MANITOULIN – A steady stream of cyclists flowed across the ramp leading from the stern of the MS Chi-Cheemaun and onto the lawn beside the ferry’s berth, 204 strong. Hailing from across the province, the eclectic crowd crossed the full gamut of cyclists—from the carbon fibre framed gazillion speed ultralights to your good old Canadian Tire special steel framed 12-speeds harkening back to an almost forgotten era in cycling.
“We are sold out,” announced a beaming Maja Mielonen, the Manitoulin Island Cycling Advocate organizer who, along with her partner Guy Nielen, organize the Passage Ride, an annual cycling tour of Manitoulin.
Ms. Mielonen pointed to the number of vehicles travelling off the ferry bearing loaded bicycle carriers. “Look at that,” she beamed. “These aren’t even part of our Passage Ride. Manitoulin is becoming known for its great cycling opportunities.”
“Welcome to great riding on Manitoulin Island,” said Ms. Mielonen in greeting the cyclists. She noted that the cyclists would be enjoying “great food, great music, warm camaraderie and lasting friendships during our special two-day fully supported ride.”
The Passage Ride includes a free ferry ride for the cyclist and their bicycle, courtesy of the Owen Sound Transportation Company and the Chi-Cheemaun, ride insurance, a Saturday night dinner with live entertainment and Sunday lunch. The two-day full ride includes mechanical support, support stations with light snacks and three route options each day.
“Many accommodations partner with MICA on the Passage Ride and offer free luggage shuttle for their clients participating on this ride,” noted Ms. Mielonen.
The Passage Ride begins at 11:15 am at the ferry docks in South Baymouth and ends on the first day in Little Current at the Manitoulin Brewery on Highway 6 for post ride snack. The first day ends with dinner and live music and dance at the Little Current Recreation Centre at 7 pm.
The second day’s ride starts at the Little Current Recreation Centre and ends at the ferry docks, with the ferry departing at 3:50 pm.
“We have been members ever since it began,” said Joyce Varieur of Big Lake, who along with her husband Jack were their to greet the passengers as they arrived. “It just blows my mind how much effort that Maja and Guy put into bringing and running this event every year. This is a very happy bunch of people and they bring so much benefit to the Island. From the folks at the Tehkummah Triangle Club and the hall, Garden’s Gate, everyone pulls out the stops to help make the Passage Ride a success.”
“I didn’t have the proper gear,” lamented Mark Schlote, father of Expositor scribe Warren Schlote who took the opportunity of the Passage Ride to tour the communities where his son is now working. “I brought a 35-year old CCM 12-speed with a lovely patina of rust on the gear selectors.” Mr. Schlote noted that despite a number of minor breakdowns, the mechanical support team backstopping the Passage Ride soon had him up and running again.
Mr. Schlote said he learned there were three things that would make the ride a bit more fun for him. “Number one would be a graphite bike, number two would be a greater selection of gears and number three would be biking shoes with clips on the pedals,” he said. “I think cycling like this is very much a social event, but it is hard to socialize if everyone else is pulling ahead of you by two kilometres every time your chain falls off.” Did that happen a lot? “Yes, I think it happened to me about seven times,” he said. But was it fun anyway? “Absolutely,” he said.
“Guy was incredible and was there to help anyone who broke down,” he said. “He would put in a call to Pat and her mobile repair station and she would be there straight away.”
So will he come on the Passage Ride again? “When I do I will be sure to bring someone with me,” he said. “I probably will.”
The MICA website located at www.ManitoulinCycling.com is a great resource for anyone considering cycling on Manitoulin, whether with the Passage Ride or cycling solo, and the new ExploreManitoulin.ca website holds a wealth of information for anyone visiting the Island.