3rd Annual Bruce Peninsula Lighthouse Gravel Gran Fondo Returns to Sold Out Crowd 

Cyclists begin their ride with smiles at the start of the Bruce Peninsula Gravel Gran Fondo on October 2nd, 2022 in Lion’s Head, Ontario. Photo Credit: Edward Matthews Photography
Submitted by Moira Parker, Bruce Peninsula Biosphere Association

The Bruce Peninsula Lighthouse Gravel Gran Fondo returned for the third time on October 2nd, 2022, hailing over 400 cyclists to Lion’s Head to participate. 

This event allowed riders to choose one of four routes with different distances, from 35km to 115km. All the routes started at the Lion’s Head Beach and extended throughout the Peninsula, including excursions to Cabot Head Lighthouse and the Cape Chin Lookout. 

Event organizer Mike Campbell explained that the Fondo sold out months earlier and only through word of mouth, stating, “People just love the event so much that they come back”. He explained that “There is nothing quite like this anywhere – the ride along the shoreline to Cabot Head with the huge waves crashing into the lighthouse, the varied countryside and of course the gravel roads.” According to riders at the event, gravel riding is the most popular type of cycling right now. 

L-R: Mayor Milt McIver, event organizer Mike Campbell, and Biosphere Association Vice-Chair John Rodgers send riders off in good spirits. Photo Credit: Edward Matthews Photography

To maintain the small-town atmosphere and capacity limits, there was a cap on the number of riders at around 430 people. With all the registrants, a volunteer force was required, and people stepped up to the plate. Over 100 volunteers came out to help with Fondo needs, such as parking, registration, feed zone help, or cheering the riders on. 

The day of the Fondo greeted cyclists with a chilly 20km/h northeast wind with gusts reaching up to 40km/h. The night before, the gusts had been so strong that the Lions Club, who were providing lunch for all riders and volunteers, had their tent blown away from Lion’s Head Beach. 

Though some riders like to do their route fast, the event is not a race. Campbell said, “It is not a race, it is a ride, so it is fun.” Most of the routes follow sprawling gravel roads, with rare, paved sections, or through the trail systems that run throughout the Peninsula. The lengthy routes include a 20km section of road squished between the magnificently blue Georgian Bay Waters and the Niagara Escarpment that leads to the Cabot Head Lighthouse. The lighthouse is generally inaccessible unless you cycle, so this event highlights one of the Peninsula’s hidden gems. 

There were feed zones throughout the routes that volunteers were stationed at. They served a plethora of homemade goodies such as cookies, date squares, and a Fondo favourite, the homemade butter tarts. The Lions Club served lunch and a craft beer by Three Sheets Brewing in Port Elgin at the finish line. Coffee, tea, water, and fruit were also available.

At the end of the ride, cyclists looked wind whipped but happy. Many compared it to last year’s Fondo which had a downpour of rain and lots of mud. One rider said, “I would take the wind over the mud any year, I am looking forward to seeing what the next Fondo brings.” 

Three happy cyclists finishing their Gravel Gran Fondo routes at Lion’s Head Beach on October 2nd, 2022. L-R: Christina Abbott, Shelley Watson, and Susan Delorme. Photo Credit: Edward Matthews Photography

The Fondo also hosted a small electric vehicle show-and-tell where community members brought their EVs in to talk to people about what it’s like to own an EV. The Tesla dealerships from Kitchener and Barrie also set up and allowed people to test drive Teslas. 

The event is a fundraiser for the Bruce Peninsula Biosphere Association which is an environment-based volunteer organization that has been working on the Peninsula for 20 years. The Biosphere organizes a range of environmental projects on the Peninsula from protecting streams and wetlands, to eradicating invasive species, to aiding in writing a Climate Action Plan for the Municipality of the Northern Bruce Peninsula. 

Some of their current projects include the Six Streams Initiative that works with landowners and farmers to reduce nutrient overload from runoff entering streams in the area. This project has yielded the installation of over 70 alternative water systems, and more than 17km of fencing and vegetation buffers on restored streambanks. Other projects include their bioremediation initiatives, focusing on testing filters that remove phosphates from agricultural runoff, or their work on the MNBP Climate Action Plan and encouraging community members to switch to electric vehicles and heat pumps. 

The Biosphere also organizes events for the community. This includes Bayside Astronomy, a program that celebrates the Bruce Peninsula’s dark skies and teaches people about astronomy through professional telescopes, and EcoAdventures which provides guided 4-season adventure tours such as hiking, caving, snowshoeing, canoeing, or birding. 

Last year’s Gravel Gran Fondo raised $40,000 for the Biosphere which is the organizations largest fundraiser each year. More information about the Bruce Peninsula Biosphere Association is available on their website, bpba.ca 

The Gravel Gran Fondo would not be possible without the help of volunteers and generous sponsors. Thank you to the gold sponsor, Ashley Jackson and the Bruce Peninsula Real Estate Team at REMAX Grey Bruce Realty Inc; The silver sponsors, Blue Bay Motel and RentCottage.com; The bronze sponsors, Blue Heron Cruises, Bruce Anchor Cruises, The Princess Hotel, Zehr Insurance, Summerhouse Park, and RBC; And the friendship sponsors, Intelliware Software Development, Suntrail Source for Adventure, Bear Tracks Inn and Restaurant, Martin’s Bicycle Shop, Miller Lake Rona, Burgess Engineering Inc, Powell Insurance, Tobermory Sweet Shop and Earth Bound Gardens. A special thank you to the Lions Club for providing lunch, and to the Three Sheets Brewing for being the official brewery of the event.