The Great Canada Bicycle Tour 600km brevet ride report by Michael Charland

How not to Ride a Brevet – A Long-winded Tale


The Great Canadian Bicycle Ride Tour (GCBT) is a 600km bike ride in honour of the 140th anniversary of the original ride done done in 1883. For a great in-depth article see: It was held on May 6th and 7th of 2023.

The Day Before… 

I chose to ride from home to Burlington which was about 100km. Long term plans here are get use to riding consecutive long-distance rides. Ride went super smooth as I took it really, really easy. I road through Joe Sames Leisure Park which was really nice. I arrived at around 11:30AM after a quick stop getting food in Waterdown. Bike drop off was super smooth and the guys were super nice and I felt my bike was in excellent hands. I then walked around the VIA station looking for a bathroom to get changed and where to wait for the train. After that I found the other Randonneurs and we talked until the train arrived. Minor scare we heard last call for the train and the train hadn’t even arrived yet. Thankfully the train showed up slightly after that. The train ride went smooth, there was about a 30min delay in the middle of nowhere as we waited for another train to go the other way. We arrived in Windsor just after 5PM and all the bikes were setup out front. I found the group of guys I was sharing the Airbnb and we slow rolled over to it. It was on Riverside drive near the start of the ride. After that I wandered around Windsor and ate an awesome dinner at Nooch. Then back to the Airbnb to get off my feet and try to get to sleep. Slept like crap as cars are always driving on Riverside. Some racing in the middle of the night. It was really nice of the host to provide ear plugs, but at the same time a little worrisome.

The Day Of… 

I woke around 3:30 and couldn’t get back to sleep. So, I read on my tablet for a bit. I pushed my “I’ve read for at least 5min every day” to 1219 and then went for a short 10 min run to push that consecutive day streak to 495. It was nice and warm and quiet outside. Then tried to eat a couple of figs, bug my stomach felt like shit as I don’t normally eat at 4:10AM. I started to get ready and judging by my run and checking the weather forecast thought I could wear bib shorts, undershirt, jersey, and arm warmers. But when I was going to leave, I quickly realized it was much colder than I thought. Also, I remembered that it’s always colder in the countryside. So, I quickly changed into my bib pants and finotherm. I was last out of the house, locked it up, and rolled to the bag drop off. Which was absolutely fantastic. I wouldn’t have to ride with my pannier. The start was little down the trail and I was one of the first 10 people there. I got my brevet card, tried to talk to some people. I suck at starting conversations. Eventually a bunch more people showed up and we all pushed off just after 5AM. Nice and slowly on the trail for maybe 400m. When we got to the road the fast group started pushing the pace and I decided to go with them. This was a lot of fun rolling through the intersections working our way out of town. I eventually got dropped as I didn’t want to go too hard, too early, so I spun at my own pace as we left town. Eventually on some dark ass street a large group caught up to me and I talked to Brenda for a while which was super nice. We then missed a turn, went back then nearly went on the wrong road again, and finally found the correct road which ended in a bit of gravel, then teeny tiny bridge, which I snapped a picture of people crossing. After we crossed the bridge, nearly everyone, except John and I made the light. I was hoping to catch up to the group but then got stopped at the next light and was going to roll through but there were some cars coming so made quick stop, unfortunately I didn’t clearly communicate this to John and brushed by me. we were both fine. The light ended up turning really quickly and cars didn’t make it through. Then John and I road together for a while. A group of three of the guys I stayed with at the Airbnb caught up to us and we all rolled together. John did some great pulls and we rolled smoothly until we nearly missed a corner and I another rider accidentally slowly ran into me. We both fell to the group. He ended up being fine, but bent his hanger. Him and his friends fixed the hanger. I was really cool seeing them work as a team. I slightly bruised my hip and knee. Bike was fine. This all happened less than a km before the first check point.

