The 2012 Gran Fondo Highwood Pass  Photo by Pam Doyle
The 2012 Gran Fondo Highwood Pass Photo by Pam Doyle

You say you like to bike, but just how much and how far? Find out what you’re made of with these long-distance events that will test your endurance and push you to your limits. Do you enjoy climbing? Do we have some rides for you. How about putting on the miles? You can do that as well. In fact, we have something for every taste here among Canada’s top endurance events. The one thing they all have in common is they’re guaranteed to make you suffer.

24 Hours of Light
Yukon / June 22-23
Distance: Roughly 12 to 13 km per lap
Duration: 24-hour race
Bike of choice: Mountain
Mid-ride fuel: Chili or soup provided at
midnight; burritos in the morning
Swag: Hats, shirts, socks, water bottles
and backpacks

This 24-hour event usually takes place around the full moon closest to the summer solstice in order to take advantage of the long Northern days so that cyclists can race without using their lights. In any given year, the race has experienced everything from snow to temperatures above 30 C, so prepare accordingly. Every year, organizers arrange for a food wagon on course. Last year, Mexican food was offered. While more semi-pro riders have been showing up recently, the vibe is still laid-back mountain bike fest.

Tour of British Columbia
British Columbia / Aug. 4-20
Distance: More than 5,100 km
Duration: 16 days is the slowest time allowed
Bike of choice: Road
Mid-ride fuel: Individual preference
Swag: None offered

Not only does the Tour of British Columbia say it’s the longest race on earth, but it argues that with 48,000 m of climbing that it just may be one of the toughest as well. Solo riders, and two-, four- and eight-person relay teams may see everything from mountain goats, bears and bison to glaciers and the northern lights along the way. Finishing times are based upon three levels of accomplishment: elite, competitor and official finisher.

Gran Fondo Highwood Pass
Alberta / July 13
Distance: 147 km
Duration: Four to five hours
Bike of choice: Road
Mid-ride fuel: Honey Stinger gels and
waffles, Ultima energy drink, sandwiches,
colas, watermelon, oranges
Swag: Louis Garneau cycling jersey

Test your legs on a quad-burning climb that takes you over the highest road pass in Alberta’s stunning Rocky Mountains. Situated just southwest of Calgary, this event sees 600 cyclists leave Longview, Alta., and climb from the foothills to an elevation of 2,206 m. Riders are free to be as competitive as they like, but many choose to treat it like a long ride. Each of the four aid stations has a cut-off time riders must meet in order to complete the event in the allotted 12 hours.

24 Hours of Adrenaline
Alberta / July 20
Distance: Roughly 17 km per lap
Duration: 24 hours
Bike of choice: Mountain
Mid-ride fuel: Cliff bars and gels, pancakes,
pasta, bagels
Swag: Custom jerseys for the winners

They don’t call it the 24 Hours of Adrenaline for nothing. The race course, located in the scenic Rocky Mountain town of Canmore, Alta., offers plenty of challenging singletrack with big climbs and technical descents. Much of the course has seen previous action in World and Canada Cup races. The race is extremely popular and sells out well in advance every year.

TransRockies Challenge
British Columbia-Alberta / July 27 – Aug. 2
Distance: 324 km throughout seven stages
Duration: Pro riders spend from two to six hours per
stage in the saddle; you can expect to be longer.
Bike of choice: Mountain
Mid-ride fuel: Honey Stinger gels and waffles, Ultima
energy drink, watermelon, oranges
Swag: Custom Louis Garneau TransRockies jersey, a
pound of Kicking Horse coffee, a box of Honey Stinger
bars, finisher’s medal and T-shirt. There are
also random draw prizes.

Beginning in Fernie, B.C., and finishing in Canmore, Alta., the TransRockies Challenge is a demanding but doable stage race. Cyclists can choose to do one, three, four or all seven of the stages that offer “epic” climbs and miles and miles of singletrack. The race covers some of the most iconic trails in Kananaskis Country, including Sulphur Springs and Moose Packers.

Actif Epica
Manitoba / Feb. 16
Distance: 130 km
Duration: About 8.5 hours
Bike of choice: Mountain
Mid-ride fuel: Homemade energy bars with honey,
things that don’t freeze as hard as a rock
Swag: Wooden finisher’s medal resembling a snowflake

Last year, this race offered poutine and pea soup at the halfway point, not your traditional fuel choices. But then this endurance ride set on the frozen prairie in the middle of winter is hardly your standard challenge either. Starting in St. Malo and following the Crow Wing Trail into Winnipeg, wind is your enemy as it chills all it touches. Required safety gear includes an insulated jacket with a hood, front and rear lights and a whistle. The terrain is flat, but can be desolate at times.

24 Hours of Summer Solstice
Ontario / June 22-23
Distance: 17-km lap
Duration: 24 hours
Bike of choice: Mountain
Mid-ride fuel: On-site restaurant offers pasta, barbecue,
salads and even beer
Swag: Draw prizes, including a Specialized bike

Set on a rolling doubletrack and singletrack course in Ontario’s Albion Hills, the 24 Hours of Summer Solstice offers a tremendous amount of flexibility for cyclists. Options include riding solo, tag team or in teams of four, five, six or 10 riders. They even offer a category for cyclists who aren’t comfortable riding at night: you stop at dusk and resume the race at dawn.

Annual Toronto-Niagara-
Toronto Hairshirt Classic
Double Century

Ontario / June 23
Distance: 322 km
Duration: From 10 to 17 hours
Bike of choice: Road
Mid-ride fuel: Whatever you decide to bring
Swag: None

Historically, wearing a hair shirt was a form of penance and suffering. You can expect plenty of the latter on this unsupported ride, started in 1978, that “pits the lonely rider and his/her bicycle against the road and the elements.” Because the Hairshirt is unsupported, organizers advise you to bring a credit card and a cellphone in case something goes awry along the way.

Ride Gore Festival
Nova Scotia / Aug. 10-11
Distance: 10-km circuit
Duration: Eight-hour event; fast riders
will complete is 15 to 16 laps
Bike of choice: Mountain
Mid-ride fuel: Powerbars, Gatorade
Swag: Free T-shirt, draw prizes
include Burton backpacks

Held on a private farm 45 minutes west of Halifax, Ride Gore Mountain Bike Festival is more than just a race; it’s a full-blown celebration. The weekend includes trailbuilding clinics, a swap meet, guided trail rides, a night celebration complete with wheel tosses and a pig roast. And then there’s racing too, over Gore’s extremely fast and flowy singletrack.

Elgin Mountain Bike Race
New Brunswick / Oct. 5
Distance: 20, 40, 80 and 120 km
Duration: Seven to eight hours
Bike of choice: Mountain
Mid-ride fuel: Bananas, granola bars, water
Swag: 120-km finishers get a belt buckle,
maple syrup, door prizes ranging from
homemade jam to a bike rack for the car
Website: Elgin Mountain Bike Race
Facebook page

Elgin bills itself as the toughest mountain bike race in Atlantic Canada. Located to the north of Fundy National Park, the race has a mix of dirt roads, doubletrack and singletrack that includes climbs up to 335 m in elevation. Fortunately, the beauty of the hardwood forests in full fall colours should help keep your mind off of the pain induced by the course.

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