This is a primarily offroad, unofficial, self-supported bikepacking ride that begins and ends in the Ontario village of St. Jacob’s, the heart of provinces Mennonite country. There is no registration (other than on the website), no support and no prizes – it is simply a ride where a group of bikepackers will gather together on the summer solstice to explore some of the most exciting riding terrain in the region. In an attempt to minimize the amount of time riders spend with the rubber side down on pavement, the route utilizes roughly 85% unpaved surfaces. It should be considered a challenging mixed surface route and more mountain bike oriented than a pure gravel ride. Highlights include grand views in escarpment country, riding the shoreline of sunny Lake Huron, photogenic waterfalls, plenty of backcountry-style riding and all the butter tarts you can stomach. Last season it took riders between 3 to 6 days to complete the route – some were “racing” against the clock and some were simply leisurely touring to soak up the scenery. There are plenty of accommodation, re-supply points and other services including aid stations along the route. But don’t let the fairly modest overall elevation gain – about 8,000 meters – fool you. There are plenty of steep sections that will challenge even the fittest of riders.
There is also the opportunity to take on an even bigger challenge by signing up for the 1,115km BT XL which combines the BT 700 with the Grand Nith Ramble (GNR) bikepacking route that includes a bounty of trails along the alluring Grand and Nith rivers. Both routes start and finish in the same location.
You can also stay up to date with the event on the Facebook page.
Make sure to check out Trevor Browne’s and Taryn Davis event recaps from the 2019 and 2020 Grand Departs, respectively, which you can check out here and here, and includes a selection of photos so you can get a sense of the terrain that awaits riders.