles (an imperial century) and it is Rouge because it starts at Rouge Hill GO Station. I created this route with the collaboration of Stephen Jones, Erin Marchak, Bob McLeod, Peter Leiss, and Dave Thompson. Erin can take credit for the great name. A big thanks to them for their input, knowhow, and help.

My purpose in designing this route was to offer a shorter non-brevet route to RO newcomers so that they can build up to the 200km distance by testing their abilities on a 100 mile or 161km ride. Who knows? Maybe it can serve as a conduit for attracting new people: 100 miles is a major goal for a lot of cyclists. And since it is a populaire, there is no time limit and there are no controls. You can go as fast as you are able or as slow as you want. The ride start is located in Toronto’s east end and is easily accessible by car and by public transit. 

Here is the link to the route on RWGPS.

I wanted to make sure I put together a good route before unveiling it to the club, so on 6 April 2019 I did the Imperial Rouge as a permanent. Below follows my ride report. Hopefully it will inspire more people to ride it this season. I’d like to ride it again. Maybe we can ride it together.

IMPERIAL ROUGE / PERMANENT OF 6 APRIL 2019 – RIDE REPORT

Imperial Rouge heads north over the Oak Ridges Moraine and then dips into the marshes just to the south of Lake Simcoe. It then makes its way back over the Moraine via Uxbridge and then descends to the shore of Lake Ontario.


The route finds a safe way to cross the 401. The trade-off is some confusing cues on RWGPS when you cross the Rouge River, so study the map at the beginning and ending of the route. To me, it seems worth a little confusion if that means crossing the 401 without worrying about traffic, especially at the end of the ride when traffic will be heavier and members will be tired.

Detail of the safe but confusing way across the 401 from Rouge Hill GO

The route goes north and comes pretty close to Stouffville. You can easily peel off the route and go into town, which is what I did. On 6 April it was chilly. I rode into Red Bulb, a popular destination for cyclists, to warm my hands and toes.

If you don’t want to stop in Stouffville, another great place to stop for a break is in Goodwood at Annina’s Bakeshop. When the weather is nice, Annina’s is ideal because she has rows of picnic tables and lots of racks for hanging bicycles. It is another cyclist friendly stop and can be very busy.

After Goodwood, the route follows quiet back roads all the way up to Zephyr where there are limited supplies. After that, it carries on to Udora, a well-used control location on some of our brevets. There is nothing between Zephyr and Udora in terms of stops for food and water, so plan ahead.

Quiet country roads between Goodwood and Zephyr
Marshy landscapes between Zephyr and Udora.

At the 98km mark, the route dips into Uxbridge. The perfect place to stop for lunch. Lots of options. I had my lunch at Nexus Café on Brock. Handmade gelato… yes, it was good, despite the cold weather.

After Uxbridge, Imperial Rouge just gets more and more fun. It follows the long, gentle descent down the Marsh Hill and Ashburn Roads towards Lake Ontario. On the day I rode, I also happened to have a tail wind. It made for some fast and easy riding.

Unfortunately, this route has one significant hazard. It is a 400m stretch at the 126km mark – it begins at the intersection of Lake Ridge and Columbus Roads. Lake Ridge Road feeds onto the 407 and can be very busy. It also has barely any shoulder. 400m is not very long, but please exercise caution. When designing the route, I found it was difficult to come this way without using Lake Ridge Road. The concessions just don’t line up, running east and west. Many of them are dirt too. Columbus seems to me the best way, but if someone finds something better, by all means, let’s improve this part of the route.

Detail of hazard along Lake Ridge Road

Eventually you will make your way onto Whitevale Road, which is quiet (on weekends) because a part of it is closed to cars for construction. I suspect it is very busy with large construction vehicles on weekdays so Imperial Rouge might not be suitable for a weekday permanent. Also, there is a physical barrier just before entering the village of Whitevale. Cars can’t get past it, but cyclists can walk their bikes around it.

From there the route retraces its steps all the way back to Rouge Hill.

In all, it’s a great route. The roads have one or two bumpy sections, but generally they have a very good surface quality. Other than the 400m stretch on Lake Ridge Road, the roads are fairly quiet.

One of the bumpy road sections as you enter Zephyr

If anyone wants to try this as a permanent and has any questions, don’t hesitate to leave a comment here or contact me via the RO Facebook group. I will probably do it as a permanent again and I will advertise it when I set a date.

You might make some friends along the way.