2016 Summer Adventure? A new series for CMG, we’ll be focusing on the ever popular motorcycle adventure genre with a calendar of events, coverage of some major rallies across Canada and some adventure related side projects for shits and giggles.
Got an adventure motorcycle or interested in what this segment of the motorized two-wheel market is all about? Join us for the Summer Adventure of 2016 and we’ll get you hooked up. Braaaaaaap!
Spring couldn’t seem further from reality. I’d pulled over at a nondescript gas station on Ontario’s 401 as my 2015 Fall tour turned into an early winter freeze fest. That’s when I met a fellow freezing motorcyclist Nicolas Lemieux, and that’s when I was invited to ride La Classique du Printemps – the Spring Classic to me and you.
Nicolas is part of the Quebec Adventure forum RidAventure, that boasts a healthy membership and has grown beyond just the organizing of small group rides (though they still do, and often) to an annual one-day bash, simply known as La Classique.
This year La Classique celebrated its 10th anniversary and has blossomed from an impressive 50+ riders in its inaugural year to a massive 360 riders ten years later. Unlike my first meeting with Nicolas, the weather on this early May Saturday was bordering on summer-like, as we pulled into the kick-off location of X-Town, a purpose-built motocross track just north of Montreal.
I’d persuaded my regular adventure side-kick and Montreal resident Jim Vernon to come along with his new Honda CFR250L, with Husqvarna Canada graciously lending me its new 701 dualie for the occasion.
In order to get everyone signed in and ready to ride, organizers asked that everyone be there by 6:45 AM. When you enter the event, you are handed a waiver to sign and then directed to the X-Town parking lot where painted lines with each group’s number signify where to line up.
Now for some coffee and donuts, a perusal of the sponsor’s tents, the rider meeting (English and French) and (an hour or so later) the off.
I must admit, I was a little worried after the first hour consisted of easy gravel and paved roads. I was feeling a little out of place on the Husqvarna 701 in a group that included a big 1150 GS, Super Tenere and a V-Strom 650. But just when I was about to ask if I could switch to a harder group, we turned off pavement and hit a steep and rocky hill climb.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned with adventure riding, it’s to let others go first and stay back just in case they come a cropper. And the Super Tenere and V-Strom did just that, dancing around like a drunken Irishman before inevitable spinning out and succumbing to the downward pull of gravity. Best route option highlighted thanks to the misery of others, the 701 simply trotted up to the top like an arrogant cat.
I parked at the top and walked back down to help others and get a few crash shots in the interests of good journalism. The hill, it turned out, became a popular spot for watching big adventure bikes get a little beaten up, and I decided that group C was actually about right for me. From here till lunch we spent more time in the trails with some deep sand and water holes to cross for a bit of added spice.
Lunch was held at a local paintball business with a packed lunch provided and entertainment via a slow race, barrel run and a time trail through a mud hole. There was no pressure to partake (I didn’t) but a few brave souls offered up their pride to entertain the masses.
Post lunch I opted to push in behind the leader so that I could let the 701 stretch its legs. It was a good thing as we immediately hit a series of mudholes, a water crossing and a bit of a traffic jam. Because of the number of riders and the criss-crossing of routes, it wasn’t uncommon to have spots where things bottlenecked – in both directions. I actually quite enjoyed this as big bikes struggled to get across the obvious crossing points and swarms of smaller dualies buzzed around them, launching themselves into whatever spaces were left unclogged like a mass of suicidal lemmings.
The afternoon run proved to be more adventurous, as we hit the Jackrabbit trail (something of an iconic trail judging by the reverence given to it by other riders) and the group leader offered Jim and I to go ahead and let loose a little. We did and the sinuous trails though prime Quebec woodland was a treat … for most.
It was in here that we came across our first casualty, I rider on a KLR650 who had managed to bottom out his bike hard enough in a washout to smash in his bashplate and shatter the KLR’s crankcase. A sequence of events that inevitably tossed the rider hard onto the ground as he was receiving medical attention on the trailside before being carted off in a Jeep that happened to be passing by.
The unfortunate rider appeared to be in good spirits considering, but it served as a timely reminder that as the day gets late, your perceived skill level rises in tune with your fatigue level which makes for some potentially grievous moments.