First Check Point

John and I eventually got going again and rolled into the Tim Hortons first check point. We signed each other cards. By luck the big in front of us was just about to leave and I really wanted to ride with them. So left early. I had barely drank on ate anything and felt good. There was one guy in front of me and I was going to slow roll and let the group catch up, but I missed the first major and road maybe 0.5km the wrong way before realizing I was off track. I got back on course, then proceeeded to go off course again. Finally I found the correct road. I then road for a long while without seeing a sole. I eventually got to detour and couldn’t ride my bike through it. So I pushed my bike for a bit then rode the smooth sections. I stopped in Wheatley to refill and remembered stopping there last year during the Erie Oh 300. I got to the second control and the AirBnb guys showed up just after I got there. Somewhere between the checkpoints I lost my brevet card. I don’t know what happened to it. I think I put it with my cell phone and pulled out my once and maybe the card was attached and flew off. 

Second Check Point 

Thinking I was DQed because of the loss of my cards, I was already planning ways to get out of finishing. But the AirBnb guys said as long as I signed their card and took pictures with them it would be all good. But we had to stick together the rest of the day or at least meet up at checkpoints. I was low on liquids and had found the Blenheim Variety store to get refilled. After buying some Gatorade and real fruit gummies, my Garmin decided that it was time to fuck the directions and head straight to Goderich. I reloaded the route in which I had split before hand into two days and it did the same stupid thing. I saved my ride and reloaded the route, same problem. So now, not having directions I resorted to opening up the RideWithGPS app on my phone and it wouldn’t load it. I kept getting some bull shit error message like “Route could not be found” even though I had favourited it beforehand. Eventually after about 5 tries it downloaded and I went to start a ride, but you have to be a premium user to download the route and do turn by turn directions. I don’t have a phone mount on my bike so I signed up for premium. Luckily there was a free save day trial period. I finally got rolling again. The turn by turn directions worked great to get out Blenheim. “Turn left in 50 meters onto …“, and a couple of minutes later “In 73km turn right”. Not thinking much about it I rode into the headwind, trying to think of strategies to break down riding 73km at roughly 20km per hour. Stupid headwind. So I slowly chugged along, further thinking of ways to quit. I stopped a bunch of times, some times I just got off my bike and walked it along the side of the road. My ass was sore as my new bike (<100 km) wasn’t magically fitting me. I eventually caught up to the AirBnb guys and was feeling ok, but really fucking hating the headwind. I stupidly had a time I wanted to be in St Thomas by and was now hours behind that. Also RideWithGPS had ate through 25% of my battery in less then an hour. So I turned it off. I didn’t need directions for another 45km. But now what the fuck was I going to do. I stupidly packed my phone charge cable in my pannier, because I never have phone battery life issues. But today, podcasts had also ate my 23% of my battery, so I was under 50% and now even half way through the ride. Eventually Nick and Vytas came rolling by as I was not giving a fuck sitting on the side of the road and I rolled with them for a while. Super nice guys. The AirBnb guys caught us and we all rolled together until Wallacetown. Nick and Vytas kept going, the AirBnb guys made a quick stop, and I couldn’t give a fuck and stayed for a while. Then I rode to St Thomas, the wind had shifted so I started rolling a little better. I passed the AirBnb resting under a tree. It looked so nice, I was tempted to stop with them. But I wanted to get to St Thomas. I was trying to problem solve for a charge cable. I know there’s a Wal-Mart in St Thomas, but it’s on the other side of town. 

Third Check Point 

Eventually I got to St Thomas. Sat in the Tim Hortons and gave up. I phoned my wife, who phoned her parents who live by and they came and got me. I didn’t want to ride into the night, and stupidly thinking I still had a 100 miles to and judging my current speed I wouldn’t get to Goderich to well after midnight. I’ve only ever rode once over midnight and that’s when I started at 11AM and a fantastic ride. Not today. I texted Chappie that I was DNFing. We arranged when I could pick my bag up the next. The in-laws let me borrow one of their vehicles and I drove my sorry ass home. As I was leaving Vytas said “You could ride with us” and I had already quit by then, but am so thankful to those nice words. I ended up riding 219km in 9:55 of riding and 11:52 elapsed. 

