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Composing the Log Driver’s Waltz: A canvas for the cycling community

Ottawa Valley bikepacking route focuses on more welcoming approach to long-distance cycling

Log Driver's Waltz Photo by: Fall colours at the Transoutaouais Climb summit. Photo: Parham Momtahan

When Eric Betteridge and Jen Adams, creators of the Log Driver’s Waltz, decided to chart a bikepacking route in their backyard, they had a different audience in mind than the usual bikepacking crowd. In a discipline where routes usually sell themselves on remoteness, wildness and ruggedness, Betteridge and Adams make a point of the route’s proximity to Ottawa, the national capital.

“The community side of this is huge,” says Betteridge. “Not only are riders connecting with other riders, but riders and residents are interacting in positive and meaningful ways. The route is definitely providing some economic support to the communities we go through.”

“After we put up the route on our website, some of our friends told us they would love to try bikepacking. Some also told us they could never do an 800 km route so we began sharing files of shorter more accessible routes with them.” Realizing that the 2-4 day routes are an important step in introducing people to the sport Adams and Betteridge began adding these routes to the website. As Adams says, “Each route has an individual flavour and we were excited to include some of our favourite roads and trails that we couldn’t include in the Log Driver’s Waltz.”

That’s not to say the Log Driver’s Waltz isn’t a proper bikepacking route, by any measure. It dances an 800-km path through the Ottawa Valley and Outaouais region, taking in rural and remote areas on both sides of the Ontario-Quebec border. Some parts of the route are remote enough that there is no cell service so riders need to be prepared and self-sufficient.

While you can ride the LDW in one go, and as fast as you like, the route is easy to break up into sections.

“We’re very fortunate to have incredible wilderness and rural areas within riding distance of downtown Ottawa,” Adams says, adding that the route offers very different terrain and experiences on each side of the Ottawa River.

Log Driver's Waltz
Log Driver’s Waltz crosses the Alexandra Bridge into Ottawa. How many bikepacking routes start riding distance from a nations capital?

Homegrown adventure

Both Betteridge and Adams grew up in the Ottawa Valley riding bikes. The inspiration to create a route of their own was sparked when the pair rode the BT 700.

“When we were coming back from that, we realized we could do that kind of thing in our own backyard. We have amazing roads, trails, track and scenery that we know really well,” says Betteridge. “Jen has family on both sides of the river, so we’ve been doing a lot of cycling here for decades and we have extensive knowledge. We realized we had a route of our own already.”

From that realization, the duo set out detailing the route in a way that would enable the type of community they wanted to see in the bikepacking world.

“It was a creative endeavor to put the route together and to build the community around that” says Adams. “Eric often describes it as painting a canvas for riders. You put a route out there and invite people to ride it and they create their own experiences around that.”

Log Driver's Waltz
Rural scenery in the Lanark Highlands. Photo: Eric Betteridge

“The Slowest Known Time” and a community built on stories

While most routes reward riders that push themselves to achieve a Fastest Known Time (FKT), Log Driver’s Waltz celebrates many different ways of experiencing the route. The LDW website has sections for the Gold Award, riders that complete the whole route and their time, but also Silver, Bronze, Tourer and Half awards. Betteridge and Adams even offer suggestions for how to break up the route for shorter 3-4 day or weekend trips.

It’s the “Stories from the Saddle” section that perhaps best captures what kind of cycling community the duo had in mind as they composed the LDW route. There, riders that have taken on all or part of the route can share their experience from the trail and what it meant to them.

Among those stories is Gene Villeneuve’s “Slowest Known Time.” When Villeneuve and a friend set out to ride the route in 2021, they couldn’t complete the route as planned. But, across 87 days (six riding days), Villeneuve pieced together the entire Log Driver’s Waltz and, along the way, reconnected with a part of cycling he’d been missing.

“Gene’s actually a friend of ours now. He’s a big booster of the route,” says Betteridge. “He’s looking forward to riding it again and not having the slowest known time. But he also provided us with a really good example of what touring the route meant. Going out and doing the route in sections and enjoying it. It’s not necessarily about hammering the whole time.”

Log Driver's Waltz
Morning frost in Mont-Ste.-Marie, Que.

The first Grand Depart

While the Log Driver’s Waltz officially opened two years ago now, this summer will mark the first Grand Depart. While word of the route has been spreading naturally, its creators are looking forward to having a more in-person community event.

“We have over 40 people signed up for the Grand Depart right now,” says Betteridge. “We’ve already had people, just in their driveways, asking us if we’re riding the whole route.  So if there’s this kind of group of people riding the route over a week, more people are sure to notice.”

Most are from Ontario, but the first Log Driver’s Waltz (and 350-km L’EGG) Grand Depart includes riders from B.C., Vermont and as far away as Australia and Costa Rica. Like the Tour Divide Grand Depart this event is inspired by, and which Betteridge and Adams are riding together this year, some riders are headed to LDW planning FKT attempts. Others are just looking to complete the sizeable adventure in good company.

Riders will set out together on August 20 from Almonte, Ont. before spreading out at their own pace.

Log Driver's Waltz
Adams traverses a grassy singletrack section in Gatineau Park. Photo: Eric Betteridge

Building community and connections beyond the bike

While the Grand Depart will, the pair hopes, be a gathering of the cycling community, the Log Driver’s Waltz is already attracting positive attention from locals along the route. That, Adams says, was part of the creative process.

“We wanted the route to create enough activity that we start seeing some economic injection into some of these rural communities, to help support the livelihoods around the Ottawa Valley,” Adams says.

Betteridge and Adams are already starting to get feedback from locals along the route, both online and in person. Shops and stores are posting about the route and tagging the Log Driver’s Waltz on Instagram and they’ve had a few local papers have phoned to find out more about the new loaded-up cyclists rolling through town.

“We have had some really good interactions with campgrounds along the route that have been accommodating cyclists,” says Adams, adding that they expect that to increase as the province opens up from two years of restrictions.

“We know there’s at least one bed and breakfast seeing riders,” Betteridge ads with a laugh, “It’s actually one we’ve stayed at. The second time we were there, they told us they’d been full for the last eight days. At least one person every one of those days was riding the Log Driver’s Waltz.”

Riders are also, as bikepackers will do, re-supplying in the small towns along the way. Especially when they’re taking their time on the full 800-km route.

“In a lot of these smaller communities there will be a combined corner store and gas station and that’s it. Everyone has to stop there. Then there might be an Air B’n’B down the road.”

Betteridge and Adams may be building the Log Driver’s Waltz with a grander audience in mind, but they’re also happy for the word to spread naturally, and just to see others enjoying the route.

“Last year we had the opportunity to ride the route a couple of times,” says Betteridge. “One time we were following someone’s tire tracks as we were riding. We had never had that before, where we’re going along and where we need to turn the tracks turn too. It was so cool.”

The first official Grand Depart for the Log Driver’s Waltz and shorter L’EGGs routes takes place on August 20, 2022. It will leave from Almonte/Mississippi Mills, Ont. To sign up or for more route information, see the Log Driver’s Waltz route page.