Our group managed to survive relatively intact, save for perhaps the determined Monsieur Fortier and his V-Strom 650. Despite being one group off bike suitability he kept on slogging though, being completely submersed by one mud hole (rider and all), he kept on ticking to the end, a feat that should surely be eligible for some kind of CMG award if we were organized enough to offer such a thing.
The ride ended at the TopShot bar in Lachute, which was big enough to hold 360 riders, offering dinner and beer as well as a draw for $20,000 worth of donated prizes, including an adventure trip to Guatemala. The riders were stoked, the tales tall and the standing ovation for the organizing committee proof of a job well done.
A very well-organized and executed event. It’s no mean feat organizing any event, never mind one of this proportions, and all with volunteers. One of the organizing committee estimated that they put in about 400 hours of volunteered time to make this event come into fruition and it shows.
The efforts are appreciated by the riders and results in a good sense of camaraderie and fun. It is a Quebec event and so majority French, but there is an offshoot rider’s meeting for English-speaking riders (there was about 20 of us) and I never felt excluded with my pathetic knowledge of the French language (though it did help to have a bilingual Jim on tap).
The route was impressive and takes in the north shore of the Ottawa River Valley between Mirabel and Hawkesbury, and up to St Jovite at the north end. Terrain is rocky with some sandy sections and some mud/water thrown in for added fun. It would be nice to cut out the first hour or so of pavement and to be able to start and end the rally at the same locale but these things are always much harder to arrange than they appear and was a minor distraction from a very good event.
Although the organizers allow riders to register their own groups, the emphasis is to mix and match riders to encourage meeting new friends and push you out of your comfort zone. This is where I would have prefered to have had a little more room. Though I appreciate and commend the sentiment, our group was quite varied with a Yamaha Super Tenere and a Suzuki V-Strom 650 finding it a bit more of a challenge.
Don’t get me wrong, hats off to the fellows for being able to navigate through the testing course, but we spent a lot of time getting through mud and rocky hill climbs and stopping for everyone to catch up. Though this adds to the sociability aspect, I found it hard to get into a groove and the 701 spent a chunk of the day chomping at the bit to pick up the pace.
If you’re like me, then it may be worth trying to get your own team together so you can set your own pace, but for the solo rider that would like to engage with new riders, the set up is a great way to enable this. Just don’t overestimate your own or your bike’s ability as the middle of the range C route had some decent challenges incorporated into it.
The trouble the organizers will have going forward is how to accommodate the expanding number of riders wanting to partake in this excellent event.
La Classique DNA
Dates: One day event in early May (7th of May in 2016)
Location: Starts at X-Town Motocross Centre, St-Jerome, Quebec, and ends in Lachute.
Skill level: Caters from beginner to pro
Bike requirements: depends on the level you choose, but if it involves dirt then you should have bike bash protection and 50:50 tires
Terrain: There were mud holes, rocky hill climbs and water crossings on our ride (level C).
Distance: Between 165 and 205 Km depending on difficulty level
Registration: Open in February but is usually sold out within three weeks.
Details: Although it’s a one-day event, a low entry fee and its proximity to Montreal makes it a very accessible event for the seasoned and newbie adventurist. Riders are split up into teams of 6-8 with the ability to register a team of friends or to be placed in a team of riders of similar skill with a volunteer lead and sweep rider.
There are several route options ranging from A to E, with A being the most challenging and E being a mix of gravel and pavement. The route is by GPS, starting at X-Town and finishing in Laval, about 40 km to the east. Coffee and donuts are provided at the start with a packed lunch at the lunch stop. Dinner is available at the post-ride banquet for an additional fee.
There is a big emphasis on the event being a good day’s ride with friends and not a race, which seems to be the case. It also caters to and attracts a large cross-section of adventurists, from the hardcore KTM rider to casual V-Stromist.
The event does attract a few sponsors, the main one being Montreal’s Moto Internationale dealership, and you are encouraged to browse their booths that are set up at the starting location.
Thanks: to the event’s organizing committee of Marc Chartrand, Dominic Salvail (also our group’s leader), Michel Lévesque, Bernard Pouliot and Nicolas « Chuck » Lemieux. Also to Richard Ouellet who was the sweep for our group.