Nfld. & Labrador

Epic fat bike adventures in Gros Morne

A pair of fat bikers found the most well-known lookout in Newfoundland in March.
Cyclists Malcolm Simpson, left, and Darren McDonald, right, raise their bikes in celebration after reaching a lookout in Gros Morne National Park. (Submitted by Malcolm Simpson)

Three days, two nights and one gorgeous photo to mark the occasion. 

One of the most iconic landscapes used to advertise Newfoundland and Labrador is a shot of Gros Morne National Park, overlooking Western Brook Pond. 

Even if you've never seen it in person, you probably feel like you have — it's so widely used. 

That's exactly what Malcolm Simpson and Darren McDonald had in mind one March weekend when they ventured out on an epic fat bike ride.

A planned adventure

The two bikers took their oversized, massive tires to the snowy backcountry, cycling on snowmobile trails to the Long Range Mountains. 

The St. John's cyclists started the journey from Taylor's Brook, which is just outside of Hampden, on March 26.

The first day was the hardest. They started out close to sea level, and pedaled 40 kilometres through soft, sugary snow conditions. That can make even the easiest ride difficult.

Not to mention the steady incline they were traveling all day. 

Cyclist Darren McDonald made a map highlighting their route through Gros Morne National Park in March. (Submitted by Malcolm Simpson)

After seven and a half hours of tiresome riding, the duo reached their destination for that day and set up camp at approximately 1200 feet.

They pitched their tents at Matty's Pond and slept a very cold night under the stars with temperatures about -18 C. 

Oddly enough, the cold temperature wasn't bad news. It meant the duo had ideal riding conditions the next day. The cold paved way for trails that were crisp and snow packed — perfect for fat bikes.

Simpson and McDonald knew the conditions were going to be near perfect; they woke up early enough to take advantage before the sun could warm up the temperatures and start melting the snow.

With ideal conditions under their massive tires, the two conquered their goal and made it to the breathtaking view overlooking a snow covered Western Brook Pond. 

Simpson said it was a day to remember.

"The skies were blue," he said. "There wasn't a breath of wind and it was just mind-blowing that day". 

The money shot

The two stood with their fat bikes overhead and celebrated the spectacular view with a picture, taken by a passing snowmobiler. The smiles in the picture tell it all and will continue to do so for years to come. 

After the victory dance, the two rode back to camp and spent the night basking in glory. 

The skies were blue. There wasn't a breath of wind. And it was just mind-blowing that day.- Malcolm Simpson

The temperatures weren't quite as cold that night. They capped off a balmy -15 C. 

On Monday, the two rode back out to where they started. This time the 40 kilometre ride only took four hours, thanks to the downward slope. 

Winter Camping

Bikers Darren McDonald, left, and Malcolm Simpson took a weekend trip through Gros Morne National Park on their fat bikes. (Submitted by Malcolm Simpson)

Not only did the two carry themselves on the fat bikes, they also had camping supplies with them strategically mounted on the bikes.

Both riders carried a sleeping bag and pad, tent, change of clothes, stove and food to fuel three days of tiresome exploring.  

It's no surprise that they were able to pack so concisely, Simpson and McDonald are no strangers to backcountry adventures of any kind including winter camping. 

Despite being experienced, Simpson admits that there's challenges that come with winter camping.

"The cold, things are slower, your water freezes".  But, he says there's also an upside to winter camping.

"There's no bugs in the winter" he said while laughing. 

How to top that next year?

Simpson said he has plenty of ideas to make next year's ride just as epic. Though he admits getting that weather again could be hardest part.

He also said that Gros Morne is a gem for fat bike adventures during the winter because the park allows snowmobiles — which pave the way for some of the most scenic exploring in the province.

"People need to realize we have something very unique here. I think if people start trying to capture that market -- people will start paying attention."

The adventures continued all week for Simpson and McDonald. They spent the rest of the week doing day trips around Gros Morne while staying in Rocky Harbour.

If you want to read more about their adventures you can visit Simpson's blog.

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