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Your Rural Ride Checklist: How to Prepare for a Gravel Ride in Hastings County

A day spent riding backcountry gravel routes in Hastings County is tough to beat: you’re sure to encounter varied terrain, scenic vistas and small-town charm. But in order to have the best experience on your ride, some assembly is required: when you choose a rural destination like Hastings County for a gravel ride, self-sufficiency is part of the equation that leads to good times. Even seasoned riders should remember that remote gravel routes can often throw curveballs: it is better to over-prepare than to be caught in the woods with a mechanical and no cell reception.

Assembling a gravel checklist is simple and it’s likely you already have most of what you’ll need. Keep your checklist at the ready so that you can move on to the real challenge: choosing your next Hastings County gravel route!

1. What to Bring on a Gravel Ride in Hastings County

Bikes and Tires

A gravel bike will make all the difference while riding in Hastings County. The county’s backroads and trails are best enjoyed on a bike that’s stable and confident on uneven surfaces. The 35-45mm tires found on cyclocross, touring, hybrid and gravel bikes will handle the varied terrain comfortably.

A Note About Cycling on the Hastings Heritage Trail…

If you’re riding a bike route that contains sections of the Hastings Heritage Trail, take note that this isn’t the smooth gravel rail trail you might be familiar with from other regions of Ontario, like Prince Edward County’s Millennium Trail or the K&P Trail in Frontenac County. Currently, the Hastings Heritage Trail conditions are optimized for ATV travel, so our recommended routes only occasionally use it for short sections. If you want to ride a route that contains longer sections of this trail, try using a larger volume, lower air pressure tire (55-75mm). The trail consists of sandy sections, vehicular brake bump sections, loose gravel, and sometimes muddy or wet lowlands. Most other roads and trails in Hastings County will not require suspension or such large tires. A higher volume tubeless tire allows you to reduce the air pressure enough to feel comfortable on loose gravel and bumpy trails with a much lower risk of puncture.

Navigation Tools

When you’re out in the rural stretches of Hastings County, reliable navigation tools are an absolute must. Cell phone coverage is somewhat reliable, but you can expect inconsistency in hilly areas. Spotty coverage uses more of a cell phone’s battery life. You can reduce the amount of battery life consumed by downloading map data ahead of time and by limiting the services which access data while riding.

If possible, bring a bike computer that’s separate from your phone. This will keep your phone’s screen off more often, which also consumes substantial battery life. If you must use your phone to navigate, bring a fully-charged (5000~10000maH) backup battery pack for your device. GPS devices and the smartphone app Ride With GPS (RWGPS) are our picks for route planning and real-time navigation. Hastings County has an array of RWGPS routes shared by experienced cyclists who are familiar with the region. Joining the Hastings County Ride With GPS Club (it’s free!) gives you access to these curated tours and ensures you’re never lost in the countryside.

Safety Gear

Safety first, always. Equip yourself with a high-quality helmet, lights for your bike (and for bonus points, lights for your helmet), and reflective gear to increase visibility, especially if your route travels through low-visibility areas like trails. Remember that trails in Hastings County are multi-use, and you are very likely to encounter ATVs and other types of trail users at all times of year and all times of day. Lights and reflectors are important for you to see and be seen by other trail users.

2. Fuelling Up: Nutrition and Hydration for Your Ride

Pre-Ride Breakfast

Get ready for your ride with the right fuel. When you’re riding rural gravel routes in Hastings County, you may not be able to plan for a stop at a cafe, restaurant or even a convenience store while you’re out on your ride. Be ready for the adventure! You’ll find excellent diner breakfasts in any small town near your ride start.

Here are a few to try:
Stirling: Firehall Cafe
Madoc: Hidden Goldmine
Tweed: Oakley’s Lakeside
Gilmour: Rustic Roadside
Bancroft: Eagle’s Nest

On-the-Go Snacks

Long rides demand sustained energy, so packing snacks is crucial. Riding gravel can also use more energy than smooth roads, so keep fueling your body to ensure you don’t bonk out on the trails. Look ahead at your route and check the points of interest (POI) like restaurants and shops that are built in to the RWGPS routes. Don’t forget to cross-reference your plans with Google listings and social media. You may pass by a cafe or shop on your route, but you should check the business hours before relying on it. Always be prepared in case the stop doesn’t work out or the route takes longer than you expected.


Staying hydrated is key to a successful ride. Carry enough water (plus backup) and know where you can refill along your route. The hamlets and villages that speckle Hastings County are often spaced by dozens of kilometers. Expect to carry a couple hours of water at a time, and make sure to increase volume for hot days. Pro Tip: There is nothing better on a hot summer ride than a glass bottle Coca Cola from the Old Hastings Rd. Mercantile. You’ll find it off Old Hastings Road – one of the best gravel roads in Ontario.

3. Safety and Preparedness for Rural Gravel Routes

There are very few cars out on the backroads, and that’s why we love riding them. However, this also means that when we have a problem and need help, it may take awhile to find it.

Emergency Kits

Being prepared for emergencies is crucial. Your basic emergency kit should include first aid supplies like antiseptic wipes and gauze, a multi-tool, a tube and tire repair kit, and a portable charger for your devices. Carrying these essentials can help you handle minor issues and keep your ride on track.

Weather Considerations

It’s important to check the forecast before heading out. Add a travel-size sunscreen to your kit so that you can reapply on the road, and always remember to wear eye protection for both sun and wind. UV uses energy: save some energy by blocking UV. Dress in layers to accommodate changing temperatures, and carry light rain or wind gear if there’s a risk of showers or gusts. Don’t head out if inclement weather is in the forecast and remember that extreme heat is possible even in the north.

Local Contacts

Having a list of local contacts for emergency assistance can provide peace of mind. Always tell someone where you’re riding and when you plan to be back: RWGPS routes are excellent for this purpose, since you can send a contact a link to track your ride progress or an exact GPX file to show where you’re headed.

Want to Ride?

With the right preparation, a rural gravel ride in Hastings County can be an unforgettable adventure. Equip yourself with the right gear, fuel up effectively, and take necessary safety precautions to fully enjoy the stunning scenery and challenging routes.

You can find more Hastings County gravel route inspiration on Ride With GPS, where local riders share their favourite routes with turn-by-turn navigation and points of interest. Join our Ride With GPS Club to get notified when new routes are added to the collection and get pro features when you Explore Hastings County gravel routes.

Plan Your Fall Cycling Stay in Hastings County


Sponsored Content Partner: Hastings County

Article written by Laura Voskamp. All photos by

Published On: May 31, 2024Categories: News

About the Author: Guest