Lessons Learned 

Problem: My Garmin route will fail at some time, what the fuck am I going to do about it? 

Solution: Split the route into per checkpoint, and make sure they are available in RideWithGPS. My guess is that there were to many points and it got fucked up someway. Less points hopefully will make this less likely to happen. Worst case here I pay for RideWithGPS and do turn by turn. 

Problem: Phone Battery Dying / Draining quicker than anticipated. 

Solution: I Had a fucking charge block but couldn’t charge my phone so always pack a charge cable. I’m also going to purchase a battery case that I could charge my phone and still listen to music / get directions and charge the battery case. 

Problem: Losing my Brevet Card 

Solution: I’ve done this twice now after a check point I get the card signed then put it my jersey pocket. I need to find a secure location ot put it. I think beside my charge block in the top tube bag would be the best place for it. 

Problem: Indoor Brevets != Outdoor Brevets 

Solution: Well duh. But there are things I can do to make them more similar. Indoor brevets are ultra convenient and I can help my family out when needed. When I rode the 400km, I make my son, and daughter breakfast and lunch, and helped out with dinner. I need to ride for more similar distances / times that outdoor brevets would have. For example the checkpoints where 70km apart, I should ride for that distance. And only have the food / drinks needed for that period. Also you know, ride outside. 

Problem: How much to eat? 

Solution: I should be eating roughly 60 grams of carbs per hour. I need to keep better track of what I’m eating on training rides to know better how much to eat. 

Problem: Worry about not getting to certain places at the pace I thought I could maintain? 

Solution: Plan on times based off of cut off times. So if I’m not ahead I’m not finishing. Also add an average speed field to my Garmin based off of elapsed time, not riding time. I just need to keep that number above 15km/h. 

Problem: Not having experienced afternoon / night rides 

Solution: Work a normal day, then go for a 100+ride. 

Problem: Not having my gear dialed in for the longer rides. 

Solution: I heard this advice before, but ignored it, gear up for a shorter ride with what you would need for a longer ride. I’ve done a bunch of 200’s with bare minimum on my light road bike so my time ended up being really fast. I even stretched this to a 400km. But for me this doesn’t scale. I don’t feel comfortable riding a 600km ultra light, so I’ll end up going much slower. 

Problem: My lips got chapped to hell 

Solution: Bring lip balm 

Problem: Not feeling like I can put out any power. 

Solution: Not racing an ultra the week before didn’t help as I get this feeling like I can’t / refuse to push. I’ve updated my training calendar to block out two weeks before and after events. I understand the recovery for running vs riding is different, but this will hopefully help me not over commit / set myself up for failure in the future. Also working on longer tempo intervals outside would be helpful. 

Problem: Hot feet 

Solution: New shoes? Meta tarsal pads? I’ve put 10k on my current shoes and still get hot feet on my road bike and touring bike. Not sure what to do here. 

Problem: Fucking tired 

Solution: Rest more, realize I have more time left. I gave up roughly 12 hours in, there was still 28 hours to go. I couldn’t have stayed in St Thomas for an hour or longer then continued on. I think if I do more rando rides the experiences will help with dealing with this. Also I was thinking about doing something like a ride as far as you can in a 24 hour period or align it cut off times. So I could spent a weekend riding as far as I could for 40 hours. 

Problem: Still going? 

Solution: This is a weird one as I had paid for my VIA ticket, and hotel rooms so I was quite committed, but I didn’t ended up doing the 200km outside it ended up snowing and be shit as cold, next one because of family commitments then the weather was absolutely shit the next weekend, and finally the last chance was too close (3 days) to my Ultra for me to ride. Yes I did ride two 200’s, one 300, and one 400 virtually, but as noted before these aren’t the same. 

Next Up? 

Unsure, might ride the 300km Simcoe Lake Loop on the 28th.

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